Known for oversharing on social media, millennials are more open to sharing details about their salaries than Baby Boomers.
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Millennials are busy killing something new; this time it’s the taboo of discussing salaries at work. When it comes to discussing salaries, people walk a fine line. While people consider it rude to talk about wages outside of friends or family, millennials are bucking this trend. Millennials’ loose lips are undoing this etiquette by discussing salaries in the workplace.

Sharing with everyone

Millennials are more likely to share their salary information than Baby Boomers, according to a survey by The Cashlorette. Overall, millennials age 18 to 36 share their salary at higher rates than other generations. The survey found that 63 percent shared pay information with an immediate family member, 48 percent have shared with friends and 30 percent have shared with their coworkers. On the other hand, Baby Boomers aged 53 to 71 shared at much lower numbers — 41 percent have shared salaries with an immediate family member, 21 have shared with a friend and 8 percent with a co-worker.

Those most likely to share their salary information with co-workers were older millennials between 27 and 36 years old. About 33 percent shared with co-workers, a rate of sharing four times more likely than Baby Boomers and higher than Gen Xers. Only 20 percent of U.S. workers have shared their salary information with co-workers. Many employers enforce some form of illegal pay secrecy policies, but these rules are not always stringently enforced.

Why we discuss salaries

The key reason for discussing salaries with co-workers is to deter pay discrimination. Women earn 83 cents for every dollar that men do, according to the Economic Policy Institute. When it is broken down by race, there’s a larger picture of discrimination — for every dollar non-Hispanic white men make: Asian women earn 88 cents, white women 81 cents, Black women 65 cents and Hispanic women 59 cents. Discussing salaries can give a broader picture of the discrepancies in pay between men and women in the workplace.

Knowing how much everyone makes can also lead to better negotiation on the part of employees. Pay secrecy can lead to information asymmetry — where one side in the negotiation holds more information than the other. This gives the employer an unfair advantage when negotiating salary with new hires or pay raises, and it could lead to savings for the employer while being detrimental to the employees.

The downside of sharing is that it can create tension between co-workers. If you make more than your co-worker or if they make more than you, comparing might not go favorably. It can even create animosity and competition among employees. However, this doesn’t always happen. Employers who like to discourage sharing of salary information tend to promote a fear of this conflict, to motivate employee secrecy.

Takeaway: Discussing salaries with co-workers helps when you’re underpaid

Millennials are getting rid of the stigma of old conventions. Discussing salaries is one of those things that you’re not supposed to do to avoid offending people. The problem is that millennials are underpaid, and we know it.

It makes sense that the generation that grew up sharing personal information online would have no issue with being open and honest about salary to make sure they’re not being taken advantage of. The main reason to share salary information is to be able to gauge whether or not you’re being paid fairly. Knowing that information can help you get a better salary the next time you’re starting a new job or when you finally ask for that raise.

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Posted 11.10.2017 - 11:00 am EST