Most people regard their personal pay information as highly confidential. This means they want that data handled with sensitivity and integrity. I agree 100%.
In some cases, a person’s pay data is freely available to anyone. Typically, this involves government jobs, nonprofits, highly structured union occupations, and some public figures. In those kinds of positions, people expect that transparency. It simply goes with being in the saddle in that kind of an organization.
Where that level of openness is not the norm, workers may find themselves approached by colleagues proposing that within a particular department or organization, they all should mutually reveal their wages to ensure fairness. While I am all for fairness in wages and all other aspects of talent management, these sorts of gambits cannot end well.
First, who is going to determine what is fair? Second, how qualified is that person to determine what is fair? Third, exactly how much private information will a person’s colleagues have access to that directly or indirectly influence wages? Too many serious and complex questions belie these sorts of informal worker explorations, as Knight Kiplinger explains (“Money & Ethics: Should I Tell My Co-workers How Much I’m Paid?” Kiplinger’s Personal Finance, June 2014, p. 14):
“Differences in pay . . . are usually based on an employee’s education, years of relevant experience and competence. There’s also the matter of what the employee was earning at his or her previous job, requiring your company to match or exceed that amount. Finally, even among people who do similar things, there are differences in performance that make one employee more valuable to the company than another, meriting higher compensation.”
Wisdom and professionalism are evidenced by knowing what to say and what not to say; what to make public and what to keep private. Let us be wise and professional. Everyone benefits from that.