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Knowing the salary of your coworkers?  

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Dave Walker
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July 29, 2015 4:40 pm  

Last week an ex-Google employee shared a story from her previous employer: she created an internal spreadsheet encouraging others to add their salary and position and it became quite the sensation. She was called in to a meeting with very unhappy management. More coverage here: http://blogs.wsj.com/digits/2015/07/21/ ... readsheet/

Interesting things that have surfaced in my reading have been: 1) It's illegal for a company to stop someone from reporting their salary, 2) Google's long standing commitment to equal pay and merit-driven bonuses is probably untrue, and 3) would I trust any self-reported salary? I call that the "Glassdoor.com problem."

Do you think something like this would fly in the life sciences industry? Or, how bad of an idea was this?

Defenders of the ex-Googler say that the awareness she drew to females and minorities making less money is commendable, and that we should all report our salaries if we want to achieve fairness. When I worked in academia -- where money was always tight, very much unlike Google -- salaries were a very sore spot, even though it was all public via the NIH reporting guidelines.

"The single factor that differentiates Nobel laureates from other scientists is training with another Nobel laureate." -- Sol Snyder


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Dave Jensen
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July 29, 2015 7:19 pm  

Interesting topic. Dave. Thanks! Curious to see where others take it . . .

For me, I would love to hear from any hiring managers or others who have comments about the fact that women don't seem to be as comfortable with the job offer negotiating process as men. I haven't seen a great deal of difference in salaries as a result of gender, but I have indeed watched as both men and women negotiate. Women seem to be more easily amenable to taking the offer as laid out, while men seem to fight a bit harder for something extra.

If I am right, this may be more of a cultural thing than a subversion of salaries based on gender. What do you think? Please, knock me hard if you feel I am making sexist comments here as we try to avoid those on this site,

Dave

Dave Jensen, Founder and Moderator
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RLemert
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July 29, 2015 8:11 pm  

I don't know about job offers because it's been years since either of us has needed to worry about that, but my wife is a much more hard-core negotiator than I am. She recently bought a new vehicle, and I was somewhat surprised about how harsh a negotiator she was.


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Nate W.
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Nate W.
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July 29, 2015 11:33 pm  

Dave,

Your post raises some excellent topics for discussion. Salary information should never be publicly disseminated. It only creates rancor among the employees and allows data brokers (i.e. employment and credit checking agencies) to misuse this information w/o any concern for privacy or accuracy. Employees should instead focus on doing their job better and seeking better opportunities within the organization; identifying and solving problems.

Maybe I should do a post on why employers do credit checks and how this information is used?

This wasn't about activism. It was more about making extra bonus money.


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Dave Walker
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July 30, 2015 10:19 pm  

This wasn't about activism. It was more about making extra bonus money.

These are the two big sides. We don't get to see the spreadsheet created, but I assume it was attempted to be anonymous; though reporting one's gender and ethnicity alongside your job title might not be anonymous enough to keep you safe.

According to the ex-Googler the activism led to bonus money, direct raises asked for by several at the company. I assume they still had to ask, however.

To Dave's point, I also don't want to make sexist remarks, and I've seen his question raised in other discussions of this Google incident. The book "Women Don't Ask" by Linda Babcock and Sara Laschever is said to dive into this in more detail -- but has been critcised for relying on anecdotes. Bottom line, I think there's not enough serious research in this field (and there should be more).

Finally,

Maybe I should do a post on why employers do credit checks and how this information is used?

Is this common in our field? I have never been made explicitly aware of this, and it seems risky if you can see it on your own credit report?

"The single factor that differentiates Nobel laureates from other scientists is training with another Nobel laureate." -- Sol Snyder


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Nate W.
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July 31, 2015 6:19 pm  

This wasn't about activism. It was more about making extra bonus money.

These are the two big sides. We don't get to see the spreadsheet created, but I assume it was attempted to be anonymous; though reporting one's gender and ethnicity alongside your job title might not be anonymous enough to keep you safe.

Dave, going on Tweeter to talk about inequalities in pay, certainly wouldn't qualify as anonymous. I'll stand by my belief this behavior is an example of what not to do with your career. Get a job with another employer if you don't like the pay. Maybe those who are getting paid more actually produced more or added more value to the bottom line.


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PACN
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July 31, 2015 7:46 pm  

How do you know what fair pay is if no one discloses their salary? Especially in the case of many scientists, moving from postdocs into industry, if no one tells you, how could you possibly know? How do you know if you are being discriminated against if you don't know what others with similar credentials are making (see: Lily Ledbetter)?


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PG
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August 3, 2015 12:01 am  

As a manager I can say the following

I know that people reporting to me are sharing their salary information with each other and this does sometimes but not often come up in salary discussions.

My goal is that if somehow a salary list with all salaries in the department was circulated by e-mail to everyone I should be able to defend every individual number on that list. I should also be able to do this using arguments and facts that have previously been discussed in feedback discussions, annual performance reviews etc.

Of course there are at any single occasion probably one or a few numbers that are hard to motivate and that may be the consequence of recent hires, changed working tasks or something else but then the goal should be to adress these inconsistencies in coming salary revisions.

Importantly there is nothing to gain for me or the company in paying someone a salary that is lower than it should be compared to others in the company. The actual cost difference in USD/ year is relatively low compared to the potential cost of an unhappy employee especially if it is a high performing employee.


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DX
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August 3, 2015 3:50 pm  

Reality is, if you're doing your networking, you'll have a good understanding of the market value for your position or targeted position.

As you evolve, certainly you'll get to a point where your trusted co-workers will at some point hint to an amount they are making, in general, peer to peer, its about have within a SD of less than 10%. So what?

In general, if you find outliers, they outliers are either the ones that have been in the company the longest, thus capitalizing on merit base/cost of living expense raises over the years (so the top outliers), or they are new to their position and lower in experience (the bottom outliers). Or telling you a tall tale. But in general, most co-workers within the SD of 10%, so what? big deal. At the end of they day, your coworkers have the same living standard as you (peer to peer).

Additionally as you grow in career, you'll get more attuned into salaries and know what your fair market value is and you'll leverage that accordingly.

At the academic/industry interface, you may be low balled but...if you deem the position as value able to launching your career..So what?! I was low balled relative to industry standard (-15%) for a newbie MSL when I first started - about a 2 years later I was at industry standard in a new company for a well experienced MSL with a Senior in front of that MSL title.

Perform well, keep eyes open for opportunity, and negotiate well when the times comes. And lets' face it, in this day and age, that point comes every 2 to 3 years - the norm these days is to jump around once a level of experience is obtained, successes have been realized, and competitiveness enhanced.

Good luck!

DX


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Parker
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August 10, 2015 10:56 am  

In my experience (female), salary negotiations are not as simple as asking for more. I have asked for a higher salary in the past and I was shot down both times. Perhaps part of it was my poor negotiation skills. But I know another reason. I wasn't prepared to walk away, because I needed/wanted those jobs. It doesn't mean they would have offered me more if I had indicated that I was about to walk. But I would have probably ended up at a different place with a higher salary (doesn't mean I would have liked the job more though).

Here to hoping that your needs/wants in a job in terms of day to day tasks and experience you will gain actually line up with the compensation that the employers are willing to offer.


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Dave Walker
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August 10, 2015 5:04 pm  

But I know another reason. I wasn't prepared to walk away, because I needed/wanted those jobs. It doesn't mean they would have offered me more if I had indicated that I was about to walk. But I would have probably ended up at a different place with a higher salary (doesn't mean I would have liked the job more though).

An excellent point, Parker. I don't hear it talked about enough. Perhaps because it's different for everyone, but I have seen this as well. If one isn't really willing to walk away then negotiating can be too hard. I would like to think that the reasons one couldn't walk away are because the job is too engaging or the benefits are too great...but (in my experiences) there is usually a deeper issue.

"The single factor that differentiates Nobel laureates from other scientists is training with another Nobel laureate." -- Sol Snyder


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Dave Jensen
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April 16, 2019 6:31 pm  

I think that it's almost impossible for HR teams to keep salaries completely under wraps. They'll try their best, however. 

HR will want to extend offers in a similar range to each other. So, if you have four scientists in a lab, all "Research Scientist" level with 2-3 years of Post PhD experience, doing independent work, one might be at X amount, another at X plus 8%, another at X -3%, and perhaps an outlier at X plus 10%. They might be out for a couple of beers and they decide to each write their numbers on an anonymous scrap of paper.

Sure, it will tick off the persons below the outlier. How did that happen that I'm 10 or 12% below the other guy -- we do the same work!! But through the offer process, it is often possible to bump the salary just a bit. They want to extend you an offer in the lower third of the range for Research Scientist, but it doesn't work out and in order to deal with whatever issue you have in relocation, they bump it up to midpoint on the range. Another scientist got an offer at the high end of the range, because he or she did a bit of negotiation or just had a higher package from the present employer. That person will be stuck, though, at salary review time because they aren't going to get a category change, and they're already at the high end of Research Scientist. So those beneath him or her have a strong potential to eventually catch up,

 

Dave

This post was modified 4 months ago by Dave Jensen

Dave Jensen, Founder and Moderator
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DX
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April 18, 2019 9:04 am  

Hi Dave,

Yes and no regarding others catching up.  These days in my experience,  significant salary bumps within company within the same position are hard to come by, that is beyond merit based increases that may hover at max 3 percent..and that's max max max.  I was high-performer this year something a bit under that.  Now you say a more senior member of the team with same title (an tenured), they'll also get thier merit based increase. 

So now you get to a point you want to negotiate beyond that annual merit based increase - good luck.  Today a big problem with company's retention activities is failure to acknowledge compensation as meaninful tool keep employees.  However, the other side of the coin is that most people don't leave a company for compesation reasons at all!  Most leave for team environment issues, or need for career development that can't be found at current employers, they're not thinking much about compensation, so in hiring processes of these "active lookers" - well compensation is a secondary or tertiary objective in job seeking.   And when you start getting into those salary discussion for internal salary increase...., how quickly they turn into development conversations where hiring managers are willing to throw money for training (go take a 3 days course, inter-continental destination), or give more responsibility (you can lead this new Workstream), but compensation increase......nope. (and alot of  times...it's not really hiring manager fault, sometimes they're stuck and they can't fight, finance/HR teams can really suck)

Now to the job seeker who may be leaving not due to compensation needs (as noted, compensation not the most frequent reason for active job seekers), Still salary negotiation is a part of that discussion, but not where it could be, say as a "passive looker" - who's probably main driver to leave - or lets used the right term...  Pulled.... is in-fact compensation (all other items are good enough for them not to want to move).

So I don't think there is a senario where in same team, same position you have salary catch up as you describe.  In my sector, you're lucky if you have a full team working togehter for a 8 month time-frame, somebody is always leaving.  In my sector, you can be a dinosaur of the team in about 1 to 1.5 year time frame. And when I have join teams, those 1.5 year dinosaurs are also thinking about their exit/next step.   And that also includes the boss, i a little over 1 year into my new company, and already on boss number 2.  As noted, my last company 4 years, and i was boss number 8 or 9.  And my bosses have been VP level so even title does not predict any form of stablity in management either.    And - I guess its good, you want salary increase, and a good salary increase, you jump company.  That's a fact.  You want promotion - jump company.  You want lateral move..stay in company (easier to do)...then jump (what I have done).

I really do think, all things being equal (good organizational behavior i.e. politics scene is managable, good team, good boss, good performance, good development op) company's (hiring managers) forget to leverage compensation as a way to keep employees (so called talented or not).   Take home message - my recommendation - one starts craving more compensation, don't waste time finding it in current company - move on - becuase the desire for more compensation...is driven by something else (usually not personal life, but something in work-life).

DX

 


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Dave Jensen
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April 18, 2019 2:39 pm  

Hi DX,

Great post -- thanks. I agree with you that the reason that people leave companies would RARELY be compensation. Yes, it's nice to get that bump when you move to a new organization. But the general reason to move on is usually career-related -- a better future promised, etc. 

Dave

Dave Jensen, Founder and Moderator
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