What happens when you talk about salaries at Google
July 20, 2015 7:55 PM   Subscribe

 
One of the most poisonous things capitalism ever did was make it rude for labor to discuss pay.
posted by infinitewindow at 7:59 PM on July 20, 2015 [155 favorites]


Here's a bit more context. Interesting that she now works with MetaFilter's own matthowie at Slack.
posted by Nevin at 8:17 PM on July 20, 2015 [6 favorites]


That's one of the great things about being a state employee. I (or you) can look up anybody's salary, and anybody can look up mine. I think it makes relations better, not worse. Everybody knows and everybody knows that everybody knows.
posted by escabeche at 8:19 PM on July 20, 2015 [49 favorites]


Your information belongs to the world and must be shared freely to all. Particularly if you're not a twenty something male programmer in Silicon Valley.

Our information, meanwhile, must be protected by as many legal constructs as we can manage. Anything else wouldn't be fair!
posted by aramaic at 8:27 PM on July 20, 2015 [45 favorites]


"normalizing the gender field where it should be"

And there is the patriarchy even in the midst of all this discussion.
posted by hippybear at 8:31 PM on July 20, 2015 [1 favorite]


It's interesting that Google raised Eric Schmidt's salary from $1 (one dollar) to $1.25M in the space of a year, plus $100M in stock bonuses. I wonder how that fits on the spreadsheet.
posted by a lungful of dragon at 8:38 PM on July 20, 2015


Well, she may have meant simply moving it from several columns to being just in column D (for example)
posted by aramaic at 8:38 PM on July 20, 2015 [7 favorites]


That's one of the great things about being a state employee. I (or you) can look up anybody's salary, and anybody can look up mine. I think it makes relations better, not worse.

I disagree when combined with typical government inflexibility to reward performance and get rid of low quality individuals. Moral and effort typically plummeted when new/young and hard working employees found out that the person doing a quarter as much work was making twice as much as them.
posted by Candleman at 8:39 PM on July 20, 2015 [15 favorites]


Not much information about the salary discrepancies (none actually) between genders doing the same job. I wonder what the spread was.
posted by Nevin at 8:40 PM on July 20, 2015 [1 favorite]


Well, that's gross and wrong. WTF, Google? The amount of effort they go through to recruit good staff is excessive. Their recruitment process included 6 hours of interviews when I went through it a couple of years ago. And then they treat their staff this badly?
posted by His thoughts were red thoughts at 8:41 PM on July 20, 2015 [4 favorites]


Not much information about the salary discrepancies (none actually) between genders doing the same job. I wonder what the spread was.

Glassdoor seems to have some stats on this.
posted by His thoughts were red thoughts at 8:45 PM on July 20, 2015 [3 favorites]


oh man the comments on business insider. never read the comments
(although the shit ones were pretty much voted down)
posted by lalochezia at 8:47 PM on July 20, 2015


Moral and effort typically plummeted when new/young and hard working employees found out that the person doing a quarter as much work was making twice as much as them.

And you think it would be better if their employer tried, inevitably unsuccessfully, to keep them from ever finding out?
posted by escabeche at 8:48 PM on July 20, 2015 [17 favorites]


also i want to see this spreadsheet!
posted by lalochezia at 8:48 PM on July 20, 2015 [2 favorites]


I'm not sure why anyone would find the spreadsheet surprising in any company larger than a few employees and with more than one department with more than one manager. Discrepancies will abound in any large multinational company. Here in Canada, it is very common for your employment agreement to specify that your salary is confidential and that discussing it is a breach of contract.
posted by Snowflake at 8:53 PM on July 20, 2015


The problem with gender pay disparity comparisons by level/position is that they imply fairness in the process that got people into those roles. Women are systematically under-promoted compared to men. Their performance reviews criticize them for things men are praised for. They are shunted into lower compensated roles (eg women with CS degrees being pushed into test). And so on. It might in fact turn out that in a lot of tech companies there's no real disparity, if role/level are taken into account. But on average the women worked harder and more persistently to get to the same place. This goes even more so for women or men of color.
posted by R343L at 8:53 PM on July 20, 2015 [48 favorites]


Snowflake- in the U.S. retaliation for sharing compensation is expressly illegal though obviously that does not mean it happens as we see here.
posted by R343L at 8:55 PM on July 20, 2015 [10 favorites]


When I was living in TX I once shared my salary with a co-worker; we were doing the same work, had similar levels of experience/education/etc. He was a good friend of mine. I shared this information at lunch. Offsite. With no one else at the table. The next day my boss called me into his office. He told me that if I ever shared my pay again, I would be fired; he also explained that he thought it was a reasonable thing to do, he didn't want to be having the conversation, and his management was forcing him to do it (it was a ~250 person company).
posted by el io at 8:57 PM on July 20, 2015 [17 favorites]


Moral and effort typically plummeted when new/young and hard working employees found out that the person doing a quarter as much work was making twice as much as them.

My general experience is that young people grossly underestimate - if they consider it at all - the weight that experience adds to salaries, and the value that it brings - regardless of a particular employee's performance. Watching this outrage change to outrage that their experience is not fairly compensated once they are 7-10 years down the track is quirkily satisfying. (partly because recruitment is much more rigorous with them) but I do think as a general rule, people are only happy with the salary systems that benefit their demographic at a particular moment. E.G can you imagine how someone with 15 years' experience would feel being paid as much as a "hard working" grad?
posted by smoke at 8:58 PM on July 20, 2015 [26 favorites]




They've only really started unconscious bias training in the last few years from what I've heard. It wouldn't have a lot of effect in that time.
posted by R343L at 9:01 PM on July 20, 2015


There's some good discussion on Hacker News about this.
posted by primethyme at 9:01 PM on July 20, 2015 [1 favorite]


There will be all kinds of nonsensical and unfair discrepancies in pay and executive retaliation against outspoken agitators until the workers take Google over and run it for themselves.
posted by Noisy Pink Bubbles at 9:03 PM on July 20, 2015 [2 favorites]


Is there an equivalent article in non-Twitter format which I did try to read but actually gave me a distinct sensation of my brain breaking?
posted by polymodus at 9:03 PM on July 20, 2015


Candleman: Moral and effort typically plummeted when new/young and hard working employees found out that the person doing a quarter as much work was making twice as much as them.

Smoke: My general experience is that young people grossly underestimate - if they consider it at all - the weight that experience adds to salaries, and the value that it brings - regardless of a particular employee's performance.

Except, in the public service (at least in Australian and from what I understand, in the US also), people at the same ranks are meant to be doing work of similar difficulty. They are assessed on equivalent criteria. But a person who is excelling gets paid as much as a person who is failing at the job. Proficiency is virtually irrelevant to renumeration - only seniority matters. Sure, it's transparent, but it's not necessarily fair.
posted by His thoughts were red thoughts at 9:04 PM on July 20, 2015 [7 favorites]


There will be all kinds of nonsensical and unfair discrepancies in pay and executive retaliation against outspoken agitators until the workers take Google over and run it for themselves.

Groups of people can be just as dumb as people working top down. See also: Reddit.com.
posted by Drinky Die at 9:10 PM on July 20, 2015


We had this come up at work - my initial reaction was to publish all salary data, but some staff hated it. Legally, it turned out we couldn't do that as managers, but individual staff could talk freely about their own pay while not being allowed to name colleague's pay unless that colleague had already made their pay public as it was a privacy issue (same conversation about insurance, therapy and HIV status). One of the managers wanted to require no discussion about pay but that was both illegal and kinda pointless - people will find out anyway, and hey, let them organise. I'd rather work somewhere totally transparent, but I can see why some people don't want everyone else knowing their pay.

The hilarious part there is that the manager was rejecting PBs. I can imagine them sitting there, scowling and hitting reject, reject! How dare she do something legal and consensual that puts our crappiness on display.
posted by dorothyisunderwood at 9:11 PM on July 20, 2015 [4 favorites]


Candleman: "Moral and effort typically plummeted when new/young and hard working employees found out that the person doing a quarter as much work was making twice as much as them."

Morale and effort also plummet when you reward people doing the same job differently based on how well you think they're doing the job!

Actually, the effect you see is that around 10% of people crank their efforts way up so that they can earn the bonus for being excellent at their job, and the other 90% of people go, "Well, great, there's no possible way I can compete with Mr. Workaholic, so I guess I can just turn in about 60% effort AND resent the company for this."

Performance bonuses and merit salaries are okay in competitive industries (although you're still giving a green light to 3/4 of your workforce to slack off, because a LOT of people are willing to be paid less to work less hard and accept the logical flipside of your deal instead of the incentive you were trying to offer), but in collegial industries where people are working in teams, they're brutally undermining and contribute to low morale and high turnover and poor team efficiency.
posted by Eyebrows McGee at 9:13 PM on July 20, 2015 [42 favorites]


normalizing the gender field where it should be"

And there is the patriarchy even in the midst of all this discussion.


Yeah, maybe not, that could just mean "making all the values upper/lowercase" so that the filters can be less fiddly. I'm not saying it's the case necessarily, but there's a charitable reading of that statement that doesn't inject some type of anti-genderfluidity stance into the tweets.
posted by axiom at 9:13 PM on July 20, 2015 [7 favorites]


Red Thoughts, I find that holds true for my experience in the private sector mostly, too. But my experience is that you don't find too many people at <APS5 or 6, say, who have had more than ten years in the job. They get moved along regardless, don't you think?
posted by smoke at 9:14 PM on July 20, 2015


[Couple of comments deleted. Let's skip an argument over twitter-formatted things please; if someone has an alt version they can post it.]
posted by LobsterMitten (staff) at 9:14 PM on July 20, 2015


The article is not in twitter format. It's in article format quoting twitter a lot. Would you rather someone not quote source material and instead write an article with questionable editorial provenance?

The Business Insider link at the beginning of the thread has a summary of the Tweets, and is a little easier to grok than the decontextualized Storify thread in Wired.
posted by Nevin at 9:16 PM on July 20, 2015


"normalizing the gender field where it should be"

Er, I read that as normalizing the entries that should be normalized, and not the ones that shouldn't be. Which I take to mean mapping binary things to normalized values, and not mapping non-binary things to anything different.
posted by solitary dancer at 9:24 PM on July 20, 2015


I mean, obviously, the only reason it is considered a norm to not discuss salary, or rude to discuss salary, is because it weakens the bargaining position of workers to not know what other workers are charging for their time. Like, duh, literally everyone knows this.

I wish I could word this in a way that doesn't seem dippy, but, well, I can't. So here goes: this is clearly a case where worker culture/mainstream culture has been forced to internalize a norm that is absolutely no good whatsoever for us, and that everyone knows is absolutely no good for us, specifically because we will be disciplined (to the point of denial of livelihood) if we don't actively sabotage our own interests to further our employers' interests, and the interests of wealth more broadly. In this case, this requirement for self-destruction is right there on the surface, likely because this is the point at which it's most crucial for us to sabotage our interests; the point where we negotiate for how much we're worth. If our sense of what's normal is so tainted by the interests of others in this obvious case, are there other points, that are harder to notice, where our social norms demand we in one way or another slit our own throats to make it easier on the people who don't have to sell their labor to live?

That aside, to the people for whom the "state jobs with publicly known pay grades are unfair because they don't reward excellence" argument resonates, well, you're not that good. Really, you're not. You may think you're that good. you're wrong. If, by some fluke, you are that good — well, then you would be better served, and we all would be better served, if you took that time and talent and energy and applied it to literally anything other than wage labor. Put in your eight hours, or ten hours, or twelve hours, or whatever ungodly long amount of time they're requiring to work these days, do an indifferent job, and then spend your free time and energy doing something worthwhile with your life. Stop trying to cheapen our labor by busting our rates.
posted by You Can't Tip a Buick at 9:25 PM on July 20, 2015 [86 favorites]


Every job I have worked at had expressly forbidden discussin salaries. Many in their handbooks! I had no idea that this was illegal and probably a form of intimidation until rather recently.

Don't get me wrong- many of us still did. But in hush-hush whispers. The one time I tried to use that information to leverage a pay increase, I was told I could be fired for knowing that.

And I'm not the only one! I remember in some of the hush hush salary conversations that coworkers and I would discuss how much better England was because of thei open salary policies, and how much more leverage we'd have if we could share and use the info to negotiate (and also to show gender and race discrepancies).

I'm long gone from those places, but really sad I didn't know this sooner.
posted by [insert clever name here] at 9:33 PM on July 20, 2015 [9 favorites]


Red Thoughts, I find that holds true for my experience in the private sector mostly, too. But my experience is that you don't find too many people at APS5 or 6, say, who have had more than ten years in the job. They get moved along regardless, don't you think?

I'm not so sure. I mean, my 70 person policy shop was staffed by late 20s/early 30s private sector refugees who took a significant pay and career progression cut to escape terrible law firm conditions/hours. That agency was super careful about who they hired, because their resources were so tight and firing was so difficult - the process could take up to a year, even when the employee in question just stopped showing up to work.

When I started out there, the place had a few bits of dead wood-type employees, but instead of trying to actively get rid of them, the Exec pretty much just waited until they retired or took a redundancy during a reorg. Protections for employees are a good thing - I'm glad that public service employees can't be dismissed without notice, but on the other hand, allowing useless idiots to draw a taxpayer funded salary without contributing value and making it near-impossible to fire them is less than ideal also. My friends in larger departments have related horror stories about incompetence that made my hair curl and those people didn't get fired. The balance is wrong.

Some people are happy with no responsibility and happy to stick around as APS6s, just middling along being unexceptional. And some people are motivated and want to move up. They work harder, they do better at the job, but they get paid the same as the middlers, or the ones who don't even show up. That feels unfair. It is unfair. But it's transparent, and it avoids the gender pay gap, somewhat. People at the same rank, with the same seniority, get paid the same.
posted by His thoughts were red thoughts at 9:33 PM on July 20, 2015 [2 favorites]


I disagree when combined with typical government inflexibility to reward performance and get rid of low quality individuals. Moral and effort typically plummeted when new/young and hard working employees found out that the person doing a quarter as much work was making twice as much as them.

I recall with fondness those days when I worked with the CEO's nephew. He spent a substantial amount of time out behind the garage smoking weed. That worked out, because when he was out back, he wasn't screwing something up that I had to fix later, and I could work in peace.

He did spend a lot of time bitching about how unions made it impossible to fire unproductive slackers. And complaining about welfare collecting dope addicts. The Universe ended at the end of Brandon's nose, and he could only fail upwards. Talk about born on third base.

Anyway, every state worker I've ever worked with at least believed in the mission. But, I work at universities. The low pay and high demands self selects for the cause driven types.
posted by Pogo_Fuzzybutt at 9:36 PM on July 20, 2015 [15 favorites]


Hey you know what's fun, being a woman who has the distinct feeling she is underpaid next to her male peers and not wanting to discuss it, not just because of fear of firing, but because of shame.

No one has mentioned shame yet, but it's there. One of the reasons people don't discuss pay is because they're afraid of either being pitied for making too little or putting the other person in the position of feeling bad because they make too little (whatever "too little" is in the context).

Discussing your pay is like walking around in your underwear. It telegraphs what a more powerful entity thinks you are worth, and also what you are willing to accept as what you are worth. And if it's lower than you think it should be, for whatever reason, or you fear that it is, then you generally don't want to advertise that to someone who might be getting a better deal/be more valued. Because then what if they believe that you are either not worth much or too weak/stupid to negotiate for more?
posted by emjaybee at 9:44 PM on July 20, 2015 [85 favorites]


It's illegal to forbid employees from discussing salary, certainly, and illegal to discipline or fire an employee for discussing their salary, but like many employment laws (like the ones against wage theft) it is next to totally unenforced.

If you are so frustrated by having coworkers who aren't effective as you or whatever, either learn not to care or start your own company or something.

oh, wait, you can't, because the only people with enough money to risk starting their own businesses are the children of the rich.
posted by You Can't Tip a Buick at 9:48 PM on July 20, 2015 [8 favorites]


For the record, she said "normalizing gender where it could be," not "where it should be."
posted by whir at 9:51 PM on July 20, 2015 [4 favorites]


I remember my first collision with this, when I got a sizable end-of-year raise at the pornographers, about 10 percent. I was pretty chuffed, as I had come in underpaid, worked hard and made a case that I should either be given more freelance work (which was incredibly lucrative coming from formerly writing for music press; ridiculously undervalued compared to real feature work). I made the mistake of mentioning it and — despite the fact that I was wildly underpaid compared to my peers — it became a thing, where people who had gotten one percent raises demanded meetings and I got called in to discuss why this was bad and get asked pointedly (likely illegal) questions about whether I was organizing.

My most recent non-profit job had a general taboo against talking about this stuff too, though the executive director's salary is public (501[c] stuff). There, for the ED the pressure to bullshit goes toward making it seem like the ED is paid more than they actually are, since generally the EDs aren't able to actually draw their salary and the EDs are all wealthy prior to taking the position. Aside from that, it was endless unjustifiable favoritism and extortion to keep key personnel, which makes for a devil's bargain — the only way to ensure that you're getting paid anywhere near where your industry peers (to say nothing of those working at for-profits) are is by wheedling your way into the dauphin whims of big donors, the board or the ED. Things like health insurance had to be ransomed. Which meant that the budget was continually lurching from demand to demand, and unable to ever put together a compensation scheme even mildly tuned to the value people were bringing to the organization.

The interstitial position, that of commissioned fundraising (essentially — though I fought for regular hourly communication work) was ethically dubious but at least pretty consistent with amount of actual work people put in and their skill at pulling it off. You didn't necessarily know exactly what your coworkers were making, but since people knew the tiers, the hourly minimum (which, at $13, was better than any of our competitors) and since making above the bonus threshold was celebrated every morning, you could work it out with high school math skills. Sure, some people making the equivalent of $20 an hour complained about the guy making more than $60, but the numbers were immediately, impersonally justifiable. Basically, the same thing as when I was a pizza driver — I know that tipped economies end up being deleterious to average wages for a position, but the comparison becomes between the $24 an hour you're making (minus the invisible costs in car maintenance) and the $16 your coworker is making because he's shitty at his job, not the $20 they would be making and the $28 you could be making if you were both able to argue based on the revenue you brought in and the profit to the business from the services you offer. But hell, the only reason that pizza job got more than the legal minimum is because the workers snowed Mr. Kim on what the law required for tipped workers — if he knew he could have paid us less, he would have (if he had understood American laws, he probably wouldn't also have bought underage drivers whiskey and we wouldn't have had to have an awkward conversation where we tried to let him know that weed was totally legal but not anything you can ever talk to the police about, because the police want to tax it).

It's a shame that wealth and income in America are so fucked and fraught, but letting employers control it only encourages a zero sum, worker-against-worker bargaining position. It's just that undoing that is going to make it worse in the short term while making it better in the long term, and often worse for the individual actor while better for the group overall. Hopefully as workers switch employers more often, they'll get better at understanding why improving the floor of group outcomes also improves individual outcomes on average.
posted by klangklangston at 10:00 PM on July 20, 2015 [9 favorites]


too simplistic idea: tell your salary to the people below or equal to you in the hierarchies encouraged/demanded by white supremacy and patriarchy.
posted by You Can't Tip a Buick at 10:03 PM on July 20, 2015 [3 favorites]


Many of the old-fashioned, more "experienced" people at my work are very reluctant to talk about salary.

The folks under 30 are all pretty openly sharing their salaries with each other though. It's not even a big deal. Heck, I've had conversations at lunchtime in the company cafeteria.

Glassdoor is a good resource if people in your company are actively participating.*

(* Although I heard of one disgruntled employee who nefariously posted many fake salaries that were vastly too high. The HR department spent years trying to clean that up.)
posted by miyabo at 10:04 PM on July 20, 2015 [1 favorite]


It may vary by company, but at the companies I've worked at, I've found the Glassdoor data to be pretty far from reality (in both directions, depending on company, location, and position). As a manager I have visibility into more compensation than just my own, and I know what the standard ranges are. I've never seen Glassdoor align with either the real salaries I can see (and know to be true) or the ranges. Not sure if it's just people filling in bogus data, or if Glassdoor makes some of the data up, or what. But I'd encourage some skepticism when looking there to drive your own negotiations.

I personally don't really like discussing my compensation with anyone other than my spouse, mostly because I feel like it sets up a weird dynamic. If it's lower than people think it should be, I'm a fool who doesn't know how to negotiate. If it's higher, I'm a rich asshole who is promoting inequality. Either way, I lose. But it seems like most people here think it should be discussed openly (and I certainly believe that it should be everyone's right to discuss it openly if they want to — even though I don't like talking about it, that doesn't mean I think others shouldn't). So maybe it would be an interesting experiment if someone started a MetaTalk thread where everyone discloses their salary? I'd be curious both to see the distribution, and the discussions that derive from real numbers.
posted by primethyme at 10:19 PM on July 20, 2015 [10 favorites]


Moral and effort typically plummeted when new/young and hard working employees found out that the person doing a quarter as much work was making twice as much as them.

They're short-sighted then. It's not impossible to fire people, but only the truly egregious need that. The rest can sit at whatever paygrade they are (at best), constantly getting shit on and living through everyone else's contempt if that's their thing. I'm three grades ahead of a guy who was four grades ahead of me when I started. He went down three grades and I went up four.
posted by ctmf at 10:21 PM on July 20, 2015 [1 favorite]


escabeche: And you think it would be better if their employer tried, inevitably unsuccessfully, to keep them from ever finding out?

I'm not suggesting that secrecy is morally better and I generally favor compensation being open knowledge (but reforming the system to enable rewarding compensation), but yes, the specific thing I was responding to was regarding relationships and if you don't know that you're getting screwed over, you're more likely to keep working hard and have better relationships with the people getting the better end of the deal. The poor performers that have high compensation have a strong incentive to keep things on the down low in those cases.

The core of the article is about something slightly different - Google makes claims to be a meritocracy that does reward greatness - this project shines some light on that.

Smoke: young people grossly underestimate - if they consider it at all - the weight that experience adds to salaries, and the value that it brings

I am no longer young and considered an experienced senior technical person and I still think the general government work system is highly problematic. Experience may add value to some people, but the lack of rewarding talented workers meant that the majority of the skilled workers that could benefit from having experience left for private industry and the system was left with "experienced" but poor quality workers making more than the junior ones that stuck it out just long enough to get enough experience to jump elsewhere.

I'm coming from the perspective of someone in a competitive technical field, but I saw similar things with administrative staff.

can you imagine how someone with 15 years' experience would feel being paid as much as a "hard working" grad?

I personally care about what benefit the person brings to the organization. I realize that such things are harder to quantify, but I think that people that bring average skills to the table and work hard should get a decent living wage and that people that bring exceptional skills to the table either through being highly skilled or highly experienced (or both) should be rewarded for it.

Eyebrows McGee: Performance bonuses and merit salaries are okay in competitive industries (although you're still giving a green light to 3/4 of your workforce to slack off, because a LOT of people are willing to be paid less to work less hard and accept the logical flipside of your deal instead of the incentive you were trying to offer), but in collegial industries where people are working in teams, they're brutally undermining and contribute to low morale and high turnover and poor team efficiency.

As long as the 3/4 of the workforce that slacks off still does enough work to justify what they're getting paid, I don't really have a problem with that in technical fields. As far as collegial fields, I'm genuinely not trying to be an obtuse jerk here, but are you really suggesting that not having some kind of merit based benefit is the way to go?

You Can't Tip a Buick : you're not that good. Really, you're not. You may think you're that good. you're wrong. ... Stop trying to cheapen our labor by busting our rates.

Oh whatever. I am that good and I have various metrics to prove it. If you're parked in a government job and doing a shitty enough job that you're threatened by people that actually care and work hard, you're just doing a different version of "fuck you, I've got mine" on the backs of tax payers.

ctmf: a guy who was four grades ahead of me when I started. He went down three grades and I went up four.

In my experience, people never went down pay grades, ever, unless for some reason they voluntarily left a position and applied for a lower grade one. Part of the problem was there was a significant generational gap - regardless of ability, people hired in the 90s tended to make twice as much as people hired in the 00s, and it just stayed that way.

It's not impossible to fire people

It was literally about a person year's worth of work to fire people, so there were quite a few people that were dead weight that would coast on the tax payers' dime for years because it wasn't worth taking the time out of people that did actual work's schedule to try to get rid of them. They just got shuffled to whatever department didn't have political power to keep them out.
posted by Candleman at 10:33 PM on July 20, 2015 [2 favorites]


so I'm hesitating to post what I'm paid here, because I like to keep at least a nominal separation between my You Can't Tip a Buick alter-ego and my real identity. Though I do let too much personal info out here, it would be basically trivial for half the people here to reverse engineer exactly who I am from the exact (low, don't worry) figure I'm paid. but I guess if anyone memails me, I'm down for a swap.
posted by You Can't Tip a Buick at 10:35 PM on July 20, 2015


I am no longer young and considered an experienced senior technical person and I still think the general government work system is highly problematic. Experience may add value to some people, but the lack of rewarding talented workers meant that the majority of the skilled workers that could benefit from having experience left for private industry and the system was left with "experienced" but poor quality workers making more than the junior ones that stuck it out just long enough to get enough experience to jump elsewhere.

Yes, this. This is a much better articulation of what I was trying to say above.
posted by His thoughts were red thoughts at 10:43 PM on July 20, 2015 [1 favorite]


you would be better served, and we all would be better served, if you took that time and talent and energy and applied it to literally anything other than wage labor. Put in your eight hours, or ten hours, or twelve hours, or whatever ungodly long amount of time they're requiring to work these days, do an indifferent job, and then spend your free time and energy doing something worthwhile with your life.

My work, while in the public sector, was public domain and served to benefit the people that used what I created directly and anyone that wanted to piggyback off of it. If you want to be outraged at something, be outraged that the system is not calibrated to reward people that work hard for the public good.
posted by Candleman at 11:09 PM on July 20, 2015 [2 favorites]


Awww, WTH, YCTaB, go for it.
posted by carping demon at 11:16 PM on July 20, 2015


escabeche: "That's one of the great things about being a state employee. I (or you) can look up anybody's salary, and anybody can look up mine. I think it makes relations better, not worse. Everybody knows and everybody knows that everybody knows."

That's also one of the terrible things about being a state employee. Contrary to popular belief, in the U.S. salaries for public jobs are not public for all positions across the board; and public (state and federal) jobs are exempt from the law making it illegal for employers to reprimand employees for sharing details about their salaries. So, yes: if you have a government job, it is legal for your boss to tell you that you'll be fired if you discuss your salary with anyone else; when paychecks are public, that doesn't mean much, but often they are not public.
posted by koeselitz at 11:17 PM on July 20, 2015 [2 favorites]


Metafilter: low quality individuals
posted by klanawa at 12:11 AM on July 21, 2015 [5 favorites]


Here's a quick trick to be able to work out the average salary amongst a group (with > 2 participants) without revealing your salary to everyone else.

1. Let the number of people in the group be N
2. Take your salary S and add a really big number T to it and call that X
3. Add all the Xs up from everyone in the group to give a total Y
4. Then everyone removes their T from Y to give a new total Z
5. Z/N is the average salary of the group
posted by PenDevil at 12:21 AM on July 21, 2015 [17 favorites]


I personally don't really like discussing my compensation with anyone other than my spouse, mostly because I feel like it sets up a weird dynamic. If it's lower than people think it should be, I'm a fool who doesn't know how to negotiate. If it's higher, I'm a rich asshole who is promoting inequality. Either way, I lose.

But isn't that (at least to some extent) because no one talks about salaries? Generally, because no one talks about salaries in everyday conversation, it is assumed that if someone does mention it, it is either to complain or to brag (most likely to brag, in my experience). Then, if the number is too low, you laugh at the braggart for being foolish, if the number is too high, you scoff at the braggart's greed. But if salaries were commonly discussed, I think there would be much less reaction. For example, I have friends who can't afford cars and other friends that drive Porsches who travel in the same circles. While this is essentially a proxy for their salary, it isn't something that is a big deal because there is no way to hide it. But if someone started talking about actual salaries, I am sure that would make for an uncomfortable situation, which sucks, because we could all learn from each other.
posted by roquetuen at 12:49 AM on July 21, 2015 [1 favorite]


While this is essentially a proxy for their salary, it isn't something that is a big deal because there is no way to hide it.

I'm guessing there is a polite fiction happening here and actually talking about it would take away everyone's ability to pretend they aren't noticing.
posted by danny the boy at 1:00 AM on July 21, 2015 [2 favorites]


But it seems like most people here think it should be discussed openly (and I certainly believe that it should be everyone's right to discuss it openly if they want to — even though I don't like talking about it, that doesn't mean I think others shouldn't). So maybe it would be an interesting experiment if someone started a MetaTalk thread where everyone discloses their salary? I'd be curious both to see the distribution, and the discussions that derive from real numbers.

To me it works like this:

1) Openly disclosing your salary unprompted in company / with friends / your brother in-law is doing it to impress you and not even talking about what he makes but some pie in the sky promise? Tacky and bad and likely to create negative feelings, not the least of which is "why is this person bragging about their salary, that is weak."

2) Telling someone your salary when they ask -- depends on your comfort level and relationship to the person. Are they a co-worker performing the exact same position? This is where I think it makes the biggest difference. Are they getting screwed? Performing poorly? Been around forever and a point person for everyone but always kind of mopey because they know the latest hires are making more simply due to market conditions?

This is where it matters that someone might be doing twice the work for half the pay but more importantly it's the only immediate testable way to know your relative value to the company as the asker.

And this is where "you" the person being asked may quickly explain how experience and your specific skillset determine the salary you earn, and it's not just the magical default salary for new hires in that role, but if this person plays their cards right, or just does a decent job and sticks around, they might get there. Or perhaps they should be there already and you can give them the inspiration to ask for an increase and some advice on how to go about that without disclosing why or making any threats of leaving. Or perhaps you find out they're getting totally screwed after playing a pivotal role on a huge project so your co-workers try to put them in for a bonus or at least take them out for drinks.

For other people outside of that sphere, it again depends on your relationship to the person. Random person at a party might just be looking to engage in a back-and-forth pissing contest, or may be genuinely interested in what you make because they're looking at the field you're in for possibilities. Usually it's best to have explained what you actually do if it's somewhat complicated, to put it in better context, but it's fine to say "I don't really feel comfortable talking about that" or "I do alright" or whatever you feel is appropriate.

1) def sux doe
posted by aydeejones at 1:11 AM on July 21, 2015 [2 favorites]


a polite fiction

But that’s among friends and family who are not necessarily peers for purposes of salary comparisons, so that’s OK and in fact probably necessary to maintain social harmony (because it’s much nicer to be among equals). It’s also an easy fiction to maintain since you can make up all sorts of possible explanations to paper over lifestyle differences that don’t involve income: thriftiness, debt, family money/a legacy.

My suggestion: tax authorities should be made to publish detailed cross-tables of average incomes by occupation, sector, gender, and age group (and other relevant variables depending on country).
posted by ormon nekas at 1:20 AM on July 21, 2015


Random person at a party might just be looking to engage in a back-and-forth pissing contest, or may be genuinely interested in what you make because they're looking at the field you're in for possibilities.

Exactly this. Although when in the latter (asker’s) situation I never ask and end up guessing from proxies (housing situation, holidays, what they’re wearing) instead
posted by ormon nekas at 1:24 AM on July 21, 2015


My suggestion: tax authorities should be made to publish detailed cross-tables of average incomes by occupation, sector, gender, and age group (and other relevant variables depending on country).

In the Nordic countries, your tax return summary is public (e.g. taxed income, taxed fortune). The Norwegians even offered a free online service for a bit (not sure if it's still around), the others will give you anyone's info for a nominal fee.

Otherwise the service you mention is often provided by the unions, at least in countries with working unions.
posted by effbot at 1:31 AM on July 21, 2015 [3 favorites]


and if you don't know that you're getting screwed over, you're more likely to keep working hard and have better relationships with the people getting the better end of the deal.

Many many many years ago I poked around on my manager's Apple IIgs and found the spreadsheet of current salaries and upcoming raises. As soon I saw that I was near the bottom of both of these I started interviewing for other jobs immediately.
posted by bendy at 1:38 AM on July 21, 2015 [2 favorites]


effbot: "In the Nordic countries, your tax return summary is public"
Correction: not in Denmark.
posted by brokkr at 1:55 AM on July 21, 2015


Closer to Google, the closest comparison point from official aggregate data is this table of 2010 hourly pay by occupation in the San Jose–San Francisco–Oakland area, from the Bureau of Labor Statistics. It’s based on a survey, unlike tax data which would include everyone, so there will be some sampling error.

For example, the table gives an average hourly wage (in 2010) of $58 for senior ‘applications software engineers’, $37.50 for ‘computer programmers’. The largest figure in this occupational group is $75/hour for ‘computer and mathematical science occupations, level 13’ (the level equivalent to a manager supervising professionals). The presentation is geared towards employers, as a guide to the cost of labour. The data are old because this particular survey was defunded by the 2011 Federal Budget (an alternative dataset is recommended, but I haven't checked).

Public tax returns are an interesting option, though the countries doing this are very much the exception (I think). It’s a bit onerous to check people’s tax returns one at a time, but it does allow you to know the distribution within your own workplace, which is important. We’ll see how long this survives, given internet privacy concerns and the changed political trend in the Nordics in the last decades (end of social-democratic electoral domination, disproportionate increase in the highest incomes).

Anyway here is a summary of how public tax records in Finland work in practice. In short individual taxable incomes over €10,000 along with capital gains tax can be obtained from the authorities for a small fee; newspapers, the public broadcaster, and specialised websites offer free searchable databases. Meanwhile aggregate tables based on the tax database (so covering all taxpayers) are available from Statistics Finland. (A case in point: the wealth tax, which Thomas Piketty recently argued should be introduced worldwide even at a negligibly low rate just to collect data, was abolished in Finland in 2006, so wealth data ends there).
posted by ormon nekas at 2:37 AM on July 21, 2015


Anyone wonder if her boss rejecting her peer bonuses might qualify as illegal retaliation?
posted by jeffburdges at 2:46 AM on July 21, 2015 [5 favorites]


Corrections to the information about Finland in my last post: the main website operating a taxable incomes database was shut down for privacy reasons, and last published a full list in paper form in 2011. Although the press publishes celebrity incomes and lists of the highest earners by area (with a few years’ delay – example showing founders of online game company Supercell earning more than 7,000 times the average annual income), most data is now still only available by searching individual records at the tax office.
posted by ormon nekas at 2:58 AM on July 21, 2015


"In the Nordic countries, your tax return summary is public."

In Sweden it is and I have noticed that people routinely tell me how much they earn and don't feel shy asking me how much I earn. It's the way people size each other up which is a funny thing and not really straightforward. It's a matter of etiquette and cultural norms which are different everywhere.

In America as I recall it is rude to ask someone how much they earn and it is equally rude to boast about how much you might make. It's just not done (unless you're Donald Trump). Instead might ask someone "what kind of car do you drive?"
posted by three blind mice at 3:33 AM on July 21, 2015 [2 favorites]


They've only really started unconscious bias training in the last few years from what I've heard. It wouldn't have a lot of effect in that time.

You wouldn't expect it to fix everything in a few years, but you would expect an effect by then.
posted by jeather at 4:16 AM on July 21, 2015 [1 favorite]


I used to work in a public agency where salaries were fairly public -- there was some way to look it up online though not easily, but because of how budgeting worked anyone with any budget responsibilities could see almost everyone's salary internally. It did lead to some resentment in some cases, and also gave the director an excuse to keep salaries both flat (so both low and high performers earned the same) and low. There were good aspects also, but I ended up feeling like the disadvantages were significant.
posted by Dip Flash at 4:21 AM on July 21, 2015 [1 favorite]


I'm a state employee in a sunshine state. It is very easy to look up my salary, my boss's salary, the dean's salary, the damn president's salary. I can see that English faculty basically make what they would teaching high school and business faculty literally make twice that. Does that build resentment? Is it sometimes bad for morale? Sure. But that is the fault of the system that sets salaries, not the system that makes them public. I also think it's reasonable when discussing issues on campus for us all to be aware that the person who thinks life is great and we should all stop whining makes double what the president of the faculty senate (who happens to be an English professor) makes.

Unfortunately, much of the actual labor on campus is contracted out, so I can't look up the salary of the guy who mops the floors or the woman who makes lunch, and I think that's too bad. But overall, I think it's a good system and that transparency is better than not.
posted by hydropsyche at 4:57 AM on July 21, 2015 [15 favorites]


The notion that public, fixed salaries breed mediocrity is False. In fact it is so false it is falsity, false, false false.

First, the notion that salaries motivate work is false. Sure a pay raise will motivate someone for a relatively short period of time, but it is not a long term motivator (1, 2)

Second, it is false that fixed salaries give no opportunity to reward performance. There are so many ways to reward performance other than salary it boggles the mind. If it's a for-profit business, bonuses can do this, and can work well if tied to explicit and fair criteria. But for many (and probably most) people, other non-monetary compensation works great as motivators. Extra time off, formal public recognition, nicer work area, the list is endless.

A third fallacy, is that it's impossible to get rid of under-performers in a fixed salary organization. First, it's false on the face of it. The process for terminating under-performers is unrelated to compensation. But, even if there was a connection, it's relatively easy to design organizational processes that account for this. For example, time limits at certain levels where if a person is unable to achieve the next level they will be transitioned out of that job (and possibly the organization).

Bonus: Fixed, public salary organizations don't have to tie compensation strictly to position. There can be multiple salary grades that can perform a given position. Also, salary bumps can be made for time in service, successfully completing training/classes, etc. This means you don't have to wait for somebody above you to retire before you can get promoted. Promotion is only loosely dependent upon the organizational structure.
posted by forforf at 6:14 AM on July 21, 2015 [27 favorites]


Charles Handy, possibly the person for whom the term 'business guru' was first coined, often repeats the finding that pay bonuses do not make happy workers.
Why should shareholders have all the power and the riches when it is the workers who create the wealth? I would insist that workers have one third of the seats on any remuneration committee and a similar representation on a German-style supervisory board. I would also make the living wage a legal imperative and raise it above the rate of inflation every year. Business would squeal but would have to buckle down and improve their productivity if they want to keep their riches. I would also outlaw all bonuses but encourage profit-sharing provided it applied to the whole organization.
The effect of pay bonuses on job satisfaction is short lived (a maximum of six weeks) before the employee reverts to their baseline level of satisfaction (on preview, see previous comment from forforf). The aspects that people enjoy about their jobs are not financial rewards once we get past subsistence levels. People who work for themselves report higher levels of job satisfaction than people who work for a corporation, regardless of remuneration levels. Google tries to keep workers happy by letting them use 10% of their time to pursue their own projects. They are generally thought of as company that tries to implement state of the art management strategies, but it seems they have dropped the ball on the importance of transparency.
posted by asok at 6:41 AM on July 21, 2015 [4 favorites]


But for many (and probably most) people, other non-monetary compensation works great as motivators.

This is a great meme for employers, especially ones not inclined to pay the going rate! Do folks applying for jobs question the low salaries on offer? Shoot back with a list of all of the other (and cheaper) things being done to motivate employees! Embrace the foosball table!

Or to put it another way, with less snark: I actually agree that pay raises and bonuses as such are a poor way to inspire extra motivation; fostering a good, respectful work environment matters far more in the long run (assuming that the pay is equitable in the first place; of course, in many places that's a terrible assumption). It's also reasonable for a worker to intentionally choose job stability or less pressure in lieu of higher wages — but such choices are constrained by that fact that normally the employer will have much more power in the negotiation.

It would be interesting to imagine a world where wages and salary are not viewed as a motivational tool — but getting there seems full of pitfalls that would only serve the interests of employers who want to pay as little as possible.
posted by metaquarry at 6:58 AM on July 21, 2015 [3 favorites]


The effect of pay bonuses on job satisfaction is short lived

I agree with this, and additionally I don't think the actual amount of the bonus matters that much. Think about the OP -- people were getting upset over occasional $150 bonuses, which are a completely trivial amount in the context of a Google engineer's salary (like 0.1%). The company I work for likes to give people $100 Amazon gift certificates, and I have to confess I'm motivated to take on extra work to get those gift certificates in a way that is completely economically irrational (but hey, I can get a new toy from Amazon!). I've even heard of one place which gives you time off in exchange for working extra hours during crunch time, which if you think about it is a completely neutral proposition, but it still motivates people. So I think companies could do OK with public, fixed salaries, and very small but targeted incentives to motivate people to take on challenging work.
posted by miyabo at 7:10 AM on July 21, 2015


Indeed, metaquarry, despite the research results and years of experience I imagine what is good for the goose may not be deemed to be good for the gander as long as the gander is the one with control of the purse strings.

There is an ongoing debate on 'bankers' bonuses' here in the UK, which itself is a bit of a red herring from my point of view as there are bigger economic issues to deal with regarding equitable pay. We are repeatedly told that we have to pay top executives internationally 'competitive' salaries or they will leave the country. My response would be, let them leave, find someone who has a semblance of a conscience and some loyalty to the company to do the job!
posted by asok at 7:23 AM on July 21, 2015 [1 favorite]


Wait a minute... you mean people still get raises? In 2015??
I'm going to go talk to my boss.

(Actually, no, I'm not. He'll just tell me my self-appraisal is overdue)
posted by MtDewd at 7:24 AM on July 21, 2015 [3 favorites]


In a previous job, a younger coworker of mine (someone fairly recently out of college) was once promoted to the same role that I and a few others shared. She wanted to negotiate her new salary and asked me what I made. I told her, believing that it was the right and fair thing to do. But my salary was dramatically different than what the company had offered her. It made things awkward between us; I felt guilty about what I was earning, even though I myself felt unpaid. I don't know how much the knowledge actually helped her negotiation. At that particular time, I actually don't think the company was in a position to offer more (after I later quit, my coworkers were laid off). Bottom line, I wished I had never told her, and I don't think I will again if asked in the future.
posted by three_red_balloons at 7:33 AM on July 21, 2015 [1 favorite]


Moral and effort typically plummeted when new/young and hard working employees found out that the person doing a quarter as much work was making twice as much as them.

This is stated as if there was a study or something... but.. to my knowledge there isn't one. You could conjecture that moral and effort would plummet, but there's no evidence for that as far as I know. I work in a county hospital. We can all easily look up each other's salaries. Some people work hard, some people don't. There is explicit and public discussion and derision of people who are perceived as lazy. Hard working people continue to work hard. I'd say the degree of autonomy and flexibility in your position are a much greater determinant of how hard people work here. We have some of the lowest paid workers (techs and outreach workers) working the hardest here, but on the other hand, everyone here makes a living wage with fairly good benefits, so having that bottom line probably means a lot.
posted by latkes at 8:06 AM on July 21, 2015 [4 favorites]


three_red_balloons, as a counterpoint, I have a good friend and colleague with whom I'm comfortable talking in clear detail about my compensation. The result of these frank exchanges was that they were able to bring a clear, data-backed argument to management and have improved their situation significantly. So, YMMV.
posted by ChrisR at 8:09 AM on July 21, 2015 [1 favorite]


As someone whose "salary" was made public recently, a couple of thoughts:

1. I think it makes sense for people to talk about how much they make, because the more information people have about what their peers make (for various versions of what "peer" might mean), the better equipped everyone is to ask for fair compensation for their work, and to be aware when their own compensation is out of line, either positively or negatively.

2. I think it also makes sense -- in an entirely different way -- that people are reluctant to talk about how much they make. Aside from the concern of retaliation from employers (or in my field of work, of publishers who are seen to be having a role very similar to employers), there's the worry that if you make too little, you'll look as if you were foolish and taken advantage of, and if you make a lot, that you'll make others uncomfortable or resentful.

In my particular case, for a long time I was very public about what I made from writing fiction, because it was helpful to be someone who volunteered that information to give others a data point to consider. But then my career took off in a way that made me an outlier in terms of writer incomes, and (among other things) my wife asked me to stop talking specifically about how much we made, because she thought it would look less like a desire to be helpful and more like a desire to brag. So there's a few years gap between when I stopped talking about my writing income and the recent news stories which discussed my new deal, and which gave people a baseline of my income.

Which was interesting in itself, because the announcement became its own thing, with people responding to it positively and negatively (and at times wildly tangentially), and it now being a bit of a weird yardstick for other other writers. I was partly happy about this because once again I was able to provide a data point, but there was other baggage that come with it that was not so great, and to my wife's point (and concern) I did get criticism of bragging, and the suggestion that maybe I didn't need to make the details of my deal as public as I did (this criticism was not from Tor, my publisher, I would note, who did not try to keep those details under wraps, nor ever complained about me talking about what I got from them).

At this point I don't know how useful knowledge of my writing income is for other authors, but if it is, and if it gives them something to triangulate off of for their own deals, then I'm happy about that. At the end of the day, writers (and workers, etc) don't benefit as a class by being quiet about what they make. More light, more knowledge, and better understanding of one's field is always good.
posted by jscalzi at 8:19 AM on July 21, 2015 [26 favorites]


Many of the old-fashioned, more "experienced" people at my work are very reluctant to talk about salary.

While for the most part I had always been willing to talk salary with my coworkers, my last job which included a couple of significant raises I became less so. I can't say why, though I think in one case immediately prior to my first wage increasing review at the company, I was told by several employees it was basically impossible to get a "perfect" score on the review scoring. And I did, along with a nice pay bump. The second raise I fought for after realizing I was underpaid for the actual work I was doing. It was a nice pay increase but it also wasn't as high as that role should have been getting based on my research. So I was in this weird position with a new job title and pay raise, making more than my coworkers. But I also felt weird about making less than that position was in other companies. So yeah, I kind of fell into that word place where I was the more experienced old timer that didn't feel comfortable talking about my pay.

(And about 6 months after I left, my boss whom remained a good friend sent me some internal information that confirmed I was underpaid even with the raise. She fought hard for my raise at the time, so she felt justified her case was proved, even if she didn't get that for me.)
posted by [insert clever name here] at 1:58 PM on July 21, 2015


I think the point I was making was while I generally am for sharing wage information, I stopped around the time I realized it would make others feel bad. And a solid "it's complicated" later became the reason. Though had someone asked directly, I probably would have told them.
posted by [insert clever name here] at 2:00 PM on July 21, 2015


Look at this from a game theory perspective. Salary information = how you are compensated in comparison to everyone else. There are 4 possible actors:
A. Is confident about their salary information. They have accurate information.
B. Is confident about their salary information. They have INaccurate information.
C. Is NOT confident about their salary information. They have accurate information.
D. Is NOT confident about their salary information. They have INaccurate information.
And these are their actual respective risk/reward scenarios, for sharing their own salary with others:
A. Low reward, low risk.
B. High reward, high risk
C. High reward, low risk
D. High reward, high risk.
So:
A. Thinks (correctly) they have nothing to gain by sharing.
B. Thinks (incorrectly) they have nothing to gain by sharing. (And if they DO share, they are at high risk.)
C. Thinks (incorrectly) they are at high risk if they share.
D. Thinks (correctly) they are at high risk if they share.
Basically, it's all downside if you share, for all participants.
posted by danny the boy at 3:14 PM on July 21, 2015 [3 favorites]


I recently walked off a job where I was asked to hire full-time employees, most of who were likely to be from a pool of freelancers we employed, who I did negotiate pay with, but didn't have direct authority to negotiate full-time salaries because (officially) HR is a different department (I might have been able to get that authority, but I was too frustrated with my own boss at that point to try). This is a pretty small potential labor pool, at most 500+ people, most of who we would have had to pull away from other commitments.

I was asked to never, never, never, ever talk about my salary, but the sad fact is I was making 4-5 times the average wage in my department, and I felt underpaid. For a long, long time I didn't talk about it. They managed to hire one of my friends at half my salary, and she flamed out from the frustration, after which I started pushing hard for salary increases across the board. After that fell flat with management, I told everyone what I made, and suggesting that they take it to management and ask for more. I also told prospective new hires as a way to make sure they stayed in place once they started working for us, and didn't devalue themselves like our last hire. The thing is, I knew profit margins, they could afford me, and they could afford a lot more like me, and they could afford to give me a raise. They didn't because...prevarication. After awhile it just looked to me like they had a deliberate policy of hiring vulnerable employees to keep wages low. People with the skillsets in our department, in this highly localized market, are not vulnerable except for personal reasons. When I confronted them with that, they appealed to my sense of compassion for them to keep me from quitting.

Now, 3 months after I ragequit, I'm happy to tell anyone what I made and what I think I should have made, because screw the greedy bastards. The more people ask for, the higher rates are for everyone.

I'm back in freelance translation, and I tell everyone what I make, because same thing: many agents and clients will try to shaft you. The more people I can deprive them of, the better, and the more people getting paid properly for good work, the more my work is valued across the board. I might also find out I'm getting screwed (or asking outrageous prices and lower them!).

I realize it may not apply to everyone in every situation, but my experience puts me firmly in the "make it public" camp.
posted by saysthis at 3:59 PM on July 21, 2015 [10 favorites]


escabeche: "And you think it would be better if their employer tried, inevitably unsuccessfully, to keep them from ever finding out?"

If unsuccessful, no. But at my previous workplace, there was a small dip in morality due to people being hired post-crash knowing they were making less than people hired pre-crash. If they knew how much less they were making, it would have been a huge plummet in morality. So, if the employer successfully prevented them from finding out, yeah, it would be better.
posted by Bugbread at 4:20 PM on July 21, 2015 [1 favorite]


"This is a great meme for employers, especially ones not inclined to pay the going rate! Do folks applying for jobs question the low salaries on offer? Shoot back with a list of all of the other (and cheaper) things being done to motivate employees! Embrace the foosball table!"

Honestly, at my last gig, if they had taken what they spent on bonuses for a few people (including me) and spent it on infrastructure improvements, they would have gotten far better results in terms of retention, morale and their ability to hire new people to replace the folks who got poached.

I'll also say that there's often a big gap between what the executive staff and board thought people wanted and what the workers actually wanted in terms of non-monetary compensation. Or: why three Harry and David gift baskets rotted while everyone used broken office chairs.
posted by klangklangston at 5:23 PM on July 21, 2015 [8 favorites]


(Whoops, that should have been "morale", not "morality". Morality was pretty consistent regardless of hiring date or salary)
posted by Bugbread at 7:11 PM on July 21, 2015 [1 favorite]


Klangsklangston- I have oftened wondered why companies will spend tens and hundreds of thousands of dollars on various contracts, services and partnerships would balk at spending a few hundred (or even thousand) on creature comforts for their staff; things that made their lives easier and often even led to higher productivity. Sure, let's let everyone in design and development work on computers 6 years old and several software revisions out of date. Because equating time with spinning wheels is super productive. As is losing a days worth of work when the computer blue screens. [/derail]
posted by [insert clever name here] at 8:09 PM on July 21, 2015 [3 favorites]


I didn't see anyone mention it above, so I feel it's worth posting in a days dormant thread:

It's illegal to forbid employees from discussing salary, certainly, and illegal to discipline or fire an employee for discussing their salary, but like many employment laws (like the ones against wage theft) it is next to totally unenforced.

Let none of us ever forget that Google was one of many companies that were conclusively shown to have been been illegally colluding with other companies - including Apple and Intel - to stifle salaries. There are effectively no limits to their willingness to engage in illegal behavior regarding employee salaries.
posted by phearlez at 12:10 PM on July 24, 2015 [2 favorites]


Hey everybody, there's an entire field dedicated to answering the questions being raised here: behavioral economics. If you are interested (and I hope you are), please take the time to do the free Coursera course taught by Dan Ariely, or read one of his books, or look up some current research.

I'm talking about questions like: do bonuses motivate performance? Should salaries be public? Etc.
posted by amtho at 6:11 AM on July 27, 2015 [1 favorite]


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