A discussion with Business Chicks by Michelle Rennex

One of the first things you’re taught when you start working full time is to not discuss your salary with your colleagues.

This is because a lot of employers encourage the concept of pay secrecy, the limiting of salary knowledge across employees, as it supposedly creates less animosity between colleagues over pay differences.

According to Clare Phelan, Director of Pursuit Consulting, pay secrecy can mean less conflict. “This is because everyone at the same level assumes they are being paid a fair salary commensurate with the group,” she explains. “When no salary information is shared, the company remains in control of the dialogue.”

But the reality is that not discussing salary with your colleagues further enables pay discrimination across workers, particularly between men and women. “Women are more likely to accept a salary decision when there’s a lack of information,” Clare continued. “With secrecy, bargaining power and the ability to right a wrong around discrimination are lowered.”

Beyond this, research shows that men are more inclined to negotiate over women when there is “no explicit statement that wages are negotiable”. This lack of information in combination with pay secrecy can result in both unconscious and conscious biases regarding salary across staff. An understanding of what your colleagues earn can help you determine whether you are earning a fair wage, and can give you an idea of how much room you have during salary negotiations.

According to David Burkus, former business school professor and best-selling author, keeping salaries secret leads to information asymmetry. “This is a situation where, in a negotiation, one party has loads more information than the other,” he explained. “In hiring or promotion or annual raise discussions, an employer can use that secrecy to save a lot of money.”

Throughout Barack Obama’s presidency, he worked towards addressing the gender pay gap and advocated for more pay transparency in the workplace. During a speech to Congress in 2014, the former President stated that “pay secrecy fosters discrimination and we should not tolerate it”.

Unfortunately in 2019 the gender pay gap continues to be an issue, and is partly attributed to this lack of information and the common practice of pay secrecy. While salary transparency can create uncomfortable conversations for employers, the distrust secrecy generates can be even more damaging to the business.

David Burkus highlights that “when people don’t know how their pay compares to their peers, they’re more likely to feel underpaid.” This is supported by the 2018 Robert Half Salary Guide stating that 37% of Australians don’t believe they are being paid a fair salary with 98% of them saying they’d take a new job with a higher salary as a result. This common feeling of being underpaid and undervalued can lead to low staff morale, poor employee satisfaction, and ultimately, a higher staff turnover rate.

While pay transparency can be helpful in ensuring a fair and equal workplace, Clare Phelan believes that analysing how your company decided on your salary figure is more important. “Understanding how the company determines your salary and any increase, is more important than knowing your colleagues salary,” she concluded.

Clare Phelan is a Premium member and the director of Pursuit Consulting, a recruitment and human resources company specialising in recruitment, career coaching and talent strategy. If you’d like the chance to be featured in similar articles, become a Premium member today and tell us your story!

Last week, a client I was coaching displayed an amazing example of resilience that I wanted to share with you. Unfortunately, he was told his role was redundant. He was, of course, disappointed and shaken. How he chose to address this situation and the impact on himself and his family was inspiring.

The day after receiving this news, Tom Keenan took decisive action. He organised a letterbox drop in his local area selling his gardening expertise. He landed jobs immediately. Then, as a united front, he and his wife set up a side hustle: creating and selling cotton face masks. His wife would manage the design and production, and he would handle the packaging and marketing. Both initiatives are already bringing in an income, while he applies for new senior-level roles.

I commented to him that I was inspired by the way he was addressing this unnerving, sudden employment situation. He said, “My wife and I really want to model to our kids that, whatever the situation, we need to remain engaged. How we move forward might look different in the short term, but there are always ways.”

I felt chills when he said that. I could visualise his children learning this valuable life lesson from their parents. I know how powerful this example will be when they, too, face obstacles in their future.

This made me rethink our current global Covid-19 experience. What do we want our kids and our students to remember about how we tackled these uncertain times? What do we wish to model, so that those who look up to us can use our responses as a resource when future uncertainties inevitably strike?

I was coaching Tom who was on an outplacement program via Choice Career Services.

It is sooo overwhelming. I have felt my coachees despair as they rattle off the huge numbers that are applying for the same roles.

This is the time to quieten the mind to all the market noise. Its time to get really clear on your Unique Value Proposition (UVP)

Your UVP should be the core of your Career Strategy.

It is what sets you apart from your competitors and what attracts hiring managers to make you the offer.

You can develop a powerful Unique Value Proposition by asking yourself these questions?

1. What are your skills/expertise that always praised? What have employers thanked you for?

2. What are some examples of how you have helped your company move forward? What initiatives have you developed that another area/company could benefit from?

3. Identify and articulate your strengths. They are often the things that come easily to you and make you feel energised.

4. What adjectives have your past employers used to describe you?

Tie the above answers to your target position/company.

This is your Unique Value Proposition. It should be apparent on your resume in your Professional Summary, LinkedIn Profile, with your networks & at Interview.