Why you should care

Because if more companies move forward with this idea, how much you make might be disclosed to everyone you work with.

It’s a company’s worst nightmare. One day, whether the firm employs a handful or thousands, the salary list for everyone leaks out. “Found” in a trashcan, so to speak. Emailed to “all” by mistake. Sh*t happens.

But maybe this could be a good thing. Maybe all those tireless efforts by bosses to keep this stuff confidential are a waste of time, and life would be better if the figures were out.

Let’s start with the greater good it might bring. Study after study shows that women are still paid less than men for the same job, an inequity that might be reduced in a more open world. And we all know that some salaries are just unfair, that the loudest voice — not necessarily the best worker — often gets paid better. “It’s hard to justify gross inconsistencies when everything’s all out on the table,” says Oscia Wilson, the owner of Boiled Architecture, who shares her company’s financials, including employee salaries, with her five-person staff in San Francisco.

Maybe the best idea is disclosing not just the juicy numbers but also the rationale behind them.

Wilson isn’t alone. Take Joel Gascoigne, the CEO of social media software company Buffer in San Francisco, who lists his workers’ salaries in a Google spreadsheet for anyone to see. He says it hasn’t scared people off — in fact, it has brought in more résumés. Moz, a software company based in Seattle, doesn’t go quite that far, but it shares salary ranges for each position with its employees, the company’s co-founder, Rand Fishkin, tells OZY. Disclosing salaries isn’t just for tech startups, either. Whole Foods, which is publicly traded, is also on board.

Obviously, this is a huge deal, and not every rank-and-file worker will want it, if only for simple privacy reasons. There’s also some decent evidence that salary disclosures can lower morale for those at the bottom of the pyramid because they’re upset about how little they make.

In the end, maybe the best idea is disclosing not just the juicy numbers but also the rationale behind them. Wilson does this by sharing the company’s financial reports with her employees. For what it’s worth, I can speak from experience: After the Great Recession hit, my then-employer decided to cope by cutting the salaries of those who made more than a certain figure. Out of 200 employees, only about 20 were exempt from the cuts. I was one of them.

In other words, my paycheck was too small to even bother with. Was I happy? Well, not exactly, but I knew where I stood. And I eventually worked my way up.

Feel like disclosing your thoughts? We won’t make you include your pay — but we’ll be curious.

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OZYImmodest proposal

Propositions that fall on the continuum between controversial and utterly insane. Sometimes we're tongue-in-cheek. Sometimes, dead serious.