Workin’ 9 to 5, what a way to make a living... Dolly didn’t realise how good she had it. For most, especially Australians, going home at 5 is rare. But you get paid well for it, surely? We shouldn’t ask those questions, now should we? It’s uncouth to discuss pay.
It's Not Good Economics
‘People are funny about money’, as Samantha from Sex and the City put it, and that’s understandable. But the thing is, we’re undermining ourselves by not being open about salaries. How? Okay, so I need to explain something about market economics to you (the patronising comes free of charge). They call it 'asymmetric information' when one person in the transaction has more information than the other person. It’s a thing government regulation tries to fix, like how insider trading is illegal, or like how you buy a couch from eBay and the seller doesn't tell you that the photo was a stock image from Ikea’s website.
Negotiating with Employers Who Know More Than You
Companies have access to updates on the going rate of all kinds of professions, and they’re constantly keeping an eye on movements. In an ever-increasing contract environment for professionals, where you negotiate your pay one-on-one with your employer, you need all the information you can get. And talking to a couple of recruiters about pay (if you’re lucky enough to have multiple suitors) isn’t going to cut it. Because of course you’re not negotiating one-on-one, you’re negotiating one-on-HR department, recruitment professionals, experienced management, and consultants.
Getting Below Minimum Wage, per Hour
I’ve discovered talking to a few people in large firms that their pay isn't fair, given the hours they work (i.e. below minimum wage). They see their annual figure and they may be happy but on a per hour basis, the baristas servicing them are on a better deal. But they’re promised career progression if they just stay back a little later, get paid a little less. Maybe they would look elsewhere if they knew what they could get.
We're Helping Corporations
We’ve drunk the Kool-Aid corporations have pushed. They’re the ones benefiting from our modesty. Governments, where unions are strongest, have an open policy on pay. Strong union presence and openness about pay mightn’t be coincidence. In Federal or State government, everyone knows everyone else’s pay just by knowing their job title because jobs have a grading system. Instead of sharing what we know and cooperating, we're helping a culture of secrecy that can only mean more information for our employers and less for our colleagues.
At the end of the movie 9 to 5, Dolly’s character and her comrades take over the office—and one of their first acts is to make it no longer a sackable offence to discuss your salary.