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How would you feel if your colleagues knew your salary?

I could pretend this is a fictitious situation and try to come up with a good story to demonstrate my point but this time, I don’t need to.

So this is a real story that happened to Maria [a fictitious name] a friend of mine. Maria joined a small (less than 100 employees) but well known company in Montreal. She was bringing a great deal of experience and specific expertise to the organization and as such negotiated what she believed to be a fair compensation (salary, bonus, vacation, medical plan, etc.). Although it took some back and forth, both Maria and her employer were happy they had reached an agreement. She joined the company 3 weeks after accepting the offer.

Within the first week, Maria quickly noticed that she was joining a tightly knit team. Most of her teammates had been working together for years and had gone through some challenging projects which led them to gel. People were nice to Maria but she sensed something was interfering.

A few weeks passed and Maria was quickly learning the basics of her job. She rapidly got up to speed but still had to learn the specifics of the new industry. She truly enjoyed her work even taking home some assignments so she could learn as quickly as possible.

Maria had gone out for lunch the a local restaurant with a colleague when she heard something that completely shocked her. The conversation went like this.

  • You might not know this but everyone on the team knows how much you are making” said Tina.
  • How is this possible?” asked Maria in a state of shock.
  • You know Peter, the senior analyst on our team?” asked Tina.
  • Yes, of course I know him. He’s really funny!” said Maria who’s brain was trying to make connections.
  • I don’t know how Peter found out but he knows that you are making more than everyone on the team and he told us all. We even know that you have a 15% bonus which is unusual for our level.” added Tina.

Maria has always been very polite so she moved on to another topic she told me but she still couldn’t make peace with what she had heard. Her productivity dropped radically on that afternoon as she was trying to figure out ho to deal with such an un-easy situation.

Yesterday when Maria called me I wondered how I would have reacted? Here’s how she decided to handle the situation.

She debated how she could deal with such a situation and in the end she decided to do nothing. Maria thought she could confront Peter to find out how he got the information or she could try to deny the details. Either ways, she felt this would cause more harm than good. She simply decided to show through her actions and contribution that she was worth every penny.

She also decided that if any of her colleague would complain about her salary, she would ask them to go see their manager and discuss their salary. She thought people shouldn’t be upset at her if she had negotiated her salary well.

I thought that was a clever approach – capitalize on your own ability, skills and expertise and use your performance to justify your compensation instead of trying to talk people into believing your value.

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