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How your salary info leaks out

March 31, 2009

A near-rebellion once broke out in my previous workplace. The complaint: How come we have same boss, same title, same responsibilties, but different salaries?

There was a panic in HR. How the hell did something as confidential as salary leak out, people asked? And it wasn’t the first time either.

So we did a CSI which eventually led us to the complainants themselves. Apparently a few of them were also lunch buddies. One fine day over lunch, one of them got to groaning about his CPF deduction. “They deducted $X thousand from my pay. ^*@%#!. What about you?”

As they took turns to rant, mental calculators were clicking away silently. Soon, people began to hunt for the HR manager to demand, “Why is the guy sitting next to me earning 30% more than I am?”

“Go ask your manager,” the HR manager said. And when they confronted their boss, he said, “Go ask HR.” The hot potato was tossed from one hand to another, going all the way to the CEO. Eventually it resulted in 2 good people leaving and a lot of bitter feelings.

Salary leaks can also come from places you don’t expect, like HR or even the P.A. to the CEO. Want some juicy gossip? Then swear yourself to secrecy first. :mrgreen:

The fact is, no salary is ever high enough and people are quick to get tangled in feelings of superiority and jealousy. Employers learn that rather than get into the sticky fight and get everyone distracted, its more beneficial for everyone to just maintain a code of silence. Some companies even impose capital punishment by terminating you for reavealing salary.

Yeah, these things suck. Its one of those things you have to put up with as an employee.

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7 Comments leave one →
  1. March 31, 2009 10:40 am

    Salary is something very sensitive. πŸ˜› We shouldn’t talk about it even with our closest friends. After all, money brings jealousy and salary brings money. So salary brings jealousy. And jealousy brings chaos. πŸ˜›

    Yeah, the same thing with bonuses. I remember a story where a company’s salesmen received 3 months bonus while the people who supported the sales received only 1 month. It was ugly.

  2. LC Teh permalink
    March 31, 2009 5:50 pm

    Our company make it into a law ‘salary is strictly confindential and no one is allowed to discuss it’. Consequence is dismissal. No one dares to ask. And even if they ask one can cite the ‘law’ and the other just shuts up.

    People obey the rules in your co? You guys are very well trained. :mrgreen:

  3. Lays permalink
    March 31, 2009 10:17 pm

    Salary should be made public. The fallacy of salary is strictly confidential will only benefit the employer.

    That’s true for unethical employers who abuse confidentiality to manipulate. There will be pros and cons either road they take.

  4. March 31, 2009 11:57 pm

    Two schools of thoughts really.

    1 is to be open about it and let everyone know.. in that case you better make sure everyone deserves what they have, or you’re going to have a lot of angry employees.

    However, the open concept is rarely practiced in Singapore because..
    We’re not really an open society.

    Its better to not reveal yr salary in your company unless its a close friend .. even that may cause problems.

    So.. its better to just keep quiet eh?

    Its a published fact that Obama makes USD400k a year. In fact, most governments are pretty transparent about their salaries and there’s been no riots or anything. Wall Street has also been transparent about compensation all this while. Its only recently that they’re getting knocked because their bailors don’t want to see their money spent that way. But it does prove that transparency can work under certain conditions.

    As you said, a transparent system is good if everyone feels they are getting the salaries they deserve. The problem has always been in the subjective and the discretionary aspects of pay. I think that’s the part most managements find very hard to explain when challenged, hence the reluctance to make the numbers open.

  5. LC Teh permalink
    April 1, 2009 1:19 pm

    Yeah people obey the rules here. Esp when they come in handy, or in their favor or support their argument… ; )

    You’re in an MNC so it figures, people actually feel they have to respect the rules. Not so lucky if you’re in a chinaman company….

  6. Lays permalink
    April 1, 2009 5:12 pm

    “I think that’s the part most managements find very hard to explain when challenged, hence the reluctance to make the numbers open.”

    You have highlighted the possible root cause of why salary info is P&C, aka Appraisal. Many times, employees are not graded or rewarded by merits. Too many other factors had caused overly high pay to non-performer and lower pay for performer, which resulted, loss of talents and job hopping became a necessity.

    Not able to reveal salary info is the outcome of many reasons, but it is not a root problem itself.

    True. Moral of the story – choose your employers carefully.

  7. LC Teh permalink
    April 3, 2009 8:36 am

    In a chinaman company they usually have a few companies within the same estate, compound or even the same office. When asked for a raise the standard reply is: “If I give you one, how can I answer to my other staffs in the other companies?” End of story. If you’re a young man you can choose to marry one of the spoilt brats they called heiress to get ahead (and stay under someone’s thumb the rest of your life) or you quit and be labelled ‘disloyal’ or ‘ungrateful’ employee (as if giving you a job is like saving your life).

    Haha, thank god I don’t work in a chinaman company even though technically, you could call me one, hehe. πŸ™‚

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