Dangers of Discussing Your Salary With Coworkers

| 5 min read
discussing your salary

Discussing your salary and work benefit details with coworkers can be detrimental to your career and workplace-happiness. It can also create a love-hate relationship between you and your colleagues, which can further impact on their productivity, job satisfaction and diligence.

If you are wondering if you are being paid fairly, discussing your salary with your coworkers is not the best way to go about it. Below are some of the dangers of discussing your salary with your coworkers.

Stirring Rebellions

The last thing employers want within their organisations is a workplace where employees have created factions that are not healthy for a work environment. There have been cases of employees being divided into groups of low salary earners on one side and high salary earners on the other side.

A workplace filled with rebellious employees will hurt you and the company because team spirit will be compromised and the ability of the organisation to achieve its goal could hit a brick wall.

Under such atmosphere, it doesn’t take long for you and your employees to turn on each other. From this point, your employer might be forced to wield the big stick to restore sanity to the workplace.

People Lie About Their Paydiscussing your salary

One reason why discussing your salary can be harmful is because people tell lies. Keeping up appearance in the workplace is real – Your colleague might be lying to you about his/her actual salary and this can make you carry a resentful attitude at work.

When your coworker shares details of his/her salary with you, the truth is that the figure that he/she has chosen to share with you could be more or less than what the actual figure is. If you take this figure to be what he/she really earns and approach your human resource manager for a raise, this might be detrimental to you in the long run.

Creating the Wrong Impression

The popular mindset of employees is that colleagues with the same job description must earn the same salary. However, this is not true. Your salary boils down to how qualified you are for the role as well as your professional portfolio.

For example, if you are hired for the role of a project manager based on your qualification from a Nigerian tertiary institution and a 3-year experience, your salary might differ from a colleague who has PMP, CAPM, CSM and PBA certifications and succeeds in negotiating for a higher salary.

Discussing Your Salary is Demoralisingdiscussing your salary

Finding out that your colleagues earn less or more than you can be demotivating and can seriously hurt your concentration and productivity. It could also create a situation where you begin to hold silent grudges against your colleagues especially in cases where they earn much more than you do.

A senior manager shared a personal experience of how he discovered that some members of his team were earning better than him. From the moment when he discovered about the disparity in his salary against the earnings of members of his team, he was no longer happy with leading them or the great work he was doing. He eventually asked for a raise but didn’t get it. The rest of the story went downhill from that point.

You Can Get Fired

If you are found discussing your salary in an organisation that has a pay secrecy policy, you are likely to lose your job. If the company is one of those that has this as part of its employment contract, which you are expected to sign, things get even more complicated for you.

To purge the workplace of the feeling of discontent that can be born from salary discussion among you and your employees, you can lose your job or be made a scapegoat for initiating salary-related conversations.

Legality of Discussing Your Salarydiscussing your salary

Another danger of discussing your salary with your coworkers is the legality of doing so. Some countries have laws that prevent employers from restricting employees from discussing their salary. In such environment, you would not have any issues doing so but in Nigeria most employers prohibit employees doing so. It is not constitutionally illegal but some organisations have their employees agreeing to contracts that prohibit them from discussing their earnings. Some go as far as having it clearly spelt out in the contract you sign and with penalties for infringing this agreement.

It is important to confirm via your work contract, the legality of discussing your salary with coworkers before doing so.

Final Thoughts on Discussing Your Salary

In conclusion, it is important to note that discussing your salary with your coworkers comes with some adverse effects. There are cases where it serves as a wake-up call to help you earn what you deserve but there are grave risks if you base your justification for requesting for a salary increase on figures your colleagues share with you.

As an employee, it is always good to channel your requests for a salary review based on merit and what you bring to the table in terms of contribution and your performance on the job. One of the worst things you can do is to request for a salary increment by citing how you just discovered that certain coworkers earn more than you. Let us know if you have ever discussed salary with your coworkers and let us know what happened and how you felt afterwards?

Click here to find out what other professionals in your industry earn without putting your job or theirs at risk!

Princewill Akuma
Princewill is a marketing maven, who is passionate about user-centric marketing. His experience spans Tech service, Recruitment, Media and Entertainment sectors across Nigeria, Kenya, Ghana and Tanzania. He's a career adviser, mentor, hobbyist DJ and a lover of cardio exercise with a personal record of 23.49 km. Let's connect, i'll love to hear from you.


  1. I once told a colleague about my salary shortly after leaving a company I worked with. This was after much resistance which he was able to tear away by persuading me persistently.

    When I eventually succumbed and gave him the information, he felt very demoralized as he was very surprised that the same company could pay anyone so much more than he was able to negotiate for.

    I felt bad for having told him about my pay because even though I had left the company, the company did nothing bad to me and was a great place to work. So, the potential that because of what I just did, one if its new staff might become resentful which might affect the company’s progress negatively was worrying for me.

    I did what I could though. I explained to him that I was able to negotiate for that much more than him mainly because of my previous salary and not much else. Hence, the disparity was no reason to feel worthless or undervalued.

    The next time someone asks me to disclose pay information in a company where this information is not open by default, I would definitely think more than twice about it to avoid getting into this kind of situation again.

  2. I quite agree with some of the points raised here concerning discussing one’s salary with the co-workers. it is demoralizing to know that you earn less than your co-workers with the same job functions.

  3. This is an insightful write up whilst commending you for your prowess in the industry and for bringing up this to enlighten people. Truly, discussing salary or benefits with co-employee has deeper risk of causing virus and infecting other employee mindset and attitude at workplace. Kudos!

  4. Employers are not happy with staff that discuss salary with colleagues neither are they justified in the way they pay salary. This is usually an issue in organizations that fail to have standard salary structure. It is completely wrong to pay a new staff without higher qualification than those on the job.
    To those affected it is not a time to talk, nag or be discouraged. It is a time to look in ward and make arrangement to move forward. Most organizations do not appreciate what they have until they loose it.

  5. Thanks for sharing. Sometimes, it is inevitable for colleagues to know your salary. A new hire comes in and news start flying in the company of his or her pay. Do not forget that there are humans in the payroll department not robots and some of the staff will spill out information on salary. I know this because I have experienced this first hand in not less than two organisations.

  6. It has happened to me twice.The first time I noticed I was even earning above other colleagues with higher degrees.But when I traced it, I observed that my negotiation power at entry coupled with a book I had authored,a copy of which I presented at the interview, gave me an edge.I never discussed it until I left the place.The second time was in another workplace where my pay advice from my previous employment also gave me a leap over colleagues with similar qualification.The professor that headed my interview panel was so satisfied with my performance that she jocularly told me the company could not pay up to what I presented but I told her that was the least I could take.So,few months into the job,several staff complained to my face and I bluntly told one of them that that was what I got from my previous employment.I got to know that someone from account department leaked my salary.Some employers value certain qualities and additional values.So,they pay for that handsomely

  7. Dear Princewill, i will take my stand with Esther as a company that has standard salary structure should allocate each salary for different position whether the prospective employee negotiate higher or lower of the fixed salary for that position. When he or she is coming in, the person would know i can’t go higher than what the company fixed. Even when he or she negotiates below the fixed salary, that person should be paid with the said amount which was budgeted for in the organization pay

    • Hi Olashehinde,

      If your suggestion is strictly followed then organizations stand a high chance of not attracting certain specialists and professionals that can add specific values to them. They will also loose their trained professionals who will jump at the opportunity to negotiate salaries in other organizations and as we know, livelihood in this part of the world trumps loyalty when it comes to jobs.


  8. This is totally true, just recently in my organization some staff started comparing salaries to the point that one staff photocopied another staff’s offer and attached to his own and took it to management reporting HR. By the way I am HR and I was appalled by that although we do not have any legal implications of doing such in my organization but every offer letter reads CONFIDENTIAL!, this also questions professionalism in the work place . We are presently in the process of putting a document together to regulate such practices among staff.

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