Talking about finances with your colleagues is a work conversation that’s long felt taboo. But it’s also a reason women often earn less than men, and have a tough time knowing their worth. That’s why we reached out to Jen Sincero, the best-selling author of You Are a Badass at Making Money, to get her advice for talking salary at the office in a way that feels positive and professional.
1. First, Ask Yourself *Why* You Want to Talk Numbers with Your Colleagues
Are you doing it to compare yourself so you can feel better or worse about your paycheck? Are you doing it to figure out what the going rate is so that you can ask for a raise? No matter the reason, the bottom line—according to Sincero—is that you need to be clear on your intentions (or your colleague’s intentions) up front. “If you feel bullied into it or you simply don’t feel good about it, don’t discuss it,” she says. “But understanding why someone wants to know and asking them directly about it—not in a defensive way, but with a ‘what’s the goal here?’ kind of tone—can help you uncover the circumstances that are making them curious.”
2. Next, Decide How Much Info You’re Willing to Share
Once you understand the goal, you can decide what’s appropriate in terms of how specific you want to get. “If you feel like it’s going to serve you and this other person well to give an exact amount—and you feel OK with that—go for it,” Sincero says. “But you can also give a range if you feel more comfortable with that and think that keeping things a bit more vague will still be helpful to them.”
3. If You’re Still Unsure, Ask Your Boss (or HR Rep) About the Company Policy
Myths run rampant that talking salary at the office is a fireable offense. Sincero admits that policies on this topic may vary from office to office, so if you’re nervous about the rules, simply ask directly. “We’re all so freaked out about money—why do we all pretend it’s so dirty to discuss it?” Sincero says. “Check with the people you work with about their policy when it comes to colleague conversations. The less weirdness you have about money, the less other people will, too.”