Back to all blog posts


How to Talk To Your Boss About Pay Transparency

How to ask what everyone else is making, without losing your job.

How to Talk To Your Boss About Pay Transparency

So, you’re finally ready to talk about money.

If you’ve been following along, we’ve already given you the 4-1-1 on salary transparency, why it’s important, and the reasons your employer may not have adopted it yet. After all that equity talk and juicy data, you might be feelin’ fired up to talk to your boss about embracing pay transparency. Aaaand…just a teeny bit nervous.

Have no fear—we’ve got your back. Consider this our pre-game pep talk.

Why You’re Having The Convo in the First Place

Okay, Tiger. As a refresher, here’s how salary transparency might help you: 

You could be getting seriously underpaid. 

They say information is a valuable weapon — and that’s definitely true when it comes to your career.

Salary transparency is a policy in which employers are open with their current and incoming hires about compensation information, pay ranges, and pay scales. The way companies implement that policy varies. So, starting a conversation about pay transparency could end with you learning: the salary range for your position and where you fall within it; what others at your company in the same role are paid; and/or what the pay scales are for other internal positions. No matter what, it’s powerful intel. 

Every bit of this information can be leveraged in future negotiations with your employer, and are key to making sure you’re being paid fairly — in comparison to your coworkers and your industry. And if this transparency helps you discover that you’re not being paid fairly, you can make an informed decision on what’s next. 

If you’re looking for a way to get around a direct conversation about this, the Bureau of Labor Statistics, Payscale, and Glassdoor all have nifty tools for comparing your salary to others within your organization, role, and industry. But, alas: the only way to know for sure is to ask. 

You might get a sense of how far you can go. 

Struggling to make ends meet and banking on the promise of a promotion? Knowing company-wide pay scales can better equip you to make your next move. If the pay scales show you that it’ll take several salary bumps to get to a place where you’re comfortable, you can now assess if it’s time to pick up a side gig, advocate for a bonus or fast-track, or consider a new opportunity. 

Look, we get it: it’d be way easier to just belt out a rendition of Destiny’s Child hit “Bills, Bills, Bills” at your next check-in with your manager. But getting yourself a well-deserved raise takes some planning. You’ll be in much better shape if you know what your employer is capable of offering you. And at a transparent company, that knowledge would be right at your fingertips.

How to Start the Conversation

And now, if you want to get your employer talking about salary transparency (without getting fired!), here’s what you do: 

First, check your local laws

See if your organization is required to be transparent regarding pay, and to what degree. For example, California employees can directly ask employers for the salary range for their position— and they must be given an answer. The buck might stop here for you. 

Next, present the idea to a trusted manager

Or a higher-up… as a curiosity. A lá: “Hey, [Manager Name], I’d like to start a conversation about salary transparency and what adopting that might look like here. Is this something that leadership has already talked about?” There’s no harm in asking a question! They may be able to answer you directly, or they’ll refer you to someone who can. But if you’re getting immediate resistance in return, don’t push too hard. Simply note it.  

After, send a brief email/message

Regardless of the outcome of these conversations, thank whoever you approached for chatting with you about it. This way, there’s a written copy of you raising the topic. Is this for the scrapbook? No. It’s so you have documentation that you asked about salary transparency, just in case things get weird in response. Chances are you don’t have to worry about that—if any retaliation occurs, it’d certainly be a classless move on the company’s part and depending on where you are, an illegal one. But either way, it’s good to keep a record. 

Then, leave it be

They’ll get back to you, and you’ll have your answer. If your employer is insistent on keeping pay a secret, ask yourself if that’s something you can live with. If it is, amazing! And if it’s really not, it might be time to start looking for your next opportunity.  

Shop Now

Shop The Story