The idea of total salary transparency has its detractors; and some of those critics may be in human resources and management roles at some of the world’s largest tech companies.
Anonymous platform Blind recently queried its users on whether or not they’d been warned against discussing their pay with coworkers. Nearly 60 percent (59.98 percent, specifically) of the nearly 9,000 respondents responded affirmatively to the following question:
“At my current workplace, I have been discouraged by HR/management from discussing my compensation with other employees.”
Blind was also able to isolate respondents’ specific companies. Tech’s main offender for pay secrecy may be Booking.com, a travel scheduling website whose parent company also owns Priceline, Kayak, and OpenTable (among other booking sites). Some 71.29 percent of employees from Booking.com say their leaders actively discourage salary discussions.
Cisco was second on the list with 67.42 percent, and 65.09 percent of Microsoft employees say they’re supposed to stay quiet about pay. Oracle and eBay round out the top five with 64.63 and 62.25 percent, respectively.
If 60 percent is the median for this survey, anything below this threshold might be considered ‘progressive.’ Amazon checks in just shy of 60 percent (59.53), while 58.20 percent of Apple employees say they’re discouraged from salary talks. Some 43.99 percent of Googlers report HR told them not to discuss pay.
In a surprise twist, only 16.98 percent of Facebook employees say they are discouraged from discussing pay. It’s far and away the most transparent company on this list. Blind says Facebook’s unusually low rating may have to do with age; it cites a separate study suggesting millennials are more likely to disclose their salaries, and Facebook employees, on average, are about 28 years old.
Pay secrecy may also be illegal. Blind points out the National Labor Relations Act of 1935 specifically prohibits employers from prohibiting employees from discussing pay, either by company policy or implication. A 2014 Executive Order prevents federal contractors from retaliating against employees for discussing wages. And in 2015, California enacted the California Equal Pay Act, guaranteeing employees the right to discuss pay (it’s worth noting many of the tech companies on this list are headquartered in California).
We’ll offer the benefit of the doubt and consider that HR might not want to make salaries a point of contention internally, so they discourage discussion. Nonetheless, some companies are experimenting with pay transparency, arguing that it can boost employees’ perception of their employer as fair (and buoying morale as a result).