Population Statistic: Read. React. Repeat.
Saturday, April 26, 2021

Further evidence that the 20-something MySpace generation has no shame: Disclosing annual salary among friends is now considered practically de rigueur.

For people old enough to remember phone booths, a blunt reference to salary in a social setting still represents the height of bad manners. But for many young professionals, the don’t-ask-don’t-tell etiquette of previous generations seems like a relic.

For them, salary information is now fair game, at least among friends. Many consider it crucial to prosper in an increasingly transient, winner-take-all workplace — regardless of the envy that full disclosure can raise. Besides, when the Internet already offers a cornucopia of personal information, it almost seems coy to keep personal income private.

As Ilana Arazie, 32, an online video producer for a media company in Manhattan, said, “If we can talk about how many orgasms we have with our mate, why can’t we discuss how much we make?”

Well, if you bring orgasms into, okay then.

Actually, I was joking about that “no shame” quip (mostly). I don’t disagree with this sharing concept, simply because it’s a rightly-recognized acknowledgment of modern-day working life:

Robert H. Frank, an economics professor at Cornell, said that an open flow of information is deemed crucial by young professionals who think of themselves as free agents, not company men.

“People move between jobs a lot more now than they used to,” Dr. Frank said. This mobility alone increases the instances that salary might come up among friends.

Indeed, no one should expect to stick around with a single company for their entire career, simply because the companies themselves don’t even tacitly offer that security anymore. I argued 10 years ago about that fundamental shift in American life; we’re all free agents these days, like it or not. So there’s nothing wrong with collaboratively comparing notes, in order to establish a market value among peers.

Does this mean I freely cough up my gross/net earnings? Well, no. For one thing, at 36, I’m old enough to cling to the oldschool taboo on the subject. For another, now that I’m a full-time consultant, my annual “salary” can vary, especially with the of-late recessionary rumblings. It’s a bit moot, as I don’t detect any requests from friends and colleagues for that information anyway (nor do they offer up theirs). If anything, I’ll more-or-less let my visible standards of living speak for themselves, and let those curious enough guess at the pricetags and do the resultant math.

by Costa Tsiokos, Sat 04/26/2008 08:08:34 PM
Category: Business, Society, Sports
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5 Feedbacks »
  1. This “social taboo” is rather alien to me — after 20 years in the military, where pay scales are posted on bulletin boards and you literally wear your rank on your sleeve, it’s pretty obvious who earns how much. I think it’s a good thing — no secrets, just open knowledge.

    Comment by david — 04/27/2008 @ 02:57:59 AM

  2. But I’ll point out: You’re in an ultimate closed-system. You all work for the same boss, there’s no ambiguity in “job titles”/rank (who makes more, a Director of Sales or a Sales Manager — no way of telling), and the Army isn’t headhunting in Air Force talent pools.

    Comment by CT — 04/27/2008 @ 10:40:46 AM

  3. I see a little of both, as I guess I’m right in the middle of the line in terms of age where it seems to be no issue, or it’s still a forbidden subject. One set of friends seems to be willing to vaguely talk about it, onlly when it’s completely relevant to something big going on in your life. Politics and religion aren’t a big deal to discuss, but salaries still are. The other set - it’s somehow like any other subject. One thing to note: the open set make far less than the closed set. I think once a few of them start making more money, things will change.

    Comment by David — 04/27/2008 @ 03:56:05 PM

  4. I’m right there with you on that demographic borderline. The funny thing is that, in my line of work, comparing compensations should be more of an open book, as we’re essentially competing in the same (albeit big) pool.

    Actually, what’s more common is the sharing of piecemeal information. Among peers, it’s okay to ask about and disclose charged rates for single projects. From that, I guess you could make a rough calculation of what that person is pulling in monthly/annually. But it’s almost like that’s an optional exercise — if someone wants to figure it out, they’re free to. But no one’s going to confirm it.

    I agree about the increased openness when the person is making less money. I suspect as these younger adults start to separate from each other income-bracket wise, the old rules will rear their ugly heads again.

    Comment by CT — 04/28/2008 @ 11:11:17 AM


    The notion of salary transparency among peers, first broached back in April, is picking up steam, with advocates suggesting it’s inevitably going to be SOP in the workplace.
    All theoretical, until it gets down to the actual dollars:
    But some peop…

    Trackback by Population Statistic — 08/24/2008 @ 11:00:20 PM

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