Should You Know Your Bosses Salary?

It’s an age-old question.  Should organizations make their salary information public in-house amongst the employees?  In a era of transparency, it’s really the one thing most people still disagree on.  The higher up the chain you go, unless your in a publicly traded company, than it’s public anyway, the less likely you’re willing to want this data to be public within your organization.  The lower you are in an organization, the more you want this information.


At its core this notion of wanting to know the salary information of those around you is all about trust.  It really speaks to the human condition, and it’s quite ironic!  The higher you go up in an organization, the less you trust those lower than you.  The lower you are, the more you trust those above you are making the right decisions.  You could argue this. Sure many people at low levels don’t ‘trust’ management.  Yet, they still show up to work each day, and grind it out for $14.23/hr.  Those at the top are making 6,7,8 figure incomes, and jump around from position to position.  Who is more trusting?

Whole Foods company shares salaries of all of their employees within their walls. You can find out the salary of anyone! From Business Insider:

Whole Foods co-CEO John Mackey introduced the policy in 1986, just six years after he co-founded the company. In the book, he explains that his initial goal was to help employees understand why some people were paid more than others. If workers understood what types of performance and achievement earned certain people more money, he figured, perhaps they would be more motivated and successful, too. 

“I’m challenged on salaries all the time,” Mackey explained. “‘How come you are paying this regional president this much, and I’m only making this much?’ I have to say, ‘because that person is more valuable. If you accomplish what this person has accomplished, I’ll pay you that, too.'”

Beyond making compensation data available to all employees, Whole Foods also has its managers post their store’s sales data each day and regional sales data each week. Once a month, Whole Foods sends each store a detailed report on profitability and sales at each of the chain’s locations. In fact, in the late 1990s the widespread availability of so much detailed financial data led the SEC to classify all of the company’s 6,500 employees as “insiders,” according to a 1996 story by Fast Company.

“Oh, Tim, but that only works at a great company like Whole Foods!”  I hear you saying!
Yeah, you’re probably right.  It takes a strong, positive culture to handle this type of information being out in the open.  It takes extremely good leadership to handle the challenges coming in from average and weak performers believing they should get what someone else is getting.  It takes a great Talent Acquisition team to hire the right people who have the maturity to work in an organization that has this much trust in their employees to handle such delicate information.   It takes co-workers trusting one another, that each one is adding value to the corporation, and respecting the value each brings.
So, should you be able to know your bosses salary?  Probably not.

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