Here's how to ask your coworkers how much they're making, according to experts

Strelka/FlickrTalking salary can be uncomfortable, but it’s important.
  • It’s important to discuss salary with your co-workers, but it can be an uncomfortable conversation to bring up.
  • Knowing what your peers make promotes pay equality and helps ensure you’re being paid for your value.
  • Ease into the conversation, and don’t push it if they don’t seem interested in discussing pay in a general sense.

Scanning Glassdoor and LinkedIn to see what your peers at other companies earn is an important step to make sure you’re not underpaid.

But there’s another key way to really know if you’re being paid your worth: Asking your coworkers what they make.

“In order to know if you’re being fairly paid, you have to collect some benchmarks to know how others with a similar area of responsibility and business impact are being compensated,”Anna Cosic, career strategist, told Business Insider.

Previously considered a workplace taboo, discussing salary with your peers is a key way to assess how much your company values you.

“Companies keep this information from us to benefit themselves, so we need to get creative when it comes to finding out,” Cosic said.

Read more: 16 signs you’re underpaid – and what to do about it

And, it’s an important way to fight pay inequality. Knowing what your peers make has been cited as a way to fight the pay gap separating white men from women and minorities.

That being said, many people are super uncomfortable talking about how much they make. Here’s how pay equality experts and career consultants say you should approach the conversation.

1. Understand who to ask

The most important people to ask are your peers. “Consider those who do the same or similar work and those who have been with the company [for a] similar amount of time,” HR consultant Laura MacLeod told Business Insider.

Katie Donovan, a salary negotiation coach, also recommended asking those with a variety of job titles to assess trends.

And, while it may feel most comfortable to ask people similar to yourself that question, be sure to ask folks of different backgrounds. “White men are considered the non-bias standard, so include some of them,” Donovan told Business Insider.

2. Ease into the conversation

Once you’ve narrowed it down to a few folks, ask them for a drink or coffee outside of the office, suggested career coach Nicole Wood.

“When people are out of the office environment, they often feel more comfortable to share things they deem to be personal,” Wood told Business Insider.

Start talking about pay in a more general sense. Donovan recommended this line: “I saw on that our job pays as much as $X. Do you think that is possible?”

Let them answer, and then reveal your own pay: “I find that hard to believe since I’m making $X less.”‘

“If you tell them first what you make, it may help to build trust and make them feel more comfortable opening up,” Wood said.

Cosic said you could lead with this more direct opener:

“I just read this article about how financially beneficial it can be to get an understanding of what your peers make. So, if you’d be willing to share what your salary and compensation package looks like, I’m happy to do the same. This stays between the two of us. I’ll, of course, go first.”

Then, discuss why it’s beneficial for both of you to reveal. Emphasise that it’s totally confidential.

“Make sure to have them on board with why you’re interested in this and how having this mutual sharing will benefit them,” Cosic said.

Back off if they don’t want to discuss what they make. It’s still considered taboo among a majority of millennials, and nearly everyone in their 50s and beyond. “Smile, apologise and let it go,” said MacLeod.

3. Use the information wisely

If a few coworkers have shared their pay, and you’re shocked by how much more they make, try to remain calm.

“If you do find out that others are earning more, do not rush to your manager demanding more ‘because so and so earns more,'” Donovan said.

Instead, plan to ask for a raise when it’s time for your yearly review. Combine your own internal research with checking pay reports on sites like Glassdoor and LinkedIn.

But don’t mention names or what they have earned in your discussion, especially if you promised total confidentiality when your coworker shared their salary.

“It’s important to note that the information you eventually gather is not intended to be used towards HR or your manager, saying that since X is making $Y, so should I,” Cosic said. “That rarely pays off and they may have several different reasons that someone makes more than you do.”

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