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  • 1.  Salary Transparency and Discussions

    Posted 10-21-2022 10:09 AM
    ASCE just released their 2022 Salary Report and on November 1, the "Salary Transparency Law" goes into effect in NYC. This law will require employers hiring in NYC to disclose the minimum and maximum annual base salary or hourly wage for a job, promotion, or transfer opportunity in any advertisement for the position. The implementation of this law, and a few other things, has started me thinking on the pros and cons of discussing your salary with your coworkers and friends. 

    Do you openly discuss your compensation with coworkers and/or friends? What do you think are some of the pros and cons of having these open discussions?

    And to answer my own question - I do openly discuss compensation with coworkers and my civil engineering friends.  To me, there are more benefits than drawbacks. These discussions help ground my thoughts about my compensation (is it fair, is it reasonable, am I upholding my end of the bargain through my work, etc), help me and my friends weigh job offers (being overpaid is just as dangerous as being underpaid, IMO), and help me stay in-touch with the local market for hiring, salary raises, and promotions for my staff.  Sure the ASCE salary survey is nice, but the requirements for a job title (or even years of experience) can vary drastically by person, company, etc. Having these discussions tells me more about what's going on in the markets I serve.  On the flip side, there can be some huge negatives to these discussions - mostly employee dissatisfaction with compensation. Hopefully, if these situations arise, crucial conversations can happen between the employee and employer.  And don't forget - there's more to your compensation than your salary.  I also include work/life balance, PTO (not just days off but also if they expect you to work during vacation), negotiated pots of money for extras like ASCE, etc. 

    I will give a real-life example of when these conversations helped in my personal life.  One of my best friends was offered a great job with a high salary - about 50K more than she was currently making. The job necessitated a move.  She was concerned the salary was too high. Over a few conversations we discussed the job responsibilities, the market, the move, and how those all impacted the salary. We also discussed other compensation associated with the offer. We were only able to have those conversations because we weren't afraid to engage in what can be a taboo subject.

    Jennifer Sloan Ziegler Ph.D., P.E., M.ASCE
    Ridgeland MS

  • 2.  RE: Salary Transparency and Discussions

    Posted 10-22-2022 07:04 PM
    Thanks Jennifer.
    Q. "Do you openly discuss your compensation with coworkers and/or friends?"

    What would be much more interesting is having the C-suite, Execs., and Sr. Mgrs. release their bonus and salary information each year.

    Think about it.

    With rare exception the upper levels evaluate and then assign salary and bonus payments to the middle and lower levels.
    And they assert "Its based on performance."

    So, given the upper levels own and control their system of management, why
    would they receive larger bonus and salaries if performance dips?

    • Example Bonus:                              Percent Control of System of Management:
    • Lower Levels: 4 to 7 %          . . . . . .< 7%
    • Upper Levels: 20 to 35%       . . . . . .>92%

    Organizational culture is quite simply "The way we do things around here."

    Maybe its time to turn on the lights, open the windows, and let some
    unaltered fresh air back into the mix.

    Corporate culture is the way we do things around here.

    Without transparency, what exactly does that mean?


    William M. Hayden Jr., Ph.D., P.E., CMQ/OE, F.ASCE
    Buffalo, N.Y.

    "It is never too late to be what you might have been." -- George Eliot 1819 - 1880

  • 3.  RE: Salary Transparency and Discussions

    Posted 10-24-2022 08:10 PM

    Thanks Jennifer for floating this important topic – and to Bill for being very open and courageous to highlight some statistics – many of us do not know.

    • It is great that NYC introduced the transparency law on salary and remuneration packages. Such transparency laws normally exist for all public sector employers – now, it seems to me, the same applies to all businesses working in NYC. Although I am not sure how authorities can or will react to any untoward or unfair practices – if any such thing is revealed. One thing for sure, such employers will be much more careful – even create positions to hire corporate lawyer or law firms (if they do not have one already).

    • Browsing many such ideas and opinions – it is prudent to say that – indeed, transparency of corporate (for that matter, in any entities) practices is very vital to minimize mistrusts – as well as to implant the sense of belonging to all the employees. It helps both ways – from employee satisfaction and high productivity – to corporate reputation and profitability. That said, it is not something often easy to do in an aggressive social framework – in a system (Bill, as you mentioned somewhere else) or business models – where winning tantrum, blaming each other and swearing are common.

    • It so happens, as outlined in the Leadership and Management with a remark on moral/ethical expectation that . . often terrible dissatisfaction arises in an organization when the executive pay packages are disproportionately higher than the remunerations of the rank and file. Each and every individual contributes to the success of a business – therefore it is only natural to expect fairness for all . . .


    Dr. Dilip K Barua, PhD


    Google Scholar

  • 4.  RE: Salary Transparency and Discussions

    Posted 10-24-2022 10:22 AM
    I work for a company where the pay rate for everyone is available to be seen by any employee. I've never seen this at other firms. The number of employees upset by what others make is less than I've experienced at other firms and I attribute a lot of that reduction to the transparency. Of course, as a manager, if I have a low performer getting paid more than a high performer, I'll have some explaining to do. It is not a perfect system, but it seems healthier than anywhere else I've worked.

    Brad Watson P.E., M.ASCE
    Senior Engineer
    Freese & Nichols Inc
    Alvarado TX

  • 5.  RE: Salary Transparency and Discussions

    Posted 10-24-2022 08:09 PM
    I am curious as to how you deal with your situation. Why did it happen in the first place? How have you dealt with the low performer? Is it motivation, knowledge level, or is it they are not as bright?

    Let us know.

    Vito Rotondi, (Retired)
    Arch. S.E. P.E. Life M ASCE
    Westmont Illinois

  • 6.  RE: Salary Transparency and Discussions

    Posted 10-24-2022 08:11 PM

    Q1. What, and how did Brad Watson's "Freese & Nichols" use to guide their re-engineered organization?

    A1. Please read below.

    Quality is Our Foundation[1]

    For more than two decades, our continuous improvement efforts have elevated our service to our clients, our employees, and our communities. This deep commitment to quality was validated when we became the first engineering firm to receive the Malcolm Baldrige National Quality Award, the highest level of recognition for performance excellence in the United States. In 2022, we were one of a select few Baldrige-winning organizations chosen as Trustees of the Baldrige Foundation's Institute for Performance Excellence.

    Q2. If Freese & Nichols, did it, why not you?




    [1] https://www.freese.com/about-us/award-winning-quality/

    William M. Hayden Jr., Ph.D., P.E., CMQ/OE, F.ASCE
    Buffalo, N.Y.

    "It is never too late to be what you might have been." -- George Eliot 1819 - 1880

  • 7.  RE: Salary Transparency and Discussions

    Posted 10-24-2022 08:09 PM
    it will be interesting to follow what happens in NY and other locations that implement pay transparency laws to see if they achieve the desired objectives and and what, if any, unintended consequences they create. It would be interesting to hear from an experienced HR professional on the subject on pay transparency within the workplace and pros and cons.

    Mitch Winkler P.E., M.ASCE
    Houston, TX