Discussing Pay With Coworkers

How to Go About It Without It Becoming a Nightmare

Discussing pay with coworkers can be a sensitive topic, so it’s important to approach the conversation with care and professionalism. I mean, discussing money at all is only now becoming less taboo. Pushing that boundary at work can be even trickier than at home. How can you broach that issue? Well, I’m glad you asked.

Things to keep in mind when discussing pay with coworkers:

  1. Be mindful of the setting: It’s best to have this conversation in a private setting, where you and your coworker can talk without interruption or distractions.
  2. Avoid being confrontational: Remember that discussing pay can be a sensitive topic, so it’s important to approach the conversation in a calm and professional manner. Avoid being confrontational or playing the blame game.
  3. Focus on your own experiences: Rather than asking your coworker about their salary, you could try sharing your own experiences and asking for their advice. For example, you could say something like, “I’ve been thinking about asking for a raise, and I was wondering if you have any tips based on your experience.”
  4. Respect confidentiality: It’s important to respect the privacy of any information shared during the conversation. Avoid sharing what you learn with others unless you have permission to do so.
  5. Don’t make assumptions: Keep in mind that everyone’s salary and job responsibilities are different, so avoid making assumptions about why someone may or may not be making more money than you.
  6. Be open to learning: Keep an open mind during the conversation and be willing to learn from your coworker’s experiences. This can help you make more informed decisions about your own career and salary negotiations in the future.

Consider the company culture when discussing pay with coworkers

I think we all know where we work. You know your management, the administration, and their general vibe. Consider that when you want to talk money at work. Also, this is a good time to nail down your end goal. Is this just about you or is this a full-on system takedown?

  1. Understand your company’s policy: Before discussing pay with your coworkers, make sure you understand your company’s policy on the matter. Some companies have strict policies against discussing pay, while others may encourage open communication about salaries. Make sure you’re aware of how protected (or unprotected) you are legally as well.
  2. Know your worth: Before entering into a discussion about pay, make sure you have a good understanding of your own worth in the market. See what other salaries for your job title and experience level are. Also consider factors such as your skills, education, and performance. *This is more for salary negotiation but should still be considered when generally discussing pay depending on how the conversations play out*
  3. Stay professional: No matter what the outcome of the conversation, it’s important to remain professional and respectful towards your coworkers. Avoid getting emotional or confrontational. Instead, focus on maintaining a positive working relationship. Remember, you’ll have to see this person tomorrow. . .and the next day. . .and the next.
  4. Consider the bigger picture: While it’s important to advocate for your own salary, it’s also important to consider the bigger picture of your company’s compensation practices. If you believe there are systemic issues with how salaries are determined, it may be worth having a larger conversation with management or HR to address these issues.


Sometimes, having a script to get you comfortable with a situation can be super helpful (i.e. salary negotiation *wink* wink*). Like any other outline, make sure you tailor these to what feels best for you. If you’re dealing with a more senior coworker you may not be as familiar with, stick with the formal script. On the other hand, if this is your long-time work buddy, going full-on suit and tie just won’t click. Approach accordingly, my friends.

Formal script for discussing pay with a coworker

“Hey [coworker’s name], I was hoping we could talk about something that’s been on my mind. I’ve been thinking a lot about my salary and wanted to get your thoughts on it. I don’t mean to be intrusive, but I feel like it’s important to have open conversations about pay so we can all ensure we’re being fairly compensated.
Would you be willing to share what your salary range is and how you negotiated it. I value your input and I think it could be helpful for me to get a better sense of how others in our company are being compensated.
Of course, I understand if you’re not comfortable sharing that information. I just wanted to start a dialogue about pay and how we can all work together to ensure we’re being fairly compensated for our work. Let me know what you think and if you’re open to discussing this further.”

Informal script for discussing pay with a coworker

“Hey [coworker’s name], can I ask you a quick question about salary? I was just curious if you’re happy with what you’re making or if you’ve ever thought about negotiating for more. I’m trying to get a sense of what’s possible and I thought you might have some good insight.
I don’t mean to pry or anything, but I think it’s important for us to have these conversations and make sure we’re all being fairly compensated. Plus, I’m really interested in hearing about your experience and any tips you might have for negotiating salary.
If you’re not comfortable talking about it, no worries at all. I just thought I’d ask and see if you had any thoughts on the matter.”

Again, it’s important to tailor the script to your own style and tone. Also, be open to feedback and questions from your coworker. At the end of the day, stay positive and remember the end goal of discussing pay with coworkers: equal and fair pay for everyone. You’re on the same side and the last thing you want to do is turn on an ally.

Who exactly should you discuss money with?

When it comes to discussing pay with coworkers, do you go with the more senior coworker or the newbie? Well, it doesn’t particularly matter. What you should focus on is how comfortable you are with your coworker. Once you determine that, consider their willingness to discuss the topic and their experience with negotiating salaries. You’ll likely get much more out of the conversation on that bases. There are still different perspectives depending on who you might talk to.

More seniority

On the one hand, discussing pay with a coworker who has more seniority can be beneficial because they may have more experience with negotiating salaries and have a better understanding of the company’s compensation practices. They may also be able to give you the inside scoop on how salaries are determined and what factors are taken into account.

Less seniority

On the other hand, discussing pay with a coworker who has less seniority can also be beneficial because they may be more open to discussing the topic and may have a fresh perspective on salary negotiations. They may also be able to provide insights into what the company is offering to new hires. You can also see how their starting salaries compare to those of more senior employees.

Ultimately, the decision of who to discuss pay with should be based on your personal preferences and comfort level, as well as the coworker’s willingness to discuss the topic in a professional and respectful manner.

So we have a template for breaking the taboo of discussing pay with coworkers. Let’s get out there and make sure we’re getting the money we deserve!

Headshot picture of the writer of this article, Kenneth Medford III, with a muted black and white filter.
Kenneth Medford III

Writer, rhymer, gamer: the easiest way to define the man known as Kenneth Medford. I’m a simple man who loves to learn and loves to help and I wander the digital world trying to find ways to sate my hunger for both. Basically, I’m Galactus but helpful.

Check out my other work here or reach out to me on LinkedIn.

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