Salary Questions – I’ll tell you if you tell me

Pay is often a prickly issue that can lead to all manner of inter-office rivalry.

Most feel they are not paid enough, and are often quick to make that feeling known, without ever actually revealing their salary.

Pay discrepancy is another subject which pits employees against each other. The possibility of similarly ranked colleague earning a higher salary is, I am sure, a bugbear of many British workers.

The experiment by Pimlico Plumbers last week, televised in Channel 4’s Show Me Your Money, attempted to give such festering grievances an airing.

Pimlico Plumbers owner and founder Charlie Mullins is an energetic self-publicist and the GrowthBusiness desk is often awash with his viewpoints on everything from retirement ages to payment methods.

But his decision to challenge his staff to reveal their salaries to their fellow colleagues had an end game, a possible redistribution of salaries.

Mullins says: ‘Talking about pay is one of the last taboos in society and it took our guys a lot of guts to take part. Once they did, they took it very seriously and demonstrated the pride they have in the jobs they do.’

Most companies set out to implement a fair and even salary structure, but changes in direction can often lead to anomalies – or downright injustices. As a company grows it is often the gap between executives and general employees in pay levels that can bubble up as a problem.

Research from a group of university professors from institutions including Cranfield and Northampton University finds that the salary gap between executive teams and other employees is widening at an ‘alarming rate’.

One of the most eye-catching findings was the link between global expansion and pay inequality. It seems the more international a business’s operations become, the quicker executive pay rises, while average employee earnings ‘stagnate’.

Study author Andrew Kakabadse says, ‘It appears that current practice demotivates the less well paid by being socially divisive.

‘Pay needs to be fair and reasonable if the consensus that provides companies with their licences to operate is not to be undermined.’

But despite endeavours like Pimlico Plumbers’ social experiment, salaries are likely to remain a murky issue.

Hunter Ruthven

Hunter Ruthven

Hunter was the Editor for from 2012 to 2014, before moving on to Caspian Media Ltd to be Editor of Real Business.

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