Insurance rep WTF



  • Ok, this one is totally non-IT-related, except that I work for a software company. As a new employee, I got to talk to an insurance representative concerning the company's pension plan. He agreed to send me some proposals. So yesterday, I found a letter in my comany inbox (physically, not like, e-mail) and took it to my desk.

    An hour later, another new employee came to my desk. "Um, I think the insurance guy mixed up our letters". So I opened the envelope with my name on it, and behind the cover letter, there were his papers. Right below his name, there was his monthly salary. I don't know what it's like in other countries, but here in Germany it's kind of a taboo to talk about salaries and compare them and stuff... The number on my papers was about 50% higher than his. Okay, I may have a couple of more years of experience, but I always thought I was underpaid... Now everytime I meet him, I have that feeling that he is looking at me enviously.

    So, what's your company policy about salaries? Are there public structures, or is it a well-kept secret like here?



  • I think generally it's seen as impolite to ask how much someone is making, though accidentally seeing it shouldn't be a cause of concern (unless there's a substantial difference for no apparent reason, in which case it should be taken up with accounting).



  • @Skurry said:

    So, what's your company policy about salaries? Are there public structures, or is it a well-kept secret like here?

    If there is a company policy to keep your salary secret, you need to find a new job. That's really bad.



  • My last contract had a clause which expressly forbid talking about my salary to anyone.

    This was for one of the major swiss banks. In Switzerland. I'm Swiss  :-)

     

    My understanding is that in the UK, for example, many job listings contain the salary that will be paid. I kinda like the idea.
     



  • Here, my boss asked us not to discuss our salaries. But like the previous poster said, it's more because of politeness than because it's required.
     



  • @rbowes said:

    Here, my boss asked us not to discuss our salaries. But like the previous poster said, it's more because of politeness than because it's required.
     

    HR keeps stressing that here. Our department shared for a while and everyone who got hired before a certain date got the same salary.

    Performance and the like have diverged them again, but I'm making much more as a result of sharing. Of course they're going to tell me not to do it. 



  • Every company I've worked for in the US has had strict policies against telling people anything about your compensation (wages, bonuses, stock options, etc). The reason is it causes serious envy. Due to my internal nature, I saw how much two people are making in SysOps. At the time, one of them was making 100% more than what I was making as a developer and the other one was about 75% more. My current supervisor has even told me that my pay is "out of whack" compared to the other Engineers and that she is trying to get corporate to rectify it. She said my most recent raise just put me in line with a Junior developer (I've been here 3 years and in the business for 8 and outperform the others [boss says so]). The Junior was recently hired straight out of college, has no prior work experience and is more introverted than a hermit.

    So.. it's typically a firing offense to discuss compensation at US companies.



  • I work for a state University, and all our salaries are part of the public record. It makes for some interesting situations.  Overall, I like it. If you are thinking about joining a team, you can check raises for members of that team the past few years. There is increased envy, but it forces some honesty into HR, which certainly needs it. 



  • How strange! Here it's mandatory to let everyone know what you get.

    No,
    not really, but there's certainly no rune against it. People just don't
    generally talk about it, but not for any specific reason. Probably because as has been said, there's envy and conflict issues that might arise and everyone just wants an easy life. :-)
     

    @TheRider said:

    My understanding is that in the UK, for example, many job listings contain the salary that will be paid. I kinda like the idea.

    Well not all of them do, but certainly the majority do. I can't imagine job ads not at least giving you a range to expect (e.g. 50-60k depending on experience). The first thing I think when I see a job ad with no £ amount is "hmm what do they have to hide? Must be a rubbish salary". Remuneration is a kind of important aspect of a job, I want to know what it is before I even bother applying.

    I can understand the no talking about your salary rule (for the reasons mentioned in posts above, to keep you under thumb), but not even stating it in job ads - wtf??



  • @TheRider said:

    My understanding is that in the UK, for example, many job listings contain the salary that will be paid. I kinda like the idea. 

    I'd find it incredibly strange for there not to be a value. I am from the UK, though. Surely the salary is the reason you're going for the job in the first place, so it should be up-front...



  • At my last full time position our bosses said it would be best if we didn't discuss our salaries.  They kept screwing up paying us on a regular basis so that getting paid was a constant conversation point amongst employees.  My closest work collegue got in a right mood about it one week and blurted out his salary during one of his regular rants saying that it wasn't enough even though it included his recent pay-rise which he had been after for months.  He noticed my arkward silence and then insisted for ages to know what I got paid.  When he found out it was about 3-4 times his salary it kinda broke the friendship.  I think the fact that he had been there for about a year longer than me and that I was 10 years his junior added to the stress.  He started calling me "boss" and dropping tons of work in my lap "since I got paid more".  Sometimes silence is golden :¬)



  • @Tann San said:

    When he found out it was about 3-4 times his salary it kinda broke the friendship.


    Holy crap, dude! I'd be flaming if I knew that. I'm already ticked off that I know those guys make up to 2 times more than me for doing A LOT less work (they do installs and mostly network troubleshooting), but 3-4 times?! That's insane.



  • hehe yer the whole company was pretty screwy.  There were 3 brothers who ran it and then 3 employees.  That made the whole wage issue worse since it wasn't like we could just avoid each other in the crowds of people.  I ended up getting kinda narked at this attitude since I was the one who got him his pay rise as I kept lobbying the brothers for it without him knowing.  In the end I actually said I'd quit if they didn't give him the payrise and then he has the nerve to be a dick like that.



  • I'll bet my whole year's salary you didn't suggest the brothers average your two salaries though. :p



  • @AbbydonKrafts said:

    @Tann San said:
    When he found out it was about 3-4 times his salary it kinda broke the friendship.


    Holy crap, dude! I'd be flaming if I knew that. I'm already ticked off that I know those guys make up to 2 times more than me for doing A LOT less work (they do installs and mostly network troubleshooting), but 3-4 times?! That's insane.

    A professional's pay should not ever be based on the amount of work they do. That just encourages inefficiency. Now if they're calling you up to ask you how to fix all their shit, then sure, rail away. Cut out the middleman.



  • @foxyshadis said:

    @AbbydonKrafts said:

    @Tann San said:
    When he found out it was about 3-4 times his salary it kinda broke the friendship.


    Holy crap, dude! I'd be flaming if I knew that. I'm already ticked off that I know those guys make up to 2 times more than me for doing A LOT less work (they do installs and mostly network troubleshooting), but 3-4 times?! That's insane.

    A professional's pay should not ever be based on the amount of work they do. That just encourages inefficiency. Now if they're calling you up to ask you how to fix all their shit, then sure, rail away. Cut out the middleman.

     

    How exactly does paying people for how much work they do encourage inefficiency?  Have you ever heard of the terms "free market" and "market forces"? 



  • Given a deadline:

    • You can do little efficiently
    • You can do more ineffeciently
    • You can not do more efficiently
    People will just push themselves do "whatever" to get more $$$ on the end of the month. That doesn't include efficiency.



  • At my first job they were offering minimum wage but I got them to crank it up by 20%. Despite the inexperience  even a junior developer should earn more than a supermarket assistant... The boss was always reminding people not to leave their wage slips lying around. The lead developer did one day and he threatened to "kick his ass" next time. I'm not sure why. Maybe because he was paying me so little or because the difference in wages was smaller than he would have liked and he was ripping everyone off. Financials were not open to discussion. Even the customer base wasn't something to ask after.

    All in all the inner workings were as transparent as dishwater.

     At my current jobs wages aren't mentioned though it used to be a little more transparent. At least we know how the department and the company is doing. Compared to the other devs they're still getting me pretty cheap but that was my idea. It helps with the stress.
     



  • @m0ffx said:

    I'll bet my whole year's salary you didn't suggest the brothers average your two salaries though. :p

     Well actually... I got about 4 pay rises over the first year and each time I literally begged them to give it to him instead as I knew how stressed he was getting.  That would of evened things up.  Their take on it was that since he was just a designer he shouldn't get as much as a dev especially since he kept fudging his assignments up and I had to keep fixing them.  I think the real reason was that they liked dangling the carrot in front of him.  I suppose I could of just given him the money myself but I thought that was kinda lame plus I really doubted he would take "charity cash".



  • You're allowed to discuss your salaries and whatnot, unless you signed an NDA specifically stating that you can't, if you are not on the premises of your employment, as far as i know (IANAL).

    However, i think it is fairly rude to discuss compensation around other people in the same company anyhow.

    However i do find it amusing when college professors talk about how much they make.

    someone close to me is a college professor, and i know for a fact that someone else at the same college that only teaches 12 hours of class gets paid over 2x as much as she does... Ninety thousand dollars a year. Friggin insane. 90k. he's an awesome teacher, though, so i suppose he deserves it.



  • I work for the state, as a public servant. That mean, anybody knowing my grade (and this information is public) can calculate how much money i get before taxation, up to the cent. :)

     Advantage, you don't have to negociate your salary.

    Disadvantage, you can't negociate your salary.
     



  • @foxyshadis said:

    A professional's pay should not ever be based on the amount of work they do. That just encourages inefficiency. Now if they're calling you up to ask you how to fix all their shit, then sure, rail away. Cut out the middleman.


    Oh, but I do. It's detrimental that I know their jobs. The other developers are mostly clueless about networking and don't "think outside of the box" much. Since that's one of my specialties, I get called a lot when they can't figure something out. I told my supervisor that SysOps needs an adjustment because they are delaying my projects by asking me about things that they knew before I did.



  • When I ran my own company, all client invoices and contractor pay was publicly available, excepting the specifics of client work. So if we sent an invoice to XYZ Company that said:

    Project A - Fix bug in feature X - N/C
    Project A - Extend feature Y - $300
    Project A - Add feature Z - $1,500
    Total - $1,800

    Anyone could then go to our web site and see this information:

    XYZ Company
    Client Liaison: Cathy
    Project Manager: Caliban
    Team: Alex (Lead), Bob, Chuck
    Project A - N/C
    Project A - $300
    Project A - $1,500
    Total - $1,800

    Overhead - $72
    Caliban - $216
    Cathy - $216
    Team - $1296
       Alex (Lead) - $576
       Bob - $360
       Chuck - $360

    My logic was quite simply that the only reason you would conceal this information is so you could lie about it. But potential clients needed to know who oiur other clients were and what kind of work we did for them; if we're doing $80,000 a year worth of work for your competitor, that's important to know. It's important to know what project that work involved. It's important to know which of our people are directly representing that client. You would probably want your project to have a different project manager and different contractors for any of your projects that compete with project A. And as a contractor, you want to know that you make a fair wage for the work you do. You want to know that anyone who doesn't work as hard doesn't make more money.

    A lot of clients had heart failure over this idea and refused to do any more business with us. I asked them why. When they expressed a concern that I would divulge their secrets to their competitors, I said "what prevents us from doing that now?" - which sometimes did the trick, and sometimes made things worse.

    In retrospect, the concept of fairness is a cultural ideal, but not really what Americans want. All Americans want to feel like they're making more money than the next guy, and they'll happily delude themselves about the matter if you can just keep the facts away from them. I'm not sure how much of this is applicable to German culture, and my thoughts on it would make people complain if I said them out loud. Suffice to say that I think it's applicable.

    I've spent enough time out of the country that I don't think enough like an American, so I occasionally do stupid things like this that just culturally will never work. My attitude is a kind of weird synthesis incorporating American, British, Italian, and French sensibilities in a way that doesn't quite match any of them. 



  • "So.. it's typically a firing offense to discuss compensation at US companies."

    I don't know if this is typical or not, but a few companies I have read about, post everyone's salary publically within the company.



  • @benryves said:

    @TheRider said:

    My understanding is that in the UK, for example, many job listings contain the salary that will be paid. I kinda like the idea.

    I'd find it incredibly strange for there not to be a value. I am from the UK, though. Surely the salary is the reason you're going for the job in the first place, so it should be up-front...

    Actually: No -- I don't go for a job "because it pays well". A whole set of criteria has to match for me to consider it, such as is-it-matching-my-interests, what-is-the-commuting-distance, what-is-the-potential-employer's -reputation. Of course, a bad salary is a definite show stopper. 

    So far, for me, it always turned out that after interviews and talking to potential managers and knowing that all the above points match and I want the job AND I will be given the job, THEN we start talking about salary. 



  • When I was a teenager, I worked for Toys' R Us for awhile....

    I can't remember the specifics, but there was a cashier who got slammed by a manager in front of a LOT of people for something that wasn't her fault...  When they realized this and she was upset, they took her into the back office for a bit...  She came back out... worked for a few more hours... and then got fired...

     Turns out, they had given her a $2 an hour raise (Probably like a 30 or 40% raise for her) to keep her happy and keep her from complaining to higher ups I guess...  Well, she came out and bragged to someone about her raise (which they told her not to talk about)... and someone got mad that they didn't make enough and complained.... she was toast...

     
    Everywhere I've worked (in the US), it is definitely a firing offense to talk about your salary.... I don't know if everywhere cares, I was just always under the impression that you could be fired for that here.

     



  • When you don't discuss salaries the only one who benefits is your employer. That's why they don't want you talking about your salary with co-workers and why they hate salary surveys.

     Think about the last time you asked for and got a raise. I got 10% six months ago. Obviously I'm worth the extra salary or I wouldn't have got it, so why wasn't I already making that money? Why won't your boss decide what the max he can pay you is and give that to you? Businesses want to pay you as little as possible to do your work and if your
    co-worker with the exact same job, performance, and experience as you
    gets paid 20% more they don't want you knowing about it.

     If you discuss your salary with your co-workers and find out they make more than you, you're far more likely to ask for a raise then you otherwise would be.

     Don't let the culture of fear beat you. Make sure you're getting the money you deserve.
     


     



  • @AbbydonKrafts said:


    So.. it's typically a firing offense to discuss compensation at US companies.

    In New York at least, salary discussions are protected communications as long as you're not doing it to brag, but rather to ensure fair compensation for all parties in the conversation. That's not to say that you won't get fired for it, just that the company would be breaking employment law for doing so...

     



  • If there is a company policy to keep your salary secret, you need to find a new job. That's really bad.

    Every company I've worked for has held that salary information is confidential.  It makes sense in a work-environment sense.  Employees are going to be paid different rates, you don't want them being jealous of each other.  There's also the more nefarious purpose of not giving them reasons to demand a raise. 



  • @bonzombiekitty said:

    If there is a company policy to keep your salary secret, you need to find a new job. That's really bad.

    Every company I've worked for has held that salary information is confidential.  It makes sense in a work-environment sense.  Employees are going to be paid different rates, you don't want them being jealous of each other.  There's also the more nefarious purpose of not giving them reasons to demand a raise. 

    You really need to find a new job. You've been in bad ones for so long that you're starting to rationalise them. Try to find one that isn't actually inspired by Dilbert this time.



  • I'm an Englishman living in Holland the Netherlands and here the situation is kind of strange. You see, the Dutch have a bit of a reputation for being "zuinig" (i.e. thrifty or tight-fisted with money) but they also have a reputation for being quite brutally honest in the workplace. In fact, Dutch uses the same word for "fair" as it does for "honest" (eerlijk) and I think this is reflected in the attitude of Dutch people themselves. This means you end up in a situation where it's rude to brag about your salary, but also quite common to be asked (and to receive an answer if you ask yourself).

    My own problem comes from the fact that in general English wages are much higher than Dutch wages (this is balanced by things costing less in the Netherlands) so whenever I've had an interview and they pop the dreaded question "How much would you like to be paid?" I've always asked for far too much, without really realising it. This has meant that for my last two jobs, I've been one of the highest paid employees in the company (in my previous job I earned more per month than my technical director) and when I've told people how much I get paid, people have sometimes been quite justifiably upset. But no-one's ever chastised me for telling people, despite a few of my friends using the information to try and fight for a raise (with some success).

    In my opinion it comes down to the fact that it's not my fault if the company's wage structure is unfair and it's not my responsibility to defend that structure either. Sure, they could blame me for sowing the seeds of envy, but it's their own fault that the soil is so fertile in which it grows.

    At the end of the day, if someone wants to find out how much I earn, they can probably find out for themselves without me telling them. If you have an open system where these things can be openly discussed, then problems with people feeling undervalued can be identified and dealt with without anyone being afraid of punishment. Otherwise you end up in a situation where B gets upset because A is being paid more, but doesn't feel like they can complain because either they'll be fired for knowing it, or A will be fired for telling it. So B just sits in silence, feeling less motivated to work, and most likely looking for another job which will pay him what he feels he deserves. The real loser in this situation is the company itself, since they're the ones that suffer from the decreased output of demoralised staff and the cost of replacing the people who they didn't pay enough in the first place.



  • @Devi said:

    ...whenever I've had an interview and they pop the dreaded question "How much would you like to be paid?" I've always asked for far too much, without really realising it. This has meant that for my last two jobs, I've been one of the highest paid employees in the company...

    No, no, no - never look at it that way. If they've been willing to pay it, then you've not asked for too much. In fact, that they're willing to pay you that much implies that you are more likely to have not asked enough - there's the possibility that they would have paid more. The only "right" amount to be paid is any number within the range of what is acceptable to both you and your employer.


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