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Salary Sharing with Coworkers: Nurses Discuss the Benefits of Pay Transparency

NurseJournal Staff
by
Updated August 24, 2023
    Pay equity in the workplace and closing wage gaps are significant factors in nursing. Explore how salary sharing can foster a work environment based on trust.
    Nurses in a meeting together around a tableCredit: Getty Images
    • Pay transparency can expose wage gaps and help build a positive working environment.
    • Employees are protected by the National Labor Relations Act, which makes it illegal for employers to restrict employees from talking about salaries with coworkers.
    • Discussing salaries helps nurses understand their worth, expose unfair pay practices, and make informed decisions.

    You may wonder if there’s a benefit to salary sharing with coworkers, and who should know how much you make and why? While these are all valid questions, pay is personal, and some feel uncomfortable sharing this information. Many people may also not understand the benefits of pay transparency.

    Pay equity in the workplace and closing racial and gender wage gaps are significant factors in nursing — a predominantly female profession. Pay transparency is one way to shine a light on these discrepancies. Understanding your rights and benefits to salary sharing with coworkers is key to closing wage gaps and fostering a work environment based on trust.

    Salary Sharing with Coworkers: Understanding Your Rights

    Although most experts believe that sharing your salary with your coworkers benefits you and your colleagues, many U.S. workers are still uncomfortable talking about how much money they earn. Some companies have a policy against these discussions, which generally violates federal labor laws set forth by the National Labor Relations Board (NLRB).

    Under the National Labor Relations Act, all employees can communicate with their colleagues about how much they earn, including bonuses and other perks. The Act covers communication that occurs face-to-face and in written messages.

    Policies that prohibit the discussion of wages are unlawful, but an employer can limit how employees use company equipment, like computer systems and telephones. It’s important to understand your employer’s policy about using their equipment.

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    Things to Consider Before Salary Sharing with Nurse Coworkers

    Human resource professionals often caution employees when comparing salaries to consider their coworker’s expertise level and skill set.

    Nancy Mitchell has over 37 years of experience in geriatric nursing care, both as a senior care nurse and director of nursing care. She cautions nurses to be sure they are comparing apples to apples.

    “Sharing salary information can cause other nurses significant distress. Say you work in another state or country where the pay is significantly higher,” she says.

    Another point to consider is the potential that your colleague may not be truthful about how much they make.

    Amanda Lundberg, BSN, RN, has over 10 years of experience in clinical nursing and a degree in cultural anthropology. While she recognizes that the advantages of salary sharing among coworkers typically outweigh the disadvantages, she acknowledges a few challenges.

    “Disclosure of salary information may lead to frustration among nurses receiving lower compensation which might lead to decreases in morale and productivity levels,” she says.

    While the conversations may be uncomfortable and the information disheartening, there are still significant benefits to sharing salary information with coworkers.

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    The Benefits of Salary Sharing with Nurse Coworkers

    Lundberg believes there are personal and professional benefits to salary sharing with nurse coworkers, including moving toward equitable pay.

    “Openly discussing salary among nurse colleagues can be a powerful tool for making sure wages are fair and equitable across the field,” she says.

    The benefits of salary sharing with nurse coworkers include:

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      Learning your worth

      One of the reasons experts encourage nurses to share their salary with coworkers is that it helps them identify their worth. Nurses with similar experience and education doing the same job are worth the same to their employer. Unfortunately, pay discrimination and racial and gender gaps may lead nurses to underestimate their worth in the healthcare system. Sharing salaries helps reduce this risk.”When I have discussed my salary with a coworker in the past, my motive has always been to help them understand their worth and what they should be aiming for,” Lundberg says.

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      Exposing unfair pay practices

      Historically, employers have tried to stop salary sharing because employees could use this information against them. Most people have been taught that talking about money is not polite, and you don’t ask your colleagues how much they make.

      But keeping silent about your salary is a culture that protects the employer and hurts the employee. With pay transparency, you can expose unfair pay practices within the organization, especially those relating to wage and gender gaps in hospitals, private practices, and other institutions that hire nurses.

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      Building a strong community of nurses

      A strong community is built around shared information. When nurses share their salary with colleagues, it can help them come together around a shared goal and build a community that ultimately makes the workplace more successful.

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      Helping nurses make informed decisions

      Nurses can make informed decisions about their education, career path, and employment when they know the pay scale in their present and future places of employment. Employers unable to match higher salaries with their competitors should consider other perks and benefits that can attract and retain qualified staff. Ultimately, informed nurses who make informed decisions strengthen the healthcare system.

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      Empowering nurses to advocate for higher wages

      In areas and organizations where a nurse’s salary does not match the experience, education, and care given to patients, sharing salaries can empower those nurses to take action in their local area and state nursing organizations to advocate for a higher pay scale.

    Navigating a Salary Sharing Conversation with Your Nurse Coworker

    Talking outright about money can be challenging. First, consider speaking with your colleagues about why you want to discuss salary. Be sure to talk about gender and race wage gaps, pay discrimination, and how this knowledge gives you negotiating power with your manager.

    Once you’ve started the conversation, if neither of you wants to disclose your salary up front, you may want to begin by confirming or denying a salary range. For example, you might say, “I see salaries for charge nurses that range from $70,000 to $80,000 per year. Is that accurate in your experience?”

    Another option is to start with information you get from researching online salary databases. This can help give you a sense of the pay range you and your colleague can reference to start your conversation.

    Ultimately, it comes down to rejecting the taboo around discussing money with coworkers, friends, and family. Even if your employer doesn’t create a climate of transparency, you can get the ball rolling by becoming more comfortable and talking about money regularly.

    The more you talk about salary with your coworkers, the easier the conversation becomes.

    Meet Our Contributors

    Portrait of Nancy Mitchell, RN

    Nancy Mitchell, RN

    Nancy Mitchell is a registered nurse and contributing writer. She has over 37 years of experience in geriatric nursing care, both as a senior care nurse and director of nursing care.

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    Portrait of Amanda Lundberg, RN

    Amanda Lundberg, RN

    Amanda Lundberg has 10+ years of experience in clinical nursing, focusing on primary care, pediatrics, and family medicine. She earned her bachelor of nursing degree while pregnant with her first child and a degree in cultural anthropology studying human cultures around the world. Lundberg has a passion for wellness and preventative care. She now owns and operates a company, Locksley Content, which writes content for health and wellness companies using her experience as a healthcare provider. She’s also an expert medical contributor at ParentsWonder.