Quick. How many of your colleagues know your salary? Friends? Family members? Anyone?
When it comes to a workplace, salary transparency can (note: toxic work environments are still toxic work environments) reap benefits for employees and employers alike.
You may run into people on all sides of the debate on this one. I fall firmly into the camp of more information is better, because it allows all participants to be thoughtful, strategic, and effectively advocate for themselves.
Salary transparency allows employees to really start thinking about their work in the context of outcomes and accomplishments. When used effectively, transparent salary information can be used to both hold employees accountable for their responsibilities, and provide significant incentive for employees to perform as strongly as possible.
I have to admit, this isn't a silver bullet, to be sure. Because there's so much secrecy (and in some workplaces, outright company prohibition) when it comes to discussing salary, simply making this information available will not wave a magic wand and *POOF* result in dramatic changes to company and pay structure culture.
Note, I would never recommend that in a salary negotiation you say "Julie makes $90k/year and I'm only making $65k. If Julie is making $90k, then so should I." A salary or promotion negotiation is about YOU. It's not about anyone else but you. Having the salary information of others can help give you context for what you should be shooting for, but there's absolutely zero reason to disclose that you actually know the salary of others. You should certainly never make that case that simply because someone in a similar position as you makes more money, you should make more money too.
Salary transparency can arm you with confidence in your ask (i.e., what you're asking for is within the range of what they will pay for similar skills and abilities). However, it should never be used as a weapon (i.e., other people make this much, I should too). The latter approach will never, ever work. In fact, it might be detrimental to your career.
Salary transparency, when disclosed across the board and analyzed objectively, can also help organizations and their employees to identify structural or systemic biases in salary allocation, whether based on age (not tenure), gender, race, or some other factor.
So, consider asking colleagues about salary, and disclose yours. You will get some strange looks and perhaps offend some people, for sure. If you're willing to be thoughtful and strategic about how you use the information, and are asking at reasonable and appropriate times, it could be worth it.
Where do you fall on this debate?