Dear Mary Pat: How Can I Stop Staff From Comparing Salaries?


You probably can’t.

But that doesn’t mean I haven’t been guilty of trying to in the past. I have typically had a policy in my personnel handbook saying staff can be terminated for discussing wages. But should you really follow through with that threat? Some managers probably have, but I wonder if it is just a convenient excuse to terminate an employee. I would not terminate an employee because s/he did something that is so, well, human.

Employees are going to talk and most will compare wages because they are anxious to know if they are being treated fairly or if someone else in a comparable job is making more per hour. Fair is a word I formerly hoped would be used to describe me as a manager, but the longer I work managing staff, the less I really believe there is a “fair.” There is no absolute fair in my mind because it is very difficult to treat two people exactly the same.  No two people have exactly the same training, experience and talents, or attitude, so trying to place an exact value on their services is difficult. Each of us believes we bring something special to the job, but how does one assess that quality?

The best that can be done, I believe, is to be ready to justify and defend why you are paying any staff member what you are paying them.  Be ready for that question, as it is sure to come.

Photo credit: © Elvinstar |

Posted in: Day-to-Day Operations, Human Resources

Leave a Comment (3) ↓


  1. Tory Moore, OD January 11, 2010

    Dear Mary Pat,

    I enjoy your articles and find them very useful. I am grooming a candidate from my staff to become a manager and use some of your articles for a training resource.

    You are right about the impossibility of being fair. It is a subjective thing that everyone has a different opinion on.
    I have found that one thing that helps is to spell out as much as possible what the requirements are for determining employees salaries. It is only “fair” to employees to have some idea what you are judging them on. I solved a lot of problems by developing pay scales for every position, what factors were involved in determining those rates and what things I am looking for to get to the next level. It is no longer good enough to expect great employees to just show up and work hard and give them raises from time to time without giving them input. That type of management from the 1900’s is out the window. Today’s great employees want more communication with what is required of them and more input with their futures. Educating staff and setting clear expectations about salaries and future pay levels while not solving all problems with fairness, definitely helps foster a team attitude.

    Keep up the great articles!

    • Mary Pat Whaley January 11, 2010

      Hi Tory,

      Thanks for the feedback and the insight. I agree with you 100% about setting a scale and communicating your performance requirements. It can be work to get it started, but it is well worth the effort.

      Let me know if there are any topics you think would be especially useful to see on the blog.

      Best wishes,

      Mary Pat