Do you think it's good or bad for startups to publicize employee salaries?

Buffer recently published a full roster of all employee salaries. Do you think this is good or bad for startup founders to do?


I think their publicizing employee salaries is misleading. Salaries are not the only source of income for many. I would not put too much stock in this marketing ploy (by doing something 'unprecedented"). It's a good way to get additional exposure and publicity (a unique story line to get additional editorials/advertizing) ... but in real life, salaries are not the only way startups compensate their employees. Many receive additional revenue with Profit Sharing, commissions, additional employe benefits, patents, articles and book writing, travel reimbursement, extra timeoff, client/event/marketing reimbursement, etc. So, not all compensation strategies are reflected in the box marked salary. Therefore, even though they talk about being fully wage transparent, I'mnot convinced that they are. They also do not post number of hours each level works (converting everyone to the same baseline of $$/hour). This is another way to compare each employee's wage allocation.

I think it's good to have an internal policy and forumula for your salary structure.
I think it's good to allow and share this general structure with your employees.
But if you are uncomfortable showing your employees what their counter-parts and co-workers are making, don't share it with the public.
Also - make sure you understand why you are publicizing your employee's salaries. Every startup should have their own reason - versus simply following.
If you don't understand your goal or reason for sharing it with the public, don't share it with the public.

One recommendation is to come up with your own "something unprecedented" - and ride the wave of your own original pitch. I think your startup will benefit more from creating your own "unprecedented" campaign then following someone else's.

Answered 6 years ago

TL;DR; Yes it's bad, without understanding context.

Doing this, or any other organization rule needs to be considered based on the culture of the company and the goals. It's dangerous to take this one action out of context as to Buffer's purpose in building their organization.

Is it good? For some, that haven't been doing it from day 1 - I'm going to say no. My experience shows that most companies don't have a strict pay scale, and many would get upset by this.

Also, it's a personal thing - maybe your team don't want this. We do this internally at Clarity (everyone on the team knows what everyone else makes) but we don't publish this to the world.

I do agree that transparency helps teams focus on whats important, and can get ride of political issues, but it can also introduce other issues if it's not part of a bigger vision.

It's like assuming if you wear black turtle necks, blue jeans and new balance shoes like Steve Jobs, that you'll be a better designer. That's not how it works.


Answered 6 years ago

I don't think it matters either way.

Put a number out there and it will attract some and repel others.

Some people will be comfortable working for a startup; others will be afraid of it. More than salary, that will limit who applies.

Answered 6 years ago

I have managed startups as well as mature companies. I personally have never been part of a business that has publicized salaries, except as required by law in the context of securities regulation. Publicizing salaries might serve the personal interests of certain kinds of founders-those who want to appear benign and generous in the case of high salaries, or those who want to appear mean and all-powerful in the case of low salaries. There does not appear to be any legitimate business purpose served or advantage gained by doing so however.

Answered 4 years ago

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