Let’s Talk About Salaries

In my career, I have always disliked talking about salaries. I hated salary negotiations. I have never asked for a raise. I had never told anyone my actual salary besides close family, HR, or recruiting managers. Why is that and has it hurt me?

Let’s be honest. Software developers typically make a pretty decent living. Three years ago, my wife quit her day job to stay home with our kids. I have made enough to provide for my family with my sole income. I feel like I have been compensated well enough. So what is the purpose of this post?
I would love to remove the taboo that exists around salary discussions. Who benefits from keeping salary information scarce? The employers. I have seen some contracts and NDAs that explicitly disallow employees from discussing current salaries and bill rates. If developers do not talk to one another, the employer has a lot more leeway to steamroll naive or timid developers (like myself).

I would love for every developer to have the confidence to know what their skills are worth while negotiating a salary increase. There are websites like http://www.glassdoor.com/Salaries/index.htm that attempt to provide a range. However, these are often off or give a wide range of salaries.

So what are some options for determining how much you are worth as a developer?
As previously mentioned, you could try using online salary range calculators. You could job hop and find what other companies are paying. Or you could simply ask your fellow developers.

For me, I am no longer going to be timid when it comes to compensation discussions. I will have asked my fellow developers, I will have done my research, and I will come prepared to any future negotiations. I hope you are open to the discussions.

8 Responses to “Let’s Talk About Salaries”

  1. If you’ve never asked for a raise and get able to support a whole family on your salary you should consider yourself lucky :)

    I don’t know habits in that matter in the US but down there, if I do not engage negociation on raise I will never get raised ! but we’re free to discuss it even if people are most of times afraid to exchange this kind of informations with colleagues

    • In my experience, that most companies give a once-a-year raise. Some companies call this simply a “merit raise”. Some say it is not based on reviews or performance. Regardless, I have always received a yearly raise in the range of 3-5%.

      You didn’t state where you were from, so I am interested in learning more about how companies work in your country. If you would care to elaborate.

      Thanks for the comment.

      • I’m from France, here some companies like mine have the same policy, every one is updated around 3 to 5% per year, I know other are below that rate.

        But still you have to ask for an interview with the management to get it.

        My client do which I work full time has different policy, they push individual reviews twice a year And give between 0 and 2% each time based on semester performance and objectives.

        We openly discuss salary with relatives, friends and the closer colleagues, but it’s very variable for everyone, some do not like talking about it at all while others are asking you directly your rate…

        A good friend of mine is in recruitment and tells me informed about the market and technical positions do not make you the better payroll here. And experienced developer will top around 50k€/year architects can do little more. It’s difficult to compare with US salaries because we have a full load of benefits included (heathcare, retirement, etc) but management, hr, financial positions will pay more in the end.

  2. javaguy44

    I would advise not discussing salaries with your fellow colleagues; for many companies it is grounds for dismissal…b/c like you said, the end result can cause employees to be disgruntled

    A good source of salary info should be recruiters. Are you on linkedin? Are you getting contacted for jobs? Talking to and making connections with various recruiters will let you understand the market much better for your skills..and your geographic area.

    Employers aren’t to blame, and neither are employees. Understand that its a job “market” and it will set you free. Yes, employers benefit when employees don’t talk about salaries, but tech people also benefit by having a wide, diverse range of choices and a field where salaries are generally very good. If you are at the top of your field as a software engineer, stay current w/ new technologies etc, then you can earn a very high salary and be in demand virtually anywhere. Those are things that definitely benefit employees…

    • I completely agree with your comments. This post was more a public statement that I plan on staying more in-tune with the “market” aspect.

      This is an excellent point.

      Understand that its a job “market” and it will set you free.

  3. While it is a touchy subject I have found companies that don’t want to talk about raises are generally companies I don’t want to work for. I was at a place that pretty much avoided the subject. They hired you and you should love to work for them. That is great but things in live cost more each year. I had to push the issue of a performance review the first year. It took forever. The next year due to shifts I was under a different boss. I has to push again. The third year I was given a new job title and promised a raise. This is called a “nomotion” as it is not a “promotion”. When salary time came they gave me nothing, not a cost of living, not a promised raise for the new job title. I went in to the VP and complained, I got a pittance of a raise for the job title and the “everyone gets 2.5%” for the other. I left the company.

    I have worked places that do reviews and raises and bonuses like clockwork. They care about the employee. I felt like part of the team. I provide work for them each and every week and we come together annually and I am compensated for that effort.

    I have seen companies argue they can’t give a big raise even if the market has moved well past them. I generally see them lose a lot of people as head hunters will tell employees they are trying to poach what the current rate is for their work. In the end they lose all the best people before they take any action.

    There are a number of companies that want to pay the same starting rate year after year. There are some places in the Kansas City area (USA) that have had a similar job open over the years and they have a base salary for $85k for a senior level C# programmer. The recruiters are driven nuts by them as no senior level person would ever want to go there and the company is mad because they can only interview junior level folks at best. The company does not budge and the position stays open forever.

  4. Actually, from my experience, it’s not the company that forces its employees not to discuss their salaries (I have personally never seen an NDA that discusses salaries), it’s the employees themselves who elect not to, especially those who think they are paid more than others.

    Not asking for a raise, if you think you can get it, is a big mistake. It tells the company you’re working in that a) you’re not confident in your skills, b) you are cheap, and c) you are not interested in a long term career.

    People think that asking for a raise may get them fired, while it’s the absolute complete opposite. The worst thing that can happen when you ask a raise is not getting it.

  5. I don’t have anything to add on discussing salary, but rather about the yearly pay increase vs job hopping. IMHO, I view yearly reviews and pay increases as a measuring stick for how long we’ll work together. Of course, pay and review are just only a two of the many data points I consider….benefits, culture, coworker friendships, enjoyment of the job, training, conferences, etc.

    As a general rule, yearly pay increases are 0-5% and new job pay increases are 10%-20%. So consider two employees that both start out at $85k/yr.

    Employee A stays at his company for 10 years and gets 5% pay increase each year:
    Year 1 salary: $89,250.0
    Year 2 salary: $93,712.5
    Year 3 salary: $98,398.13
    Year 4 salary: $103,318.03
    Year 5 salary: $108,483.93
    Year 6 salary: $113,908.13
    Year 7 salary: $119,603.54
    Year 8 salary: $125,583.71
    Year 9 salary: $131,862.9
    Year 10 salary: $138,456.04

    Employee B alternates between 5% annual raises and 10% new job raises:
    Year 1 salary: $89,250.00
    Year 2 salary: $98,175.00
    Year 3 salary: $103,083.75
    Year 4 salary: $113,392.13
    Year 5 salary: $119,061.73
    Year 6 salary: $130,967.90
    Year 7 salary: $137,516.30
    Year 8 salary: $151,267.93
    Year 9 salary: $158,831.33
    Year 10 salary: $174,714.46

    Real numbers vary, but the point is that job hoppers can drive up their salary quicker than loyal workers that stay put.


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