If Jackass 3D is> anything like prior triumphs in the franchise, its band of raunchy, anarchic daredevils will make high art of low humor and leave no mishap private especially if it involves someone's privates. But just try to get Johnny Knoxville and his gang to talk about how much each is paid. In America, money is the last conversational taboo.
That's probably a good thing for workplace morale. A new study by researchers at the University of California at Berkeley and Princeton University suggests that if all of our salaries were made known tomorrow, half of us would be made miserable and the other half would be made no happier.
That's more or less what happened at the University of California. Faculty and staff there are on the state's payroll. The passage in California of a right-to-know law in March 2008 enabled the Sacramento Bee to publish state worker salaries on its web site. Authors of the aforementioned study, now circulating as a working paper, contacted a random set of workers at three UC campuses and informed them of the web site. A few days later, they surveyed all campus employees on how they used the Bee s site, on their satisfaction with their job and pay and on whether they had job search intentions.
The findings: Usage of the site spread quickly, and 80% of new users said they looked up salary details on colleagues in their department. Among workers whose pay was below the median for their department, job satisfaction plunged and likelihood of searching for a new job increased. Interestingly, among those who were paid above the median, there was no meaningful change.
The University of California finding suggests employers have more to lose than to gain from publicizing salaries. Inexpensive workers might leave and costly ones aren't made more loyal.
That explains why some employers tuck secrecy clauses into their new hire contracts. Such clauses are losing their teeth, however. In the U.S., several states ban them, and in ones that don't, court decisions suggest enforcement is made difficult if not impossible by Section 7 of the National Labor Rights Act, which protects workers who engage in concerted activity for mutual aid and protection. In the U.K. as of Oct. 1, the Equality Act 2010 bans enforcement in cases where workers are trying to determine whether they're being discriminated against something employers would find difficult to disprove.
As for workers, many of whom seem all too keen to share gritty personal details with colleagues, maybe it's time to dish about pay. Half will leave the conversation frowning, but if dissatisfaction is a motivator, they'll end up better off.