Money is a pervasive part of everyday life, from romantic relationships to friendships to the workplace, so it’s needless to say that money conversations are really important.
That said, they can also be pretty tricky and uncomfortable, especially when they involve colleagues or employers. Let’s take a deeper look at the importance of these conversations and how to engage them in the workplace.
Benefits of workplace money talk
There are a wide variety of valid reasons that money talk may come up in the workplace. You may be negotiating a raise with your boss, chatting about salaries and benefits with co-workers, requesting reimbursement for work expenses, or talking through how much you want to funnel into your retirement savings.
Stepping into money conversations boldly could be what it takes to get the raise, promotion, or reimbursement you feel you deserve. These conversations, when normalized through shameless practice, can create a more transparent workplace that values self-advocacy and open communication.
When should I avoid workplace money talk?
As beneficial as money conversations can be in the workplace, they can cause some discomfort and may even violate company policy. Some states enforce pay secrecy laws, which discourage salary conversation among co-workers. It’s a good idea to check your state’s laws and company guidelines before engaging in these talks.
Salary talk can also breed resentment. Disgruntled co-workers could become passive-aggressive or hostile if they make less than you and feel jealous as a result. If you’re new to a company, consider asking your manager or someone you trust about the company culture and whether it’s acceptable to bring money into the conversation.
Types of money conversations and how to navigate them
Every money conversation is different. While some topics can be brought up casually, others may require huge amounts of planning and forethought.
Colleague salary comparisons
Your co-workers may bring up their pay freely, perhaps in the hopes that others will follow suit so that they can gauge how much they’re earning comparatively. Remember, if you don’t want to disclose your salary, you have no obligation to do so—it’s perfectly fine to say that you’re most comfortable keeping that information to yourself.
That said, if you find yourself in a salary conversation with co-workers that you’d like to engage, remember to take into account the potential impact of these conversations on company culture. Money can be a sensitive topic—your co-worker may be struggling financially and talking about money could cause added stress. Figure out what you want to know from your colleagues ahead of time, and be careful not to push their boundaries. It’s also not a bad idea to hold these conversations in private so that no one feels social pressure or discomfort.
Asking for a raise
As much as we’d like to believe that our boss is giving their undivided attention to all of our successes, that’s not always the case. When you want a raise, it’s important to know how to be your own advocate rather than simply hope that your good work is recognized. This process requires a detailed game plan.
Before walking into your employer’s office to talk pay, you’ll want to prepare concrete and quantifiable examples of your work that demonstrate why you deserve a raise. It’s also a good idea to look up the average salary earned by people working similar roles in your geographical area and to base your request on this.
Finally, you’ll want to time this conversation right. It’s not a bad idea to float the idea of a raise by your manager before your performance review so that they take your intentions into consideration.
Requesting a reimbursement
It may feel silly to think that asking for something we’re owed is difficult. The reality is that requesting a reimbursement for a company expense often puts us in a vulnerable place because it involves asking a superior for money. To make the process easier, remind yourself that reimbursements are a normal part of a company’s day-to-day operations. It’s also not a bad idea to hold onto all receipts so that any question about integrity is fully mitigated.
The awkwardness of asking for a reimbursement is only amplified when the item at hand costs very little. If you spend a few dollars on sticky notes that are needed for your job, you may feel uncomfortable asking for this money to be reimbursed. To avoid this discomfort, consider bringing it up casually—maybe even as a joke. These small purchases can add up with time, so it’s best to set a precedent of logging even the cheapest work expenses.
Negotiating a bonus
Your boss may ask something extra of you that was never in your contract, such as coming in on a Saturday to complete a highly important and time sensitive project. If your boss doesn’t offer anything for this extra work, you may want to negotiate a bonus….