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  • Kássia Tiba, Emily Kaori e Marina Salles

Pay secrecy: between privacy respect and fairness perspective

Pay secrecy: between privacy respect and fairness perspective

Before we start, do you know what actually is pay secrecy? The objective of this text is to discuss about what it is, how it affects on the workforce of an organization and it’s influence on manager’s policie’s choosing. Therefore, when we speak of pay secrecy, we are talking about the lack of information about workers payment within the same company or between distincts organizations.

Each company define it’s own particularly policies based on each of it’s characteristics. But practically, how does it really works? Is it really just about the lack of employee’s payment publishment? After working on this subject, it can be stated that it is not that simple. Practically, pay secrecy can be defined not just as the restriction of information about payment, but also by the kind of information made available and also by the limitation in the manner in which it is disseminated. As an example for this last factor, the manager can release publicly all the employee’s pay information but then, at the same time, impose in the company many strict rules against payment discussion, so people wouldn’t be actually able to deliberate freely about all the payment information.

Furthermore, pay secrecy it is not composed by bureaucratic factor as it’s policie’s establishment. There are also cultural and cognitive elements. If you are thinking “Cultural and cognitive??” the answer is yes.

According to Colella, Paetzold, Zardkoohi e Wesson (2007), this other factors involve others subjective aspects that are based on each emplyee’s perspective and perception about pay secrecy and it’s impact. But how can culture be an influencing factor on payment information restriction? The research of the bellowed mentioned authors states that eastern cultures are based on collectives values and, consequently, people see each other as a group and the individuals do not want to stand out from the others. Thus, pay secrecy would be positively accepted among the employees. In contrast, western cultures are composed by competitiveness and automacy so the policies of pay secrecy would change from one organization to another. Therefore, the discussion about pay secrecy controversy is accentuated. So, have you thought about how your culture can influence on pay secrecy discussion?

On top of that, we, human beings, tend to try to reduce or eliminate any discomfort to which we are submitted and the lack of information can cause discomfort and nuisance. Thus, that instigate many distincts behaviors which can be analysed and managed as an objective to the company’s purpose. Thereupon, pay secrecy can be an strategic factor on managing employee’s behavior. Based on our discussion till now, can you imagine others factors that make managers impose pay secrecy in their organizations?

Many companies states that by applying their employees to pay secrecy policies they are preventing the organizations of many conflicts that the payment discussion can insurge. But if the payment allocation and distribution is made in a fair and just way, why would it bring conflicts? By hiding the information, wouldn’t it be possibly actually hiding the payment equity?

In addition to that, it is also easy to identify the contradiction of pay secrecy when it comes to discrimination. The discussion about payment asymmetries evolving gender and racial issues are eminent and persistent. Many researches and documentaries show how exorbitant this differences still are and it is clear that the restriction of payment information can be a way to potentialize the cover-up of these practices. Thus, it is evident how polemic and controversial pay secrecy is and how it can impact an organization in many ways. Therefore, constant studies are needed to amplify even more our knowledge about it.

Given the discussion above, it is clear that the use of payment informational restriction may change from one organization to another and this practice is connected to many employee’s perspective elements such as fairness, motivation, trust, reputation, performance and privacy. These factors, combined with the company purpose and the workforce particularities, define the implementation or not of pay secrecy policies and rules that concern payment discussion.

What would be the benefits to amplify the studies about pay secrecy? How is pay secrecy actually seen nowadays? There are not that much studies about pay secrecy’s impact and most of them are made more then forty years ago and do not discuss about gender and race issues. This emphasizes the necessity of deeper researches about the subject and implies the indispensability of exploring this practice to possibly reduce it’s negatives impacts.

Have you ever thought about the payment discussion policies of your own company? Or of the company you work for?

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