New salary tool can help you figure out your worth at work

Talking about your pay can be difficult, but you’re entitled to a discussion with your boss -- just don’t sound entitled.
New online tools aim to give workers a sense of how their pay stacks up.
(Francine Orr / Los Angeles Times)
The Washington Post

Salary transparency has been a big buzzword in recent years. President Obama signed an executive order that bans federal contractors from retaliating against workers who talk about their pay. More Silicon Valley start-ups have adopted the idea of disclosing workers’ salaries. And millennials — now the biggest generation in the workforce — are reported to be relatively comfortable talking about what they make.

Yet for all those changes, discussing what we make is still a big office taboo, and feeling underpaid remains a perpetual paranoia in the workplace.

To help, a growing crop of online tools aim to give workers a more personalized sense of how their pay stacks up. The careers site Glassdoor has introduced new features to its suite of company reviews and job listings.

The new tool, called “Know Your Worth,” asks users to enter their current salary, years of experience, employer name and location, and calculates their “market value” and plots it on a graph against their current base salary over time.


The result can be reassuring — or a little depressing.

“Even with all the transparency, it’s still pretty hard to know where you fit in your company,” said Dawn Lyon, vice president of corporate affairs at Glassdoor. “You can do the research, but how does that play for your job right now?”

For those frustrated to learn that they’re not making as much as their peers, Glassdoor conveniently appends related job listings to their reports, adding an expected salary range next to each listing. It is also adding a feature called “Salary Explorer” that lets people gauge how much they might expect to be making after their next promotion.

The company, which says it currently can give a “market value” for 55% to 60% of the U.S. workforce, bases its calculations on salary reports that millions of workers have submitted anonymously; the heaviest weight is given to the most recent reports. It also factors in supply-and-demand trends of job listings in local markets and a user’s proximity to a likely step up the career ladder.


Glassdoor joins a group of sites that also offer tools aimed at arming employees with some kind of individualized data when they’re heading into salary negotiations.

PayScale asks users for bonuses and other forms of compensation, providing a snapshot of how their pay compares with median reported pay in their area. SalaryExpert uses data from the Economic Research Institute to compare users’ personal details with a local average. Comparably tells users how their salary ranks among their peers.

While the information may not sway your boss into giving you a raise, it does arm employees with another data point to consider when they’re prepping for that nerve-racking salary conversation. 

Jena McGregor writes a column analyzing leadership in the news for the Washington Post’s On Leadership section.

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