Is it rude to talk about your salary?

A woman holding a stack of 100 dollar bills.
In a job interview, sharing your salary can mean a great deal in securing a higher wage. But at a dinner party, you may just come off as egotistical. Is it ever appropriate to discuss your salary in mixed company?
Jose Luis Pelaez Inc./Tl hinkstock

There are some conversation topics that are inherently rude. Coming to mind: Inquiring why a person has gained weight, pointing out something unusual about a child's physical appearance or development or asking a New York Knicks fan how the season is going. The topics themselves are just not kind.

Then there are the topics that aren't necessarily rude in and of themselves, but can be discussed in a rude way. These are the ones we are constantly told to avoid, if in polite society: Religion. Sex. Money. The big three that are guaranteed to make the Dowager Countess in your life shoot you a dirty look. But why exactly is it rude to talk salary (or money in general)? Further, is it such a great idea to keep financial matters so close to your chest, for professional purposes? Let's break some rules and talk about how to talk about money.


Let's begin by acknowledging that talking about money can easily veer into eye-rolling territory for those around us. Sure, you might be mentioning your raise because you're proud, but the friends you're having dinner with might only hear how excited you are to finally purchase that yacht to replace the tired old luxury boat you own now. In other words, it's extremely tiresome to hear people talk about how well-off they are. Likewise, nobody has a lot of interest in hearing you bemoan your paycheck, week after week.

Does that mean avoiding money talk entirely? Not exactly. In fact, some business authorities think that talking about salary -- especially amongst colleagues or those in your industry -- is quite crucial to guaranteeing you're not short-changing your own professional worth [source: Giang]. The idea is that the more you know about the salaries and compensation of those around you, the more prepared you are to negotiate your pay and find fair return for your work.

But there's a flip side of that too. Many argue that salary information should be quite tight-lipped amongst potential employees. It's fairly standard practice for a company to ask your previous compensation and many are leery that offering the number is going to get you a fair deal. Instead, interviewees might want to veer the conversation toward the offered salary range or even assert their salary requirements [source: Corcodilos].

So is it rude to talk about your salary? It's not entirely appropriate for social settings, unless you want to leave yourself open to criticism or pointed questions ("Wow, I can't believe you get paid so much to do so little!"). But professionally, it might be a different story; it could be useful information to assess your worth in a company or something to be avoided if you want to play a bargaining chip.


Lots More Information

Related Articles

  • Bradford, Stacey. "Money and Manners: Are You Offensive?" CBS Money Watch. Sept. 10, 2010. (March 11, 2015)
  • Corcodilos, Nick. "Ask the Headhunter: Never, Ever Disclose Your Salary to an Employer." PBS Newshour. June 4, 2013. (March 11, 2015)
  • Dziura, Jennifer. "Why Talking Openly About Money Is Crucial, Not Crass." Huffington Post. Jan. 27, 2014. (March 11, 2015)
  • Giang, Vivian. "Don't Be Afraid To Ask Your Coworkers How Much They're Making." Business Insider. July 24, 2013. (March 11, 2015)