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Career advice and job search strategies for the modern careerist

Poll: Lying About Salary is Common. Why Aren’t We All Doing It?

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I wrote last week about the concept of gaining a salary bump by lying about your current/previous earnings when applying for a new job. I didn’t attempt to draw any conclusions about the practice in the piece–other than to point out that it’s technically illegal—but I still suspected that it was pretty widespread, especially given the slim chance of getting caught.

With all that in mind, there’s good news and bad news. The good news? That I now have some numbers suggesting just how widespread salary inflation is. The bad news, meanwhile, really depends on whether you’re an employer or not. The reason? Only 38 percent of respondents ruled out ever inflating their salary during a future hiring process. Leaving companies open, presumably, to a potential deluge of false salary information on which to base their offers—assuming, of course, that some of the 37 percent who describe themselves as “tempted” by the possibility get over their fear of getting caught.*

salary inflation poll results

I’m left wondering if this is something that we should lament or just accept as a necessary part of the job hunting process. I’m also curious about where it leaves us: if everyone’s doing it, they’re effectively creating an unsustainable bubble as companies struggle to keep up with ever-inflating wage demands, whereas if not everyone is doing it, the honest folks stand a greater chance of losing out. Hmm. Creating bubbles and profiting from dishonesty. Where have we heard that before? Oh, never mind.

Perhaps the biggest issue for all of us here is the issue of trust. Clearly employees have realized that there’s a disconnect between performance and salary, and that employers in many cases will pay as little as they can get away with. With that mentality on both sides, it’s little wonder that salary negotiations often end up as a battleground—and can cause negative feelings on both sides before an employee even shows up for their first day. And, in an age where salary information is often just a click of the mouse away, it can cause ill feeling among existing employees to learn that someone they work alongside gets paid more simply because they bargained a little harder.

So where does that leave us? Publicly available salary data? Lockstep compensation models? Let me know your thoughts: is lying about salary information inevitable, or are there steps companies or government can/should take to try and cut down on it?

* NB: I’m aware that the poll results don’t add up to 100 percent. It’s a rounding thing.

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Written by Phil Stott

June 22, 2010 at 3:00 pm

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