Publicize employee salaries like Buffer, good or bad?


I came across an article about a company (Buffer) that made salaries of all employees public in order to be more transparent. What are the benefits of doing that?

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asked Feb 17 '14 at 11:13
Marlon Wheeler
11 points

2 Answers


The publicizing of the salaries is only one of the many unusual things which Buffer has done. The benefits are that of transparency. Whether or not your company culture can support that is a different story.

answered Feb 17 '14 at 18:30
Nick Stevens
4,436 points


I don't quite understand Buffer's logic of making everyone's salary (identifiable with their names) available to anyone outside the company. Scenarios as to why I think so:

  • Your competitor sees what a particular employee's salary is and offers him a $20K increase. Employee comes to you to see if you'll match their offer. What will you do? Match it to retain him and then either offer that increase to all employees or create animosity of you don't?
  • Some people, engineers specifically, have specialized skills that are worth more in terms of compensation that other engineers. How would you justify that to the other engineers who will be making less?

Regardless if transparency of identifiable salaries is a good idea or not, it for sure doesn't seem like a good idea to show to anyone outside the company.

answered Feb 17 '14 at 18:46
Nishank Khanna
4,265 points
  • @nishank I suspect that if a competitor sees the rate and the employee is motivated to take 20k extra, they're probably welcome to leave. Most people are not motivated by money, and having enough money with a great job is much better than lots of money with a job you hate. So the offering company better have the ability to match more than just the money. Buffer has defined a set of salary rates and multipliers. If you think your "super power" skill deserves more money than that of somebody else, you're applying to the wrong company - you won't be a good cultural fit. – Nick Stevens 8 years ago
  • What we're seeing is a new phase in business where transparency is a selling point. Some companies (such as Buffer) are pushing the boundaries of what seems normal and acceptable today, in order to build a brand for tomorrow. I suspect we'll see a lot more transparency from companies - and that can only be a good thing. – Nick Stevens 8 years ago
  • Oh don't get me wrong, I would love to see them make this level to transparency work. And they do mention that they consulted the entire team before doing this. Those are just some scenarios I see being potential friction points. While money should never be the sole motivation factor, this level of transparency could only work if everyone is compensated fairly (i.e. market rates at the bare minimum). – Nishank Khanna 8 years ago
  • Regarding the specialized skills, there are scenarios where those come into play. For example, the supply of java programmers for legacy financial systems is very low and thus their average industry salary is a magnitude higher than PHP for example. In those cases it would be hard to recruit a java engineer without meeting their market rates. Just an example, probably not a good one :) – Nishank Khanna 8 years ago
  • Hey Nishank - I think we actually agree, but aren't quite lining up. A legacy Java programmer, that fits in a legacy software company and wants the requisite, isn't likely to be a good fit for a company like Buffer. Therefore, this isn't likely to be an issue - or rather, it's not the money that breaks the deal - but the other reasons. – Nick Stevens 8 years ago
  • The above should read: ^requisite salary. – Nick Stevens 8 years ago
  • Yup! For Buffer that example would definitely not apply. Side note: Adding ability to edit comments to the roadmap :) – Nishank Khanna 8 years ago

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