Should Your Salary Be Made Public?

Social media startup Buffer is all about transparency, going so far as to publish employee salaries online.

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By Nina Zipkin

Over the course of your various holiday get-togethers, it's probably safe to say you didn't turn to your second cousin and ask her how much money she makes. But perhaps it's not as sensitive a question as you might think.

Buffer, a social media management service based in San Francisco that prides itself on transparency, took its culture of openness a step further by recently posting its employee salaries online.

Given that Buffer's M.O. is sharing information (the company makes a point of releasing earnings and user numbers each month), founder Joel Gascoigne's reasoning is understandable. "Transparency breeds trust, and trust is the foundation of great teamwork," the CEO wrote in a post for the company's blog on Thursday.

Related: What Is the Office of the Future?

To show that "transparency" isn't simply an aphorism to be taken at face value, Gascoigne listed the names, job titles and salaries of the company's 13 full-time employees, including himself, as well as the four who are currently undergoing "Buffer Bootcamp," the 45-day freelance trial period for new hires.

The company's salary formula is based on employees' job type, level of experience and work location, among other things. The company also offers employees the ability to have some of their salary in equity. Gascoigne closes with the point that the salary formula is "a living document," and subject to change, like accounting for "career progression."

Related: One Startup's Way to Move Up Launch: Live Together

In his post, Gascoigne mentions Buffer's nine core values. "Default to transparency" is the second, following "Always choose positivity and happiness."

Buffer's upfront company culture could serve it well, attracting like-minded employees while getting a conversation going about their work. Some argue that taking it even a step further - having employees set own salaries - prevents dissatisfaction among personnel. But of course, every company is different.

We'd like to hear from you -- do you think Buffer's philosophy would work in your office? Is it better for everything to be out in the open, or is a level of privacy necessary to keep up morale? Let us know in the comments.

Nina Zipkin

Entrepreneur Staff

Staff Writer. Covers leadership, media, technology and culture.

Nina Zipkin is a staff writer at She frequently covers leadership, media, tech, startups, culture and workplace trends.

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