Salary secrecy in Germany

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In my neighbourhood a Mercedes S Class (or any clean car) is a show-off car ;)

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Where I work, people talk about what they make, at least the people who work in the same department on the same level. I've been asked a couple of times what I make. One time I told and the other I didn't. It depends on who asks. My first temporary contract actually had a clause in it about being confidential but when I got my permanent contract, they left it out.

 

I have not found it any different here in Germany from what I knew in Canada and before that in Iceland. Some people ask or tell and some don't or some lie. If somebody thinks they are making a little more than their coworkers and have been asked not to share, they probably wont.

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It's a little different in Public Service as you are paid according to a fixed Tarif + the years you have worked and it's fairly easy to work out what someone else is earning, for instance, I am in TVÖD-SUE.

As for Beamten, everyone can figure out what they earn if you know what class they are in, and they talk and joke about it too; for instance my neighbour was "only" a policeman and he teased my landlord, who was a teacher, about being an Amtsrat, which is the highest you can get (until you get to be Oberamtsrat etc!).

I don't think Germany are more secretive than other nationalities about salaries.

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I've found the best way to get a pay rise is to find a new job which pays more.

 

It's amazing how quickly your previously tight current employer will attempt to match the offer...

 

Given this, it is possible to stay in your current position, having "negotiated" a pay rise and without waiting 3+ months' notice period.

 

This is what happened to me many years ago. I handed in my notice when I found a better paid job and was surprised when my boss offered me 1,000 DM more (that would be ca. 1,000 € today) to keep me. That was quite a rise. It definitely topped what I would have got at the other job. Of course, I stayed. I hadn't realised he appreciated my work so much, or maybe he was aware that I was underpaid. He also asked me not to talk about it to my colleagues, which I understood, of course. It would only cause bad blood. As I hadn't spoken to my colleages about wanting to leave, there was no suspicion.

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At a former employer it was written in my contract that the salary was confidential, and I'm proud that I stuck to the deal, even when other people didn't. I saw an old(ish) hand find out that a new starter came in on the same salary, and he turned from someone completely happy with his salary into being totally unhappy, a lot of which was unfairly directed at the newbie for the crime of being a good prospect and a good negotiator. So there is a big downside to too much openness.

 

I'm a bit odd in that I really don't care what other people are getting. My deal with my employer is my deal with my employer, my colleague's deal is his deal and has no bearing on my happiness with my pay. If I'm not happy with my deal it's my responsibility to discuss it with the boss, or leave.

 

What other people are getting isn't much of an argument for a raise. What are you doing that justifies the raise? Are you performing well, have you implemented new stuff that makes the place more efficient, are you bringing new customers in, do you work all night (occasionally - doing it all the time will go down badly) to get stuff done that makes a pissed off client into a pleased client, that kind of thing.

 

That said, getting a really good raise is hard. Kludgie is right about lower willingness to spontaneously reward exceptional performance here. You often have to get it when you get in, or be in the right place at the right time - i.e. able to step up a level or two when key people leave. My departure from the last place, which was partly because they had let salaries get completely out of whack with the market value and what we were billed out for, enabled a friend to step up and get a proper salary when they realised they would be completely screwed if he left too. That makes me far more happy than introspecting over whether someone is earning more than I am.

 

And a Mercedes S class is something you get driven in, if lucky or rich enough. Not a car to own.

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But before she had been three minutes in her own room, her mother followed her.

    "My dearest child," she cried, "I can think of nothing else! Ten thousand a year, and very likely more! 'Tis as good as a Lord!

 

Granted, Mrs Bennet isn't known for her good manners, but it is quite remarkable how people keep banging on about income in all of Austen's novels. Talking about income seems to have a long tradition in the UK. B)

OK, we have Buddenbrooks, where they are always talking about money, but they are traders, not landed gentry.

 

It's just one of these cultural things, that aren't necessarily logical, what's open for discussion and what isn't. The first thing you learn about the bloke who fell of a cliff in the British tabloid press are the fees of the private school he attended and the value of his house. Rather strange by German standards but that's how it is.

 

Once people have worked for a while in an industry they tend to have a pretty good idea of what people make. Large companies do tend to have more or less rigid income scales anyway. Stories of people discovering that someone in a comparable position is getting three times someone else's income aren't plausible for me.

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I remember reading about studies on happiness which found that people's happiness with regard to their material situation doesn't depend on the absolute wealth (as long as it secures the existence and a bit more). The discontent starts when people compare themselves with others. Because of that, an executive with a remuneration which allows him to live more than comfortably might still become unhappy and feel hard done by his company when he learns that a colleague earns just a little more, for whatever reason. I say ignorance is bliss.

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This Mrs. Bennet reminds me of my mom. When I got my first job after college, she asked how much I was making and I told her. A few days later, she announced it at a family dinner over my sister, brother in law and their umpteen kids. I had to have a private talk with her about how it is not even appropriate to announce to a group of people how much you yourself are making let alone how much somebody else is making who told you this privately. She said "but oh, I am just so happy for you that you are making that much". Btw, I wasn't even making that much but I guess herself working part time at a pink collar job, she kind of thought it was. I'm pretty sure that my brother in law and sister were making loads more than I was but I guess they had the sense not to tell mom about it or she probably would have announced that too.

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Attending a German interview is like playing poker. At first you talk about why you applied for the job and what experience you have. This is usually stated in the letter of application but they ask anyway. When all this has been dealt with you are asked what salary you have in mind.

The first time I was asked this I almost fell of the chair, I didn't know what to say as I was waiting for them to make me an offer.

When you have lived here for some time you do have some sort of idea about what sort of salary you are worth and need to live on but you still don't know what they are prepared to pay.

 

As I was always in employment when I went for an interview I always had to apply for half a days holiday or sometimes a full days holiday in order to be able to go to the interview so my employer would not ask too many questions. I have lost count of the number of times I had made an appointment at the hairdressers, taken a day off to go to an interview only to find out at the end of the interview what they were prepared to pay. In several instances I would never have bothered applying for the job and travelling there if I had known beforehand what salary they had in mind.

 

The person or company advertising the position has a budget for the said position but instead of saying we are looking for a ... and he/she will begin with a salary of ...€ as in England, they wait for the applicant to name a sum of money. The applicants sum is probably below the salary they are prepared to pay so the company saves money right from the begining most of the time.

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Germany doesn't have a minimum wage in a lot of sectors. Even if employees are paid according to the Tarifvertrag, some employees may get an additional Leistungszulage and others a Freiwillige Zulage which is always individual and top secret of course.

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I think the salary secrecy depends also on how close you are with your work colleagues. Unless it is specifically worded as a sackable offence to be proved to have discussed salaries between colleagues, people will always talk and nobody can really prevent that. Discourage, sure...

 

For most of my twenties and very early 30s colleagues and my social circles were less guarded about talking about salary or bonus or whatever. But that changed quite quickly as I got older.

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Oblomov,

 

When I was studying literature, I was always told "follow the money". What one has to remember is that there was no welfare safety net in the past, so, yes, money was a highly important theme for everyone, male or female. Would they be able to earn or marry enough money to see them comfortably through their entire life. No pensions. No child support.

 

Mrs Bennett was no worse than any other mother with five daughters who couldn't go out to work. What would these middle class children have done? They HAD to marry well.

 

With regard to pay, I know that when I worked in London, we were asked not to discuss our pay with colleagues there either.

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THere are exceptions of course. But at least in my neighbourhood the folks who drive show off cars are for the most part not German.

 

Pay a visit to my town, Dortmund, everyone here is car-obsessed, and if we're going to do racial stereotyping, it is 'the Germans' who drive the newest BMWs and Mercs.

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The "secret salary" thing exists where I work in Germany and was exactly the same where I worked in Canada, so it never occured to me to think it was weird. I have always assumed salary varies between people doing the same job, based on how long they've been with the company, how good their negotiation skills were during the job interview process, who the dept. manager was when they got hired, etc..

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I put it down to something I have marked as a cultural difference... in the UK 40 years ago you were taught not to covet the neighbour's goat and envy was stamped out when you were about aged 10. I remember being told to rejoice in someone else's good fortune. Envy was not allowed. If these are the rules everyone follows, disclosing figures is not so troublesome.

 

By contrast, if envy is never stamped out in kids it is better in adult life to play that game where the most you reveal about your holiday in the Maldives is that it was "schön" because you do not want to incite the envy of your neighbour. And you must always pretend to be hard-up and hard-done by for the same reason. The coyness about salaries is an extension of this as far as I can see.

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There are many (most) jobs where the work is the "same" but the skills of the workers vary and thus get paid accordingly... Salary is a reflection of many variables and generally the "job" has a salary range within which we fall. Is it 100% fair? Show me something that is.

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I am not sure why the concept of different rates for different workers is so controversial.

 

Although on paper the jobs may be similar, someone who has a better skill set, better attitude, works better with less supervision, and can market themselves as such deserve what they can get.

 

Similarly, the lazy bag of shit that needs to be spoon fed is not worth as much.

 

In my trade, it is all about ability and output.

 

The tech that has a good record of fast, accurate diagnostics and produces quality work with less errors at a decent rate deserves more.

 

It is also a reflection of the fact that he keeps up to date on new technology, attends training etc.

 

The mediocre tech with limited skills, who is less able to tackle a range of problems, and has no interest in advancing himself does not deserve the same rate.

 

Professional development costs time, effort, and money. To suggest everyone deserves the same is to suggest everyone brings the same value to the company, and that is simply not true.

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To suggest everyone deserves the same is to suggest everyone brings the same value to the company, and that is simply not true.

 

Lots of people do think that though.

 

When I moved over here to work for the German company, the secretary I was supposed to start working with had left at short notice. According to the grapevine, the reason she left is that she found out how much I had negotiated as a salary. I'm sure it wasn't the only reason but it certainly seemed to play a part. Not long after I got here they decided to offer the temp who had replaced her a permanent job. She, not being too bright, saved her contract on the network drive and I opened it by accident - I closed it immediately but as the salary was highlighted prominently on the first page I did see that she was accepting as a gross salary just about what I was making net. We were the same age but she didn't really have any secretarial experience so there was definitely a disparity of skills and experience. Even so, that's a huge difference so I can understand why they wouldn't have wanted anyone to know what my salary was.

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It is not a bad thing.

 

It allows for the negotiation of what is possibly a higher than average rate. If they allowed open discussion, their only option may be to say no, and hire a cheaper candidate that they might not want as much as you.

 

As a candidate, you bring your wares and present them to the potential employer.

 

If you can offer them something they want, a price is agreed. If both parties are happy with that price, a deal is done.

 

If part of the conditions of that deal is nondisclosure, then so be it. If that is something that is not acceptable, don't do the deal.

 

Any decent candidate worth their salt would research average wages in their field, factor in variables like location, personal skills and abilities (or lack thereof), and come up with a realistic number.

 

If you ask for too much because you over estimate your value to the company, you price yourself out. Other people are prepared to ask for a reduced rate as a means of getting a foot in the door.

 

As long as a candidate is not being stupid, there is always going to be room to negotiate.

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Looks as if people in the UK aren't too forthcoming about their salaries either:

 

http://www.telegraph.co.uk/news/politics/10354787/Women-should-ask-male-colleagues-what-they-earn-says-equalities-minister.html#dsq-comments

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