Coworker vs. Class Envy

Almost half of all workers in the U.S. “are either contractually forbidden or strongly discouraged from discussing their pay with their colleagues.” … Researchers … found that employees who know what their peers make—especially if their salaries are below median earnings—were more dissatisfied with their jobs than their peers who knew nothing. (more)

Imagine a national law banning citizens from talking about each other’s income. Similar to the way firm rules against discussing coworker incomes raise job satisfaction, a law against discussing citizen incomes would also probably make people more satisfied. Yet I predict that if such a law were actually passed, a huge public outcry would spell political disaster for supporting politicians. People would wail about the horrors of totalitarianism and suppressing class consciousness, and call for revolution if needed to repeal it.

Yet most who work at firms with no-salary-talk rules are probably ok with it. Few refuse to apply for jobs at such firms, or even demand substantially higher salaries to work there. In fact, there’s a decent case to make that people are on average willing to accept lower salaries to work at such firms. After all, if not such policies would cost firms more in salaries, with few obvious compensating benefits.

This example highlights how differently we act in workplaces vs. national political forums. When talking national politics we refuse to compromise on key ideals that we hardly care about in workplaces. Voting is indeed a far fest, while we submit hyper-farmer style to domination at work.

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