Discussing salaries in the workplace is awkward, according to a new survey, which says that given the chance nearly half of employees would ban the topic.
In a survey workers placed religion in the top spot (42%). Sex and salaries took joint second (41%), followed by politics in third place (35%). Nearly half of the British workforce would, if given the chance, ban such topics.
As the recent revelations at the BBC’s pay report showed, gender pay gaps can shake up even large companies as big as the BBC so it makes sense there is unease surrounding the subject of salaries, says the report.
But it’s not the only tricky conversation subject in the workplace, according to the study, which says that politics is particularly divisive. One in eight people have fallen out with a colleague after a heated political debate. People also feel uncomfortable discussing sexuality (23%), race (20%), and mental or physical illness (20%). For 10% of employees, however, no conversation is off the cards.
If given the opportunity to ban such topics, nearly half of the British workforce would take up the offer (47%). While the majority said they wouldn’t advocate workplace censorship, many would ban a range of topics. Proposed topics to ban even included generally innocuous ones, such as eating habits and upbringing.
“When it comes to conversations in the workplace, it’s often a case of realising what you maybe shouldn’t discuss rather than what you cannot discuss,” says Peter Ames, head of Strategy at Office Genie, which carried out the research.
“Under the Human Rights Act, we’re all entitled to freedom of expression and this naturally encompasses a broad range of topics. It’s important to respect people’s boundaries however and consider your professional image. Of course, hate speech and that of a discriminatory kind is never acceptable.
“It’s very rare that an employer will have an outright ban on a topic, but depending on the type of work, there may be security clearance issues or nondisclosure clauses. So it’s always worth checking your contract for such restrictions.
“It’s important to be clear that some conversations, despite being potentially awkward, should definitely be up for discussion. Talking about salaries, health and other potentially ‘awkward’ issues with an employer can help progression, wellbeing, and equality.”