Why it’s taboo to talk about salaries.
Does it suddenly get quiet in the lunchroom when questions about salaries pop up?
It’s a sensitive issue for sure. But why?

Magdalena Ribbing, expert in manners, answers that question in Dagens Nyheter this way: “It is not forbidden to talk about your salary with other colleagues, but whoever cares about his or her integrity doesn’t mention his or her private economy. Why would that be of interest to others? They won’t give you whatever is lacking in your wallet anyway, will they? However, one’s salary may be of importance to discuss of one suspect it’s low in comparison to others’ salaries.” Why then is this issue to sensitive?


“If everybody has a contractual salary, then it hardly matters,” Ribbing says. “But if some have a salary with a personal increase then it’s wise to keep that from others, in order not to create jealousy or unpleasantness. Some companies even demand of its employees not to discuss salaries with each other.”

But what if you feel you need to discuss it? “Then say something general about salaries and salary negotiations or economy in general,” is Ribbing’s advice.

“Whoever then voluntarily brings up the issue with his or her own salary, may do so. Whoever doesn’t feel like discussing it, can choose not to do so.” And what is to be avoided? “Nagging questions. Remarks of the type ‘you don’t get paid much, do you?’ or ‘I heard you’re getting more paid than X’.” Ribbing agrees that this type of personal questions are getting more common in Sweden today, and she warns that it is often that an answer is demanded, but adds: “Nobody ought to have to reveal something he or she doesn’t feel like revealing.”