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Ask HN: Why doesn't YC list compensation for their own open positions?
331 points by andrew_ 24 days ago | hide | past | favorite | 338 comments
HN, being a rather progressive forum, tends to trend in support of including compensation details for job posts, open positions, recruiter reach-outs, etc. This position [1] was just posted today and has been on the front page all day. Does anyone have any insider information or generally good theory as to why YC's own job posts include none of that information?

[1] https://www.ycombinator.com/companies/y-combinator/jobs/1x2B...




Here's the problem with non-deterministic conversations: everyone has an opinion (fair enough), and is willing to state it with the authority of a highly experienced subject matter expert.

In deterministic conversations, a naive opinion stated with a lot of authority would be shut down quite quickly (eg: many areas in programming where you can quickly prove something to be right or wrong). You can't do that in politics, business, and many other areas. As a result, we have about 8 billion politicians and business experts.

The author is making the assumption that listing a salary is connected to being a progressive business. A bunch of other people take this a step further and state how not listing the salary is a part of some conspiracy (in YC's case, apparently this is an attempt to lower the payroll costs of their portfolio companies).

The reality is that even the most transparent companies out there (eg: Gitlab) do not disclose individual salaries. No, it has nothing to do with some secret plan to underpay anyone or certain groups. It's simply a fact that people become incredibly irrational when it comes to compensation, and the minute you lay it out in the open, you open up a huge surface area for conflict. Last year we learned that encouraging political activism at work has a similar dynamic, and many companies have made that a no go zone as well. It's not because they are racist or don't care - it's because it takes a tiny minority of people to get the entire business derailed, and it's hard enough to keep that from happening in the best of times; once you add a catalyst like salaries or politics, it's like adding fuel to the fire.

But rather than ask ourselves why the leaders at Gitlab and millions of others companies have made the decisions they did, it's a lot easier to just make assumptions - "it must be coming from a bad place, so let me brainstorm what some of those bad places could be."

I'll take it a step further - Colorado State Senator Jessie Danielson would make you believe it's more likely that millions of companies are "bad actors" than that she just doesn't have the relevant experience in business to predict which way her bill was going to work out. Now that she's cost so many of her constituents lucrative remote jobs, it's too late to admit Mea Culpa, and instead it's everyone else's fault. If she was held a bit more accountable, the next time someone tries to bridge the gender pay gap they will hopefully spend some time interviewing and learning from people who have the relevant experience in hiring.


Note that New York City (50% larger population than Colorado, and can be reasonably considered to be much more economically & politically influential) just passed a similar law mandating salary ranges to be posted, to take effect in April 2022:

https://www.inc.com/melissa-angell/new-nyc-law-will-require-...

https://www.natlawreview.com/article/new-york-city-council-p...


Just like how California's auto market is too big for auto manufacturers to give up on, despite the strict environmental laws, NYC talent pool may be too big for most companies to pass on.


Couldn't companies just post a low minimum and high maximum salary to comply? (Apologies for the naive question, I assume the law isn't this easily sidestepped).


From the second linked article above:

> In providing the salary range, an employer must use good faith to determine, at the time of the posting, what it believes it would pay for the advertised job, promotion, or transfer opportunity.

As a former lawyer, I would say the phrase "good faith" is the operative one here. Companies will want to stay far enough from the line so that they don't get sued.


> Companies will want to stay far enough from the line so that they don't get sued.

idk what legal precedent is, but if i was hiring i could make a large good faith salary range.

job candidates are different. post a large but meaningful skills list youre looking for and be willing to hire the right person that doesnt meet all your bullet points. a college grad with 0 experience or a no-college with 4 years of experience or a college grad+4 years exp all might be the right person, but deserve significantly different salaries.


> idk what legal precedent is, but if i was hiring i could make a large good faith salary range.

What'd be interesting would be how often a company offers near the top of that range, or potentially beyond it. I'd think the frequency of offers (either far below the maximum or actually above the maximum) would make a potential case against a company for not listing ranges in good faith.

(ianal)


I think you'd make a very hard time making that stick (and a field like software development, where the 10x more productive programmer is generally believed to be a real thing, would be particularly hard). There is no reason why a company operating in good faith should want to deter exceptional candidates from applying to a position, and exceptional candidates are both much rarer than "slightly-above average" or "underqualified but trainable" candidates and able to command much higher salaries.

But the possibility otherwise satisfied employees being paid a market wage commensurate with their experience might see ads for jobs similar to theirs and conclude they're being systematically underpaid and motivated to take legal action is definitely a negative second order effect of the law...


They'd probably need to demonstrate that they have (of have had recently) people working at the min and max to demonstrate good faith. And they cannot just get rid of titles, because it's really based on job description.


It seems unlikely that New York is a haven for remote workers; it’s a place with high pay and correspondingly high income. I think NY laws won’t have a substantial impact on remote-work job postings.


I don’t know: my kid lives in Manhattan but works for a California company. His previous employer was one too. He says it’s the best of both worlds.


I live in NYC and have been remote since way before the pandemic. Sometimes we just prefer to live in cities and our jobs are not in them (or at least not ones big enough for us).


This seems like a bit of a straw argument. OP poses the question of why the salary range isn't listed in the job description. That is not the same thing as having a transparent ledger of each individual employee's salary, available to all within the company. The range listed in the JD is just a starting point for discussions by prospective employees.


That's ridiculous. If you list the salary as too low, you're sending out a negative signal and will get less qualified candidates. You obviously cannot list it any higher than you're willing to pay. So you'll end up listing it in such a way that people will figure out what this position is worth to you, and once that person gets hired, their background and experience will get scrutinized to no end by anyone with a comparable salary.

If you've ever been a part of the performance review process, you will know that people will go very far to justify a raise. Looking at the current job listings on your company's career section will be the very first thing that everyone will do if those salaries were to be made public.


> Looking at the current job listings on your company's career section will be the very first thing that everyone will do if those salaries were to be made public.

This right here I think is the real reason companies do not disclose compensation in their listings. Their current employees fall below the range and they do not want them to know. This is unfortunately a widespread problem in tech, where companies constantly offer more for new hires than what they pay their own employees for the same work. The new hires that have joined will then find themselves in the same position next year when their compensation falls below what someone will be hired at that year! And the cycle continues. It's absolute madness if you look at it from the big picture perspective and there are some fundamental problems with the way HR orgs are structured that need to change. From an employee perspective, the most optimal thing you can do for yourself is to move companies frequently and that is the reason for the crazy churn we see in this industry.


This has been my exact experience as well. A bunch of people at my current place of work resigned (not all at once) to go work for another company, not because the company is bad, boring or toxic, but because their salary was becoming too low relatively to the market and inflation levels.

My current employer isn't willing to raise the salaries of its current employees, not the market ones, but to the level of what they are offering to new hires. This, in my opinion, is wrong. This also inevitably leads to eventually paying everyone at market value (old employees leaving replaced by new ones with up-to-date salaries) except that you as a company lost a lot of business experience in the process.

Even in the case that no company on earth would disclose salaries, workers will inevitably learn about what their current market value is and to some extent what new hires and colleagues roughly earn. Because they have friends and colleagues that are open about disclosing their salaries. Trying to hide salary information is just lying to yourself (as a company).

Companies should budget for hire once their workforce is roughly on par with the market, salary wise. It's not the only factor but they would be able to retain much more talent and expertise inside the company and eventually be able to generate more value. This situation in my opinion is one of the big reasons (out of many others of course) why most companies eventually turn bad after some time.


I've seen this happen in a large company, and it caused terrible morale issues, as there were reasons good reasons why salary couldn't just be raised across the board to match new hire rates.

For most companies, this will make them less resistant to boom and bust as they'll be forced to offer big annual payrises which they won't be able to roll back when the market contracts.


That doesn't sound like a good reason to me.

You can use a bonus to cover fluctuations without hurting morale too much.

Plus you don't have to give everyone an automatic raise If you post new jobs at a higher rate. Just give them a new title, and allow current employees to apply for them.


“This listing is for an SWE II-Spring-2022 Hire job.”


Pray tell, what are good reasons to underpay experienced staff compared to new staff?


> Pray tell, what are good reasons to underpay experienced staff compared to new staff?

GP didn't say that there are good reasons to underpay experienced staff compared to new staff, he said that there are good reasons that salaries cannot be raised across the board.


GP said they couldn't raise wages compared to new hires, so they couldn't raise wages of experienced staff relative to new staff, leading to experienced staff being underpaid.


> GP said they couldn't raise wages compared to new hires,

No. This is exactly what GP said:

> there were reasons good reasons why salary couldn't just be raised across the board to match new hire rates.

There is not a single company I can think of (other than FAANG or unicorn startups flush with VC money) that can raise salaries across the board, they simply do not have the cash-flow to do it.


OK, but then what is the long-term business justification for paying more-experienced staff less than less-experienced staff?

I get that the short-term justification is "we can get away with paying the former less because enough of them will be afraid to leave."

But is there another justification?

In my experience, at large companies "cash flow" would not even vaguely register the difference of increasing salaries for experienced people you want to keep, and it would be a marvelous signal to the rest.


It's downright silly to pay new employees more than experienced employees for similar jobs. If you can't afford to raise wages for the experienced staff you'll soon have a bunch of inexperienced staff that costs you more.


> It's downright silly to pay new employees more than experienced employees for similar jobs. If you can't afford to raise wages for the experienced staff you'll soon have a bunch of inexperienced staff that costs you more.

I agree, but the reality is that raising salaries across the board would kill the company immediately, while having ONLY inexperienced staff might happen, and even if it did, it only might kill the company.

Another factor is that a lot of the staff just won't move, even if they know they are being paid less.


If you list the salary as too low, you're sending out a negative signal and will get less qualified candidates.

So the point of not listing the salary is to attract highly qualified candidates who don't know they're worth more than the role pays? That doesn't seem to be a good thing.


Not a good thing for the employee, good thing for the company.


It's bad for the company too, in the mid- to long-term. As soon as anyone who accepted the low offer realises they've been screwed they'll either leave or their productivity will take a nosedive. Either way you end up recruiting someone again, which is expensive (in time) and tedious.


> people will go very far to justify a raise

I would say "this new position you are hiring for gets paid more than I do for the same work" is a very good justification for a raise. :)

If companies can be held accountable for injustices like this one, that can only be a good thing. Well, except if you're scared your employees will catch you out.

For the record: I've played the part of the employer in this specific issue and learned my lesson.


Paying someone an amount that you are willing to pay and that they are willing to accept is not an injustice.


I disagree! You see this argument repeated around a lot: “well, the employee accepted this job, so since it's their choice, there's no injustice, they can always decide to go somewhere else!”.

I think this is missing the point. Do you think employers coercing employees into accepting conditions below what they should normally get is not a thing that happens? The employer, as opposed to the employee, has the power to manipulate the socioeconomic circumstances around the employee. They can (and do) prevent employees from discussing politics at the workplace or unionising, they can (and do) hide (and manipulate) information about who is getting paid what, they can (and do) decline additional compensation when it should be given (overtime), and this is the least of it.

You might think, “well, the employees should just get a different job then!”. But don't we want to fix the underlying problem instead of just churning our way through countless jobs? Sometimes it doesn't even work — you are often compelled to stay at a job for various reasons (you relocated with your family, you've worked there for a long time etc.), and you might not even realise this manipulation is happening to begin with.

The above comment said that employees will go very far to justify a raise. Don't you think that, if employees had all of the information their employers had, a lot of employees _would be_ able to justify a raise that they deserve, perhaps even without having previously realised this because of the information asymmetry? That sounds like an injustice to me.


There's another way in which unjust pay might have been mutually agreed: it might have been just when it was agreed, but as the pay was eroded by inflation and the employee's productivity increased it might have become unjust (especially in cases where new hires are paid much more).


No, still not unjust. The employee opts in to that job anew each time they show up for work.

To work at a job is to actively consent to that job.


I don't agree. For one thing, there are notice periods. You might not consider them material in this context, but sometimes they can be. For example, a rapid change in working conditions or in the purchasing power of wages.


Notice periods are custom, not requirement. You are free to stop showing up at any time if your employer starts giving you a bad deal.

It's hard to make an argument that you owe them notice if they didn't give notice of a significant change in working conditions.


I believe notice periods are legally binding in my jurisdiction, and I'm not at all sure that everything I consider worse working conditions would absolve me of that obligation.


This is bonkers. Expecting everyone to treat every minute of their employment as an active decision to exchange their work-seconds for dollars that can be cancelled (and therefore optimized) at any time is some libertarian robo-dystopian nonsense. Even ignoring how horrible it would be to try to actually live like that, there is objectively significant overhead to job hunting for candidates, for employers and for society. Switching jobs is expensive on many levels.


> Do you think employers coercing employees into accepting conditions below what they should normally get is not a thing that happens?

We're not talking about coercion. Concealing the wages of other people in the organization is not coercion.

> You might think, “well, the employees should just get a different job then!”. But don't we want to fix the underlying problem instead of just churning our way through countless jobs?

No, we don't. The way we fix the problem is by choosing with whom we do business. "countless jobs" is a straw man.


Right, this is the neoliberal slogan, “the market will sort the problems out”, we vote by choosing who we do business with, and so on.

The problem is, this often doesn't happen. The employee being paid too little (or working too long, or being otherwise treated poorly) might not know they are being coerced into this bad position, might not know how much their employer is hiding from them, may not want to go through the considerable effort of interviewing for another job, may not have the financial stability to put their family through that period of job hunting, or may just be of a non-contrarian disposition and enjoy having their stability in the current job.

There are a million reasons an employee would not respond to a blatant injustice by precisely identifying it and demanding it be righted or otherwise quitting. If you do do this, I truly think that is fantastic and I commend you. The ones who stay in these jobs, however, are being badly treated, at the employer's benefit. I don't think that's right, and I don't think they can be fully blamed, because a lot of these problems come from how adept the employer is at manipulating the situation. If you say “no, we don't want to fix that”, I'm sorry to say I can't agree with you.


The way you fix that properly is with education, not with compelled speech.


The efficient market hypothesis is predicated on full information. Without salary transparency, the market can't sort it out!


Summary once again, because I think you're going in a roundabout way.

You assume:

a) Companies will by necessity pay people doing ostensibly the same thing different amounts of money

b) People do not necessarily wish for their salary to be made public

c) Making a salary range requires the lower and upper bound to be equidistant from the expected starting pay

d) Making too narrow a salary range would therefore reveal pay, in contradiction to b).

Therefore, it is a necessity of employees' desired privacy and employers' ability to advertise the lowest, er, "most competitive" wage possible for the company to have a wide salary range.

EDIT to add: I think your argument still falls a little flat, because salary ranges should still be accurate. "We would consider hiring someone with slightly less resume experience for the bottom range, we would hire a rockstar demigod at the highend, and just what we're looking for somewhere around the middle".


> If you list the salary as too low, you're sending out a negative signal and will get less qualified candidates

I'm not sure if it has changed now, but Gitlab used to have a big problem with the way they calculated compensation. Their calculations were very heavily weighted against the Numbeo rental prices, which meant you had someone living in London, UK would earn 40% more than someone living in Bristol, UK, even though the cost of living in both cities is pretty similar.


> even though the cost of living in both cities is pretty similar

Never lived in Bristol, but I can't believe this. The calculations are heavily weighted against rental prices because accommodation is a large part of most people's expenses.


‘Big Mac / Median Income’ is my preferred index.


The pithy summary of your views could be, “because it’s not in the company’s best interest”.


> That's ridiculous. If you list the salary as too low, you're sending out a negative signal and will get less qualified candidates.

No it's not. If you are paying under average salaries, why do you deserve above average talent? ... Unless you admit it's just another rigged game (masked as meritocracy). It's sad.


Given how people already will say anything for a raise, I don't see how posting salary ranges in JDs changes those claims. As the employer, you still set the raise. If people want to double their compensation, they aren't vying for a raise: they're looking for a new job. So companies give 3-10% a year, and if the employee doesn't like it, it's up to them to walk. Most people don't want to walk, because leetcoding and job hunting is work. So, the employer can give modest raises without rocking the boat. Employees vote with their feet. Anyone with one eye open can look at levels.fyi and know that 2021 market rates != 2019 market rates. Been a role for 2+ years and want a meaningful comp change? You have to leave, that's how it is.


You would be right if it wasn't a well-known fact that people hired in 2021 on the same position you were hired on in 2019 may well have a 30-50% higher salary than you today, since companies almost always have an idiotic hard cap on yearly raises, but no similar cap on new hire offers.

So, out of accounting spite, many companies are opting for churn instead of stability by simple raise vs new hire policy, making it worse for everyone.


> Been a role for 2+ years and want a meaningful comp change? You have to leave, that's how it is.

That's even more likely to be the case when there are strict guidelines around compensation (eg: when salaries are public). When your manager has some wiggle room, you might be able to justify a bigger bump than average because of all the extra hard work you're putting in, even if your experience level doesn't qualify you for a straight up promotion.


Might is doing a lot of work there. They also might not even when they have more notional wiggle room. Or you’ll be given a significant bump that still leaves you underpaid versus your peers. The information asymmetry is there for the employer to exploit after all.

What you’re really saying is that making the information available makes it harder for companies to retain employees using the status quo tactics. Which increases turn-over, which in reality is the businesses problem not the employees. So from the employee perspective what is the problem in being better informed about the price dynamics within the market?


If you’re asking about listing a 90% confidence interval guess as to what you expect to pay for a new position: no problem at all (other than if a small market leads alone which might push employers to decide “the benefit/risk of listing this job in Colorado is not worth the research, compliance costs, and uncertainty, so we’ll advertise this job to the other 98.5% of the US”)

If you’re asking about listing individual salaries, I think some employees would object and, unless they signed onto the job with that expectation, as an employer I don’t believe I’m morally right to publish their currently private information without their consent, nor tell them “you can quit if you don’t like it”. (I have absolutely no problem with anyone voluntarily disclosing their own information, discussing it, comparing it, whatever.)


> people will go very far to justify a raise

I guess I never feel the need to justify a raise. If I need to justify it I’ve already failed I think.


> Colorado State Senator Jessie Danielson would make you believe it's more likely that millions of companies are "bad actors" than that she just doesn't have the relevant experience in business to predict which way her bill was going to work out.

I think this misses the point, and I think the idea of a "huge surface area for conflict" also misses the point.

In the end, unless an entity is a public benefit corp or a not-for-profit, the literal sole goal is to profit. "Reducing surface area for conflict" is one of many steps on the way to the goal for profit, and if cutting out Colorado is less painful to profits than disclosing salaries and opening up that conflict surface, then that's naturally what will happen.

Colorado doesn't really need to apologize. They made a bet that their state was relevant to remote work, and they lost that bet for some number of companies (I can think of plenty with no Colorado carve-outs and with specific disclosures due to Colorado despite not having a presence in the state, so clearly some firms think the talent pool is worthwhile), and that's to be expected given Colorado isn't one of the most populous states in the country. That calculus quickly changes for many more companies if it turns out the population of remote talent in Colorado is trending upward and worth tapping into, or if California etc pass similar legislation.


> the literal sole goal is to profit.

When trying to build an argument from first principles, it's important not to make a mistake early on. In your case, you use the profit seeking as an argument that this automatically leads to minimizing everyone's salaries.

In reality, profit gets maximized when you have a team full of high achievers and with very low turnover. That's fundamentally not compatible with your original hypothesis.


> When trying to build an argument from first principles, it's important not to make a mistake early on. In your case, you use the profit seeking as an argument that this automatically leads to minimizing everyone's salaries.

Where did I say this, or even imply it?

> In reality, profit gets maximized when you have a team full of high achievers and with very low turnover. That's fundamentally not compatible with your original hypothesis.

I mean, if I made that claim, I'd agree with you, but I'm currently quite lost as to how that conclusion was reached. I said and implied nothing about minimizing salaries.


> if cutting out Colorado is less painful to profits than disclosing salaries

So you implied that disclosing salaries cuts into profits, which I took to mean that you're seeing an inverse first-order relationship between salaries and profits.


Just quoting the whole sentence shows that that's not what they meant:

> "Reducing surface area for conflict" is one of many steps on the way to the goal for profit, and if cutting out Colorado is less painful to profits than disclosing salaries and opening up that conflict surface, then that's naturally what will happen.


Thank you


When trying to build an argument from first principles you should stop. You don't, and quite possibly can't, make complete and irrefutable arguments. The world is filled with exceptions, humans with emotions, probabilities, etc.

> In reality, profit gets maximized when you have a team full of high achievers and with very low turnover.

Profit is a function with lots and lots of parameters. Who are you to say which parameter has the highest weight? How about market share? How about profit margins? How about illegal deals with public funding? How about marketing? How about creating addictions? How about being niche? How about having excellent customer support? How about having better quality?

Lots of companies make significant profit from a legacy project that's almost impossible to improve, but marketing still finds clients that want it. They don't need a team full of high achievers with very low turnover.


https://transparentcalifornia.com/ All of my coworkers, many friends and family members, and I all have detailed salary information easily searchable. It has not caused any conflicts in my life.


My friends and I regularly share how much we make, and even our 401k balances on any given day. We cover a fairly wide spectrum, with me hands down being the lowest of both categories, and it we're all fine with it too.


I mentioned elsewhere that there are many industries where transparency works, and the public sector is one of them. Your employer wants you to deliver deterministic output, and your pay reflects that.

That's less the case when you're constantly challenged with clean-sheet exercises where every single person will produce a different outcome. It doesn't even have to be a super senior job - think of someone writing newsletters. That channel can easily lead to 5% or more of total revenue, and different people will definitely produce different outcomes (just the subject line alone will have an impact). Why pay different people the same rate if their work leads to vastly different revenue?


The public sector also includes research universities, where the delivered output is certainly not deterministic. Salary transparency works there too. Maybe because the academia evaluates everyone's merits and achivements publicly all the time, so people are used to transparency.


> the minute you lay it out in the open, you open up a huge surface area for conflict.

In other words: "we can't be transparent, it might make us look bad."


Or perhaps:

"John will ask why Sandy is making more. The truth is that Sandy is more productive, and saying that to John will lead to friction. John will either need to make more money (which will piss off Sandy), or Sandy will need to get promoted to the same level as her manager (which will piss off her manager because what is she going to do now?). So who do we piss off? Wait, why do we need to piss off anyone - let's just keep the salaries private."


Giving John such an explanation for why his salary is set as it is and what he can do to get a raise is not a problem for an employer. It's about the best possible case for them really.

The real problem for companies is when the explanation comes down to "Sandy negotiated harder than you", "Sandy got a higher offer from a competitor so we had to match it to keep her", "we're paying you significantly under the market rate and are hoping you don't notice or aren't too bothered by it", etc.


By not paying equivalent wages the company opens itself up to lawsuits. You can and should ask your peers what they make. This is totally legal and encouraged.


> By not paying equivalent wages the company opens itself up to lawsuits.

Depending on what you mean by "equivalent", yes it could make some claims of discrimination based on race/sex/etc slightly harder to defend against. It does not "open" a company to lawsuits as opposed to being closed to suits by paying equivalent wages. It is one of many many things that could be a factor in such cases. And a lot of companies decide it is worthwhile to do despite that.

> You can and should ask your peers what they make. This is totally legal and encouraged.

It's not encouraged by many companies, and some try to discourage it including by trying to get employees to agree not to, whether or not it's legal.


Most people feel slighted when told that they're worse performers than someone nominally at the "same level" as them.


If they ask why they get paid less and it's because they perform less and they understand that, it might hurt their feelings but at least most well adjusted people can accept it and even better work to improve themselves.

What is much harder to accept, and builds resentment and apathy, is something that feels arbitrary or unjust.


There are co-workers that everyone (including the person themself) know are better or worse than others on the team. The sticky points arise when two people who view reasonably themselves as peers get ranked differently during performance reviews. Then it's right back to arbitrary and (possibly) unjust decisions by the boss.

Perhaps the more productive worker is more productive because their work is not high-visibility. Maybe it's the arbitrary luck of having been assigned a more successful project.


They can’t be paid less for the same job title or job description.


That is not remotely true. There is no law saying everyone with the same job title needs to be paid the same.


Idk what you are talking about but not paying equally opens up a huge amount of discrimination liability.

https://www.dir.ca.gov/dlse/california_equal_pay_act.htm


That is not at all what that law is saying. You can absolutely pay differently based on "bona fide factors" such as experience and job performance. Do you really think everyone with the title "software engineer" at a huge company varying from 0-20 YOE is going to be paid the same? No, they will be positioned differently within a salary band based on experience and job performance. You have clearly never managed a large team or organization and done comp planning for them.


People can reasonably disagree on what the law means. Just because comp planning is done one way or another doesn't mean it is legal. It also doesn't mean that what you think are "bona fide" factors are actually valid.

https://www.costanzo-law.com/google-hit-with-lawsuit-over-cl...


You deeply misunderstand employment law if you think it prohibits people at the same level from being paid different amounts.

It's illegal to pay differently on the basis of sex, race, or other protected classes. It's perfectly legal to pay differently on the basis of performance or anything that isn't a protected class.

The vast, vast majority of workplaces in America pay people at the same level different amounts.


Why would acknowledging that another employee is more productive lead to friction? "Sandy is more productive than you, if your goal is to earn as much, here's where you can improve...".

Like if you're able to describe how Sandy is more valuable, you can describe that to John, and he can emulate it, and everybody wins.


The problems are that it's subjective, so will lead to arguing all the time. And the truth is often closer to, Sandy negotiated a higher salary when she came in,maybe because she made more at her previous job.

But the biggest problem is that if you wanted this "fixed", you can only raise salaries of people who make too little. Lowering salaries of people who make too much is usually a legal impossibility.

So the effect will be that you risk ending up overpaying everybody instead of only an outlier now and then.


> And the truth is often closer to, Sandy negotiated a higher salary when she came in,maybe because she made more at her previous job.

Perhaps that's what these laws are attempting to address ;)


It doesn’t lead to “arguing all the time” it leads to “employees are able to negotiate more easily with better information”. If you pay so unfairly that pay transparency leads to your business imploding maybe that should be cause for thought.


> Lowering salaries of people who make too much is usually a legal impossibility.

What law is this? I have never heard of it in any US jurisdiction.


Salary changes come with a new contract IME (unless the changes are in the bonus compensation). You can't force someone to sign a new contract (you can probably make them a sign or leave offer, but you can't make them sign) so you can't lower someone's base salary.


There is no need to have a contract. Many small businesses just hire people and give them a piece of paper saying what they will get or orally tell them how much they will get.

In the event there is a contract, unless the contract specifies compensation for terminating employment, the employer can always just terminate the employee for the reason of “this employee is no longer worth $x per hour/year to us”. Barring any other union agreements of course.


Can't you just fire an employee for whatever reason? Any change in contract is then equivalent to fire and hire.


Yeah OK, I hadn't considered that. Where I live (in the Netherlands) that would never fly.


> John will ask why Sandy is making more. The truth is that Sandy is more productive

These secret decisions are not commonly rational like that. Maybe Sandy keeps quiet when they know the boss is wrong and leaves it to John to speak up and stop the whole thing going over the cliff edge.


The system you describe seems to be rigged against the employee. Employees will try to optimize their financial situation much like the company does, and knowing one's own value to the company and the industry as a whole is an important puzzle piece.

This system is doomed long-term if it only works because of information imbalance, since ways will be found around that (levels.fyi, random walk across employers, ...).


But salaries never remain private at the end of the day. Employees will anyway share salaries with each other and how do you handle the conflict then?


This is not true by fiat or by experience. In ten years working at a company with 10-20 coworkers, we rarely talked salary; only in the very end of my time there and during covid were people coming out a little bit more about it and only in tight knit groups.

What makes you think people always discuss salary? Because it seems rational from a negotiating standpoint?


Of course in tight knit groups. But one tight knit group shares with another and before you know it, it has spread through the network. Happens more often than you think, even more so with younger people.


What about listed salary range is $180-250k and you get an offer for $210k. You hold your ground because you think you’re with the $250k. They disagree and let you walk away.

What has that accomplished?


You avoided working for less than you believe you're worth, and the company hasn't employed someone on more than they want to pay. These are good outcomes.


If they list it as $150-200k and you think you’re worth $250k then you won’t waste your time, or theirs


If you can get a job for $250K, it accomplished not getting locked in to a local optimum and paying the opportunity cost for the difference.


What the hell does this even mean?

Compensation is not "derailing". It is a core function of the business to pay it's employees. It's a core function of employees to make sure they aren't getting ripped off.

It's plainly ridiculous to be told that what ones coworkers get paid is of no relevance to oneself. This is enlightened self-interest, not guilty grandstanding for some abstract cause or whatever.


You accuse others of rationalizing these collective behaviors and end up sounding like an apologist.

The fact is that companies engage and enable each other to perpetuate information asymmetries. They run me through the ringer of hours of take-home projects, algorithm tests, whiteboarding, phone screens, video calls, panel interviews, all in an effort to widen the information asymmetry. We simply ask for companies to reveal what they are willing to pay before wasting our time with bullshit.

A real answer is for software engineers and other knowledge workers to unionize. It's very clear that these companies are willing and able to approach employment relationships asymmetrically. Historically, the answer has been collective bargaining. It took decades for remote work to be "approved" by these companies, and it's clear that reasoning was that the status quo was to the benefit of the companies.

I relish imagining all of these outspoken techy leftists actually putting up and making moves that align with addressing the true center of inequities: economic relationships. I know it's wishful thinking. It's a lot easier to rail against Netflix content and Facebook algorithms than it is to engage in real radical politics.


> You accuse others of rationalizing these collective behaviors and end up sounding like an apologist.

Not true - I am not saying that the market cannot be whipped into shape. What I am saying is it cannot be done by someone who doesn't understand the market.

It sounds you have a background in engineering - would you let a PR person tell you how to do your work? Obviously not. Well, Jessie Danielson is about as close to recruiting as a PR person is to coding (look up her bio and ask yourself what she's done outside of politics). Why trust that she knows how recruiting should work?


Your (very naive sounding and almost certainly wrong) assumption here is that Danielson wrote this law without ever sourcing input from people who do understand the market. Generally speaking, that's how politics works. She may ultimately have sided with experts who disagree with you about how the market will/would/should function (as I'm sure some do), but like the idea that she sat down and typed out this bill is ridiculous.

If you applied this ideal generally, you get a really counterintuitive legislative system ("you must elect a medical doctor before any laws regarding medicine can be passed", "only Google and Facebook and Amazon are experts in consumer advertising, so only elected ex-employees can propose consumer privacy legislation"), so it's probably not a very good one.


> Generally speaking, that's how politics works.

Based on many of the outputs of the system, I can believe that.

However, based on context of your post, I think you intended to include a negating word in that sentence.


I could have clarified. I did not assume that you are an apologist, just that it's easy to construct an apologia from your points.

I understand what you mean in regards to a market understanding. I think our comments compliment each other. That includes a lack of faith of government interventions in those types of atomic market relationships. I can't suss out your political leaning. Either my bias gives me tunnel vision or the only viable option is collective bargaining.


I don't have a political leaning - in the US, everything is either black or white (with very few shades of grey). In most other countries, the governments are formed through coalitions, and you get a much higher diversity of political flavors. I could find something good about most political parties, and would like to cherry pick those ideas into a package that you could no longer attach to any one single party.

As far as collective bargaining goes, I first lived in a communist country, then in a social democracy, and now in the US. I think it could work, but I have never seen it implemented well. My main concern is that China will kick everyone's ass, and the friction that collective bargaining introduces into a system will make it more difficult to defend against that scenario.


> It's not because they are racist or don't care - it's because it takes a tiny minority of people to get the entire business derailed, and it's hard enough to keep that from happening in the best of times; once you add a catalyst like salaries or politics, it's like adding fuel to the fire.

It might worth asking laborers if this is worth it for better pay / more pay equality.

If all laborers were happy before and then you introduce transparent pay, and suddenly 90% of people are unhappy - it might seem obvious this is bad.

But that's sort of like saying the truth is bad if it hurts your feelings. Is it?


I dont buy that. I've been in positions high enough at previous companies so that I had access to the detailed P&L sheets.

When doing a monthly/quarterly or yearly plan, there is a budget set for human resources. Theres an allocated budget for each open position, and a plan of when those positions will be opened .

Even at the most chaotic there was something like that.

All companies could easily use that budget as a proxy to provide at least a range for each position.

Most dont do it because they dont want to leave money on the table.


> The reality is that even the most transparent companies out there (eg: Gitlab) do not disclose individual salaries.

I don’t think Gitlab is anywhere near the most transparent company. I’ve definitely seen companies proudy list all their employees’ salary in a blog post before, so the most transparent companies do actually do that (or they did when I saw their post a while back anyway).

To be fair I’ve never seen it in companies where it’s impossible for everyone to know everyone.


> The reality is that even the most transparent companies out there (eg: Gitlab) do not disclose individual salaries.

This is not the reality. For instance, here are the salaries of everybody who works at Buffer: https://buffer.com/salaries

Once you step outside of the USA, it becomes more common – for instance, everybody’s taxable income is a matter of public record in several European countries.


I live in a country, where historically there were very little data points on salaries. It was very common to go through 4-6 interview stages and then get told that the salary they offer is 1/3 of what the candidate is willing to join for. Eventually there was enough political will to change the laws and now it's mandatory to publish salaries under the job ads. It goes even further- for each company with more than 3 employees salary information is publicly available ( e.g. average salary paid, more details stats for bigger companies). Suddenly everyone could see the barrel scrapers and top payers. Granted, some still post things like €2000-8000/month, which just shows that a company is trying to hire everyone from a junior to an architect on the same job ad. The serious companies don't do it. The whole thing became 100 times better.

Here's how it looks:

https://rekvizitai.vz.lt/m/en/company/uber_lithuania_softwar...


I mean, I think having a ballpark range is sort of important and pretty easy to do.

It's also one of the first things I'm going to want to know before interviewing somewhere, so I can make sure that I'm not wasting anyone's time.


And yet unions and public positions have openly posted salaries and it doesn’t seem to hurt them. It’s actually quite easy to do.

You must be joking? You encouraged political activism at work and are surprised it led to problems? Is political activism code for “so long as it follows my politics”? Would you encourage a pro-lifer to be just as active as pro-choices? In any company I’ve worked at, the answer would be no.

People always seem to be surprised that others think differently than they do. I really can’t believe the hubris that goes into that. When talking to people (who suck at discourse) who think they are tolerant, but really aren’t, the conversation almost always devolves to “you’re a Nazi”. When talking to people (who suck at discourse) who think are very right wing, the conversation tends to devolve into something about how God made people/ the world / etc.

The easiest thing is just give people three PTO days that don’t carry that you encourage to use for civic purposes, but don’t enforce, and maybe set up a matching donation up to $X for any org with the valid paperwork.


Unions and public positions are not the only ones with public salary info. As I stated in an earlier comment:

Airlines pay just like that (as do taxi companies and most other parts of the transportation industry). Guess what you all have in common? Zero agency. So when you take a job where the ideal output of your labor is 100% deterministic, then it makes sense for your pay to reflect that.


But many extremely high paying, high agency jobs do have public or public ish salaries. Biglaw as one example, and functionally big tech as well. I know the salary ranges for my level, and the level above and below me, at Facebook and Amazon and Google. There's some numbers and a formula based on your performance rating, and for like 95% of people, those numbers and that formula will be within 5% of your compensation. There's lots of agency, and a fair amount of variability within a level (25%), but how your performance impacts that outcome is fairly well understood.


I would definitely not characterize big tech as having "public salaries." Simply knowing someone's level is completely insufficient for knowing their compensation. When compensation within a level has $100k+ variability, it's definitely not public knowledge.

Yes, if you have their full and work performance history you can determine their salary. But most people are actually quite uncomfortable with sharing their performance publicly.


Fair, but ranges are functionally public (and when not public, they're still 90-95% algorithmic). I know what the upper end of what I can get paid without promotion is, and I know, generally speaking, what I need to do to get there.


> It's simply a fact that people become incredibly irrational when it comes to compensation, and the minute you lay it out in the open, you open up a huge surface area for conflict.

Finland makes every tax-paying citizen’s salary public, and their society hasn’t descended into chaos.


"It's simply a fact that people become incredibly irrational when it comes to compensation, and the minute you lay it out in the open, you open up a huge surface area for conflict."

I have had the opposite experience. It can result in conflict if salaries are by default kept secretive, and then someone finds out they're being paid much less than someone else. People start feeling undervalued or unappreciated. If salary ranges and structure are out in the open for everyone during the application process, there's nothing to get into a conflict over. Applicants know how the salary structure works and what they'll be making, so it avoid conflicts _early_ because those who might not be happy with the salary information can simply not apply for the job.


What is a non-deterministic conversation?

And contrary to some (such as yourself), there are people who do not state their opinions with the authority of a subject matter expert when they are not, whether the conversation is deterministic or not.


And let me guess, unions are also discouraged solely because they'd disturb the workplace culture and nothing else?


You seem to be stating, with the authority of a highly experienced subject matter expert ("the reality is…"), that disclosing salaries will cause employees to act "irrationally" and "get the entire business derailed".

It's not immediately clear to me what exactly you think the consequences of publishing salaries are, what bad behaviour you think this promotes, and why you suspect this bad behaviour happens. Could you please go into more detail?


It really still isn't the norm anywhere to list compensation and I suspect that Y Combinator has the same problems of disparate compensation based on when people joined as any other company. Heck, we are all switching jobs constantly because the new guy got more than we did, despite being the same level and having more experience at the company.

Plenty of companies decided to stop hiring from Colorado rather than post compensation in the job postings.

If I had to guess, I suspect it provides no competitive advantage to list compensation except if you pay top tier.

As an anecdote from a friend, the wage differences can be substantial. The friend just recently got a new job and the senior who mentored him in onboarding also got promoted a level too. That senior was talking about how they finally reached six figures (Canada has much lower pay than the USA, so this isn't crazy). My friend made six figures starting, with 3-5 fewer years of experience and just about two years overall.

There are a lot of absurdly underpaid people out there.


> Plenty of companies decided to stop hiring from Colorado rather than post compensation in the job postings.

Do you know if there's any data supporting this?


Here, I found 5 so far.

https://www.indeed.com/viewjob?jk=9e046a56c76ba933&tk=1fo21m...

https://www.indeed.com/rc/clk?jk=d87c517c32a680d3&fccid=2b2d...

https://www.indeed.com/rc/clk?jk=0e1dbdaee064b39b&fccid=c953...

https://www.indeed.com/rc/clk?jk=b1ed6d586890504b&fccid=afbf...

https://www.indeed.com/rc/clk?jk=cd34c725a1fc5766&fccid=2c62...

The 5th link says it openly in the title of the job ad.

> Principal Software Engineer – Search (open to remote work, except in Colorado)

Just search "software engineer Colorado" on Indeed, select "Remote" and maybe 1/3 of them are a Colorado exclusion.

> https://www.indeed.com/rc/clk?jk=08cf978f51852f65&fccid=ccf1...

Of tech companies doing it, one of them is eBay.


When companies say "remote OK, except Colorado", does that mean they won't accept applicants from CO? Or does it just mean that they are officially stating that they aren't advertising to candidates from CO (but they can still apply and get hired)?


A lot of them prohibit any of the work from being conducted in Colorado in the job description.


It is anecdotal from constantly seeing remote job postings saying things like

"this role can be performed from any US state except Colorado." Sometimes Hawaii is included.

Let me try and dig up a few of these.


I wish California would pass this law. It would be really hard to avoid tech workers in California.


California, IIRC, mandates that they provide you the pay range if you ask for it.


They updated the law: you have to go through at least one interview before they are forced to share it.


What kind of waste of time is that?


Prevent people from 'scraping' job postings by manually asking for salary range.


That seems like a good middle ground. Generally it's one of my opening questions for contracts. I'm honest and say that I don't want to waste anyone's time and get an upfront range and give them some wiggle room.


Yeah after the first interview. But that's way different than with the job posting.


"We're so glad you asked. Our possible range, depending on the candidate, is from minimum wage to $1M/year."


If a company answers this way, it is likely that you would succeed on a claim under the California Equal Pay Act. This kind of hair splitting doesn't generally go over well.


>The California Equal Pay Act

Does this account for the vastly different levels of output from employees? I would have to imagine nobody believes quality of work and productivity are actually equal amongst coworkers.


Pay is more a measure of what the worker is willing to accept than a measure of quality or productivity.


If you're paying someone 3x someone else, they're probably doing different jobs, which should have different pay ranges. A range of 20%, or even 50% is probably acceptable for salary (also of note the CA and CO laws only require salary disclosure, performance based bonuses or equity award ranges don't need to be shared) based on performance in a role. A difference of 3x or 10x (or 50x as is the case above) in salary means that the expectations are different.


Using athletics as an example, it's quite common to see the best players making $30+ million/year while their peers doing the same job (albeit not nearly as well) are getting paid half a million.

The peer pay differences are less pronounced in other fields, but why would we assume people are "essentially the same" at their output? I have definitely seen full stack developers that are "doing the same job" 3x-5x better than some of their peers in many cases, when you compound quality and efficiency. Not every company has enough people for tiered job rating buckets like Google, Amazon etc.


My previous company posted several openings for our team. All specifically excluded Colorado.




> really still isn't the norm anywhere to list compensation

Jobs posted on remote job forums like weworkremote.com and remoteok.com routinely list salary ranges.


Heads up for anyone else that reads this comment and tries the site in their job searches, first one is a typo for weworkremotely.com :)


I think most people are naive (even on HN) regarding compensation and negotiations.

The first thing I do at the start of every interview conversation is ask comp. I then tell them my total comp and ask for X% over. If equity is discussed, I always require my same base pay or slightly higher.

The reality is that ensures a continued trajectory upward. I also always request 2-4x any equity I’m offered. If they want to keep me, they need to make it worth my while at a higher risk profile (equity isn’t cash on hand).

Equity is always a gamble, for the company and the employee. I personally demand higher because plenty of my work is open source and I offer more references as well. That mitigates the company risk and in return I demand more equity (as I’m reducing said companies risk).


The best thing for most people is to delay talking about comp as long as possible into the interview, and not to tell them your current salary or total comp because it isn't relevant or helpful for you. If they have more time invested they are more likely to pay on the higher end of their salary range.

But you should ask the recruiter about the salary range and do research on the company before hand to find out what the range is.


This entirely depends on what you're after. If you have a predetermined number that you want to meet, lettergram's approach is better and will save time. If you instead want to get the company to pay you the most they can, delaying may be better.

If you're generally aware of what companies in the market are paying, quickly filtering out those that pay below what you want (for example, by saying "I'm looking for a total compensation above $500,000, and I know that there are companies in the market that will compensate at this level") is likely to save you time.


To put it into perspective, I’m in that later category. I know what the high end of the market is and I basically just ask for that plus X%.

I’ve been burned too many times waiting. Not worth it to get to the end only to be 50% over what they can pay.


Hiding your current compensation is a good strategy if you know you'll accept say 30% over your current salary, but the company might offer you more if they have to guess your number. This way, you might get pleasantly surprised.


I am no expert, but it sounds like you are naive when it comes to negotiation as well.


Please explain why for the rest of the class. A few sentences for those of us who know we are naive would be helpful.


> You can’t win if you guess at their salaries.

> If you underestimate what they’re willing to pay, you’re leaving money on the table. If the real answer is that they would compensate someone like you up to $75,000 dollars, and you guess they would pay a salary of only $65,000, you very literally may have just cost yourself $10,000. [0]

[0] https://fearlesssalarynegotiation.com/salary-expectations-in...

And a video from the creator of that site (Josh Doody) on this specific issue (disclosing current salary):

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=4N7mOR9yv2U


Can recommend. I followed Josh Doody's advice last time I switched jobs and I did really well in negotiations. Even though in the beginning of my job search I had given a recruiter my preferred salary range (my mistake) and of course the company's offer was at the bottom of that range, I was still able to negotiate and recover quite nicely in the end. Though, having multiple offers on hand helped a lot.


I avoided saying much because, like I said, I'm not expert and don't want to mislead people. But I'm pretty sure laying your cards on the table is the wrong answer.


The goal of every negotiation isn’t to extract the theoretical maximum from the counterparty.

The goal can be to reach a mutually agreeable solution as quickly as possible. In this case, saying “this is what I’ll agree to” up front works towards that goal even if it does leave some meat on the bone.


some hint on naivety. Salary negociation remains an unspoken art and is often taboo. It takes experience and good understanding of the many dynamics in place to stop being misguided/fooled by what's going on and what we are told. The message most companies spread is that it's a meritocracy, that the wellbeing of all employees and fairness are taken very seriously. and the claims are that we roughly work in a meritocracy. Being naive is believing it is true to some extent. Reality, and people who have lengthy experience and no reason to censor themselves in my circle all agree with this: It is an adversarial exchange of information, each party pushing as far as they can get away with in order to serve their own interest.

with that in mind, and the following rule is a basic negociation principle: Information gives an edge.

So if you put down your expectation, or worse provide your current compensation, you are giving away critical information to let the other side know pretty much all you know, which one can roughly derive what you would accept or reject. and the other side will either not give an offer at all (if your expectations are way off higher than budget) or will offer the minimum to get away with.

tldr: trusting potential opponents by telling them what they kindly ask is naive.


Do you feel that salary negotiations are adversarial?

For context: I realize that one-off negotiations (buying a car at a dealership) are strictly adversarial, but negotiations in ongoing relationships (employment) benefit more from sharing information on what you want and why.

For example, you tell the other side that you need 10K extra for planned babysitting expenses and they offer you less, but add paid time off to care for your own child.


I think employment benefits negociations are less adversarial than at the car dealers. Because as you said one off vs to establish a long term relationship obviously leads to different optimal outcome from both sides. It is adversarial non the less and has the same patterns: information disymetry, personal gains and complex dynamics involving other stakeholders with constraints on both sides.


I think basing what should you get basing on your needs, rather than on your worth is a basic mistake.


>I think most people are naive (even on HN) regarding compensation and negotiations.

I think most people on HN are naïve as to how most companies outside of tech startups actually work. They have concrete pay scales, you get the bare minimum of that pay scale when you hire in, anything above that is from your annual merit based increase which is often at or below inflation. You can look at your co-workers and have a very good idea of what they make to the percent based on how long they've been in their role.


"The first thing I do at the start of every interview conversation is ask comp. I then tell them my total comp and ask for X% over."

First, no good team will hire someone that does this, second, this is not a good negotiation tactic at all.

On the former: definitely it's prudent for both sides to be 'in range' or else it's all pointless, but that should be sorted out before the interview process - just the range.

Anyone wanting to talk about salaries up front is not going to make it past that part of the conversation for any decent group. It's the last part, not the first part, for so many reasons not the least of which is trying to put a number on something wherein fit, value etc. has not been established, and more obviously a concern over motivations etc..

As for the later, i.e. 'why it's a bad negotiating tactic' ... because it's not just about Supply, it's about Demand as well.

You may be overstating or understating your position by quite a lot thereby rending moot a real opportunity for exchange of value.

You may have some kind of special skills they really need, and some advanced insight. They might also be in a very profitable position. They might be happy to pay you much more. Alternatively, you may have little to offer, they might be cash constrained etc..

For equity again, they might be offering you a sweet deal, above industry norms, in which case asking for 2-4x just seems aggressive or uninformed.

But really, both of those things combined are bad: anyone wanting to talk comp details before demonstrating value, commitment, professionalism and the incidentals like curiosity/intelligence ... as an employee that's 'really bad signal'. If you're hiring someone you know to be a competent contractor, the scope of the job is established - fine - but that's rarely the case.

YC doesn't publish comp because it's probably not very helpful, the range would have to be wide, and they probably want people who want to be there, the comp distracts a bit from that. That said, I wonder if there were a sea change on that custom if would all be better off.


As someone who’s wasted probably 80+ hours in the last 2 years getting through to the offer stage only to find that none will match my current comp (all of whom were coy at the outset about comp), fuck this opinion. I’ve now learned to check Levels.fyi and, if the company/role are not posted there, will explicitly ask at the outset to ensure I’m not wasting any more of my time (surprise surprise, most of them can’t match it either-asking has literally never cost me a role I wanted but it’s saved me numerous interviews by this point). I’m not taking a pay cut for your company, great as you think it is, so if my skills aren’t worth the premium to you, it’s best we find that out beforehand.


Levels seems to be restricted to a few well known names though.

This is why I'm happy to go through third party recruiters. It's in their own interest to not waste time with people who either can't be placed or need a certain pay range, so you can ask them in the first minute of conversation what the job pays and they'll tell you. Plus they'll know the salary of many many people, as their own compensation depends on it.


>There are a lot of absurdly underpaid people out there.

In my observation, this is literally the backbone of capitalism


Not really. It is simply a consequence of a market lacking price transparency.

We have the internet. We have laws protecting employees discussing their pay. There is nothing in capitalism stopping anyone from disclosing their pay and creating a transparent market.

And it is happening, albeit slowly (see levels.fyi and glassdoor). CO’s transparency laws also help, and anything to help transparency will assist. The main resistance I sense is actually from people themselves, for various social and emotional reasons.


Well, if you are on the higher end, you probably don't want to share with those on the lower end, simply because 1 of 3 things will happen.

1. They ask for a raise and don’t get it. You lose a team member when they leave.

2. You can’t get a raise because your boss is forced to give your colleague a raise and doesn’t want to have to hand out raises.

3. Your colleague stews and resents you. People say it won’t happen, but I have heard a ton of complaining about how X earns so much and they don’t deserve it from co-workers.


> 1. They ask for a raise and don’t get it. You lose a team member when they leave.

Yes and that should be a lesson to pay the whole team more.

> 2. You can’t get a raise because your boss is forced to give your colleague a raise and doesn’t want to have to hand out raises.

Your colleague wasn't paid well, asked to get paid better, and got it.

Now you're said because you can't continue to get paid more relative to your colleague? Lose your greed and grow some empathy in its place.

> 3. Your colleague stews and resents you. People say it won’t happen, but I have heard a ton of complaining about how X earns so much and they don’t deserve it from co-workers.

Then work with them to explain how and why you deserve more than your colleagues. Otherwise, they might be right about you not deserving it. You getting what you don't deserve means, by your own logic, that they're not getting what they do deserve.


> Otherwise, they might be right about you not deserving it.

#3 results from a fundamental confusion people have that pay is based on people "deserving" something. Like it's an expression of virtue or your worth as a person or a reward for doing something good.

It's not. You're paid based on supply and demand and your negotiating skills, nothing more. It's not a golden star from your teacher that you're a nice boy. It's whatever you were able to convince the company the monetary value of your contribution is worth. That's all. Get over whether someone deserves this or that. I'll solve this once and for all: nobody deserves anything. You're responsible for figuring out how to provide value and capture it.


> You're paid based on supply and demand and your negotiating skills

Your ability to negotiate your own salary is pretty orthogonal to your ability to do most jobs. Some jobs definitely require the ability to negotiate in the form of compromise, but rarer are the positions where the brinksman-style of salary negotiation (where you credibly would scuttle the entire deal) would be useful. It should be pretty easy to figure out within a year how a new hire compares to the existing employees and were they _should_ be on the salary totem and set them on the proper trajectory from there.

There would certainly be other knock-on effects from true salary transparency, but bias towards salary negotiating skill is much closer to bias towards people-who-look-like-me than it is to bias towards people-who-generate-value-for-the-business.


You make it sound like your salary is just meaningless points, but of course the reason coworkers might resent a seemingly overpaid person is that they’re actually very meaningful points that are fungible across everyone’s salaries. And it’s totally compatible with what you’re saying if it turns out that salary transparency itself affects the supposed “negotiating skills” of the highest earners.


I do believe in getting paid what's deserved and what's deserved changes as the market changes.

What's unfortunate is that people aren't willing to see the change go downward ever and then also argue that others can't go upward because... well then you yourself "can't" go upward.

What's deserved is for people to be compensated fairly. If the company is compensating someone unfairly and can't compensate someone fairly because of then, then that is a definite and clear problem.

Whatever your definition of fair is, whether that's "deserving" or "market forces", it's still the same argument.


"fair" and "deserving" have the same problems. It's just adding unnecessary moral dimensions. What's fair is whatever both parties mutually agreed to. If you agreed to be paid $X and employer pays you $X, then that's fair. Whether they might have possibly agreed to pay you $X + %10 or $X + 20% or whatever is irrelevant. What they're paying other people is also irrelevant. You saw the number, you said "ok" and that's that.

If you were theoretically willing to pay $5 for a gallon of milk and you walked into a store and they were selling it for $2, I'm sure you wouldn't insist they take the extra money. It's the store's job to figure out how much to charge for milk. It's your job to figure out how much you're willing to charge for your labor.


"What's fair is whatever both parties mutually agreed to"

You could argue there's an important caveat of symmetric information around this interaction if you want to talk about fairness. Asymmetric information is frequently considered an unfair advantage (see insider trading) but is also recognized as the source of much profit (see auction winner's fallacy), but you have to at least recognize that employers by and large have a huge information advantage in the labor market currently.


There's also asymmetric information with the milk. I don't know what it cost for the producers, or how much the store paid wholesale. Maybe it's only $0.05 a gallon on their end. Who knows? The only thing that matters is if the retail price is something I can afford and am willing to pay.

It's true that employers are privy to a lot more salary information than employees. I know I said what other people are paid is irrelevant, which I think it is in terms of fairness, but you should be (and, legally at least, in the US, are) free to take that information into account when deciding what you'll accept. It's still up to you to make that decision and hold employers to it. They aren't going to offer up higher salaries out of the kindness of their heart or some sentimentality about fairness.


> The only thing that matters is if the retail price is something I can afford and am willing to pay.

Unfortunately that's not quite true. Milk (and other foodstuffs) are a requirement to live. People are "willing" to pay more for that because they don't really have many other options. So it's ripe for abuse.


> I do believe in getting paid what's deserved and what's deserved changes as the market changes.

Well there's 2 major theories of thought about that.

One is that the holders of the capital decide how much to pay, and they make the bulk of the market. You get paid what you negotiate.

The other is that the worker will never be paid what they are worth. In other words, their surplus value is equal to the new value created by workers in excess of their own labor-cost, which is appropriated by the capitalist as profit when products are sold.

And in this country, we're seeing the beginning of the second with Antiwork and the Great Resignation. Many of us Zennials are really tired.


I have witnessed number 3 in action. My first programming job introduced pay bands a few years in (it was a young company that grew from small to a few hundred at that point) and word got around about the people who were already earning above the band for their level.

The mood around those who were already above their band went from "yeah they're okay devs" to "wtf, those guys aren't nearly good enough" pretty quickly.

I'm just happy to be one of those that got a good raise to meet the bottom of my payband and not the other way around.


Yes, everyone likes to think they are top 10% (or even above average).

That is what I meant by my last sentence.


> Not really. It is simply a consequence of a market lacking price transparency.

With close to perfect information, there is little room to profit, which would put a spoke in the wheel of capitalism.


I do not think so. See retail and insurance businesses, with their consistent 2% to 6% profit margins.

Bigger potential profits merit bigger risk taking. But not all investments have the same risk profile and time horizons.


It's not a matter of thinking so or otherwise. It's a mathematical question of what value each worker added to the product. Other expenses aside, profit is the difference between the value they added and the wage they were paid. You don't get profit without underpaying relative to the value provided by a worker.


Your assumption is that each worker is solely additive or multiplicative to the process, and thus the marginal worker's input is uncorrelated to the team and the environment. Certain teams can be exponentially performant while mostly full of mediocre individuals, and certain processes can stunt the fruit of the vine.

Rather, what you're calling for is average value produced, which is substantially different. I'm not sure I accept the assertion that they are close.


I'm not talking about individuals. In aggregate, you don't profit unless you pay your workforce less than the value they produce. It's not complicated.


Value is an ill defined word to use in economics. I rarely, if ever, have seen a good reason to use it.

Obviously, employers are not going to operate a business at zero profit margin, so I am not sure what the significance of pointing out that employees do not get paid the sum total of their economic contribution to a business’s profits (which I imagine is rarely ever calculable).

The whole point of having buyers and sellers engage in numerous, transparent transactions is to figure out what portion of the business’s operations should be allocated to the purchasing of labor, since there is no objective way to measure it and have a definitive answer. It is always moving, and needs to be continuously updated. The same reason employees always need to be shopping around and seeing who will offer them the appropriate price for their labor.


The macroeconomics are built from microeconomic foundations.


That’s simply not true.

If I create value by hitting in a nail with your hammer I deserve compensation for my labor, but certainly you deserve compensation for the part your hammer played as well.

Wages are simply returns to labor, profits are returns to capital.


The hammer is an expense, as I mentioned. The hammer doesn't deserve interest payments for existing IMO.


It’s not an expense, it’s capital. The nail is expense.


Insurance is so far from perfect information though. Maybe perfect information in for an average year is possible, but it is the black swan years that knock you out.

Even then, there is no perfect information on clients.


What spoke in the wheel? In hypothetical perfect competition there is zero long run economic profit. The whole point of profit motive is that the opportunity for economic profit means there are resources being allocated inefficiently.


> There is nothing in capitalism stopping anyone from disclosing their pay and creating a transparent market.

Is that actually true? Is it possible to verifiably disclose one’s pay? Are you supposed to sign an affidavit or something?


Yes? Using records such as paystubs, W-2, or 1099.

Obviously, they can be falsified, but I presume we are not talking about that. There is also the Norway method of having the government provide it.


If the idea is for the entire labor market to change significantly due to everyone voluntarily sharing their salary, then we ought to be talking about a mechanism of ensuring honesty, just like an auction (generally) wants to design their auction in such a way that people are honest about their willingness to pay.


Ideally, but you do not need the entire labor market to participate to do it. I am guessing even shining a light on a small, representative set of real time data will be enough to get things moving.


> In my observation

You win award for understatement[1] of 2021.

[1]https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Labor_theory_of_value


I tried to start a trend a few months ago on the month Who's hiring posts to get posters to put the compensation. I automatically upvote any post with compensation, but few have it.

I even posted about it once and got a ton of upvotes but then the mods buried my post.

I would love to see more job posts with compensation in fairness to people who aren't good at negotiating, but it just isn't the norm these days.


I put compensation for roles here at Follow Up Boss. We tie our level and step salary ranges to salary data from a company called Radford. We set it to the top 10% nationwide from this data. If it goes up year after year we increase salaries automatically.

I have felt this approach to be a good one overall for our org (currently 75 people).

In many ways, it is simpler. We don't have the distraction/time wasted of having these negotiations and lack of compensation clarity during hiring nor do we have staff making wildly different salaries and having resentment internally.

We set a high bar on performance and our definition of 'Senior' is likely more in line with a 'Lead' in the marketplace (which is a discussion all its own).

I find that a lot of candidates really appreciate our jobs posts due to its clarity.

While there are many candidates that apply that are under qualified, I feel this would be the case either way.

Often times, we find really good people who are being underpaid currently for their value. If we end up paying them much more than what they would've taken, it really doesn't bother me. My aim is not to optimize for this salary tuning, my aim to find people who would be a great fit for us, will provide a lot of value to the business, and will want to stay and grow.

Some may say we are leaving money on the table, where in my opinion, at our size, I feel it is the opposite.

I'm proud to say we have amazing retention here, which is such an enormous advantage when you have a good team, particularly in engineering, which I feel other orgs often overlook. Keeping our staff happy (compensation is only a piece of that), they stay here year upon year providing more value to a growing business. This is well worth it vs playing these compensation games where it can contribute more to this revolving door approach and the huge time + energy suck spent in hiring, onboarding and opportunity cost for the business.


I'm not sure why so many in this thread are so quick to condemn Colorado for this... sure, tech pay has come a long way in the past few years, but it wasn't that long ago that it wasn't very good and there were lawsuits over collusion among the industry's biggest players to keep comp down. Outside FAANG for that matter, overall comp still drops off pretty sharply. Anything that improves on the problem of asynchronous information would seem to be a good thing, and in an environment where there is theoretically a labor shortage one would think companies would be glad to share this information in order to help them attract talent.

I got to a point in my career where this was one of the first conversations - either when I was hiring or had someone reach out to see if I wanted a new gig. It wastes everyone's time if we're not in the same approximate range. At many companies, it really isn't a surprise anyway - sure maybe you are coming from far away and need some relocation help and I'm remote and don't need that, but we both get the same vesting schedule, etc. Frankly, if a company is coy about the approximate structure of their comp packages all it really does is tell me that they see me as expendable. Why would I want to go someplace where we are trying to screw each other over from the very beginning of the relationship?


Yeah it's plainly ridiculous to advocate maintaining the information asymmetry. Aren't we supposed to be believe in efficiency and more information is better around here?


There are a lot of employers here.


Startup hiring is nothing like big company hiring. You’re basically casting a wide net and negotiating compensation on an individual basis. You may get a great junior applicant with 1 year of experience and a great senior tech lead with 15 years of FAANG experience respond to the same post, and you may want to hire them both!

If a company is flexible on compensation then it doesn’t make sense to artificially constrain the job listing before they even know what candidates are applying and how much they need to join.

Source: Previously a hiring manager at early startups.


If that's the case, why not post some general guides based on experience? It seems like this excuse doesn't hold up if the job posters actually cared about transparency.

Example:

Job: Software Engineer

Description: Lorem ipsum

Range of 125K-300K based on relevant experience level

New Grad / 1YOE: 125-150K

2-5 YOE: 150K-200K

5+ YOE: 200K-300K

You can of course be as specific or vague, but these guides help inform people on both ends while not closing you off to those two disparate candidates.


Probably because it is more about deliberate information asymmetry and this provides a pretext.

I have very rarely seen a startup actually cast a net this wide if they're truly looking for senior candidates.


What happens if someone looking for $450k really likes the company and can easily justify their ask. Is the comoany duty bound to now to refuse an offer that exceeds their stated range?


Then put that upper bound as unlimited and make a note that these are estimates. The theoretical candidate doesn't outweigh the value you provide to the vast majority of candidates if you do agree with the premise that it's good to provide the range.


If your upper bound is unlimited, what's the point of listing anything? Especially with a well known company like YC, it seems like they would have a solid lower bound so there's no need to list it.


Because there is an upper bound for most candidates, and there most certainly is a lower bound if the company means to hire fairly to employees. But as others pointed out, most companies do not have an unlimited upper bound. Additionally, companies do not want all senior level superstars, they almost always want the balance of levels. So be honest with those listings!

> Especially with a well known company like YC, it seems like they would have a solid lower bound so there's no need to list it.

That sounds like a great way to exploit the subset of candidates that don't know the unspoken rules of the valley. And given the variance of companies in YC, I don't think there is a known lower bound for every company.


Well, it's a shame but I guess that individual asking twice as much as everyone else will be left without a job...

There's a better way to get higher salaries: fight so that everyone gets a higher one.


To add to what I think have been many other good comments, in my experience the productivity differentials between individuals in the same job can easily be vastly greater than the upper and lower bounds of that job's payscale.

I can recount cases where I've worked with relatively new engineers (a couple years out of college) who were easily 3-4x as productive as some of their peers. Of course, the pay scale for "Software Engineer" usually only has a band width of about 15-20%. Yes, the better programmer would get promoted faster, but still I've nearly always seen that there is more variance in "creative"-type jobs than pay scales will allow.

So for these types of jobs, posting a payscale is nearly always a bad idea, because it can further compress what is already a "too compressed" payscale.


Why not just list that entire “wider” band? How would doing that “compress” the payscale further?


Because when you list the entire band, people naturally will demand being at the top of the band, of be insulted if you offer them salary at the bottom of the band, even if it is warranted.


IME it's usually because they'd be prepared to accept less not because they're actually less productive.


So? That sounds like the applicant's problem if they do not want to accept the buyer's offer.


Just list the lower end of the band as 20% less than the actual lowest offers. Does the law prevent that?


The dirty secret here is that well-funded early stage startups usually want to pay candidates as little as they're willing to accept, and not a cent more, though that doesn't mean they're not willing/able to compete with FAANG-level comp for a really good candidate (we're talking about the well funded ones, remember?). So usually early stage hires end up having a wildly varying range of offers depending on factors like experience, previous comp, negotiation skills, etc.

They can't discriminate on comp very effectively if they stated their ranges up front, and if they were truthful about it, it would look ridiculous enough that it wouldn't be useful to anybody anyways (think ranges like 100k-500k).

Source: I was burnt by this (fell on the very low end of the range) and later learned about it when I got a 50%+ raise when the company matured and implemented comp bands.


> fell on the very low end of the range

did you ever work out what reason the comp was on the low end? Any advice to someone who might want to negotiate for the higher end?


I was just coming from a position with even lower comp, told them what the comp was, and basically just said yes to their first number that was reasonably higher than the old comp. Yes I was young and naive at the time.

Basically if you just follow the conventional wisdom of not disclosing your number and just keep saying no and asking for higher until they tell you it's their final offer, you should end up in a better spot than I did.

If you want to do even better than that, you should really be interviewing at multiple places and have multiple offers lined up and pit them against each other in a bidding war, all while still not disclosing actual numbers to any of them, i.e. just keep telling them their offer is not good enough and you have better offers elsewhere, and then just say yes to the last one standing.

The key technique here as you might have noticed is to not give them a number no matter how hard they try to push for it. Any number you give will give them an idea of where to stop with a reasonable chance of you accepting, and basically put a soft limit on your potential upside with no real benefit to you. You want them to be the ones having to tell you where their limits are.

Even if you know about this technique it can be hard to stick to it in practice in sync conversations where you're under pressure and have to think on your feet, so it can be helpful to direct most of your negotiations towards async channels like email/text where you have ample time to think about and compose your responses and avoid making mistakes.

Best of luck with your negotiations!


It's not in their interests as investors and owners to decrease information asymmetry in hiring. Maintaining that asymmetry allows for greater opportunities to profit.


Finally an honest answer.


I'm not affiliated with YC, but people are not commodities - one person might be a $50,000/yr X, and another person might be a $200,000/yr X. You don't know what kind of person you have until you talk with them.


Those people should ideally have different titles as a way of "checking your work" as a manager. It's easy to let personal bias slip into who you judge to be a $50,000/yr X and who's a $200,000/yr X. But if you call one of those people Junior and one of those people Senior, you at least have to justify it under consistent criteria, and your team can call you out on it if it's clearly unjustified.


Most startups are flexible with a wide range of compensation and seniority as necessary to bring candidates on board.

It wouldn’t be all that helpful to break the job listing down into 3-6 different job listings if the end result is a wide or open-ended range anyway.


I think it would be helpful to break the job listing down into 3-6 different job listings.


The we’re back where we started with no way to predict what your offer is going to be, only now there’s more paperwork.


Only if your categories don't have clear criteria for who falls into which one. Which shouldn't be surprising: For all the hand wringing about how some people are far more productive no one in software business has yet found a way to measure software developers work performance. It's always just "I think that ...".


By posting the salary, you can let the 200's and 50's self select. Sure: some 50's will aim for 200 roles. But since you're speaking to everyone anyways, you aren't relinquishing the ability to determine a candidate's worth to you.


If you tell someone that they’re in the bottom of a 70-80 band, they will be more offended than if you just offered them 70. This is not a good way to start a working relationship.

I have personally seen people with literally no domain relevant experience (they’d worked in retail & service businesses) say that they expect to be in the top half of the salary range of a mid-level engineering role posting.


People working the same level job should probably fall within a range for that position. Outside of that range should land them in a different level.


The problem here arises that any company that isn't tiny has engineers with the same basic job description, but at multiple levels of seniority. And then multiplies the larger the company gets. I.e. we have a Software Engineer 1, Software Engineer 2, 3, 4 etc. It can be tough to know which specific role someone is going to end up in until they're interviewed (and even then it's a crapshoot....)

Not accusing you (or anyone) of this, but just a general observation- a lot of these 'companies should have salary ranges' discussions seem to come uncomfortably close to an old-school union or government employee system of 'if you have x years, you're at x level'. I think we should celebrate individual accomplishment- some engineers with 4 years of experience are just better & worth more than some engineers with 10 years, and that's OK. My point is- most companies are hiring at multiple levels, and we can't know what level you're at until we interview you. So we can say Software Engineer 1 makes this, Engineer 2 makes that, etc.- but we don't know where you're going to end up


That's fine then.

It should be this easy for a company or recruiter:

- SDE 1 makes $X-Y

- SDE 2 makes $Y-Z

- SDE 3 makes $Z-A

- Sr Software Engineer makes $A-B

- Principal Engineer makes $B-C

For someone of your experience we'd typically be looking at an SDE 2 or SDE 3 role, but that can change as we move through the interview process. We'll let you know as we move through the process if we decide to change the level that we're evaluating you for.

--

Just, like, be transparent and honest with candidates. It's really really not hard.


I'm just tired of wasted time. I'm not bothering with code screens and interviews if it's not significantly more than I make right now.

The seniority thing misguided. People should be paid based on the value that is a product of that role. Maybe their seniority qualifies then for a better role. That's fine, then post a different job description for the other role.


Yeah I am convinced seniority is a kind of a scheme too. Sure, people get better, but there is also cost to switching jobs and that is probably even more pronounced and not priced in.

I think it is in large part way to underpay people earlier in life and overpay them later in order to incentive them differently. It also is a rough cudgel to match family vs single difference in needs.


I think for software there's also a part where the managers don't understand, or can't measure, skill/contribution. So it ends up just being seniority.


> You don't know what kind of person you have until you talk with them.

I disagree. I'd say that you don't know what kind of person you have until they've put in a few months of work.


Even then people can surprise you beyond that.

At one of the earlier startups I was involved with I had worked closely with another developer. When said startup fell apart and the group of us all went our different ways, I got a warning from another colleague about the individual I had grown close with, we will just note them as "E".

She had cautioned that when things were good (and the usually were) "E" was a great individual. However, the moment things did not go 100% perfectly, or there was any type of "advantage" to gain regardless of the cost, they would immediately do that and backstab anyone. I wrote that off as just a disagreement between the two of them, something grudge or who knows.

It took many years later that "E" made his true nature shown. I truly believe it to be a combination of being locked down for COVID, constant job hunting, the fact he had "quit" learning in tech, a weird fascination with crypto currency, getting lost into a hole of IDPOL (us versus them, with us or against us nonsense), and some closet fascism to boot. Not to mention attacking myself and others for "being educated" because the few of us Engineers held specialized degrees and long work histories, whereas "E" was nothing more than a basic bootcamp grad.

All it took was myself not fully agreeing on a trivial point in a matter, and in moments "E" had attempted to turn everything I had privately confided in him in an attempt to hurt me. Of course all that did was confirm the warning of him being what he was, and his opportunist ways.

So even then, people can surprise you.


You can always list a minimum.


For anything in NYC, they will need to as a new law takes effect.

https://www.dwt.com/blogs/employment-labor-and-benefits/2021...


They don't want dang to know how underpaid he is? (totally made this up)


Open Position: Hacker News Moderator

Minimum Qualification: 100,000 karma

Compensation: $Karma value yearly

Remote work option available

Contact @dang if interested.

/s


I would apply just to interview with dang


only 12 users have that much karma https://news.ycombinator.com/leaders


I worked as a contractor where the day rates are stated up front. I wouldn't waste anyones time with a contract where the rate wasn't clearly specified.


there is a greater movement towards open salary policy, i started my job board[0] back in 2018 with this same premise.

Since then, I did not go through one interview without knowing salary band before-hand. Exception made for FAANGs which work on their own terms. Hopefully once the industry start moving into that direction everyone will conform. I think will happen sooner or later due to the very vocal minority[1] in play.

[0] https://golang.cafe

[1] https://medium.com/incerto/the-most-intolerant-wins-the-dict...


Most businesses only seem to when required. California only requires an employer to provide pay scale (salary or hourly wage, not bonuses or equity) upon request after an initial interview. Colorado requires wage/salary in job listings now. NYC will require a salary range in job postings starting in April 2022 for permanent positions (provided the new mayor doesn't veto it after taking office on Jan 1).


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