If I had to host BBC Staff Have Your Say today there’d be no debate about what subject to do. And as this story is sitting top of ‘most read’ on BBC News Online it seems you’re interested too. We’ve learned who the BBC’s 50 most highly paid managers are (sadly no WHYSers feature) and what they earn.
Our Director General Mark Thomson has emailed all staff to say ‘I don’t underestimate the extent to which this may feel uncomfortable for individuals’. He’s not wrong. Some colleagues are furious the information is out there, others angry at how much money people are earning. All of which reminds me of a dressing down that I got when I worked at Time Out…
My last job before joining the BBC was Editor of timeout.com. We had made plans to hire a new designer and one afternoon we finally agreed how much we’d be able to offer the new recruit. I was pleased as punch at getting a salary which would guarantee a designer worth is salt, and went into our office and told one of my colleagues what funding had been agreed.
The next morning I was hauled in front of the woman who dealt with all staff contracts and told in no uncertain terms that discussing any pay issues, whether my own, a colleague’s or even for a job that had yet to be filled, was totally out of bounds.
The reason I’d been so relaxed was because of my previous job. I was the Editor of carlton.com (now part of itv.com) and was in charge of a department of ten people. We all knew how much each other earned and would go and celebrate if one of us got a rise. There was no bad feeling at all because of it. Naively I thought other workplaces would be the same. How wrong I was.
And we can take the BBC as another example. I would really struggle to guess the salaries of everyone on WHYS. The BBC does have guidelines but they are so broad that they don’t tell you much. I’ve never been told a salary by anyone else, nor discussed mine with anyone other than people who know it already (like our editor Mark).
And I can be very sure that if the whole of BBC World Service News suddenly revealed everyone’s salaries the fall-out would be long and difficult. I’m sure there will be people doing much ther same jobs getting paid quite different salaries. I’m not suggesting everything should be revealed. There are benefits to a company cutting specific deals to keep people that wouldn’t be possible if everything was public.
I am interested in hearing from you and whether you feel total open-ness or total secrecy works best. I can see pros and cons to both.
What about you?