Saturday, April 01, 2006

Job Seekers in a World of Secrecy

The last few Johnson County jobs I have held, have all been accompanied at time of employment with a signed agreement that employees were not to discuss their salaries, inside or outside of the office, with each other or anyone else. And at the last interview I had, for a position covered by a temp agency agreement, I was told after the fact that I was considerd a less than ideal candidate becuase I had the ill manners and poor tact to ask of the interviewer what the salary range for the position was.

How incredibly stupid. Not of me, with all due disrespect, but of them.

How can a prospective employee evaluate whether to accept a job, and how can any current employee rationally decide whether to accept or decline offers of employment elsewhere, without a reasonable basis of salary information?

Of course, smarter employees will figure it out by indirect means even if fellow employees strictly adhere to the code, which they don't. But by making such a demand, not only is a ridiculous and offensive precedent set, but more importantly a differential is created between smarter (or more observant) employees and those less smart or observant, where the smarter have more incentive to book a cruise when salararily disadvantaged than the more obtuse, who are more inclined to stay put. Of course, if you want a dumber workforce-and it could be argued that even if the company would be less well served overall, it's in the interest of certain decisionmakers within the company to have a workforce of dumbbells and gullibards-that's just the ticket.

But the same principle applies not only within a given company but to the national workforce as a whole. How can young people rationally decide on a career path, or older ones decide on possible retraining avenues, without some good reliable data?

A reader, Doug Cannon, points out that without a national, and reasonably accurate, database open to all concerning job availability and compensation, rational decisions regarding career choices are greatly impaired. I would add to that, in addition, in cases where there really is a legitimate case for issuing skilled-worker visas (H-1B) or allowing selected immigration, it's tough to honestly demonstrate.


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