How to find out how much your colleagues earn

Four envious colleagues

Ever wished you knew what your co-workers were earning? Do you have a sneaking suspicion it's more than you?

A new book by a former US intelligence officer reveals tips for finding out anything from anyone - and without having to resort to thumbscrews.

James Pyle, who has served in the US army, the Army Intelligence Center and School and the Joint Intelligence of the Pentagon, says the secret is in two types of question: the 'control' question and the 'persistent' question.

First, he says, ask them things to which you already know the answer, to see whether they are inclined to lie - or how they behave when they're telling the truth. Then, ask your real question - and if you don't get an answer, find different ways of putting it.

"There are two things people will not give you for free," Pyle tells Time: "money and information."

So how should you handle the salary question? Don't ask right out, he says. Build up a conversation around the topic - and flatter your co-worker if you can.

"If I was half as good as you are, I'd be earning twice what I'm making," is a good starting point, he says. If your co-worker responds with something like "I'm not making all that much," then you can hazard a high figure. You'll probably get "Oh, less than that". Express surprise, suggest a much lower figure... and you'll probably end up with a good idea of the truth.

In 'Find Out Anything From Anyone, Anytime: Secrets of Calculated Questioning From a Veteran Interrogator', Pyle and his co-author Maryann Karinch take a rather different approach to that recommended by Lib Dem equalities minister Jo Swinson. Last October, highlighting inequal pay between men and women, she suggested that women should ask male colleagues outright about how much they earn.

"I think sometimes there's something very British in our culture where we don't talk about money, and I think that holds women back," she told Elle magazine, supporting its equal pay campaign. "If they realised they were earning significantly less than male colleagues at a similar level, that might be the catalyst they need to ask for a pay rise."

Since the 2010 introduction of the Equality Act, it's no longer legal for companies to include secrecy clauses in contracts, banning staff from discussing their pay with co-workers. Nevertheless, it's a tricky topic for most people to introduce; will Pyle and Karinch's tips help?

Should salaries be transparent? Or will you be trying out Pyle and Karinch's tips? Let us know in the comments

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How to find out how much your colleagues earn

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