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I've been asked my current salary by colleagues, friends and relatives. And usually, I don't want to disclose it. I would like to know how I can dodge answering that question.

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Tell them that is information you do not want to disclose. Also this is not about the workplace, so off-topic –  Ajaxkevi Jun 11 '14 at 9:31
Presumably "colleagues" would include those at work. I'll edit the question for @atmaish a bit to put that first. Something like "I'm doing okay" might work, but the answer would be highly specific to the culture involved, so this is going to be a comment rather than an answer. One could also observe (for colleagues) that no good usually comes of it and change the subject. Not being rude is almost always culture-specific. –  Spehro Pefhany Jun 11 '14 at 11:27
@alroc - that's in the context of applying for a job. This question is in every other context both inside and outside the workplace. –  Kate Gregory Jun 11 '14 at 12:52
This question appears to be off-topic because it is about social situations, and not about the workplace. –  DJClayworth Jun 11 '14 at 14:22
@DJClayworth - I'm sure colleagues could ask this question in a non-social situation like in a meeting. –  JeffO Jun 11 '14 at 15:06

2 Answers 2

up vote 35 down vote accepted

Do not dodge. The thing about dodging is that while it may keep you from "having to" answer the question this time, it does nothing to stop the question being asked again. You can distract, change the subject, make a face, say something vague, but they'll just ask again anyway the next time the thought pops into their head.

I suggest you choose one or two stock answers. One is for people who are just plain nosy, say your old neighbours who say "you've really moved up in the world haven't you? How much do pilots make these days anyway?". For them, try:

No offense, but I make it a point never to discuss salaries.

(Word that however is natural for you, but it is deliberately a little more formal than normal speech. Don't say "pay"; say "salary" or "compensation".

For people who might actually want to know if your job is something they or their children should consider, one of these:

I can't complain, that's for sure. It's [hard/dangerous/unusual/challenging] work, with a long training period, but you're well rewarded for that.

I suppose it's like any other [office/outdoor/seasonal/skilled] job, it pays what you expect it pays.

I'm sure not in this for the money! We get by, and I love what I do.

Again word these however is natural for you, and use informal words like "pay" and "money."

For a colleague, you need to step really carefully. Nothing good ever comes of open salary discussions at work. (See Should I encourage my coworkers to share their salaries with each other? ) Try:

These conversations never end well, in my experience. I discuss my pay with [our boss] and nobody else. Hope you don't mind that.

After your one sentence, if the person pushes, asks for details etc then whichever answer you gave, try:

Sorry, but that's really all I'm going to say on the subject.

This should stop the repeat askers and save you from having to lie or say anything you don't mean.

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If you're speaking to someone looking at working with you, you could also use the average pay for someone in your industry/position; "I make [more/less/the same] than the average person in [basket weaving]; But I wouldn't be comfortable giving an exact number." –  Kver Jun 11 '14 at 15:18
And if they ask again after you say “that's really all I'm going to say”, then just repeating that once or twice is highly likely to make them stop asking. –  Paul D. Waite Jun 11 '14 at 19:47

The management policy at my previous workplace is that salary matters are a confidential, personal matter and that employees are not to share their salary info with anyone including other employees. In fact, the work contract that they made me sign me included this clause.

I'd use this as a dodge: "Salaries are a confidential matter, which I am not to discuss with anyone. I could tell you, but I'd have to kill you first :)".

The British actor Christopher Lee (of 1960s vampire movies fame) was asked a number of times about his activities as a WWII commando. Each time, he would conspirationally ask the interviewer "Can you keep a secret?" "Yes!", the interviewer would practically shout with excitement. And Christopher Lee would reply with a smile "So can I !" :)

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In the US those policies aren't legally enforceable. Discussing compensation is protected by laws intended to protect unionization. workplace.stackexchange.com/a/19716/345 –  Dan Neely Jun 11 '14 at 18:09
I suspect this rule is, from mgmt's point of view, designed to keep everyone unhappy in the (unprovable) belief that their salary is lower than their coworkers--so they should work harder to get a better raise next time. –  Carl Witthoft Jun 11 '14 at 18:41
you can suspect that, but as a manager I assure you that wasn't my reason. It's as simple as this: it makes people unhappy in an unfixable way. Even if I gave out huge raises to everyone who asked, the unhappiness would remain. It's not a cost-saving measure, it's a conflict-saving measure. Happiness comes from comparing your salary to what you want to make, and me paying you enough. Start comparing to those you think are better or worse than you and conflict emerges, because different people declare "better" differently and it all gets nasty fast. –  Kate Gregory Jun 12 '14 at 0:27
@KateGregory: Which is the problem with all too many of the comparative-scoring systems -- they emphasize competition against co-workers, which does not work well in environments where teamwork is more productive. –  keshlam Jun 14 '14 at 3:38

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