Here's Why Whole Foods Lets Employees Look Up Each Other's Salaries

High-trust organizations can't have secrets

Earns Whole Foods
By Alison Griswold

Leaders of the supermarket chain believe in keeping employees as informed as possible, even when it comes to pay. Under the company's open policy, staff can easily look up anyone's salary or bonus from the previous year - all the way up to the CEO level.

The unusual Whole Foods policy is designed to both encourage conversations about salary among staff members and to promote competition within the company, according to "The Decoded Company: Know Your Talent Better Than You Know Your Customers," a new book by entrepreneurs Leerom Segal, Aaron Goldstein, Jay Goldman, and Rahaf Harfoush on innovative management practices.

Whole Foods co-CEO John Mackey introduced the policy in 1986, just six years after he co-founded the company. In the book, he explains that his initial goal was to help employees understand why some people were paid more than others. If workers understood what types of performance and achievement earned certain people more money, he figured, perhaps they would be more motivated and successful, too.

Whole Foods CEO
APWhole Foods CEO John Mackey said that shared information helps create a sense of a "shared fate" among employees.
"I'm challenged on salaries all the time," Mackey explained. "'How come you are paying this regional president this much, and I'm only making this much?' I have to say, 'because that person is more valuable. If you accomplish what this person has accomplished, I'll pay you that, too.'"

> Find a job at Whole Foods

Beyond making compensation data available to all employees, Whole Foods also has its managers post their store's sales data each day and regional sales data each week. Once a month, Whole Foods sends each store a detailed report on profitability and sales at each of the chain's locations. In fact, in the late 1990s the widespread availability of so much detailed financial data led the SEC to classify all of the company's 6,500 employees as "insiders," according to a 1996 story by Fast Company.

Mackey and others at Whole Foods believe that a culture of shared information helps create a sense of a "shared fate" among employees. "If you're trying to create a high-trust organization, an organization where people are all-for-one and one-for-all, you can't have secrets," he says in the book.

For their part, the authors applaud Whole Foods' practices. They contend that its open policies prove the benefits of experimenting with data and using information to establish a "direct relationship between an individual's decisions and their impact on the business" - something the grocery chain accomplishes by giving each employee high-level access to the company's financial data, and therefore a greater stake in the business.

"Whole Foods is an intriguing example of a company that has successfully bridged the gap between soft-hearted values and logic-driven business acumen," the authors write. "The combination has resulted in a highly motivated workforce with a deep sense of community who value productivity."

> Find a job as a grocery store manager

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This sounds like a potentially great idea to me. I've had jobs in the past where white employees were paid more than blacks who were doing the same jobs. I love the transparency that could virtually eliminate such stupidity. In America women and some minorities continue to be discriminated against and I'm in favor of anything that could help to stop these practices.

March 06 2014 at 3:58 PM Report abuse rate up rate down Reply

If the government has to know my salary, then it doesnt bother me to disclose it. Everyone will see that I'm poor, just like any other Joe Smo who works their ass off.

March 06 2014 at 3:18 PM Report abuse rate up rate down Reply

This is a GIGANTIC no-no! This is confidential information that should not be open to public scrutiny!

March 06 2014 at 2:18 PM Report abuse +1 rate up rate down Reply

My financial business is supposed to be private! No one should have the right to scrutinize my paycheck but me! I will not work for such a company for just that reason. If I have a concern, if there are inequalities of pay, like men making more than women for the same job, I take them to the boss and to corporate. If the company is honorable on that level, then I have no problem. If they are hiding those inequalities, then, there should be audits, but do not make my finances public business.

March 06 2014 at 12:16 PM Report abuse +1 rate up rate down Reply
1 reply to BrooksFamily's comment

How are you going to know if someone is making more than you if they are hiding those inequalities as you say? Who cares what you make and why are you afraid to let someone else know? Might be that you are insecure or afraid someone might see that you are not pulling your weight.

March 06 2014 at 1:44 PM Report abuse rate up rate down Reply

I think horrible idea

March 06 2014 at 10:59 AM Report abuse rate up rate down Reply

I totally agree with this program. I would have loved to see what people I worked with were making in the bonus area. We all suspected that some were getting paid extra to tell lies about some other. And also would love to have known what the bosses were being paid!

March 06 2014 at 10:36 AM Report abuse +1 rate up rate down Reply

Just a thought. When you tell an employee that one employee is more valuable than another because of performance and productivity results, that challenges the idea that somebody cannot be better than someone else and that the "numbers" don't lie. Uhh yes, numbers can be deceiving! The "equality" idea that "All men are created equal" also is not true. Just look at athletes in sports. The employee who is insecure about that performance possibility in another, can become angry and jealous. Do the ends justify the means?

March 06 2014 at 9:38 AM Report abuse -1 rate up rate down Reply
1 reply to usci1's comment

Everyone in the sports industry knows what each other is making. There are no secrets or hidden salaries. It seems to be working quite well.

March 06 2014 at 1:47 PM Report abuse +1 rate up rate down Reply

Hats off the all post,,,we all have oppinions,,may not be same,,but,,thats good also....
I retired from a railroad.. it was union........I hired in 1975,,, and,,hired in making same amount of money that the man beside me made and he had been working 17 years.......Of cource,,I was happy,,,but,,,I do not think this is right.....There should be a hireing in salary and work your way up.....
We all got raises at same time,,,,,,,,,and,,,be honest,,very little union help.....But,,,had to belong....
Things have changed,,,time has changed..........WORK HARD,,GET OUT OF LIFE WHAT YOU PUT IN.....!!!

March 06 2014 at 8:25 AM Report abuse +4 rate up rate down Reply
2 replies to pdbliz's comment

That is true to a point. Where a relative worked he was hired in at a certain wage and along comes someone with much less experience and got paid several dollars per hour more. The sad thing was that the new guy didn't know how to do have of the job, and the boss had to babysit his employee most of the day and show him how to do almost everything. The new employee didn't even know how to turn on the machine! Needless to say the relative didn't stay long at this business and from what we have heard, the company is almost ready to close the doors and others are leaving also.

March 06 2014 at 10:39 AM Report abuse rate up rate down Reply


March 06 2014 at 1:49 PM Report abuse rate up rate down Reply

i cannot beleive that any company would post how much each employee makes. if this is in the spirit of being open and honest, it is foolish at best. it is nobody's business what any other person's salary is. it is simly wrong snd if i worked there, i would not let them get away with it

March 06 2014 at 8:12 AM Report abuse -3 rate up rate down Reply
3 replies to stevieb4444's comment

Started working for a small photo lab in 1970, the owner believed in honesty, anyone who worked there was able to look at the books, nothing was kept secret, they dont make people like that any more.

March 06 2014 at 8:02 AM Report abuse +5 rate up rate down Reply

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