Fairness uncertainty and pay information exchange: Why and when employees disclose bonus pay to pay information websites

Michelle Brown*, Peter Bamberger, Paul D. Bliese, John Shields

*Corresponding author for this work

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review


Having limited information regarding how pay is distributed in their organization, employees often find it difficult to assess the fairness of their pay. Uncertainty management theory (UMT) posits that fairness uncertainty is aversive and that individuals experiencing it search for information to reduce this uncertainty. Pay information exchange – the communication of one's pay-related information to others in return for information from that other – provides a mechanism to reduce pay information uncertainty. We focus on third-party mediated pay information exchange (such as via Glassdoor and PayScale), an increasingly prevalent form of exchange. Drawing on UMT, we investigate why and when individuals exchange their pay information with such agents. Using data from a field experiment we find that (a) the willingness of employees to disclose their pay to a pay information exchange platform is influenced by perceived utility of a-priori information offered by the exchange partner, but that this relationship depends on the salience of fairness uncertainty to the employee, and (b) employer pay communication restrictiveness only attenuates the impact of disclosure willingness on actual disclosure when individuals engage in deliberative thinking about such restrictiveness and its possible consequences. We discuss the implications for theory and practice.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)1362-1379
Number of pages18
JournalJournal of Organizational Behavior
Issue number9
StatePublished - Nov 2023


FundersFunder number
Australian University Librarians
Australian Research Council1096775
University of Melbourne


    • employer–employee relations
    • rewards and recognition
    • work attitudes (satisfaction, commitment)


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