Now with high-fiber Add On:
In one of my recent studio jaunts, an artist pulled me aside to say:
"I'm getting jerked around the admin here. I had a contract that was up for renewal, and they called me in and said they would pick up my option, but only if I signed an amendment keeping my salary at the old rate. I think this is pretty unfair, since I'm on the low end of department pay rates now ..."
... Warner Brothers Entertainment is the latest to cut staff, announcing 800 jobs would be lost, or 10 percent of its worldwide staff. NBC Universal and Viacom have already cut jobs, and industry watchers expect more job cuts to be announced by Walt Disney and Sony Pictures ...
The thing of it is, I don't know a studio that isn't performing serious belt-tightening, and this is on top of previous belt-tightening And part of the tightening is walking back salaries.
The complaint I hear from members is: Why are they doing this? The company had a great year!"
There's really a variety of answers, and here are three: 1) There's an economic meltdown going on, and corporations, no matter how great their recent success, are running scared. 2) Companies really are experiencing problems. And 3) Employees are more receptive to now wage hikes when lots of people are unemployed.
I know there's been a lot of angst among artists and tech directors in the cartoon business, and rightfully so. When management holds meeting saying how tough things are, people start worrying after their livelihoods.
I mean, if Harrison Ford isn't getting his usual stipend, things must be bad, no?
But that didn't change the sad situation of the employee who thought he was being abused: "I'm doing better work than the guys in the other cubicles, but they're making lots more money than me. It's not fair ..."
My answer was ...
"Fairness has got nothing to do with it. If Gargantuan Cartoons can buy your services for less, why do you think they'll voluntarily pay more? They are not in this to be even-handed, they are in business to make money."
Your task is to negotiate wisely and well. That means you
1) Know what others are making and can make a cogent arguments why you should make as much ("I'm faster and more productive, my quality is better," etc.)
2) Know what the company's bottom-line is. If they are really not going to raise your salary because of some corporate wage freeze, then you need a strategy to work around that. (Like, an agreement for a pay bump at a future date?)
3) Know what your bottom line is, and be prepared to act if you don't get it (for instance, walking away from a bad deal.)
4) Not giving a final answer until you go off and mull the company's proposal for 24-48 hours.
Negotiating pay hikes right now is really, really tricky. My advice, go in with as much useful information as you can to buttress your arguments, but don't assume a successful outcome.
The only way you can guarantee the pay raise you deserve is if you know what cards management is holding, and what money they're willing to slap down on the green felt table to keep you happy. (In other words, whether or not you've got sufficient leverage.)
Add On: And on the macro level, there is more great news with unemployment:
The number of workers filing new claims for jobless benefits rose by a more-than-expected 62,000 last week, government data Thursday showed, as a year-long recession continued to chill the labor market.
Initial claims for state unemployment insurance benefits increased to a seasonally adjusted 589,000 in the week ended Jan. 17 from a revised 527,000 the prior week, the Labor Department said.
It was the highest level of initial claims since a matching reading in the week of Dec. 20. The last time claims were higher was in 1982 ...
Since employment is a lagging indicator and the leading indicators don't look so hot, we will no doubt have some ... ah ... choppy times ahead.