Tuesday, April 18, 2006

Want to know what your boss makes?

If so, the Security and Exchanges Commission is trying to help. The SEC has proposed new rules that will require companies to disclose the pay of division heads and even top stars... The SEC proposal would require that companies disclose the pay packages of some top employees (only the pay of corporate officers is required to be disclosed now). Not surprisingly, the entertainment companies are against it. Variety has a summary, and Defamer has the down and dirty version. Both quote from Jeffrey Katzenberg's comments to the SEC: "It is inevitable that some employees will take issue with their respective rankings and create unnecessary and counterproductive strife with their fellow employees and the company." Now, I have an idea. If somebody is so underpaid that they won't be able to effectively do their job, maybe they deserve a raise. Conversely, if you've so overpaid somebody that the rest of your top people will freak out, then maybe that somebody needs an adjustment down. Personally, I'm all for transparency. If I'm going to buy the stocks of some of these companies (not to mention as someone working at these places), I'd like to have a little better idea about what's going on at the top.


Anonymous said...

I think you are reading more into the rule than there is to read into. Here is the proposed addition:

"The proposed regulation, under consideration by the Securities and Exchange Commission, would require a corporation to publish the salary details of as many as three nonexecutive employees whose total compensation exceeds that of any of its top five officers. "

That's three people more than it would of otherwise. This likely wouldn't include anyone most people would care about. The problem animation studios are having is that this would make them publicly document how much voice talent is going to get paid. Not how much your average manager peon makes. Unless that peon makes it into the top 3 non-officer salaries.

Further, I believe this is only for public companies. I.e. Disney, Pixar, DW. But not the smaller companies that you would get good and useable salary information on.

Kevin Koch said...

Rereading the proposal summary, I see you're right that it wouldn't be nearly as sweeping as I first thought. Still, it will be interesting information, and it won't necessarily be just voice talent that gets cited. On a lot of major feature releases, the voice talent gets SAG scale minimum, then fat bonuses if and only if the film is a big hit. I think this new rule may also tell us the nature of some of the sweetheart deals that producers are getting.

Regarding what companies it will hit, there's a much longer list of public animation companies than just the big three you mentioned.

Kevin Koch said...

By the way, speaking of knowing what other people make -- did you know that a certain major animation studio used to put in their personal service agreements that employees were NOT allowed to share information, like their salary, with coworkers (or anyone else)! What was amazing was that it was a direct violation of state law, but still they kept doing it until the union pressured them out of it.

As I've often said, sharing salary information is the only way we have a chance to get fair pay. That's why TAG 839 started the annual salary survey, and that's why I always encourage people to talk with others in their department when their contracts are up for negotiation.

Unfortunately, that's still a big taboo for many people. I've had people ask me point blank what my deal was and, after I told them, had them decline to share their own information. Hey, knowledge is power, and when the studios are the only ones who know what everyone makes, they have all the power.

Anonymous said...

Okay. I'll ask then. How much do you make a year Kevin? :D

I can certainly understand why people don't want to share that information. I dont really like telling people because either A) They are angered that I'm able to make that much money, or B) They laugh to themselves that I'm making less than the studio janitor.

Personally, I dont think it is anyone's business what another person makes. I can understand how it can help in negotations. But, I'm not really sure it is worth it- because of the side affects.

Okay, okay. You pressured me. I make $230,000 a year in my role as Supreme Ruler.

Now that you know, what good does that do?

People knowing your salary can breed resentment. At least that is my experience. Maybe I just work with idiots.

Kevin Koch said...

My experience is different. There are people who want to feel resentful, and they're going to feel that way whether they know what others are making or not. And there are others who are pros, and they know how these things work.

Look, as long as you have no idea what other people at your company, doing the same job as you, are making, then you have virtually no possibility of earning what you're worth. Without that information, you WILL leave money on the table in negotiations. When the company insists that you're already overcompensated, what can you say to that? When they guarantee that absolutely no one else is getting a raise, and therefore they can't give you a raise, how do you negotiate from there? The only real resentment I've seen is when someone signs a contract in ignorance, then finds out that other, better informed people got much better deals because they knew where they stood and knew how much money was really on the table.

We're all big kids, and we need to behave professionally. When you find out Joe or Jane Blow is making more than you, don't be childish and resent them for being savvy. Use that information in your own negotiations. Thank them for showing you where the salary ceiling really is.

And hey, if you can't stand to discuss these things with your coworkers, then at least fill out the union wage survey every year. That's not an issue, right?

Anonymous said...

Well, for me, filling out the wage survey card isn't an option. I'm not in the union.

I guess everyone has different experiences. I feel like I have a pretty good grasp of what people are paid from various "generic" discussions. If someone came up to me and blatantly asked what I made, I don't know how I'd respond. I don't recall it ever happening in my 18 years of doing this (except for the people responsible for writing checks).

I can see the benefits. It is just an uncomfortable situation for many- including myself. I don't ever remember being part of a situation where people openly talked about their deal and not just a generic "animators generally make this at XYZ". I guess I'm okay with that. I feel I'm being compensated appropriately.

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