Monday, June 24, 2013

Job Haters

It's been a kind of grim time in Cartoonland. Lots of layoffs, and lots of people worried about getting laid off; (Even though animation employment is high overall, the gigs are shorter. This makes many artists nervous.)

But animation isn't an isolated corner of the national workplace. Gallup has conducted a national poll that reports a high number of workers are actively disengaged from their jobs, and the high number (18%-20%) has been remarkably stable over the last dozen years.

An alarming 70% of those surveyed in a recent Gallup poll either hate their jobs or are completely disengaged, and not even incentives and extras can extricate them from the working man's blues.

30% of the 150,000 full and part-time workers surveyed honestly enjoyed their jobs and their bosses.

A full 20% of respondents are what Gallup classifies as "actively disengaged," the ones who are muttering complaints at the water cooler and using their lunch breaks to scour job postings online.

The remaining 50% of U.S. workers are "disengaged," according to the report, meaning that while they show up for work, they are not "inspired by their managers." ...

The above tracks what I'm finding in Los Angeles animation studios. Work loads aren't going down, many managements play Jedi mind games with their employees, and the employees are growing tired of it.

Last week, for instance, I encountered a procession of artists complaining about long days on tight schedules and unresponsive management. Most animation employees have a fear of sticking their heads up above the parapet, so executive unresponsiveness (mostly) goes on. The refrain is: "We're happy to have a job, so we're not going to rock the boat."

As New York Times writer Timothy Egan says:

... [T]here are two great tragedies in professional life: not having a job, and having a job you hate.

So, what to do? For starters, companies that have been sitting on record piles of cash could start spreading it around with their employees, which would have the immediate benefit of letting them know they were wanted. You hear the evangelists for low-pay states, people like Gov. Rick Perry of Texas, preaching the virtues of the corporate free ride and the perils of raising the minimum wage. But the unemployment rate in Washington State, which has the highest minimum wage in the nation at $9.19 an hour, is well below the national average. In the Seattle area, it just dipped to 4.7 percent, a level some economists call “full employment.”

What the Gallup survey makes clear is that the easiest way to make life better in the workplace is the simplest: all those unctuous, self-important, clueless bosses out there could notice the toiling subordinate who’s been taking up space for many years.

Happily, there bright spots in the cartoon business. I see animation departments that are well run and tight-knit, where employees put down on their time cards the hours they actually work, and who get paid overtime because they stand together and watch each others' backs. Nobody gets slipped the axe because people stick together.

Fear, paranoia and resentment don't necessarily have to rule artists' lives.


Oswald Cox said...

Where are these artists that watch each other's back?

I know production people, but no artists.

Steve Hulett said...

It's several studios. And it's departments and individual shows.

Sorry you don't know artists that do this. There aren't huge numbers, but there are units ... here and there.

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