Thanks to a massive data breach at Sony Pictures Entertainment that may or may not have been launched by North Korea over a Seth Rogen film (can’t make this stuff up), we’ve learned this week that Sony sucks at a lot of things besides making films. For starters, they have no clue how to safeguard the privacy of their employees nor secure the company’s sensitive data.

But there’s something else that they’re immensely bad at too, and that’s giving advice to student animators.

At the recent CTN animation circus in Los Angeles, they handed out leaflets explaining how to be a “successful employee.” In the “behaviors to avoid” section, they encouraged young artists to not compare salaries, brazenly telling kids: “Don’t fall for this trick. Know that it’s unprofessional and your salary is no one’s business but yours.”

Click to enlarge.
Click to enlarge.

This, of course, is immensely awful advice. Labor experts almost unanimously suggest that it’s a smart thing to share salary data—read this or this for starters.

It’s especially essential in animation, where it’s been shown time and time again that studios will mistreat their employees at every opportunity to save money.

This is not the first time that Sony has attempted to trick young artists with misinformation. In fact, they were called out by a Toronto visual effects industry blog earlier this year when they handed out the same leaflet to Canadian students:

There’s a special kind of misinformation that upsets me.  It’s the kind that takes advantage of my friends and students.

I can understand why a studio would want workers kept in the dark from knowing how much their co-workers are making.  An ignorant employee is easily manipulated into earning less money than they are worth.  If you knew that your co-worker who was doing the same work as you was earning significantly more money, you might get upset and ask for more next time.  

What I find particularly galling is that this is given out as ‘advice’ to students.  Students are the most vulnerable segment of our industry, and should be looked after, mentored and protected. They are our future co-workers, peers and friends.  When I read this, it pretty much says to me that new people in our industry should remain oblivious to working conditions and be happy with whatever the studio decides to pay them.

Bob Osher oversees Sony Pictures Animation and Sony Pictures Imageworks.
Bob Osher oversees Sony Pictures Animation and Sony Pictures Imageworks.

This story might have ended on a depressing note if not for the delicious bit of schadenfreude resulting from Sony’s own incompetence. Among the files leaked in this week’s data breach was a spreadsheet containing salary data for 6,000 of their employees, including top studio executives.

According to that data, Sony Digital Productions president Bob Osher, who oversees both Sony Pictures Animation and Imageworks, is one of seventeen employees at the studio who earns more than $1 million per year. To be specific, he makes $1,250,000 annually.

But don’t ever ask Osher about why he makes so much money running the studio responsible for Smurfs 2. That would be unprofessional.

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