Commenter Zanshin returned to expand on his answer to the hypothetical I offered a Boy Scout troop based on one of my late, lamented professional theater company’s many dilemmas over the years. Here is the situation again…
Your professional theater company has limited funds, so it offers its actors an option. They may choose a flat fee for their roles, or get a percentage of the show’s profits, if there are any, on top of a much smaller base fee.
The company just completed an extremely profitable production, the biggest hit your theater has ever had. Nine of the show’s ten cast members chose the percentage of profits option, a gamble, because most of the shows lose money. One, the star, who you know could not afford to gamble, took the flat fee for the role. After the accounting for the production is complete, you realize that every member of the cast will make $1000 more than the star, because of the show’s profits.
Question 1: What do you do?
- Give him the extra $1000. It’s only fair.
- Pay him the flat fee. A deal’s a deal.
Question 2: You remount the production, and the exact same thing happens. The actor chooses the flat fee, the show is again a huge money-maker,,and the rest of the cast will make much more than him because they chose the percentage. Do you give him the extra amount again?
- No. Now he’s taking advantage of me.
- Yes. Nothing has changed.
You can read the initial responses here, and check the poll results.
And here is Zanshin’s Comment of the Day, on the post Morning Ethics Warm-Up, 3/6/ 2018: “Remember the Alamo” Edition:
Here are my reflections on this ethical (hypothetical) issue.
Question 1: Some personal background influencing my thinking: In the early years of my career I worked at a small company (about 40 employees). After having worked there for 2 years the owners sold the company, probably for a very good price, because they decided to give every employee about $ 200 for each year that he had worked with the company. Some of my colleagues worked with them for 15 years and more.
For me it would be a nice $ 400 but to my surprise I received $ 1.000 with a handwritten note which stated something like, “We’ll give you $600 extra because we are very pleased with your performance with us. Please do not discuss this with your colleagues.”
Back to the question.
I would go for a third option. First, Pay him the flat fee. A deal’s a deal.
But at the same time, give him in some personalized way, about $500 extra.With personalized I mean, fitting the situation. Why couldn’t he gamble with his reward? For instance, his car is broke, he needs it very bad for whatever reason. Offer to pay a part of the bill, etc.
Question 2: In my opinion the set-up of the first situation (question 1) was already tainted. Just as we expect of journalists that they don’t “interview people who are drunk, drugged, impaired, or not in a mentally or emotionally stable state.” one should also not ask an employee who you know could not afford to gamble to just do that, gamble with his income.
Except when you are Rick and give a hint knowing for sure that history is on your side:
But certainly after the first show the manager of this professional theater company (in this fictitious case that would be me) should have learned from the complications arising out of the proposed options and come up with a better proposal.
For instance, Give the actors involved again the two options but maximize the pay-out for those who choose a percentage of the show’s profits, if there are any, on top of a much smaller base fee. Let’s say, that those will get a maximum of 4 times the difference between the normal flat fee and the much smaller base fee. In the case, that there is still some money left, divide that evenly (or based on some relevant criteria) over all involved