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What You Can Learn About Salary Negotiation From the Cast of ‘The Big Bang Theory’ (No, Seriously)

Topics: Negotiation
big bang theory
Image Credit: MelodyJSandoval/Flickr

Would your coworkers take a pay cut to give you a raise?

That’s what the five stars of CBS’s hit show The Big Bang Theory have offered to do. Jim Parsons, Johnny Galecki, Kaley Cuoco, Kunal Nayyar, and Simon Helberg currently earn $1 million per episode, but are offering to take a $100,000-per-episode pay cut to increase their co-stars’ salaries to $450,000 per episode. Mayim Bialik and Melissa Rauch are now earning $200,000 per episode.

“Bialik ? who earned four Emmy nominations for her role as Sheldon’s girlfriend, Amy ? and Rauch have become key characters in the show since joining in Season 3,” writes Cavan Sieczkowski at The Huffington Post.

The Highest Paid Actors on TV

The five highest paid members of the cast are also the highest paid actors in television. A raise to $450,000 would make Bialik and Rauch the sixth and seventh highest paid actors in TV comedy, according to Variety’s data. (Barring, of course, a big raise for the other high-earners on the list.)

Do You Know What You're Worth?

However, Deadline reports that the two stars might negotiate for pay parity.

“Because their characters have become an integral and equal part of the show’s ensemble, with Bialik earning four Emmy nominations for her role, and because of where they are salary-wise due to their later start on the show, both are primed for a major salary bump for the next two seasons. Sources indicate the two may be seeking parity with their co-stars.”

What You Can Learn About Salary Negotiations From The Big Bang Theory

Ongoing negotiations of this kind are sort of a black box — until the network and cast make an announcement, it’s anyone’s guess what’s going on behind closed doors. However, there are a few takeaways for you, the non-TV star, that might help you in your next negotiation:

1. Cooperate, don’t compete.

“Three years ago, Parsons, Galecki and Cuoco negotiated together for equal salary, as did Helberg and Nayyar, who were then in a different tier,” writes Nellie Andreeva at Deadline. “I hear that by the current eighth season, all five reached parity at about $1 million an episode.”

Of course, negotiating in tandem with your coworkers might not be as easy. It is, however, probably legally protected as collective bargaining, as is telling your coworkers how much money you make. (For information about your specific situation, consult an employment lawyer.)

If that option doesn’t appeal, this one might: pushing for pay transparency at your organization. If everyone knows what everyone else is making — or at least understands the compensation philosophy behind those paychecks — it’s less likely that any one single employee will be underpaid.

2. Don’t negotiate with emotions … but don’t be swayed by them, either.

We talk a lot about how it’s a mistake to negotiate from an emotional place. For example, you never want to argue that you should get a raise because you need more money for personal reasons. Less discussed: the emotional end of things from an employer’s perspective.

Many of the articles about The Big Bang Theory cast’s negotiation process point out that the show is expensive to produce — about $10 million per episode, most likely more than the budget of your favorite low-budget indie movie. But it’s not Bialik and Rauch’s job to keep costs down by taking less.

Of course, in your salary negotiations, you’re probably not looking at multimillion-dollar budgets. But even if the cash isn’t there, it’s important to stay loyal to yourself. Can your boss or the hiring manager give you better perks, more time off, or a shorter review period with a shot at quicker raise? Ask.

3. Stick to the data.

If emotions are the wrong way to go, facts are the right way. Bialik, for example, might wave those Emmy nominations around. You might bring up how much money you’ve saved or made the organization, and/or which certifications and skills you’ve acquired to make you a more valuable employee. Above all, you should go into the negotiation with an understanding of what the market will bear. Take PayScale’s Salary Survey and generate a free report with the appropriate salary range for your role, skills, and experience. It probably won’t be in the $1 million range, but it might be a lot higher than you think.

Tell Us What You Think

Do you find stories like these inspiring, or is it hard for you to get too worked up over how much a TV star makes? We want to hear from you. Tell us your opinion in the comments or join the conversation on Twitter.

Jen Hubley Luckwaldt
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Manda MadersonMare Recent comment authors
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I think if more of us thought of ‘the good of the many’ versus ‘the one,’ then we as human beings might benefit as a whole, and perhaps our workplaces would benefit as well. There would hopefully be less stress and more work/life balance if we felt equal and as valued as our co-workers. Of course, it would be a lot harder sell if the group feels one or two people don’t contribute equally. Anyway, it was fascinating reading, but… Read more »

Manda Maderson
Manda Maderson

I like these articles and I am a regular reader – as a person who works in a niche position it is hard to relate to the wages of general people but I think transparency is the right way to go – if they – whoever they are – are worth that then I am worth this – it is clearer and helps the argument

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