CEO goes viral telling employees to stop asking how to stay motivated without bonuses: 'Leave pity city'
- MillerKnoll CEO Andrea Owen went viral over comments she made about employee bonuses and motivation.
- The executive told staff to stop asking about bonuses and focus on the company's wellbeing instead.
A video is going viral on social media that shows MillerKnoll CEO Andrea Owen responding to employee questions about staying motivated while potentially losing their bonuses.
In the video, which was recorded last month at an internal meeting, Owen told staff to stop asking questions about bonuses and focus instead on the company's financial needs and "things we can control." The video garnered over 5 million views on Twitter this week and drew mostly outrage, as well as some praise, from users on Reddit and TikTok.
"Questions came through about 'How can we stay motivated if we're not going to get a bonus?'" Owen said in the video. "Some of them were nice and some of them were not so nice, so I'm going to address this head on."
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"It's not good to be in the situation we're in today, but we're not going to be here forever. It is going to get better so lead, lead by example, treat people well, talk to them, be kind, and get after it," Owen said.
"Don't ask about 'What are we going to do if we don't get a bonus?' Get the damn $26 million, spend your time and your effort thinking about the $26 million we need and not thinking about what you're going to do if you don't get a bonus, alright," she said. "Can I get some committement for that?"
A MillerKnoll spokesperson told Insider that the $26 million figure is an internal metric and employee bonuses are dependent on the company hitting its financial goals.
Owen continued: "I had an old boss who said to me one time: 'You can visit pity city, but you can't live there.' So people: leave pity city, let's get it done. "
The company spokesperson told Insider that MillerKnoll won't determine bonuses until the end of its fiscal year in May, and that Owen's bonus would be impacted if the furniture company fails to meet its financial goals. Owen did not respond to a request for comment from Insider ahead of publication.
In MillerKnoll's 2022 fiscal year, Owen was paid about $4.98 million in total compensation, including bonuses and stock awards, according to a filing with the Securities and Exchange Commission. The filing states that executive bonuses are "consistent with other salaried employees" and are "based upon performance against predetermined goals during the fiscal year."
"Andi fiercely believes in this team and all we can accomplish together, and will not be dissuaded by a 90-second clip taken out of context and posted on social media," the MillerKnoll spokesperson said. Owen's remarks were part of a "rallying cry" for staff in a town-hall style meeting that lasted more than an hour, the spokesperson added.
Owen became the CEO of Herman Miller in 2018. The ergonomic furniture company was renamed MillerKnoll in 2021. She previously served as the global president of Banana Republic.
In the company's last earnings report, it showed an over 4% decline in quarterly sales from the previous year and said it predicts sales will continue to decline in the coming quarter.
"During the past few months, general economic uncertainty, and the impact of rising interest rates, have weighed on business and consumer sentiment levels," MillerKnoll CFO Jeff Stutz said during the earnings call. "The result has been slowing demand patterns and further delays in customer return-to-office timelines."
Some TikTok and Twitter users appeared to side with Owen, though a majority of social media comments were critical of her remarks. One TikTok user commented, "Is this supposed to be bad? The company is clearly underperforming and needs to hit their numbers and aren't.... why should they be getting bonuses?"
Another TikTok comment, which was "liked" by more than 10,000 users, said: "'lead by example, treat people well..' proceeds to immediately mistreat everyone."
A number of large companies have chosen to lower or delay bonuses this year amid economic headwinds. Last month, Meta said it would reduce bonus payouts for lower-performing staff, while Apple chose to delay bonuses for some workers, per Bloomberg. Other companies like Intel and Micron have chosen to forego bonuses entirely for some workers in 2023.
Do you work for a company that made changes to its bonuses this year? Contact the reporter from a non-work email at email@example.com
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