Survey boss criticises resistance to performance-linked rewards.

Almost a quarter of New Zealand executives think top-level managers' pay packets are out of kilter with reality, a survey suggests.

The research, by Auckland consultancy Strategic Pay, canvassed 483, mainly private sector executives and also found 25 per cent of respondents would take a pay cut if offered other "lifestyle compensation benefits" such as more time with family.

Strategic Pay chief executive John McGill said he was slightly surprised that 24 per cent of respondents felt there was a mismatch between reality and executive pay.

Warehouse Group chief executive Mark Powell sparked debate this year when he called his remuneration - $1.96 million in the 2013 year - "embarrassing", saying, "All CEOs should be troubled by how much they earn."

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The Business Herald's executive pay survey, published last week, found the chief executives of New Zealand's biggest listed companies and SOEs, as well as dairy co-op Fonterra, received an average of $1.4 million in the 2013 year, 4 per cent up on 2012.

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McGill said there was "entitlement mentality" among some CEOs, many of whom had an "obsession" with fixed pay and were often resistant to at-risk incentive pay - which depended on performance targets being met - forming part of their packages.

"A lot of them think it's their God-given right to be paid a certain amount."

Of the 25 per cent in the survey who indicated they would take a pay cut, 14 per cent would do so in return for lifestyle or family balance, 14 per cent for reduced responsibility or stress and 12 per cent for a more satisfying role.