A CEO in the US has sparked outrage after telling her employees in a leaked Zoom call to “leave pity city” for complaining about not receiving bonuses.
That’s despite the woman paying herself a generous seven-figure bonus of US$1.2 million ($1.9m) last year.
The leaked video shows the CEO and president of US furniture giant MillerKnoll, Andi Owen, lambasting her staff after receiving anonymous complaints over the unpopular move.
In the clip which has since gone viral, Owen begins to address feedback on the controversial decision to withhold bonuses but it descends into her shouting and ranting at employees in the internal meeting.
“Questions came through about, ‘How can we stay motivated if we’re not going to get a bonus … What can we do? What can we do?’ Owen began the call.
“Some of them were nice, and some of them were not so nice.”
According to Salary.com, Owen made $4.9 million last year, thanks to a $1.2 million bonus.
As the call progresses, Owen becomes increasingly more agitated and used a personal story to try to soften the blow, which has the opposite effect.
“Don’t ask about: What are we going to do if we don’t get a bonus?” she explained.
“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? Can I get some commitment for that? I would appreciate that.”
It’s understood the $26m metric is a sales target of some kind.
Owen then launched into her most outrageous comment of all.
She said: “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.”
A MillerKnoll representative insisted the clip had been taken out of context and that this was a small exchange in a mostly positive meeting that went for 75 minutes.
“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,” MillerKnoll spokesperson Kris Marubio told a publication called Motherboard.
Furniture retailer MillerKnoll, which is listed on the US stock exchange, has around 8000 employees and was formerly called Herman Miller. It is mostly known for selling high-quality and expensive office chairs.
Owen has been its CEO for a year and 10 months, according to her LinkedIn profile.
On her Instagram, she claims to be a “Champion of the planet” and “Defender of equity and inclusion”.
The exchange has drawn ire from online users, after it’s believed an employee leaked it online.
“She is not leading by example,” noted one person.
“People like this should not be in positions of power,” said another.