Does Your CEO Really Care About You?

by V. S. Ravi Elangkoh

A number of perception gaps with far-reaching consequences were uncovered in the June 2014 report of a recent CEO.com survey. I highlighted seven of what I thought were the most critical perception gaps in my last article. In this article, we shall explore the first gap which relates to whether CEOs care about their staff.

A number of perception gaps with far-reaching consequences were uncovered in the June 2014 report of a recent CEO.com survey. I highlighted seven of what I thought were the most critical perception gaps in my last article. In this article, we shall explore the first gap which relates to whether CEOs care about their staff.

Cartoon - Leader looking at workerGap #1: Degree of Caring

What 39% of CEOs claim: I care about the success and welfare of individual employees.

Survey result: Only 19% of executives agree with what their bosses claim.


Caring about “caring”

What do we mean by “caring” in the first place?

Ask any employee what they mean by a caring CEO, and often the answer would be something like this: “A caring CEO is one who is willing to listen and considers our situation.”

Caring about an employee is a very personal issue. I have come across companies where you have 9 employees dissing their boss but there is one who praises him.

Why? Simply because the boss had once allowed her to go home early to take care of her young child who had fallen ill. Just one act of kindness when it mattered most can go a long way to change the perception of the boss in the eyes of the employee.

The reverse is true. Once a CEO has peeved his employees, it is usually very difficult to repair the damaged perception. Just one careless remark – whether intentional or not – can trigger employees to label their boss as an uncaring and bad CEO. Especially so in this era of social media, a CEO’s gaffe can be transmitted across the world through social media, with its negative effects magnified exponentially. Even comments by readers (who could be strangers from a faraway land who have nothing to do with the company or employees) can become a powerful force against the careless and unfortunate CEO.

Another common definition of a caring CEO is one who pays his employees reasonable wages. If the CEO approves of salary schemes that enable employees to adequately provide for their families, then they need not worry too much about fulfilling their family obligations. Worried and stressed employees don’t make good, productive employees.

Cartoon - Man on rocket chasing $When the CEO makes more in 1 hour than what his employee makes in 1 entire year…

Why is it so difficult for CEOs to care about their staff?

Excessive corporate greed – it is the leading cause of poor staff wages, which translates to poor employee welfare. One prevalent reason for this brand of corporate greed is the management’s desire to increase their profit margin, but of course no corporation would dare admit it!

Consider Walmart. The largest employer in USA has been accused of giving handsome pay packages to only their top executives while ignoring their much more lowly paid retail employees. To put this into perspective, CEO Mike Duke received an USD18.1 million compensation package in 2011, meaning he made more in one hour than what his employees made in an entire year. The company probably thought they could get away with it because those employees were (and most likely still are) deemed to be easily replaced. When Walmart’s new CEO, Doug McMillon, officially assumed his role on 1 February 2014, an employee wrote a letter to McMillon that same month, which concluded with the following: “I hope you will listen to and respect us as Associates, so that we can make enough to support our families and contribute to our local economies and communities.”

Now you might say that some forms of caring like saying nice things and giving employees a nice pat on the shoulder don’t cost anything, so those are relatively easy to provide with some behavioural adjustments by the CEO. But when it comes to monetary manifestations of care, can CEOs really afford it?

Well, smart CEOs should know that the long-term cost of not caring is higher than the cost of caring. For instance, CEOs who don’t care about their staff welfare may suffer public backlash. Just ask John Schnatter, CEO of Papa John. In 2012, he reportedly backtracked on his intention to cut down employee work hours to less than 30 hours per week so that he wouldn’t need to provide his employees with healthcare benefits.

To learn more examples about greedy CEOs of large companies who have no qualms about getting richer at the ordinary man’s expense, you might like to read Greedy CEOs Trying to Shred the Safety Net while Pigging Out on Corporate Welfare.

Caught, Not Taught!

What should you as a leader do to prevent coming across as an uncaring boss? Or better than taking a preventative approach, what can you proactively do to show that you care?

Caring is not taught from the book but caught through direct observation, personal motivation and hands-on practice. Is there anything that you have done or are doing to contribute towards a caring culture in your organization?

Share your thoughts with me at comments@invictusleader.com.

References

1. http://www.dailykos.com/story/2012/10/10/1141724/-Walmart-fuels-inequality-epidemic-taking-advantage-of-our-safety-net#

2. http://makingchangeatwalmart.org/2014/02/06/worker-asks-new-ceo-mcmillon-will-you-pay-us-enough-to-care-for-our-families/

3. http://www.forbes.com/sites/rickungar/2012/12/04/papa-johns-applebees-and-others-pay-huge-price-for-anti-obamacare-politicking/

4. http://www.alternet.org/economy/9-greedy-ceos-trying-shred-safety-net-while-pigging-out-corporate-welfare

Photo credit

Image 1 courtesy of Rattigon

Image 2 courtesy of JS Creationzs