MillerKnoll CEO Faces Backlash from Response to Bonus Inquiries
Workspan Daily
April 21, 2023

As reported by the Wall Street Journal, MillerKnoll Inc. CEO Andi Owen is facing backlash after a video of her telling staffers worried about not getting a bonus to “leave pity city” went viral.  

Owen, who has been the CEO of the furniture company since 2018, told employees in response to their bonus inquiries to focus on things they could control, such as being kind and providing the best customer service.  

“Don’t ask about, ‘What are we going to do if we don’t get a bonus?’ Get the damn $26 million,” she said. “Spend your time and your effort thinking about the $26 million we need and not thinking about what are you going to do if we don’t get a bonus, all right?” 

MillerKnoll, which designs and sells office chairs as well as home furniture under the brands Herman Miller, Knoll and Design Within Reach, said the video is from a 75-minute town hall meeting last month and the $26 million Owen refers to is an internal figure. On Tuesday, Owen sent a note to employees apologizing for how the comments landed, the company said.  

Bonuses aren’t determined until after the fiscal year ends in May, MillerKnoll said. It added that Owen intended to rally employees during the town hall.  

“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,” said MillerKnoll spokeswoman Kris Marubio. 

According to filings to the U.S. Securities and Exchange Commission, Owen made more than $4.9 million in total compensation in the fiscal year ending May 28, 2022. That included a bonus tied to her performance that totaled $1.29 million, the filing said. 

Much of business leadership takes place via easily recorded and shared video these days, and more than one top executive has sparked a viral outrage as a result. In 2021, Vishal Garg, chief executive of online mortgage lender Better.com, apologized and took a brief leave of absence after a video of him firing hundreds of workers on a Zoom call was posted on TikTok and viewed by millions.   

Raising Cane’s to Pay Home-Closing Costs for Managers  

Fried-chicken restaurant Raising Cane’s is rolling out a new benefit to support general managers at its 700-plus locations in their home-buying experience.  

The company announced it will pay for home-closing costs up to $10,000 for general managers purchasing their first homes, according to Employee Benefits News. Raising Cane’s also announced it is paying workers on a weekly basis instead of biweekly and raising its minimum wage for hourly managers to $18 an hour from $15.  

"Managers too often in this industry are told that they can't," Raising Cane's co-chief executive officer AJ Kumaran said in an email. The company seeks to counter perceptions that workers “can't have work-life balance, they can't have flexible schedules, they can't save enough money for a large down payment on a home," he added. 

The chain, headquartered in Baton Rouge, Louisiana, has already given financial assistance to two managers in the process of buying a house. Raising Cane's says that its staffing levels have improved from last year thanks to investment in wages and other perks. 

“We need to be staffed to continue our ambitious growth,” Kumaran said. Raising Cane's has expanded rapidly, helped by the boom in fried-chicken sandwiches, and plans to open more than 100 locations this year. 

Meta’s Latest Round of Layoffs Focused on Technical Roles  

As part of Meta’s latest round of job cuts that were announced in March, the company began laying off employees in technical roles on Wednesday, CNBC reported.  

Employees with technical backgrounds like user experience, software engineering, graphics programming and other roles announced on LinkedIn that they had been let go by the company on Wednesday morning. A Meta spokesperson confirmed to CNBC the cuts had started. 

One employee impacted by the moves told CNBC that Wednesday’s layoffs also hit product-facing teams and that Meta plans to cut business-facing roles, such as finance, legal and HR, beginning in May. The employee, who discussed the layoffs under condition of anonymity to speak freely, said Meta suggested tech teams who weren’t impacted by Wednesday’s cuts may also be included in layoffs next month. 

LinkedIn posts indicated that multiple people who worked as gameplay programmers were also affected by the layoffs. Gameplay engineers work on virtual and augmented reality products, according to a Meta job listing

With ad revenue slumping last year and its stock price in free-fall, Facebook’s parent announced its first round of layoffs in November, affecting some 11,000 workers. Meta CEO Mark Zuckerberg then declared 2023 the “year of efficiency,” and proceeded with a plan of an additional 10,000 job cuts in March, resulting in restructuring costs of between $3 billion and $5 billion. 

As Zuckerberg said at the time, the new round of April layoffs targets technical workers. He said cuts in the business groups would take place in late May. 

Whole Foods Market Consolidating Business, Cutting Corporate Jobs  

Whole Foods Market is planning to cut several hundred corporate jobs, the company said, as the grocer reorganizes its structure to simplify operations, the Wall Street Journal reported.  

The Amazon-owned grocer is trimming down to six regions of operations from nine, according to an internal memo obtained by the Journal. The company is adjusting structures of some corporate teams resulting in staff cuts. Employees affected by the restructuring were informed Thursday. Whole Foods isn’t closing any stores or facilities.  

The company spokeswoman said changes are aimed at better serving stores and customers as Whole Foods continues to expand. The company isn’t eliminating positions in stores or distribution centers, she said. Whole Foods anticipates that the cuts will affect less than 0.5% of its total workforce, which is about 105,000 people. The company, which has more than 500 stores, currently plans to open about 50 new locations. 

Supermarkets are navigating economic uncertainty after experiencing a boom to their business during the pandemic, which has prompted people to cook more at home. Whole Foods executives have said that inflation is affecting customers and that the company aims to hold more sale events. Amazon doesn’t break down Whole Foods’ financial figures.  

Reorganization will take place over the next two months and each region will be similar in size, which would help Whole Foods operate more efficiently, according to the memo. Employees will hear from leaders of the new regions next week, the memo said. 

Additionally, as part of the reorganization, three regional presidents are leaving Whole Foods, the spokeswoman said.  

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