Neanda Salvaterra, Agenda, April 21, 2023

The message for CEOs when delivering tough news, particularly that hits employees in the pocketbook, is to communicate that they are willing to share the burden and take a pay cut, said experts. Something to avoid? Telling employees not to think about what to do if they don’t get paid.

MillerKnoll CEO Andi Owen faced pushback from the public this week for not displaying sufficient empathy and for telling workers to “leave pity city” during a Zoom call in March. Owen made her comments in response to employees raising concerns about staying motivated and potentially not being paid their bonuses due to the company’s experiencing financial hardships.

If a message has been damaging, then experts advise leaders to show contrition and encourage the public to recognize that executives are only humans who can make mistakes and deserve to be extended a bit of grace, according to Davia Temin, president and CEO of risk consulting firm Temin & Co.

“An apology is important. So is trying to change the conversation to ‘all of us are in this together,’” said Temin. She noted that viral moments can be especially tricky to navigate for women.

“The expectations of women leaders are different from expectations of male leaders; psychologists have said employees still expect a woman CEO to be a good mother,” said Temin. “In this instance and in any good organization, empathy and compassion goes both ways. I worry we are responding with anger as opposed to with understanding [and by] saying, ‘She must be under pressure. She’s got to make numbers for office furniture. People aren’t going back to the office as much, and she is trying to take care of her people.’” […read more]