Employees Risk Being Fired For Exposing CEO In Viral 'Pity City' Video, Here's Her Apology

Zinger Key Points
  • A video of a CEO telling employees not to worry about bonuses quickly went viral.
  • New reports indicate employees have been apologized to but told not to discuss the video with media.

A video of a CEO criticizing employees for worrying about their bonuses quickly went viral. Here’s an update on the story including comments from employees to local media.

What Happened: An office furniture company could be playing defense as its faces backlash for comments made by its CEO during a meeting held over Zoom.

MillerKnoll Inc MLKN CEO Andi Owen went viral for lashing out at employees who were worried about their bonuses and offered up advice that was seen by many on social media as tone-deaf. 

A MillerKnoll employee, who was granted anonymity, told the Holland Sentinel that since the video was circulated online, there have been threats of termination for anyone who speaks to the media.

“We have a meeting at the beginning of every shift. Last night the comments were brought up in the meeting and they said if anybody spoke out it wouldn’t be good for them and they could be terminated,” the employee told The Sentinel.

The employee is referencing the video in which Owen went from calm and collected to raising her voice and questioning why employees are worried about bonuses.

“Don’t ask about, ‘What are we gonna do if we don’t get a bonus?’ 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 gonna do if we don’t get a bonus, alright?" Owen said during the meeting.

Owen also referenced an old boss who told her, “You can visit Pity City, but you can’t live there” and offered her own take on it.

“So people, leave Pity City. Let’s get it done. Thank you. Have a great day.”

The $26 million referenced in the clip of Owen are related to the company being $26 million short of a target financial number needed for minimum bonus payouts according to the employee.

The employee shared a video from the MillerKnoll March Town Hall that showed the company seeing weaker order levels due to macroeconomic issues like high inflation and a shift to remote work in the post-COVID-19 world. 

The employee questioned the bonus structure for employees versus the large amount Owen receives.

“The rich always get richer and the poor always get more poor. They have a $1.1 million salary and getting a 355% bonus. Yet she’s denying us the sliver we get … maybe 5 percent max on a $45,000 salary.”

A MillerKnoll spokesperson told The Sentinel that comments on retaliation and threats of termination are false.

“The first thing I would say is nobody has been directed to do that,” MillerKnoll spokesperson Kris Marubio said. “It’s not a company policy, it’s not something that we’re doing. So, that’s wrong and false.”

A report from MLive reveals an apology by Owen was issued to the company.

“I want to be transparent and empathetic, as I continue to reflect on this instance, I feel terrible that my rallying cry seemed insensitive,” Owen said in an email. “What I’d hoped would energize the team to meet a challenge we’ve met many times before landed in a way that I did not intend and for that I am sorry.”

Owen told employees in the email that she would do everything she can to help meet “our shared goals.”

“Thank you for your hard work, your grace, and for the commitment you show to one another and our company every single day.”

Benzinga’s request for comment from MillerKnoll was unanswered as of the time of writing.

Related Link: Why MillerKnoll Shares Rose After Q2 Earnings

Why It’s Important: The comments by Owen come as many were quick to point out the large salary and compensation received by the MillerKnoll CEO.

For fiscal 2022, Owen received a salary of $1.1 million and bonuses and additional compensation of $3.9 million.

Marubio told The Sentinel that bonuses for the current fiscal year, including Owen’s, have not been determined yet.

“We all follow the same bonus determination. It happens after financial results are reported for the full year,” Marubio said.

MillerKnoll reported third-quarter revenue of $984.7 million, which missed a Street estimate of $997.4 million, according to data from Benzinga Pro. The company’s guidance of fourth-quarter revenue ranging from $930 million to $970 million also fell shy of a $1.03-billion Street estimate.

The company’s next earnings report and filings that show executive compensation will likely be more widely followed than normal.

MLKN Price Action: MillerKnoll shares are down 47% in the last year and trade at $17.59 at the time of publication versus a 52-week trading range of $15.54 to $33.91.

Read Next: Benzinga's 'Stock Whisper Index': 5 Stocks Investors Are Secretly Monitoring But Not Talking About Yet

Photo: Shutterstock

Market News and Data brought to you by Benzinga APIs
Posted In: NewsSmall CapManagementTop StoriesAndi OwenExecutive CompensationFurnitureInflation
Benzinga simplifies the market for smarter investing

Trade confidently with insights and alerts from analyst ratings, free reports and breaking news that affects the stocks you care about.

Join Now: Free!