MillerKnoll CEO Andi Owen probably didn’t expect to wake up on Monday to find out she had gone viral—and not in a good way.
A brief outburst caught on tape is all that it took for the manager, who joined the furniture company in 2018 after a long career at Gap, to end up in the headlines.
In what appears to be a pep talk encouraging staff to hit a sales target before MillerKnoll’s fiscal year concludes at the end of May, Owen was recorded addressing employee concerns over the potential loss of their bonus.
“Don’t ask about ‘What are we going to do if we don’t get a bonus?’ Get the damn $26 million,” she replied in the undated video of the internal staff meeting. “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, allright?”
Owen, who describes herself as a “defender of equity and inclusion” in her private Instagram account, receives the bulk of her pay package in incentive-based compensation, like most CEOs. For the fiscal year to May 2022, this amounted to $3.9 million which came on top of Owen’s $1.1 million in fixed salary.
In a statement to Fortune, the company behind the Herman Miller line of design office furniture said employee bonuses have not yet been determined, nor will they be until its books are closed next month.
This is Andi Owen, CEO of MillerKnoll. She received a bonus of nearly $4,000,000. This is her response to workers annoyed that they won’t be receiving one. pic.twitter.com/NLIIoppJJA— Fuck You I Quit (@fuckyouiquit) April 17, 2023
However, the edited clip shared widely on social media suggests that MillerKnoll workers have reason to worry.
After many members of staff had apparently asked how Owen expected them to remain adequately motivated if they don’t receive a bonus, the CEO—who admitted some of the comments she received on the subject were “not so nice”—made no effort to deny the risks.
“I had an old boss who said to me one time ‘You can visit Pity City, but ya can’t live there,’” she said, “so people—leave Pity City.”
The instance follows recent examples of seemingly entitled CEOs acting callously to staff.
Vishal Garg became the poster boy for self-absorbed executives after the Better.com founder was lampooned for telling 900 employees that he hoped to grow “stronger” as a person by firing them then and there—right before Christmas.
“The last time I did it, I cried,” Garg said in the now infamous Zoom call from December 2021.
Should Owen ultimately decide to cancel her staff’s bonuses for the year that is ending, the question then may be whether her championing workplace equity extends to voluntarily forfeiting her own bonus in solidarity with her employees.
In the video, the MillerKnoll CEO did urge her workforce to “lead by example.”