Chic furniture maker MillerKnoll reportedly threatened to fire employees for speaking to the news media about CEO Andi Owen’s now-viral Zoom rampage against workers over complaints about bonuses.
Owen had censured the basis for wallowing in “Pity City” for her lack of bonuses — despite the fact that she had nearly $5 million in total compensation taken out last year.
Employees at the western Michigan-based company — annoyed that Owen told them the company was $26 million behind on its target, which would trigger a minimum bonus payout — said they effectively received a gag order.
“We have a meeting at the start of every shift,” an employee told The Holland Sentinel on Wednesday.
“Last night the comments were addressed in the meeting and they said if anyone spoke out it would not be good for them and they could be fired.”
A company spokesman told The Sentinel that no such threat had ever been made.
“The first thing I would say is that no one has been instructed to do this,” spokesman Kris Marubio said. “It’s not company policy, it’s not something we do. So this is wrong and wrong.”
The Post reached out to MillerKnoll for comment.
The Sentinel quoted an employee as describing the company’s corporate structure as “parasitic.”
“The rich are getting richer and the poor are getting poorer,” the clerk said.
“They have a salary of $1.1 million and a bonus of 355 percent. But she’s denying us the sliver we’re getting…maybe 5 percent max on a $45,000 salary.”
According to Fortune, Owen received most of her salary in 2022 in the form of incentives and bonuses – which is common for CEOs.
For the fiscal year ended May 2022, Owen, whose resume includes C-suite stints at Gap and Banana Republic, earned a base salary of $1.1 million in addition to $3.9 million in perks and awards, according to Fortune.
“I understand CEOs get astronomical bonuses, but when/where does that stop?” the disgruntled employee told The Sentinel.
Marubio told The Sentinel that the company has yet to determine the extent to which bonuses will be paid to employees as the fiscal year does not end until May.
She added that the amount of Owen’s bonus is also yet to be determined, according to the report.
“We all follow the same bonus policy,” Marubio told The Sentinel. “It’s happening after financial results for the full year were reported.”
According to The Sentinel, angry employees took their frustration out on a management staff member who spoke to them over Owen’s Zoom call.
One employee said her colleagues “grilled” the executive, who responded that he “didn’t understand that part of the business, so he couldn’t talk to him.”
“It definitely feels like they’re playing with us and enjoying every minute,” the staffer said.
MillerKnoll insists the clip of Owen, who spoke for a total of an hour and 15 minutes, was taken out of context.
“Ninety seconds of a 75-minute internal meeting where we discussed many positive things about the company, product launches, brand campaigns, engagement with customers and business outcomes was leaked,” Marubio told The Sentinel.
“And on its own it is misleading. It doesn’t represent the full 75 minutes.”
In response to the backlash, Owen distributed a written apology to her employees, according to Michigan-based news site MLive.
“I want to be transparent and empathetic, and as I continue to ponder this case, I feel terrible that my battle cry seemed insensitive,” Owen wrote to her staff.
“What I was hoping for would inspire the team to take on a challenge we’ve faced many times before, in a way I didn’t intend and I’m sorry for that.”
Owen added, “Nothing will diminish the power and strength of our collective team.”
“My appreciation for each of you is immense and I will continue to do whatever I can to help us achieve our common goals,” she wrote.
“Thank you for your hard work, your grace and for the commitment you show to each other and to our company every day.”
The tone of the apology was in stark contrast to the scolding Owen unleashed on her employees in the now viral video.
“Don’t ask, ‘What do we do if we don’t get a bonus?’ Get the friggin’ $26 million,” she said.
“Spend your time and 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. In order? Can I get an acceptance for this?”
Owen’s pep talk then included an anecdote about a lecture she had received from an old employer.
“I had an old boss who said, ‘You can visit Pity City, but you can’t live there,'” she said.
“So, folks, leave Pity City! Let’s go through with it.”