Exxon Mobil is experiencing its highest employee turnover in decades, with disgruntled workers complaining of a strict, fear-based corporate culture, according to a new report.
Over the past two years, even as Exxon reaped record profits, it has shed 12,000 employees globally, less than half of whom were laid off, according to a lengthy report in Bloomberg Businessweek on Thursday.
Citing interviews with more than 40 current and former Exxon employees, the report described how many wondered about a culture they describe as stagnant and overbearing.
In one instance, at a virtual town hall last year, Exxon’s global IT vice president Bill Keillor reportedly exploded when workers peppered him with tough questions about compensation and telecommuting policies in a rare show of defiance.
Keillor snapped, saying that anyone who wanted to be a “hotshot”[ads1]; should go work for Amazon, adding, “good luck to you,” those in attendance recalled.
Exxon disputed the article’s characterization of its corporate culture as untrue, with a spokeswoman saying that isolated incidents had been blown out of proportion.
Exxon Mobil is experiencing its highest employee turnover in decades, with disgruntled workers complaining of a strict, fear-based corporate culture
Exxon’s global IT vice president Bill Keillor reportedly exploded when workers peppered him with tough questions about compensation and telecommuting policies
“Like almost all companies, attrition has increased over the past two years, but we do not see that as a long-term trend,” Exxon said in a statement.
“Importantly, we see great results when we hire top talent for company-wide, entry-level, and executive roles,” the company said.
An oil industry titan with a 140-year history, Exxon has a reputation for old-fashioned corporate governance practices that can seem out of step with the times.
Acronyms and jargon are ubiquitous, and to rise through the ranks, employees must operate under a strict hierarchy with strict rules, according to Bloomberg.
Such a rule requires workers to hold the handrail on stairs at all times. While it was primarily written with oil rigs and refineries in mind, the rule is strictly enforced, even in corporate offices.
The exterior of the ExxonMobil Houston campus is seen above. Workers at the office are required to hold handrails on stairs, although the rule was primarily intended for oil rigs
The sun sets on an ExxonMobil natural gas rig in the Gulf of Mexico in a file photo
Dar-Lon Chang, a mechanical engineer who left the company in 2019 after nearly two decades, told the magazine: ‘The upper management doesn’t like to hear bad news, so to stay with Exxon for the long term, you have to drink the bullet – Assistance.’
“This does not sit well with younger people and especially those concerned about the climate crisis,” said Chang, who said that when he joined Exxon in 2003, he believed it would play a key role in moving the world away from fossil fuels.
Instead, Chang said he was disappointed, alleging the company repeatedly turned down potential investments in renewable energy because of profitability concerns.
Another incident troubled some Exxon employees of color, when in April 2020 the company issued an order banning “external positional flags” from its main flagpoles, such as Gay Pride and Black Lives Matter.
Former Exxon worker Dar-Lon Chang (above) said: ‘Top management doesn’t like to hear bad news, so to stay with Exxon for the long term, you have to drink the Kool-Aid’
Because the rainbow Pride flag had flown on the same poles a year earlier, some black employees were outraged, suspecting the policy was aimed specifically at the BLM flag.
Exxon insisted in a statement that diversity is “embedded in our core values.”
“The idea that ExxonMobil’s culture is what these employees say it is doesn’t hold water for two reasons: how many people join this company each year and how long people stay,” a company spokeswoman said.
“No culture is perfect, and it’s all too easy to take a few data points and paint with a broad brush, but that doesn’t paint an accurate portrait.”