MillerKnoll ‘threatened to fire workers’ after CEO spoke out: report


April 20, 2023 | 09:10

Chic furniture maker MillerKnoll reportedly threatened to fire employees for speaking to the news media about CEO Andi Owen̵[ads1]7;s now-viral Zoom rant against workers for complaining about bonuses.

Owen had reprimanded rank-and-file for wallowing in “pity city” over the lack of bonuses — despite cutting nearly $5 million in total compensation last year.

Employees at the western Michigan-based company — who were annoyed that Owen told them the company was $26 million short of the target that would trigger a minimum bonus payout — said they have indeed been served with a gag order.

“We have a meeting at the beginning of every shift,” one employee told The Holland Sentinel on Wednesday.

“Last night the comments were brought up at the meeting and they said if anyone spoke out it wouldn’t be good for them and they could be terminated.”

A company spokesperson told The Sentinel that no such threat was ever made.

“The first thing I want to say is that no one has been asked to do that,” said spokesperson Kris Marubio. “It’s not a company policy, it’s not something we do. So it’s wrong and untrue.”

The Post has sought comment from MillerKnoll.

MillerKnoll CEO Andi Owen went on a viral rant on Zoom last week.

The Sentinel quoted one employee as describing the company’s corporate structure as “parasitic.”

“The rich always get richer and the poor always get poorer,” the employee said.

“They have a $1.1 million salary and get a 355 percent bonus. Yet she’s denying us the slice we’re getting … maybe 5 percent max on a $45,000 salary.”

According to Fortune, Owen received most of his 2022 salary in the form of incentives and bonuses — which are common for CEOs.

For the fiscal year ending in May 2022, Owen, whose resume includes C-suite stints at Gap and Banana Republic, was paid a base salary of $1.1 million in addition to $3.9 million in benefits and awards, according to Fortune.

“I get that CEOs get astronomical bonuses, but when/where does it stop?” the disgruntled employee told The Sentinel.

Owen scolded employees for complaining about a lack of bonuses, telling them to “leave pity city”.

Marubio told The Sentinel that the company has not yet determined the extent to which bonuses will be paid to employees because the fiscal year does not end until May.

She added that the size of Owen’s bonus has also not yet been determined, according to the report.

“We all follow the same bonus provision,” Marubio told The Sentinel. “It happens after financial results are reported for the full year.”

According to The Sentinel, disgruntled employees took out their frustration on a manager who spoke to them about Owen’s Zoom call.

One employee said their colleagues “grilled” the manager, who responded that he “doesn’t understand that part of the business, so he can’t speak to it.”

“It definitely feels like they’re playing with us and enjoying every minute,” the employee said.

MillerKnoll employees say they were threatened with termination if they spoke to the news media about the video.
Darren Debski

MillerKnoll insists the clip of Owen, who spoke for a total of one hour and 15 minutes, was taken out of context.

“Ninety seconds of a 75-minute internal meeting where we talked about a lot of positive things in the company, product launches, brand campaigns, connecting with customers and business results, was leaked,” Marubio told The Sentinel.

“And in itself that is misleading. It does not represent the full 75 minutes.”

In response to the backlash, Owen circulated a written apology to his staff, according to Michigan-based news website MLive.

“I want to be transparent and empathetic, and as I continue to reflect on this case, I feel terrible that my rallying cry seemed insensitive,” Owen wrote to his staff.

“What I had hoped would energize the team to face a challenge we’ve faced many times before, landed in a way that I didn’t intend, and I’m sorry for that.”

Owen added: “Nothing will diminish the power and strength of our collective team.”

“My gratitude to each and every one of you is immense and I will continue to do everything I can to help us achieve our shared goals,” she wrote.

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

Owen drew down $1.2 million in benefits as part of a total compensation package of nearly $5 million last year.
Courtesy of MillerKnoll

The tone of the apology stood in stark contrast to the tirade Owen unleashed on his staff in the now-viral video.

“Don’t ask ‘What are we going to do if we don’t get a bonus?’ Get the damned $26 million,” she said.

“Spend your time and energy thinking about the $26 million we need and not thinking about what you’re going to do if you don’t get a bonus. Okay? Can I get some commitment for that?”

Owen’s pep talk then included an anecdote about a lecture she 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 guys, leave sin city! Let’s get it done.”

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