Given the human and business downsides of layoffs, a CEO’s top priority should be to avoid them at all costs.
Some companies have managed to do just that. Apple has managed to cut costs without layoffs in part by reducing Tim Cook’s salary by 40%, to $49 million. While one can’t necessarily applaud a company for paying a CEO “just” $50 million, there’s something to be said for the chief executive willing to slash their own pay before resorting to letting employees go. Similarly, the chipmaker Intel’s CEO took a 25% pay cut and reduced the salaries of his executive team by 15% to avoid broad layoffs.
For the companies that turned to job cuts, the blame rests squarely on the shoulders of their CEOs. As the sole person in charge, they’re responsible for misjudging the macroeconomy, making terrible investments, and then following along with the industry in a shortsighted attempt to please Wall Street. And yet, despite a smattering of pay reductions, none of them have faced real consequences. By focusing on “broader economic uncertainty” rather than admitting the cutbacks are because of executive mismanagement, CEOs can save their reputation while sidestepping the blame.
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