When I see the words "CEO" and "bonus" in the same sentence, I expect a story of greed or outrage, especially after the brouhaha surrounding bank executive bonuses post-TARP. Because of my jaded view, an ABC News story with the headline "CEO Gives Away His Bonus to Employees" really caught my attention. Lord Wolfson, the CEO of Britain’s largest department store, Next, gave his entire $3.6 million annual bonus to his employees.
When all is said and done, the employees will receive a bonus that is about 1 percent of their annual salary. I say kudos to Wolfson for deciding to give back to the employees at Next, but surprisingly, my feelings aren’t shared by all.
In the ABC News article, the head of the Retail, Wholesale and Department Store Union (RWDSU), Stuart Appelbaum, chastises Wolfson’s decision:
"Working people do not want charity. They need guaranteed wages and benefits — the kind that come with a union contract. They shouldn't be forced to hope that their employer will have a momentary impulse — a munificent impulse — to share his massive wealth." Appelbaum continued, "We don't need the head of Macy's to turn over his bonus to his employees. We want him to recognize that his employees need to be treated with dignity."
Appelbaum likened Wolfson’s move to John D. Rockefeller handing out dimes so that the public would have a better opinion of him. Honestly, I didn’t even entertain the idea that Wolfson made the decision so that the public would think better of him. There are certainly better ways to raise one’s public reputation.
I also wouldn’t consider Wolfson’s gift to be charity; in my opinion, it is no different than handing out a bonus that didn’t start off as someone else’s. A bonus is a bonus, whether or not it was the CEO’s bonus first.
I do agree with Appelbaum’s statement that all employees should be treated with dignity. Wolfson’s unconventional bonus payout isn’t un-dignifying, though, and so I will continue to say kudos to his decision.
What do you think: a generous offer or purely an act to garner public support?
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