When Amazon founder and former CEO Jeff Bezos self-financed his post-divorce space tour, he received nearly as much media coverage in one day as the topic of climate change received in all of 2020.
Media Matters for America reporter Evlondo Cooper III tweeted the statistic the day Bezos took his little spin. The tweet received 36.6K likes – enough to be considered a viral tweet on the platform. In a follow-up tweet, he broke down the exact numbers. And they’re depressing.
“Broadcast TV morning shows aired 212 mins of coverage on Bezos’ space flight (including additional run-over time to cover the launch live); in 2020, morning show programs on these networks aired 267 minutes of coverage of climate change.”
And media coverage isn’t the only way these founders and executives are taking over. Early in the COVID-19 outbreak – you know, when us non-billionaires were struggling to keep afloat – the 614 billionaires that live in the United States earned a collective $931 billion between March and December 2020. That’s $31 billion more than the COVID-19 relief bill Congress passed in December 2020. Think what else that much money could do when it’s not in the hands of one person – a growing criticism of younger generations.
Just look at what this Cato Institute poll found:
“Young Americans are the only cohort in which a majority believe the wealthy didn’t earn their wealth. A slim majority (52 percent) of Americans under 30 say that “most” rich people in the United States got rich “by taking advantage of other people.” In contrast, a strong majority (72 percent) of seniors (65+) say that most wealthy people in America “earned their wealth” without exploiting people.
What those CEOs and billionaires are failing to realize is the generations that resent them are the ones currently taking over the workforce.
CEOs think they’re rockstars – they’re not
Since 1978, CEO pay has increased by 1,322 percent. Federal minimum wage? Not so much. It was $7.25 in 2009 and it’s $7.25 today.
While us commoners break out into internet arguments on whether a person deserves a living wage, these power players are laughing their way to the bank. Because in 2020, CEOs made 351 times more than the average worker and federal minimum wage. According to the Economic Policy Institute, “A worker paid the federal minimum of $7.25 today effectively earns 21 percent less than what their counterpart earned 12 years ago, after adjusting for inflation.”
Translation: CEOs are hoarding revenue that should be distributed to the workers that helped fuel their success.
Instead, they spend most of their money further proving how horribly out of touch they are with the rest of the world. Space Cowboy Jeffy isn’t the only stunt we’ve seen these founders and company heads pull – just the most extravagant.
Within the past year, we’ve seen Tesla CEO Elon Musk awkwardly host Saturday Night Live and Facebook Founder Mark Zuckerberg take a cringeworthy patriotic electric surfboard cruise on the Fourth of July.
Musk’s SNL stint grabbed the most attention, specifically for blurring the lines between entertainment and CEOs. The AV Club said by booking Musk as a host, SNL was “dabbling in a dangerous cult of personality” and The Guardian brutally – but fairly – surmised “This will go down as one of SNL’s worst episodes ever, although it would be wrong to lay the blame entirely at Musk’s feet.”
It’s because CEOs are not entertainers. They are not rockstars, actors, or anything of the sort. They run a business – period. End of sentence.
Flexible workers are saying ‘No’ to CEOs
By hoarding the company’s revenue for themselves, these business leaders are preventing their employees from living comfortably. While their employees are working long, demanding hours, the boss is not only profiting off their labor, but playing around on SNL to the workers’ detriment. And people are noticing.
The more cartoonishly out of touch billionaires, founders and CEOs make themselves out to be, the more they’re getting criticized.
In a 2020 Reuters/Ipsos poll, 4,411 respondents representing various backgrounds, 64 percent strongly or somewhat agreed that “the very rich should contribute an extra share of their total wealth each year to support public programs.”
In a YouGov America poll on billionaire favorability, U.S. adults showed unfavorable attitudes toward eight billionaires. It is important to note, however, that there is favorability toward certain billionaires across political party lines, with Democrats being more kind. For example, Oprah Winfrey has a 73 percent favorability rate among Democrats and Bill Gates has a 60 percent rate. The billionaire with the highest rate among Republicans is Elon Musk, who has 48 percent.
Regardless of what an individual person thinks of these big earners, the fact is that business leaders are a cause of a lot of workplace problems. In an SHRM survey, 84 percent of American workers said a bad boss creates unnecessary work stress.
In 2018 – two years before workers got a taste of boss boundaries, thanks to COVID-19 forcing everyone to go remote – people were at their wit’s end with bad bosses. According to Randstad USA’s workplace survey released during that year, “58 percent of workers say that they’d stay at jobs with lower salaries if that meant working for a great boss.”
With COVID-19 being the tipping point, newly remote workers now had a physical boundary between them and management. And that boundary had a deep impact on them. An impact that resulted in 3.9 million U.S. workers quitting their jobs in June this year. That number is close to April 2021’s statistics – with four million job resignations – which rose as vaccinations began rolling out and workers felt more confident to seek out greener pastures.
And some of those greener pastures are independent life, with the freelance industry increasing as people realize how many more resources are available to them to become flexible workers. In 2020’s second quarter – when many people were unemployed due to COVID-19 – Freelancer.com’s job postings increased by 41 percent. The work was there and the workers were ready.
And the trend is not going away, either. Workers are partial to remote options, while many CEOs are digging their heels in, preferring in-person environments. The problem is, these CEOs are ignoring the stats that say they need to change their behavior, and fast.
Lindsay Patton is a self-employed writer and social media strategist. A leader for most of her career, Lindsay has managed more than 250 direct employees and loves mentoring young talent to help grow their skills. She spent seven years as a reporter and editor and is still an active writer and journalist. In 2016, Lindsay started taking social media seriously and the skill quickly became one of her specialties. Within the past two years, Lindsay has been invited to speak on social media and leadership in the workplace by Ernst & Young, Social Media Day PHL, The W.E.L.L. Summit, and more. She has found happiness in the self-employed life because it allows her the flexibility to spend quality time with her husband and their two goofball dogs.