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CEO Under Fire for Saying His Employees Need to Work Longer Hours — For No Extra Pay

JONATHAN SMALL

Dec 26, 2023

His end-of-year message was supposed to be a rallying cry to Wayfair workers, but CEO Niraj Shah's words are facing scrutiny for being tone-deaf.


An email Shah sent to 15,000 staff at the online furniture retail giant encouraged them to work longer hours and blend work and life during the holiday season. The full email was first published by Business Insider, but here's a quick taste:


"Winning requires hard work. I believe that most of us, being ambitious individuals, find fulfillment in the joy of seeing our efforts materialize into tangible results," Shah wrote. "Working long hours, being responsive, blending work and life, is not anything to shy away from. There is not a lot of history of laziness being rewarded with success. Hard work is an essential ingredient in any recipe for success. I embrace this, and the most successful people I know do as well."


"I would also encourage you to think of any company money you spend as your own," he wrote. "Would you spend money on that, would you spend that much money for that thing, does that price seem reasonable, and lastly — have you negotiated the price?"


Criticism of the message


The push for extended work hours without explicitly reimbursing employees for overtime did not sit well with many critics.


"If Wayfair wants to run a business where people work 80 hours a week, he's going to have to put up their salaries by 50% to pay them for it," Nicholas Bloom, an economics professor, told CNN anchor Richard Quest.


Quest said he "didn't know whether to laugh or cry" at the tone of the email. "It is so out of touch with what I think is best business practice," Quest said. "There's not a word in the CEO's email about courtesy to each other or kindness or respect."


Some on X agreed.


"He needs to hire more employees to fill positions, not try to stretch burned out workers even farther. If you can't afford to run a company right, then your company has failed," tweeted MissLadyMittens.




In a TikTok video, Bonnie Dibler said, "The end of year should be a time to celebrate — especially when your company is finally profitable again! Instead, this reads like folks just need to work even harder and sacrifice more for the business. Not the message thats going to keep your most talented people around IMO."





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