Topic of the Week Ding Dong of the Year
- Ran Hostess into bankruptcy
- Failed to update product line
- Laid off over 18,000 workers
- Asked for a $1.8 million bonus
The headline was hard to miss: "Judge Approves $1.8 million for Hostess Executives." Over 18,000 people lost their jobs and these executives asked for, and received, a bonus so they could be retained during final stages of dismantling the company they ran into the ground.
I thought the Workplace911 Hall of Shame would never again see greed like the banking executives displayed during the financial crisis: Merrill Lynch executive office remodels, AIG bonus payments, Lehman's demise, etc. But the Twinkie crew actually makes Mr. Burns, Ari Gold and Michael Scott look like actual human beings.
Hostess executives reached new lows in 2012, hence they are the winners of my first Ding Dong of the Year Award.
A few props to the 18,000 people who lost their jobs. This is very real to me because only a few blocks from my home is a shuttered Hostess plant. I've seen these workers for many years and they aren't just statistics to me, they're real people in real hairnets.
Not only are they out of jobs but the company executives, and much of the financial press, blamed the employees and their greedy unions for the company's demise. We can debate whether it is worse to accept another round of pay cuts or to lose your job. But I can appreciate that there comes a point where you've just got to scream "No."
Let's look at the numbers: the employees were asked to take a 30% cut while the CEO was going to receive a 300% raise. Clearly shame or integrity is not a part of the vocabulary when serving as a Hostess executive.
According to the Wall Street Journal, the CEO would see his salary go from $750,000 to $2,550,000, a VP from $500,000 to $900,000 and another VP from $400,000 to $700,000. The Journal also wrote about how challenging it can be to take a company into liquidation and that it is an accepted business practice to offer incentives to executives during this process. Really?
There were a few reports that the executives did not accept all of these raises, but I'm offended that they even asked for them.
What didn't receive nearly enough attention was that in a whole grain and gluten-free world Hostess executives seemed to believe that products that delighted customers in the last century would cut it today. I understand that when we go to a concert we want to hear the bands greatest hits, not their new tunes. But companies have to be constantly reinventing their products to remain vital today. If there is a graphic in Wikipedia for asleep-at-the-wheel it would have to be a Twinkie these days.
I think people would be a lot less cynical if bonuses were given based on helping a company reach new heights rather than cleaning up the debris that the same group of executives created in the first place, but I've always been old-school that way.
Bob Rosner is a best-selling author and award-winning journalist. For free job and work advice, check out the award-winning workplace911.com. Check the revised edition of his Wall Street Journal best seller, "The Boss's Survival Guide." If you have a question for Bob, contact him via firstname.lastname@example.org.