Employees Still Follow CEOs Who Fail To Promote Work/Life Balance

Employees, it seems, accept burdens when asked to do so by people they view as truly strong leaders.

by James Wohr
work life balance

Every year, Glassdoor, the job site that allows employees to anonymously rate their work environments, ranks the top 100 CEO in America. Every year, there are some familiar names on the list, including Elon Musk and Mark Zuckerberg. That seems intuitive given that only the leaders of companies with over 1,000 workers are eligible. What’s not intuitive and frankly disconcerting is that outside of the top two CEOs none of the business leaders in the top 10 received much praise for creating an environment conducive to work/life balance. The top-rated CEOs, who generally scored received satisfaction ratings well north of 90 percent, were seen as effective, not kind.

For context, the first CEO on the list with a rating below 90 percent was ranked 85th and the whole list averaged out at 72 percent. The top 10 were elite and, even so, only the top two managed to be both elite and almost uniformly seen as interested in making their employees private lives sustainable and fulfilling. Outside of the top two positions—awarded to Benno Dorer of Clorox and Jim Kavanaugh of World Wide Technology, a technology service provider, results were mixed, with many employees stating their jobs were unnecessarily stressful.

One of the most common excuses for failure to support work/life balance was expansion. Newer, rapidly expanding businesses like the third-ranked entry, Boston Scientific (a medical supply manufacturer) were accused of overextending employees past the point of exhaustion. But those accusation were couched in the understanding that success both justified and warranted that behavior. Elon Musk was called out for privileging progress over employee happiness. But he was still ranked eight. People want to work for Elon Musk even though working for Elon Musk is challenging.

Employees, it seems, accept burdens when asked to do so by people they view as truly strong leaders. Those very same people, it seems, may overlook the needs of those that follow them.

Glassdoor’s goal in releasing the list was to highlight how certain managerial skills and practices could be of use to up-and-coming businesses. Will emerging businesses take a page out of Clorox’s book and think of their employees work/life balance first? Probably not and that might have a lot to do with their employees willingness to go along for a ride.