Special Report

America's Most Hated CEOs

Two-thirds of all employees approve of their CEO, according to employee review forum Glassdoor. Not all CEOs are regarded so well, however.

To identify the most hated CEOs, 24/7 Wall St. compiled CEO ratings and employee satisfaction reviews from Glassdoor — this is not a Glassdoor commissioned report. Eddie Lampert, CEO of Sears Holdings, is the worst rated CEO. Louis Welch rounds out the list with fewer than one third of employees giving him a favorable review.

Companies with the most likeable CEOs share several common characteristics that companies with the least likable CEOs lack. For example, CEOs who also founded their companies tend to have higher approval ratings than CEOs who were appointed. Just two of the 10 CEOs with the lowest approval ratings also helped found their company.

Click here to see the 10 most hated CEOs.

Employees at companies with low CEO approval ratings cite dissatisfaction with other members of upper management as well. Senior management workers at these companies are frequently described as incompetent, difficult to communicate with, and compensated with unjustifiably large salaries.

According to the 2016 Glassdoor study, “What Makes a Great CEO?,” CEOs with higher compensations tend to have lower approval ratings. The typical CEO in 2014 earned 204 times the median salary of an employee at a S&P 500 company. Although rising CEO compensation is generally a result of improved financial performance, high CEO salaries do not always reflect the financial well-being of the company. At Motorola Solutions, for example, CEO Greg Brown was compensated $13.3 million in 2015, up 67% from the year before — even as the company’s profits fell from $1.3 billion to $613 million. Motorola Solutions employees commonly complain about low pay and the disparity in incomes between upper management and lower-level positions.

On the other hand, some CEOs have been criticized for focusing too much on profits and shareholders at the expense of the employees. For example, Heinz CEO Bernardo Hees has been credited with increased profits at the company, which were promised to shareholders after H.J. Heinz merged with Kraft Foods Group in July 2015. However, Hees may have accomplished this with mass layoffs, other cost-cutting measures, and changes in corporate culture. Many employees on Glassdoor cite the cost-cutting measures as the primary drawback to working at the company.

Some industries tend to have higher CEO approval ratings than others. The industries with the highest average CEO approval ratings are real estate, construction, and information technology. Meanwhile, the industry with the lowest average CEO approval ratings is retail. Of the 10 CEOs with the lowest approval ratings, four are the leaders of retail companies.

To identify the most hated CEOs, 24/7 Wall St. reviewed ratings of acting CEOs and employee satisfaction reviews on Glassdoor. Only companies with more than 1,000 reviews and 200 CEO ratings were considered. Financial data for publicly traded companies came from financial documents filed with the Security and Exchange Commission.

These are the 10 most hated CEOs.

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