America’s Most Hated CEOs

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Kevin Kennedy, CEO Avaya

4. Kevin Kennedy
> CEO approval rating: 28%
> Company: Avaya
> Glassdoor company rating: 2.7 / 5.0
> Tenure as CEO: 8 years

Lead by CEO Kevin Kennedy, Avaya provides products and services for business communications. Kennedy has a PhD in engineering and also serves President Barack Obama on the National Security Telecommunications Advisory Committee. Despite these credentials, he is not well-regarded by his employees.

Employees frequently complain of being squeezed by the company, often working long hours without the reward of an annual pay raise. One reviewer wrote, “No raises, promotions, or work-life balance.” Meanwhile, Kennedy’s total compensation went from $1.3 million in 2012 to $7.4 million in 2013, a 454% spike, more than any other chief executive in the tech industry that year.

Heinz Logo

3. Bernardo Hees
> CEO approval rating: 25%
> Company: Kraft Heinz Company
> Glassdoor company rating: 2.6 / 5.0
> Tenure as CEO: 1 year

H.J. Heinz merged with Kraft Foods Group in July 2015, forming the third largest food and beverage company in North America — The Kraft Heinz Company. Bernardo Hees, CEO of Heinz since 2013, stayed on as CEO of the combined company. For the 22,000 employees of Kraft who were placed under new management, Hees’s introduction as CEO was accompanied by mass layoffs, cost-cutting measures, and changes in corporate culture. Less than a month after the merger was completed, Kraft Heinz removed the free snacks from its Chicago headquarters, cut employee travel budgets, and banned employees from bringing its rival food products into the office. Many employees on Glassdoor cite cost-cutting measures as the primary drawback to working at the company.

John Fallon

2. John Fallon
> CEO approval rating: 24%
> Company: Pearson
> Glassdoor company rating: 2.8 / 5.0
> Tenure as CEO: 4 years

Education company Pearson provides products and services to schools, governments, and individuals in more than 70 countries. The company is over a century old and in recent years has attempted to transition into the age of the Internet. For example, in the summer of 2015, Pearson sold the The Financial Times and The Economist to Japan-based newspaper holding company Nikkei Inc. CEO John Fallon said the sale was an effort to consolidate and spur growth. While the results of the strategy remain to be seen, the large reorganization effort appears to be putting employees on edge.

U.S. politics has also contributed to Fallon’s unpopularity. Fallon’s critics from the left claim the company’s motives cannot include both profit and the company’s stated altruistic goals of improving educational outcomes. He is also criticized by the right for profiting from the federal education standards, which are widely opposed by many conservatives.

Edward S. Lampert, CEO Sears

1. Edward S. Lampert
> CEO approval rating: 20%(Sears) 22%(Kmart)
> Company: Sears Holdings Company
> Glassdoor company rating: 2.6 / 5.0
> Tenure as CEO: 3 years

Sears Holdings controls Sears and Kmart, two of the nation’s largest department stores. Edward Lampert, CEO of the holding company, is the most disliked CEO of any major company. Only 22% of Kmart employees and 20% of Sears employees approve of Lampert, according to reviews on Glassdoor. Many complaints center around layoffs and stagnant wages, likely attributable to falling sales. The company’s revenue has declined substantially in recent years, from $36.2 billion in its fiscal 2014 to $25.1 billion in fiscal 2016. Lampert is likely unpopular with company shareholders too. Over the past three years, under his watch, the company’s stock price plummeted by 70%.

Lampert has received a base salary of $1.00 in each of the past three years he has served as CEO. A nearly non-existent base salary appears to be a public relations stunt as his total annual compensation, including stock awards, has been at least $4 million since 2013, peaking at $5.7 million in fiscal 2014.