Sunday, April 19, 2009

SOUND OFF: Bonus Question

In an informal poll on my column's blog, 75 percent of respondents said that it is never OK for a CEO to receive a bonus in a year when the company hasn't met its predetermined expectations for earnings, profits and overall company performance. Of the remainder, 16 percent thought it was OK only if bonuses were a standard part of the compensation for the CEO's job, while 5 percent thought it was OK only if the shortfall was due to economic conditions beyond the CEO's control. Only 2 percent of readers thought it was always OK to pay a CEO a bonus even in years when expectations aren't met.

"It's part of a CEO's job to evaluate the risks of how the economy or other factors ... might affect operations," writes Phil Clutts of Harrisburg, N.C. "If the company has done poorly because of misfortune or planned losses, the top dog is not entitled to a bonus."

"In these times when companies are receiving huge amounts from the U.S. government, that money should be used in total to revive the company, not the executives or employees or shareholders," writes George Zahka of Bradenton Beach, Fla. "If the company's condition is due to malfeasance or dishonesty, then they should be prosecuted."

Check out other opinions here, or post your own by clicking on "Comments" or "Post a comment" below.

Jeffrey L. Seglin, author of The Right Thing: Conscience, Profit and Personal Responsibility in Today's Business and The Good, the Bad, and Your Business: Choosing Right When Ethical Dilemmas Pull You Apart, is an associate professor at Emerson College in Boston, where he teaches writing and ethics. He is also the administrator of The Right Thing, a Web log focused on ethical issues.

Do you have ethical questions that you need answered? Send them to or to "The Right Thing," The New York Times Syndicate, 500 Seventh Avenue, 8th floor, New York, NY 10018. Please remember to tell me who you are, where you're from, as well as where you read the column.

c.2009 The New York Times Syndicate (Distributed by The New York Times Syndicate)

1 comment:

Mark Peterson said...

It's no one's business but the board and shareholders as to whether or not the CEO gets a bonus. For the Obama administration or anyone posting here or anywhere else to lay claim to a say-so in the matter of CEO bonuses is ridiculous and really taking things to a dangerous place. We don't live in a direct democracy where uninformed citizens make policy decisions.

Unfortunately we have a new "leader" who is the most populist politician to ever come into power. When I infer that uninformed citizens should not be make policy decisions, I can cite as an example Obama's change in stance regarding Iraq and Afganistan once he moved from citizen to president and became informed as to the truth of these matters. Get it? If not, please try to. Otherwise, you represent a danger to freedom as we now know it. Thank you.