4 Quotes from Tone-Deaf Executives in 2023

From Elon Musk to Bob Iger, these top executives couldn't help but remind us how out of touch with everyday people they are.

Let’s be honest, some business executives just don’t get it. Whether it be their massive paychecks or their private jets, something is preventing these leaders of the business world from understanding what it’s like to be an everyday person.

As a result, these executives have a tendency to say the darndest things, on and off camera, that make them seem more out of touch than even the most celebrated of celebrities.

Luckily for you, we’ve collected some of the most egregious examples of tone-deaf executives unwisely opening their mouths and putting their feet in them.

Tim Gurner, CEO of The Gurner Group

Just this week, an Australian real estate CEO went viral for his almost-aggressively out of touch remarks on the economy at the Australian Financial Review conference.

“Employees feel the employer is extremely lucky to have them, as opposed to the other way around. We’ve got to kill that attitude, and that has to come through hurting the economy.”

At a time when average CEO pay is nearly 300 times larger than average worker pay and more and more everyday people are living paycheck to paycheck, the idea of getting unemployment to “jump by as much as 50%” to better your bottom line is so out of touch that we decided to write this article about it.

Mike Hopkins, Senior Vice President of Amazon Video and Studios

Over the last year, executives around the world have gotten rid of work-from-home policies, pushing return-to-office mandates like they’re going out of style.

Companies like Amazon naturally received a lot of backlash for the decision. Fortunately, the company had a lot of information and data to back up the decision to assuage employees that were greatly impacted by the added cost of commuting. Just kidding! They didn’t have any data beyond a hunch!

“I don’t have data to back it up, but I know it’s better.” – Hopkins

There’s no denying this tone-deaf statement would irk employees, and it did. In fact, the company has been battling with its workers since the mandate was established, and the errors in RTO rollout have caused serious issues for the ecommerce giant.

Elon Musk, CEO of X

Obviously, there are plenty of examples out there of Elon Musk — the controversial CEO of X, SpaceX, and Tesla — making it obvious that he’s out of touch with his many employees.

One prime example was his opinion on remote work. When he dismantled the flexible policies at Twitter and Tesla, he had some choice words about the policy that ruffled quite a few feathers.

“It’s not just a productivity thing. I think it’s morally wrong.” – Musk on remote work

We can all admit that calling remote work “morally wrong” is laughably incorrect. Not only has the post-pandemic shift towards flexible working arrangements been a boon for work-life balance, but it’s also improved productivity and even revenue for businesses around the world.

Bob Iger, CEO of Disney

For more than 100 days, writers and actors in Hollywood have been striking for fair pay. With streaming platforms and movie studios raking in hundreds of millions — sometimes even billions — of dollars for TV shows and movies, being able to offer fair wages seems like a no-brainer.

However, executives across the board of been flippant about the demands, with Bob Iger, the CEO of Disney, stepping in it a few months ago when he described the efforts for fair pay like this:

“There’s a level of expectation that they have that is just not realistic.”

Considering Bob Iger’s yearly salary as the CEO of Disney is a whopping $27 million, it’s fair to assume that he might not have his finger on the pulse in regard to what is exactly realistic in this business.

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Written by:
Conor is the Lead Writer for Tech.co. For the last six years, he’s covered everything from tech news and product reviews to digital marketing trends and business tech innovations. He's written guest posts for the likes of Forbes, Chase, WeWork, and many others, covering tech trends, business resources, and everything in between. He's also participated in events for SXSW, Tech in Motion, and General Assembly, to name a few. He also cannot pronounce the word "colloquially" correctly. You can email Conor at conor@tech.co.
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