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Undercover Boss: 23% of U.S. Employees Don't Know Who Their CEO Is

Could you pick your CEO out of a lineup? No? I'll give you a minute to look up his or her bio on the company webpage.


If your CEO's name doesn't roll off the tip of your tongue, then know that you're not alone! Nearly one-quarter (23%) of U.S. employees can't identify their CEO, according to a recent survey from APPrise Mobile, a mobile employee communications company. APPrise Mobile bases this finding on a Google Consumer Survey of 1,000 U.S. respondents who work for companies with 500 or more employees.

Who's My CEO Again?
Employees in the 18-to-24 demographic are most likely not to know their CEO's name or face. On a good note, two-thirds of employees in the 18-to-24 age range surveyed (66%) do know the name of their company's chief executive, while 78% of employees over the age of 25 can identify their CEO, as well. So, the majority of employees do know who sits atop the corporate pyramid chart.

Still, 23% of our co-workers have no clue who their CEO is! That's a little bit...I don't know what. Disconcerting? Not all surprising somehow? All I know is that this survey feels like an episode of the CBS reality show Undercover Boss, where 23% of U.S. employees have just discovered that their new co-worker of two weeks is really the company CEO! And they've been complaining about their jobs the whole time! They think they're about to get fired, but the CEO appreciates their highly-negative "feedback" in an effort to make things better. Whew.


In real life, however, APPrise Mobile theorizes that the one-two punch of physical distance and technology is creating work environments where a significant number of employees...don't know who they work for, exactly? We literally do work for "The Man" now, because we don't know his name.** From the APPrise press release:

The disconnect is understandable as the overwhelming majority of those surveyed (71 percent) do not work in the same location as their CEO while slightly less than half (46 percent) said they have actually met their CEO in person.

Given the dispersed nature of the workforce and greater flexibility given to employees when it comes to working remotely, the survey found that top executives are falling back on the impersonal and easy to misunderstand means of communication – email, rather than making face-to-face or similar types of efforts. More than two-thirds of those responding to APPrise Mobile’s survey (69 percent) pinpointed email as the most common method of communication from the organization’s top executive. However, only 16 percent said they receive communications from their CEO on a weekly basis and another 16 percent said they never hear from him or her at all which contributes to their lack of awareness of who their leader is.

APPrise Mobile's explanation makes sense to me, since we're working more remotely and communicating primarily by (faceless) email and text these days. Meanwhile, a significant number of American employees feel disconnected from top leadership that doesn't do much management by walking around anymore, and never bothers to get in touch just to say "hi." We all need to work hard at relationships to keep them going strong.

CEOs of mid-to-large-sized companies will have to work harder to create basic connections with employees. Maybe we need CEO Awareness Week, the week when we recognize our virtually unrecognizable corporate CEOs? Maybe US Magazine could start a "CEOs -- They're Just Like Us!" section? Hmm. At least we'll always have Undercover Boss.

** Or her name!

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