Which companies have the most likable CEOs?

The approval rating of CEOs v how likely employees are to recommend company

Glassdoor asks employees whether they’d recommend a company to a friend and whether they approve of the CEO. For the most part, you would expect those two numbers to match closely. And for the most part they do, but there are some interesting ways in which they don’t.

I am an unabashaed Jamie Dimon fan

I looked at data from Glassdoor for the Fortune 100 and you can see the results below.

You can hover over the data here and check it out. Points below the trend line mean employees approve of the CEO less than average relative to how much they approve of the company, and vice versa.

I also took the difference between the CEO’s approval score and the company’s recommended score and plotted the biggest deviations from 0. This shows the CEOs whose approval rating is a lot lower or higher than the company as a whole:

It looks like AmerisourceBergen’s CEO is the most well-liked CEO as measured by the difference between his approval score and the company’s recommended score. He looks like a rather genial guy, and watching 10 seconds of this YouTube video he comes across as genuine and has a nice accent.

Conversely, Doug Parker at American Airlines under-indexes on approval compared to how likely employees recommend the company. He looks nice enough too, I suppose, but is perhaps less compelling on video.

There are a few other interesting things about the data:

  • People are more likely to approve of the CEO than to recommend the company to a friend. It is easier to dislike a faceless corporation than to blame a human who you can see speak. I think there is a cognitive bias that relates to this, but I can’t seem to find it. If you know it, let me know.
  • Big Tech employees are mostly behind their companies and CEOs. Facebook’s Zuckerberg, Microsoft’s Satya Nadella and Apple’s Tim Cook are all clustered in the top right. It’s easy to get caught up in the controversy surrounding big tech but it seems like employees at those companies are still behind their leadership.
  • Generally, it looks like the most profitable companies with the highest-paid workforces are top right, and as you move down to the left you see more retailers and other companies with lower margins and lower-paid workforces. If anyone wants to use this data and look at it by industry, let me know on twitter or email me (joe at this website).
  • Delta Air Lines has surprisingly high ratings and both dimensions. Given that American Airlines’ CEO is disliked relative to the company and that Delta’s employees aren’t as highly-paid as, say Facebook’s, this seems abnormal to me. Maybe the travel perks are really that good.

There is a lot more analysis that would be cool here. Are the CEOs that over-index more charismatic? Do they get better press, have longer tenures? Does the CEO’s gender or race matter? If you’re interested in the data and would like to play with it, let me know on twitter or via email at joe @ this website.

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