CEO Ian Sohn posts memo to employees: Never ‘apologize for having lives’
Ian Sohn, president of creative tech agency Wunderman Chicago, has a few choice words for employees who eschew work for other responsibilities.
In an open letter that’s going viral, Sohn tells his employees that he “never” wants them to “apologize for having lives.”
“I never need to know you’ll be in late because of a dentist appointment — or that you’re leaving early for your kid’s soccer game,” he writes in the LinkedIn post that’s received nearly 19,000 likes.
He continues, “I deeply resent how we’ve infantilized the workplace … that we don’t trust adults to make the right decisions.”
Sohn tells USA Today that work-life balance is a priority for him and his 17,000 staffers worldwide. “Like any modern business … there’s an additional need to respect other people’s lives and environment you work in, and everyone is accountable for getting their job done,” he says.
In the letter, he recalls a time when a “very senior colleague reacted with incredulity that I couldn’t fly on 12 hours notice because I had my kids that night,” says the divorced father of two boys, aged 8 and 12.
“I didn’t feel the least bit guilty, which I could tell really bothered said colleague. But it still felt horrible,” he writes, adding, “I never want you” — his employee — “to feel horrible for being a human being.”
Sohn says he realizes his privilege as CEO, but hopes other employers will take his words to heart.
“I know it’s actually very easy for me to say this, and I’m grateful I can have this point of view,” he tells USA Today. He goes on to explain that he’s not just paying lip service here.
“I didn’t come up with it sitting on my bed drinking coffee. This is a behavior and belief shaped by colleagues, bosses and mentors who have demonstrated this to me over the years.”
In less than a week since he published the memo, Sohn has received over 800 comments, mostly supportive.
“The world needs more leaders like Ian,” replied Katherine Dumanoir, a recruiter.
Many told stories of how their own bosses had demanded they divulge sensitive information to explain their time off.
“I needed to have a minor surgery and the reasons were very personal,” writes Melissa Hammond, a supervisor. She says her superior asked her for “every little detail” about why she needed surgery, even though Hammond had the sick days covered through work benefits.
“I took the leave and had the surgery but now I never want to ask for time off because I don’t want the third degree,” she says, adding praise for Sohn. “Kudos to you for being understanding.”
While Sohn claims to be practicing what he preaches, reviews on Glassdoor.com reveal more than a few hard feelings over Wunderman’s leadership.
“Company culture results in over worked and underpaid employees,” wrote one disgruntled employee on May 8, who claims to work as an operational service manager for Wunderman in Houston, Texas.
A former service associate in Richardson, Texas, said, “They don’t care about their employees.”
The post dated March 14 claimed there is “a lot of uncompensated overtime” and that some managers are “absolutely terrible to the point that you want to quit,” but concedes that “some managers are great.”
“It’s really a gamble,” the review concludes.
Overall, the company is rated 3.6 out of 5 stars — above the site average of around 3.4 stars. Several other reviews do praise the company’s employee-first culture.
“Great benefits, flex time, great people, lots of time off,” writes a current Wunderman software engineer based in Mission, Kan. Another says the company does indeed deliver on Sohn’s promise:
“Work life balance does exist.”
Source: Read Full Article