CEO Under Fire for Saying His Employees Need to Work Longer Hours — For No Extra Pay In a holiday email to employees, he told his staff, 'There is not a lot of history of laziness being rewarded with success.' Critics felt his message was 'out of touch.'

By Jonathan Small

Key Takeaways

  • Wayfair CEO Niraj Shah wrote an end-of-year email to staff espousing the joy of working longer hours.
  • He also encouraged them to blend work and life.
  • Critics say his message was tone-deaf.
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His end-of-year message was supposed to be a rallying cry to Wayfair workers, but CEO Niraj Shah's words are facing scrutiny for being tone-deaf.

An email Shah sent to 15,000 staff at the online furniture retail giant encouraged them to work longer hours and blend work and life during the holiday season. The full email was first published by Business Insider, but here's a quick taste:

"Winning requires hard work. I believe that most of us, being ambitious individuals, find fulfillment in the joy of seeing our efforts materialize into tangible results," Shah wrote. "Working long hours, being responsive, blending work and life, is not anything to shy away from. There is not a lot of history of laziness being rewarded with success. Hard work is an essential ingredient in any recipe for success. I embrace this, and the most successful people I know do as well."

Related: Bill Gates Says Lazy People Make the Best Employees. But Is Your Laziness Actually Masking a Deeper Issue?

To reinforce his message, Shah also advised the personnel not to get funny with Wayfair's money, encouraging them to spend company resources as if it were their own personal finances.

"I would also encourage you to think of any company money you spend as your own," he wrote. "Would you spend money on that, would you spend that much money for that thing, does that price seem reasonable, and lastly — have you negotiated the price?"

Related: Being 'Lazy' Paid Off: Her Failed Side Hustle Led to a Business That Brings in Over $100 Million a Year

Criticism of the message

The push for extended work hours without explicitly reimbursing employees for overtime did not sit well with many critics.

"If Wayfair wants to run a business where people work 80 hours a week, he's going to have to put up their salaries by 50% to pay them for it," Nicholas Bloom, an economics professor, told CNN anchor Richard Quest.

Quest said he "didn't know whether to laugh or cry" at the tone of the email. "It is so out of touch with what I think is best business practice," Quest said. "There's not a word in the CEO's email about courtesy to each other or kindness or respect."

Related: Hustle Culture 'Sucks' — But One Entrepreneur's 'Laziness Principle' Can Make You More Money With Less Work

Some on X agreed.

"He needs to hire more employees to fill positions, not try to stretch burned out workers even farther. If you can't afford to run a company right, then your company has failed," tweeted MissLadyMittens.

In a TikTok video, Bonnie Dibler said, "The end of year should be a time to celebrate — especially when your company is finally profitable again! Instead, this reads like folks just need to work even harder and sacrifice more for the business. Not the message thats going to keep your most talented people around IMO."

@bonniedilber The end of year should be a time to celebrate - especially when your company is finally profitable again! Instead, this reads like folks just need to work even harder and sacrifice more for the business. Not the message thats going to keep your most talented people around IMO. #workplaceculture #wayfair #corporatetok #careertok #endofyear ♬ original sound - Bonnie Dilber

Jonathan Small

Entrepreneur Leadership Network® VIP

Founder, Write About Now Media

Jonathan Small is an award-winning author, journalist, producer, and podcast host. For 25 years, he has worked as a sought-after storyteller for top media companies such as The New York Times, Hearst, Entrepreneur, and Condé Nast. He has held executive roles at Glamour, Fitness, and Entrepreneur and regularly contributes to The New York Times, TV Guide, Cosmo, Details, Maxim, and Good Housekeeping. He is the former “Jake” advice columnist for Glamour magazine and the “Guy Guru” at Cosmo.

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