The C-suite is a bundle of nerves this winter. A new survey shows that 72 per cent of chief executives are worried about losing their jobs in 2022 because of business disruptions, tracking closely with the 94 per cent of bosses who say their corporate models need to be overhauled within three years.
“That’s eye-poppingly high,” says Simon Freakley, chief executive of management consulting firm AlixPartners, the source of the survey. “Disruptive forces like the supply chain and labour market are all playing out simultaneously.”
Big bosses are always worried about losing their jobs, especially at public companies, where the potential for a sudden adios comes with the cushy chair. But the fear-of-imminent-firing figure surged from 52 per cent in 2020, which itself was a high-anxiety year.
AlixPartners took the pulse of 3,000 chief executives and executives at the director level and above across 10 industries, half with revenue of more than $1 billion. The pool was dispersed across North America, Europe, the Middle East and Asia-Pacific.
Supply chain, labour market and digitalisation topped executives’ list of concerns. While the global pandemic exacerbated the situation, Covid-19 itself was notably missing from the top 10 concerns for 2022, with only 3 per cent of executives citing the virus as their main worry.
Mr Freakley, in an interview, said he has a theory as to what is driving the fear of being ousted: leaders who were relieved to survive 2020 with their business intact discovered in 2021 that, instead of pressures ebbing, they were mired in a continuing pandemic even as shareholders demanded growth.
“They realised that their business models, which have served them well for a number of years, are largely now not fit for the purpose” and they’re rushing to build local, regional and global supply chains, Mr Freakley said.
“We went from what was a rolling sea of worry about economic cycles to a choppy sea of all these disruptive forces.”
So far, the anxiety is not yet showing up in data. Chief executive departures in the US — regardless of whether they were fired or only retired or moved to different jobs — rose 1.1 per cent through November from the same period in 2020, researcher Challenger, Gray & Christmas reported.