A majority of Europeans believes top managers are paid too much, are often dishonest, and above all put their own interests ahead of those of their companies and the public. As a result, almost two-thirds think the earnings of top managers should be legally regulated and the decisions taken in management suites should be more transparent.
In a survey conducted by GfK Ad Hoc Research for The Wall Street Journal Europe, 70 percent said top managers were paid too much. One third of those interviewed went so far as to say they are without doubt overpaid—with 60 percent of British respondents and 50 percent of Swedes and central Europeans holding that view.
Two-thirds of those interviewed in Western Europe think top managers should be compelled by law to publish details of their total earnings and benefits package. In Central Europe, three quarters of those interviewed supported this demand. More than half (56 percent) of Western Europeans and over three quarters of those living in Central Europe believe that the state should control or limit the pay of top earners.
An overwhelming majority (83 percent) of those interviewed suspect CEOs of putting their own personal interests first. The view that top managers are not always honest is almost as commonly held. Germans, Dutch, Spanish and Poles are least likely to believe in the honesty of top management, with only 15 percent accepting their honesty.
Interviewees agreed that top management should not be the only beneficiaries from the commercial success enjoyed by the business. Forty percent said that if share prices rose, then the pay of all employees should be increased. This view is particularly likely to be held by Germans and Swedes, with a score of 50 percent in both countries.
Thirty percent of Western Europeans said they found dismissals acceptable that when business is doing really badly, and about a third believe that dismissals should only be undertaken if the staff council or the union agree. The influence of the unions is particularly strong in Germany: 55 percent of those interviewed in Germany would like dismissals only to occur with the agreement of those affected. Just 16 percent would recognize the threat of bankruptcy as an argument for cutting jobs.