A boss of one of one of the world’s biggest accountancy firms has told hundreds of staff to “stop moaning” and “playing the victim” about COVID work conditions.
Bill Michael, the chair of KPMG in the U.K., was speaking at a virtual meeting on Monday that discussed working conditions during the COVID-19 pandemic, and he has since apologized for the way his comments came across.
KPMG is one of the so-called Big Four accountancy firms, and some staff had been recently told they would be getting a pay cut.
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Firms in Europe and the U.S. have been trying to strike the right balance between helping staff, many who are working from home and having to educate their children, and supporting staff to achieve work goals.
Staff didn’t take kindly to Michael’s comments, with one reportedly telling the Financial Times, which was first with this story, “If someone tells you to stop moaning in the middle of a recession and when people are dying, that tells you everything. It’s incredibly insensitive.”
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Michael, who himself had been hospitalized after testing positive for COVID-19, wrote an email to staff apologizing, saying: “I know that words matter and I regret the ones I chose to use today. I think lockdown is proving difficult for all of us. I am very sorry for what I said and the way that I said it.
“I can only imagine what you and your families are going through and what you’re continuing to contend with each and every day. Having endured my own experiences, I should have appreciated the impact it’s having on all of us.”
KPMG was approached for a comment.