Dan Price was once the CEO who realized that he was making much more money than his employees. So he decided to pay every single one of his employees $70,000 (USD) while taking a 90% pay cut. But his story didn’t end there. Now, he has been charged with assault. Join Debra Adey and lisa Schmidt as they talk about the August 18, 2022 New York Times article on the Dan Price allegations, and how they reacted when they learned one of the CEOs they once happily retweeted turned out to have a completely different persona than was presented on social media. Further, find out why coming out with an allegation, as a woman, is so hard to do.
Listen to the episode on YouTube here
Ask Us Anything: Dan Price
WTF is Going On with Dan Price?
Debra and I were talking and realized we hadn’t done an Ask Us Anything for you for a while. We have been asking each other a pretty big question. This episode is going to be Debra and I having a conversation we’ve agreed not to have until we started to do it, because we want to know what the other one thought or how each of us would answer it.
What we’re going to be talking about in this episode is an article that appeared in the New York Times on the 18th of August, 2022 about the entrepreneur, Dan Price. Some of you may remember or know who this man is. He runs an organization called Gravity Payments. A few years back around 2015, he realized that he was making so much more money than other people in his organization or employees that he decided to pay every single one of his employees $70,000 after reading some research on what it took to what salary it would take to be happy at work. He took a massive 90% pay cut to make this happen.
He was lauded everywhere for being this incredible CEO with tons of foresight about what it took for employees to be happy at work. Much of what he did was to post what he was doing on social media but he would tout these progressive workplace practices and admonish greed, poor treatment or outdated workplace practices. He was very critical of typical capitalist CEO behavior. This article in the Times on August the 18th, 2022 tells a different story about Dan Price. Debra, why don’t you tell us a little bit about what we learned in this article and what your reaction was?
Thank you for that. It’s very thoughtful. That was an amazing introduction to this. To clarify, the $70,000 was what he considered a living wage. It was like having a floor or a minimum salary, which was an interesting concept. It reduced the gap between what the minimum wage earner and the organization and CEO were earning. That struck a chord with me. He was quite a presence on social media. I often see him on LinkedIn because I followed him. I would often like, comment or share some of his stuff as well.
You sent me The New York Times article. Interestingly, I would recognize a picture of Dan Price but for whatever reason when I started looking at his picture, I started to get this sinking feeling. I’m like, “Whom are they talking about?” I had to get down a little bit before it was obvious. I then got this “Are you kidding me” reaction. He has charges against him of rape. Two women, in particular, have pressed charges. The case often in these situations is there are always a lot more people out there. The article said that there were two dozen women who had come forward and his ex-wife also accused him of some pretty horrendous acts of domestic violence, including being waterboarded. When I read that, I was about to vomit.
My reaction to this was partly feeling a sense of being duped, resentment in a way because here’s someone who I thought was a real thought leader and to your point, had a progressive approach to leadership that is important to you and me. The work that you and I do is around seeing more progressive leadership. The kinds of people whom we put on that pedestal so to speak, and I try not to put anybody on too much of a pedestal and I’m learning why, it matters.
The character of people matters. To learn about this individual was so disheartening. That’s the one part but another part of me was like, “Wait a minute, Deb. Who cares how you feel? It’s not about you.” Think about these women and the employees because several employees came forward to talk also about what’s happening behind the scenes. There’s a significant degree of manipulation happening here.
You have to wonder, “Is any of this who this guy is? Was it all a manipulation in a way to feed his ego, gain popularity and used that stage, quite frankly, to target women?” He was victimizing people. I’m not a mental health professional but this has got to be some sociopathic type of behavior that comes to mind for me. That’s my diagnosis. What about you?
This is similar to you, classic me scrolling through The New York Times, half not wanting to hear how terrible the world is and half wanting to read stories of people who are truly making a difference or even read a recipe that I might feel like making that day. When I saw the headline, I had a similar reaction to you. I barely reshare or retweet other things. I’m very cautious about what I like on social media. Occasionally, I would like something, go read everyone’s comments, rethink it and unlike it because I haven’t thought it through. I’ve had an instantaneous response.
The line that came to my head to borrow from the buyer beware is the retweeter beware. I put myself in this camp which I’m so starved for leaders and organizations to be role models for the kinds of behavior that you and I and numerous coaches, consultants and people who work on organizational culture are looking for and want to hear from. We want to promote progressive ideas from actual leaders, not necessarily from the big box consultants and all of that.Being highly intelligent doesn't excuse bad behavior. Click To Tweet
When we find someone who was aligned with the core beliefs that we have about the workplace, it’s nourishing. This article goes beyond sexism. The man is portraying himself as a feminist. When you read behind the curtain, his behavior is so egregious and abusive that it started to make me wonder about this idea that we have about other parts of life, where for instance, if somebody is an amazing actor or novelist, if in their personal life they do things we don’t agree with, can we still believe in some of the things that they believed in?
What got me with this is no, because there’s nothing to excuse this abusive, misogynist and illegal behavior but the other is these aren’t even his tweets. He has a ghostwriter creating these succinct ways of saying things that are sounding like, “This man is taking on capitalism and these jerk CEOs who were forcing people back to the office, even though they’d been productive working from home during the pandemic.” These aren’t even his words.
There’s this other deception here. He’s on this quest to be famous or fill a void in himself about his importance. Even if he hadn’t been this jerk abusing women, there’s still this whole fakeness around how he’s leveraged social media. When you read the article, the thing that astounded me was some stuff came out in 2015 and he was silent for a while on social media, built it back up and there was more and then something else happened. He then was accused of something, was silent for a while and built it up again.
The deception is equally as upset and angry as I am about the story and the allegations that he has vehemently disagreed with. This upsets me from the point of view of here’s somebody that we thought was saying something important that we were hanging a few our coats on hats on, yet again, it’s somebody who wants to be the shiny object and let us all down profoundly.
He was successful at developing a certain persona via social media to your point. It’s not real. You used the term what’s behind the curtain. I’m craving that authenticity and something real. I’m deeply curious to unpack what’s this guy all about. I’m curious about his childhood and upbringing. Something went wrong somewhere along the line. I don’t think people are born bad.
I’m going to use the term mental contrasting. Two things can be true at the same time. Somebody can be a great writer or a great musician and also engage in some inexcusable behavior. Is that the case for Dan Price? Was he an amazing leader and CEO? Was he a progressive thought leader and someone who is an abuser and a sexual predator?
In this case, they’re not true. This is about ego, manipulation and successfully building a persona to show the world, “This is what I want them to see.” Let’s also remember it takes an incredible amount of intelligence to do this. The two things that I can say are probably very true of him is he’s a highly intelligent person. That’s not an excuse. We can’t say, “This person’s bright and smart. Therefore, we’re going to excuse behaviors that are damaging.”
He was also a bully in the workplace. Imagine all the people. If anybody’s ever been in a situation where they felt bullied or abused, you know the ripple effect of that. It comes out in every aspect of your life and affects all your relationships. The ripple effect that Dan Price has had is him as the bully and the sexual predator. Everything else that he may have been about or achieved, although those ideas are worthy, the other side of it has to take precedent.
To me, there’s something remarkable about what I would call compartmentalizing because even after this article came out in The New York Times, Dan Price was still posting. He has a post of himself in a beautiful sunrise or sunset at a beach. He’s writing here on LinkedIn, “Everyone should get enough time off that they can have days to decompress and do what they want with a minimum obligation. Those days make people more productive in the long run anyway.”
The story has come out. Maybe some people haven’t read it but people are responding in the hundreds of comments below that they want to come work for him. You can see how compelling his message is. To me, the interesting and maybe more positive thing about this, if we could set Dan Price or the person aside is people are craving bosses whom they believe are authentic and willing to create workplaces where people can thrive. People are seeking this. We have evidence that people want this. Sadly, Dan Price is not one of those leaders that anybody should in their right mind be sending a resume to.Not everything in the world has to be divisive or binary. Click To Tweet
He did step down from his company. His Chief Operating Officer has taken over. The story remains to unfold itself. One thing, you did mention his ex-wife and I thought this was also an interesting piece that was revealed in the article. She had done a TED Talk, detailing the physical spousal abuse that she was a victim of at his hand and her surviving this relationship. After she did the talk, either he or someone on his team sent a message to the organizers of the TED talk to not put her talk online. It never was beyond the audience she spoke to. It never got further because there were questions about the legality of her talking about her experience.
What this reminds me of, to take a little step outside of the Dan Price conversation, is how often bad behavior on behalf of men is abuse. We’ve seen this with Hockey Canada and many others like Stormy Daniels and Donald Trump. “Let’s throw money at the woman who was raped, abused and beaten. Let’s put a gag on her she can’t even tell her story, even though this happened.” That to me is another distressing aspect of when women come forward with allegations, regardless of who the man is, how famous, what he’s done for a living and how beautiful his tweets are.
How beautiful his face and hair are. He’s the whole package. He’s good lucky, young and got that all-American look but in a hipster kind of way.
You mentioned compartmentalizing. I have a tweet that I do want to read. I also want to come back to this idea of women telling that story and being potentially silenced. I’ll unpack this one thing at a time. I have not learned my lesson. I’m experimenting on Twitter but I’m authentic and all out there. This started with The New York Times tweeted the article and like you, I was interested to see these comments and I did respond to one of them.
To your point about people still saying, “I’ll come work for you.” This is a response that I got and it says, “He’s a leftist so if YOU cared about democracy at all, you’d be looking the other way like the rest of us. If he was a Republican, then I would agree to send him to the gallows but he’s not. He’s one of us. Democracy is more important than anything.” First of all, we’re in Canada.
I’m restraining myself from laughing. Let me get this.
It took me a while to digest this too. Part of me is like, “This is one person on Twitter who gives a rat’s ass what somebody has to say.” I’m not going to let myself get too wound up about it but what this does illustrate is the idea of, are we willing to tolerate certain behaviors? The extent of the political division happening in the United States and seeing it in this black-and-white context is interesting. It made me feel very fortunate as I often do to be in Canada.
The other thing is if you read headlines, it’s easier to compartmentalize. A lot of the headlines were like, “He’s been accused of.” What does that mean? People give people the benefit of the doubt. It’s a bit of a stretch for me to think that someone could go a little deeper on this and come up with that comment. What’s that got you thinking?
First of all, why does everything have to be drawn into this divisive, “You’re with us or you’re against us?” I resist these binary ways of looking at the world. Some things are black and white. You can be pregnant or not. You can be dead or alive. To think that you’re either on the left or right, either a woke, lefty, radical or a corrupt Republican capitalist, way more of us live in the middle ground. I’m grateful that I can count on pretty much everyone in my community regardless of whether they lean politically more towards conservatism or liberalism. People are able to talk about these things.
I’m a bit guilty of this. I don’t respond to people’s tweets but I do get enraged when I read them and I do make the time to read them. I am pot kettle black. What I find interesting about this one reaction is that with social media, anybody can go and read what you think or this person thinks. To me, it creates these bottomless unresolvable divisions that make it impossible for us to find ways to talk.
I’m preparing slides for a presentation and I wanted to talk about differences. I wanted a slide of an apple and orange because people say you can’t compare apples and oranges. I found this cute image and it was a cartoon of an apple and an orange holding hands. To me, that says we can be different and civil. To make everything about divisiveness I find is not helpful. It’s not a world I want to live in.How many accusers does a man need to have before people finally believe that women are telling the truth? Click To Tweet
You and I need to self-protect against people who will make everything into an issue or a personal attack. As you were talking, what popped into my hand is that stupid joke, “How many does it take to screw in a lightbulb?” For me, how many accusers does a man need to have before we finally believe women? In all these ways, women’s stories are dismissed. People are still about, “What was she wearing? Did she have a drink?” Look at this Finnish Prime Minister undergoing a drug test because one cannot dance if not under the influence of drugs. These double standards about men’s and women’s behavior are also, for me, part of this conversation.
One last thing, I feel angry about this. I’m reading this book by Julia Cameron. She wrote The Artist’s Way, which many people have used to unblock as a creative and one of her other books is Walking in this World. There’s an exercise I was doing on anger like, “List 50 things that make you angry.” I got to 25 and I thought, “They’re probably more but I’d have to think about them.” I made a list here, bias, discriminatory practices, misogyny, lack of compassion and respect for women, harassment and sexism. I am angry about these things.
The point that Julia Cameron makes is anger is fuel. I don’t want to be despondent that we’re in a world where the Dan Prices need X number of accusers before somebody believes them or Bill Cosby’s or whoever’s. I want to be adding my voice to the fact that we as a society, men and women together, have not created the optimal conditions for everybody to thrive. Everyone is suffering under patriarchy and misogyny. You and I are part of what’s making this change because if it doesn’t change in the workplace, it’s not going to change beyond that.
I’m going to lump this into a very broad category of disrespectful bullying behavior. What this tweet highlighted for me and the way that I came at it is the idea of how much are we willing to tolerate bullies and elevate them to positions of power and influence where it becomes more difficult for someone to step up. What you said illustrated the point that someone is in a position to use social media platforms to have a lot of power and influence. When his ex-wife wanted to speak out, he was able to use that power and influence to silence her, in the case of the TED Talk.
The more that we allow bullies, we turn the other cheek, not willing to stand up or don’t have systems and structures in place to hold people accountable for their behavior and their choices, the more that those people rise through the ranks of an organization or whatever it is in our society that gives them power and influences, the harder it becomes.
The more we see people having to turn themselves into pretzels because they are fearful and don’t want to speak up. Part of it for me was this idea that we have to come to a place where as individuals, we are comfortable enough to have a boundary and be able to speak up and call out bullying behaviors. Understand that there is a time and a place. We have to be cognizant of the personal risk involved in that.
Beyond that, we need strong systems and structures in place. That’s the legal system and things like that. The legal system and the police are very male-dominated. It’s the amount of difficulty it takes for a woman to come forward with a story like that. I am so happy and proud of these women. If we went back in time a little bit, I don’t know that this story would have broke in the way that it did.
One of the things that were interesting to me is there was a blogger. He originally shared some of these stories because he was on to Dan Price. He thought this guy was a scam. What he was able to do as he became aware of things is he was able to introduce these women to one another. When somebody experiences something like this, there’s such a feeling of isolation. You don’t know that there are other people out there. You might suspect it but these are patterns of behavior. When a pattern of behavior is established if that person continues to get away with it, why wouldn’t they continue?
There are all kinds of examples in our culture of men, in particular, who have been in significant positions of power and influence and have been able to skyrocket in their careers on a foundation of bullying and abusive behavior and nobody has held them accountable. They get to a point where it’s almost like everybody’s scared around them to hold them accountable.
The fact that in this case, those women were able to find each other gave them power and the sense of, “It’s not just me.” It’s a bit of fuel to say, “I’m willing to take that huge risk to go public.” It feels like a bit of a David and Goliath situation that you’re up against. We’re asking women to be so brave and vulnerable to take such a risk.What you permit, you promote. Click To Tweet
Quite frankly, it usually ends up in some gag order. I don’t think we have any understanding of how frequent and prevalent this behavior is in organizations or in general, more broadly. I would love to see data on that and I’m going to look for it but quite frankly, I don’t think there is a lot of data on it because women either don’t come forward or when they do, they’re silenced in some way.
What you’re reminding me of are the articles that we see all the time. There was another one about George Foreman. He was a boxer who had sexually assaulted women many years ago. People are like, “Why are women coming forward now? Why didn’t they say something back then?” You have to look at how women have always been treated in legal cases around rape and sexual assault, in which they are diminished, mocked and harassed while they’re on the stand.
In Canada here, we had the story of Jian Ghomeshi in which women had to talk about their behavior. Part of the problem here and this shows up in the Dan Price story is that some of the allegations get thrown out because, for instance, there might be some evidence early on before the assault happened of some flirting between the two parties, which then is like, “She must have been waiting to be assaulted given that she expressed some romantic or sexual interest in the other person.” This is problematic.
The second thing is, to your point, how we allow this. This is a line I’ve used throughout my whole career, “What you permit, you promote.” As soon as you start allowing charisma, personality and all of that, “Boys will be boys,” there’s a bit of a snowballing in all of this. Look at what happened in the Presidency of the United States with the former president. We’re all upset about the, “Grab her by the P___ word”. I don’t like using that word because it makes me uncomfortable. We accepted that then what’s the next thing we’re going to accept?
You get worn down. The bar keeps getting lower. I do want to come back to what you said about this blogger. His name is Doug Forbes and he’d been blogging about Mr. Price for years. Originally, he was impressed by the guy and wanted to make a documentary like, “Look at what this guy’s doing,” but he started to discover all the stories that have come out. He was the connection between Price’s ex-wife and the woman who came forward.
I do want to give this guy some credit for two reasons. One, some men were here on this earth to condemn this behavior. It’s not women are having to come forward and it takes a lot of courage, I agree with you but some men are also interested and willing to go out on a limb to take down people who have been taking advantage of our confidence and trust.
One would hope that these things would come to light more quickly, there would be more severe consequences and we would be living in a world that has more equality that takes women’s stories more seriously. We have a long way to go. We have made progress. As a story like this shows, there’s still a lot more that we can do and must do.
You and I believe in a world in which everyone’s bringing the best of themselves to their families, work and community. Part of that work is finding these stories, exposing them and making sure that people pay the price. I don’t mean that to be a pun on Dan Price. We can keep progress moving forward and hopefully, build momentum and accelerate to the world that we all want to be a part of.
Part of the work that you and I want to do, certainly for me is I want to help women share their stories and support women who share their stories. Our work is looking at the workplace. Follower behavior is important. We focus a ton on leadership and leaders. Followers give those people power. Leadership is a privilege and a responsibility. Character and the pattern of behavior matter.
When we are in a situation of tolerating or turning a blind eye as this guy in the tweet suggested very problematic behaviors to promote something else is not a path forward. Whom we put into leadership, whether it’s with our votes, promote through an organization, follow and all of that, that follower behavior is important. This is where we as individuals have to take responsibility and say we’re going to hold people accountable.
I hope that there becomes more of a mechanism for women to feel supported and find each other for us to help elevate those stories. You and I have stories. I’ve shared my stories like my three more significant #MeToo moments throughout my career in various episodes, not because I’m harboring resentment or looking for any retribution. I’m well beyond that. The reason why I share them is I know that there are so many women out there who are going to say, “Yes, similarly.” There’s power in coming together in that way and knowing that we’re not alone. Have we said enough on this topic that we feel like?
Yes and no. For this episode, yes. We’ll have many more conversations about this. To our readers, if this is something that you want to talk about and would like us to dig into further or a story you’d like to share, we would love to hear from you. Part of being able to move things forward is to understand where we’ve come from, had to endure and survived because all of us are holding each other as we move forward. We’re all holding hands to cross the street.
Please reach out to us. You can find us on social media like LinkedIn. Our website is www.WorkRevolutionPodcast.com. We welcome your feedback, comments and anything you’d like to share with us. We are here to listen and start a work revolution. Thank you to everyone. Thanks, Debra. It was a great conversation.
Thank you, lisa. Thank you to our readers.
- Article – Social Media Was a C.E.O.’s Bullhorn, and How He Lured Women
- Gravity Payments
- The Artist’s Way
- Walking in this World