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In brief: Is it possible for a company to be too successful and overly caring when it comes to employee well-being? It sounds strange, but that's the unusual position Nvidia finds itself in, with many long-term workers watching the value of their stock increase as they coast along in "semi-retirement" mode.
Nvidia's stock has increased around 1,200% over the last five years. That's great news for long-term employees whose compensation is partly made up of company stock, but sitting on a fortune has been making some of these workers complacent. The situation has been annoying other Nvidia staff to the point where it was brought up during an internal all-hands meeting with CEO Jensen Huang.
As reported by Business Insider, which spoke to people who attended the meeting, Huang answered the question about veteran employees not pulling their weight by saying working at Nvidia is like a "voluntary sport," and every employee should act like the "CEO" of their own time. He added that each person should determine their level of work as these are judgment calls to be made by adults.
"Jensen's making a serious point, which is 'do your damn job,'" one of those present told the publication.
Nvidia has benefited more than most from the generative AI boom. Sales of its data center GPUs and related AI products have pushed Team Green's market cap to $1.19 trillion, and while that's good for the company, it has reportedly led to tension between workers and long-time staff who are just coasting until their stock awards vest – sitting on a million dollars worth of stock isn't a good motivator to work extra hard.
Another issue is the lack of competition Nvidia is facing right now. Massive demand for its AI chips means some employees don't feel the need to work so intensely. "We have no competition," one of the people said. "But we're slowly getting bloated. There are these guys who don't do anything."
No CEO is as beloved by their employees as much as Huang. He topped the most popular CEO survey in October with an approval rate of 96%, 8% higher than second-place Walmart boss Doug McMillon. Huang's popularity is helped by his reluctance to implement layoffs. In the summer of last year, back when Nvidia missed earnings expectations and the economy was even worse, Huang assured employees there would be raises, not layoffs, at the company. The last formal job cuts the company made were during the 2008 financial crisis.
While this sort of behavior inspires loyalty for a boss and improves employee happiness, it can introduce unforeseen problems. "It's harder to get fired than hired here," one of the people said.
Some long-term Nvidia staff might be getting lazy as a result of the company's success, but Huang certainly isn't taking his foot off the pedal. He recently admitted that he constantly worries that the company will one day fail – Nvidia came close to bankruptcy more than once in the past.