CBS CEO Addresses Low Morale, Wants Staff to Curb ‘Routine’ Work Emails After Hours

George Cheeks sent a message after a staff survey reportedly revealed low satisfaction scores from CBS News employees

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Getty Images/CBS

CBS CEO George Cheeks has addressed complaints about the network’s workplace culture after the New York Post reported that CBS News staffers are being overworked and under-resourced by new boss Neeraj Khemlani.

In a written memo and video message sent last week to staff members, obtained by the Post, Cheeks talked about improving work-life boundaries at CBS, which a spokesperson said was not aimed specifically at the news division.

“We need to set a goal avoid sending emails, texts or otherwise engaging on routine matters after hours or over the weekend,” said Cheeks, according to an article published Thursday by the Post.

He went on to say that he was advising managers to schedule “no-meeting” days or blocks in response to employees reporting that they were often made to work outside of normal workday hours and on weekends, and were otherwise were denied the opportunity to “unplug.”

“Our workplace dynamics across the country are evolving as a result of COVID,” the CBS spokesperson said. “And the transition to hybrid and agile office structures. Employee well-being is a top priority for CBS in this transition.”

Cheeks’ message comes in the wake of an “annual well-being” survey sent to employees of Paramount Global, which includes CBS, Showtime, MTV and Comedy Central. A source close to the company told the Post that scores were notably bad from employees at CBS News.

Khemlani and Wendy McMahon, who were named co-presidents of CBS News and CBS Television Stations in April of last year, sent a subsequent memo asserting that the “well-being of every CBS employee is a top priority.”

“We’ve heard from many of you that you feel the lines between work time and personal time became blurred when the pandemic began and we were forced to reinvent on the fly how to do our jobs in an unprecedented and difficult environment,” the memo continued. “And we’re mindful of the fact that the past year has being an especially busy time for all of us as we have brought our CBS News and Stations businesses under one umbrella.”

In January, the New York Post published an expansive report on Khemlani’s ruthless cost-cutting and micromanaging style, which have prompted several employees to file reports to human resources and air complaints through their agents.

One longtime CBS employee told the Post that “There has never been a more unpopular news division president. I don’t think people would be surprised if he’s not here in a couple months.”

Khemlani, who previously served as an executive at Hearst, and McMahon, a former ABC exec, took over in the wake of Susan Zirinsky’s departure last year. Zirinsky’s two-year run followed the exit of David Rhodes, who left CBS News following a tumultuous period that included the ousting of CBS CEO Les Moonves and other power players on #MeToo grounds.