back to article Average Adobe staffer makes $170k a year, and 185 of them = 1 CEO

Adobe CEO and chairman Shantanu Narayen received a total compensation pack of more than $31 million in 2022, the company has confirmed ahead of an Annual Meeting of Shareholders scheduled for next month. To be precise, the long-running exec who arrived at Adobe in 1998 as veep of its engineering organization, was made CEO in …

  1. stiine Silver badge


    Why would I wish to eat a car?

    1. Anonymous Coward
      Anonymous Coward

      Re: Really?

      You are trying to outdo Monsieur Mangetout (Michel Lotito)? Although he did eat a plane. It was eating a pair of skis which did for him. After that he went downhill very quickly...

    2. Michael Strorm Silver badge

      Wouldn't it be better to buy the car *first*?

      > Why would I wish to eat a car?

      No idea, that's not my problem.

      You ate it? You bought it. Pay up!

  2. lglethal Silver badge

    Just once I'd love to see a CEO salary that was tied to actual company performance. You know, if company profits rise by 5%, their salary can go up by 5%, if profits dip by 5%, their salary drops by 5%. Ok, make it based on 5 years of company growth so as to stop the short term selling everything off and get a massive bonus strategy, but really link it.

    And the whole concept of Incentive Bonuses. Wow, I wish my boss would give me a bonus, not for doing my job well, thats a different bonus, but just to encourage me to actually work hard. Funnily enough I thought my basic salary was supposed to be the thing to incentive me to work hard, I didnt realise I needed another bonus in order to convince me of that...

    I knew I should have gone to business school instead of doing something useful like engineering...

    1. Korev Silver badge

      It'll be fun to see if the decision to buy Figma has any long term impact on this... Right now, it looks like it'll be blocked by various competition authorities...

    2. JimboSmith Silver badge

      I quite like the Bloomberg approach to CEO pay. This was something like he (Mike Bloomberg) got paid the same base salary as that of the lowest paid employee in the firm. The rest was based on how the company did, so dividends, bonus etc.

      I would add a twist to that which is if you’re making people redundant just to sustain C suite bonuses etc. then the number of employees affected is the percentage that your salary is docked.

      1. Anonymous Coward
        Anonymous Coward

        > if you’re making people redundant just to sustain C suite bonuses ...


    3. elsergiovolador Silver badge

      Most start ups are just Ponzi schemes with few extra steps added.

      The role of CEO in those companies is to sweet talk investors and make them part with their money.

      They also need to be good at bs, to make loss of a profit look like a good thing and a reason to extract even more money from investors.

      So CEO is like a final form of a car salesperson and an actor in one.

      They need to be paid a lot, so they can be beaming the success, money, wealth and put investors into a false sense of security.

    4. Robert Grant

      > Just once I'd love to see a CEO salary that was tied to actual company performance.

      This is "total compensation", not salary. Almost all of it is stock options, whose price will be related to company performance.

      1. jgarbo

        Stock "price" is not related to performance; it's related to rumor. Stock "value" is PBV, the sum of the company assets: 1.0 + dreams of the future. Beware.

        1. Robert Grant

          It isn't purely related to performance. Nothing is. But it is generally, and eventually. If you have a better measure, you should definitely tell me it so I can make long term bets on the stock market. Otherwise - perfect is the enemy of good and all that.

    5. Anonymous Coward
      Anonymous Coward

      [ business school ]

      Odds are you were also set back by being born with a soul, morals, empathy, some amount of regular human compassion, and so on.

      The executive ranks tend to weed-out the non-sociopaths pretty quickly.

    6. jgarbo

      Your incentive to work hard is the job. The salary is mere bagatelle. CEO bonuses compensate for the all pain and suffering of watching you have fun. That's what I hear at board meetings, anyway.

  3. Potemkine! Silver badge
    1. Robert Grant

      Hard to say if it's fair or not.

      As an example of cases where it might be: if loads more work is computerised or otherwise automated, then the same level of worker effort will produce the company way more money. The difference is the funding, specification and operation of that automation.

      1. Anonymous Coward
        Anonymous Coward

        True enough on the face of it, but entirely irrelevant.

        Unless the CEO is personally computerising or other automating the work, it doesn't matter what the nature of the work is.

        The measuring stick is (should be) whether the 1 CEO is "worth" 185 of the employees; or, considering the average CEO:employee salary ratio these days, 300-400 of them.

        "Worth" is doing a lot of heavy lifting in that sentence, but you get the idea.

        The other facet to executive compensation is the security blanket they all enjoy: your average CEO can bollocks up the company, probably for multiple financial quarters, before The Board grow a spine and takes action; not only do the CEO's *not* get fired, but often as not will get a ridiculous packet of money and benefits to leave.

        How often does a lowly engineer in the trenches get to screw up for the better part of a fiscal year or more, and then get paid enough on the way out the door such that they'd never have to work again if they so choose.

        1. Robert Grant

          > Unless the CEO is personally computerising or other automating the work, it doesn't matter what the nature of the work is.

          No, quite the opposite. The CEO is overall in charge of the success of the company, which, as I said, includes funding, specification and operation of the automation.

          As to why compensation exists the way it does: it's because it can do. Why does a Silicon Valley engineer get compensated $500k when they couldn't work in the office without someone cleaning the toilets for $15k/year? The same forces that drive a compensation level of $500k drive the CEO's salary as well.

          1. Anonymous Coward
            Anonymous Coward

            > CEO is overall in charge of the success of the company

            This is theoretically true, for some definition of "in charge". Reality is, CEO may have very little to do with it. CEO's are rarely designing innovative new products and such these days, unless you're talking about small startups where "CEO" is as much an ornamental title as anything. Big corporation CEO's may not even be setting strategy or direction in some cases, unless you include paying the likes of McKinsey & Co. consultants to come in and tell them what to do (which any fool could do, and many have).

            One could argue the CEO's biggest and most meaningful impact is hiring people. I'd agree with that, because it has the power to elevate, or destroy companies.

            > it's because it can do.

            Yes, quite. But there's also more to it than that: the executive ranks are playing a rigged game. While they're "in charge", they're not really accountable, and the consequences for failure at the CEO level are very different to the rank & file. As noted elsewhere, if the $15K janitor, and even the $500K engineer from your example really screw up their job, they won't have it very long.

            Whereas a CEO or similar level of executive can underperform or even outright fail at their duties (say, by hiring and surrounding themselves with no-skill "yes men" and sycophants), causing quarters or sometimes years of financial losses, cuts, layoffs, and so on, suffering no penalties at all. Until they either resign or are asked to vacate the big chair by The Board, whereupon they get an enormous severance package, a few months off to "spend time with family", eventually a seat on some other company Board of Directors, and maybe even down the road another shot at CEO elsewhere.

            The executive ranks take care of their own.

            So yes, I agree that it happens because it can -- the system is setup to favor those at the top, reward them for everything and penalize them for practically nothing.

            But that's hardly a point in favor of the CEO being "worth" 185 of the employees.

            1. Robert Grant

              'm talking about how the productivity benefits of additional tools and automation should not all accrue to the worker who can do more for the same effort, which seems to be a common trope.

  4. Anonymous Coward
    Anonymous Coward

    The median salary earned is $170k. However if you have a number of staff earning significantly more, then you must have a number earning significantly less. It would be interesting to know the modal salary at these companies.

  5. StrangerHereMyself Silver badge


    What good is $170K a year when a 4-bedroom home costs $2 million in the Bay Area?

    Also, C-level compensation is completely out-of-whack with reality. No CEO is worth 200 times more than the average drone.

    1. Snake Silver badge

      Re: Compensation

      This. Even rent averages $5k there now. If ~30% is going to taxes, and $30k-$95k per annum is just keeping a roof over your head (covering low-end price-fixed rent (rare) all the way to mortgage plus taxes), $170k isn't as fantastic as the figure initially sounds.

    2. Marty McFly Silver badge

      Re: Compensation

      And that is why smart companies are getting the hell out of the Bay Area. $170k/yr sets someone up pretty well in most parts of the country.

      1. Snake Silver badge

        Re: leaving the Bay area

        But they'll end up doing the same thing, high-end gentrification, wherever they end up. The tech workers will expect at least a somewhat above-average wage for their skills, which will lead to a contest for housing of that level. The struggle for quality housing will begin and prices will rise from sellers getting top dollar for what they are offering.

        It's inevitable unless there is a housing boom in the surrounding areas to cover the new demands of the new workers. But with NIMBY active, that won't happen (or won't happen enough) and in under 10 years, boom, the new area is as unaffordable as the old.

        1. Anonymous Coward
          Anonymous Coward

          Re: leaving the Bay area

          Exactly this. People want to live in nice places.

          While the definitions of "nice" will vary with individual tastes, people with valuable skills and the financial means to choose have been moving to other tech and population centers in the US for many years -- Austin TX, "Silicon Forest" in Oregon, the Seattle area, Ann Arbor MI and the suburbs around the universities, etc. Those places have seen a corresponding uptick in housing price, amenities, services, entertainment and "quality of life" stuff. Eventually the "sleepy little quiet town" of 20K people is over 100K, and it goes from there.

          I have no direct experience with it, but I expect similar things happen in UK and elsewhere.

        2. Robert Grant

          Re: leaving the Bay area

          The problem is it's all concentrated in one place. It's fine to have people arriving in a location with money - they will slightly push up house prices, but not disastrously so, and they will spend their money locally as well. The issue is the concentration of many companies all bidding for the same pool of developers, who get wealthy off the competition, and are all wanting to buy houses in the same place.

      2. Anonymous Coward
        Anonymous Coward

        Re: Compensation

        You'll likely find that many tech workers leaving the sillycon valley Bay Area don't get the same level of salary when starting a new job elsewhere.

        A quick websearch says the US national median salary in 2021 was about $70K (not $170K), the average was about $98K.

        Tech workers are typically on the higher end of that scale and beyond, but the point stands: e.g. Bay Area engineer leaves Bay Area company with a $200K salary, moves to Omaha for a new home and job, odds are they are making closer to $150K than $200K. So yes, $170K may be pretty nice outside the Bay Area, but it's probably not very common wages for most people.

        Fwiw Omaha is it's own tech center of sorts these days, housing isn't all that cheap there either, last I looked. Pales in comparison to San Francisco and New York, but most places do....

  6. Doctor Syntax Silver badge

    Margins in software locking customers into subscriptions.


  7. elsergiovolador Silver badge


    Worker is just a commodity, an entry in Excel, a necessary evil, a nuisance.

    CEOs are above human, they make things happen, they make owners and investors feel good.

    Workers look poor, they have never been on a private jet, they know nothing about the struggles of billionaires.

    CEOs look great, they have nice cars, they even had dinners with billionaires, they know stuff.

    The second workers find a way to replace workers with machines, the excess workers will be escorted out by security.

    The CEOs will get all the pats on the back and another multi million bonus.

    Pesky former workers will get a card from those that survived the cull.

  8. tiggity Silver badge

    Adobe CEO pay

    I would quite like to see it inversely linked to the number of bugs in Adobe products, that might improve things for end users

  9. Spoonsinger

    Title says Average of 170K, but....

    body of text says Median of 170K. They are different things. Then just to add confusion the next line says "Adobe said its calculation of CEO versus the average worker's pay equates to a “ratio of 185 to 1.”" which sort of suggests Adobe don't know what the difference between average and median is.

    1. Robin 12

      Re: Title says Average of 170K, but....

      I was going to ask the same question. Is it median or average that this article is referring to?

      The "average" could lead to the ratio of 185 to 1 while the median may be much lower, less than 6 figures.

  10. AdmFubar

    I wonder how they are making that kind of money at adobe when their stock tanked by 60% last year..

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