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Exxon’s Exodus: Employees Have Finally Had Enough of Its Toxic Culture

The 140-year-old oil company is making more money than ever. Yet the pandemic exposed deep cultural problems—and talent is fleeing.

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Illustration: Saratta Chuengsatiansup for Bloomberg Businessweek

Shortly after Exxon Mobil Corp. lost its battle with an activist investor last year, an executive named Bill Keillor decided to give his department a morale boost. It had been a difficult year and a half for Exxon employees. Covid-19 and plunging crude prices had led to halted salary increases, reduced benefits, and, for the first time in decades, thousands of layoffs. Anxiety was coursing through the organization.

So Keillor, whose title is global IT vice president, and his leadership team organized an awards ceremony to take place at Exxon’s Houston campus. They posted an invite on Yammer, an internal social network, with Keillor’s face cropped onto a tuxedo. With many employees still working remotely, most tuned in via Zoom.