From what you wrote, it actually sounds like you are pointing out a serious issue, not complementing the company. Saying that 'total cost of ownership is not taken into account as much as initial outlay' is saying that 'we wind up paying more money overall by trying to save a couple bucks on the initial purchase'. From the CEO's perspective, that would be a big issue, wasting potentially very large amounts of money.
The CEO surely investigated (or had someone else investigate) and found that this was untrue. Even if it were true, the investigation found it to be false, and your statement to the CEO was unsupported by evidence. Your comment unintentionally(?) pitted the CEO against the IT department. We do not know the company politics, but if the CEO and head of IT are at odds with each other, then your passing comment may have been taken by the CEO as an opportunity to politically damage the head of IT. The CEO may even have used this ammunition in front of their shared boss. When it was discovered to be a baseless accusation, this could easily have embarassed the CEO. And it would look like your fault. Or, if the allegation is true, the head of IT (or purchasing, or wherever) just got politically damaged, possibly in a career limiting way withon the current company. Whoever was politically harmed may have political clout with your manager.
As others mentioned, just the investigation cost the company money, based on a baseless comment.
Issues are not normally brought to the CEO like this, in places where I have worked and places I have heard of. Only confirmed, evidence based, serious issues are brought to the CEO. Issues like this go to Procurement, IT, or Purchasing. And if you don't have hard evidence, they start out with questions -'how do you manage equipment purchasing? How do you manage total cost of ownership?' if there is an issue, you work with your manager to protect yourself first, and as an opportunity for your manager to teach you how to influence others. By skipping this and going straight to the CEO, you show yourself as 'not a team player' - you didn't work with the team to fix the issue.
Again, from the CEO's perspective, the CEO now sees you as someone who wastes company time and money. Someone who makes baseless accusations. Who may have embarrassed the CEO ot the head of IT.
Here's what you need to learn:
- Open door policies are not invitations to make baseless claims.
- Open door policies are not invitations to make unimportant claims.
- Learn to 'know your audience'
- Your manager is there to help you navigate company politics and policies. Take advantage of this before you raise issues about other people in the company.
- Don't throw others 'under the bus' unless you really mean to, or without evidence. it will backfire.
- There are three messages to everything we say. What we mean, what we say and what is heard. The message that is heard is the most important of the three. You need to take communication lessons until you understand this statement.
- Just because you are very vigorous about one thing you say, that doesn't mean your audience will care. You need to know what your audience cares about and realize that's what they'll remember from your conversation.
- Take presentation skills training. You might consider joining Toastmasters if there's one in your area.
- You cannot take words back after you say them. Be sure that the message that is heard the first time is the same as the message you mean.
- Learn what it means to 'stay above the line'. See the edit, below.
- Next time you meet the CEO, thank them for seeing you. Ask them something commensurate with their position, like, "I'm still learning the ins and outs of the company, and I'd really like to know what your vision is. Having an idea of your vision for the company/my product line/my product will help me to best focus my energies to fulfill that vision."
- If things backfire like this, ask your boss, "I'm really sorry for causing all this trouble. I don't understand how this happened. I'd really like the opportunity to improve and be able to avoid this pitfall again. And if it's possible, I'd like to try and fix the problem I caused. What should I do? How did this go so wrong?'
EDIT: Above the line
Imagine that there's a line that separates positive statements on the top and negative statements on the bottom. Constructive, positive statements will often ease communication. People are generally more likely to listen when you tell them "I have a way we can make this even better" than when you tell them "that's stupid and broken."
That's a good idea.
I like that
I have an alternative approach
How can we make this better?
I hate that
That approach won't work
Staying above the line means restricting yourself to positive statements. It means stopping and thinking before you speak to ensure that your words are above the line. The words may have the same basic meaning, but their implication and the tone of your voice encourage the person rather than attack them.
Use words and form sentences that are positive, collaborative, and encouraging. Use an enthusiastic, encouraging tone of voice.
In the original example, you tried to present "Total cost of ownership is not taken into account as much as initial outlay" as a positive statement. It's not. A positive statement would be, "I'm impressed with how effective the company is managing budget," or "I haven't seen a lot of places who are as good at controlling equipment costs while providing engineers with the equipment they need as yours is." The first, saying "total cost of ownership is not taken into account..." is negative. The two subsequent examples are positive - they are above the line.