Sharper Image found itself in a distinguished spot recently when the board of the troubled retailer did what most of its counterparts in corporate America have failed to do: It cut its former CEO’s severance package.

In an era where bloated payouts are the norm — like the $210 million that Home Depot Inc.’s Robert Nardelli is expected to get after resigning from the home improvement retailer — few companies are willing to slash the money that they had promised to pay executives when they depart, or in some cases, are shown the door.