It Isn’t JUST Target…


We’re hearing rumblings in the news about the problems Target is having with their company performance.  Seems like they are circling the bowl.  You can feel this angst when you go into their stores, which have fallen off the rails as their stock tumbles too.  Once upon a time, Target stores were clean, employees were engaged and happy; it was a great place to shop.  Now it’s like walking into the place where a fight just broke up.  You can feel the difference.  Then  there’s Amazon, and disgruntled employees, helping to nail the coffin lid.  In a way, there’s a bit of poetic justice happening here, because many of these department stores deserve what they are getting and most of their employees would agree.

First of all, employees, even supervisors, are paid embarrassing wages, but are pushed like pack mules to meet so-called “stretch” goals.  Well, in the corporate world, stretch goals make sense, because they are within reach with the right resources and motivation; but these “stretch” goals in retail seem to be deliberately set at a level ridiculously impossible…impossible… to reach, largely because the people setting them don’t know how to manage effectively and don’t know what a stretch goal actually is.  Instead they have one ‘public’ stretch goal and one wink wink goal that’s the REAL goal just for the managers, after the employees are jerked around and bullied when everyone knows the goal is not possible to reach.  What you get as a result is a bunch of otherwise good employees who know their managers are full of it AND dishonest, and who give up. And after all, what IS the point?  I have seem people pushed to tears to try to meet impossible goals, and I have seen employees torn apart because they needed surgery or had to be out for serious reasons.  Terrible.

The idea of terrorizing your workforce into excellent performance only works in North Korea.  In AMERICA, it’s not rocket science to understand that if you are going to pay a pittance and call it a wage, you need to make employees happy.  In the words of Jack Welch, “Reward them early and often”.  He also said you get RID of deadwood.  You do that because it is BAD BUSINESS to hire slugs and pay them the same wage as the stallions who are making things happen.  Duh.  But retail stores do that all the time!  They hang on to people who won’t work and make everyone else work harder. That’s one huge morale buster.  And bad morale is NOT undetectable by shoppers.

Stores like Target need to HIRE better.  I have heard it said a hundred times, “This was all we had to choose from”.  Bull.  If you don’t have good candidates, don’t hire anybody.  KEEP LOOKING.  Yes, the disgusting wage is the FIRST problem, but there are people who actually WANT to work looking for jobs.  Hire them.  If stores aren’t getting them in the applicant pool, fire the ad guys and hire some who can attract the kind of workers they need.  This is not rocket science.  And seriously, seven bucks an hour?  What do they expect?

While we are taking about hiring, it’s a BAD idea to promote people into management because just they are young girls with long blonde hair.  And it’s a BAD idea to force older employees out.  Those are types of discrimination. Agism, among other types of discrimination, is against the law…and Target paid a LOT of money for discriminatory hiring and workforce practices, according the news.  I have been amazed to see older employees at MY Target (where I rarely go), and by the way, that workforce now looks like ME…another ‘DUH” good idea.  It is IMPERATIVE to have a diverse workforce!  Get this:  Young employees are not going to stick around.  Don’t believe me?  Do the stats if you even know how, managers.  And they are particularly not going to stick around if they are bullied and terrorized, unless they are bullies.  Young people typically use retail as a stepping stone to BETTER jobs.  So if you want to keep your trained employees, how about this?  Make them happy!  Think different.  Steve Jobs said that.

Making employees happy doesn’t mean giving them control of the store; it means figure out what would be a good reward and then distribute that reward FAIRLY, for actual great performance, NOT to favorite buddies.  Retail is a lot like junior high school, really, and that needs to stop. It’s a serious business and it’s in trouble everywhere.  Time to grow up.

Here’s an idea:  HIRE MANAGERS  who actually HAVE management training.  I am not talking about somebody who hung in there long enough that it’s just time to promote them.  Just because someone worked in the store for ten years does not make them worthy of a management position.  And giving someone a management position just so they won’t get MAD is just plain stupid.  I’ve witnessed bullying, harassment, temper tantrums, downright meanness, fear of discipling slugs who work harder AVOIDING work than actually working (and taking it out on the ones who do work).  I’ve seen managers who are afraid of creative thinking, managers who are abusive to employees, managers who got the job because they were cute, or gosh, they’ve been here for twenty years so they MUST be a great manager.  And then they get busted for stealing.  No wonder they are in trouble.  The successful businesses are run like businesses, not like junior high school.

I have watched “managers” make themselves sick over a “plan-o-gram” and completely miss the sales numbers which show that the “plan” isn’t working.  Listen, it doesn’t do any good to impress a team of district ‘managers’ if the store is dying.  A good looking corpse is still a corpse, and eventually, that corpse store starts giving up and just accepting death.  That’s when you walk in, take a look around and just leave…and order online.  I did that at Belk recently.  It just wasn’t worth slogging through the disaster to find anything.  I took one look around and left.  I knew some “manager’s” head was getting fitted for the chopping block.  Think about it.  Costco is a warehouse and it’s booming.  It’s not pretty, but by golly they are selling…and their employees are happy, the store is neat and clean, and you can’t find a place to park in the parking lot.   Why?  They  pay a decent wage, they provide good benefits and they get GOOD people to work there.  Clearly the most important thing his not which shirt hangs on the front rack.  It’s amusing to see the failing stores break every management 101 rule and try to whip and bully employees into success.  It is actually almost fun to watch.

Next:  Retail will beat the crap out of you.  You work HARD in retail if you are not a store manager.  So, managers should try to be flexible with the schedule, since the store pays in PENNIES and in fact, time off might be a great reward.  Find out what schedule people WANT to work and try to accommodate that.  If you have some, ANY creativity, you could make that work.   If it takes  a manger a day to ‘do the schedule’, then there’s a PROBLEM with how schedules get done!  NOT rocket science.  TRY ANOTHER WAY.  No, retail is a think in the tiny little box world and that is one reason they will fail.

Finally,  employees should have the right to deck any manager who takes out his or her bad morning on the employees the minute they walk in the door.  It seems to be acceptable…and I say it’s because these people have zip management training…to treat people worse than I’ve seen anyone treated.  Workplace harassment is also against the law.  Good to know, “managers”.

Target needs to raise their wage, diversify the workforce, make it possible for employees to give valid feedback about what’s happening out there…and listen.   Do you think when they do their “surveys” and ask your age, gender and ethnicity, they don’t know exactly whom you are?  Retail deliberately skew their “valued feedback” by subtle bullying in their supposedly anonymous, MANDATORY, surveys.  If you are a ship captain, do you WANT to know if your ship is leaking, or do you want to be worshipped?  Don’t answer that. I already know.

The only thing department stores have to do to survive is to make shoppers WANT to go to their store.  Shoppers want to FEEL good when they go to the store; and make no mistake about it, unhappy workers change the FEELING.  Pay them, get rid of bully managers, stop the rah rah sis boom bah meetings and treat employees with dignity and respect instead.  Hire good workers; fire the slugs.  Reward the good employees, and by the way, a nickel more an hour is NOT a reward; it’s an insult.

I shopped at Home Depot the other day, and a young man came to my line with a scanner and a stack of cards.  He scanned my purchase item while the person ahead checked out, and by the time I got to the register, all the check out person had to do was scan my card. Meanwhile the POLITE young man was scanning the stuff of other shoppers in line and giving them cards.  He was engaging, happy, actually treated the customers like he was happy to see us.   Now that makes me want to go back.  See?  Simple.


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