Union-busting retail giant Target is having a tough time: its CEO just resigned, its stock is down, and it faces an existential threat from Amazon. We now bring you one current Target headquarters employee's thoughts on what's wrong with Target.
We received the following email from a current mid-level employee at Target's headquarters in Minnesota. This represents just one person's experience inside the center of the Target bulls-eye. But it does contain some fascinating insights into their workplace culture. We've bolded a few parts that stood out to us. Enjoy.
I started at Target almost 2 years ago, in Sept 2012. Prior to Target, I worked in a technical field and I was job hunting. I had a lot of friends who worked at Target - in the Twin Cities you can't help but know people that work at Target in some capacity. They seemed to enjoy it so when I got a call from them, I jumped at the opportunity to work for them. I went through 3 weeks of interviewing, and then I got an offer. The money was an increase but their vacation time sucked - only 2 weeks! Most big companies give 3 weeks even at the lowest levels...
After your onboarding experience you're expected to still network and have [30-minute "Getting to Know You" meetings] with new people, either those who join your teams, or that you meet through networking through the company. And then once you have a GTKY, you're expected to continue to have 30 min meetings with various people to catch up and share what you've been working on. You're also supposed to have these status meetings with the people on your team, your manager, your manager's manager, your mentor, etc.
Since you're having all these status meetings, you're probably wondering when you should be working. Well you don't have to worry about that because you don't really need to. Target purposely staffs assuming that everyone is working at 50% productivity. In essence they have 2 people doing a job that 1 person could do at another company, because the rest of the time you're in status meetings or volunteer events or FFF events (that's Fast Fun & Friendly, basically an excuse to not be working). You're penalized and viewed as unfriendly and not a team player if you spend too much time in your cube working and not enough time socializing. There have been times when I've taken my laptop and worked from Starbucks because I need to be out of my cube but I also need to get work done. Target also doesn't reward the people who are productive and good at their jobs. The way to move up at Target HQ is to be popular. At other companies you need to at least be popular AND produce good work, but at Target you can be popular and do shitty work or no work and get promoted. The people who keep their heads down and do the work, they get ignored and passed over until they get fed up and then quit. Doing good work won't get you a good raise though, because Target HQ is known for giving shitty raises. You can get an excellent score on your performance review and be rewarded with a 2% raise, and they expect you to be super happy and thankful for it. If you want to make $ at Target, you have to leave and come back, but you won't make it on raises...
The Target culture is very Minnesota - it's very passive aggressive. They expect you to conform to them, to be "Targetized" and drink the Koolaid. If you aren't super bubbly, super social and passive aggressive, you get told that you're a problem. Being direct, wanting to actually get your work done, asking questions and pushing back are all viewed as bad things and you'll be told to tone it down or you'll be pushed out. They also do a really bad job supporting their new hires who moved to the Twin Cities to work at Target. A lot of people quit after a year and move back to wherever they were before because they hate it and they don't have a network of people to support them.
Target HQ is in bad shape and in desperate need of help, direction and vision, starting from the top down. [Former CEO] Greg Steinhafel getting fired was a good step, along with the CIO being fired a few months ago, but it's not enough. The entire executive team with the exception of the CMO Jeff Jones needs to go. Why? Because everyone was homegrown and "Targetized" and has no concept of how to run a 21st century business. They still think it's 1996 and you can keep throwing up Target stores and suburban moms will love them. They pay lip service to how retail is evolving but it when it comes to actually making good decisions, they do horribly. When I started, they were so excited about getting "Buy online, pick up in store" as if that was some new invention. How many other stores have that and do it better than Target? Regular customers don't even know about it, because people hate Target's website. They've tried starting a Netflix like service, or a subscription service, but no one knows about them and they are just copycats of what other businesses are doing. Target has no original ideas, they are just reacting to what other companies are doing and jumping the bandwagon. They have a culture that makes decision via consensus, so it takes FOREVER to make a decision and implement even the smallest change. That keeps them from being able to make the necessary changes, and they won't ever get there without a big change in leadership and a true vision beyond "keep the doors open".
Overwhelmingly the area that has the most issues is Target Canada. From the very beginning it was a bad decision, but the company had already made contractual obligations and couldn't get out of them. So they carried forth with a really bad plan and had people in charge who don't know what they are doing, making bad decisions. Very simple, elementary things in retail/supply chain are being messed up which is why the Canada opening has gone so bad. To make it worse, they are repeating all the things they did wrong in 2013 - absolutely nothing is getting better. A few execs came back to Target US from Canada and were given promotions, after a complete failure in Canada. And this is who they have in charge.
If Target doesn't make a serious change in their leadership and culture, it will end up being a Kmart, a Sears, or even worse a Circuit City. The Twin Cities would be devastated - around 15,000 people work for Target HQ at one of their numerous sites in the Twin Cities. The local economy would be hit super hard. Sadly I don't see Target getting better, and I'm actively looking for employment elsewhere. As soon as I get a job offer I feel is a good fit, I'm jumping ship. I'm not the only one, since last November, I get at least 5 "So and So has resigned to pursue other opportunities" emails, and that's just in my pyramid (a pyramid is like a big dept, like Finance, or HR, or Merchandising). When I started getting those emails and it included people like Senior VPs who were quitting, I knew it was time to go. There have also been a few rounds of layoffs, though mainly TTS (Target's IT group) and Property Development. I actually really hoped that my area would be laid off but instead we're staffing up :-(
I think I've rambled enough - even if you don't publish this, it was therapeutic to write it all down.
It is safe to say that this is not the level of morale that America's third-largest retailer is looking for in its own headquarters.
[You can peruse more thoughts from Target employees here. Photo: Getty]