Target's Biggest Challenge: Employees Complaining to Gawker

Last week, we brought you the words of an employee at Target's headquarters lamenting the way that the company is run. Now, one of Target's top executives has seen fit to respond to these criticisms. Which is a perfect opportunity for us to expand upon them.

Yesterday, Jeff Jones, Target's Chief Marketing Officer, sent an impassioned message titled "The Truth Hurts" to all of Target's employees, and then published the message in full on LinkedIn. In it, he cites Target's recent data breach and the departure of its CEO as reasons for a "difficult" past five months. But those things are minor compared to a single post on Gawker.com:

You'd think that these two incidents alone would create enough pain to last a brand a lifetime but one of the most challenging things that has happened, in my opinion, have been reports, some attributed to unnamed team members, that paint a picture of a culture that is in crisis. When a recent post on a well-known blog called me out by name, it only felt right that I should respond.

In reading this account of life at Target, I've gone through a range of emotions – first anger, then wondering why any team member would say what they said. And while it was difficult for me to read this account for many reasons, the reality is that our team members speaking with honesty is a gift. Because much of what they are saying is true. While we would have preferred to have a conversation like this with the team member directly, speaking openly and honestly, and challenging norms is exactly what we need to be doing today and every day going forward.

To quote French novelist Emile Zola, "If you shut up truth and bury it under the ground, it will but grow, and gather to itself such explosive power that the day it bursts through it will blow up everything in its way."

We should note that Jeff Jones was singled out by the employee who wrote us as the only member of Target's executive team who shouldn't be fired.

We certainly applaud the commitment of EVP Jeff Jones and the rest of the Target management team to transparency. And we are here to help them on their quest for truth. As to Jeff Jones' dismay that a Target employee would not share their concerns internally: perhaps their reluctance is due to the fact that complaining internally is traditionally seen as a good reason to fire employees, as Target store managers have told us. As to Jeff Jones' befuddlement as to why a Target employee would complain about Target in the first place: perhaps it is due to the fact that Target is a stringently anti-labor corporation which pumps out a steady stream of insulting propaganda to convince its low-paid workers not to organize to better their own conditions.

But that is just a guess on our part.

Of course, we want to offer Jeff Jones something more than our pet theories about what is wrong with Target. Something more concrete. Something like... this email from a veteran current Target employee, about management problems at the store level. We received it last week. Please consider this our gift to the Target Crusade for Truth. (Bolding ours.)

The issues I have witnessed, and been a part of at a store level are nearly reprehensible. First and foremost, management at a store level is a complete joke. The pyramid of management goes Store Team Leader (STL-1), Executive Team Leaders (ETL's- 3-7), Senior Team Leaders (3-8), and Team Leads (6-14). In order to move anywhere past an ETL position, which is basically an assistant store manager, you have to have a four year degree, regardless of how good you are, or the leadership qualities you display on a daily basis. I have witnessed fantastic Senior Team Leaders stall in their position for years, in one case ten years, because he didn't have a four year degree and I would have followed that guy anywhere. He can't advance, has topped out on pay raises, and can't afford to leave because he supports his wife and three children.

ETL's are basically brand new college graduates. I've never seen an ETL [over] the age of 28. They are fresh from college and they don't know anything about the company, the culture, or how to properly run a store, area, or even use the computer systems. They have to be taught by regular team members. STL's and ETL's are only allowed to stay at one store for 18 months before they are shipped to another store and this can have drastic effects on team members and management as a whole. Team members have to rework everything for a new boss every 18 months because they change processes, sometimes going against the SOP and it is extremely frustrating...

Also retaliation is considered the norm among management when it comes to team member complaints. I have only ever seen one team member take the proper steps to make a complaint about sexual harassment by a female ETL not get fired or quit within 6 months. He complained to the store leader, nothing happened and the behavior continued to get worse. He called Target's hotline and two days later he was in the office being told if he needed up finding new employment they would be happy to help. His hours were cut and he suddenly started getting written up for things no one ever get written up for. 8 months [passed], he refused to quit, new management came in and it stopped, but his file has so many red flags he is considered a problem team member and has been told he will not be promoted based on his file due to these incidents.

The original email about Target HQ is spot on. Recently raises were given out, and no one got above three percent. I was told all evaluations were sent back to stores with a requirement that all evaluations needed to be down graded one grade regardless of performance because Target couldn't pay for the pay increases. It is impossible to get the max pay raise and I've never heard of anyone getting it, regardless of performance.

As for Target believing it is still 1996, its true. They still accept checks without using an ACH program to check to see if the check is even good. There register system as it stands today is at least 15 years old. More bad checks go through our store than I thought humanly possible in this day and age. The firm is late to the party in nearly every insistence when it comes to technology, and security. It didn't surprise me at all to hear about the theft of data at Target due to the age of the system.

There are so many things that can be said about Target, and I didn't even touch on 80 percent of the problems. I have been looking for a way out for over a year, but in my area there is much else I can do. Even as a college grad, I got my degree while working at Target, its nearly impossible to promote because they are always hiring managers outside of the store. You don't ever see store managers, or any level of management really, get promoted by working their way up the ladder. That is a huge issue for me, and one that should be addressed.

[Photo: AP. Target employees with complaints should contact Jeff Jones, or Hamilton@Gawker.com]