A pause to think about Target employees

This is a pretty typical chart of a stock price when a company announces it’s going to make life miserable for thousands of its employees.

That’s Wall Street doing a little jig around the close yesterday when the Target CEO used words like “nimble” and “agile”, code words for “you’re fired” if you’re a Target employee, thousands of whom will be turned out. When words like that come from the corner office, workers should head for the bomb shelter.

“These are some really tough decisions we’ve had to make, but these were the choices that were right for the business and right for our shareholders,” CEO Brian Cornell.

Who’s missing in that sentence?

The experts are applauding the decision.

“You end up being able to make those decisions quicker, in a matter of days or weeks rather than in months and months,” Dave Brennan, co-director of the Institute for Retailing Excellence at the University of St. Thomas, tells WCCO. “You got to develop that store traffic. If you don’t get the store traffic, you’re not going to get the sales.”

For sure, the intellectual side of a business decision can make a lot of sense. Maybe it’s impossible to succeed in retailing these days without being Wal-Mart.

Maybe it can make sense from a human perspective too, but it’s hard to tell; it’s rarely a component of these stories.

“Don’t employees matter anymore to these large companies?” a Star Tribune commenter asks. “Large companies make it seem like employees matter by conducting employee engagement surveys and hanging posters and trotting out the smiling executives saying how important employees are, but I suspect it’s only lip service and done for appearances.”

We assume there’ll be decent severance packages for those losing their jobs. Still, it’s impossible to avoid the notion that Target’s bleeding is another economic signal of a company on a slow decline to being a future trivia question.

But yesterday’s announcement is the type that sends shivers down the spine of working stiffs. The good times only last so long, and any of us can be next.