Target responds to disgruntled employee

These are not happy times for Team Target at the headquarters in Minneapolis. On top of its failed expansion in Canada, the data breach in November, and the forced exit of the CEO, an employee at the headquarters last week went public — except for his/her name, of course — with a letter to Gawker.

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”.

It probably is no coincidence that the exec selected to respond to the anonymous email was chief marketing officer Jeff Jones.

On his LinkedIn blog yesterday, Jones didn’t put up a fight. “The truth hurts,” he said.

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.”

But Jones delivered a message to Target employees who don’t think the company is taking “bold risks and innovating like never before.”

“If you don’t believe this,” he wrote. “If you are not reinvigorated at this very important moment in time. If you are too tired or too cynical for this work, please leave.”

(h/t: Marty Moylan)

  • joetron2030

    Without know how high up the disgruntled employee is/was, this:

    “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

    will never happen. Especially from a “grunt” to a C-level employee. Why? Because as soon as an employee gripes like this, they’ll be let go for not being a “team player”.

    • Charles Greene


  • Dave

    I can’t speak to Target’s corporate culture, but I agree with his assessment of their web site.

    It sucks. But hey, they’re saving you $0.01 on that Almay mascara because everything that plugs in was outsourced to Bangalore.

    • theinnerring

      seriously, one of the worst websites ever.

  • kevinfromminneapolis

    Fairly or not, when I read this I think here’s someone who didn’t fit the culture and got mad. But that’s valuable feedback for any employer because 1) perception is reality and 2) If it’s true, you need to make sure you’re not becoming a company that cycles out all but a certain style of employee. Whether or not that’s happening at Target I have no idea and 3) How many other people feel like this?

    I love Cartwheel.

    • John

      I was just thinking exactly that. Except the cartwheel part. They require more information about me than I’m willing to give, so I don’t use it.

  • Bethjock

    I agree that the website could be much better.

  • Doug Duwenhoegger

    The reason Target moves so slowly is that any capital improvement of more than $100k across the chain has to or at least had to have CEO sign off, that means if something needs to be bought for stores that exceeds $35 a store it needs direct sign off from the CEO. The culture is odd. They pay hires from out of state more for the same positions as in state hires. They almost exclusively recruit from the alma maters of senior management. You will not get a job at corporate without an employee referral or even more than a phone interview. There are lots of meetings that people sit in just to be seen but have little to zero input.

  • Jennifer Devine

    Jones is a good example of clear, responsible communication. I hadn’t heard of Gawker before now. Anyone with experience working in companies large and small can quickly tell that any large company is like a large, slow moving ship. When you’re large, there is greater impact on the decisions you make. Therefore, the responsibility is also greater.
    The alleged employee is obviously frustrated, and perhaps a bit immature. A solid message that s/he or others of like-mind may need to hear is this:
    1st, be grateful you are employed.
    2nd, challenges/complaints/frustrations occur in every job, every occupation.
    3rd, it’s part of your job to act responsibly, respecting your peers up and down you chain of command.
    4th, when you have a C, C or F (see 2nd point), you’ll gain more respect, a more effective listening from others, etc if you can A) express the specific issue/Complaint/Challenge/Frustration B) identify the source or cause C) PROPOSE SOLUTIONS.
    And 5) again, be grateful and look outside your world and entitlement. There are nearly 7Billion others you share your world with. Consider the multitude of alternative jobs you could be forced to have. You may experience more Peace, by accepting what you cannot change. Good luck employee I think many people, myself included have felt similarly. It comes from a desire to make a difference, which is a good thing. Keep the good, and edit what’s not working for you. Good luck anonymous employee!