Very Mixed Feelings

Yesterday a story broke about my former employers. It leaves me with decidedly mixed feelings, and it also serves up a reminder of the potential pitfalls of Brexit (something my current employers have also experienced, albeit in a different way).

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(my mood is lurching between this…)

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(… and this)

I used to work a major office supplies retailer, an international firm that I presume remains a major player in the USA, but to be honest I don’t know. Nor for that matter, do I care. What I do care about is that they are selling off their UK business, having finally decided to pull the plug on what was an ailing side to their company. The chances are the stores will close, leaving over a thousand people (including friends) out of work.

The writing’s been on the wall with this one since even before Brexit. Successive directors have come and gone and sought only short-term solutions to issues, failing to tackle the deeper problems within the business. You can’t cut back the hours available to stores and expect productivity and profitability to somehow remain the same or even improve. You can’t expect one store manager to cover three stores with anything like the effectiveness of having one manager per store. You can’t have absurd levels of red tape and expect stores to function properly. The upper management of this company (including some, though not all, of the area managers) failed to grasp what was going on at store level – that, or they didn’t care.

I get it. No really, I do. Businesses have costs. Sometimes they need to bring those costs down. But the employees of the business aren’t merely ID numbers on a computer somewhere – they are living, breathing human beings, who give up a significant percentage of their time for the sake of their employer. In the case of my former employers, they didn’t want to see their employees as people. It was all too easy to cut them out of the equation, reducing hours and somehow expecting this to resolve the problems. It’s hardly a surprise to learn that this idea failed miserably. During my time there (especially once I became a team leader), the pressure increased steadily, but the resources to handle that pressure diminished. Staff did not feel that the company at large gave a damn about them. No thought was given to cutting red tape or addressing the wasteful procedures the business had. Well now, they’ve fallen flat on their faces.


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