Before I start detailing the events of my meeting with my regional HR, I want to first state how completely blown away I am by the overwhelmingly positive response this post has gotten. I never would have believed that I would have reached the amount of wonderful people that I have, nor would I have believed that people would resonate with my words on such a level as to print out my blog and spread my words. From the deepest reaches of my spirit and heart, I offer my most humble of thanks.
A few days after my letter started gaining traction, I received an e-mail from my regional HR stating that he would like to meet with my and discuss the concerns I had working for Lowe’s. I was shocked, seeing as how I never believed for a minute that it would have gotten as much as attention as it received. Though I was definitely concerned for my job because this store has employed subtle forms of retaliation, I knew that this might be my one and only chance to change the future for many people. This was not a meeting that I took lightly and the amount of people that resonated with my words gave me more courage than I knew what to do with. I would not waste this chance.
I will admit to my own naivete regarding the outcome of this meeting. My heart wanted to believe that maybe, just maybe, I could appeal to the side of him that many managers seemingly refuse to acknowledge; their human side. I didn’t want to talk to the corporate side of him; I wanted to speak to him man to man, from one human being to another. I thought that if I could just get him to see the suffering that is allowed to exist in our stores that we could work together to create solutions that can change people’s lives for the better.
I was wrong.
For the three hour duration of the meeting, I talked for a total of 15 minutes. Most of the time was spent listening to how great Lowe’s is, and how many associates don’t utilize the tools given to them, and how most of the time, associates are wrong for feeling the way they do. When I could get a word in, I would do my best to make my points but they were constantly belittled and reduced to nothing more than an associate who is upset because his feelings were hurt.
One of the first things that was mentioned in this “meeting” was that Lowe’s values results over morals. Consider the following; you have two managers, one that is good and another that is bad. The good manager leads by example; he or she is a paragon of their peers. He or she is loved by many because they understand the plight of the associate and is willing to go the extra mile for their associates because they know that unhappy associates will create unhappy customers. The bad manager intimidates; he or she knows that results can be produced by fear and strong-arming associates into bending to their will. He or she knows they can coerce associates into over performing; not by instilling confidence or passion but by distress and threats. According to HR, the morality of the two managers, though radically different, is meaningless so long as both are producing satisfactory results. This is not to say that the bad manager will not be reprimanded for their actions, but rather, so long as they reign in their destructive tendencies, all is well. A pitiful excuse for the actions of those managers who sow seeds of resentment and anger among their workforce.
The second point that was discussed was concerning the genius associate that would go above and beyond when it came to selling credit cards and EPP’s. I was told that it must have been difficult to be the SSM in that situation, since nothing the SSM could have done would have been enough. However, the point that I was attempting to make was that it should never have gotten to that point in the first place. Of course there was nothing the SSM could have done at that point, however, if the associate was congratulated and given recognition along the way, the stress felt by both parties could have been drastically reduced.
The third point was, in essence, that associates aren’t doing better because they aren’t putting effort into doing so. Or, in truth, employing that effort in the right ways. HR said that when associates ask for more money, they tell them about the 401k and stock options. However, where this inevitably fails is in the fact that most full and part-time associates are not going to invest in a company that cares so little about the associates voice. Sure, perhaps to the veteran associates and those seeking a career here at Lowe’s have that, but what are we doing for the others? I responded to this by stating there was an associate, right at this very moment in Building and Lumber, who was a new hire. Barely qualified to be on the floor and zero experience under his belt, alone, and without any machinery licenses. I told him that I would bet an entire months paycheck on the fact that he was never told about the 401k OR the stock program, AND the fact that he didn’t have orientation, because I never had that, either. While the look on his face was priceless, it truly opened my eyes to this severe disconnect between what managers say they are doing and what they actually do. I discovered later that day that this associate put in his two weeks because the entire experience was too toxic for him. He went through two weeks of what is barely considering training, only to leave because the environment that corporate is content with maintaining is rife with toxicity and deceit and “do as I say, not as I do” mentalities from some of the “leadership team”. Truly a waste, yet this kind of callous attitude towards new and veteran hires alike is responsible for the dwindling workforce.
Another point that I was able to make when I got the chance to actually speak was regarding the store’s EOS score. As I stated before, it was (and still is) at a solid 47. I asked HR what is being done to remedy this and, to my surprise, was asked one of the most condescending questions I have ever been asked in my life. “Do you even know how it works?” As far as I am concerned, anything that allows a 47 out of 100 is still an F, whether that process is understood or not. However, now that I learned the truth about how EOS works, I will explain it so no one else has to have their HR make them feel like an idiot. EOS takes scores and creates an average based on the numbers that we, the associates, submit. What many of you may or may not know is that it only registers scores if an associate has rated their response a 6 or a 7. This means many scores do not accurately display the current score because it is designed to filter out lower scores, thus creating the illusion of a score higher than what was actually given. HR stated that our score is inaccurate, though I do not know which reality is worse; an inaccurate program that we are still using to judge our managers that still allows a 47 to be acceptable or the fact that we are rigging this program to avoid harsh criticisms of our “leadership team”. Either way, it is an incredibly dishonest tactic.
I was also chided for even publishing this letter in the first place. I was told by HR that I should have gone directly to our Store Manager, as what I have essentially done by going beyond him is calling out and placing the spotlight on every manager. While it is true that I described some as “incompetent” and “spiteful” I had refrained from using names because I needed this to be professional and respectful. Of course I did not mean every manager is this way; in all honesty, the only reason they feel threatened or targeted is because they are the managers this letter is about. It was out of respect for their privacy that I intentionally withheld their names. We have managers that are intentionally lying to costumers by adding EPP’s to their transaction in order to boost numbers without telling the customers and having them use other log in ID’s if they can’t get one. We also have managers that will work themselves to the bone and take on the responsibilities of the other managers that sit in their office all day and text. Both parties know who they are and that is enough for me.
I genuinely wished for an open dialogue and legitimate solutions to the concerns that we have. Your responses have been overwhelming and I did my best to have them answered. It is with great sorrow and shame that they fell on deaf ears. They aren’t here for us. They are only out for themselves. HR did nothing more than diffuse our cries for change and reduced them to trifles. To quote my HR; “No one is going to help you. People are only ever out for themselves. The only person that will help you is you.” This mentality only creates conflict and breeds an incredibly toxic “me against you” environment. Though he made it clear that he was here for me, for all of us, it became apparent as the conversation progressed that he was only making sure we would not rock the boat. That we would stay silent. That we would stay complacent and keep our heads down and get back to work. What I have learned is that we only ever allow what we think we deserve. I believe that we deserve better.
Throughout the meeting, HR kept asking me what I wanted. As if it was something as simple as a pay raise or a set schedule. What I want is for there to be a serious and intensive investigation into each and every location. We need to start from the bottom up so that we may clearly see the problems that plague these stores. Will people lose their jobs? Undoubtedly. Is that what I want? Hardly. Change denotes neither good or bad, but it will definitely mean that things will not be the same. That is what I truly want.
I will close by saying that they have begun to investigate those who have printed out my letter at my store. While it honors me that many of you have done so, I cannot accept the idea that I might be responsible for the loss of someone’s job. Be careful, for while I and many others are eager for change, many are not.
Simi Valley, #1971