Before I write this letter to all of you, I will preface this by saying that they have suppressed my third letter, titled “The “Blue” Solution”, by making it difficult to find in the blog list. If you or anyone else that you know would like to read it, feel free to message me and I will send you the link. It is shameful to know that you cannot speak critically about a company without them silencing your words, which no doubt sets a terrible precedent that I suspect not even they have accounted for the consequences.
What I could not know when I wrote my first letter was the sheer magnitude of you that felt the same as I. Indeed, though I knew only of the struggles that many at my store faced, I remained oblivious to the idea that other stores would be allowed to function in such a state. One of the many sentiments expressed at 1971 is that “surely, there cannot be other Lowe’s that are this terrible.” Witnessing firsthand the feelings held by many of you that resonated with what I had said truly opened my eyes to the fact that there is something terribly wrong with Lowe’s, something that we cannot allow to continue if we are to honetly tell the people that walk through our doors that our passion is to help them love where they live.
The meeting that I had with my District HR was, educational, to say the least. Though most of it was corporate smokescreens and conflict resolution tactics, I was afforded the invaluable chance to see the man behind the red vest. When he told me that “people only care about themselves and what they get out of anything” and that “no one is going to help you but you,” I was, at first, shocked. I am an optimist and though we are capable of some pretty horrendous and selfish acts, we are also gifted with the potential to become better than we are. However, the more I thought about his point of view, the more I began to understand it, though not in the way he hoped I would. Not in the fact that we are miserable, selfish people, but that no one is coming to save us. Certainly not HR, or our “leadership teams.”
The only people that can change Lowe’s is ourselves.
I came to the conclusion that the problems that exist at Lowe’s begin and end with us. I know that might be hard for some of us to hear. Many of us have felt victimized by those in power and have had our voice silenced. I am sure many of you can remember the training videos that deter us from unions, idiotically stating that we would be giving up our voice. I ask, what good is a voice if it falls on deaf ears? I am not advocating for unions; however, I am advocating for the power of our voice. When we fall silent over misdeeds and incompetent managers, we become the problem. We are just as guilty for our plight as those who do nothing for us. Allow me to illustrate this with a famous story about five monkeys.
An experimenter puts 5 monkeys in a large cage. High up at the top of the cage, well beyond the reach of the monkeys, is a bunch of bananas. Underneath the bananas is a ladder. The monkeys immediately spot the bananas and one begins to climb the ladder. As he does, however, the experimenter sprays him with a stream of cold water. Then, he proceeds to spray each of the other monkeys. The monkey on the ladder scrambles off. And all 5 sit for a time on the floor, wet, cold, and bewildered. Soon, though, the temptation of the bananas is too great, and another monkey begins to climb the ladder. Again, the experimenter sprays the ambitious monkey with cold water and all the other monkeys as well. When a third monkey tries to climb the ladder, the other monkeys, wanting to avoid the cold spray, pull him off the ladder and beat him. Now one monkey is removed and a new monkey is introduced to the cage. Spotting the bananas, he naively begins to climb the ladder. The other monkeys pull him off and beat him. Here’s where it gets interesting. The experimenter removes a second one of the original monkeys from the cage and replaces him with a new monkey. Again, the new monkey begins to climb the ladder and, again, the other monkeys pull him off and beat him – including the monkey who had never been sprayed. By the end of the experiment, none of the original monkeys were left and yet, despite none of them ever experiencing the cold, wet, spray, they had all learned never to try and go for the bananas. The metaphor and the lessons that apply to work are clear. Despite the exhortations from management to be innovative and collaborative, cold water is poured on people and their ideas whenever someone tries something new. Or, perhaps worse, the other employees suppress innovation, and learned helplessness spreads throughout the workplace.
One of my associates has been working hard to earn a full-time position at my store. So much so, that she began to apply to nearby Lowe’s in the hopes of landing any full-time position. She dreams of one day being a manager, so she applied for Service Manager positions. When one of our ASM’s discovered her passion, he told her that she did not have what it takes to be a Service Manager. The issue is not whether she is capable of handling the responsibilities that come with being a Service Manager, but the fact that no one is given the right to limit another person. True, not every person is cut out to be a manager, but what right do any of us have in telling someone they do not have that potential within themselves without first helping them discover that? Our purpose as leaders is to nurture our associates, to provide them the groundwork and the tools necessary to achieve the greatness that burns within. Yet, the shameful truth is that we are not investing in the part-time Lumber associate who works until his wrists can longer lift, the weekend warrior lot attendants drenched in sweat, the full-time single mother who is so close to completing her nursing degree so she can leave this hellish wasteland. WE are failing them. WE are the problem. When we snuff out our associates’ passions and dreams, what right have we to expect great things from them? How can we, in any sense of genuineness, state that we are here for them, that we are driven to provide a caring environment when we cannot even be bothered to provide for them?
This sort of learned helplessness runs rampant in Lowe’s. We have grown complacent and we stifle growth by following antiquated planograms and procedures that have only dug us further into this stygian vale of rotted values and dreams. When we confine ourselves to doing things a certain way because that’s how we’ve always done it, we willingly hamper ourselves and the one and only outcome that we have given ourselves is failure.
We cannot, in good faith, expect change if we are not first willing to change ourselves. We must have a standard, a bar that we will not allow to be lowered at any cost, a threshold that no one may dare cross. We will fall for everything if we stand for nothing, so I ask each and every one of you to stand for yourself. Speak out when you have been wronged. Our silence has led them to believe that we will accept sub-par “leaders” and that we are more than willing to continue drudging down the path of the underpaid and overworked. I know that many of you may have fallen silent out of fear; this job is your livelihood, your sole means of income. Perhaps you believe that speaking out may cost you your job. Or maybe you couldn’t care less about this job, so what good is trying to change it? I am telling you all that while one person may not be able to achieve the change that we so desperately need, if we all speak as one, they will listen. They must listen.
Remember that no one comes in to Lowe’s for Marvin. No one comes in because they support your District Manager or your HR. The people that walk through those doors come in to see you. You are what makes Lowe’s worth coming in to, and if no one will stand up and say that you are appreciated and that the sacrifices you have made for this company haven’t been for nothing then let that person be me.
You are appreciated.
You are invaluable.
You are the reason why people love where they live.
It’s not the products.
It’s not the EPP’s.
It’s not the leads.
It is you and it always has been.
My store is having what is called a “Support Walk” on the 6th of September. Corporate has decided to grace us with their presence and will come to our store and ask our associates how much we love working for Lowe’s and what they can do to make it even better. I say we tell them the truth. If your store is having a similar walk, I humbly ask you to print this and give to them. Feel free to copy and paste the entirety of this letter and send it to Marvin, to your District Manager, to your District HR. They need to know that we will not tolerate “leadership teams” that are allowed to stay employed with a 47 rating on EOS, or management that willingly subverts and deceives customers and abuses their associates.
This is our wake up call and the only ones that can make this place grow to untold heights is us. No one will help us. It’s time to help ourselves.
Simi Valley, Store#1971