Target exec defends company after employee rant on Gawker


Target Executive Vice President and Chief Marketing Officer Jeff Jones has responded to a widely discussed email from a mid-level company employee in Minnesota, which is getting a lot of attention after it was posted by media site Gawker.

The controversial email was highly critical of the company, and makes some eye-opening claims about its corporate culture.

In the rant posted on May 7 by Gawker, the current Target employee claims the company is bogged down by multiple meetings:

"Target purposely staffs assuming that everyone is working at 50% productivity," the email reads. "In essence they have 2 people doing a job that 1 person could do at another company, because the rest of the time you're in status meetings or volunteer events or FFF events (that's Fast Fun & Friendly, basically an excuse to not be working). You're penalized and viewed as unfriendly and not a team player if you spend too much time in your cube working and not enough time socializing."

Gawker published the email two days after Target announced that Chairman, President and CEO Gregg Steinhafel was stepping down and being replaced in the interim by Chief Financial Officer John Mulligan.

Ripping several of the company's business decisions – chief among them the expansion into Canada – the employee had an ominous warning for the future of the company if it doesn't change its ways.

"If Target doesn't make a serious change in their leadership and culture, it will end up being a Kmart, a Sears, or even worse a Circuit City," the email says. "The Twin Cities would be devastated – around 15,000 people work for Target HQ at one of their numerous sites in the Twin Cities."

In response, Jones penned a lengthy opinion piece on LinkedIn called "The Truth Hurts."

Jones says, "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."

Jones addresses the massive data breach that rocked the company in December and resignation of the company's president and CFO last week.

"You’d think that these two incidents alone would create enough pain to last a brand a lifetime but one of the most challenging things that has happened, in my opinion, have been reports, some attributed to unnamed team members, that paint a picture of a culture that is in crisis," Jones wrote. "When a recent post on a well-known blog called me out by name, it only felt right that I should respond."

Jones said in his post that he takes criticism very seriously, and argues that Target isn't the first company in history to find a rough patch, and it won't be the last. He wrote that companies like Apple, Harley Davidson, Starbucks, Disney and Ford all have hit rough patches in their history and recovered; yet he's "acutely familiar with the brands that did not recover and I am not interested in tempting this fate."

Saying there is "hard" and "uncomfortable" work ahead to make Target "irresistible" again, Jones says he and his team will embrace the hits the company takes.

"The culture of Target is an enormous strength and might be our current Achilles heel. In the coming days and weeks we will embrace the critiques of Target – whether it’s from outsiders or our own team – like an athletics team puts the negative press on the wall in the locker room," Jones wrote.

Target has been under fire since December, after a reported 40 million payment card records were stolen from the company along with 70 million other records, including customer information, during the data breach. The company has also suffered through big losses as it expands into Canada.

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