I've observed one law as basic as gravity in the world of business: when times are hard and jobs become scarce, employers introduce silly, obnoxious, or even counter-productive rules into the workplace. I distinctly recall a couple of years ago, when some Wall Street firms finally managed to rid their workplaces of "business casual" and re-impose suits and ties. The older staff had simply never adjusted to business casual dress codes — at the first sign of a weakness in the job market, one that made their employees less mobile, they re-imposed the irritating and pointless suit and tie. I admit that I was amazed, at the time, that someone at the companies had clearly brooded for years over business casual and then pounced on the first opportunity to turn back the clock. A lesson to the employees, of course, on what management considered important — form, not function — and on how little management really respected the employees.
The latest counter-productive imposition on employees comes from Meijer and other firms, as they attempt to micro-manage employees' time at the checkout counter. With the help of software Meijer determines each checkout worker's average time per customer; fall below 95% of the "baseline" and you've started on your way out of Meijer.
What underlies this move by Meijer is a failure of disaggregation. They've gone to great lengths to disaggregate and calculate all the mechanical tasks of the checkout worker, and their "baseline" rests on that calculation. But Meijer utterly fails to look at least one other component of the checkout task: ownership. A checkout worker who takes partial ownership of the corporate task of making customers happy will suffer penalties. If an employee respectfully waits for an elderly person to unload a cart or make change; if he offers friendly advice; if he stops a moment to help a customer search for a product — all of these behaviors, which build customer loyalty and encourage employee loyalty, are not rewarded but penalized.
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