To Make Management Listen and Care

A question to Ask the Workplace Doctors about how it manages:

I am a CAP team 2 associate at WalMart. I have been working here for close to 3 months now. Management has been hounding the cap 2 team, but slack off themselves.

I am a student and cannot work 40 hours a week. I gave my manager my school schedule and my availability during school back in the beginning of August. They still schedule me on days I cannot work. I gain points I should not have and management has to remove them. They boss us around, telling us that we don’t do our jobs when they cannot even make a schedule.

What can I and my associates do to make management listen and care about our needs? This situation is out of hand as this is the third week in a row that scheduling issues occur? All advice to make management care is appreciated.

Signed Making Management Care

Dear Making Management Care:

It’s good to get a question from a working-student–one who is in the process of career preparation. Why? Because the goal of our site is help those committed to learning while on the job. We realize young people often take whatever jobs they can get rather than see this time in their lives as life-shaping and life-changing.  I will therefore respond to four topics embedded in your question: Asking questions, Debt, Coping with your difficult job situation, and 40 hour no-benefits regulation. Let’s look at these topics.

Debt. I like to teach students who earn to learn. You deserve credit for the job you are in. There are few problems more disheartening than debt piling up while seeking an education–debt that can’t go away even with bankruptcy that might happen because of injury and medical bills. Completing a college degree might take longer by working to prevent debt, but that is best in the long run. So I congratulate you for every hour you work at WalMart.

Asking questions. Perhaps the most valuable lesson you can learn for a college career is not sure answers but to ask questions. Even scanning the questions submitted to Ask the Workplace Doctors has value without studying our answers. Scanning tells you the kind of frustrations and concerns employees have with bosses, coworkers, discrimination, working conditions, gossip, discipline, and hopes they have for their careers. To be forewarned is the first step to becoming forearmed–prepared for what will and might happen on the job.   

Coping with your difficult job situation. Your current job problem appears in two words: hounding and scheduling. You say your supervisor pressures your team–you call it hounding. You don’t describe the specific ways this are done, but you feel it. What is the language, gestures and tone that make you feel hounded, when and how often do you encounter this kind of communication? For example, does your associate boss raises his/her voice, insult, belittle, order rather than ask, or lack in praise for jobs well done? Straight talk with that individual might stop what is disturbing and raise awareness of what would be motivating.

Bossing is too often practiced as ordering rather than selling or better still as engaging. Effective bossing must be learned and feedback from the bossed is a way to teach what is ineffective vs what is perceived as effective. If expressed in an assertive constructive way, bosses listen even when they don’t like criticism. Bosses want to be liked as much or more than they like to be feared.

To earn the right to be listened to associates should think like bosses–therefore think and talk as a boos dose about how to make things run smoothly and how to satisfy internal/external customers. Talk with team members and your boss about how things are going and how to make them better. This is a proactive way to answer: “What can I and my associates do to make management listen and care about our needs?” This is not a sure fix to helping your immediate boss and WalMart care about your needs, but it is far better than biting your tongue or mumbling complaints out of earshot of your boss.

Perhaps try to think like a team thinks and decides to speaks up to a coach who doesn’t care about player’s needs–their time, need to pass classes, and careers when not in a game and after graduation, if they graduate. Such team-talk must be frank and explicit about what frustrates and what is wanted. I say team-talk because it’s best expressed in skull sessions committed to effective games and in time-out sessions. Also it is not voiced by only one player. Rather it entail all members proposing do and don’t rules about the kind of talk and action that are derived by a team consensus. In short, don’t expect much change in caring behavior or careful scheduling without candid team-talk. 

40 hour no-benefits regulation. The fact is that WalMart, like other such big companies such as Amazon, benefits from cheap labor. See Bernie Sanders calls out Jeff Bezos over Amazon’s work conditions – Vox 30, 2018 Bernie Sanders called out Jeff Bezos for poor treatment of Amazon workers. In a rare move, the company fired back.

A careful read of this article points up the kind of under 40 hour problem you are facing at Walmart. Amazon counters with saying its trying to improve working conditions and its part time workers are on foods stamps because they choose part time in order to qualify for them. I will include some excerpts that are discouraging but enlightening of what needs changing. They should cause you to realize that workers have little power and will continue to be treated as less than their employers would like to be treated if they were in their place. Study these excerpts:

accused of paying its workers poor wages while its CEO and founder amasses unprecedented wealth. The email accused Amazon of engaging in “greed which seems to have no end” and encouraged readers to sign a petition that would impel Bezos to improve work conditions and increase wages.

The petition has received 120,000 signatures and garnered plenty of support across social media. Sanders also requested to hear from Amazon workers who have “used public assistance, such as food stamps, Medicaid or subsidized housing, in order to make ends meet.”

But Amazon has been followed for years by negative reports regarding workplace conditions and worker treatment. From reports about poor air conditioning to timed bathroom breaksto constant video surveillance, the list runs long. As Seth King, a former Amazon warehouse worker, told Vox in July 2018, Amazon’s work conditions are “grueling” and “depressing.”

“You spend 10 hours on foot, there’s no windows in the place, and you’re not allowed to talk to people — there’s no interactions allowed,” he said. “I got a sense in no time at all that they work people to death, or until they get too tired to keep working. After two months, I felt I couldn’t work there and maintain a healthy state of mind.”

Last year, only a few months after Amazon dropped $13.4 billion to buy the upscale grocery chain Whole Foods, data found that one in three Amazon employees living in Arizona must rely on food stamps because they do not earn a living wage.

In addition to immense wealth, Amazon also has plenty of muscle to flex. It’s had states bending over backward, offering tax deductions in order to court the e-commerce giant as it searches for a home for its second headquarters. In June, only a few weeks after Seattle passed a tax that would make big companies like Amazon pay extra to fund affordable housing and programs for the homeless, Amazon helped get the tax repealed.

—Finally this last excerpt—In the email sent out to supporters Wednesday, August 22, with the subject line “Jeff Bezos,” Sanders pointed out this discrepancy.

“I want to ask you to clear your mind for a moment and count to 10,” the email read. “In those 10 seconds, Jeff Bezos, the owner and founder of Amazon, made more money than the median employee of Amazon makes in an entire year. An entire year. Think about that.” 

So what does this extended story on Amazon tell you? In a practical way, it says, life is unfair and it will continue to be unfair especially for part time workers –no health insurance benefit wherever you work if you work part time, and even if you work 40 hours or more but in a place with less than 50 employees.

So Want Management to Care doesn’t happen by wishing. Fair wages, safe and decent working conditions and health benefits cannot happen until and if workers ban together to assert their political voice. This is a fact you are forced to face as a student just beginning career. Those who won what we take for granted today battled for years–that child labor is against the law, that work beyond 40 hour work week should be paid overtime pay, and that employers should not discriminate. You will be faced with what is unfair until you and those like you find a voice–not lone voices but organized voices.

No doubt, these thoughts are well beyond what you expected when you submitted your question, but I suggest they will help you face the fact that WalMart is not likely to do much to make working there a walk in the park. You have been assigned a position an ID–an identity. That’s visible. However, your identification with coworkers, management the Walmart organization is something inside. It will become positive and less negative to the degree you and others you join with with you to voice your concerns constructively–with guts and grit. Working together with hands, head and heart takes and makes big WEGOS. Please know I will appreciate learning what you choose to do to cope and later as you progress in your education. –William Gorden