November 11, 2019 - NeverGoingBack
A Taste of the ‘Fun’ I Endured as a Team Lead
I’ve been free from the hellhole that is Target since February this year after working for this miserable company for just over a decade. I had initially started to type up a post of all the bullshit I endured just in my last year there, but realized that even that was going to take up like twenty pages. So in this post I’ll just focus on two (out of like a billion) things that stood out to me as being particularly egregious.
So to start off, after working there for nearly a decade, management finally stopped overlooking me and promoted me to a team lead position. Sort of. Kinda maybe. …But not really. See, I was promoted to presentation TL after the previous TL abruptly left. This was late January/early February of 2018, so the changes that were eventually made to the GM process hadn’t been implemented yet, but they were on the horizon. In a meeting with the Store Manager and Logistics ETL, I was told that my promotion would have to be considered temporary at this point, as they weren’t sure if there would be a presentation TL position in the future. This was extremely frustrating to me, but I understood that they didn’t know what the future held, and it wasn’t their fault if corporate decided to do away with that particular TL position.
But, they took it a step further, and here’s where my beginning as a TL took a turn. Besides not being able to guarantee a TL position in the future after the organizational changes took effect, my STL went on to inform me that before that time even came they might demote me and promote someone else they liked better. Mind you, he wasn’t even making it a threat; like, he wasn’t saying ‘if you under-perform we’ll find someone else.’ In fact, he was very clear that it wouldn’t be about performance. They might just find someone they liked better and take the job from me to give to this hypothetical person. After years spent working for this STL and ETL, I knew that ‘someone we like better’ meant ‘someone who kisses our collective ass more than you do’. So here I am being ‘promoted’, but am I excited about the significant raise and how it will change my future, or motivated for and focused on my new position? No, because my management has gone out of their way to make it very clear that my job is not secure. Now I get to live with the knowledge that literally any day could be the day I come in find out they’ve decided to give my position to one of their lackeys. That’s some stellar leadership right there.
Fast forward to the summer, and management actually does follow through with the whole ‘give my job to someone they like better’ plan (albeit with a slight twist, but that isn’t the point of this post). So I found myself demoted for a few weeks, right up until the Backroom/Fulfillment TL abruptly quit. I was then offered that position, again without any commitment to it being permanent. In the end, for the just over one year that I worked as a team lead, I never once had any confidence that I actually had the job since management would never actually commit to it.
Anyway, on to the second big issue. As I said, my next stint as a TL was in Backroom/Fulfillment. My store had been one of the first to test the fulfillment process, but after the company decided to spread the orders throughout all stores, our daily order volume dropped significantly. In the years since, our volume had very slowly been creeping back up, but was still nowhere near where it was when we started. That is, until we started to head into the holidays in 2018. Between the company shifting more orders from DCs to stores, increased volume for the holidays, and just an increase in online ordering in general, the fulfillment process (and team) expanded massively just as I was taking over. To put some actual numbers on this expansion: the fulfillment team under the previous TL consisted of three people, whereas my fulfillment team at its height during the holidays consisted of thirty-five people.
A number the astute reader will recognize as being just slightly higher than three.
Of course, my management, geniuses that they were, didn’t see any problem with treating a 35-person team the same as a 3-person team, and trying to run it all with a single team lead. This by the way was in addition to the eight team members I had in backroom and receiving, bringing the total to 43. Put another way, there were 15 total team leads in the store including me, and yet I had sole responsibility for fully 20% of the store’s team members.
Now, worse than just the sheer number of people I was supposed to be supervising was the scheduling. At my store, fulfillment ran from 6 a.m. to 11 p.m., seven days a week. That’s 119 hours of fulfillment a week. Let’s just go ahead and round that up to 120, and then realize that since I can’t work more than 40 hours a week (’cause, ya know, working even a single minute of OT will make the universe explode), that’s fully two-thirds of the time where the team has no team lead. That’s a bad ratio to begin with, but it’s especially bad when 90% of the team is brand new.
But it gets better! As I’m sure you’re all aware, most Target employees work varying schedules, sometimes opening, sometimes closing, sometimes working mids, etc. Well, I only worked mornings (8 to 4:30 during the week, 6 to 2:30 on my weekends on). Meanwhile, as my fulfillment team was expanding, I’ve got people who only worked evenings because of second jobs, school, kids, whatever. As there was no other team lead, my sole means of communicating to these people was to leave them notes and hope they A) read them in the first place, and B) don’t have any questions, since there’s nobody there to answer them.
At this point I should clarify something. When I say I only worked mornings, it wasn’t because I refused to work any other schedule. In fact, as the evening crew was having more and more difficulty, I told my boss I’d be more than happy to work some mid or closing shifts during the week so that I could, like… actually see and speak with the people I’m supposedly responsible for. She told me it was more important that I be there for the morning portion of the process, and refused to alter my schedule. I told her I was fine with staying late a few days a week. She told me no OT, and shot that suggestion down. So I said, can another TL at least check in one these people, so they can get updates and pertinent information, and have an actual conversation with a human about what’s expected of them. My boss got very upset at this suggestion, stating that the fulfillment team was my responsibility, and if I’m getting someone else to check in on them that means they’re doing my job for me, and what are they paying me for if I’m just getting someone else to do my job for me, blah blah fucking blah. Now, that was some bullshit, especially when you realize that during my working weekends I was also expected to run the truck unload team in addition to running fulfillment and backroom. Because my working weekends were the truck TL’s weekends off, and of course someone has to run the truck team! You can’t have a team without a team lead! That’s just crazy! Unless that team is the fulfillment team, in which case fuck it, one TL can totally run that team even if they can only be there one third of the time.
So now I’ve got a team comprised of almost entirely new people, a good portion of which I literally never see. But it gets better still! See, while the fulfillment team eventually peaked at 35 people for the holidays, they didn’t come on board all at once. Initially we were adding one or two a week. Evenings were a problem, but it hadn’t gone completely off the rails yet. No, that came in November, when one day well into the month my boss pulls me aside and says, hey, by the way, you’ve got 17 new people coming on board over the next week. Seventeen new people in a week. And when I said this was well into November? Yeah, that meant that the bulk of these 17 new people were starting during Cyber Week. Our absolute busiest week of the year. But wait, it gets better yet! Of these 17 new people, most of them were high school students. So for many (maybe all) of them, it’s their first job ever. That they’re starting during the busiest week of the year. With no advance training. And, oh yeah, since they’re high school students, they can only work after school’s out. In the evening. When the one and only team lead is literally not allowed to be there. There were honestly days during that week when the entirety of the evening team consisted of people who had started that week. And my ETL and STL apparently saw no problems with any of this, and made sure to let me know that if for some strange reason everything didn’t go perfectly, it was all my fault. Just… wow.
Oh and hey, one more side effect of not having a team lead for fulfillment present in the evening? Other TLs or ETLs who were there at night saw this huge team of people and thought to themselves, ooh, free resources! And so they would take my team to go work on their shit, and then when I came in the next morning I was on the hook for all the orders that didn’t get done.
So anyway, that’s just a small sampling of all the bullshit I went through during my final year at Target as a kinda-sorta-but-not-for-realsies team lead. These things and many more combined to finally make me say ‘fuck it’ and walk out earlier this year. I may post some additional stories of all the ‘fun’ I had over the years. To anyone reading this who is still employed at Target, I sincerely hope that you have better management than I did.