Can you believe it! J.C. Penney hired a therapist to help employees cope with the firing of former CEO Ron Johnson. I need to add this to my next edition of OOPS: 13 Management Practices that Waste Time and Money. I don’t know why this bothers me as I see or read something almost every day that executives do that drives me crazy. If you had asked me the moment that the decision was made if it would work, I would not only have said no, but I would have bet a substantial sum of money that it would not work.
When it comes to managing employees, otherwise normal, rational people fall for the most outrageous solutions. What this decision tells me is the executives at J.C. Penney are not only desperate, but more importantly they don’t have a clue about the science of human behavior. They are not alone as executives at the IRS fell for the suggestion that a line dance lesson would help people at the Internal Revenue Service work together better.
I am sorry, but no psychological training session or speech (or even line dancing) will help J.C. Penney out of its current problems. What they need to do is turn to their employees and involve them directly in suggesting changes and implementing them until they find success. (Obviously management ideas haven’t worked very well to this point.) Every employee needs to go home after work with a story to tell about what s/he did that day to improve the experience of working and/or shopping at the store. Nothing works better to help anyone out of a funk than to do something the produces a valuable outcome. Sitting around commiserating or reliving some traumatic event is guaranteed to make it worse.
I would say to the employees something very simple. “Let’s get busy and return Penney’s to a store in which you would love to shop and work.” This should be the beginning and end of any and all motivational speeches. The rest is action. I would love to have heard Ms. Liz Sweney’s pitch to executives where she described the rationale for bringing in a therapist. My question to those executives is “What were they thinking?”
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