business news in context, analysis with attitude

Yesterday, we posted an email from a Supervalu employee that said, in part:

“Another bad management move at Supervalu. Last week it was announced that our Employee Discount on private brands items was going from 15% to 10%. Not a huge deal for most of us, but the store employees are very upset. They have taken to posting anonymously on our company's home page (they aren't allowed on yammer). The largest area of complaint is the fact that the Executives & Great Store Managers just returned from an all expense paid cruise & all Store Managers (company wide) are getting iPads/iPhones. Once again, the timing couldn't be worse. Morale at store level is at an all time low (doing more with less) and these people are on the front lines.”

My comment:

I’m not sure this is a universal sentiment at Supervalu; I’ve met some folks recently who believe that the company is making hard decisions and positioning itself properly for the future. The issue of the recent cruise continues to be a problem for leadership, though a number of folks point out that it was long planned and almost impossible to cancel. (Bad optics, though.)

But this message suggests that Supervalu continues to have morale and personnel issues it needs to address.

This story generated a bunch of responses.

One reader sent the following email:

Interesting piece today on SVU...employees can't "yammer"? What the hell is that about?

I want all my associates to "yammer"...last I checked, if it's available...use it.. I found that one can gain more information by listening and reading then "imparting knowledge that you think is important"...

Wiser leadership words rarely have been spoken.

From another MNB user:

I have always felt good leadership was easy if everyone felt like they were in the same fox hole together…mostly meaning the manager felt their team was as just as important as he/she felt he/she was.

In order to exhibit good leadership you’ve got to have some sense of reality and what makes the lower levels of the company tick.

No matter what the justification for the new technology or the cruise if you as a leader don’t see yourself as another one of the team and have no real relationship with them then making decisions like the ones mentioned will be poorly timed and almost always come off looking terrible…what should they think…you’re talking about nothing but sacrifice for the good of the company while taking off on a cruise…SERIOUSLY?

On the other hand if you see yourself as ONE OF MANY ON THE TEAM making sacrifices and working towards the goal you’ll have some level of sensitivity to just how bad those decision look to the rest of the team.

There’s a time and a place for rewards and investments but being so out of touch as to not realize the difference is IMHO another sign of management that is out of touch with reality and their team….maybe they need to be replaced for the good of the company?

From another reader:

I am a former Supervalu employee that worked in profit center management for over 35 years and am truly sorry to see this once well run company slowly slipping into the abyss.  Supervalu is in desperate need of new leadership.  Craig Herkert, the current CEO, is at very best a tactician.  He is certainly not the visionary or inspirational leader required to turn the company around.  Craig might have done well if he had been handed a well-oiled machine with experienced top management but as we all know that was not the case.  The Albertsons merger may have looked good on paper but there was no solid plan in place to move it forward.  When you couple this poor planning with Walmart's rapid expansion into many of Supervalu's major markets the disastrous results we now see came as no surprise.  Supervalu needs new leadership in the board room and its executive offices now.

Yet another MNB user offered:

Cruises that have been booked long ago are indeed "almost impossible" to cancel.  But that doesn't mean that the cruise must be provided at no charge to those executives. My suggestion:  Tally the cost and deduct it from their paychecks over the next 3 months.  It will send a message to both the executives and the employees that real changes are being made.

And, another email:

Perhaps, some CEO would be better served in both the short and long term by using a scalpel vs. a machete in solving their company issues. Why I fully understand they have the board and others breathing down their neck, one key role of a leader is to lead and make sure that when her or she take over a new role that they understand their role and expectations as well as making sure part of their plan back is to be a leader and not a uncaring cold person.

Now, let’s be fair. Not everybody feels this way.

One MNB user wrote:

I’m a 12 yr legacy SV employee & have another view regarding the decrease in the Supervalu employee discount.

First of all, this discount is a new perk within the last few years.  I thought it was great of the company to give it to us at all!  The decrease will help us get our retails lower, which is much needed.  I’m sure our customers will appreciate that & isn’t their satisfaction our goal?  I think I can forgo 5% for job security.

The iPads the store managers are receiving are a good thing.  It will empower them to do their jobs more efficiently and effectively while being present on the store floor.  Not stuck in an office. 

The cruise was not looked upon favorably but I’m sure most of those people in the stores don’t know the reasons for going ahead with it.

It always disappoints me when you receive negative email from SV employees.  Is there no loyalty anymore?  I say we should get rid of the naysayers and hire some positivity.  Have some faith that our hard work will pay off.  Otherwise, what’s the point of coming to work every day?

And, from still another reader:

Personally, I think Craig and upper management are doing a good job.  We are paying down our debt and driving costs out of the business.  Nothing but good things to come.  You are correct - I’m sure the cruise was planned months ago and couldn’t be changed.

More to come. I’m sure...

Also got a bunch of email about the continuing problems at the US Postal Service, which is looking to make cuts that are opposed by a wide range of businesses that say they depend on the USPS to stay in business.

One MNB user wrote:

Kevin, I was shocked to hear how bad it really is at ole USPS.  Also, when did it become ok to call losing $36M a day a “Business Model?” It seems like such a disservice to the word and idea of what a business is.  The postal service hasn’t been a business in a very long time.

And from another reader:

What I don’t get is whether its closing a post office, military base, etc, that  no one wants it to be theirs and have a million of reason why, but still want cuts.  Ever thought of making a military base into a minimum security prison? A post office a senior center meeting place both allowing you to get out of one that  you can’t afford and into one you need but at a great price??

And, yet another offering:

The Government needs to decide if we want to continue throwing good money down the drain. Just because we've funded this method of delivery for the last 100+ years doesn't mean that it still has a place in todays electronic environment. First, UPS and FedEx have proven that package and mail delivery can be profitable, so we should either completely privatize the USPS or it needs to charge rates that allow it to break-even at worst. Second, with dramatically increased rates the amount of ridiculous junk mail we receive (that goes straight into my recycle bin) would be dramatically cut…thankfully. Third, our usage of paper for all that junk mail would probably save enough trees to repair the ozone in our lifetimes. Finally, with the number of American households connected to the web all vital services (banking, credit card bills, utilities, etc.), plus news (how many newspapers have gone out of business I the last 20 years because of the web) and directed promotions can be had at the click of a mouse, or tab of an iPad or smartphone. Let it die, or jack-up the rates.

And finally, from another reader:

I know this is selfish, but I want my Netflix DVDs as soon as possible. Stopping postal deliveries one or two days a week will have an adverse affect on the Netflix business. I would think they would be lobbying against the changes as well.

The Netflix DVD business is going to go away anyway. We’re all going to be streaming pretty soon...

And finally, yesterday MNB took note of an Associated Press report that there is a new trend developing in the business world, with job applicants being asked “to reveal their Facebook passwords so their prospective employers can check their backgrounds.”

The story notes that “Facebook is warning employers not to demand the passwords of job applicants, saying that it's an invasion of privacy that opens companies to legal liabilities. The social networking company is also threatening legal action against those who violate its long-standing policy against sharing passwords.”

My commentary: This is a crock.

Employers have no business requesting personal passwords. None. It violates people’s privacy, and it is just generally unwise.

That said, potential employees need to show a certain level of maturity and intelligence about what they post online. Once you get to be a certain age, you have to assume that a potential employer might see everything you post.

But just because some potential employees are stupid and immature does not justify an invasion of privacy.

One MNB user responded:

The practice of requiring the FB password of a potential employee is absurd. HR people have to be on red alert if this happens in their organization. The choice to hire or not hire must be directly related to whether or not the employer believes the candidate can do the job. If the employer views anything on a job candidates FB page, and makes the decision to not hire, legitimate lawsuits will pop up everywhere. Further, how can an employer balance this practice between those candidates that have a FB page and those who do not? It feels like premeditated discrimination to me.

From another reader:

OR… one can give them their password of NO THANKS, KEEP UR JOB, etc...

MNB user Steve Sullivan wrote:

I had a very brief discussion with a VERY much younger friend who is currently in the job market concerning the current brouhaha about employers requiring access to Facebook pages.  She said this is a non-issue to her.  She (and evidently most of her friends) have secondary/dummy Facebook pages that they provide when prospective employers ask.  Although she is anything but a ‘girls gone wild’ type and has nothing to hide in real life, THIS Facebook page lists only what an employer wants to see and hear.  She comes across as the second coming of Mother Teresa!  Some of the activities are real (helping out at local soup kitchen, active in church) but some are totally false (I like the trip to Lithuania to teach English to women looking to come to the US – with staged pictures!). 

And she has also told them point blank that they can look, but no password would be provided.

So employers may not be getting what they think they are getting even if they get it.   Some of these ‘kids’ just aren’t that dumb.

MNB user Rich Heiland wrote:

It seems to me what has been missing in this discussion is the door this all opens to getting around the laws that  you cannot delve into things like religion, certain other areas during job interviews. If someone is pressured to give up a password and does so, and if they have detailed private profiles, the interviewer now knows age, religion, politics....the company can argue that it never asked for that information, that it violated no laws, that it was simply contained in something given up voluntarily by the applicant. Desperate need for a job no doubt will lead to people complying with these requests and then losing that job not because a naked picture is found but because something else - like religion or politics - is discovered.
KC's View: