*Emotional Content Not Everything May Make Sense, Apologies Now.*
Here for the last several months I have been working in a grocery store as a manager of 4 different departments. I have seen many ups and downs in the last year+ in my position. I have been nearly out the door at one point before getting new upper management that convinced me to stay because in fact I do like what I do, this fact still remains true. I do like what I do.
6 Months later and I am back on the precipice ready to jump as the management we have now is pushing for more than even their predecessors.
Some recent conversations that I have had with them are included below as I just need a place to write it out and think about the problems that are plaguing my departments so I don’t see a mass exodus of my employees. Keeping in mind that some of these conversations have taken place over weeks or months even.
Regarding one of my subdepartments I have been told by different upper managments that it takes 60 hours/week to manage (Corporate Specialist), 50 hours/week (Regional Specialist), <40 hours/week (Store Director), and <40 hours/week (Same Regional Specialist as before).
Originally I had one person working 40 hours a week in the position but she kept getting pulled to other departments to help cover for them not scheduling properly. The Store Director deemed that she wasnt working hard enough because her own department constantly was in bad condition and she was getting a lot of push from upper managment until she quit. On her way out she informed me that the only reason she even finished her two weeks was because she liked me as a manager and wouldn’t do that to me.
So taking all that in to consideration I have been given one person working 20 hours per week to make the whole subdepartment operate properly, they are not trained to cover for any other departments luckily. Recently she came up to me and informed me that the job is impossible for her alone to keep up and she is already feeling burned out after just 3 weeks in the position, is there any way I can get her more help. Now she only is kinda aware of how much help she’s getting because again she is only in the building 20 hours/week. So what she doesn’t know is that my Assistant Manager, myself, cashjer helpers, and 3 key managers are putting in about another 20 hours/week to try to make the department look better and because it is not enough the department is actually just looking worse and worse. One of the keys expressed that he had a lot more respect for the work the original person in this department because it’s difficult work.
Moving on to my joint subdepartments, one supervisor for both is what joins them. I have been told a lot of different things regarding this pair. “80 hours a week is the minimum for these departments” all the way through “just the supervisor by themselves should be able to work all thier new product and backstock per week and in addition do all their management duties no problem.” My supervisor in this position is also very new only 5 weeks in and just this last week came to me to inform me that he feels like he is getting nothing done because there is never a moment of accomplishment because we are so far behind schedule. He expressed feeling like he is doing the work of 3 people by himself and can’t understand why management would do this. All I could offer was 30 minutes of my own time to assist before I had to get back to my own tasks and offer to express his concerns to the Store Director.
My own Assistant Manager just this week approached me and told me that his legs were feeling so heavy that he wasn’t sure how much longer he could keep up this rediculous pace we are currently working at. As the Primary department it should have more hours in it than the other three combined to keep it in proper working condition. For those who like math that would be between 60->140 hours depending on who you listen to. We are getting 92 and even the Store Director has acknowledged that it’s not near enough.
Both him and I are already working 10 hour days twice a week to work the primary department incoming product just the two of us. Then doing all four departments schematic changes, temporary price reductions, shrinking outdated product, workbooks, scheduling, distributions, ordering, etc… Really due to how everything is working out I am personally doing all the extra work and my Assistant just works the loads and our backstock because I have no one else. I say “just” but the man is beating out thousands of dollars worth of product every day, granted the reason he doesn’t do the other stuff is because I don’t have time to actually train him.
So I approached my Store Director with the knowledge in hand that my whole team is feeling as though their feet have been put to the coals and while they’ve been running as fast as they can to get out of the fire they are all about to collapse. His responce just blew me away.
Individually he went through my staff regarding their ineffectiveness.
The woman thats getting 20 hours a week to manage a department he saw her take 20 minutes to make a list of what needs done for the week. It shouldn’t have taken 20 minutes so therefore she is actually not working as hard as she needs to be. We need to push her harder by having me prep a list for her every week so she just has to put her head down and work.
My supervisor for the two departments gets in his own head too much and that prevents him from working at full efficiency. I need to make sure to take away the chance for him to think by walking him through expectations and the order that things should get done. That way I am ensuring he just needs to work the plan since it’ll be more time efficient. Also since he should be able to do the whole two departments himself the one part-timer that works 13 hours/week in his departments should only help run the new loads in the slower department and then jump into my primary department.
As for my Assistant he is an inefficient worker who the Store Director noticed spent too much time in the back room getting more product. So therefore he is not working as hard as he could be. I need to figure out a way to light a fire in him and make him work harder.
Then he turned to me and informed me that afterall I can’t keep doing all the work myself. My only thought is that while he touched on aspects of the truth he bent it to fit his narrative. The reason they all take a little extra time to do things is because they are tired and because of that I have noticed they are indeed moving slower, but so am I. We are flesh and blood, eventually people break afterall we are not machines who can work tirelessly. I also can’t help but think that there is a reason that in my just over a year in the job I am on my sixth dual department supervisor, my third single department worker, and my third assistant. I have spent more time without these positions filled then I have with them filled and consistently when the past ones have quit I have been told it wasn’t because of me except with one of them. Most of them have even straight up told me that if they could just work for me they would keep doing the job or sought me out to apologize for quiting. I can’t help but be happy for them because I know that for many of them they got raises, better working conditions, and better hours.
Basically the message was my people who all feel overworked (most of whom don’t have a lot of contact with each other) across the board are just needing to be pushed harder. I should not be working as hard as I am but I have no idea who else would pick up the slack if I worked just a little less hard. My Store Director’s suggestion for who could pick up the slack was other people from around the store who are also all feeling overworked and more specifically people from “the reliables” a group of people my wife and I have dubbed thusly because its always someone from this group whom duties are left to because one of us will fix the problem and keep the store afloat.
My favorite part of this whole expericence was 5 months ago when I had more hours in my departments then I have now the Regional Manager and his boss visited our store and took the time out of their day to find me and apologize to me personally for how the company is treating me and my departments. They knew I was already overworked and said they were going to work on making it better. The next day a dirrective came down from them to cut my departments hours another 30 hours/week divided however I wanted.
This last year I was given 210 hours/week for my 4 departments (at this same time period, I am not comparing December to April or anything to skew the data). This year our comparable sales are consistently up +6.3% and my hours are now at 160 hours/week for the same 4 departments (Again for those who did the math from all the paragraphs my total that I mentioned comes to 165 hours/week). I am scheduling over hours and getting help from the other the other (3) key managers in the store just to stay afloat. My departments are responsible for just under 30% of the total stores sales and we are alloted 5% of the total store’s labor.
I am getting to the point that I am just tired walking in the door to work because I know it’s going to be a long day and despite everything going on I will be called to help all the other departments in the store because they need the help more than me. At least according to the Store Director and the other deparment managers. Yesterday when I got home I felt horribly ill, took some excedrin and dayquil then passed out for 14 hours waking up only long enough to eat a bagel and drink a glass of chocolate milk.
If that’s what it takes to wake up rested on my occassional day off then I really don’t know how much longer I can do this.