ArtsAutosBooksBusinessEducationEntertainmentFamilyFashionFoodGamesGenderHealthHolidaysHomeHubPagesPersonal FinancePetsPoliticsReligionSportsTechnologyTravel

Sears - A Study in Dysfunctional Behavior in the Workplace

Updated on March 23, 2010

Managerial reporting and performance evaluations are often closely grouped with the outcome of one greatly affecting decision making and planning of the other. However, any first year physics student can paraphrase the Heisenberg Uncertainty Principle in which the act of observation changes that which is being observed. This classic statement is just as applicable in the business community where an employee expected to achieve certain goals or production standards will often change their behavior—many times for the worse—in order to meet these managerial expectations. In the early 1990s, Sears found itself in the headlines for the wrong reasons. Lawsuits and complaints rolled in from customers accusing the corporate giant's repair shops of overcharging and making unnecessary repairs. This problem of employee dysfunctional behavior arose fairly quickly and could be traced to corporate decisions regarding compensation and employee expectations.

The primary driver behind the shift in employee attitudes and behavior was a managerial effort to change the way employees would be compensated and evaluated. The performance appraisal tools were revised and It was decided that a straight hourly wage would be replaced with a base pay plus commission wage.

Employees instantly realized that a certain level of sales would have to be made in order to generate the same level of income as before. Unfortunately, dissatisfied or dishonest employees also saw this change as a way to boost their pay and performance considerably. With a chance to earn more money and a higher standing in management's eyes based on the revised employee performance appraisals, many of Sears' mechanics resorted to underhanded and potentially illegal activities.


 The problem started small and snowballed. Consumer complaints trickled into company headquarters and to the California Department of Consumer Affairs. An undercover investigation was launched over the course of a year and a half with startling results: in nearly 90% of the visits, mechanics suggested unneeded service and repairs. When confronted, the Sears mechanics were quick to point the blame at the new managerial policies. They cited quotas and how they felt pressured to meet parts and repair goals or face repercussions including cuts to work hours or demotions to other departments. Given these alternatives, many mechanics developed their own scare tactics to meet or exceed expectations required by the newly revised employee performance standards.

In the wake of these lawsuits, Sears chairman Edward Brennan announced an immediate shift back to a non-commission based pay, removal of sales goals, and development of employee performance standards based on customer satisfaction. More importantly, he acknowledged the poor judgment and execution of the incentive-based program.

A simple system to monitor and evaluate employees performance led to unexpected behavior and unexpected costs rather than generating more revenue as planned. Unrealistic goals and questionable managerial tactics to enforce these goals quickly let to dysfunction. It is very important for management to look beyond the reports and the employee evaluations and focus on the potential pitfalls that might come from certain decisions. Dysfunctional behavior can come at any time from any employee if the working environment changes in a way that is deemed hostile. Careful consideration and backup plans have to always be considered. Training an employee to fix a car is easy, but convincing a wronged employee to fix a company's damaged reputation is much harder.


Submit a Comment

No comments yet.


This website uses cookies

As a user in the EEA, your approval is needed on a few things. To provide a better website experience, uses cookies (and other similar technologies) and may collect, process, and share personal data. Please choose which areas of our service you consent to our doing so.

For more information on managing or withdrawing consents and how we handle data, visit our Privacy Policy at:

Show Details
HubPages Device IDThis is used to identify particular browsers or devices when the access the service, and is used for security reasons.
LoginThis is necessary to sign in to the HubPages Service.
Google RecaptchaThis is used to prevent bots and spam. (Privacy Policy)
AkismetThis is used to detect comment spam. (Privacy Policy)
HubPages Google AnalyticsThis is used to provide data on traffic to our website, all personally identifyable data is anonymized. (Privacy Policy)
HubPages Traffic PixelThis is used to collect data on traffic to articles and other pages on our site. Unless you are signed in to a HubPages account, all personally identifiable information is anonymized.
Amazon Web ServicesThis is a cloud services platform that we used to host our service. (Privacy Policy)
CloudflareThis is a cloud CDN service that we use to efficiently deliver files required for our service to operate such as javascript, cascading style sheets, images, and videos. (Privacy Policy)
Google Hosted LibrariesJavascript software libraries such as jQuery are loaded at endpoints on the or domains, for performance and efficiency reasons. (Privacy Policy)
Google Custom SearchThis is feature allows you to search the site. (Privacy Policy)
Google MapsSome articles have Google Maps embedded in them. (Privacy Policy)
Google ChartsThis is used to display charts and graphs on articles and the author center. (Privacy Policy)
Google AdSense Host APIThis service allows you to sign up for or associate a Google AdSense account with HubPages, so that you can earn money from ads on your articles. No data is shared unless you engage with this feature. (Privacy Policy)
Google YouTubeSome articles have YouTube videos embedded in them. (Privacy Policy)
VimeoSome articles have Vimeo videos embedded in them. (Privacy Policy)
PaypalThis is used for a registered author who enrolls in the HubPages Earnings program and requests to be paid via PayPal. No data is shared with Paypal unless you engage with this feature. (Privacy Policy)
Facebook LoginYou can use this to streamline signing up for, or signing in to your Hubpages account. No data is shared with Facebook unless you engage with this feature. (Privacy Policy)
MavenThis supports the Maven widget and search functionality. (Privacy Policy)
Google AdSenseThis is an ad network. (Privacy Policy)
Google DoubleClickGoogle provides ad serving technology and runs an ad network. (Privacy Policy)
Index ExchangeThis is an ad network. (Privacy Policy)
SovrnThis is an ad network. (Privacy Policy)
Facebook AdsThis is an ad network. (Privacy Policy)
Amazon Unified Ad MarketplaceThis is an ad network. (Privacy Policy)
AppNexusThis is an ad network. (Privacy Policy)
OpenxThis is an ad network. (Privacy Policy)
Rubicon ProjectThis is an ad network. (Privacy Policy)
TripleLiftThis is an ad network. (Privacy Policy)
Say MediaWe partner with Say Media to deliver ad campaigns on our sites. (Privacy Policy)
Remarketing PixelsWe may use remarketing pixels from advertising networks such as Google AdWords, Bing Ads, and Facebook in order to advertise the HubPages Service to people that have visited our sites.
Conversion Tracking PixelsWe may use conversion tracking pixels from advertising networks such as Google AdWords, Bing Ads, and Facebook in order to identify when an advertisement has successfully resulted in the desired action, such as signing up for the HubPages Service or publishing an article on the HubPages Service.
Author Google AnalyticsThis is used to provide traffic data and reports to the authors of articles on the HubPages Service. (Privacy Policy)
ComscoreComScore is a media measurement and analytics company providing marketing data and analytics to enterprises, media and advertising agencies, and publishers. Non-consent will result in ComScore only processing obfuscated personal data. (Privacy Policy)
Amazon Tracking PixelSome articles display amazon products as part of the Amazon Affiliate program, this pixel provides traffic statistics for those products (Privacy Policy)