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Wal-Mart's Corrupt Management Structure

Updated on July 2, 2010

Actual Merit And Ability Play A Very Small Role In Most Promotions

As a former manager at Wal-Mart I have seen first hand how poorly stores are run and how getting a promotion is a real challenge no matter how talented you are. It took me years to climb up the ladder and along the way with all the favoritism, unfair practices, incompetence and sexism I witnessed I should have thought twice. My only hope is that this is an isolated incident involving one company and not a system wide epidemic. While some companies have their flaws, no company this size and employing so many should be allowed to run this way. Let's dive into why Wal-Mart's inner workings are nothing more than a disheveled mess.

New Management Structure

Last year Wal-Mart unveiled a new management structure that was supposed to be this revolutionary system that would let assistant managers spend more time with family and reduce their workload. Well not quite, what they did was put all of the assistant managers and co-managers on a 3 days on 3 days off schedule and add in another layer of management. This new layer would take merchandising responsibilities away from the assistant managers and lessen their workload. These new zone managers were still hourly workers and were given little actual power.

This new system went wrong on many levels, first as assistant managers were enjoying their 3 days off they were constantly being undermined and their areas were failing. So when they would return they were so far behind and always trying to work ahead so everything would hold together during their 3 days off that they got little meaningful work done. Add in all the new bureaucracy with several meetings a day and extra meaningless paperwork they were actually more stressed and overworked than before.

The new zone managers had a similar fate, with many stores making their own interpretations on what they were supposed to be doing. In some stores they became what they always said they despised, locked in the office most of the day "in meetings" and when you did see them they were barking out orders carrying around their clipboards. Other stores had them running around trying to do everyone's job and in some instances being used to replace assistant managers.

This new system's dirty secret was that it was mainly devised to clean out their department managers. As some were promoted to zone managers and others just left through natural turnover they weren't being replaced, what this caused was the ones that were left got extra departments to be over. These groupings are unique to each store based on which spots became empty and saw interesting results. Some department groupings included, automotive and health and beauty, toys and sporting goods, and shoes and jewelry to just name a few. So you go from someone knowing an area and having a good knowledge of their products and you double their workload and stick them in an area they couldn't care less about. No raise either and if you refused the extra work, get ready to be demoted.


Now the fun one, promotions are the most unfair thing Wal-Mart does. Early in my time at Wal-Mart I noticed an interesting thing, all the department managers were women. I was determined to become one as it was my next step at the time but I was hitting a wall. Openings were few and far between with many dept. managers being lifers, and with Wal-Mart under pressure for allegedly not promoting women I was in a tough place. When I did finally get promoted I did quite well and started focusing on my next promotion. When faced with trying to get promoted from there, again I was being passed over for women, this time though was worse. Some had easier departments, less ability and sometimes had no place being promoted, I would later find out that they had a quota to fill and no matter how unqualified someone was if they were female they would be promoted, not to say they were all unqualified. I have nothing against women and I'm sure there are plenty of examples where men were favored over women, just not in my personal experience. In one instance I saw someone promoted based on the fact she was pregnant, not on her actual abilities, which she was a very good worker.

After being promoted to assistant manager I saw many of these practices up close. People being promoted just to consolidate more departments, favoritism and the most qualified only being considered when there were no other "smart options". The interview process for these positions was even a joke, they played no role in promotions but were required so we did them anyway. I once interviewed someone for a dept manager job and they gave bad answers and cried through half the interview and even though they weren't the most qualified they got the job to consolidate another department manager job.

Wal-Mart also has rules for promotions, you have to be in your current position 6 months and not have any active discipline on record. Countless times they have bent and broke these rules for their "favorites" and refused to do so for others saying it wasn't even possible. One in particular was someone who was fired from their previous job for stealing, I said no to hiring them but I was overidden and within 3 months of being hired they were a dept manager. From there this "favorite" was promoted again within a couple months yet again breaking all the rules that "aren't possible" to break.  As of now this "favorite" is training to be an assistant manager, all I know is it must be hard to pin that name tag on slime.

The Result

As a result of this, morale at stores is at an all time low, a surprising feat considering it was never high to begin with. Associates passed over and forgotten or overloaded and stressed out, managers unqualified and undertrained, it's no surprise when you go to shop you see associates either working furiously or mindlessly wandering, some have given up while others desperately need their jobs and have to suffer through every indignity as they feel their soul disappearing. As they continue to cut hours to help save money and try to do more with less Wal-Mart will soon hit a breaking point. Having alienated many of their workers, the unqualified ones they promoted will be ill prepared to handle the ones who got screwed over when they ultimately fight back. Wal-Mart won't care though, they view everyone one as expendable and in this economy they could theoretically replace everyone if they had to.

Also See

Wal-Mart's Hostility Towards Customers

Wal-Mart's False Sense Of Entitlement

You can also follow me on Facebook @ Joe's Blog


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