Companies around the world have been slashing salaries, budgets and staff. But some cuts are really, really bad for business.
Consider Whole Foods. I’ve spent several thousand dollars there the past fifteen years, and lauded the store in my book with Tom Kelley, The Ten Faces of Innovation, once praising the company’s “creative, engaged, project-oriented teams.” But in my latest book with Marc Hershon, I Hate People!, we explored a style of manager that can sour even the most inspired company if they go unchecked: The Spreadsheet.
On Thanksgiving morning I heard first-hand what I’d felt the last few years. The Spreadsheets have invaded and the excitement appears to have gone out of working at Whole Foods. While I shopped two employees openly grumbled about a century old management tool that is raising its ugly head — the company time clock.
Spreadsheets are in full force at the grocer. Whole Foods has figured out how to cut costs. The firm has slashed the ten-minute grace period workers were once allotted in case they arrived late for their shift or returning from breaks.
First the company apparently cut it in half to five minutes. Then, literally, a tick over one minute. Sixty-one seconds. That’s all it takes to be late at Whole Foods: To get written up. A black mark. Nor is it the sort of place you get rewarded for being early.
Trust would seem to be a casualty, replaced by absurd Spreadsheet logic. While you can’t be more than 60 seconds tardy, the worker told me they also are not allowed to clock in more than 3 minutes early.
Perhaps not the best way to save money and increase morale. The worker smiled, and explained: “A lot of times we just stand around and wait for the time to pass before we can clock back in.”
What a great team building system!
What makes this even more hypocritical is that while workers are not trusted to make up for being a few minutes late — for several years Whole Foods’ CEO trashed the competition online under a pseudonym, a scandal that has led to an FCC investigation.
Not exactly a great shining management example.
Meanwhile, the company’s thousands of workers are imprisoned by those new Draconian Time Clock Rules. The worker shook his head and shrugged before restocking the shelf: “They’ve just turned into a big company.”
It’s an unfortunate example of how to take once “engaged, project-oriented teams,” and turn them into disillusioned hourly workers who can’t seem to catch a break.
My advice is to think long and hard about where you look for savings. Cost cutting that ruins employee morale can be a lousy bargain.
A few hundred years before the invention of the Time Clock, a phrase was coined that still perfectly sums up this silliness: “penny wise, pound foolish.”
— Jonathan Littman
Tell us a recent cost-cutting move at your company that you think was penny wise and pound foolish. No company names please.