Here's What JCPenney Retail Employees REALLY Think Of CEO Ron Johnson

jcpenney ron johnson

Photo: Astrid Stawiarz / Getty Images

JCPenney is undergoing a massive transformation under new CEO and former Apple retail chief Ron Johnson. So far, his strategies have garnered mixed reactions from analysts, customers and the media.But what about the voices of the workers on the front lines? What do they think about what’s going on?

It’s all about perception. It’s simply devastating for employee morale when a company makes big job cuts, whether it’s a good management decision or not.

That’s what things are looking like at JCPenney. Employees are going through a painful period, and they’re mad about it.

We spoke with 10 current JCPenney sales associates and hair stylists to get a feel for what the rank-and-file workers below the middle management level think. We’ve withheld their names for their protection.

Here’s what they had to say, in their own words (edited lightly for clarity).

Click here to see what they think >
Work for JCPenney (in-store or corporate)? Send an email to [email protected].

A JCPenney shoe sales associate would like to remind Johnson that JCPenney is NOT Target

'I must take offence at Ron Johnson's reason for eliminating commission.

'Ron Johnson should remember JCPenney is not Target, we are better. When people come into our store they expect to be greeted, they expect someone to be available to help, they expect good service.

'A good salesperson knows the way to make money is by having repeat, loyal customers. This means helping the customer get what they need 'to make their life better' no matter the price of the item so they will want to come back.

'He must have had horrible salespeople!'

'I feel devalued as a stylist and as a person by this company. That's the corporate trend -- every employee is a dollar sign to them.

'I would leave but there are no other salons in the area that can offer corporate benefits, health insurance, 401k, pension, paid vacations & holidays. Until they take that away from me, I will continue to deal with changes.

'I love doing hair, its all I've ever dreamed of doing. I'm hoping since I make them money I will be ok and not lose any benefits or get a lower commission.'

A shoe sales associate can't figure out where Johnson is going with all the changes

'Every week is different and it's hard to see where they are going with some of these changes.

'They have also put people mostly on 6 hour shifts to save money so they don't have to have people cover lunches. Hungry? Lunch is only for managers. If you do get an 8 or 9 hour shift (which is lucky) they will give you a 30 minute lunch.'

Another sales associate thinks Johnson doesn't care about his employees

'I feel that Ron wants to serve the shareholders' interests more than he wants to serve the employees. Ron doesn't care about us.

'Sometimes I wonder what Steve Jobs would have said if he saw Ron acting this way? Should associates 'stick it out' or just leave? That's the question most of us ask.

'The weirdest thing is that although they kept a few managers, they are mostly new managers that don't have experience working at JCPenney, and the managers who did have experience were the ones who got fired.

'Some associate said its because the company wants to get rid of the 'old employees' who have been working there for a long time.'

This sales associate was thrilled when he first heard that Ron Johnson was taking over, but now he's disgusted

'When Ron Johnson's new strategy was unveiled this past February I was pleasantly surprised at the vision he unveiled as it seemed to be a truly innovative new image of the department store. Now several months later I am disgusted with what is happening.

'The message that Johnson is communicating is 'change and adapt' which most associates translate into fear for their jobs as they are required to pick up more responsibilities and duties for no additional compensation.

'Corporate is showing tremendous disrespect for the workers that are trying to create the stores in Johnson's image.

'Store managers keep saying 'things will get better soon' and then another round of budget cuts happens on a weekly basis. I have never worked anywhere with such low morale and as a result I am looking for anything else so I can bail out on this bad work situation.'

Johnson should be happy that the media's focusing on an advertising controversy and not him, says a furniture sales associate

'I wish this disaster story had legs in the national media arena. We are not Chrysler or Ford, but the loss of another great American business should be worth a sound bite on someone's show.

'I'm betting that Ron Johnson is grateful for the focus on his highly evolved 'politically correct' meter and the ensuing free publicity, rather than the plundering of the soul of a 110-year-old company.

'Instead, the Million mums are getting the headlines for stressing out over a same-sex couple in the May booklet.'

A part-time salesperson feels like Johnson is destroying the JCPenney workforce

'We long-term employees are heartbroken at what we see around us. Ron Johnson may have a grand plan, and it may work, but we feel like he is destroying 'us' in the process of implementation.

'It has become an awful place to work, short-staffed to the point that we struggle to properly service what customers we do have, and the recovery of the store at the end of the day is a nightmare with so few people.'

One salesperson is so riled up about it that he's resorting to cursing and name-calling

'Before this douche Ron Johnson 'greedy motherfucker' came in, the store was doing good, it was hiring and everything was fine.

'It's bullshit how the store is going. Isn't the whole point of a store to make jobs? And profit at the same time.

'Now they fired a lot of associates and managers and supervisors. The store is empty now. I bet he's just laughing because he's getting all the money while thousands lose their jobs. How is this a good idea?'

The end is near for this sales associate

Will Johnson still succeed at JCPenney? See what he did at Apple:

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