Ron Johnson’s plan to transform JCPenney continues to roll along, and many of its workers on the frontlines aren’t happy about the changes.JCPenney cut a bunch of middle managers across the country on Monday, according to multiple former managers we spoke with. We’ve withheld their names for their protection.
This appears to be part of the layoffs announced back in January, but it’s unclear how exactly how many have been let go. One source says that the number may now be in the thousands.
JCPenney didn’t immediately answer requests for comment, but a spokesperson did mention yesterday that the retailer will be “operating with fewer layers of management.”
Here’s how it went down, according to one assistant manager who was laid off Monday:
“One hundred store managers across the country were quietly laid off two days before they announced the home office reductions and the call centre closing. The rest, phase two, happened Monday. They said it was done purely on year-end appraisal ratings, but someone in my store got a higher rating than I did (and was laid off anyway), and also they changed what the ratings stood for this year, and eliminated performance improvement documentation, so that they did not have to wait longer to do this. If my name or even state comes out I will lose my severance.”
He also says that workers won’t receive commission anymore — even in the hair salons.
Another manager who was laid off Monday says that he was in a batch of six middle managers fired at his location. One assistant manager was demoted, and one manager was transferred to another store which had lost almost all of its middle management.
“No warning. The store managers had a broadcast in secret 2 weeks ago but we weren’t aware of what it was about until they started calling us into her office,” says the former manager.
Another JCPenney employee says rumours are swirling in his store that all the departments will be combined under a single manager/supervisor. It was already difficult to run one department, let alone two or three others, he says.
He also confirms that the catalogue department is now going away — one of the moves that JCPenney announced back in January.
As you’d expect, all these cuts aren’t sitting well with the workers. Here’s what one sales associate, who still has her job, says about what Ron Johnson’s doing with the company:
“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.”
“The associates feel like we won’t last that long,” says another current sales associate. “I personally think the long-term strategy is good and hope it takes off, but it is a very discouraging environment.”
UPDATE: JCPenney has responded with its comment. Here’s what spokesperson Kate Coultas said:
“Stores are undergoing the same restructuring efforts that happened early last month at the Home Office. The Company’s new approach to pricing, promotion, merchandising and the customer experience has simplified our business and removed a lot of the process-oriented work that was previously required under the old business model. We are also operating with fewer layers of management so leaders have broader spans of control, greater accountability and higher flexibility to focus on work that provides the greatest value to our customers.
“These changes are essential to helping us achieve our long-term goals. Over time, we expect that the likelihood for new and more enriched job opportunities will develop as our business grows. We would not have moved forward with these difficult decisions if we did not believe it was absolutely necessary for the future growth of our Company. We are not disclosing the total number of positions eliminated as a result of these efforts.”
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