I saw this article in the New York Times, mentioned to me by a former coworker. I took a read and shocker – I have some thoughts from a few different angles. :)
When I left Starbucks (nearly 5yrs ago!) I was working at at store in a different city we were moving to. That market had implemented an “optimized scheduling” process, which meant I went from a store with 18-19 people, including 5 supervisors + myself, to a store of 10 people and 4 supervisors + myself that did more sales per week. It was impossible. Most managers were working 6 days a week and nearly 60hrs a week. I was driving back and forth to my former city on my off days while our house was on the market so I squeezed my hours into 5 days so I could go to back the other 2 days. Every supervisor was full time and if someone wanted to take vacation we had to borrow people from other stores, which was also impossible because everyone was full time – thus why the managers were working their knuckles to the bones. It was awful, and I felt like I had started working for a completely different company than previously. Morale was in the toilet. Everyone was looking for a different job, including myself. Not just in our store – but from what all of my peers and their teams were saying it was pretty widespread. It wasn’t a way to live, especially when they had experienced what it “used to be.” Decisions were made in response to the recession (it was 2009), and to protect the bottom line, but definitely not to protect the employees.
I always placed a high level of importance on the scheduling process as a manager, and would try very hard to be diligent to accommodate requests and scheduling because I felt that was a key part of creating a positive work environment – really, regardless of the company – but it seemed extra important to Starbucks. I believed whole-heartedly in taking care of my people as best as I could, while also managing the needs of the business. (My “arranger” theme for you StrengthsFinder types was really beneficial to me in this.)
So this article hit me a couple different ways. After Starbucks I managed a workforce development program for those in poverty, and the story that Ms. Navarro has in this article is not unusual. We want to cheer on those in poverty to get a job – any job! – and most of us on the outskirts don’t realize the reality of trying to juggle a job with varied hours, where you often get called in or cut, making it unpredictable and nearly impossible to budget on. If you have kids then multiply that logistical nightmare by like 100. I’ve read numerous articles about parents in poverty spending hours commuting by public transit to get their child to daycare so they could get to work and repeating it again in the afternoon.
(This is why I want to scream at anyone who says, “they just need to get a job” about people in poverty. It’s FAR more complex than that. But let’s not veer down that road right now.)
The other thing is I know that there are managers out there (especially in the retail and food service industry that schedule in this manner), in every company, who rely too much on the technology and not enough on the human aspect when it comes to scheduling. They lack compassion and understanding, and/or they’re more focused on making themselves and the bottom line look good than taking care of the employees. And for some of them, the manager above them (the district or regional person) may be the one lacking compassion and understanding or too focused on the bottom line, and thus doesn’t enable the manager to care well for his/her employees.
I believe it’s like leadership karma – you’re not going to get anywhere long term in a way that’s truly fulfilling by stepping on other people to get there. I made decisions as a manager to argue for and advocate for the needs of my team not to the detriment of my business, but in a way that would reduce the cushion. But I also knew I needed to be able to sleep at night knowing I did the right thing for the human beings entrusted to my care. It’s almost this parental feeling, and years later, I still feel care and compassion for those I managed years ago.
Whether it’s hiring, scheduling, developing people, etc – you can’t be a good manager and leader and not have the human aspect of your job as a manager at the forefront of your brain. Your numbers may look good, you may balance your budget, and on those things maybe your boss will give you kudos for the work you do, but don’t be deceived thinking that your team doesn’t see right through that, and you won’t have the loyalty and trust from your team that could propel amazing things.
Years later, I still like to believe that, for the most part, Starbucks is a different kind of company. I don’t want anyone to miss that the article mentioned that once Ms. Navarro talked with her manager about her struggles that her manager adjusted her schedule into something much more manageable. Sometimes it takes being open and honest about your situation and being vulnerable, too. It sounds like Ms. Navarro was pretty vulnerable anyway, so having to sit and open up like that with her boss may have just been something she didn’t want to have to do.
My lesson from this – and my reminder to myself and others – is this: Don’t forget the human aspect. It’s not all about the bottom line and the schedule or the Gantt chart or the pipeline. Remember the humans.