Every year Walgreens puts out a special issue of its grand old employee magazine, Walgreen World, as an "Annual Report to Team Members." Most of the issue consists of questions from employees and answers from management.
The questions are often tough and the answers are, if not always satisfying, at least straightforward. I've been wondering for several years why the issue leaves me cold.
This morning, reviewing this year's Q&A, I figured it out: Most of the 56 questions asked by employees are signed, e.g.:
How can I get more hours if I need them? Corporate is being stingy with store hours, and I'm not making enough to make ends meet. I have tried to talk to management, but that hasn't helped. I need to get back to 40 hours. —Thomas Mosakowski, service clerk at 25 Main St. in Bristol, Conn.
But the answers are disembodied and often in the passive voice:
Payroll hours are updated quarterly based on sales trends and future forecasts so indirectly, more sales will equal more hours. You can also apply to transfer to a store that has more hours to go around. Another option might be to expand your skills so you can work in another area of the store that may have more hours, such as photo or pharmacy.
The effect is kind of a Wizard of Oz dynamic, where the small and shivering employees dare to stand before the great throne of management and are forced to take whatever brief and impersonal explanations they can get.
The dynamic strikes me as old-fashioned. You know the communicators get the answers to all these questions from various subject-matter experts in HR, marketing, finance or legal. Why can't the execs cop to their answers the way the employees cop to theirs?
I think the answers would be better, too, because what kind of Milo Minderbinder management goon would be willing to sign his name to an exchanges like this one:
Why did we shut down the Employee Suggestion System? —Dino Donatelli, MGT at 62011 Saltsburg Road in Pittsburgh
The Suggestion System was turned off as part of the Rewiring for Growth initiative. We're currently researching other, more robust systems to handle team members' ideas, but, like everything else, it's being done on a tight budget ….
In other words, we'd love to hear your ideas, but we just can't afford to listen.
Keep fighting the good fight, Walgreen World editors. You're among the best in the business. But next year, it would be nice to put a name with the passive voice.