3 Lessons from the Day Target Fired Me

I've been fired exactly one time from a job.

It was late 2003, just months after my wedding. A new Target was opening in town, and I was a recent college grad desperate for work. So I went to the job fair for the new Target and got a job. For around $9 an hour, I worked in the backroom sorting bins and product to various locations.

Things started out well, though the work itself was tedious and unrewarding. After a few months from the store's grand opening, I noticed my hours being cut from 40 a week down to 32, and eventually to 20. Then one week I came into work to check my schedule and noticed I was scheduled to only work one day. 8 hours. That wasn't putting bread on the table. That was more like a few dinner rolls from Quincys.

I sought out other jobs and found one at Lifeway working 20 hours a week. The management there was warm and inviting, and the environment was conducive to team ownership and relational customer service, two things I found appealing. As I started the new job, I called Target and asked the manager if there was anything that could be done about my schedule. He basically said no and that if I had another job to go do that and not to bother coming back. That day, I was fired from an 8-hour-a-week job.

My point is this: I joined Target because I needed work, sure, but also because the avenues for growth seemed strong. What I found was a leadership team treating its employees like mindless drones instead of talented and skilled individuals with something real to contribute. There were hard-working employees there that, had they been given some sense of ownership and voice, really would have thrived and helped the store. 

LESSON #1

Even your lowest-level employees have something to offer. It seems odd to think the janitor might be able to contribute beyond scrubbing toilets, or the maintenance worker can offer more than just fixing machines, or that the mail clerk might have some innovative ideas beyond sorting envelopes. Pay attention to them, and get them involved as you can in some bigger scope projects. They'll feel valued and be more motivated to do their jobs well.

LESSON #2

Communicate well. The qualities and values of a leader are frail and hollow if he or she does not know how to communicate. The store manager at the Target where I worked might have been a genius visionary for growing a brand new store. But he was not a communicator. Or if he was, he didn't ensure his staff communicated. No one ever communicated why the hours of my co-workers and myself were being reduced. See, the best leaders not only communicate well but train their leaders to do the same. Communication should always be clear, concise, and timely.

LESSON #3

Understand employees might be team players, but they're still selfish. Workers work to get paid, but they also appreciate being part of a committed team aiming for goals and celebrating accomplishments. At the end of the day, however, your employees will look out for their own interests first. If they find a better job elsewhere or want to leave simply out of frustration and burn out, leaders cannot take it personally. The Target manager seemed pretty upset over an employee leaving that was only working one day a week. Don't take to heart when an employee leaves. They're simply making a decision that's better for them.

I certainly never anticipate getting fired from a job again, but the lessons I learned from that time in my life are valuable in a variety of areas in my life. When you value people and communicate with them clearly you invest in them and treat them the way you'd like to be treated. Even if they happen to only work one day a week.