Jane Govenor gave Home Depot 15 years of her life: long, honest and loyal hours. As assistant manager, she averaged 70 hours per week. "I think it's sad because Home Depot used to be a great company. Someone thanked me at one time, but I would have preferred a bonus," she says. (Last year, Home Depot CEO Bob Nardelli received $27 million-plus, including several million dollars to cover tax payments on a forgiven loan.)
Jane Govenor, Palmdale, California:
"I started as a part-time cashier and worked my way up to store manager. But after 15 years I couldn't take it anymore. Most people I worked with were putting in 80-90 hours per week. When I quit as manager, I was averaging 90 hours a week. I had to manage two stores and they were a 1.5 hour drive away from each other. One day I drove back to my home store and I almost fell asleep on the road. And that is when I said to myself, 'That's it, I am done.'
Jane, why did you have to work such long hours?
"We weren't allowed to have anyone work overtime so when it came time to close the store, assistant managers would stay until 2am - 3am, cleaning the store, emptying shopping carts, straightening shelves, down stocking (a product that is on the top of the shelf has to be brought down to the display peg.)
"There were times as managers when we would have to come in and clean the parking lot. In the back of the store where they kept all the products, Home Depot was focused on this area and wanted it spotless. We would be sweeping and throwing out trash in the middle of the night.
They were even flying over in helicopters to make sure it was clean.
"As assistant managers, because we didn't get paid overtime, we were really abused. A normal shift is supposed to be 10 hours but it really is 14 hours. Collecting carts in parking lots, not enough cashiers, so we are working on cash constantly. If I was getting an hourly wage I would have made a lot more money.
Hourly employees were making an average $15 per hour, but overtime amounted to $22 per hour. My salary was $40,000 per year. Break that down to average 70 hours per week and I would be better off as a cashier with a life.
I drove a forklift at night. It was dangerous because we were always tired. Most Assistant Managers were grumpy. They never saw their kids and a lot of them are divorced. Another sad thing is that none of the assistants I knew at Home Depot work there anymore. The turnover rate is so high.
I do talk to some of them. Right now I am putting together my own business. I figure if I am going to work long hours, it might as well be for me. I'm going to start a Stationary and invitations company called 'Jane Home'.
The entire time I was there, all 15 years, I never asked for overtime but I often talked to management and told them it wasn't fair. Their response? 'You're salary and if you want to work, do whatever the job takes.'
In three years, we had three different store managers. One barely worked 40 hours per week, the other worked 70 hours (he no longer works there) and the third did the requisite 50 hours that we were all supposed to work.
I would have been fine working 50 hours a week. When I opened a new store, up in Ridgecrest, I worked 110 hours a week for three weeks to get the store open. No compensation, no thank you, no nothing.
It is shameful how this company treats it employees. They really need to work on compassion. That trait is out the door. They treat managers like they are replaceable: Do the job or we will find someone else who will. Their turnover is so high. We had a 50 percent turnover of store managers in one district last year, in one year alone. Our district had 10 stores and basically half the managers quit.
They don't realize that we are human beings, not machines or computers. We need to go on vacations that don't get cancelled at the last minute. I had several vacations planned (and they owe me 12 weeks) but had to change everything at the last minute to work."
In retail, nobody says that you can go home now. You just have to keep working. Retail is a never-ending job.
A person can only do it for so long. Family life becomes nil and personal life suffers. The sad thing is that you can quit but you can't necessarily pick up the shattered pieces and get your family and life back.
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Home Depot on Bottom Rung of the Human Relations Ladder
|. By Jane Mundy|
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