Tips for discriminating against everyone, by Target

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Managing a multi-generational workforce isn’t easy – it takes tact and careful consideration of workers on an individual basis, right? Wrong. According to Target, all a manager needs is surface-level empathy and some sweeping generalizations.

A company training document, leaked online, has revealed just how archaic the retail giant’s approach to managing a multigenerational workforce really is.

The manuscript, Managing Generational Differences, lays to rest any ideas that employees should be managed and motivated as individuals – instead, Target insists every worker can be effectively managed in accordance with their age group.

Here are just some of the things managers should expect from their employees – according to Target, that is.
  • Veterans
(born 1922 – 1945)

Of course – Veterans are nothing more than old codgers. They may be “loyal, formal [and] diligent” but they’re also “slow to adapt to change [and] find technology “complex and challenging.”

Want to manage vets the best? “Appeal to the traditional values of loyalty, hard work and family” or “speak positively of your organizations history – the legacy they helped create.”

And don’t worry about them causing a fuss – these meek mannered old people are “reluctant to question or voice disagreement” and “rarely question authority.”
  • Baby boomers
(born 1946 – 1964)

Forget family commitments – “Work comes first” for the stubborn baby boomers who are stuck in their ways. They may be “competitive, hard-working [and] service orientated” but they’re also “overly sensitive to feedback [and] judgemental of different viewpoints.”

Make them feel useful – “Utilize them as mentors” and, if you want to keep them content, “demonstrate that you are carrying your share of the load.”
  • Generation X
(born 1965 – 1980)

Unlike veterans who are “loyal to the organization,” Gen X workers are a selfish bunch and are “loyal to individual career goals” rather than the company.

They may be “efficient, effective [and] adaptable” but they’re also “impatient [and] lack people skills.”

Keeping control of these self-centred staff members isn’t too hard though; just “use clear and specific language when communicating” and “acknowledge and relate to their scepticism.”
  • Generation Y

(born 1981 – 2000)

Savvy Gen Y workers may say “What else is there?” when it comes to technology but they don’t have much else going for them – okay, they can multi-task but they’re “inexperienced at handling difficult people issues” and “need supervision.”

“Look for ways to combine work and play,” and you should be able to keep these fresh-faced employees engaged. “Appeal to their sense of idealism” and “offer to be a mentor or find one for them.”

And remember – these dreaded millennials crave “public praise [and] exposure” so don’t leave them unattended for too long.
At best, the manuscript is oversimplified and offensive but at worst, it’s downright discriminatory.
Employment lawyer Jon Hyman said Target is opening itself up to risk as training materials are “fair game” in litigation.

“While you write them to aid your employees, you must do so with at least one eye on the jury that will read them during trial,” he said.

“You do not want to have your manager explain to a jury, in an age discrimination case, if he thought the plaintiff was ‘slow to adapt to change’ when he made the termination decision.”

You can read the full leaked document, including other offensive excerpts, here.

With recent revelations like this, it’s no surprise Target floundered in Canadian waters. 

More like this:

Employee ultimatums: do they actually mean anything?

Target’s ‘Walk of Shame’ suit – should they be worried?


  • Bill on 2015-02-24 3:42:46 PM

    WOW! How can a company in 2015 think in this manner. I can see why they struggled here in Canada as they don't appear to have a grip on anything. Hearing this I am glad to see them go, not a company we want here.

  • Mary on 2015-02-25 7:39:17 PM

    Maybe the author of this Target document was basing in on her/his family experience. Grandpa (Veteran) can’t use a cell phone, so all Veteran’s ‘find technology complex’; the Baby Boomer Mom, is ‘overly sensitive to feedback’ when the author tells her what she should or shouldn’t be wearing, eating, etc.; the Gen X spouse, ‘is impatient and lacks people skills;’ and the Gen Y children won’t do the dishes without ‘appealing to their sense of idealism.’
    One can't define the management requirements of people with diverse cultures, upbringing, education and experiences even if they are all the same age, much less grouped into a 20 year age span. Even identical twins approach work differently. And the one who broke the Enigma code was a Veteran, clearly not technically challenged.
    If nothing else, maybe this Target document will caution those who try to define and use these generational guidelines.

  • DM on 2015-03-02 8:32:05 AM

    Bye Bye Target, you wont be missed in Canada

  • Veronica Edwards on 2015-03-17 10:25:19 AM

    Although Target may have "revealed" its practices, our experience working with companies shows that there are many more organizations out there doing a poor job managing multi-generational workforces. Main reason is they simply don't know how.

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