Nordstrom: Dissension in the Ranks?

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This is a response to the case study looking at Nordstrom and how they handled unrest concerning their system of compensation. My initial reaction was of distaste for Nordstrom. Here was a company caught in the past, pitting employees against each other through a system based on implied prerogatives, without clear goals or documented methodology. Employees were forced to understand, against intuition and common sense, when they were supposed to leave off certain hours from their time card. Granted, Nordstrom couldn’t enforce this policy, but it was implied through bullying tactics, casting those that would question this behavior as not being “team players”. Employees were also forced, on a personal level, to evaluate a trade-off between logging certain hours or not, and whether or not those hours would affect their perceived value to management (and whether or not they would receive hours during peak sales time).

However, as I read on, I started to ask what really makes a good system in the workplace. As stated in class, a valid system is one that provides avenues for success. There is no doubt that Nordstrom’s practices violated certain law at face-value, but were they really doing their employees a disservice? Looking at each complaint, if you take away the fact that employees were paid hourly, they were treated very similarly to salespeople on salary. Management may have laid out uncommon and ill-communicated requirements and guidelines, but the benefits for following learning and following their system were higher wages than the rest of the industry. That seemed to motivate a lot of people, especially at the end of the article describing the pro-Nordstrom rallies and the dissolution of the union.

What I took from this was that not every system is for everyone. You sometimes have specific systems like Nordstrom’s set up in peculiar and seemingly nonsensical ways. The fundamental attribution error withstanding, I think that this system was simply not for...
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