Circuit City played creepy teambuilding propaganda to self on deathbed

Near the end, electronics retailer Circuit City produced a series of shiny, happy video dreams for its employees to watch.

Fantasy: presenting Circuit City as a corporate self-actualization cult (“We’re going to take Circuit City and make that brand very cool and very emotionally contained”) will make a difference.

Reality: Circuit City replaced its skilled workers with kids on minimum wage, then shriveled like a plastic bag in an oven.

Circuit City Sure Had A Lot Of Optimism Near The End [Consumerist]

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18 Responses to Circuit City played creepy teambuilding propaganda to self on deathbed

  1. Zack says:

    “Yeah, it sucks, but there are other jobs out there, and 90% of people who want one can still get one.”

    Cory,

    Obviously you don’t live in California. In the more rural areas that encompass much of the state, we’re having employment problems reminiscent of the great depression. The vast majority of the low-end jobs out there are currently taken; not by the traditional group of 20-somethings making there way through college on minimum wage, but by former primary breadwinners in there 30s and 40s that lost their jobs, and are just trying to feed their families with whatever they can scrape together.

    It is indeed entertaining (in a sad, meltdown in public sort of way) to watch them try to delude themselves – but when store after store closes and puts hundreds out of work in your own town, you’ll understand why the rest of us “low-level people” are so worried about the future.

  2. Anonymous says:

    Let me weigh in here, since I work in the corporate world, for a fairly big company as well. I work as a support tech for programming tools, so you can bank on me being snarky as hell.

    What I see here is the kind of corporate hype I see all the time. It’s very “Office Space”, true. But the message that a CEO sends to employees must always contain something positive, otherwise people start jumping ship.

    Now, the tough part comes when things aren’t going well. You have two options as a CEO when devising messaging to your staff: 1. Ignore the negative, and be purely positive. If you employ a lot of highly intelligent people (like in a company full of programmers), this might not go over so well. In tough times our current CEO decided to play it straight-ish and say that times were dark. But he was confident they’d get better!

    Things haven’t gotten worse. But I’ll say this: The CEO wasn’t always the CEO. He was an engineer a long time ago. And when he took the reigns his interation with people sort of shrivelled a little bit. Like all the rough edges got sanded off, except the charming sharp bits. I think to some extent this might be necessary, to be the most tolerable leader to the largest number of people.

    So, you will probably never like a CEO. Especially if you hate corporate culture or whatever. Nobody likes corporate culture. But it exists for a reason.

    Yes, CC was going down the tubes. But I get the strong sense that such optimism, while it seems foolhardy to you and me, is perhaps not just normal for the corporate world, but very possibly desireable.

    Yeah, it’s bad you replaced all your good people with minimum wage teenagers. But how much worse would it be if they all thought that their job was all of a sudden was a joke, and that they could do whatever because the company wasn’t going to be around in the future as a job reference? If I was a CEO in that situation, I’d do the same thing, if for no other reason than to cloud the issue until the last minute.

    I dunno, just good for thought from someone inside looking out.

  3. Secret_Life_of_Plants says:

    Corporate Capitalism: Evangelical Christian Mega-Church meets 1960s Human Empowerment Movement.

  4. Sometimes it is a good thing to look at things in a positive way and not focus on reality.

    This is clearly a good example of that.

  5. Ken says:

    I just laughed and laughed and laughed.

    Does that make me a bad person?

  6. Chuck says:

    I regularly drive by a couple former Circuit City stores that still have those big red signs up.

    I think the employees are still there, trapped, one dimension over, forced to obey the demands of the things that shop there.

  7. Brian says:

    what blows my mind is that anyone considers Circuit City (or best buy or any other retailer) clerks as “skilled”.

  8. Anonymous says:

    circuit city didnt implode because it suddenly lost the edge in skilled staff. big boxes aren’t competing with each other, they are competing with amazon and walmart – megaretailers that swallow what appear to be whole industries for lunch. factor in brand specific stores and the demise of physical media and you dont have the architecture to sustain a business model that requires a large staff, huge retail space and an unjustifiably shitty shopping experiences.

  9. snackcake says:

    Speaking as a victim of Circuit City, I can tell you that no, we weren’t buying this; on the contrary; this sort of thing was doing tons of damage to the morale. At the corporate HQ, we were forced to march out to a giant circus tent they erected on the campus and take part in a giant propaganda event that was supposed to recharge us and give us confidence in the company, what it did was piss off many of us to see them spend god knows how much money on this event, just weeks after layoffs.

    I loved my job. I loved the team I worked on. I loved the work I was doing. I believed in this company, and most of what they sold – I love gadgets! – I believed in them so much, I bought quite a bit of stock over the years, even paid for part of my house with it ten years ago, but now it’s worth nothing. (protip: don’t take part in non-matching employee stock purchase plans, and don’t hang onto stock of a failing company)

    I have been unemployed since massive layoffs last November. There are jobs out there for many, but not everyone.

  10. cory says:

    Joel, these people aren’t dead. They’re not even trapped in an alternate reality. Yeah, it sucks, but there are other jobs out there, and 90% of people who want one can still get one. I can be sympathetic and still make jokes about this, because I know that the low-level people involved will pull through it, and there’s still at least a chance that the high-level people involved will be crushed in a trash compactor.

  11. Andrew says:

    The problem is the Peter Principle. Corporate types are promoted to their level of incompetence – given they excelled at the level below, surely they’ll do well the level above. Many don’t and become the types who think commissioning, designing, filming and subjecting workers to such drivel as seen above is a good idea. These people HAVE. NO. IMAGINATION. None. Reread the sentence for impact. The kid you hated in school ended up someplace and not all of them are criminals and hobos. Some end up watching what we see above and seeing not poorly-produced hogwash, but a job well done.

    I work as a freelance copywriter and believe me, the amount of corporate PR types who cannot spell the name of their own product is staggering. Their egos are absolutely massive and they despise anyone with genuine creative potential. There would have been people in Circuit City saying these vids were quasi-cultish dogshit likely to achieve nothing. Our Peter Principles don’t care, or can’t see it because they’ve zero talent or personal insight whatsoever.

    I’m sorry but absolute tripe like this gets my blood boiling. Who the fuck wrote this crap? Where can I find them? Were they PAID for this?!

    I hate the corporate world. What a bunch of fake, dull, boring, creepy tossers.

  12. Kelly says:

    I’m surprised the mid-level management didn’t smell the desperation in the air. When a company feels that it has to begin marketing to its OWN EMPLOYEES with a slick, empty sales pitch, you know it’s beginning to circle the drain.

  13. cory says:

    Zack:

    Hi! I live in Fresno. My family has lived in California going back 4 generations. I’ve worked in an ag factory sorting pears. Generalizations are fun though, aren’t they?

    There are jobs out there. I know because I’m now in a position of hiring people.

  14. Rob Beschizza says:

    Brian, Circuit City management agrees with you! Or it did, rather.

  15. pwscott says:

    I am reminded of my last days in the textile industry. Our plant manager had a meeting about 30 days before we closed the doors. He explained to us that the companys main factory and a closer one had shut down manufacture and that meant all the work had fallen to us. He said with positive vigor that we would be the future of the company because they depended on us for sole manufacture of product. Ah yes the old hang in there attitude worked as many went back to work happy, only to be out of a job later that month. I myself had other plans and accepted a new job on the very day I was laid off. Fifteen years later the same thing has happened to me again. No job this time.

  16. Calcularius says:

    To me, they will always be Circuit Shitty.

  17. Daniel says:

    The “team” in retail chains is the management. Employees at places like Circuit City are treated like replaceable morons at best and thieves at worst. Judging by these videos, the corporate culture of Circuit City was unbearable. Watered-down motivational videos about “leadership” and “teambuilding”… Unfortunately, the only people who buy into this philosophy are idiots, and these are also the only people promoted into management.

  18. Joel says:

    What gets me is the apparent lack of sympathy, not for the company, but for the countless people who are now out of work because of this fiasco. Are we all that jaded? Has the econopocalypse calloused our perception? I know this is BBG, but just because you’re a tech-nerd bent on pointing the finger and having no accountability, doesn’t mean there isn’t a human cost to all this. I wasn’t a fan of Circuit City either, but that’s sort of regardless. Wake-up, or at least grow-up. This isn’t a victimless event. This is terrifying.

    And no, I didn’t work for the company. I just know a tragedy when i see one.

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