Target exec says "truth hurts" in response to employee's scathing criticism

Gawker's Hamilton Nolan has made a cottage industry out of publishing Target-bashing emails sent to him by unnamed Target Corp. employees in recent years, so it wasn't surprising to see him run another one yesterday in a post entitled, "Target Headquarters 'In Desperate Need of Help,' Says Employee."

What is somewhat surprising, however, is that a Target exec directly responded to his company's latest unflattering leak on LinkedIn, of all places. (We can't remember the last time a LinkedIn post made news, if ever!)

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The email published by Gawker was written by "a current mid-level employee at Target's headquarters in Minnesota," to use Nolan's words.

"The Target culture is very Minnesota - it's very passive aggressive," the employee writes. "They expect you to conform to them, to be 'Targetized' and drink the Koolaid. If you aren't super bubbly, super social and passive aggressive, you get told that you're a problem. Being direct, wanting to actually get your work done, asking questions and pushing back are all viewed as bad things and you'll be told to tone it down or you'll be pushed out."

Corporate culture aside, the employee says Target's business model is hopelessly behind the times.

"[Former CEO] Greg Steinhafel getting fired was a good step, along with the CIO being fired a few months ago, but it's not enough," the employee writes. "The entire executive team with the exception of the [Chief Marketing Officer] Jeff Jones needs to go. Why? Because everyone was homegrown and 'Targetized' and has no concept of how to run a 21st century business. They still think it's 1996 and you can keep throwing up Target stores and suburban moms will love them."

The employee predicts that if Target doesn't get its act together fast, it'll go the way of Pamida.

"If Target doesn't make a serious change in their leadership and culture, it will end up being a Kmart, a Sears, or even worse a Circuit City," the email says. "The Twin Cities would be devastated -- around 15,000 people work for Target HQ at one of their numerous sites in the Twin Cities. The local economy would be hit super hard. Sadly I don't see Target getting better, and I'm actively looking for employment elsewhere."

Yesterday, Target CMO Jones responded to all that in a LinkedIn post entitled, "The Truth Hurts." But instead of trying to make a case that the employee was mischaracterizing what's really going on at Target Corp., Jones took the criticism on the chin.

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"In reading this account of life at Target, I've gone through a range of emotions -- first anger, then wondering why any team member would say what they said," Jones writes. "And while it was difficult for me to read this account for many reasons, the reality is that our team members speaking with honesty is a gift. Because much of what they are saying is true."

Jones acknowledges he and other Target execs would like it if employee grievances were kept in-house, but adds, "Speaking openly and honestly, and challenging norms is exactly what we need to be doing today and every day going forward."

"The culture of Target is an enormous strength and might be our current Achilles heel," Jones continues. "In the coming days and weeks we will embrace the critiques of Target -- whether it's from outsiders or our own team -- like an athletics team puts the negative press on the wall in the locker room."

"Our job now is to create a new truth and that is exactly what we are doing," he concludes.

We touched base with Target spokesperson Molly Snyder this afternoon and asked her if Target investigates "leaks" to determine which employees are responsible.

"I can't get into specifics of personnel matters and we don't really share details of employee policy publicly, but broadly, what we would say is we respect the right of team members to express their opinions," she tells us.

-- Follow Aaron Rupar on Twitter at @atrupar. Got a tip? Drop him a line at [email protected]