Improving ad sales morale won’t cost a penny

Guild bargainer Stacy Wood proved an articulate advocate for her colleagues in advertising Monday.

During contract talks, Wood responded to George Hearst’s comments that the industry is changing and his questions about whether the publisher has successfully communicated about the challenges the newspaper faces. Wood replied that ad sales people especially understand what is happening, but the Company’s response to the economic slowdown and industry changes has been to target the staff.

“Management’s style has been punitive. Morale has taken a nosedive,” Wood said. “The outrageous goals with no hope of making them and if you don’t make them, you’re shown the door. We want to be here. We are spending more and more of our time trying to fix the problems that are coming up. It’s not that we’re not into the program. We just want to be treated better. And that’s not going to cost you a penny to do. We want some respect for the work that we do. I think if the tone were to change, the morale problem would turn around.”

Guild President Tim O’Brien mentioned the public display of boards that rank ad sales people and list who have not reached their goals. He called it a “public paddling” that was not motivational. Hearst brought up the board the Guild put up in response, ranking managers in general in how they were motivating staff but not listing any names. Company managers, not catching the irony, were outraged. They not only demanded the board come down. They removed it first without discussing it with the Guild. (The union agreed to keep the board down and urged management to show similar compassion by removing its own board. Instead a second one was put up in classified.)

The Company has articulated that these are tough times in the newspaper industry, O’Brien said. What it hasn’t made clear is that its leaders know how to help sales staff navigate through these rough waters.

“It’s not the sense of being on a team. It’s more like you’re rowing the boat and someone is standing over you with a whip,” O’Brien said.

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