TU brands ad salespeople ‘terrorists’

UPDATE: That was fast. We are told the signs have been altered to remove the offending word. That’s only a start in addressing our concerns.

As part of what it deems a motivational technique, the Times Union is branding some of its ad sales staff ‘terrorists’ on charts posted outside the department.

This is the latest effort in an increasingly misguided, inappropriate way of handling the sales staff. On Tuesday, as the Capital Region braced for a massive snowstorm, Advertising VP Kathy Hallion sent staff  an email telling them to “plan ahead” and be on time for an 8:30 a.m. training session.

Guild President Tim O’Brien replied that it was inappropriate to push employees to rush to work on a day when roads were likely to be unplowed and when schools and many offices were being shuttered.

“Employees should be cautious driving into work tomorrow,” he replied. “No training is worth injuring yourself or others.”

Last fall, advertising employees met with Publisher George Hearst and presented a petition that formally complained about the hostile work environment in advertising. The Company then sent a corporate lawyer to do “an investigation.”

The Guild then did a survey of advertising employees that documented how bad conditions are and how half the staff had sought medical help due to stress in the workplace. The union emailed a link to the Company’s management, locally and nationally. You can read the results here.

Finally, Hearst replied with a brief note to ad sales staff. To date, he has never responded to the union.

“As you may know, we have conducted a full investigation into the issues raised and will take action to address these concerns as appropriate,” Hearst said.
“We also will continue to closely monitor the situation going forward.”

That was it. No details, no specifics. Advertising employees have grown increasingly frustrated with Hearst’s failure to respond to and address their concerns.

On Saturday, the union held a training seminar at the Desmond on how to respond to bullying in the workplace. Most participants came from the advertising department.

“This is a phenomenon that has serious consequences,” speaker KC Wagner of Cornell University said. “This is not just something happening in your head. This isn’t just the union doing its thing.”

She said workplace bullying today stands where sexual harassment in the workplace was 30 years ago. With new emphasis on preventing bullying in schools, companies will start to realize they must also bar the use of threats and intimidation in the workplace.

The Guild gathered numerous ideas from the seminar it will be working on going forward. Members interested in helping or learning more can attend our monthly Executive Board meeting at 5:30 p.m. Thursday, February 13, at the Albany Labor Temple.

In the meantime, the union will reach out to the Company and demand that the shameful signs declaring some ad sales employees “terrorists” be taken down.


  • Anon

    The Terrorist signs really really bother me, I have to pass them every day on the way to the bathroom. Why would anyone want to be labeled a terrorist? Why would anyone want to lead a “team of terrorists”? Can’t wait till the signs come down.

  • Glenn J. Hebert

    The Hearst Corporation should be “ASHAMED” of themselves for treating the employees who make this company run smoothly on a daily basis. I know if I was part of this force I would be leading a charge to Department of Labor with a sexual/bullying harassment suit. Take that you “GREEDY” corporate executives.

  • Joanne E. Hebert

    I for one, found these signs very offensive as our son did two tours in Iraq protecting our freedom. To see the word “terrorists” displayed so nonchalantly and in a “funny” manner is disturbing and at the very least a gross misrepresentation of what our country deals with on a daily basis. The fact that management allowed it to be displayed in that manner is inexcusable and intolerable. I would hope an apology is forthcoming.

  • Larry Powers

    WOW! I have just read the survey and the comments from the advertising staff concerning the pressure cooker atmosphere they are working in. It seems to me that the advertising managers don’t have a clue how to motivate their sales people. I worked at the TU/CNG through June,1979 when I left to work for the San Francisco Newspaper Agency, which was a nice promotion and recognition for the hard work put in and the results achieved. We had fun working there and were constantly motivated by sales bonuses, competitions, and sales awards. Bullying and pressure were not part of management’s devices to achieve great outcomes. We retail sales staff had the freedom to develop our sales territories as we felt necessary to help us make our goals. Not only were opportunities to make money set by management, but we made our own, pitting our efforts against our mates to see who would make the most money at the end of each month. The 3 Bobs, top people at the TU, all did well using this management style. Bob Danzig, publisher at the TU, went on to become the Senior Vice President in charge of the Newspaper Division of Hearst Corp; Bob Schadewald (Advertising Director) and Bob Schoenbacher (Advertising Manager) all went on to greater responsibilities in the advertising world. I doubt that any of the people now in charge will do as well using intimidation and bullying to achieve results. SHAME, shame, shame on them and good luck to the sales staff.

  • Jo Clarke

    I don’t make it upstairs to the advertising floor very often; I spend most of my time downstairs; but what a shame it has come to this. I think it will only get worse, not better. If advertising managers think they can use macho intimidation tactics to wring more productivity out of their hapless salesforce, it can only lead to a downward spiral. Good luck to you folks upstairs, but I think your tactics will backfire.

  • Althea T

    The company claims to be doing well financially, but if they were, would they be putting such pressure on their sales force? I don’t think mgmt’s behavior here is random, I think it came from above. Such extreme behavior from advertising management surely is the result of a desperate financial situation, i.e., less people advertising, fewer ad revenues (no matter how they spin their sales numbers)… The rot starts at the top, then seeps downward. Is this horrible environment in the sales dept. the final death rattle?

  • Jack

    Despite profitability, and being a private corporation, Hearst senior executives are acting as though we have to answer to quarterly shareholders’ meetings or worse, to venture capitalists.

    That is the source of the dysfunction. They need to realize that for most of us, this is not just a stepping stone to a higher position in a publicly traded company with stock options. Many of us are building and maintaining a life here.

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