Special Report

America’s Worst Companies to Work For

6. Sears Holdings (Sears/KMart)
> Rating: 2.6/2.5
> Number of reviews: 947/376
> CEO approval rating: 30% for Louis J. D’Ambrosio
> One-year stock price change: down 19%
> Employees: 293,000

Sears, its stablemate K-Mart and several small divisions do business through 2,172 full-line stores and 1,338 specialty retail stores in the United States. Sears Holdings Corp. (NASDAQ: SHLD), which is controlled by fund manager Eddie Lampert, holds all these. Lampert recently was given a black eye by the press as he bought a $40 million home on Indian Creek Island, north of Miami. The purchase was made about the same time as Sears made the decision to sell 1,200 stores and close another 173.

Sears Holdings has been through several CEOs since Lampert formed it via a merger of Sears and K-Mart in 2005. Lou D’Ambrosio was made chief executive in February 2011, replacing long-time interim CEO W. Bruce Johnson. The CEO shuffle has not ended years of failures at Sears as it has struggled against other large chains, particularly Wal-Mart Stores Inc. (NYSE: WMT) and Target Corp. (NYSE: TGT).

Customers will not be surprised to hear that Sears employees think the company’s “ancient systems” are in desperate need of repair. In addition to aging infrastructure, retail workers at both companies are unhappy with compensation. Sears employees consistently pointed to low starting salary and even lower annual raises. Kmart employees complained they cannot get enough pay as they are limited to fewer than 32 hours a week with shifts only “four to six hours long.” In 2011, Sears’ American Customer Satisfaction Index score was a 76 out of 100. Among all department stores and discount retailers, only Walmart received a lower score.

5. OfficeMax
> Rating: 2.6
> Number of reviews: 360
> CEO approval rating: 39% for Ravi K. Saligram
> One-year stock price change: down 12%
> Employees: 29,000

OfficeMax Inc. (NYSE: OMX) operates 978 stores in the United States and Mexico. It may be in the most brutally competitive segment of the retail market. Among the three main office supply retailers, including Office Depot Inc. (NYSE: ODP) and Staples Inc. (NASDAQ: SPLS), OfficeMax is the smallest. And OfficeMax runs on margins that are razor thin.

In the past quarter, revenue was $1.6 billion, a decrease of 2.7% from the second quarter of 2011. OfficeMax reported net income of only $10.7 million, compared to a net loss of $3.0 million in the same period a year ago. Oddly enough, when OfficeMax announced earnings, the company said its board of directors reinstated the payment of quarterly cash dividends on the company’s common stock, “given progress in executing its strategic plan to achieve sustainable, profitable growth.” Nothing in its recent past would make that goal appear attainable.

Retail workers on this list frequently indicated that they were treated poorly by management. OfficeMax reviewers were no different, with one suggesting that the company should “learn to treat employees with respect and pay them better than minimum wage and maybe they will stick around.” In addition to inadequate pay, several reviewers complained that they were micromanaged.

4. Hertz
> Rating: 2.6
> Number of reviews: 401
> CEO approval rating: 43% for Mark P. Frissora
> One-year stock price change: up 14%
> Employees: 23,900

Hertz Global Holdings Inc. (NYSE: HTZ) operates a rental fleet of approximately 355,500 cars in the United States. The business is among the most competitive in America. Hertz is up against Avis Budget Group Inc. (NASDAQ: CAR), Dollar Thrifty Automotive Group Inc. (NYSE: DTG), Enterprise and ZipCar Inc. (NASDAQ: ZIP), in addition to a large number of smaller operations.

Hertz’s second quarter was a good one, with revenue of $2.2 billion, an increase of 7.4% year-over-year. But Hertz remains the largest company in its industry with roughly 8,700 corporate and licensee locations in nearly 150 countries. Despite its size, the company continues to be under relentless competitive pressure. Both revenue and net income were smaller in 2011 than they were as recently as 2007.

Hertz employees regularly complained that the company’s upper management is out of touch, citing unrealistic business goals that require course changes and waste time. One review read, “Upper management has little field experience and lots of MBA’s that tell you the impossible is possible.” While the company requires that all new managers have at least a bachelor’s degree, they all have to start at the bottom in the “Management Trainee” program. The relatively low hourly pay and menial jobs rubbed some recent grads the wrong way.

3. RadioShack
> Rating: 2.4
> Number of reviews: 560
> CEO approval rating: 32% for James F. Gooch
> One-year stock price change: down 78%
> Employees: 34,000

RadioShack Corp. (NYSE: RSH) operates about 4,700 retail stores under the RadioShack brand name in the United States and about 1,500 Target Mobile centers. The retailer has had almost no success as it has labored to compete with larger rival Best Buy Co. Inc. (NYSE: BBY) and a number of other retailers that have consumer electronics departments. In the past few years, RadioShack’s largest problem probably has been the rise of Amazon.com Inc. (NASDAQ: AMZN) as a huge e-commerce vendor of electronics.

RadioShack’s trouble has taken an ongoing financial toll. Last quarter it lost $21 million and suspended its dividend to save money. On July 30, 2012, Standard & Poor’s Ratings Services lowered its corporate credit and senior unsecured debt ratings to B- from B+.

Reviewers were consistently unhappy about the retailer’s sales commission structure and the long hours. Like several companies on the list, reviews indicated that the company limits commissions to certain products, instead of paying based on sales. “Over the years compensation has turned into a big joke. You MUST perform in all metrics (service plans, batteries, cell phones, etc) to get any sort of bonus as an associate.” The focus on sales has not done its customer service image any favors. Consumer Reports gave RadioShack a “naughty” spot on its 2011 Naughty & Nice Holiday List, noting that the company has openly acknowledged setting different prices for the same products.

2. Dillard’s
> Rating: 2.4
> Number of reviews: 363
> CEO approval rating: 22% for William Dillard II
> One-year stock price change: up 43%
> Employees: 30,000

Dillard’s Inc. (NYSE: DDS) operates more than 300 retail department stores, mostly in the Southwest, Southeast and Midwest. While revenue has dropped for a number of years, recently Dillard’s has done very well, despite competition from other mid-tier retailers.

Dillard’s largest problem with employees may be CEO William Dillard II, who is part of the founding family. His CEO approval rating in the Glassdoor research is an extremely low 21%. The Dillard family owns 99.4% of the corporation’s voting shares, according to the company’s proxy. Bill has family with him at the top of the company. Alex Dillard is president of Dillard’s. Mike Dillard is an executive vice-president of the company. The three have made more than $51 million as company officers over the 2009 to 2011 period.

Like many of the retailers on this list, Dillard’s employees regularly pointed to the company’s unattractive sales incentives. One representative review indicated that high turnover was the result of employees being paid on the number of sales made per hour instead of based on a commission. “People either ended up quitting before their review or being fired randomly one day because of their sales.”

Also Read: America’s Most (and Least) Livable States

1. Dish Network
> Rating: 2.2
> Number of reviews: 346
> CEO approval rating: 32% for Joseph Clayton
> One-year stock price change: up 37%
> Employees: 34,000

Dish Network Corp. (NASDAQ: DISH) employees have the overwhelming task of managing more than 14 million subscribers. And Dish management has to be worried about its relationship with customers. It has been losing subscribers in an industry that includes streaming providers like Netflix (NASDAQ: NFLX), cable companies and telecoms, which have introduced fiber to the home. Customers at Dish are also likely to be upset because of battles between the network providers and the satellite company over carriage fees. AMC was recently off the Dish system for over a month.

Many reviewers objected to the company’s long hours and no holidays. “You work all day all night. Your day starts from 6:45am till 6pm or 10pm You work every holiday that your day falls on.” It is no surprise then that reviewers suggested employees were unhappy with management, citing “mandatory overtime” and “no flexibility” with schedule. Perhaps the dissatisfaction of employees is affecting customer satisfaction. MSN Money awarded Dish a spot in its 2012 Customer Service Hall of Shame, noting that Dish’s customers did not like that the broadcaster had dropped channels and seemed to prioritize sales over quality service.

Douglas A. McIntyre, Ashley C. Allen and Michael B. Sauter

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