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we give bonuses only if we also meet the
company’s growth targets.” She gave Luisa
a hard look. “So you’re going to have to
make the call: No one gets a bonus this
year. Not you, not me, not the store man
agers, not the cashiers, not anyone.”
Luisa had suspected that this was
a possibility, but she wasn’t entirely
prepared to take such a drastic step. “I
understand the position we’re in, but this
is going to come as a huge shock to our
employees. You know as well as I do that
everyone thinks of the bonuses as part of
their salary. They count on them, espe
cially around the holidays.” Superado’s
bonuses represented one to two months’
pay for most employees, depending on
their length of service, and in a typical
year about 90% of people qualified.
Maria shrugged. “The policy is the
Luisa took a deep breath. “I think we
need Rodrigo’s perspective on this.” She
dialed the extension of Superado’s vice
president of human resources, and he
picked up on the first ring. In less than a
minute, he had joined them.
Rodrigo Mendoza had worked closely
with Luisa’s father, and she valued his
advice. She briefed him on the bonus issue.
He’d clearly seen it coming.
“Look, the crisis has affected everyone,
not just us,” he said. “But we can hardly
hold our employees responsible for the
poor results. In fact, it’s thanks to their ef
forts that our numbers aren’t much worse.
Sales per employee are almost 20% higher
than at other supermarkets.”
“That may be,” Maria replied. “But it
doesn’t change the fact that we can’t pay
out bonuses of €200 million in a year
when we’ve made only €220 million. What
if the recession gets worse? Anything we
paid out now would have to be made up
next year by raising prices, which would
send our customers running to Grand
place or other competitors. That would
mean even worse results.” Maria pointed
to the stack of financial reports she’d
dropped on Luisa’s desk. “We’re talking
about the stability of the company here. In
the long run, the employees will care more
about having a secure job than they will
about one year’s bonus.”
She paused and softened her voice. “Of
course, we have to recognize that times
have changed, and we should lower our
performance targets for next year. We
could even revise our policy on bonuses so
that they reflect performance relative to
our peers. But I think a bonus is out of the
question for this year.”
Rodrigo didn’t respond to Maria
directly; instead he looked at Luisa. “Your
father always said, ‘You have to give to
get.’ If you don’t treat employees well, they
won’t work hard for you. We’re competi
tive because our people go the extra mile
for customers.” He leaned in, visibly
agitated. “Will they keep doing that if you
take away their bonuses? You can’t risk it,
especially when times are this tough. Just
think about what your father would do.”
Maria looked exasperated. “No, think
about what we need to do as a company in
this economic climate,” she said.
Luisa thanked them, and then con
sidered her options as the two filed out
of her office. Even without the bonus,
Superado offered much more than other
chains did. Employees had permanent
contracts, and most workers—85% of
them—were fulltime. Shifts were stable,
benefits were generous, and salaries were
well above market levels. And all employ
ees received management training. Would
they really give all that up for a parttime,
lowwage, nobenefits job at another
retailer just because Superado didn’t pay
bonuses this year?
She didn’t think so. Superado was
an outstanding employer, and its low
turnover rate—3.8%—reflected that. Still,
bonuses had been part of the deal for 30
years. How could she change that?
Hard at Work
Luisa was still mulling over her problem
in the parking lot when someone knocked
on her car window. It was Jorge, the store
“Glad you remembered to park in the
back,” he teased as she got out of the car.
That’s where staff and management at all
Superado stores always parked their cars.
The front was kept clear for “los jefes,” or
“the bosses,” which is how employees were
taught to refer to customers. Concern
for the jefes’ needs was also behind the
company’s unusual pricing model. While
most Spanish supermarkets varied prices
throughout the year with frequent promo
tions, Superado kept its prices low but
steady. Luisa’s father had believed that
customers prefer predictability, and so far,
the evidence was on his side.
Jorge walked Luisa inside and began
her routine tour. They started in the ware
house at the back of the store, where work
ers were unloading pallets of food from
delivery trucks, and then reloading the
pallets with waste for the recycling center.
Next, they walked through the store itself,
which was laid out in six simple sections
(meats, fish, baked goods, fruits and veg
etables, cosmetics, and a deli), each with
its own distinctive decor. In the produce
section, Jorge called over a plump, middle
aged employee with a warm smile.
“Luisa, you remember Rosa,” he said.
“Rosa has been with us nearly 10 years,
almost since the opening of the store.
She’s the one who came up with the loose
Luisa remembered it well. Superado
used to sell its fruits and vegetables
waxed and packed for presentation.
Although the produce looked nicer, some
shoppers had in recent years started
buying their fruits and vegetables from
competitors instead. In talking to her
customers, Rosa had discovered that most
of them found the packaging unnecessary.
And they resented being forced to buy