Promote from within versus outside hire.

Today, a young barista in his twenties said to me, “Melody, I love my job but it’s hard on my body.  I love Starbucks – I think I should try to find a career at the SSC.” (That’s not verbatim.  And for those who do not know, the “SSC” is the Starbucks headquarters here in Seattle.  It is called the “Starbucks Support Center.”)

I will be honest.  My heart sank a little.  The thing of it is, I have had that same conversation with partners many many times.  Too many times to possibly count.  It may be that my view of Starbucks is skewed by the fact that the Starbucks headquarters is quite close by.  I can imagine, if you are Starbucks partner within Seattle, it probably feels a bit like a realistic dream to move into the corporate headquarters – it’s so close.  This one thirty-second conversation today really made me think.  There are tons of talented store partners who are smart, passionate and capable.  I’ve known this young barista whom I was talking to today for a while: I know he is extremely smart, hard-working, and loves the brand.  But what is he qualified to do?  A quick search at the Starbucks Career Center website will evidence a lack of entry-level positions.  Frankly, some of the job descriptions could be daunting even to those who have education and life experience under his or her belt.

I genuinely worry that Starbucks doesn’t draw enough from their pool of talent within their stores.

When I started writing this article, I contemplated the situation of moving from the store level to everything outside of the store from the district manager up.  Certainly, it is possible that the same problems can occur within the stores, though I see less of that from my viewpoint.

There are pros and cons of both outside hires and promoting from within:

Some of the benefits of hiring an outside hire could include all of the following:

  • Hiring a person with a unique talent.
  • Hiring a fresh set of eyes.
  • Bringing someone with a unique education into the corporation.
  • Potentially bringing on someone with the excitement and passion of starting a new career.

Some of the benefits of promoting from within could include any of the following:

  • Hiring someone who truly understands the promise and culture of the brand.
  • Hiring someone who brings store level experience to projects that will directly impact store employees.
  • Retaining talented employees and reducing employee turnover.

None of what I’ve written is rocket science.  I’m not in HR.  I’m just making guesses.  But I do see a problem.  I have had the same conversation over and over again.  And rarely do I have the conversation, “I just got hired.”  Here in Seattle, there are several store managers with the talent to be district managers.  I have to question having district managers as outside hires at all, yet I realize some will be outside hires.

I recall a while back having a nice conversation with an Orange County district manager about how he found people to promote.  This particular DM had been an Orange County store manager before, and had worked his way up to DM.  The DM simply said to me, “Melody, I look to promote people who are both capable and passionate.  One can be capable without being passionate and vice versa.”  If one browses job descriptions at the Starbucks career center, none of them have just two words: capable and passionate.

None of this affects me.  I don’t work for Starbucks.  Heck, you could argue it’s none of my business how Starbucks hires for their corporate positions.  Yet, I know lots of store employees who want to advance.  And I think about how I would like to see some of my favorite partners stay with the company.  I think it’s possible that Starbucks needs a better way to reach into their store talent for jobs.  Hiring a fresh MBA   means you’ll likely never get the quality of experiences with the brand that any single shift supervisor has.

Years ago, I remember hearing that some Seattle-area baristas found their doorway into the SSC via customer service positions.  Up until 2010, Starbucks customer service was handled by partners in Seattle.  Many store level baristas were immediately qualified to go answer the phones to field customer service calls.  When those jobs were outsourced to New Mexico, over 100 entry-level jobs disappeared.  Once in the SSC, the partners in customer service were able to make connections with other corporate partners, and gain valuable experience.  I suspect it has become increasingly difficult over time to move up from the stores into the headquarters.

I don’t have the answers.  As I have mentioned, I don’t work in HR (though seriously, I think I easily could) and I don’t work for Starbucks.  The only thing I can say is that I want to be more optimistic about great store partners finding their way into the SSC (or any position above the store level).  That’s it.  I’d like to feel more optimistic than I am right now.

By the way, if I’ve got this wrong, tell me.  I would like to know that I am mistaken about the difficulty involved in moving from the stores to a higher level position.




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  • Artur

    This is an issue not only in the US.

  • DadCooks

    Another great post that should prompt some good conversation.

    There is a delicate balance of new and old that must be maintained for a business to fulfill their needs. Too often though the talent in house is not recognized, often by managers and supervisors who are only interested in themselves.

    How sad it is that the norm these days is that people can no longer look forward to career advancement within a company. Management is wasting an expensive investment.

  • purple1

    Melody what interesting thoughts to think about. On the store level I have chatted with so many partners that want to move up to either ASM or SM levels and cannot do it because of the lack of openings or the DM or region are interested in someone else. The sad thing about that as you say is that these people that want to move up are quite talented. I see how they interact with customers. They more often than not provide great customer service. Our regional office is not near my local SB or district so it would certainly be a commute to go to it. I also know they have hired SM from outside and when chatting with them I feel they do not totally understand the brand. This is such a complex issue especially when you are not in Seattle and have the option of corporate headquarters.

  • Melody

    @DadCooks – Or maybe not. I’m not even sure that most people like to talk about complex ideas. There are lots of pros and cons to outside hires versus promoting from within in. I suppose in more remote markets, outside hires might be much more necessary?

  • Kurt

    Outsourced to New Mexico? Is Seattle its own country in the Starbucks world? And while I am asking in a joke way, that might actually be true. I know people who want to move up and advice they get is “move to Seattle.” Maybe there is a city centric focus?

    I love complex ideas. But face-to-face and walls of white boards are better than blogs. It gets harder to connect groups of thoughts in a coherent way. A similar complexity may be why hiring outside is done. It may be simpler to hire outside for the specific skill you want, and train for the rest, than it is to hire inside and train for the specific skill.

    Starbucks does operations well. It does not do people well. At least not as well as it could. It is easier for them to hire a skill like marketing or “management experience” than it is to truly grasp people and talent development. The day-to-day operational pressures are so great, and perhaps so necessary, that people development is hard to integrate. They do it on a district level, but as you move up the chain it gets harder to do and is done less often and less well.

  • Harrison Lee

    You know, as a barista, I’ve been discouraged (at least that’s how I feel) to move up, by people in the company ranging from Shift supervisor, Manager, to VP of consumer food products. Heck, I’m getting my MBA in a pretty decent top 50 university and I still get the “moving up from a barista seems a little beyond reach for you right now Harrison.”
    Talk about enhancing motivation. If anything, I got this job as a barista so that I have more chance of getting a job at the corporate.
    Lost hope in this company as a career that I am passionate about for the past decade. In fact, I have so much passion that I mail people free coffee/collections from all over the world, friends with managers from Starbucks Taiwan, General Director of Starbucks Russia, yet to know that my career opportunity with Starbucks is so dismal

    Giving my 2 weeks notice this week.

  • sugarcube

    Oh, external hires…….
    I have been with the company for almost 8 years, and I have seen a lot of management hired externally. 9 times out of 10 they don’t make it, yet my district continues to interview and hire externally! It is very frustrating for someone like myself, a high performing partner, passionate, EE on all reviews. I have interviewed for the ASM position three times now, and get the same follow up. You interviewed really well, here are some things you should work on, but we decided to hire someone from outside the company. It’s a tough pill to swallow. (and the external is usually gone by month 6)
    I understand the logic, but I do believe that partners are more apt to respect internal hires, because they have risen in the ranks together as baristas, shifts. Plus, most internal candidates have that passion and dedication for the brand, that many externals might not.

    “I suppose in more remote markets, outside hires might be much more necessary?”

    Of course it depends on the district, but I am in a remote market, and I can think of a minimum of 4 partners that are ready to move up (and would be fantastic additions to the management team). 4 might not seem like a large number, but a position might only open up every 18-24 months.

  • Purple1

    Harrison I am sorry to hear you are giving notice because you sound like a great partner and one I would enjoy having you work at my local store. Overall, it seems from these comments that partners are finding more external hires than the ability to move up internally. So the question is – is this due to a particular DM, available openings in a particular area or the corporate rule.

  • Chgo.

    “Hiring someone who truly understands the promise and culture of the brand.”
    “Retaining talented employees and reducing employee turnover.”

    I’m sorry to say, but everyday it seems that the 2 aforementioned benefits of hiring from within, are qualities lacking here in Chicago. Passion for the job seems lost and possibly an indication of what’s to come in the future! I hope not, but I don’t feel optimistic. Hiring from within makes more sense to me, but where have all the exceptional Partners gone? Partners are becoming more distant and disconnected from their customers. Sadly… I had a situation happen today that had me a bit taken aback. It’s a bit OT, so I will not bore anybody with the details.

  • Ryan

    This post is great. I was a four-year Starbucks partner who got stuck in a supervisor role for 2+ years due to having no DM for a long time, and finally having a DM who wasn’t interested in me. I’ve been gone for just 7 months now (and am now managing an independent coffee shop after starting there as a barista in June 2012…), and I can honestly say that I still love Starbucks and would like to be able to come back there in a corporate role, but I have 0% confidence that they value the sort of experience that partners in the stores have and the skill sets that that experience can give you. I knew plenty of SMs who would have made great DMs and had been promised things along that route for years, and none of them were ever promoted– just given more and more responsibilities (such as dual managing, being in charge of coffee master programs in their district, etc) with no raises or actual moves to make them district managers. I think that the only real options for moving up in the company are from barista–>supervisor, and VERY RARELY from supervisor–>assistant manager—>manager. I’ve never seen a manager get promoted at all and it was quite rare when someone who started as a barista actually made manager.

    Perhaps this is why corporate Starbucks has gotten so completely out of touch with the actual stores and their partners.

  • Purple1

    Ryan some interesting comments. I am curious what is different in the independent coffee shop
    Although I think I know the answers.

  • Anonymoussbux

    Please send this to Howard. I certainly agree. Many of the upper levels I’m aware of are external hires and there really seems to be a severe disconnect between the reality of what’s important to them and what’s important to the store level partners. Why would an entire senior level leadership team head to Costa Rica and only a limited number of store managers be allowed to go? What would a senior level person seriously contribute to the conversation? Where’s the development of top talent to further lead the company? Upper levels are already compensated enough… Don’t give them a free trip to Costa Rica so they can hang out with people they already know. Give store managers and even baristas a chance… Baristas that can be nominated to go!

  • Kool Aid for a Decade

    I spent 10 years at Starbucks. 5 in the stores, 5 in the SSC. I wasn’t promoted directly, and I saw very few who were – usually TOP performing SMs/DMs who transitioned into operations roles at the SSC. The truth of the matter is that the skills and personality required to be a passionate and competent employee in the stores has very little in common with the skills and personality required in the corporate office. The jobs aren’t apples and oranges – they’re apples and baseballs.

    The way I made my transition was by developing a skillset that was in-demand at the SSC. I went to college and got my bachelor’s degree, then left my barista job to take internships and get work experience in my chosen field. When I graduated from college, I was able to apply for – and get – a job at the SSC because I had obtained the skills that job needed.

    Does this mean being a partner and possessing a passion for coffee, Starbucks culture, etc. has no impact on your ability to get into the SSC? Absolutely not – at least in my case. The fact that I had store experience was considered a valued asset on my team, and it definitely helped me during the hiring process. But on the list of things that got me hired, it was the cherry on top of the sundae – not the ice cream itself.

  • Melody

    When I wrote this article, I envisioned the situation of the movement of store partners into entry-level positions at the SSC. I think there could be more done to find the extremely bright, talented and passionate and help them grow with the brand. The door of opportunity has to feel like it swings wide open for those willing to do the hard work to get there. A time line of decade to get to DM seems extreme. As I said, I don’t have answers. Maybe Starbucks can devise a program to refer people to Starbucks jobs.

    I will say the responses above are much broader than what I thinking about: Simply suggests that there is a lot more food for thought out there on this.

  • Melody

    I had an interesting Twitter conversation with a partner who thinks this is a big “taboo” topic that I wrote about. I suppose all the more reason to at least talk about it. Just struck me as interesting.

  • Rebecca

    I don’t think it’s taboo necessarily, but it is a subject that people have a lot invested in and is therefore prone to heated discussion and as many different viewpoints as there are people to have views :)

    When I hire, I am not just hiring for a position – I am also hiring with my team in mind. Do I need someone more outgoing, or serious? What kind of availability do I need? Will they be working during busy day parts and thus need to be much better at multi-tasking, or can I afford to hire someone who’s a little more focused? I have passed up an internal promote before because they were simply not what my team needed.

    I think is also where being an internal candidate can be a double-edged sword. Both your strengths and opportunities are known, and it can be easy to be blinded by one or the other. This is where opportunity lies, IMO, when it comes to internal retail hiring at least – we get caught up on trying to help a partner overcome this opportunity or that before they step into a new role, when in reality, some of these opportunities could continue to be worked on, even in a new position.

    When it comes to non-retail, my thoughts are even less cut & dry. Finding out information in terms of what skills/qualifications are needed, what positions are even available etc. is much harder to come by, and that would be the biggest way Starbucks could set internals up for success in that regard. Plus, running a store with operational excellence, taking care of the immediate needs of customers and partners, balancing my work & life – these take up most of my time and energy. Developing a partner to do a non-retail job falls very far down the list, and with everything that is rolling, and will continue to roll, I don’t see that changing.

    Good topic :)

  • Devin

    This is a great discussion topic, and I can truly see both sides. As a company you would always want to attract, hire, and maintain the best talent available, whether they arise internally or externally shouldn’t matter. As a partner who may want to transition from retail into a corporate setting, heading over to the SSC would be fantastic.

    I think that as a company, Starbucks does put in a lot of effort to nurture in house talent. They provide academic scholarship, tuition reimbursement, internships, and many other career advancement opportunities to eligible partners.

  • Stacy

    Great topic! Personally, I’ve seen a lot of transfers from stores to the SSC. Yes I’m in Seattle and yep, most of them have been store managers. I wanted to point out that there are summer internships available geared toward store partners looking to intern at the SSC. Information about the opportunities this summer was just sent to stores a few weeks ago. I think most of the internships are geared toward partners finishing up their college degrees. A few years ago one of my shift supervisors interned in the Accounting department and was offered a job at the SSC when she graduated. So, SMs, let’s make sure we get this type of information out to our partners and not let it languish in our email in-box! Thanks Melody!

  • Melody

    @Stacy – That is a great comment! I didn’t know that such an internship program existed, and that is the kind of thing that I was thinking I was trying to get at! By the way, I do remember about 3 years ago meeting a store partner who went from a barista to the SSC really really fast – however, he was in the unique situation where he had lots of talent, and already had his MBA. I would still advocate for some kind of referral program – Heck, I have a small list of partners whom I am ready to refer to the SSC. 😉

  • MrWho

    @Melody – and on that note, is it not in and of itself sad that you have felt it potentially helpful or meaningful to prepare a list of people that the SCC should review? No disrespect at all, but isn’t it frightening to think that a Starbucks fan and blogger might have more of a voice than people from within the Company itself?

    The hidden, unspoken reasons to not promote from within:
    “The carrot”- If an employee is kept striving after a dangling carrot (black apron, shift keys, or even Barista Trainer, etc.) there can be even more flavors of imperfection that can be used to describe them, their level of buy in grows even higher, and they can literally be expected to work harder (especially right after letting them don a new role in a store). E.G. Once I was asked spur-of-the-moment (and with no real time to prepare anything) to prepare a tasting for a district meeting (typically only SM’s and DM’s). I prepared presses of Three Region Blend (it had just come out for the first time) and Guatemala Antigua to compare and contrast their similarities (the Guatemalan component of TRB) and differences. One of the managers rudely barked that I should have prepared pairings for both of them and that a coffee tasting without a pairing is worthless. I did know that pairings are effective and great way to demonstrate different coffees, but two coffees side by side is a great way to learn, teach, and begin discussion as well! I took it as a (failed) attempt to make me feel like I didn’t do what I was supposed to do.

    “Company Man vs. Bonds-of-Teamwork”- The bonds of teamwork in a store have to be strong enough to promote the brand and culture and to create a family-esque team, but not too strong to supersede the dedication to Starbucks over all else. If these are carefully balanced in a store, then even if something shady or unethical were to happen (whereas an extremely strong team can stand together), there will at least be a basic amount of people that will either not care (e.g. if the store is sectarian a.k.a. “cliquey”) or they will be too “fresh” to know something wrong is occurring and/or give higher value to their job than to their partners. The elaborations and explanations on this are rather complex and refer to individual scenarios that occur within stores from time to time; this speaks to store intra-dynamics as a whole.

    “Selfish vs. selfless”- Many of the most dedicated partners are also the most selfless – they see Starbucks as a means to an end, the end being the Mission Statement. This scares Middle Management because of the lack of flexibility a genuinely honest person may have when it comes to make a morally grey decision. In the middle, there can be good, reasonably “selfish” partners that have a sense of self-preservation or even company asset protection that keeps them satisfactorily working, but not as “bought in” as the selfless. Then there can be very selfish partners that might be very skilled in some areas in the store (tenured supervisors with excellent deployment, etc.) that keeps their paychecks coming, but they don’t really care about Starbucks outside of that. Typically they are looking for someone in the middle, or really someone that seems to be selfish enough to be motivated by bonuses to keep costs down but can illusorily don the persona of a SM.

    “The word on the street”- It is a huge annoyance and inconvenience for DM’s to have to consider that partners at different stores might talk to each other about what is going on in their stores! Any time they verbally release a decision, sometimes before they even tell anyone they have made a decision, it’s already being speculated on. Partners over time transfer, promote-into other stores, make references that get people hired, etc. – in other words, the stores in an area are not isolated networks connected only via DM or RD – there are relationships between partners that act as “bridges” between stores, and these are the channels through which all sorts of gossip are transmitted. When someone is brought in from the outside, they will have not been exposed to that gossip just yet, so they can be more easily played because of that ignorance and lack of exposure to Starbucks culture. It is with respect to this that a promoted partner may have resistance.

    Finally, “Status Quo”- In an (isolated) area or market just too big to have any kind of regional offices or partner resources partners, Middle Management (DM and above) very carefully craft every decision based on the above, with an overall image to “maintain the status quo.” For instance, if in a district or market several SM positions were filled back to back from within, those managers now have a significant enough of a voice to speak highly of their previous peers without the DM(s) being able to ignore it. Also, with time, any newly-promoted manager will come to “rest on their laurels” and no longer be willing to put in a good word about someone they used to work with or that is currently on their staff – they may still care about Starbucks, but they don’t care like they did from the other side of the grass about promoting from within.

    There could be many more reasons and other interpretations, but this is what I recall off the top of my head.

  • Melody

    @Mr. Who I was pretty much joking, hence the winky smiley face. I know that one blogger can’t do anything to get any one person promoted. The serious part is that there some great partners whom it would be a shame to lose. I am on my phone so I cant write more. I appreciate all the thoughts in this thread. I cant get some of the things that I want for myself from the SSC, much less influence what happens with others.

  • Purple1

    Mr who I am not totally sure what points you are trying to make with your lengthy comments. They are interesting comments and give some background but are you saying melody should not open this up for discussion or reflecting on the organizational systems at SB?

  • Shane

    Definitely an interesting topic. I have known of only one partner who made the transition from retail store to a support center, and they were qualified to do so. In addition to having previous experience that correlated with what they wanted to accomplish in Seattle, they made sure they forged the appropriate connections, and initiated projects that demonstrated both their passion for the department, and their competence (example, a partner wanting to move into Partner Resources rolling out an innovative district-wide system for public partner recognition. The problem with most internal promotes, I’m sorry to say, is when you ask them WHY they want to move into a support center, they say “I’m tired of dealing with these customers”, “I need to get off my feet”, “I’m sick of going home with my clothes and hair reeking of coffee every day”, or “I’ve been here long enough, I’ve paid my dues”. Or when you ask what experience they have, they tell you they know Microsoft Office. Or they think because they decorated their best friend’s baby nursery, this entitles them to work on the Store Design team. Sorry kids, it doesn’t work that way. This contributes to the numbers of partners who want the promotion versus those that actually deserve it and eventually attain it.

  • anonymous coffee

    You only get moved up if your manager and your dm like you. Point blank. End of story. If you differ at all with their views or opinions you are shut out and black balled. This is why I went back to school to get a degree and move on. I have never heard an opinion that differed from this from anyone who has attempted to move up. Long story short-kiss a** in sbux and you will move up.

  • Melody

    @anonymous coffee – The truth is that probably in most business, you really want those above you to like you to move up. I think a little kiss ass is probably the norm.

  • Chase Jaynes

    I sometimes, jokingly say, that in order to move up – ill have to move sideways. It seems sometimes we look for skills we don’t really teach and the best candidate for positions like DM or above are those with experience elsewhere.

    It’s a tragic truth. I am pretty good at the whole “game” of it, and am confident in my abilities to help partners who really want to become SMs – move up in the company, but beyond that? It is a daunting task.

    As much as I love this company, I really couldn’t tell you where I will be in 10 years. That is something that saddens me

  • Chase Jaynes

    I would like to add, however, that when the higher ups talk about wanting to hire more from within they genuinely mean that.

    It’s just not as easy as it sounds.

  • Rebecca

    @ anonymous coffee – When I put someone forward as a candidate for shift or higher, I am giving them my endorsement. Of course I need to believe they will do a good job, and of course I’m not going to have a totally unbiased perspective – I’m human. And so is my DM. The fact that I don’t put forward every candidate who wants to be a shift isn’t because I’ve blackballed them – it’s because I’m not confident in their abilities for that particular position. If there is an unwillingness to change certain behaviours that I’m not comfortable with, then yes, they will keep getting passed by for promotions.

    It’s not necessarily ‘kissing ass’ to work with the superiors that you have, and attempt to be recognized by them as someone worth promoting, even if ultimately, you would do business differently. I have learned a lot from my DM, who is very different from me in how he processes information, makes decisions etc. If/when I get the chance to move up, will I do things the same way? Nope – probably not even close. But I will have had my management style shaped by my learnings, and will be a much more well rounded manager in the future because of my willingness to be open to do things a different way.

  • MrWho

    @Purple1- I hope Melody continues to open up whichever topics she prefers, she just happened to pick a topic that resonates pretty strongly with me. I still have friends that are Starbucks partners discovering these things for themselves all the time. If even one person learned from my ramblings and it helped them realize how it works, I would be happy about that.

    I wish I had known all that when I had first started working for Starbucks, but perhaps those were the lessons I had to learn on my own; even if I had been told all that, I don’t think I would have believed it. I still really value Starbucks and believe in the products, people and mission, I just wish it wasn’t so corrupt in between the SCC and the individual stores themselves. There are partners everywhere that are talented but who don’t have upward mobility at all, and they will have to have their own experience to realize that they are not in such a nurturing environment.

    I assume that what I said isn’t universally true for Starbucks, but it is a deep, dark truth nonetheless. I just wish it wasn’t true anywhere, because Starbucks should be better than that.

  • GAStarbucksGirl

    This subject right here is near and dear to my heart Melody. I’ve seen both good and bad on both sides. I think there is no right or wrong answer. Most likely it has to be taken on a case by case basis. A couple of years ago I would have said ‘promote from within’ so we keep the spirit and heart of Starbucks alive. But within the past 2 years I have seen a new SM come into my store- she was an outside hire with 12 years of restaurant management experience. She just won manager of the quarter and has made a tremendous difference in our district with her ‘outside eyes’.

  • Melody

    @GAStarbucksGirl – This is one article where I’ve seen a little push back. I don’t walk the halls of the SSC, and have no way of really knowing where those 4000 people came from. I know there are some tremendous outside hires- Here is downtown Seattle, I can think of two amazing store managers that came in as outside hires (one of whom managed an SBC in Borders, and when Borders collapsed, she applied to come work at Starbucks as an SM, and that’s where she is now.) I think what I’ve learned from reading the comments here, and my discussions, I still think that 1) there’s room to be cautious with external hires 2) I particularly believe that DMs are best promoted from SMs though of course there are always exceptions and 3) there is a scarcity of entry level SSC positions for store partners, and more store partners who’d like to move up than opportunities.

    Thank you everyone for the thoughtful conversation. Not every blog post here is always a happy-go-lucky article, and I appreciate you bearing with me through the more trying articles.

  • anonymous coffee

    @rebecca…unfortunately i am going to have to strongly disagree…w/in my district anyone who is put forward for any type of promotion (shift or higher) will NEVER get hired unless they hobnob with the dm, compliment his outfit/family/mgmt style, etc…to go further than that-if your mgr doesn’t like you personally you will never be promoted…many partners have had to transfer stores or out of a district simply to be promoted above a barista…this was not due to their skills or ability to do their job…simply a mgr not liking them…in our district 90% of persons in their job over 1yr have quit due to lack of ability to move up…w/in those 90% 80% have stated this was due to personal differences (i.e. blackballing) with their mgr…i have to say i respect your decision to not blackball

  • Rebecca

    Being as I’m not in your district, I won’t attempt to deny your experiences. Hopefully, by my sharing my opposite experience, it’ll give you hope that your experience is not universal within the company and theres a chance to change things. It sounds to me like the problem is a lack of communication – no one’s making explanations, so partners are making assumptions based on their own experiences. In my store/district, there is a lot of communication – it makes it harder to assume things, and people know where they stand. I have been on the other side too, as a new partner, I was in a store where there was no SM communication, and we all felt free to believe what we wanted to. Should my SM have communicated more? Absolutely. Should we have asked the right questions? Asked for more open communication? Reached out to our DM when that didn’t work? Yes. Did we do that? No.

    I’ve found that assuming positive intent (coincidental, no?) while verifying that this positive intent is actually there works wonders when speaking with your SM/DM. Let them know how morale is affected by the lack of internal movement, and the perception that it is unimportant to them. Speak to the fact that you know this hasn’t been their intent, and you’d love to know what you could work on to move forward in the company. And then, work on it :) I can’t tell you how many partners will ask me for feedback, and when I give them some, sit there and defend their actions and make excuses. Honestly, giving feedback, and following up etc. takes a lot of my time. It isn’t worth it if the partner doesn’t appreciate it. Makes me feel disrespected and devalued. Do your part to make sure you keep the conversation flowing by valuing those people who participate!

  • Sbux addict

    I am a 6 year partner at Starbucks and I was in the stores for 4 1/2 years. It takes a lot of work to get into corporate! And I think that is because there are a lot of talented partenrs being promoted to entry level jobs. I applied for every entry level position for 1 1/2 years before I got my job. My advice is to be persistent, don’t give up, and go beyond. When you create an account to apply for jobs, you can upload documents. Don’t just upload your resume. Upload a different cover letter for every job you apply for. Every time I went for an interview the person had a copy of my cover letter in front of them. Also, have a shift, assistant, manager, or district manager write you a letter of recommendation. Post that up there. I don’t know if this is 100% true, but my DM told me I had a better shot of getting into corporate than my manager because I have a college degree. He made it sound like it was pretty much mandatory. I hope this helps those aspiring to move up.

  • Peggy

    Hello Melody:
    I am currently researching the outsourcing of customer service for an MBA International Business class. I have found your articles to be very informative and a way to delve into some of the issues through everyone’s comments. I am particularly interested in your statement regarding the loss of 100 entry level jobs when the customer service was outsourced. I would like to use that information for my paper but was wondering if you obtained that blurb from a credible source…not saying you are not credible :) but I think my professor would appreciate a scholarly reference for siting.

    Of course my paper is due this Tuesday 6-11-13

    If you could assist me with that I would greatly appreciate it. Great articles!


  • Melody

    Hi Peggy –
    I hope you will take a minute to subscribe or “like” my blog.

    This ended up being a little more saucy and controversial article than what I like for my site. Nearly de-published it. As I recall, I cited the 100 number based upon Twitter conversations with a former SSC-partner.

    However, I notice that there are some numbers mentioned in this news article here –

    Looks like maybe it was closer to 130 Starbucks jobs that were outsourced.


  • External Hire

    As a recent External ASM hire, I feel like I need to comment. I come from a Retail Store Manager background and I am very passionate about what I do. I took a bit of a pay cut and a lower title to come to Starbucks because I researched many companies before I decided to look for a different job and I know I belong here. I love people, I love coffee and I already am in love with the company in my first week. One MAJOR characteristic of a Successful Manager is the ability to manage, mentor and develop people. Being passionate about the company and doing your job well are the expectation- those qualities do not entitle you to a promotion. In my first week here, I have already identified what the recruiter and DMs saw that I will bring to the table to improve a fantastic team. It is important to promote from within, but what is most important is hiring the person who is a perfect fit for the job.

  • Myear


    Sadly, this sort of thing happens all over companies. I was employed with Sprint Nextel for 5 years and started from being a retail consultant and was at least able to get to Store Manager. After that you hit a glass ceiling and no one wants to look at you. Even with a MA in Political Science. It was still difficult to land a corporate position or even a DM position. I see the pros vs cons in the situation because as a manager you do want someone who is passionate about the brand and sometimes you don’t have the kind of talent. My issue is that when YOU DO why not take advantage of it, especially since with this person they already know the culture, the expectations, etc. Its definitely mind boggling!

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