J.C. Penney Hired the Wrong Therapist to Ease Stress After CEO's Ouster

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How bad was Ron Johnson's tenure as CEO of J.C. Penney? So bad, the company reportedly needed to bring in an organizational therapist in the aftermath of Johnson's firing. And like many of the moves that the retailer has made in the last couple of years, this one managed to backfire -- spectacularly.

NEW YORK - NOVEMBER 03:  Honoree Liz Sweney, EVP, Senior General Merchandise Manager attends the 5th Annual Fashion Delivers Gala at The Waldorf Astoria on November 3, 2010 in New York City.  (Photo by Charles Eshelman/Getty Images) *** Local Caption *** Liz Sweney
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Buzzfeed reports that J.C. Penney executive Liz Sweney (right) brought in the therapist to address employees at an internal meeting last month. According to Buzzfeed's sources, Sweney and the therapist compared Johnson's tenure to a bomb going off. They also screened "Boatlift," a short film about the sea evacuation of lower Manhattan on 9/11, as a way of impressing upon employees the importance of independent leadership in the post-Johnson era.

The references to bombs and 9/11 came just weeks after the Boston Marathon bombing, and Buzzfeed reports that many employees came away offended. In a sense, it was a perfect coda to Johnson's disastrous tenure: They were trying to make things better, but wound up making things worse.

While the content of the meeting was clearly misguided, it's not uncommon for companies to bring in therapists in the wake of executive shake-ups. And last month we shared the story of a therapist who works with London bankers dealing with the shame and stress of working in investment banking.

Yes, bankers and executives need therapy, too. But next time J.C. Penney wants to soothe its stressed-out management team, might we suggest an afternoon of yoga or meditation. Or, at the very least, a therapist who won't try to compare getting rid of coupons to terrorism.

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Must be a poor news day, nothing better to write about, so this guy writes a garbage story about JCP. JCP will be back, the negative press does not help this national icon return.,

June 07 2013 at 8:40 AM Report abuse -1 rate up rate down Reply

Could you imagine if Rob Johnson's was actually a woman? If a woman destroyed a company as CEO like Johnson did, the press and all the men in the world would say, "That is why you don't hire a woman at the top." This would be ingrained in their minds for the next five generations. But in fact, most women CEOs take failing companies and turn them around. Nobody, based off Johnson will say, "this is why you don't hire a man CEO" even though he was a man who destroyed a 150 year old company in a year.

June 07 2013 at 7:23 AM Report abuse +3 rate up rate down Reply

A therapist??? Give me a break!

June 07 2013 at 1:49 AM Report abuse rate up rate down Reply

wasn't James Cash Penny an evangelical Christian? - and didn't he commit suicide?

June 07 2013 at 1:06 AM Report abuse -2 rate up rate down Reply

I made a mistake. I gave my son everything he asked for, He never knew hardship or hard work, He had no sense of value. He expected to be rescued from any mistake he made. He believed that spending money was his birthright. I created an *******. I'm old now and it is his generation that is in charge. Is it any wonder that JCP has the problems it has. It is an incompetent management trying to satisfy a brain dead clientele.

June 06 2013 at 9:51 PM Report abuse +2 rate up rate down Reply

This is too funny! I know people who work for JCP and can't believe some of the stuff they have told me about the former CEO and what is going on now. I really feel sorry for them because they might not have a job that much longer and some have many years of dedicated service to JCP.

June 06 2013 at 8:25 PM Report abuse +2 rate up rate down Reply
John Anderson

JCP should sell American made goods many of us want American made but can't find any but for on line

June 06 2013 at 7:34 PM Report abuse +4 rate up rate down Reply
1 reply to John Anderson's comment

there are no "American made goods"

June 07 2013 at 1:07 AM Report abuse +1 rate up rate down Reply

JCP employees: while you might not realize it: YOU ARE BLABBING YOURSELVES out of jobs. If JCP goes under, you have no jobs. And if you workers are that incompetent, do you think we are going to spend OUR hard earned money there? NO.

America: quit being sissies and get to work and keep your mouths shut.

June 06 2013 at 7:28 PM Report abuse +2 rate up rate down Reply

Yep, it's expected. The executives seriously believe a therapist is what is needed because they have no actual experience doing the jobs they lead so they have no basis of what to do. They follow any suggestion and after all the money doesn't personally come out of their pockets so spend the problem away. If the execs are truly sincere about saving JCP (I store I liked very much before they hired the "problem") they need to spend 1 week being an apprentice. A sales rep or forklift driver or trucker companion or something else each quarter of the year. They don't have to be experts but they will better understand the employees and be in touch with the customers that pay their salaries. They might make better choices although, they are so far out of touch that even this may not right the ship but it's worth the fight to save it.

June 06 2013 at 7:00 PM Report abuse rate up rate down Reply

Too funny. Why would any exec think that employees were worried about the firing of the CEO? Did she actually believe that they cared about him personally? All those people were concerned over was the possible loss of their paychecks because of the knuckleheaded decisions he made. This shows that maybe more deadwood than the CEO needs to be cleaned out.

"Boatlift"? Are you kidding? No matter what JCP paid for this "therapist", they got cheated.

June 06 2013 at 5:42 PM Report abuse +1 rate up rate down Reply