One of the best times in retail can be during the busy holiday seasons. For me personally, the big crows and constant excitement were great motivation. I feel that teams truly come together during these time and work well together. There is something about large crowds that motivates staff and gets them excited about doing their job. The holidays are also a time to connect with your customers through helping them find meaningful gifts for their loved ones. No other time of year beats the excitement that it can generate.
While working as a manager at a retail store, some of the local summer events were another exciting time for the staff. In that particular area of retail, there can be many slow months. I noticed once the summer crowds would swarm the souvenir store, the staff just jumped into action. Seeing this made me realize that people want to perform well in organizations and thrive when they feel that they are capable of stepping up to the challenges that unexpected situations might bring them. It fostered a sense of healthy competition as well. Some of the cashiers wanted to see how fast they could accurately ring people up, how many people they can help, and how many customers they can please. I personally loved the sight of seeing a line of ten people at my register get whittled down to one because of my pace. Customers would enter a long line, sighing at the possibility that it might take a long time to get rung up. I loved hearing people two or three customers back say “Wow, that went quick!”
During slow months it might be more difficult to garner that kind of pace and motivation from your employees. I noticed that many people move more slowly at their duties during months of little sales activity. Slow months can be a drain on employee morale in the retail industry. No one likes the idea of not seeing a single customer for long periods of time. Although busy times can be fun and motivational for employees, I think that it is important for manager to encourage the same attitude and lead with a positive atmosphere all year long.
I have been told that, at some point, everyone will have to face issues involving ethical decisions. You might not know when it is going to happen or what the situation will involve, but it will happen. I found out at one of my jobs that this is true and it can sometimes take you by complete surprise and shock you with how severe these situations might be. I had never considered arming myself or strategizing for how I would handle the situation.
At one of my previous jobs, there was a zero tolerance drug policy. Such is the case for many businesses, especially those in which there is a higher risk for injuring others or yourself. This was a job in which we handled various forms of equipment, dealt with customers and had the responsibility of caring for animals. I think that anti-drug policies are important for every business; and because others relied upon our responsibility, I felt that a zero-tolerance drug policy was crucial to maintain a safe environment in this job.
At one point, and by complete surprise, I was faced with a dilemma involving fellow employees and drug use. It was after work and we were standing around waiting for rides, and discussing our weekend plans. I noticed two employees began to talk about using drugs over the weekend and were winking at some employees who were not personally involved but knew that they used drugs. I could not help but laugh nervously. This type of thing was a complete shock to me. I had never heard people talk about drugs at work. I was inexperienced and had not considered how I would handle the subject if it did come up. It was then I realized that orientations can present all of the theories in the world on how to behave when you have this knowledge, but they do not prepare you for how you will actually feel when it happens.
I liked these employees. They were hard-working, diligent, and seemed completely responsible prior to this incident. I did not want to see them lose their jobs. On the other hand, I was not comfortable working around employees who did use drugs. I felt that it endangered the animals and other people’s safety. I also knew that if a customer were ever aware of this, it could be damaging to the business’s reputation. I also was overwhelmed with a feeling of fear of retaliation from the employees if I said anything. I was shocked at how many knew and said nothing. They seemed to not think it was an issue. At the time I remained silent.
With more education and classes while pursuing my business degree, I realized the importance of being a whistle- blower and I realize there are ways to go about it to produce even better results. I see now that, in that situation, something definitely needs to be said and it needs to be brought to management. After reflecting, I realize that it could have been handled by telling the person I would inform management and suggest rehab, suspension and monitoring after treatment as one solution. This is a win/win. By just simply getting the person fired, it does not save the employee. By not saying anything, it is dangerous and damaging to the business and everyone associated with it. By convincing management of monitored treatment, it saves a previously valuable employee and solves the initial problem. I feel that developing a plan for how you will handle situations like this says something about your character and the type of person you are. I now have a developed plan that will define the type of positive and responsible person I want to be. With my new found insights, I have a plan for maintaining my integrity. I feel that it might be beneficial to express this in training and not only say what the employees should do, but how the way you handle situations defines the person you are and the values you find important.
One of my most memorable moments in retail was when I realized I had gone above and beyond a frustrated customer’s expectations. The department store that I worked at was one of those that offered many door buster sales and night owl specials so the hours were crazy. I remember coming into the store at 4:30 AM and there was line of customers that exceeded the employee numbers!The incident that I remember happened right after the busy holiday season and I know that all the staff was a little relieved to see the crowds die down.
I was going about my regular duties and manning the registers when I noticed an employee that was helping several people at once, leave to check if an item that one customer wanted was in the back. The employee began helping the other people at the same time and it appeared that they were multi-tasking. As I continued ringing people up I noticed that the woman was in the same area of the department store and was trying to get other employees who were walking by to help her because the employee that was originally helping her never returned. Many of the employees told her that they did not work in that department and that they would find the person who did. The woman became more and more angry and was on the verge of walking out, threatening that she would not give us her business again.
As soon as I finished ringing up my line of customers I addressed the woman and apologized for the lack of service. I got information on the item that she wanted from the back and promised that I would return in ten minutes and begged her to trust me. I even walked her as far as the door to the stock room so that I could garner some sort of trust after several employees not attending to her. I was nervous about finding the item because I was a cashier and had never even operated the rack that contained the clothes. I just prayed that I would understand the system quickly. Fortunately, I found the garment within ten minutes.
What shocked me was her reaction when I returned with the item that she needed. I was expecting her to still be angry and walk away as soon as she got what she needed. I had barely caught her before she walked out. Not only did she thank me, she also gave me a hug and filled out a positive comment card about the way that I addressed her and the manner in which I had spoken to her.
This reminded me, once again, about the value of going above and beyond. Not only does it make your job easier by developing yourself, but it also just might save an angry customer’s business. I was again shocked to hear the woman tell me that this was for and event and because of my service, she would still give us her business. Had I gave up on her and let her walk out because she was upset, she might have never returned. Although it might be easier to avoid irate customers, there are ways to politely handle them and salvage their patronage.
I believe that the manager or the person responsible for making changes in policy is one of the most important people in an organization. The people that fill these positions need to be aware of the tasks that each of their employees has to perform and have a clear and absolute understanding of how their decisions and changes in policy affect how the employees will be able to perform their jobs. I think that managers often make decisions from a standpoint that does not consider how these changes will affect the people at the working level of an organization.
About three years ago I encountered a situation with management that I can recall vividly to this day. One extreme case of ineffective management was one of the only jobs that I ever left because conditions were terrible and I no longer wanted to remain with that organization. I have left jobs because I was joining the Air Force or my school load would be 18 credits and I could not work as well, but I have only left one job because of ineffective management. I would like to add at this point that I have never been fired from any company nor been subject to any form of disciplinary action in order to communicate that I am a valuable employee and can tolerate following instructions willingly. The new director at the organization was the reason that I left this particular job. She began her first week by firing employees that had worked there for over eight years and even one that had been there for twenty-three years. This spread panic within the staff and I truly believe that no one’s job was safe. This however did not bother me at first. Sure, I felt sorry for those that had been there a long time but I felt like she must have had a reason for doing what she was doing. It was within the second week that I began to realize that she had no intention of displaying any concern for her staff. Policies on bonus compensation were changed and holiday pay was changed in such a way that no one understood how it worked. I remember management introducing some additional rule every day at the morning meetings. I thought that the worst part is that management was not even behind the director. They would be sure to let us know that this was what the director ordered as they rolled their eyes. I began to see people quit and more and more fear and panic as the next week went by. I thought that it was funny how a new director was hired and I saw a decrease in productivity from management and lower level employees. The director then introduced an idea via the managers that there would be more cuts and more focus on making the positions volunteer positions and they would cut the number of paid positions. Within three weeks she had spread panic and shown her face only one time.
While I see the business value of these decisions for profitability, I feel that it was done in the worst way. She spread fear rather than an understanding of how this would benefit the organization’s vision. I know that many people felt she was a coward for having the management tell us when we were doing things wrong and not showing up herself to announce the changes that would be made. She also made no effort to make herself available to address our concerns during a time of great change and a lack of understanding amongst the staff. It was clear to me that she was not an effective manager.
In the end I ended up jumping ship after I found a better paying job. I had come to a point where I noticed we were being assigned more and more tasks and were expected to do them in less and less time. I found myself staying late for $8 per hour and there was no incentive to work nine to ten hours a day for $8. I found another job for $12 per hour and decided that the other company also treated their employees better.
My advice to any manager or director in charge of making policy changes is that you do it with a desire to communicate a vision so that your employees are on board. Make yourself available for feedback and to ease their fear during the major transitions. By being a hands-on manager, you will be able to transition without compromising employee motivation and productivity
When working a job that can be emotionally draining and leave you feeling discouraged at times, it is important to recognize small wins and acknowledge the worth of the work that you are doing. One of my favorite jobs was working to help get dogs adopted. Of course, it was challenging dealing with the sadness of realizing that not all dogs could or would be adopted or saved,. Many of my fellow employees often felt frustrated, wishing that they had more time to rehabilitate aggressive or problematic animals and often challenged management’s decisions. It felt like we were often on deadlines and while working with these dogs would become very fond of them as we saw small progress. Everyone was united to save and adopt out these animals.
On days when we had lost a dog to euthenasia and felt like we could have rehabilitated them if we had the proper funding, space and more time; people would often just break down and cry at work. Some even displayed outright anger toward management, who’s hands were tied.
What I found important in a job where you know you will have to deal with losses like this is that you have to celebrate and acknowledge when something goes right, no matter how small the victory. Even if what you are trying to accomplish seems to be happening too slowly, you need to focus more on the daily small successes rather than worrying that you are running out of time. I found it helpful to focus on a dogs daily breakthroughs rather than wondering when the plug might get pulled. It was almost as if a dog made more progress when my attitude was of encouragement and celebration rather that desperation.To keep this attitude and display this behavior in front of my co-workers also seemed to add value to the workplace. It fostered teamwork and strengthened goal setting. I found this attitude and the practice of not participating in the negativity to be yet another way to develop myself and be seen as an asset, even in times of frustration.
I have worked off and on in the retail industry as a cashier since I was fourteen. One common problem I noticed in working with other cashiers at department stores was their accuracy in money handling. One particular incident occurred while I was changing shifts. The girl that was counting her drawer and dropped several pennies onto the floor and kept counting. I waited a few moments and then picked up the change myself and asked if she had seen it happen. Surprisingly, she admitted that she had and said that she was not intending to pick it up at all. I asked why she did not pick up the change and explained that her count would not be accurate. Her perception was that it was just a few pennies and that it would not matter. I began wondering how detrimental this would be to businesses if all employees had this same attitude and realized there were probably a lot more employees like her in the work force.
Over time I noticed that this attitude carried over into her other duties as well. She was rude and embarrassed her customers, passed off duties the supervisor assigned to her and put merchandise back anywhere she wanted to to avoid walking across the store to where it belonged. I noticed that this behavior was obvious to those around her because other employees went out of their way to avoid working with her. I wondered why management failed to correct this over several weeks. I did not want to be the person to bring it to their attention and get into some altercation with her, so I tried to avoid it for a few days. I continued to watch her mistakes and could not help but feel like I was creating a whole seperate problem by not trying to fix this situation.
Then I realized that she may have never been exposed to behaviors that are necessary to perform this job well. Maybe she needed to be coached in customer service and be encouraged to practice accurate money handling and by avoiding her, I was depriving her of a role model. I thought “what possible change could I possibly bring about? I’m no manager.” I tried working around her. I put myself on the register next to her and stayed after work to count out the drawers with her. Slowly, she became interested in how my drawer was so accurate and questioned why hers was off. I provided some polite tips that hinted even the change matters. A few times she asked why customers went out of their way to fill out positive comment cards about me. Again, I tried to provide insight into what better customer service looks like. Slowly, I noticed a change in her and more of an interest to do better.
This scenario showed me how you can bring about change and instill a desire to do better by being the example and politely offering suggestions when curiosity arises. It was empowering to develop myself through simply developing another.
One of the best ways to advance and display personal value at work is to be engaged and passionate. Even if the caliber of your work is simply ringing people up in a department store, showing an interest in providing excellent customer service and being engaged in making the customers experience a good one can be beneficial to you.
Not only will you be noticed and rewarded, the whole dynamic of the workplace around you will change and become one that you enjoy working in. People often move slowly at work or only contribute as much as they feel they are being compensated for. This can be a drain on moral for everyone. One of the most fun jobs I had was working as a kennel attendant for the Nevada Humane Society. Even though the job could be slightly disgusting or saddening at times, the passion of the people that I worked with and their commitment to going beyond what was required of them was contagious. Even though the taskes were simple I found great value in working with people that did more that what was expected of them and saw that how going above and beyond in my own efforts produced great results. Seeing how I was improving in my contributions was empowering and was a great way to build my own personal value so that I became an asset that the company did not want to lose.
With any job, it is important to show passion and determination to perform you duties to the best of your abilities and then do even more.
In a hyper- competitive and volatile job market it is hard for undergraduate students to prepare themselves for the challenges they will face upon graduation with finding a career that they are passionate about. With my own graduation only five months away, I am interested in developing my personal portfolio so that I can define myself to employers and create a personal brand that will stand out and be noticed. I have had many odd and interesting jobs and have been in working environments with people who do not have the degree or experience to be considered for more desireable jobs. My experience has ranged from working for the humane society to ringing up customers in department stores.
The purpose of this blog will be to provide insights, stories and my personal reflection in order to help people become motivated in common, everyday working environments. My posts will display good and bad behaviors and what to do in order to develop yourself and show value to your employer. You do not have to have a high powered career to further yourself and you abilities. These insights will be particularly interesting to undergraduate students who do not yet have the degree or experience to land that dream job. Many undergraduates are stuck working undesirable jobs while trying to earn their degree and my posts will display how you can still develop yourself in any environment. It will also be valuable to a person who want to move up in an organization with out the a degree.