Deadly Sins Of Communication

Deadly Sins of Communication in Retail

I recently read an article on titled “The Top Complaints from Employees About Their Leaders“. According to the article “91% of employees say communications issues can drag executives down“. The article cited that there is a “clear lack of #emotionalintelligence among business leaders” that culminates in the following leadership traits: bullying, narcissism, micromanaging, etc.

Here are a couple of the statistics that really stood out to me
-Not recognizing employee achievements (63%)
-Not giving clear directions (57%)
-Not having time to meet with employees (52%)
-Refusing to talk to subordinates (51%)
-Not knowing employees names (36%)

Some additional communication faux pas’ I have witnessed:
-Using excessive profanity in verbal communication
-Gossiping about subordinates or co-workers to direct reports

So How Do We Fix These Common Communication Issues In Retail?

Not Recognizing Employee Achievements:
-In a couple previous posts I have spoken about the impact and value of having a structured Peer-To-Peer Recognition Program
-Having the ability to recognize your coworkers and to be recognized by your coworkers absolutely will go along way in supporting a positive, open, and happy workplace
-However, employees want to be recognized by senior leadership as well for their contributions and accomplishments. Taking time out of your day to call employees or send a note is immensely important in creating a strong workplace culture

Not Giving Clear Direction:
-In retail we have been conditioned to be reactive and to “put out fires” but with planning and time management we should be able to get ahead of issues
-Have a Department Manager/District Manager or very strong Store Manager in your company be your filter for direction. Send them communication before it is published and disseminated to the team/field to ensure that the communication will resonate with all teams and make sense to the field organization. Get their feedback for reasonableness of timelines, clarity of direction, access to tools/product/marketing to complete the project. Often times there is a pretty significant disconnect from what Home Office assumes the stores can execute to what the stores can actually do due to a variety of reasons. Having this filter will (1) give strong team members a sense of purpose and added responsibility, (2) ensure that there is accuracy in direction, and (3) if people know their peers were involved in the process there is a greater sense of urgency to complete the direction and there is elevated perception of veracity to the information
-Ensure that consistent vernacular is used – keep it simple to avoid confusion in terms and company verbiage

Not Having Time To Meet With Employees:
-I will admit, this one is confusing to me – as leaders our job is 90% our employees…supporting them, developing them, investing in their success
-As it relates to the field I would suggest companies review their Store Visit procedures & standards – In most of my field experience we were held accountable for completing the same store visit form and following the same format each and every store visit. Reinvention is needed…at least once a quarter the Field Leadership should be making their visits 100% about the team, sitting down with the employees and finding out about their work experience, the culture in the store, reviewing standards, answering questions, working out development plans and next steps for them
-In previous posts I have written about the value and importance of Stay Interviews in lieu of annual performance appraisals. A system such as this will ensure we are consistently meeting with employees and having dialogues around what is important to an effective, efficient, and happy workplace focused on growth

Refusing To Talk To Subordinates:
-I have seen this again and again in retail, unfortunately. We allow our personal feelings towards an employee to interfere with our professional responsibility to them as part of our team
-The big issue here that all leaders need to be aware of is that – ignoring or refusing to communicate with an employee could be grounds for a “retaliation” claim against the employer
-If you have employees that you avoid, you need to be the leader of change in that relationship
-There may be performance challenges or communication challenges as the leader you need to engage in a dialogue with your team member
-Communicate what you need from them and solicit feedback from them on what their challenges are that prevent from delivering _
-Clearly, at some point, there was value to the relationship otherwise why is the employee there? So revisit at what point the challenges started to effect the communication and deal with that issue to resolve and repair – that is your job_
-This type of behavior has a true negative impact on culture and can lead to damaging side effects like gossip, employee disengagement, productivity issues, etc.

Not Knowing Employees Names:
-There is a huge benefit to fostering a culture of strong work relationships – you can find information about that in this link to a previous post of mine: Workplace Happiness
-Supporting a culture that encourages people to take an active interest in each other to create a fundamental importance around workplace engagement will help people to get to know each other, value each other, and interact with each other
-Another way to ensure that a culture is built around respect and personal interaction is to have a structured Onboarding Program in Retail
-Relationships will ensure that while walking through the halls of Home Office people are saying “Hello” to each other and making eye contact (I have actually worked in offices where that doesn’t happen…awkward...especially for retail)

Additional Faux Pas’:
-The workplace is definitely more casual than ever which leads to some behaviors that are less than professional
-Communication has become more relaxed
-We need to take personal accountability for our level of professionalism:
-Know your audience
-Don’t be offensive
-Be respectful of your coworkers
-Think about how your actions and decisions today effect your opportunities tomorrow
-According to CareerBuilder (via Susan Ricker): “51% of employers consider vulgar language an indication that an employee is not ready for promotion” & “44% of employers say they would think twice before moving an employee who participates in office gossip up the ranks”

The great thing about knowing negative statistics is that there is absolutely room to improve – room to improve culture, results, and workplace efficiency. It is time for a #NewWayToWork in retail and by understanding the challenges we face and the frustrations it projects onto the employees, we can put into practice solutions that help improve experiences of employees of all levels. Having active, interested Senior Leadership is necessary to support change so this needs to be something that is embraced at all levels and made important throughout the entirety of the workplace – consistently.


Founder and Editor in Chief of Excellence In Retail and 18 year retailer. I am a passionate and creative leader and coach committed to inspiring thought, action, truth-telling, solution-seeking, and dialog about how to maximize talent through identifying and creating a process around critical success factors, workplace culture, signature leadership practices, productivity, profitability, alignment of employees and company vision & values, and workplace happiness inside all retail organizations. I help create healthy, vibrant, high-performing, and highly-productive organizations that are talent magnets and focused on delivering the highest level of customer experience that will differentiate them from competition and result in long-term growth and sustainability.

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