8 Reasons Retail Employees Dislike Their Boss

8 Reasons Retail Employees Dislike Their Boss

Research on retail leadership has, primarily, focused on best practices and what exactly makes a leader phenomenal and effective. Unfortunately, there are too many retail bosses who fall far short of being a “leader”. In fact, according to psychologists Robert Hogan and Robert Kaiser the “majority of bosses are incompetent“, primarily due to poor selection and promotion practices – the wrong people are placed in leadership position.

It is impossible for incompetent leadership to attract, source, hire, or lead true talent. So they are left hiring sheep [people that can easily be managed and manipulated into compliance]. This vicious cycle permeates junior, mid-, senior-level and even executive field leadership – and it is hurting retail organizations. Here are some of the reasons you may have “leaders” in your organization that their team member’s dislike:

  • They Are A Jerk:  Believe it or not sometimes “managers” can be unreasonable, selfish, manipulative, or completely arrogant in their behavior toward their team and their role. They expect their team members to behave as supplicants and consistently acquiesce to their, at times unreasonable, demands for compliance. Managers who want to dictate action only, accept credit for any successes, and manage compliance are unlikable and untrustworthy. This is a “manager” who is disinterested in developing career capital in their team members, who sees their team members as replaceable “bodies”.  These “managers” frequently keep their team members separate and don’t encourage healthy workplace relationships as a method to control their team members. It’s not unusual for these manager to be yentas and pit teams against each other to create a toxic environment of competition.

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  • They Avoid Tough Conversations: Whether it’s rooted in fear of conflict, a desire to be liked, or simply not wanting to have awkward conversations, many retail leaders avoid dealing with problems that need to be addressed. What happens in this instance is that difficult decisions don’t get made, team members don’t hear about where they need to improve or develop, and customer experience improvements don’t get made when they should. If you want to be a great retail leader you have to have difficult and even awkward conversations; it comes with the territory and it’s your responsibility to your team. As problems go unresolved and difficult decisions go unmade, your team will grow frustrated and complain, and your top performers will leave if it goes on long enough. When your job is to solve problems and identify and build the talents of your team, you can’t value preserving harmony above all else – it just doesn’t work that way.
  • They Evaluate The Wrong Criteria For Success: Great retailers maintain a focus on results and they reward contribution and remarkable performances. Weak retail “managers” often pay a lot of attention to the wrong things, like their teams’ social skills, their operational prowess, or the face time they put in at work [which does NOT equate to productivity] – rather than taking an objective view at what each person is achieving and contributing to their team and the aggregate business results. As a result, they end up rewarding the wrong things, overlooking performances at a high level, and driving away the top talent who resent having their performance assessed by the wrong measures and someone who is clearly incompetent to be in a leadership role.
  • They Don’t Support Them When They Experience Challenges: When you don’t support or stand by your team members when they encounter challenges or take risks and miss their mark, you will not recover as a leader with any credibility and integrity – you become “a jerk”. When you assign blame or fail to create a safe place for them to take calculated/strategic risks – you are not doing your job as a leader and your reputation will suffer for it and that employee that you let fail probably is already looking for a new job.

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  • Not Willing To Let Low-Performing Employees Go: This is a big one if you want to keep your top performers! One of the biggest mistakes “good enough” or under-performing retail “managers” make is not addressing it when someone is hurting the culture or the business — and if you’ve ever worked somewhere where laziness or shoddy work was tolerated, you know how completely frustrating and disheartening this type of workplace is and how not-conducive it is to the delivery of exceptional results. Remarkable people want to work with other remarkable people, and they want to know that their leader is discerning and serious when it comes to inviting people onto the team AND ensuring the entire team achieving results. Separating with under-performers or toxic employees is one of the hardest things retail leaders have to do, but it’s also one of the most important. If, as a retail leader, having a high-performing team is truly important to you, you’ll have to be willing to weed out the people who aren’t supporting that initiative. You can do everything else right — set clear goals and expectations, develop them, give feedback, support/guide, etc. — but if you aren’t willing to let people go who aren’t performing in the way you [and your team] need, you won’t be able to deliver truly excellent results anywhere in the business.
  • They Get Defensive: Have you ever worked with a “manager” who easily becomes defensive when their decisions or directions were questioned or when people shared a different perspective, you probably saw what happens next…people become compliant; innovative and strategic performers leave; and a team  struggles to deliver results that meet expectations, if you’re lucky. When leaders respond defensively to questions they are trying to protect their perceived image of authority and influence. Ironically, this type of reaction – and behavior – typically makes a leader come across as less confident, effective, or credible. After all, confident people are open to the possibility that there may be a better way of doing something, because it doesn’t threaten them and they recognize that have hired and invited onto the team talent whose ideas are, at times, better and smarter than their own.
  • They Don’t Care About Their Team Member’s Lives Outside Of Work: Let’s face it, this happens with alarming frequency in retail still. 23% of employees say this is a huge issue. Placing value on your team member’s lives and interest is a sign of a great leader. Someone who doesn’t equate hours logged in as a sign of productivity usually has the most productive team. Recognizing your team member’s life events is the sign of a strong leader. Helping your team to learn time management and efficiency will help them become better and happier. “Managers” who manage to hours worked lose credibility quickly with their team. Measuring loyalty through hours worked is an old-school and ineffective management practice that will make your team members resentful of the organization and concerned by your questionable “management” standards.

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  • They’re Not Accessible: You’re too busy or too important to make time for your team. What you believe is – this makes you incredibly important. What they believe is – that you are avoiding them. That you don’t value their time and you are too busy for them – their growth – their ideas. This comes across in a lot of ways: You don’t know everyone’s names on your team, you don’t visit with anyone other than the department or store managers, you return calls at your convenience [for example, when they are off] or you send lots of emails outside of traditional business hours because it is convenient for you [and you want to see who will work outside of business hours]. Employees appreciate and respect the leaders that model the practices they preach. Their words and actions align and they make it clear that their team is their priority – always!


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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2 thoughts on “8 Reasons Retail Employees Dislike Their Boss

  1. Beth
    Thank you for bringing this to the attention of many people in upper management. I been in retail for many years and I am still finding it hard that upper management still consistently hirea less productive ,inexperience and under motivated individual. Pride in the job and success is not the norm anymore . what seems to be the norm is promoting or hiring anyone who is your friend or Just to fill a position.. This leave the highly qualified more experience , career driven associate out in the cold . I still see what you have described to this day and the tragic thing about it is that not only are companies loosing great employees but also maintaining customer confidence.

    1. While I understand your point of view, I would say that most associates have pride in their work and certainly are motivated, however far to often this deteriorates with with uninspiring leadership. I am a firm believer the two go hand in hand. Motivation is feed, this is the same with job loyalty.

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