How To Make It Through Tough Retail Moments

How To Make It Through Tough Retail Moments

So we work in Retail…and though we would like it to be – it’s not always a positive and fun environment. There are tough times or rough patches on occasion and it’s not so much about the cause of the rough patches but in how they are dealt with by each individual that will define our retail mettle.

Over the course of the last few days I have had conversations with past team members regarding the challenges they are having at work. Business challenges have resulted in desperate measures and rash directions from Home Office for the field team. The culture – which was always a bit challenging – has become more chaotic and frantic – begot by disorder, confusion, and desperation at Home Office. It is disheartening that heading into the holidays in retail there are employees in these stores that don’t want to be there. Naturally positive people that are in such a work funk that they will have challenges motivating their team to create truly inspiring and memorable customer experiences.

This is the not the first time tough times have befallen retailers and it will not be the last so here are a couple points that I always bring up when I have these conversations with my team members (past, present, and future) and my personal pep-talk to myself when I encounter challenges.

(1) Find The Humor In Your Day
(a) After all is said and done – you need to have humor in retail. Finding the silliness of a situation will help mitigate its frustrating ridiculousness
(b) Making a task or situation fun(ny) will help you get through it
(c) Example: I worked for a company that sent out between 4 and 6 variations of the same direction (I wish I was kidding), all with updates (within a 24-48 hour period from the original publication) – my team had a game plan – the first team that spotted the changes and emailed them to the rest of the team would win a gift card…it supported the stores review of the multiple directions, people actually read it, and it was done with a sense of urgency and fun competition. Finally, this positive spin ensured we were compliant with the most up-to-date edition of direction

(2) Have a Retail Buddy
(a) We have all been there and we make great listeners
(b) If you don’t currently have one…attend networking functions – host them if you can. This will help you to create a strong retail network. You will find great talent, business partners and you may find some new retail friends from it, people who share your experiences
(c) Don’t take your frustration home – have a touch base with your retail buddy on the way home and then leave it behind you

(3) Foster A Culture of Solutions
(a) We know there are lots of challenges in retail but if you approach them with your team with a “here is what we CAN do” standard, it is much healthier and productive than focusing on the negative – if a company culture is broken or toxic it probably doesn’t proactively support solutions but you can create this and be the model for this in your area of responsibility
(b) Communicate your team’s solution to your senior leadership – share your ideas & best practices. Your ideas may help galvanize positive change and a culture of sharing ideas

(4) Take Your Breaks/Lunch – Go Home On Time
(a) It’s amazing how stepping away from the chaos, for even 10 minutes, can help bring some perspective to a situation – take a walk and then return to the challenge with a renewed and calm point-of-view
(b) There is a saying that goes – “Lack of planning on your part does not constitute an emergency on mine”. You can only get done so much in a day. Communicate with your direct supervisor and let them know when the task will be completed by and why you need the additional time. Usually – as long as there is open communication, supervisors understand and are willing to grant some additional time for completion

(5) Stay Positive
(a) Remember “this too shall pass”
(b) There are certainly many more fun, memorable, and rewarding experiences in retail than there are unfortunate ones. Focus on what you love about your job: your coworkers, your accomplishments, your growth, your customers, etc. to maintain a positive perspective
(c) Always give 100% – never give up – when your day is done, no matter how frustrating it may have been, you should feel a sense of pride and accomplishment in YOUR results
(d) Many times broken or frantic company cultures will not offer much in the way of recognition, appreciation or reward. It is not a place where you hear “Thank you” or “Great Job” very frequently, if at all…so sometimes people who work in this type of environment will forget their value, what they are great at, what good leaders they are – take time to acknowledge your worth, your value, your impact & results – take the time to give yourself a pat on the back for being wonderful


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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