Retail Productivity & Morale Killers

Retail Productivity & Morale Killers

The other day I wrote about Retail Leadership Credibility Killers, these were specific unfortunate things that retail leaders do that erodes their ability to earn and/or maintain trustworthiness and credibility with their colleagues.  One of my favorite and most rewarding parts of this blog is receiving messages and emails from incredible retail leaders with comments or questions that spark an engaging dialog. One of these conversations around the credibility killers got me thinking about other behaviors we exhibit or choices that we make that not only reflect poorly on our leadership brand but that can really injure the culture of the business.

Common Issues That Hurt Morale & Productivity In Retail

Screen Shot 2016-05-12 at 10.17.37 PM

    • Lack of training & development opportunities
    • Chaotic & confused communication
    • Not being an accessible leader
    • Lack of honesty, integrity
    • Nonalignment between values/vision and actions of the executive team
    • Toxic employees
    • Lack of recognition

Uncommon Ways We Hurt Morale & Erode Productivity in Retail

  • Create competition between two employees where only one will be promoted: This happens with staggering frequency in retail, especially around seasonal hires that may be hoping for a permanent position in the store or department. You may think this is a terrific program to create internal competition but the losing team members is going to be resentful and hold a grudge against you, the more successful and rewarded employee, and the company.

Screen Shot 2016-05-12 at 10.45.30 PM

  • Reward top performers with more work: Again, a very prevalent issue in retail. Nothing will promote attrition faster than not valuing, recognizing, or rewarding top performance. It is the selfish and ineffective supervisor who cannot create an effective development plan for their top performers or lacks the courage to open a dialog with their executive leader to discuss a career path for these high-performers.
  • Managing for Compliance: Retail team members have a few non-negotiables – they want their leader to inspire and motivate them, involve them, and show empathy. There is also a strong desire to perform work with meaning and purpose. Most people don’t want to be sheep. They want to feel empowered and own their success. They want to be innovative and creative and help support the business to deliver on it’s goals and objectives. Too often retail leaders get caught up in how something is done. What matters is the what. If your team clearly know what you want, what the end results needs to look, what the goal is, what treating customers exceptionally is like – they want to figure out the how. When leader get caught up in the how: they are micromanaging, not empowering and definitely not leading.
  • Maintain antiquated and ineffective processes and policies: Retail organizations that truly value and place a focus on employee empowerment should be encouraged to re-evaluate their handbook/manuals. These need to be a fluid documents that supports the culture your company stands for. Existing, stale, and antiquated policies sometimes come across as parental and/or condescending – which is not conducive to recognizing innovation and risk-taking as positive attributes or that they are even encouraged in your organization. In addition, many policies tend to cater to the lowest common denominator in the workplace and if we are committed to hiring top talent and asking them to give us 100%, we should be treating them as the smart and savvy business partners they are. Workplace policies should give employees the parameters they need to be creative, productive, successful and happy at work – not be so binding that their hands are tied or innovation and empowerment make them nervous. Clunky, moldy, and inefficient processes frustrate your people and undermine the idea that you care about them.

If people who come to work ready to rock it are prevented from doing their work because some fear-based process is gumming up the works, I guarantee you’re losing talent. People might be sitting at their desks when you walk by, but their hearts and brains are elsewhere. [Source: Liz Ryan]

  • Force the fun: Whether it is ugly sweaters for holiday meetings, themed parties at the annual conference, role playing as a mode of training, or team building activities. When deciding on events we need to (a) understand our team and the individuals that make up the team and (b) include them in the planning process. We need to deliver experiences that engage and energize our teams. Not considering all perspectives or points of view could have the opposite result of the intended initiative.

Screen Shot 2016-05-12 at 10.31.19 PM

  • Clutter and disorganization in the workplace: This P-Touch survey indicates the search for lost and misplaced materials – which accounts for nearly 38 hours, or approximately one work week annually, per employee – may have a profound secondary impact on professional perception, workplace productivity, and organizational morale. Responses underscore the negative opinions held toward those with disorganized work space. The disorganized, or cluttered, work space is considered “unprofessional” by 86% of respondents. Worse, 80% agree that someone who is disorganized “hurts the productivity of the whole office”. Finally, Career Builder conducted a survey and that found 28% of supervisors are less inclined to promote someone with a not-so-neat workspace.
Time spent searching for misplaced items in the office combined with searching for lost files on the computer; the estimated annual dollars spent reaches more than $177 billion annually. [Source: Neat As A Pin Organizing Experts]
  • Be oblivious to your team member’s goals and ability to achieve job satisfaction: The more you know about what motivates your team members and the more interest you have in their happiness and success, the more they will bring their enthusiasm and drive to succeed to work. Even if they are in a role that doesn’t, right now, satisfy 100% of their hopes and desires there are always ways to incorporate what they love into what they do. Just taking them for granted and not including them in the development and potential of their role – they will be quick to jump ship when a slightly better opportunity is available to them.

Screen Shot 2016-05-12 at 10.51.29 PM

  • Motivate bottom performers with compensation or recognition for doing the bare minimum: I shared a story in a previous post about a peer of mine, once upon a time, who was the bottom performer in the organization we worked for while my team and my region was the top performing region in every single business lever. This peer had an amazing business week one particular week and the executive team was so incredibly excited they gave this person a monetary bonus for finally hitting her LY and shared that information with the DM’s and RM’s on a conference call. This person was invited to share detail on how they would spend their monetary bonanza on the conference call. It was a terrible injustice for my team who worked so hard, daily and weekly, to deliver truly fabulous results and often times helped support the five other regions that were under-performing out of seven regions in the company. Though I hate to admit it – it was the moment I, and another colleague, recognized that there was little opportunity for growth in this organization. It is a real issue and this type of culture will quickly encourage your top performers to exit the business.


Founder and Editor in Chief of Excellence In Retail. Published writer. Frequent Podcast Guest. Speaker. Twenty year [oy vey!] retailer. I am passionate about leadership development and workplace culture. 646 246 1380 | [No Sales Contact, please} But it you want to call just to say hello or have a question - that's awesome!

View all posts by

One thought on “Retail Productivity & Morale Killers

  1. As if some of those common issues weren’t big enough, the lack of training and development alone drives me nuts. Every single one of the uncommon factors has happened in my organization and a few from the same few managers. “Work the work horse” we call it why continue to feed more work to the hardest workers? Which directly ties into rewarding basic and underachievers. Because they either have not been trained to do the job right or just do possess a good work ethic, they aren’t asked to work. How does that make sense? Great post, you got my blood pumping with that one.

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *