Earning Respect In The Retail Workplace

Earning Respect In The Retail Workplace

There is an intangible but super salient quality that needs to exist for a retail workplace to be highly-productive. That quality is respect. In order for a team to achieve the greatest results there must be high level of trust and respect for each other. There are challenges around respect and trust in too many retail organizations.


This was this never more apparent this year than when I attended a spring meeting, as a guest speaker, for a retail organization. I arrived at the venue early and saw a region of Store Leaders come in. As the team members arrived they saw colleagues they know and clearly enjoy and you could see cliques forming as people were connecting with each other – as is normal for retail meetings. I noticed this one lone person looking around and on their cell phone as we waited for the meeting to start. Not only was this person alone but you could see people go out of their way to avoid interacting with them. There was a palpable lack of respect for this one person inside this room of approximately 150 people.

Obviously, I had to ask one of the human resource leaders what the story was and they explained to me that this person has a reputation of dishonesty, not working their schedule, hurting their Region|Zone through poor performance, and assigning blame to anyone who tried to help support them. The story only got worse from there and this person was unable to hire/retain any staff and when held accountable for performance this person would immediately abandon the store and file actions with various state/federal agencies to protect their job instead of challenging themselves to improve. It was an extremely blatant example – unlike anything I’d ever seen before – of lost respect and trust.  So regrettable and unfortunate to witness a bad “manager” being ostracized by their peers. Initially, I had a great deal of sympathy for this person until it became exceedingly clear their issues were 100% self inflicted.

Top Reasons People Lose Respect In The Retail Workplace


  • Our Words And Actions Don’t Align: In other words, we approach our business and leadership with a “Do as I say. Not as I do” mentality. We expect others to support us but we refuse to reciprocate and feel as if we are “owed” something and don’t have to work for it. Hardly anything creates confusion and chaos inside an organization or team more than inconsistency. If contradiction is due to leadership or peers holding themselves to a different set of standards of performance than they expect from their team – respect is the first thing to go in the working relationship.
  • Seeking Personal Rather Than Shared Success: When we are the colleagues who are out for our own personal gain, especially if we are part of, or leading a team, it is very quickly identified and trust|respect is lost and incredibly difficult to regain/reestablish.
  • Lying or Assigning Blame: Lying outright or by omission will cost you respect extremely quickly. It will also do some permanent damage to your professional reputation/brand. When you have established yourself as a liar you will find yourself very alone in most retail organizations – and it’s profoundly difficult to repair this character impression.
  • Being Stubborn|Close-Minded: An unwillingness to consider others ideas or contrasting points of view is a sure fire way to lose the respect of your colleagues and team members. People want to contribute to success in various way – suggestions, ideas, and solutions. If you are unable or willing to support great ideas and amplify the voices of your team, you will lose trust and credibility as their leader and business partner.

 Why Is Respect So Important In The Workplace


  • It Builds And Supports A Fair & Balanced Workplace Culture: Respect is essential to building a highly-productive workplace and culture around embracing diversity and differences. Not just diversity of the obvious kind but of the competency kinds as well. Different perspectives and different skills. When every person understands the vision and values of the workplace and are aligned behind the purpose of the organization – there is common interest in maintaining balance and a happy & productive workplace.
  • It Supports A Culture of Solutions & Reduces Conflicts: Working in an environment that supports mutual understanding and respect, one that clearly defines it’s standard of workplace values – will help sort things out before they get out of hand. In environments that place importance and insist on respect, their team members are able to understand and communicate with each other in an effective way and help work through challenges and take care of “stressful” situations with civility. Colleagues that respect each other tend to work together more efficiently.
  • It Energizes Productivity: When team members feel supported and there is a high level of trust between colleagues they want to ensure they are contributing to their team and the organization. Team members will be more interested in finishing their projects, meeting their goals, and boosting the levels of productivity throughout the organization. Nobody will be worried about hidden agendas or what others are doing. The priority will be on the team and organization and that will definitely support a more focused and committed workplace.

How To Be A Retail Colleague That People Respect [And Like To Work With]


  • Deal With The Existential: No matter your title, your experience, your pay – if you cannot connect with and relate to your colleagues and team members – you will not be able to earn their respect. Communicating responsibilities respectfully and staying far away from micromanagement is key to treating people like smart, savvy business partners.  Allow people room for their own egos, their perspectives, their opinions, and their “way”… as long as it doesn’t interfere with or create obstacles with their quality of work.
  • Take Responsibility/Ownership For Everything: As a retail leader, you are responsible for your team, the team’s projects, the results that the team delivers. You own the good, the bad, the successes, the failures, the remarkable team members, and the mediocre. You will be highly respected if you share and assign the accolades and own the blame and misses of your team’s results. You must take ownership of the decisions and results of your team.  If you don’t like the results you’re getting – show courage – do something about them through open and honest communication and performance guidance.
  • Be The Example: Humans – either consciously or unconsciously – mimic behaviors [and learn from people they respect], but it goes further than that in the workplace.  If the retail leader is always prepared,  honest,  enthusiastic, and an inspiring communicator- the team members will strive to be as prepared and engaged for a variety of reasons:  to show their enthusiasm is aligned with the leaders, to show purpose behind their career path, and to be a contributing member of the team.


  • Manage Your Own Expectations: If your team or your coworkers aren’t living up to your standard of performance or productivity – assess your expectations BEFORE you assume it is your colleagues that are missing the objectives. Did they understand the project? Did they have the resources to hit the goal(s)?  No one want to feel overwhelmed with unreasonable expectations or set up for failure by unattainable goals. Look at the whole of the expectations you set, provide support and resources, and be accessible for suggestions, ideas, and thoughts.
  • Be Passionately Respectful Of Everyone: Kindness is a commodity in retail. It is unique and it is especially unique for kindness and respect to be genuine and authentic. Be THAT person. People know when you aren’t all in and faking your way through interactions. Frankly, it’s gross to see disingenuous interactions – it’s also really transparent to the recipient and those who are witness to the interaction.
  • Embrace A No-Jerks Policy For Yourself [And Your Team]: I created a “no-jerks policy” in early 2015 and drew a line in the sand on working with people who can create toxic environments for me and/or for my teams. It is the genesis of my professional values and the values of my team and when people decide they don’t want to play nicely – we weed them out and off the team. Investing the time to create a healthy, success-driven environment filled with people who possess and actively model the critical success factors of the business will help keep respect at the forefront of a positive, values-based workplace culture.


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 | beth@excellencein-retail.com [No Sales Contact, please} But it you want to call just to say hello or have a question - that's awesome!

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