Retail: What To Expect In 2016

#Retail Leadership: What To Be Prepared For

With the New Year only weeks away, the internet is rife with information on what to expect in business in 2016. Having spent so much time in field leadership roles, as both a District and Regional Manager, I found that our Human Resources “partners” in our industry tend to keep lots of relevant and essential information to themselves as opposed to developing their leaders to proactively handle potential issues before they become true “HR Issues”.

HR has also been a responsibility of mine in my career so I have been able to manage challenges proactively and I am passionate about documentation of great performance and performance improvement issues. Using common sense and book smarts as road maps to handle problems so that decisions and actions were in-line with state and federal laws and fair and consistent with company policies and Company Values and Vision. Typically, with field leaders, an issue escalates to a critical level and then there is a sense of urgency to get HR involved. This usually occurs when tensions, emotions, and accusations are at their peak and the DM/RM is drowning in the situation and cannot fix it.

That should not be the case and I think it’s worth sharing some of the most frequent challenges so that we can proceed into 2016 with a higher level of understanding some of the most common issues that insinuate themselves into our daily work lives and have a negative and detrimental effect on our business results.

In 1597 Sir Frances Bacon wrote “Knowledge Is Power” and today we have access to endless knowledge. Part of being successful is being a prepared and courageous leader. Knowing the threats to a happy workplace we face every day and how to manage them is a huge benefit to your personal development, business reputation, and it is a great way to tackle and assuage challenges that impede the growth and productivity of your team and the individuals.

So…here we go…

Managing Conflict In Retail

“It is estimated that more than 65% of performance problems result from strained relationships between employees — not from deficits in individual employees’ skill or motivation” – just imagine how negatively this impacts workplace happiness, culture, motivation, productivity, and (ultimately) profitability! Just because there are strained relationships.

Here are some of the most common workplace catalysts for conflict:
-Workplace Favoritism (perceived or actual)
-Rumors or gossip
-Workplace policy violations
-Passive aggressive behavior

According to the fine folks at ConflictTango (you can read it here) “only 31% of managers think they handle workplace conflict well (but only 21% of non-managers agree with them)”. AND “43% of non-managers believe that their bosses do not deal with conflict as well as they should”.

Here are some other pretty staggering statistics:
-Employees in the US spend 2.8 hours of their work week dealing with conflict
-16% of conflict escalated or increased in intensity
-49% of workplace conflict revolves around personality conflicts
-26% of workplace conflict revolves around dishonesty
The typical manager spends 25-40% of his or her time dealing with workplace conflicts. That’s one to two days of every work week. Washington Business Journal, May 2005
According to Zupek, “HR Managers spend 25%-60% of their time working through employee conflicts
-More than 50% of employers report having been sued by an employee. Society for Human Resource Management

Understanding what to be prepared for is such a big part of dealing with the behaviors when you first see them apprear. The most common of the above listed catalysts I have also found to be the second most damaging is the passive agressive behavior [Source: About (dot) com] – this person can easily turn into a bully and really cause chaos and dysfunction on your team. You will find, in the link to my blog suggestions on how to handle conflict.

Retail Career Obstacle: Gossiping

Gossips can wreak havoc on your business and the culture in your workplace. Even if they seem benign in nature they are a disease in your business and can cause the most harm. You can read more on this topic by clicking the link for my full blog post on that topic, but here are some of the key takeaways:

“If a company has 200 employees and each employee spent one hour a day trading gossip, that would result in $160,000 of lost productivity each month. That’s a loss of $1.92 million a year (based on $40 p/hr, salary & benefits).”

-According to WorkDoctor, “the estimated potential annual cost to an average Fortune 500 company in lost productivity (more than $8,000,000), turnover (more than $16,000,000), litigation (minimum legal expenses $104,000 per case with settlements ranging from $225,000 to $1.4 million), and disability (more than $114,000 with an estimated 18 percent of cases involving bullying) means bullies are too expensive to keep on the payroll”.

For more information on the harm and damage these “workers” can inflict, please visit my blog for Toxic Employees In #Retail.

How To Avoid Common Mistakes When Handling An EEOC Complaint

[Source: Insperity]

This section is just to build awareness around what the most common EEOC complaints are so that you can ensure that you are knowledgeable about how to manage your business to potentially avoid these, unfortunately, common issues. Here are some of those key points:

According to the EEOC, the top five employment complaints reported nationwide in fiscal year 2014 were:
-Retaliation (42.8 percent of claims)
-Sex (including pregnancy)

Under the “Disability” category I would definitely recommend reading and understanding the general principles of reasonable accommodation. To see the importance of accommodation and dialogue around it you can read a very recent article from the brilliant Eric B. Meyer, “A Jury Will Decide Whether A Quadriplegic Welder Will Win His Disability Discrimination Claim

By clicking on the link to Insperity’s website you will find helpful information on how to manage these issues from the employer side of the business:

-Follow the EEOC’s rules closely
-Protect yourself with proper policy and training
-Protect your business through recordkeeping
-Discrimination can be costly
-EEOC enforcement priorities through 2016:

This article closes with a great concluding statement: “Finally, the EEOC is devoting extra attention to what it calls “emerging and developing issues” including issues associated with significant events, demographic changes, developing theories, new legislation, judicial decisions and administrative interpretations. Examples of emerging issues cited by the EEOC are certain ADA, pregnancy and sexual orientation and transgender issues.

Another amazing resource from Insperity is their whitepaper on…

The 7 Most Frequent HR Mistakes

This is a relatively quick 13 page read that covers the topics of:

(1) Lack Of An Updated Employee Handbook
(2) Lack of Documentation For Performance Based Evaluations
(3) Insufficient and Improperly Stored Employee Records
(4) Poor Hiring and Promotion Decisions
(5) A Disregard for Training
(6) Lack of Adequate HR Policies
(7) Ignorance or Disregard for Applicable Laws and Regulations


Create Bulletproof Documentation

I came across a resource a few months ago from Allison West, Esq., SPHR Employment Practices here are the steps you need to Create Bulletproof Documentation:

1. Document Expectations
2. Document the Conduct (positive or negative)
3. Document the Employee’s Explanation
4. Document the Specific Action Plan/Goals*
5. Document the Timing
6. Document the Follow-Up
7. Document the Consequences

Even though you will need to partner with Human Resources frequently, being proactive about the steps you need to take and documenting your actions will help mitigate some of the confusion and agitation that these disruptions in your business can cause.

As I have said before HOPE IS NOT A STRATEGY…when icky-ness creeps into our area of responsibility, it doesn’t organically go away…the issues and problems need to be addressed in order to stop the problem from growing and taking root.


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!

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