Simple Ways To Overcome Complacency in Retail

Simple Ways To Overcome Complacency in Retail

A few days ago I wrote an article on Complacency In Retail, when I was writing it I actually didn’t expect it to get a lot of traction or attention. But after reading news story after news story last week about how broken and in peril retailers have become I definitely believe complacency to be a real issue – a self-inflicted issue by organizations – that some are failing to acknowledge. If WE want to succeed – WE have to change, WE have to adapt and be flexible to the changes the customer expects, WE have to identify and proactively react to reality of the obstacles we face, WE have to shape incredible experiences that deliver happiness to the customers.

As a retail leader, I have found a tremendous success in dealing with the reality my business and targeting the specific area that was experiencing the beginning of erosion. For example, if my team felt complacent after a month of top performing metrics – we had that conversation. We didn’t solve the issue by having the teams reset their selling floor or by reviewing the operations manual or reading “Good To Great”. We engaged around the actual issue, shared ideas that would energize the team and delight the customer,  we spoke about how we became complacent and what the signs were. Then, lo and behold, the business metrics improved, once again.

Whatever the issue is that you’re experiencing, there are ways to support your team to overcome these challenges.

Simple Ways To Overcome Complacency

  • Embrace Creativity:

Complacency can simply be a symptom of boredom or overconfidence, and nothing destroys boredom or overconfidence faster than a new, never before tackled project. Help break your team out of their routine – even if your work is routine driven. Find ways to infuse “energy” into your work. Take a day and focus on doing just part of your work different or faster or out of order. If it is a store challenge, have employees switch stores for a day or two – it gives them a different perspective and experience and can, frequently, inspire ideas.

  • Workplace Transparency:

Many retail leaders still feel it’s “job security” to keep some information private.  Others simply don’t see the importance of sharing achievements or milestone updates. However, this lack of communication and transparency can be a primary cause of complacency. People need to be connected to the business and be invested in it’s success. Everyone plays a role in the success of the company – and employees that are aware of their role usually work to be successful. Successes, even small successes, should be recognized. Success is motivating and energizing.

  • Accountability:

No one enjoys being acknowledged or having a dialog around their misses, but a lack of accountability can quickly create a culture of complacency within your business. This may not be an issue for self-motivated employees, but not all team members are internally driven to be their best every day. By creating a culture of respectful and fair accountability, you can support your team through the challenges and work to inspire them to high-productivity.

  • Help A Colleague:

Success and collaboration can be contagious. And sometimes it’s a great assignment for us to step out of our work bubble just for  the reasons mentioned above, our own workload can feeling boring or routine, which leads to complacency. Trying setting your own work aside for a while and completely invest yourself in helping a colleague get through a challenge or obstacle they may be encountering. By exercising your brain from the normal work issues, you can find energy and sense of purpose in your own work.

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  • Celebrate Your Success:

Have a practice in place to celebrate your success, whether it’s putting fun little gadgets on your wish list and buying one when you achieve a desired [and phenomenal] result in your work – or it’s taking your family or friends out to dinner. Have a plan in place to recognize your accomplishments. Each little achievement, even if it doesn’t produce solve an inssue directly, stimulates our brain through the release of the chemical dopamine, a neurotransmitter vital to our reward-motivation system. When complacency rears it’s ugly head inside your business, recognize the small successes for your team as well. This will help them find a renewed purpose in getting through the task(s) at hand.

  • Deal With The Issue:

As I have mentioned before, and likely will again, “hope is not a strategy” and crossing our fingers and hoping our issues go away usually has the exact opposite outcome. Target the specific challenges you and/or your team is encountering, involve your team in the creativity process to come up with a solution to help inspire and motivate the team, and then get moving on the decided upon course of action. Recognize effort, contribution, and accomplishment to keep engagement high.

Complacency is crippling to retail organizations but just because it is happening around us doesn’t mean we have to be involved in it. Your leadership is defined by moments like these and your reputation should consistently be that you are determined to deliver excellence and showing your team how that is done through partnership, communication, and team work.


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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