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Bad Retail Management 101

Bad Retail Management 101

Simple Strategies for Being the Worst Store Manager You Can Be

For the genuinely determined, there are a number of creative ways to be a downright awful retail manager. Some ideas include:

  • Whenever you give employees a pat on the back, affix a "kick me" sign. 
  • Post a notice suggesting that employees interested in making scheduling requests should first look over the choice of Amway products for sale in the break room. 
  • Replace the music currently played over the store's sound system with selections you've recorded on your home karaoke machine.

Unfortunately, most lousy store managers follow more tried-and-true paths to mediocrity. Retail experts say the following five bad practices are among the most common. Read, learn and avoid.

1. Assume Staff Members Have No Outside Lives

Since they tend to view their employees as little more than working automatons, bad managers think their staff should focus 100 percent of their attention on their jobs, says Les Stockett, store manager of the Bridgewater, New Jersey, Circuit City.

"These managers don't take associates' time away from work into consideration," he says. "But a lot of retail associates are going to school, for example. They need time for classes and homework. If you act like your store is the only thing that should be important to them, they'll see that as a lack of respect, and performance will suffer."

2. Treat Everyone the Same

On the surface, it might seem like a good idea to treat all your employees alike. That way you're not showing favoritism, right? Wrong, says Tim Connor, a sales and management expert and CEO of Peak Performance Institute. What you're really doing is failing to acknowledge them as individuals.

"Every employee has unique needs and desires, and they want to feel valued," says Connor. "Treating employees without regard for these personal needs sends a clear message that they are not special to you. If you want the labor of a person's heart and not just his hands, you must treat people with respect."

3. Don't Say Anything Nice

Connor uses the term "seagull management" to describe managers who fly around the store squawking loudly, stopping only long enough to dump on any employees within earshot before swooping off to another department. Seagulls deliver only bad news, never offering anything positive.

"One of the most common mistakes managers make is to combine too little positive feedback and recognition with poorly delivered negative feedback or discipline," Connor says. "You get the behavior you reward. If you don't like the behavior you are getting, don't just look at your employees; [look] at your management style, corporate culture and communications patterns to find the problem.

4. Don't Share Expectations

As Stockett points out, almost everyone has had the unpleasant experience of being reprimanded by a supervisor with no warning and no prior indication that anything was wrong.

"Employees often won't live up to expectations if you never tell them what you're looking for," Stockett says. "Take the employee who shows up a few minutes late for work every day. The store manager keeps letting it slide but inside is getting frustrated until one day it boils over, and he brings the associate into the back and chews him out. But the associate never knew he was doing anything wrong. To avoid this, managers need to be consistently setting and resetting expectations."

5. Be a Bad Role Model

"Do as I say, not as I do" is a favorite motto of bad managers. Expecting a certain behavior from staff members that you can't be bothered to exhibit yourself is a terrific way to turn employees against you, Stockett says.

"If you tell associates to smile and say ‘hi' to every customer who walks in, but you don't do it, you're going to get pushback," Stockett says. "Good leaders are good role models. This doesn't mean you have to be able to do everything associates do. But when it comes to basics like showing up for work on time, being friendly to the customer and staying productive, as a manager, you have a responsibility to be a proper role model."

Learn more about retail careers.

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