Dear Bobbie

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Many retail managers are left alone in their store/district/region, to sink or swim. No longer! Just ask ‘Dear Bobbie’ your question at [email protected] Advice is prompt and FREE.

You’re probably a great manager but you have to perform a myriad of functions in your retail business and you may not have the specific skills to handle every function.

Let’s face it…a good generalist needs some advice from a specialist every now and then. ‘Dear Bobbie’ is a career retailer with access to an extensive network of retail managers and executives. ‘Dear Bobbie’ has vast knowledge in people management, human resources, customer service, sales, technology, productivity, merchandising and visual presentation, inventory management, career planning and more.

You can ask ‘Dear Bobbie’ any question, in confidence, and get an answer absolutely free! ‘Dear Bobbie’ also has a regular column in RetailWise, the DMSRetail newsletter.

Dear Bobbie:

“I have been in management for 8 years. I’ve done a very good job, and have been praised for doing so. My problem? I now have a DM who used to be a competitor so to speak. We each had a store in the same area but different districts. When I became manager my store took off, becoming a million dollar store for the first time. Hers began to not do so well. Since she became my DM she has me planned higher then all the stores in my district, even though 4 of them are a higher volume. She also gives me less payroll hours to work with. All in all, I cannot win manager of the year under the circumstances because the criteria is not judged on an equal playing field. My reviews for the last 2 years have been only average although she always tells me I do a great job. She has told me she has to search to find something wrong. Even the regional manager has expressed her admiration of my management skills, and how great we are at merchandising. My work is always completed on time, my numbers (over last year) our as good and usually better then everyone else. I keep my payroll under budget. My gross margin is usually 2 or 3 in the district. She has hired her best friend as an assistant in the other store and I feel certain that she is trying to force me out so this gal can have my job and still remain in the area. I love my job and I love my employees. We are truly a team. Sorry to go on but I am very frustrated. What can I do to keep my job, but not be fighting a losing battle? The regional is a good friend of hers.”

Thanks, DK

Hello DK,

The first thing you should do is thoroughly evaluate the situation you have described.

While some Regional and District Managers do have input into the budgets set for their stores, not all of them do. Often Head Office dictates the expected performance of each store. Regional and District Managers are judged on the performance of their stores so over budgeting a store for some personal reason is counter productive to say the least. If these two individuals are both trying to stop you from succeeding by assigning higher budgets to your store then your problem is minor compared to the problem the company has. Although your conclusions may be correct, it seems like a bit of a stretch to believe that both of them are conspiring against you. So, you will want to think hard about that.

You need to think about the other possible reasons for your high budgets. For example, it could be that your store was under performing in the past and now, with your strong leadership, the company expects more from it. Or, some competition may have left your market. And if you have had a renovation, even a minor one, that would be reason enough to expect a bit more from the store. And it is really not unreasonable for a store budget to be set to better reflect the current trend.

If, after evaluating this, you still believe that your budgets are unattainable and your allowable payroll hours/dollars are insufficient, then you need to discuss it with the District Manager. This is a perfectly normal business conversation to have. The key is to have this discussion calmly and be prepared to present facts and figures. You must be credible. If you go on about being treated unfairly, or claim that the budgets are impossible, you will not get far with the conversation. It is important for you to do your homework first.

Regarding the Assistant whom you think is being groomed to replace you, do you have good reason to believe this other than budgets? Is it possible that you are lacking confidence in your abilities? You do not have to be Manager of the Year to be a great Manager. What I am getting at here is that perhaps you are not meeting your own standards for performance and that is making you look around for reasons that have nothing to do with you. Have you asked yourself some quality questions such as: Is your management team as good as you have had previously? Is your merchandising and maintenance still top notch? Are you training your associates as well as you did in the past? Are you letting your emotions interfere with performance?

If you have realistically evaluated your own performance and know that you are doing everything you can to meet and exceed your budgets and that you are putting as much, if not more, effort in than you were previously then you should start looking at other possibilities. Those may include competition, increased task load on you and your associates, bad merchandise buys, ineffective marketing. Try to think of everything that affects your store and determine if there are other reasons.

You mentioned that your District Manager hired a friend. I know of many situations where a person joins a company and then recruits people they used to work with because of the talent, skill and ability they can bring to the organization. This is a fairly standard practice. Recruiting personal friends who are not qualified, however, is like shooting yourself in the foot. In business, performance counts and everyone is judged accordingly.
It is certainly not in your District Managers best interest to replace a good Manager with a personal friend who is not qualified to do the job. Perhaps you have just assumed that your District Manager is friends with the Assistant and the Regional Manager. Is it possible that they have worked well together in the past and just seem like friends? It is an important distinction because people who are past workplace team mates may very well offer great value to the company whereas people who are just personal friends may not.

Regarding your average performance reviews, I have seen many different types of employee evaluation rating scales. Many years ago, if an employee was considered great they got marks at the top of the scale. Right or wrong that is the way most Managers rated people. Today, an employee who is great is one who is nicely meeting all of the expectations for the position. Now you have to be a super star all the time, in every aspect of the business, in order to get a higher overall rating. What I am saying is that standards and expectations have gone up. The bar has been raised and there is nothing wrong with that. So do not worry too much about the rating on the performance review unless it drops below expectations.

It sounds like you have done some great work and that you have earned the respect and loyalty of a team that you are proud of. In addition to that you have received lots of praise from your superiors. You have obviously been very successful. Continue to do your best and if it turns out that it is not good enough, just make a decision to move on before it becomes really uncomfortable for you, your team and your customers.
But before bailing out make sure that you have all of the information to make a good decision.

Best of luck,
Bobbie

“Dear Bobbi, Thank you so much for responding to my letter. I have been thinking hard about the things you said, and appreciate your input. In my company it is the DM who sets the plan and payroll. Because of this and what I have perceived to be unfair treatment, I have become resentful. I am a perfectionist. Success is important to me. I have allowed this to cloud my thinking. That is why I am grateful for your viewpoint. I haven’t been able to talk about this and so getting an unbiased view has been helpful. It has reminded me of what is important. And that is to be successful to the best of my ability. To do what I can and to let go of that which I have no control over. My DM is not a bad person. She is young and has room to grow as all of us do. I feel bad for having represented her in such a bad light. Your response helped me to see that. I am going to work on being more positive and supportive of her, even when she seems unfair. Thank you again for helping me! Sincerely, DK

Dear Bobbie,  

I have been in retail management for over 20 years. I am now a co-manager and love the position. Recently our DM moved the store managers around and we now have a new manager. She is nice to your face, but stabs you in the back. She is a good manager with respect to merchandising, but no personality for people. I have customers tell me they won’t shop here anymore because of her. Her reputation proceeds her, as her last store team did not like her. Our DM has been told by many of the employees about her, but to no avail. We have had 5 employees quit because of her attitude towards them, and her turnover at her last store was 30 employees. She is causing much stress for the rest of us, so much so that we look forward to when she is off! She treats us as if we don’t know what we are doing, and we are all seasoned employees. She is always looking to see what we are doing and watching us when we ring out the customers. She recently told our DM that her and one other employee are doing all the work and the rest of us are ‘cruising’! I have talked with him about the situation, and his response was that she butted heads with another co-manager, but when they parted company they cried like they were best friends! What should we do about her, since no one believes the team? Should we go to the Regional Manager?

Holding the last of the team together! 
 
Hi,
 
Thanks for writing!
 
You are involved in a very sensitive and unproductive situation.
 
I’d say you have three options.
 
1) Discuss the situation with the Manager and try to come up with a solution that works for the whole team, including her. During that conversation let her know that you would like to get the District Manager and the Regional Manager involved if the two of you can’t come up with a workable solution. Most companies have open door policies which means that you have recourse to discuss concerns with everyone ‘in the chain of command’ if there is an issue that your immediate superior cannot resolve satisfactorily. However, once you do this you must be prepared for any consequences that result. 
 
Whatever you do, give the Manager the courtesy of letting her know you are prepared to go ‘over her head’; don’t just do it without her knowledge.

2) Try to come up with some positive way of dealing with the situation yourself. You could try talking to co-workers and pointing out some good points about your Manager. You need to make an effort to get along for the sake of the business. Get everyone on board to try to work things out. Having been in this business for twenty years you must have been involved in many different situations – good and bad. Use your skills and experience to turn this situation around. Take on the challenge of uniting the staff and getting everyone pulling in the same direction. Your experience counts for a lot and you can lead by example. Sometimes just looking at something from a different point of view can make a difference. You are all (including your Manager) there to do a job. Think and act positively or…
 
3) Resign from your position. Perhaps your Manager is not good at her job but she does currently hold the position and you are powerless to change that. If the situation is making your work life miserable, it may be time to move on.
 
What you definitely should not do is continue to let other staff members engage in negative conversations with you. When you hear any of that type of conversation you should remind everyone that complaining and gossip will not get anyone anywhere. What is going on right now is not good for the company or the employees and the sooner you try to work something out the better off everyone will be.
 
Good Luck,
Bobbie

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