When Retail Performance Management is Missing…
We decided to tell this true story to illustrate just how horribly things can go wrong when you’re not really on top of…This story ends with the police handcuffing and removing a part time sales associate from the store.
In the very early years of her career, Jane (not her real name) got her first store management job. She inherited a team that left quite a bit to be desired, but she tried her best to work with them. Some of them came along very well; even thrived under Jane’s leadership. However, one employee, who we’ll call Cindy, did not do well at all.
She was constantly late for her shifts, her sales were not very good and she was usually half asleep while on the sales floor.
Obviously, this employee needed guidance in the form of performance management. Jane had several conversations with Cindy to get to know her a little better and find out why her behavior was not up to standard. Cindy, it turns out, had just lost her mother at a young age and Cindy found herself caring for younger siblings. She said that was the reason she was late so often – due to child care responsibilities. She said she was tired all of the time – again, due to child care responsibilities.
She said her sales were not good because she was depressed and upset most of the time.
Well, what does a new, fairly inexperienced Manager do? She fell for it ….hook, line and sinker. Now, to be fair, the story was true. Cindy had just lost her mother. And some new responsibilities were thrust upon her with regard to her younger siblings. However, Jane did not do her part as the Manager. Jane allowed Cindy to behave poorly. She did not take any disciplinary action for tardiness and she allowed her to underperform in all aspects of her job.
Jane found it difficult to manage Cindy’s performance because there were too many emotions involved.
You’re probably wondering what happened as a result of this situation being allowed to fester. Well, other employees were shaking their heads in disbelief. They knew that Cindy was taking advantage of Jane’s sympathetic nature. And morale plummeted whenever Cindy was working in the store because everyone knew that she was not pulling her weight…not even close!
Then, one evening, Cindy arrived for her shift and asked to speak with Jane in the backroom.
Cindy asked for a raise. Yes, the poorest performer in the store wanted a raise because, she said, she just wasn’t making enough money to look after her siblings.
Jane, having been a pushover up until now, finally realized she was being taken advantage of. There was no way Cindy was going to get a raise and, in fact, was lucky to still have a job. So, Jane told Cindy that she was not going to get a raise in pay. She also told her that if she improved her sales she would start earning commission and the problem could be solved that way. Cindy was very upset and just kept repeating that she was not going to leave without getting a raise.
This is where the situation got ugly.
Jane told Cindy to go and calm down and come back when she had regained her composure. Cindy refused and followed Jane out onto the sales floor. Jane immediately turned back and, again, instructed Cindy to leave the store or sit in the back room until she had calmed down. By now, though, Cindy was yelling “I want a raise” at the top of her lungs. Thankfully, there were no customers around to hear her – but how long would that last?
Jane tried her best to convince Cindy to leave the store but with no success. Finally, as the yelling continued, Jane called security and they came to the store – with the police. The doors to the store were temporarily closed while the police tried to convince Cindy to go with them. She refused repeatedly. Finally, she threw herself on the floor in her attempt to resist being handcuffed. Fixtures were flying across the sales floor. Merchandise was all over the place. Cindy was banging into the fixtures and didn’t seem to care about being physically hurt.
Another staff member stood, mortified, in a corner waiting for it all to end. Jane was shaking with horror at what was transpiring. She wondered how she ever let this situation get so out of hand and vowed never to let it happen again.
In the end, Cindy was removed from the premises and, of course, no longer had her job. Jane learned some very valuable lessons through that entire experience, and here they are:
- Going easy on one associate for a prolonged period of time is unfair to the other employees and to the organization.
- Never accept substandard performance regardless of the reasons.
- Have regular discussions about performance so it does not get completely out of hand.
- Discuss specific issues to get each one sorted out.
- Create action plans for, and with, the underperforming employee and hold them accountable.
- Realize that you cannot solve your employees personal problems by being ‘nice’ to them – they have to seek help for themselves.
Fortunately, this Store Manager learned these hard lessons through experience. What would be really unfortunate would be if she continued to manage performance the way she had done with Cindy – which was, basically, not managing it at all and being too ‘nice’. Jane went on to become a highly successful retail manager who was promoted to higher and higher levels.
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