life of a retail manager Archives - I Hate Working In Retail


Top 12 reasons your managers become assholes

In response to some angry comments about the large number of assholes running around in management roles here’s the first in a series of posts about assholes. There is also a follow up post on the top 12 reasons managers become great:

The top 12 reasons managers become assholes:

  1. A boss they admired was an asshole. In trying to emulate someone more powerful then themselves, they didn’t separate the good qualities from the bad and copied it all. In their admiration they defend the bad as well as the good (note: people do this with their parents too). See The Jobsian Fallacy.
  2. They are insecure in their role. The psychology of opposites goes a long way in understanding human nature. Overly aggressive people are often quite scared, and their aggression is a pre-emptive attack driven by fear: they attack first because they believe an attack from others is inevitable. Management makes many people nervous since it’s defined by having have less direct control, but more broad influence. Many managers never get over this, and micromanage: a clear sign of insecurity and confusion over their role and yours.
  3. They prefer intimidation to leadership. If you have a gun, the fastest way to get someone to do something for you is to threaten them with it. But if you take away the gun, you have no power. However if you take the time to convince someone to do something for good reasons, those reasons can last no matter how armed or unarmed you are. A person who has confused intimidation with persuasion, or leadership, behaves poorly all the time. They rely on their guns, not their minds, which enslaves the people who work for them out of using their minds either.
  4. Their life sucks. What percentage of people are miserable in the corporate world? I think 20-30% is a safe bet. If you’re miserable, you tend to inflict your misery on those who have less power than you do. If your life is miserable enough you won’t even notice how rude you are to waiters, assistants, and sub-ordinates. It may be nothing personal, or even work related, these people simply have a volcano of negative emotions that must escape somewhere, often in eruptions that they can not control. Just be glad you’re not their spouse or offspring.
  5. They lose their way. Management is disorienting. You are not in the real world in the same way front line workers are. Everything is meta. Decisions become abstractions. People are numbers. Getting lost in middle management is common. Unless they find a guiding light to keep the bearings, and stay low to the ground, good people get lost. It’s smart when taking on a new role to ask someone closer to the ground to be your sanity check. Telling you when the front lines thinks you’re not the same guy anymore.
  6. Promotion chasing. As you get further from front line work, the goals of promotion become clearer than the goals of the projects. Often what’s right for the project, and the people working on it, isn’t lined up with what’s going to get a manager promoted. This creates a moral dilemma, do what’s right for the team, or do what’s best for me. By spending more time with other managers than with front line workers, it’s easy to forget where the high ground is.
  7. Their management chain is toxic. If you are a manager, and your boss is inflicting blame, disorder or pain on you, there are two choices. Either pass the pain on down, or suck it up and shield your team from the pain. Will you pass the blame on to your team, or take all the heat? The latter is much harder to do than the former, and the former will often be taken as being an asshole. Even if no solution is possible, one gutsy thing to say is “I don’t agree with this either, but I was unable to convince my boss, so we’re doing it anyway”. This takes guts as it makes you seem powerless. You must choose between seeming powerless vs. seeming like an asshole, and the latter often wins.
  8. The Peter Principle. A 1968 book described this principle as the fact that in any hierarchy, every employee tends to rise to his level of incompetence. It sounds like a joke, but makes total sense. If Bob is a great marketer, he is soon promoted to senior marketer. If he does well, he’s promoted to managing marketers. What happens now? If he’s mediocre as a manager, he can likely stay there forever. He may not like the fact he’s not getting promoted anymore and doesn’t like being medicore, but is afraid of going back down the ladder, even though he might excel down there. He’s trapped. People who are trapped feel insecure (see above).
  9. They’re not assholes, they’re just insensitive or oblivious. Would a Vulcan make a good manager? Not really. He’d make smart choices, for sure, but empathy is a huge part of what a decent manager offers their team. Managers are often faced with tough decisions that will negatively affect people, and they make the best choice they can. But they forget to empathize with or explain their decisions such that those negatively effected by them understand. Or even better, forget to involve those people in the decision so they become participants and not victims. The failure to do this is a fast way to earn a reputation as an asshole, even if you’re doing what’s best for the team / company / world.
  10. Madly in love with themselves. Perhaps their Mom doted on them too much as children, or they got picked on in high school, whatever the reason, some people become infatuated with their power and fall in love with themselves. They put themselves in the center of everything because, emotionally, they need to be. The hole in their ego is so big, nothing can fill it, despite their pathological attempts to stuff bonuses, rewards, kudos and perks others deserve more into their stash. Megalomania is tragedy. It’s a good sign a person you despise has bigger problems with the world, than you have with them.
  11. They always were assholes. I knew a kid in elementary school who always seemed like a jerk. Even then it wasn’t quite his fault, he just naturally annoyed and bothered people. Why? I don’t know. Anyway, I met him recently, 25 years later, and guess what? He’s still a jerk. Some people have been, and probably always will be, assholes. They have to work somewhere. Better managed companies hire fewer of them.
  12. They took the promotion purely for money and status. In many organizations the only way to get higher status and more income is to become a manager. What if managers didn’t get paid more that the people they managed? Perhaps then more people would take the role simply because they wanted to be in that role, rather than because they primarily wanted more money.

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Why Retail Management Sucks

This was my going away letter to my former employer.  This is a must read.

You wake up at 6:30 extremely tired because you had to close your store the night before and did not get home until 11:15 which allowed you to get in bed by midnight.  As you get ready for work you realize that you do not get another day off for EIGHT more days!  On your thirty minute trek to work, you wonder why your district manager doesn’t move you to one of the seven stores you pass along the way.  You have been told repeatedly that you would be moved closer to home, but you have heard that for over two years so you have given up on that luxury.

You get to work at 7:30 knowing that you want everything ready for the store to be open at 8.  You get all the registers ready and check some quick emails before you realize it is 7:58 and none of your employees have shown up.  You make your way to the front of the store and open the doors and stand at the front register with a smile on your face.  You have every desire to write the employees up for being late, but you know your boss will allow them to use some excuse.  Ah, the luxuries of working with uneducated and unmotivated employees.

As you are waiting for your front cashier to come in a customer walks in and wants something from another department.  Obviously you are the only one in the store so you are unable to help them in that department.  The customer looks at you in disgust and says they will go somewhere else.  In the back of your mind you are thinking “please do!” but something very different comes out of your mouth; “Ma’am I will be more than happy to assist you when my front cashier gets here; she should be here any minute.”

Finally, at 8:07 your front cashier walks in and mumbles some type of apology.  She is in no rush to come relieve you as she slowly makes her way to the time clock.  As you make your way to help the waiting customer you hear “Management to receiving.”  At this point you realize how much you love your job.  While giving the best customer service you can to that customer, you have two other customers ask you to help them find something.  All of this could have been solved by having employees that could get to work on time.

At 8:20 you finally get back to receiving.  Luckily it is the Pepsi Vendor who you are good friends with.  You are thinking you finally have a minute to relax and shoot the shit with a friend when you hear, “return at register 1.”  You make your way to register one and the customer explains to you that the .25 coupon was not rung up correctly.  Unfortunately, your corporation has made it impossible to do a refund without canceling out the entire transaction.  You explain this to the customer and she asks “isn’t there an easier way?”  Yes, there is; take the quarter and stick it up your ass!  Instead, you ring up all 22 items she bought again and make sure to ring up the .25 coupon at the end.  It takes ten minutes for her to save .25, but I am sure it was worth it.

You then realize that you left the Pepsi vendor in the back and you need to let him out.  As he is leaving you both joke around about how great your jobs are.  At this point it is now 9:00 and you have yet to do any of your morning management duties.  As you go back to the office a customer asks you where the Depends are.  You gladly show him that they are approximately six feet from his face!  While doing some work in the office, your boss mentions that you need to get some of the inventory out of the stockroom.  YES!

As you are filling up your cart with Campbells Tomato Soup and Hunts Tomato Sauce you are asking yourself “where did I go wrong?”  I KNEW I should not have skipped that Managerial Accounting class my junior year!  After you have your pyshcological battle you continue forward and stock merchandise on the shelves.  After doing this for several hours you decide it is lunch time.

After heating your meal in the microwave, you sit down and take a bite to eat when you hear “management needed at the front register.”  Well, this should be quick and then I can come back and finish my meal.  On your way to the front register, another customer asks you where the twin pack erasers are that are on sale.  You are extremely nice and walk her to the stationery aisle when you hear “management needed at the front register.”  When you look at the front register you see three extremely upset customers.

As you try to fix this situation, an employee is asking you if he can go to lunch.  You really don’t give a shit what he does at this point, you just want to get these customers out the door.  The same damn coupon situation that happened this morning happened again but now there is a line of people.  You go through the same exact process that takes about 10 minutes.  It has now been 15 minutes since you took your first and only bite of lunch.  After FINALLY getting all the customers out the door, you return to your lunch 20 minutes later.  When you sit down and take bite number 2, you hear “management to receiving.”  It doesn’t get any better than this!

At this point, you pick up your lunch and throw it in the trashcan.  “I am fed up with this, why the hell can’t my boss get some of these calls?!?”  You return to receiving and the warehouse truck is there ready for you to unload 400 pieces of inventory.  As you are unloading the truck, you get a phone call.  An employee is explaining to you that she cannot come in tonight because her brother’s ex-girlfriend has a flat tire two states away.  You explain to her that this is not an excuse and she proceeds to tell you she is already two states away.  At this point, you just want to get the truck finished, so you make a mental note and say fine.

After the truck is completely unloaded, two hours later, you try to get a full meal in.  You actually get to sit down for 10 minutes and enjoy your one full meal of the day.  After you finish eating, around 3:00, your boss mentions that the entire truck needs to be put up today.  Once again you are thinking, why the hell did I go to college to put up baby diapers?  You keep your mouth shut and press on.  For the next two hours you put up tote after tote and at one point you are tempted to just walk out.  You don’t though as you know you have bills to pay and you can’t just quit your job, right?

At around 4:45, you start to clean up when you notice two kids on the toy aisle destroying absolutely everything while their mother is on her cell phone.  As your boss walks by, he mentions that the aisle needs to be cleaned up before you leave.  As you are cleaning it up, the kids continue to play with the toys and sit on the whoopie cushions.  Finally, at 5:15 the mother tells the kids that they need to go.  It takes you another 30 minutes to clean up the aisle after the disaster.

At 6:00, you finally get the chance to go home.  You are extremely hungry as you have only had one meal and you are physically dead because you unloaded AND put up a warehouse truck.  One of your old friends calls and asks you to go out tomorrow night.  Luckily for you, you get to close the store tomorrow night so you apologize and say you will make sure to go out with them soon.  In the back of your mind, you know that you will rarely get a chance to see your friends as the schedule is horrible.

As you drive home you think that it might be time to quit, the sad part is that you realize today wasn’t even that bad of a day; Christmas is going to be 10 times worse!  For anyone who has worked in retail management, you know EXACTLY how I feel.  Luckily for me, I QUIT!

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