How can managers relieve associates’ holiday stress?

Discussion
Dec 07, 2015
Doug Fleener

Through a special arrangement, presented here for discussion is a summary of a current article from Retail Contrarian, the blog of the Dynamic Experiences Group.

As leaders, it is essential that store managers and owners help their associates be better throughout the holidays. The busier it gets, the more important your coaching becomes if you’re going to capture a bigger share of the pie.

Quick story: When I was a kid, I had a neighborhood friend who loved to find four-leaf clovers. No matter what we were doing or where we were, she invariably found one. She was so lucky.

Not me. I could walk into a clover field and hours later emerge empty-handed. And, of course, my children always found Waldo long before I did.

One day, my neighbor told me how to find a four-leaf clover. She told me to stop looking at the whole field and start focusing on one clover at a time. I distinctly remember thinking that was impossible since there had to be a million clovers in the field. But I took her advice.

Manager and employee

Yes, you know what’s coming next. Within a few minutes I found a four-leaf clover. And like Waldo in his red and white striped shirt, once I saw it, I couldn’t believe how much the four-leaf clover stood out from those around it.

The same holds true for helping your employees be more productive this holiday. You can’t look at the entire "field" to find the opportunity. You have to narrow your focus. Find that one thing this week that will help them be even more productive than they were the week before.

The worst thing we can do over the holidays is to stop helping our employees be better. The second worst thing we can do is to focus on too many things at once.

Pick one area of opportunity for each person every day. Bring that down to one very specific action she/he will take to elevate her/his performance and results for the day. Your employees won’t need a four-leaf clover to be successful. They’ll be making their own luck.

What advice do you have for store managers trying to help their associates deal with the heightened demands of the holiday selling period? Do you have any specific actions or games to help associates manage stress?

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Braintrust
"Great article and suggestions. By focusing on one thing that is within the employee’s control, a manager can help staff grow and be successful."

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17 Comments on "How can managers relieve associates’ holiday stress?"


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Bob Phibbs
Guest
3 years 10 months ago

As I wrote in my post Your First Holiday Season As A Retail Manager, an easy trick is to buy a helium balloon and keep it in the backroom as a reminder that when it deflates, you have to do something nice for your crew again.

The key to managing associates is to know: it isn’t so much we need to know what to do as to be reminded.

Roger Saunders
Guest
3 years 10 months ago

Help associates keep the holiday message, company objectives, consumer hopes and dreams and a smile on your and their face at the start of every shift.

At this time of the year, store operations has to lead by example. Be sure to show up on time, Do what you say you’ll do, finish what you start and say please and thank you. Your associates will respond in kind.

Max Goldberg
Guest
3 years 10 months ago

Great article and suggestions. By focusing on one thing that is within the employee’s control, a manager can help staff grow and be successful. Other things include: gratitude — catch them doing something right and praise it, and respect — show how much employees are valued, especially at during crunch time at the holidays.

Phil Rubin
Guest
3 years 10 months ago

Hire better. If you work in retail and are overly-stressed during holiday, you’re probably in the wrong line of work. When I opted to join Macy’s Executive Training Program after undergrad, one of the appeals was the excitement of retail during holiday. Among the keys to hiring, whether entry-level retail associate or an executive, is hiring for attitude and interest in the work.

J. Peter Deeb
Guest
3 years 10 months ago

I have several suggestions on this issue:

  1. Don’t schedule for “business as usual,” be sure your best employees are on hand when you are the busiest and need your most customer conscious people.
  2. Be sure not to overtax people with long schedules or very close back-to-back working conditions whenever possible.
  3. Find a way to reward good work and behavior with small incentives and public acknowledgement of jobs well done or problems solved by employees.
  4. I know it is a busy time, but be extra vigilant to customer problems with employees and employees who are overly stressed. Address both of these immediately. Diffusing problems right away will reduce your stress as a manager.
Al McClain
Guest
Al McClain
3 years 10 months ago

Be nice. Too many store managers and department managers add to the stress of the holidays (kind of an oxymoron isn’t it?) by adding more pressure on employees to make their numbers. How many employees have heard, “What do you have in this hour, day, week or sales period?” Better as the boss to ask associates what you can do for them to help them accomplish their goals, or maybe even give them a ten minute breather to recharge.

Tony Orlando
Guest
3 years 10 months ago

Holidays are stressful, and a little appreciation goes a long way in dealing with employees. We try to feed the employees a lunch from the deli we provide in the break room on the weekend, and little things like this go a long way. Such as making sure you can provide a weekend off if possible for your managers when they help cover the shifts. Knowing they have the following weekend off is always a good thing. Get out on the floor and greet customers and just be visible to the employees and offer assistance to those who need it.
Again, nothing drastic, but simple, real things make the holiday seem a little brighter for everyone.

Ian Percy
Guest
3 years 10 months ago

My knee-jerk reaction is that if you’re just starting to think about this issue now, it’s too late.

The state you really want to get to is having your team look after itself. How do they help each other get through the stress of the holiday season? They will be closer and more sensitive to each others’ needs, goals and challenges than any manager will be.

My second knee-jerk reaction reminded me of one of the best product taglines ever written, at least IMHO. It comes from Garmin and their fitness watch. The line is “Beat yesterday.” That is pure genius given the product and who they are pitching it to. What if your sales team got together for a few minutes pre-opening and asked: “How can we beat yesterday? How do we have more fun while selling more than yesterday?”

Ralph Jacobson
Guest
3 years 10 months ago

In-store staff need to be reminded that they are part of a team. Everyone in the store needs to share responsibility and everyone needs to contribute to the best shopping experience. Depending upon the particular role of the staff, I agree that focused attention is key. As a store manager that can be difficult, especially in larger stores with more than 50 employees. The manager must share this task with the department managers and follow up with them daily to help ensure that as problems arise, they are dealt with immediately.

Ed Rosenbaum
Guest
3 years 10 months ago

There was a book several years ago titled Managing By Walking Around or something close to it. I wish I could remember the name of the author. The point the book makes is to be visible. To let your employees know you are there with them, supporting them. Don’t hide in the office. That’s the best way to lose the backing of your staff. Think about the small things like a pat on the back, remembering their wives’/husbands’ names, special events. Be supportive at all times, even when it is not easy.

Anne Howe
Guest
3 years 10 months ago

One actionable reminder for store managers to coach associates on customer service during the holidays: find out the shopper’s mission. For example:

  1. Buying off a list, or;
  2. Browsing for ideas.

Then the associate knows how to act to be most helpful. For example:

  1. Ask the shopper to share the list so that the associate can save the shopper time by navigating the store much faster.
  2. Ask the shopper to talk about the people she’s browsing for, and reveal price threshold, so the associate can make curated suggestions and the shopper can feel guided.

P.S. These can work any day, any time of the year. The problem we have at retail in the world of “face down to the mobile device” is a lack of conversation and face-to-face engagement.

Shep Hyken
Guest
3 years 10 months ago

It’s a good practice in busy and not-so-busy times to have pre-shift or pre-opening meetings. Just a short meeting to get people focused for the day. This could include the specials being introduced, any “opportunities” to discuss from the day before (mistakes or things to improve on), a tip on how to deal with the larger-than-usual crowds, a customer service tip and more.

Also, be sure to include a great story from yesterday. It can be how we did something special for a customer, resolved a customer’s complaint, etc. These are great examples that others can aspire to.

And if it really is crowded with more customers, put on an extra employee (or two, or more as needed).

Gordon Arnold
Guest
3 years 10 months ago

The manager that reads and relies on reports can only tell you what went on in the past, near or far, but nonetheless the past. Managers on the floor and in front of the consumers will always know what is going on and needed for success. These same managers use reports to make the changes necessary to increase business and customer satisfaction. The more rooms with doors the store has the fewer and fewer employees on the floor, starting with the management team.

Lee Peterson
Guest
3 years 10 months ago

My advice is to have daily meetings where BIC examples of fantastic work/customer interactions that happened the day before or very recently are pointed out. Those meetings are an excellent time to congratulate those who excelled as well. Every day. Either before or after hours, or both. You can’t have enough communication when it comes to heavy traffic weeks, and you can never encourage your winners enough. Pile it on.

To those managers that have trouble making the time for those kinds of meetings or even making those kinds of observations, they should be reminded that during the holidays, your life becomes retail. It’s by far the most important time of the entire year x10. And if they’re not on board with that, perhaps it’s time to point out that they’re probably in the wrong business.

Larry Negrich
Guest
3 years 10 months ago

Random tip: Schedule better. Don’t wear out the best employees during the holidays with excessive hours and shifts during the most busy periods. Yes, the best employees are the ones you would like to always have during the rush, but leaning on the same people will only burn them out. Mix some slow and busy shifts.

Kai Clarke
Guest
3 years 10 months ago

Develop a productivity success goal for each store manager and their team. Start thinking about daily successes, and let the rest take care of itself. Aim small….

Alan Cooper
Guest
Alan Cooper
3 years 10 months ago

When you and your team members walk through the doors, you’re actors and actresses on stage. Leave the personal issues behind. Leave the bad national news behind. Leave the politics behind. Regardless of your personal beliefs and orientation, revel in the holidays because:

  1. It is great for business.
  2. This is what we do in this country in this season.

Have fun! Give your team a reason for wanting to come to work. Be exuberant and energetic the bigger the crowds are; your team feeds off of this. Be respectful of the employee schedules and that they have lives too.

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Braintrust
"Great article and suggestions. By focusing on one thing that is within the employee’s control, a manager can help staff grow and be successful."

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