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Retail Management: 10 Things To Never Discuss In Front Of Employees

01 | 28 | 14

employee management skillsTrust is one of the building blocks of sales, retail employee management and economic life as we know it.

Life in retail management can be as cutthroat as anything else, as evidenced by my suggestion to terminate bad new hires quickly.

When employees don't trust their bosses or vice-versa, sales always suffer. That's because people who don't trust can't be trusted.

And no-one picks that up quicker than your customer.

That's why, as you work your way up the ladder as a manager or shift leader, it’s important to remember whose company you’re in. Conversations among some people might be fine; among others not so much. If you are an owner or C-level executive, you should know these already.

Having seen the effects of not knowing appropriate boundaries as a retail consultant, here's my retail management tips...

10 Things To Never Discuss In Front Of Your Employees


Pay: You never want to talk to an associate about their salary at all, really. If an employee comes to you with a gripe about their pay it’s wise to direct them to Human Resources or whoever it is they are supposed to speak with about matters pertaining to this if possible. If not, make sure your discussion is one-on-one away from anyone who might overhear.

Other Employees' Pay: Even if you have an affable relationship with an employee, it’s never smart to speak to them about the pay of another employee- even your own. If you have privileged information it’s especially frowned upon. But even if your information is not privileged or is just hearsay, if word gets back to your bosses that you were talking about the wages of another employee, that’s really bad. It could get you sacked.


Disciplinary Actions Against Other Associates: Just because you are going to reprimand or fire an employee for things they have done; that doesn't mean it’s okay for you to talk with employees about it. Even after that employee is gone; there is a confidentiality clause in most employment contracts. Best thing to say is something like, "We parted ways and wish them nothing but success."

Disciplinary Actions Against That Associate: If you know about what is coming down the pike for an employee and you tip them off before the disciplinary action has been written up, you are asking for trouble. If you are supposed to go through the Human Resources channels to cross all of your “T’s” then you should do that. It doesn't do anybody any good to be doing the job of anyone else; without their asking.


Badmouth DM: When you are managing your team, one of the best pieces of advice anyone can get is never talk bad about your bosses to your charges. You never know when a session of gentle ribbing can turn into a statement from that employee against you.

Badmouth Company Policies: If there are things that the company does that you don’t like, save it for the confessional or a weekly gripe session with your mom. Don’t bite the hand that feeds you by telling everyone on the retail sales floor - or your customers.

Badmouth Customers: Customers are the whole reason you are even in business. If you badmouth one move from a customer you encourage a store culture of smugness, of cynicism of them versus us. Find a way to diffuse such comments by giving the customer the doubt - they're allowed to have a bad day - you aren't.

Badmouth Company Product: One of the best pieces of retail advice I received was that you live in a small community. You need to always remember that and be supportive about your products, your customers, your GM, your brand; regardless of what you really think of it. If this is too much of a reach for you, even if you think you excel at it - find a new job.

Discover 15 Things You Must Teach Seasonal Employees


Personal Matters: You can’t get too friendly with your associates. You can be friendly and charming but you don't want to be an endless source of drama. Customers, other employees and especially your bosses hate drama - even if you live for it. Life doesn't suck - just people who can only find a way to spin their own in a constantly negative light.

Potty Mouth and Politics: While swearing and politics should already be off-limits, it bears repeating here.

Bonus tip: if you are the owner, don't ever talk about cash flow with employees unless you want to question if their paycheck will cash.

Remember these 10 things never to discuss in front of or with an associate and you'll have less drama, less stress and more peace of mind.

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AUTHOR Bob Phibbs

Topics: Retail Consultant, retail employee, retail management, store culture

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