How You Treat Your Staff Matters

My experience from both sides

I worked some retail jobs in my early twenties and I had a lot of fun working with them. They didn’t pay a lot, but I got to be more social and it really brought me out of my shell. Most of my teenage jobs I had before were in kitchens either washing dishes or cooking, but retail forced me to meet and interact with people every day. I worked at a few cafes and jean shops, but I made a home at Foot Locker. I met some pretty great people there and it was my first taste at success. It turns out I was a great salesman. In a city not known to compete, I led the country in sales for 2 years. It came with a lot of upper management kudos which was also great. I was making more than I ever had up until that point in my life so I was pretty happy. I had good friends, fun job and a full time girlfriend.

The success motivated me to continue to grow. I knew I liked programming as I had dabbled in my early teens with friend’s and my father’s computers. I decided to enrol in some courses. At the busiest time I would work at a cafe from 5AM to 9AM, run across the mall to work at Foot Locker from 9AM to 6PM then I would take the bus across the city to take a programming course at the local college. This would happen 3 days a week and I would have to study on weekends.

It was all going well until one day a man came into the store and asked me to come with him. He had a cop’s demeanour and took me as if I was under arrest. I was a strange feeling. He sat me down in the foot court where he laid out 3 receipts for returned items and told me he knew that they were fake and what’s more that I was the one who faked them. He said that he believed that I had stolen the money that was returned with these fake receipts. I was flabbergasted! I didn’t know what to say. I just looked at him and said that it didn’t make sense. I had that feeling that my being upset would actually look more like I was guilty. He said that if I quit, got my things and left that they would not call the police. Hindsight I should have known better. If they had proof that I was stealing they would have called the police if only to set an example to any other potential thief, but I was young. I was intimidated and afraid, but I made the decision that since I knew I didn’t do it that the truth would come out and I would be ok. Shaken, I told him I would take my chances with the police. He was visibly agitated and I got up and walked away.

As I walked back to work I scoured my brain trying to figure out how I could prove my innocence and I came up with a plan. I asked my boss, who was also acting District Manager at the time, if we could perform a full inventory. If what the “officer” said was true then the items that were returned on the “fake” returns would not be in the inventory. He agreed. The audit turned up clean and proved that no money was actually taken. I felt incredibly vindicated. In speaking with some of the higher ups in the company and some coworkers who had been there a long time it was pointed out that the loss prevention program was conducted by an outside company and was expected to find a certain amount of theft. It was hypothesized that they likely just went around intimidating young retail workers like myself into quitting then they would submit that as a win. When I realized that this indeed was the case I was furious. I crafted a letter over several days that explained my situation and what had happened in detail along with my findings proving my innocence. I sent it to the President and every Vice President in the company. All I asked for was an apology. I loved my job and I sincerely thought I would get one (and maybe a free pair of shoes).

A week later I got a phone call from one of the VP’s who said they would not apologize and felt the officer acted appropriately. After 6 years of dedication, building new stores, leading the country in sales, spending nights and weekends towing the company line, I quit on the spot and never went back. A few of my friends who were also incredible salesmen and the District Manager quit shortly after. I heard that sales in those stores slumped to an all time low and that my story destroyed morale.

Of course, I still appreciated the opportunity to learn, grow and make some great friendships. I don’t dwell on how I was treated. Rather I learned something very valuable. How I should treat my employees. We have 200+ of them now and each of them are crucial to our company! Our CEO once said “if you’re trying to define company culture, you’re missing the point” and I wholeheartedly agree. Our culture will be the culmination of our values which are People, Product, Profit, in that order.

How you treat people matters.

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