Working Unhappy in Retail

A great question from a reader arrived in my inbox last week and I wanted to share it with all of you. Many of you probably like your job to some extent, but maybe a manager or co-worker is difficult for you to deal with. We all have our problems, but dealing with a difficult manager is tricky.

Her summarized question went like this:

I just started working at my current job in March. This is my first job period, other than two jobs I’ve gotten by being default (‘student helper’ for both jobs).

The problem is, I’m only in this job because it’s a job, and one of the managers is in this job as a lifestyle. He consistently harasses us to sell more (or so it feels like to me). We’re either behind and have to sell more, or are ahead and have to sell more. Within the past week, I can count three separate times that he’s harassed me about asking each and every customer to buy a certain product from the registers.

It’s gotten to the point that I don’t even bother asking the customers if they want the certain product. I figure I’ll get reamed about not selling enough later anyways, so why bother?

I love my job (it’s rewarding), I love my coworkers, I get on well with the other two managers and the two supervisors, it’s just him that I don’t get along with.

How can I manage to work happy? He often excuses himself saying it comes from corporate, but the other two managers don’t harass us like he does. Is it maybe because he’s not that good of a leader, or is it just our differing personalities?

On the training front, should I ask to shadow one of my coworkers (there are two that are really good at selling stuff)? I figure I can’t flat out say, “The training I’m being given is bogus, I know it and you know it, are you able to give me any actual *realistic* training?” And I’m not very good with people to begin with (to the point that I honestly can’t think of a way to rephrase that last question in a people-friendly way).


My response was:

The first thing to do is get your thoughts in order. You are a good writer. Your question was well constructed and I think you should use this talent to write a mock letter on how he could be a better manager. It will help you see his perspective. You should not give him this letter, but it will help you prepare for a talk.

I believe you should talk to this manager. It doesn’t sound like you want to confront him, but I think it’s your best bet at improving your situation. Don’t make a big deal of it, but just ask him if he has a minute to talk. I would ask him how you can improve. If he is human he should be willing to help you become a better employee. If he is stumbling around or doesn’t suggest anything helpful then tell him that you have something that might help. I think you had a great idea. See if the two of you can create a schedule, during slower times, to shadow some of the top sellers for a few weeks.

If this manager is still busting your chops after a few months and you are selling better, I would try confronting him on his managing tactics. Sometimes managers need to be shown how to improve. Try to be tactful and constructive, so he knows that you appreciate his style, but it could use a little work. Hopefully he will put his ego aside and listen. If this makes your relationship worse then look for another job. You should never be afraid to chalk up a job to a good learning experience and move on to something better.

Everyone is different and some people can tolerate a bad manager if everything else is good, but I can’t. I need a manager to be supportive and understanding. Believe me there are plenty of them out there.


If you have a question that you would like for me to answer on this blog you can contact me on my question page or at Karl (at) Believe me, there is probably someone else going through the same thing right now, so if you ask a question it will probably help other people.

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  1. I hear two things, you like the people at your job, yet you are not good with people as you say and are in retail sales. Its not summer camp, you as a sales person have a quota, the manager has one as well as the store. It is his life, not for you. Can you see the differences? I know he may be a pain in the rear but he has a job to do and is not there to teach you. To me it is not a good fit, he won’t change b/c you won’t be around long enough. Thanks for the example, Veronica

  2. Maybe the manager really needs to be a better manager but in marketing and sales, you have to be really a go getter to survive. You can’t be shy. Exceeding your quota is not enough. You have to go beyond this.

    I’ve done sales and marketing and I’m pretty gregarious, but I still won’t survive long as a sales and marketing person.

    Chris’s last blog post..Feedburner, RSS Subscription, and Comments

  3. Hey Veronica, good advice. The working world is a lot different from school. Although I do disagree with you that it has to be all business, meeting quotas and constantly pushing for more. Work can be fun and a great learning experience if an employee is given the chance. There have been many great employees run off by an arrogant boss. If this boss isn’t careful he won’t have any employees that want to help him meet his quotas.

  4. Hey Chris, you also make a good point. I hope “working unhappy in retail” is checking this out. I’ve worked for companies that have set the sales quota so high that no one every met it and therefore they never paid any bonuses. It was a drag to work for them. We do need to exceed our managers expectations, but they also need to understand what’s achievable and what’s not.

    Sales is not an easy job. It takes a special person to keep on asking customers even after they get rejected.

  5. Work happy guy, you know I think your posts are great so I play Devil’s advocate. I am really not as concrete and negative as my comments. Thanks for visiting my sites too.

    veronicaromm’s last blog post..An American Crime