How Do I Deal With a Distracting Employee in Retail?
July 21, 2014 11:54 AM   Subscribe

I have recently been hired as a product development manager in a new boutique retail chain. Another manager-level employee was hired around the same time as I was, and so far has been challenging to work with. Seeking advice on best practices before this turns into a Pamplona Bull Run on the floor.

So far I've seen this happen:

- this person steps on my sales routinely every shift without proper product knowledge or any introduction to the client. Simply enters our conversation and tries to undermine or steer the attention away from what we were discussing.

- refuses to train on the product lines, and has repeatedly said "I know all I need to know about it - thanks" But has not even enough knowledge to be able to locate or pronounce the product names.

I don't want to get into a contest of wills, but this person refuses to communicate or acknowledge my product knowledge on the floor (which was why I hired - to train the staff, develop the lines and visuals, etc.) and acts as if they are my supervisor rather than a peer.

Any advice is welcome - I know we should have a sit-down about it, just need advice on how to do this appropriately without escalating an already fractious situation.
posted by Lipstick Thespian to Human Relations (6 answers total)
I wouldn't discuss with the person, I'd go to your manager or her manager and ask, "I'm confused about how my and Lisa's roles are supposed to mesh, we seem to be work at cross purposes. So these are the things that are happening, Foo, Bah and Blah. Is it possible for us all to sit down together and discuss the rules of engagement and clarify our roles?" Let the manager deal with it, just continue to be professional and do what you need to do.

Also practice saying, "Excuse me Lisa, this client and I were in the middle of a discussion, if you don't mind..."

I suppose you could approach this person directly, but that just sounds like drama-llama shit to me, and who needs it?
posted by Ruthless Bunny at 12:09 PM on July 21, 2014 [21 favorites]

Provide the feedback to this person's manager (with clear cut, specific examples). Repeat as necessary.
posted by Twicketface at 12:27 PM on July 21, 2014 [1 favorite]

Talk to this person's boss about how they're preventing you from selling things to customers by spreading misinformation. I've been in your situation in the past, but the person doing the interrupting was my boss. After a couple of times of saying "I'm with a customer" (and then apologising to said customer), I had to speak to their boss to get them to stop being so rude.

You don't have authority to speak to this person as their boss. Leave it to the person who is actually paid to do that.
posted by Solomon at 12:35 PM on July 21, 2014 [2 favorites]

This is something to talk to the next managerial level up, since your attempts to directly resolve it with the other employee didn't go well. Don't go into it with the emotional baggage of how it makes you feel, but focus on how this employee is preventing you from doing your job -- they're not trained on the products, they interrupt your interactions with customers, they aren't listening to your instructions given the position you are in. Before then, write down every interaction that causes you problems, so you're not purely relying on your memory at the stressful time when discussing the problem with the higher-ups.

Now, I've done this at a job, and the higher-ups didn't do crap; in fact, they advised me just take care of it myself, which wasn't working, which is why I went to them. I eventually changed jobs, but until that time I left things as-is, because it didn't concern the higher-ups, so I did my best to be not concerned by it myself.

One thing people like this do respond to is very direct instructions. It's much more uncomfortable for you, but it gives the person less reason to ignore what you're saying. For example, this exchange is likely more effective:

You: Hi, FellowEmployee - I would like you to train on the product after 3 today (Be specific so you can easily tell when you're being disobeyed)
FellowEmployee: I know all I need to know about it - thanks!
You: FellowEmployee, as Product Development Manager I need to be certain everyone on the sales floor is up to date on the current products, and without this training you aren't as well trained as you should be. Please take the opportunity to do the training at 3.

How FellowEmployee reacts, who knows. But there's a reason why managerial books and training materials sound stilted and forced like this: it is effective in getting through to people who only hear what they want to hear. Be specific and direct, focus on why you need this done or they benefit from it being done. Then, they either do it, or now you have very specific examples of why this person isn't doing their job when you speak to their supervisor.

Edit: when you do talk with FellowEmployee, try not to do it in front of others, since that may make them much more defensive than otherwise. When they interrupt while you're with a customer, that's OK, but if you have time to plan an interaction, do it where it can be a private conversation.
posted by AzraelBrown at 12:42 PM on July 21, 2014 [2 favorites]

nthing speaking to your supervisor/next level manager (or this person's supervisor/next level manager, if s/he reports to someone different than the person you report to), and giving specific examples of your concerns.
posted by tckma at 1:49 PM on July 21, 2014

Best answer: I'm not clear from your description if this person is working under you, or if you are at the same management level. The person clearly is having some insecurity issues and is apparently trying to establish their own "territory" or possibly seeking attention. They want some sort of acknowledgement of their own position (regardless of their current shortcomings).

Going to management is a clear direction, but you might also try to give this person some positive attention and convert them to "your side". Figure out what this person does well and compliment them on it. Keep feeding them positive interaction and then switch to a gentle corrective action and see how they respond. Basically, give them a carrot instead of the stick. If you pull out the stick early (rightfully or not), they may become more defensive and the situation may deteriorate. You may not come off looking so well if you are part of the finger pointing. I mean, moms don't care which sibling touched whose stuff first - they just know two kids are fighting in the backseat.

This person seems thirsty for some recognition from you. Establish yourself as a positive superior (assuming your position is superior). Don't resort to passive aggressive teasing or joking or hints. Approach them kindly. See if they become more amendable.
posted by griselda at 2:35 PM on July 21, 2014 [3 favorites]

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