I have seen many people recruited into roles and because they are a friend of the hiring manager, or they partake in an activity that the hiring manager also engages in. These recruits are seriously lacking in business knowledge, they shoot from the hip and have no idea how to conduct themselves in a professional work environment.
Impact on performance
When you look at the performance of retail businesses and who oversees them, it is clear to see there is a serious and systemic problem with the calibre of people in management positions. Because they are out of their depth, they use bravo and bullying behaviour to disguise their shortcomings, and in turn create a disruptive and difficult workplace.
An inexperienced middle manager will often hire junior or even more inexperienced reports to elevate themselves and avoid being questioned on their ability or business knowledge.
For many businesses, when it comes to filling a role, it is all about a quick fix. They do not conduct a thorough recruitment process to ensure the right person is placed into the right position.
And yet, the behaviour of employees has a direct impact on the success of a business. Professional behaviour can elevate the position of a company, while poor and unprofessional behaviour has the potential to impede productivity and in turn create a poor public image. Employers pay employees to make sales and show customers respect, not alienate them.
If a company has a reputation for unprofessional or ‘cowboy’ behaviour, it is at a disadvantage. It can interfere with finding and retaining good employees. Retail is a small world and word travels fast, far, and wide. It also becomes challenging to keep existing customers and attract new customers.
At a time when consumer opinions are widely shared via social media, a company that has a reputation for badly behaved or ‘cowboy’ employees will discover that word of their reputation spreads quickly.
Set a clear example
According to a study on toxic workers conducted by Harvard Business School, a superstar employee who consistently performs brings small cost savings to a company, while a letting go of a badly behaved or inexperienced employee will delivery significant cost savings.
As a business owner, it is up to you to set an example of what is expected in a business by providing staff with training and clearly communicating company policies and procedures. ‘Cowboy’ behaviour needs to be dealt with swiftly and appropriately.
Even more damaging, though, is how these employees behave towards customers. This bad behaviour negatively impacts customer service standards, damaging your company’s reputations and depriving you of sales now and in the future.
What’s the ‘cowboy’ syndrome?
‘Cowboy’ behaviour can take on a variety of forms and can negatively impact a business.
Here are some of the common behavioural traits to look out for:
- Harassment and bullying
This is a systemic issue in many workplaces and continues to cause problems across all aspects of retail. The patterns of behaviour are to humiliate and intimidate others. Other incidents of harassment and bullying behaviour involve verbal aggression, physical or sexual abuse or threat against co-workers or direct reports.
- Demonstrating bias
This is often the case when a ‘friend’ is employed by a manager or when a manager befriends another employee and in turns shows blatant favouritism towards that person. This will often result in special privileges given to that person or even promotion, which in turn adds to the stable of ‘cowboys’ in the business.
This is a common trait of a retail ‘cowboy’. They are often heard sharing information that is untrue, negative, salacious or incomplete about another person or the management of the company with the sole purpose of causing disruption, tension, unrest and distrust. It is all about deflection, so their shortcomings go unnoticed.
- Being unproductive
These employees regularly miss deadlines, are uncommunicative, or fail to complete assigned work. Over a period of time, they cause harm to your business with their nonchalant approach.
Consequences of ‘cowboy’ syndrome
The challenges of having a ‘cowboy’ employed in the business depends on who employed them in the first place. If a senior manager appointed them, it can be difficult to remove them, which can affect the business in several ways:
- Employee stress
This is a problem in many businesses but particularly in retail. Bullying and the threat of aggression cause physical symptoms that need to be addressed and treated. Ongoing stress in the workplace results in high absenteeism, low productivity, and an unhealthy work environment.
- Poor morale
Working with or for a ‘cowboy’ who lacks experience or conducts themselves in an unprofessional manner can take a toll on even the most resilient and conscientious employee. It will cause them to question why they are doing all the work when this person ‘gets away’ with underperforming without consequences.
- Employee turnover
The departure of an employee can cost a company 33 per cent of the worker’s salary and that’s a lot of money. When a good worker leaves your company to go to a healthier workplace, you’ll have to find someone to do their work while you go through the recruitment process and train their replacement to fulfil the role. This can be a timely and expensive process.
- Damage to reputation
The industry will see you as an undesirable employer who makes poor recruitment choices and is unable to manage team members. Customers will look at your competitors as an alternative place to shop, and current employees may look to other workplaces where there are better opportunities to grow.
How to prevent retail ‘cowboys’ coming into your business
The obvious place to start is in the hiring process. Be vigilant in the recruitment process by ensuring you look beyond the resume. Make sure you conduct thorough reference checks and be mindful about the referees that are put forward: friends will always give a glowing reference. Search online to gain a greater understanding of the person you are hiring. Check and double check their experience and qualifications.
Be transparent about your expectations and the work involved. Make sure you have communicated your position when it comes to honesty, integrity, professionalism, leadership, and accountability.
Zero tolerance for bullying, intimidation and gossiping needs to be clearly communicated. Employee concerns need to be heard and addressed immediately.
Retail is a highly competitive industry and inexperience can be costly. Weed out the ‘cowboys’ and bring experienced professionals to your business, you will reap the rewards and benefit greatly.