15 Tips On How To Be A Good Retail Manager This Holiday Season 

As a retail store manager, you run the show. But you’re also part of the show, too.

You’re in charge of scheduling employees, keeping the store running smoothly, staying on top of sales benchmarks, handling customer service issues, maintaining product inventory, and being an all-around cheerleader to keep everyone engaged.

Now add the challenges of the holidays to that mix. Increased sales goals, hiring seasonal help, complicated employee schedules…yikes. 

While you may have come up with some great staff incentives for the holiday season to help with employee motivation, that’s only part of the package of responsibilities you’ll shoulder. Despite the stress and expectations, we have 15 tips on how to be a good manager in retail now, and even after the holiday season.

  1. Make realistic goals
  2. Be open to change
  3. Encourage employee feedback
  4. Use multitasking (the real kind)
  5. Be willing to do what you ask employees
  6. Be a good communicator
  7. Be genuine
  8. Be confident
  9. Delegate well
  10. Use data to your advantage
  11. Learn how to manage your time well
  12. Use praise wisely
  13. Use discipline cautiously
  14. Be transparent and open
  15. Control your emotions

Tip #1: Make realistic goals

You can have daily and long-term goals, but they’re both valuable for you and your team. 

You might be focused on overall sales goals, but setting realistic and achievable goals that your team can reach is a great motivator. Small goals that build on each other are a kind of gamification, where employees can “level up” and get prizes or incentives.

Let your employees know when important goals have been met. If you’re using a scheduling or communication app with your employees, alert them that way. If gamification is part of your goals system, letting employees know of goal achievement inspires a little friendly competition.

Tip #2: Be open to change

Whether it’s changing how something has always been done or adopting new technology, be open to change instead of working hard to avoid it. As you approach the holidays:

  • It might be time to streamline your processes or change the tools you use and how you do things.
  • If supply chain issues pop up, be flexible to a work-around for your customers when it comes to sales and offers. 
  • Increases in coverage or changes to typical shifts can wreak havoc with your schedule. Be open to making a work schedule that has flexibility built into it. Use tools that make that kind of employee scheduling easier.
  • Consider rotating shifts, or different shift structures than you normally use, in order to take the burden off of employees during a busy time of year.

Tip #3: Encourage employee feedback

Nothing is worse than encouraging employee feedback and then ignoring it.

A lack of sincerity about listening and considering ideas or concerns is one of the fastest ways to kill employee motivation and engagement. Employee feedback is how you find out what processes don’t work, concerns on the sales floor, problems brewing for team members, or to spot employee burnout.

Create a feedback system that’s easy, communicates one-on-one, or even anonymously if necessary, so employees don’t fear pushback by what they might have to say.

Tip #4: Use multitasking (the real kind)

Multitasking isn’t what you think it is. You’re not really doing multiple tasks at once, you’re quickly switching between tasks. Multitasking works best when you:

  • Focus on one main task and carry out other routine tasks that are habitual or that you have muscle memory to rely on
  • Take a triage approach, evaluating to see what’s most important and handling that first 

Multitasking easily feeds distraction and inefficiency, though,  if you let it captivate you with the sense of being busy. Make sure you’re getting things done and accomplishing your goals. 

Tip #5: Be willing to do what you ask employees

Don’t ask your employees to do anything you wouldn’t do yourself.

Poor managers dictate orders to employees, asking them to do work or take shifts they don’t want to do themselves. Employees see right through that, and it builds ill will towards management. Work the long hours and do the hard work alongside them, or you’ll unify your employees against management.

Tip #6: Be a good communicator 

Nearly everything you hope to achieve hinges on being able to communicate effectively with your team.

But here’s the catch: excessive communication isn’t the same as good communication. Good communication is:

  • Brief and concise so it doesn’t waste employee time
  • Used when necessary, and not beyond, so that employees learn to tune you out
  • Targeted to those who need the information, however large or small that group might be
  • Direct but tactful and empathetic
  • Followed up to make sure that you were understood

If you’re not a naturally good communicator, be serious about becoming one, whether that’s through reading books, taking seminars, or simply practicing and getting feedback from employees on how you’re doing.

Tip #7: Be genuine

Words are easy, but the action behind the words gives them real meaning.

Be genuine with employees. If you say you care about a situation, show it through your actions. If you say you listen to employees, actually listen and then take appropriate action. Take real interest in what concerns them.

Insincerity creates bad attitudes and passive aggressive behavior in employees. If you don’t really care about what matters to them, they won’t really care about what matters to you.

Tip #8: Be confident

Whether it’s as a leader, when you’re making tough decisions, or when you’re resolving a conflict, you need to show confidence. Find a way to exude confidence, even if you have to “fake” it at the moment.

Employees can put their trust and faith in a confident leader. When you’re confident, no matter how stressful the situation, they don’t have to be stressed out and can trust that their manager has the situation under control.

Please note, confidence doesn’t mean being boorish or demeaning. It means being willing to guide the team and take whatever heat comes your way.

Tip #9: Delegate well

Being able to delegate tasks is one of the foundations of being a great manager.

When you delegate real, important work to employees, the message you give them is that you trust them and believe in their abilities. When you micromanage, you do the opposite, making everyone’s life (including yours) miserable.

Managers who delegate have a team that grows in capability and confidence. Managers who don’t have a team that can’t think on their own and are always waiting to be told what to do next.

Tip #10: Use data to your advantage

A lot of data is coming your way. Sales, employee engagement, absenteeism, overtime, customer trends—but what are you doing with that data?

Data is meant to help you with labor forecasting, inventory planning, and to set sales and team growth goals. Find every source of incoming data in the software and apps you use. Learn what it means, and put it to work for you.

You can’t know if you’re hitting goals if you aren’t using your data.

Tip #11: Learn to manage your time well

Your wasted time ends up being employees’ wasted time. That’s disrespectful and frustrating for them.

Time management includes:

  • Improved organizational skills
  • Using efficient systems
  • Finding bottlenecks, especially through employee feedback
  • Wise delegation of tasks
  • Knowing when something is done
  • Using the right tools and methods to help you structure tasks better

Data shows that 30% of managers think they manage time well, but when their team is asked the same question, only 10% get high marks. Chances are very good you could improve how you manage your time.

Tip #12: Use praise wisely

No praise and too much praise are both damaging. Too much praise dilutes the power of real praise, while no praise sends a message that all the best effort an employee makes is for nothing.

A good use of praise means:

  • Being specific instead of general
  • Tying it to specific actions or outcomes so employees know what is considered good.
  • Tying it to mentorship so you get forward motion and reinforce good behavior and high engagement

Tip #13: Use discipline cautiously

Employee discipline is a tough subject. Just as with how you dole out praise, you should use employee discipline in a targeted and consistent way.

  • Establish clear rules for both employees and yourself
  • Communicate those rules, write them down so everyone is aware of them
  • Clearly define what kind of behavior leads to what kind of discipline, whether its progressive discipline or termination

A lack of consistency in rules and application of discipline will lead to claims of favoritism.

Tip #14: Be transparent and open

A secretive manager who doesn’t tell employees much of anything feeds gossip, rumor, and paranoia. It can come off like a power play, controlling employees by pitting them against each other.

Being transparent and open brings light to all situations, leaving no one in the dark. While there are things your employees don’t need to know, it’s important to explain the why behind the what as much as you can. It’s also important to be a manager that an employee can come to without fear of repercussions, no matter what they have to say.

Tip #15: Control your emotions

No one wants to work for a moody manager.

A manager who is prone to emotional outbursts or unpredictable responses force employees to be wary. They’ll never know what situation will cause which reaction, and so they avoid you whenever possible. That’s not a healthy workplace, and employees will quit.

Self-control is something you can learn and practice. Getting better at it will help you manage your own stress better.


The holidays come with their own challenges. 

While some of these tips might take some effort or even drive you to create new habits, you can accomplish several of them by signing up for a 14-day free trial with When I Work. Find out how we can equip you with the tools to make managing your team much easier. With just one tool, you can simplify scheduling, inject flexibility into your shifts, keep your team updated, and quickly communicate important information.

All of that, with one tool, just in time for the holidays. 

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