Have you ever felt unappreciated? Maybe you’re a parent who wonders if your children are grateful. Perhaps you’re a friend who is available to comfort and encourage others but find you’re alone when you need a friend. You might be an employee who goes the extra mile every day, but you feel like a hamster on a wheel, going through the motions each day without a pat on the back or hearing, “Job well done.”
How much better would you feel if your kids gave you a great big hug to say, “Thank you?”
Wouldn’t it be nice to have a friend say, “Tell me about what’s bothering you,” or, “Thank you for listening to me?” If your manager or supervisor took the time to tell you how much they appreciated your hard work or thanked you, wouldn’t you feel like you were valued?
It can be discouraging to work hard and not receive any “warm fuzzies.” We are human. No matter how much we say, “We don’t need any thanks” the truth is that we all need to feel we’re doing well. It means something to us when others care enough to tell us that they appreciate us.
Working in retail is hard and tedious work. It can be a thankless job. Customers can be rude and demanding, and sometimes there’s nothing you can do to please them no matter how hard you try. It certainly could be that way at Shoe Party.
Isaac had thirteen years of retail management experience. He had been with Shoe Party for five years. He enjoyed working with his team and liked meeting new people every day. The company paid well and had great health insurance and benefits, including paid vacation.
Of course, some days were more difficult than others, but Isaac always put his best foot forward. He showed up to open the store with a smile. When Isaac had to close the store, he made sure he wore the same smile all the way through the night.
Isaac tried to set a good example for his employees, always being upbeat, hard working, and friendly to every customer. He knew customer service was stressful. So, Isaac made sure to let each employee know how much he appreciated them. He often brought in pizza as a treat and would do his best to accommodate employees with their schedules. Isaac took every opportunity to encourage his employees.
The employees at Shoe Party made sure to always thank Isaac. They shared in the same opinion: Isaac was a great guy to work for. Isaac always felt appreciated by his employees, but it was a very different story when it came to his District Manager, Seth Mason.
Seth Mason had worked as a District Manager for Shoe Party for over twenty years. He had been the District Manager for this location for six years. He was grumpy and often short when speaking to employees, including Isaac. He always had a stern look on his face. In fact, Isaac had never seen him smile. (He wondered if Mr. Mason had teeth.)
Mr. Mason’s number one priority was business. Shoe Party was a business, and the bottom line was that the business needed to make money. Mr. Mason was very clear; the purpose of having a business is to make money. He was direct with his expectations: every employee should be focused on increasing sales. There wasn’t time for goofing around when there were shoes to be sold, customers to make happy, and money to be made.
He didn’t bother with matters like employee morale. If an employee came to work their reward was their paycheck. It never seemed to occur to him to say, “Thank you.” Isaac certainly never experienced a show of gratitude from Mr. Mason.
Conversations between Isaac and Mr. Mason were primarily about how to improve sales and how to correct mistakes that Isaac had made. They were very draining conversations and left Isaac feeling defeated. But he never showed an inkling of his disappointment to Mr. Mason.
Isaac believed that Mr. Mason was a “Scrooge.” He was cold and unfriendly, and he never let his business demeanor waver. Isaac knew that his focus was directed solely at numbers and sales. But he continued to be friendly and attentive to what Mr. Mason was saying.
Mr. Mason had never once asked Isaac how he was doing. In the five years he had worked for Shoe Party he had never thanked Isaac for his hard work. For the longest time, Isaac wasn’t even sure he knew his name until he criticized the shoe display Isaac had built.
A COLD DUDE
One afternoon, Brandon (an employee with Shoe Party for two years) quit during one of Mr. Mason’s visits. He had been ill for three days but continued to come to work. (He didn’t want to leave Isaac in a tough spot by being short an employee during such a busy time.)
However, on this third day Brandon was sick to his stomach. He continued to make trips to the bathroom to be sick. He was pale and clammy. Isaac knew Brandon needed to go home. So, he brought it to Mr. Mason’s attention. But Mr. Mason disregarded Isaac’s concerns for Brandon.
Brandon only got worse as the day went on, and eventually he insisted that he needed to go home. Isaac completely agreed, but Mr. Mason was not so compassionate and demanded that he stay and close the store. Neither Isaac nor Brandon could believe that Mr. Mason was being so cold.
Brandon had had enough and said his goodbye to Isaac and quit on the spot. On his way out the door, Brandon shouted, “You need to treat your employees like they matter, Mr. Mason. You don’t care about anything but money. You’re a cold dude. Sorry Isaac.”
Isaac was really disappointed because Brandon was a top-notch employee. He was always on time, stayed late, and he could sell a pair of shoes to the most difficult customer. But Mr. Mason showed no compassion. He only saw the store being shorthanded for that day and sales being negatively affected.
In reality, neither of those things were true. Isaac stayed and closed, so there was no shortage of staff. The store was as busy as ever, and sales were higher this year than they had been the previous year. However, as a result of Brandon quitting, the store was short handed the rest of the month until Isaac could hire another employee—an employee, by the way, who could only work limited hours and spent most of the morning in the stock room hiding from customers.
Mr. Mason had made a quick decision, and it had a negative impact on the store. Now other employees were talking about finding new jobs. They didn’t want to work for someone who obviously didn’t care about them. Loyalty to Isaac could only go so far. There was only so much Isaac could do to encourage his employees to stay. He reminded them that Mr. Mason was only at the store one day a week and that the majority of the scrutiny fell to Isaac. That seemed to quiet things down, but it still seemed like a losing battle. Mr. Mason would be back next week and who knew which employee would leave next. Isaac didn’t know what to do; maybe he needed to start looking for a new job too.
The Regional Director, Mr. Lynch, was making his monthly visit. Isaac noticed that Mr. Mason was even moodier on the days Mr. Lynch came to the store. He barely spoke to anyone and spent most of the day reviewing sales reports.
Mr. Lynch and Mr. Mason were very similar. They both had a serious business demeanor and weren’t very friendly. Isaac considered that Mr. Mason must feel a lot of pressure. He empathized with Mr. Mason because he felt that same pressure when Mr. Mason was around.
When Mr. Lynch arrived, he shook Mr. Mason’s hand and nodded to Isaac. The two of them walked past Isaac without saying a word and headed into the office. They remained in the office going through reports all day. Through the office window Isaac could see Mr. Mason wringing his hands. Isaac could tell he was anxious, and he empathized with him again.
It occurred to Isaac that Mr. Lynch treated Mr. Mason in a similar way to how Mr. Mason treated Isaac and the rest of the employees at Shoe Party. There was never a light-hearted moment between the two of them; never a smile or even a pat on the back. Isaac wondered if Mr. Mason felt unappreciated… like a hamster on a wheel.
At the end of his visit, Mr. Lynch took a look around the store. Mr. Mason stayed behind in the office. Isaac saw his shoulders relax when Mr. Lynch left the room.
Isaac was straightening the shelves in the Women’s department when Mr. Lynch approached him.
“Your name is Isaac, is that right?” asked Mr. Lynch.
“Yes sir,” Isaac responded, a bit intimidated.
“The store’s sales are higher than expected. Mr. Mason credited you with much of the store’s success. He has a lot of great things to say about you. He tells me that you work from open to close most days and that you’re great with customers. He’s glad you’re on his team and so am I. Good job, Isaac.”
Isaac was nearly speechless, but managed to say, “Thank you sir.”
Then Mr. Lynch said, “You know this store was in trouble a few years back. I thought the company would close its doors for sure. But they wanted me to put someone in place that could bring it back to life; fix the problems; increase sales.
That’s when I asked Seth (Mr. Mason) to leave his other store and come over here. I knew he could fix this store and he did. I’m glad he’s here. He’s doing a great job.” Then he shook Isaac’s hand and told him to have a good night.
As he walked out the door Isaac’s mouth was still slightly ajar. Not only had Mr. Lynch spoken to him, but he had complimented both him and Mr. Mason. Even more shocking was that Mr. Mason had shared his appreciation for Isaac with him.
Isaac was shocked and began to wonder if he had misjudged Mr. Mason. He was harsh and extremely impersonal, but maybe that was how he accomplished the store’s success. Maybe he was stern and sometimes cold because he had to be.
Isaac began to think about how easily distracted his team, including himself, could become at times. Mr. Mason brought everyone back to the task at hand. Isaac knew some about numbers and sales, but he didn’t have nearly the experience that Mr. Mason did, and sales were up.
Some of the times that Mr. Mason seemed uncompassionate seemed understandable when looking at all he was responsible for. (Although, he was still wrong when it came to Brandon, in Isaac’s opinion.) He needed his staff to be there and ready to help customers. Sales had gone up because there was an increase in store traffic. People liked coming to Shoe Party because of the friendly staff.
Mr. Mason continued to keep the store’s sales in the red and the doors open. This made it possible for Isaac and the others to have jobs and all of the benefits that came with working for Shoe Party. Mr. Mason did show his appreciation, but Isaac wondered how often he was shown appreciation for the good job he was doing. Did anyone ever thank him or give him a pat on the back? Isaac began to see Mr. Mason in a different light. He made mistakes, but he was human.
PAY IT FORWARD
It was time to lock up for the night. Mr. Mason came out of the office looking tired and grumpy. His shoulders were stooped, and he walked with a heavy step. He headed toward the door and Isaac followed him. They were outside now, and Mr. Mason struggled to find the store key. Isaac had an idea.
“What is it?” Mr. Mason responded without looking up from locking the doors.
“Mr. Lynch spoke to me today and he had a lot of really nice things to say about you.”
Mr. Lynch stopped fumbling with his keys and looked at Isaac.
“He did?” he asked. There was surprise in his voice.
“Yes sir. He said you saved this store. He said he asked you to work at this store because he knew you could fix it. He also said he was glad you were on his team and that you’re doing a good job.”
Mr. Mason looked a lot like Isaac suspected he had looked when Mr. Lynch had spoken to him: Jaw slightly ajar. Then he did something that Isaac had never seen before. Mr. Mason’s grumpy expression and narrowed brow eased into a smile. (He did have teeth.)
“You know, I have worked for Mr. Lynch for many years,” Mr. Mason shared. “He’s never said anything like that to me. I don’t think he’s ever even thanked me. It’s hard to know if what I’m doing is making a difference. Thank you, Isaac, for telling me that. It feels good to be appreciated.” Mr. Mason smiled again!
“It certainly does,” Isaac agreed. “He also told me that you appreciated me,” Isaac said cautiously.
Mr. Mason nodded and said, “I do Isaac. I appreciate you and I’m glad you work here. You do a good job. Thank you.” Then he patted Isaac on the shoulder and walked to his car.
Isaac felt great. He knew that Mr. Mason would continue to be stern and come off as cold to most, but now Isaac knew differently. Mr. Mason would make mistakes in the future and Isaac was sure that he would disagree many times over with his choices, but tonight…Isaac saw his manager in a different light. Isaac saw Mr. Mason as an employee who needed to know he was appreciated too.