Black Friday retail workers: How to avoid a #RedButton day

Share Button


What’s the Black Friday impact on retail employees?


Black Friday retail employees are preparing for a very stressful day: What’s the impact on employee morale?


Our data shows that Black Friday tends to maximize red button feedback at workplaces.

As the holiday season goes on, our daily employee morale data tends to show lower and lower levels.

There’s a lot of holiday stress floating around.

Both for customer service reps, shop assistants, warehouse and IT.

But, we also see a few remarkable leaders who push through the stressful Black Friday period with their staff satisfaction (almost) intact.

The interesting part is what these retail companies do, that others fail to achieve.

Firstly, let’s look at 2 key points for retail:


Compensation: The $ of it


Yep. It starts RIGHT here. With the dollars of it.

How much does a retail worker get paid to dig out that big screen TV from the warehouse?

All in record time, and with 5 more stressed customers waiting?

Here’s what a long term CVS employee states:

“People are very demanding, we have huge lines, and we are understaffed for most of the time people rush in.” 

She also noted that only full-time retail employees received time and a half extra compensation for working holidays like Thanksgiving Day.

They weren’t offered any extras on Black Friday.

Too many workplaces don’t offer additional compensation.

Most low-wage laborers aren’t in a position to be able to say no, and end up working for peanuts. Retail workers have been asking big chains like Walmart for years to raise wages on holidays. 

In 2015 when Walmart increased the hourly pay to $10, their sales figures sales shot up by $5 billion during the next 6 months.

Many retail salespeople and cashiers are underpaid even if they do get holiday compensation. Many work double jobs to keep up with bills.

If you’re beyond exhausted, stress out and burnout… even better compensation might not save your employee retention numbers.

When high-stress conditions continue, it makes the best workers decide to look elsewhere.

Would your sales associates say you offer fair pay and fair work conditions?

Would they recommend your workplace to friends, family or someone they know?

How do you treat seasonal workers vs your “normal” staff?

Put it on your agenda to make sure your teams feel well rewarded.

Or at least a bit closer to feeling fair rewarded?


Black Friday employees, the impact of COVID


Scheduling: Fair and Transparent?


Many workers are content to get extra shifts and hours around the Christmas season.

For Black Friday though, those shifts interfere with spending Thanksgiving with their families.

Who decides on scheduling among your teams?

Would your retail staff say it’s a fair and transparent process?

Many of our best users see employee morale rise when the scheduling responsibility is handled by the team itself, between the retail workers.

Don’t think it would work for your team? You might be surprised how people level up when given more responsibility, autonomy and trust.

A common retail practice is to schedule fewer people than needed, to save staff costs for the shop owners.

Long shifts also have an impact on customer service levels. You’re simply not gonna get treated as well if your cashier is totally exhausted or dying to go to the restroom, or has a micromanaging boss who is freaking out at the end of a 12-hour shift.

Many retail managers actually end up doing a lot more hours than that. It’s not uncommon to see 14-18 hours shifts.

The impact on your knees of a long shift, or standing up for extended periods of time, doesn’t add to the holiday spirit either.

Frequent last-minute scheduling and changes also mean it’s hard for retail employees to plan for childcare, budgeting, etc.


On-call, but no compensation


With new and cheaper software available to monitor sales by the minute, many stores call in un-scheduled workers or have people on unpaid standby.

Sometimes the call to get into work never materializes, but you’re still on call.

You’re just not getting any compensation for it.

This keeps costs down for companies but obviously drives employee morale down.

Some interesting stories here:

At many businesses, the 40-hour week simply doesn’t exist any more: Staffers work on “on call” hours, or pick up part-time temp jobs with no benefits (not even weekends off).

Just one in five low-wage workers get paid vacation time, and just 15 % of the lowest-paid workers can take paid sick days; so a holiday­ — or just a day to nurse a child at home with the flu — means a day without pay.

What scheduling protection do you have in place?

Do your retail workers have the right to turn down a shift when they get less than 10 or 11 hours between shifts?


Black Friday staff

11 ideas to keep employee engagement high on Black Friday


What if you were to invest the same time and focus on your team’s experience as you do on the customers’?

That positive energy you create will certainly sip out onto your stores and customers!

Good leaders prepare for the upcoming holidays using team meetings several weeks before.

This year, with COVID, a lot of time is dedicated to the health and safety concerns of workers. Remember the mood too!

Even if you didn’t have time to prepare much for the upcoming Black Friday, there are still things you can do for your retail workers:

1. Dress up!

Dress up the break room with something fun! What works in your company culture? What do people like? Superhero theme? Coffee theme? Colour theme? Or put a foldable bed in a corner for people to put their feet up high for a brief moment! Sanitize regularly in accordance with local COVID regulations.

2. Food

Have free food and coffee for your retail workers, or fresh juice and yummy fruit. Healthy body, healthy mind!

3. Self-motivation

Are YOU motivated? It starts from within you know. It’s harder to energize others when you don’t have it in you. Self-reflect and make a short list of good things you like about your position and coworkers. That will increase the chances of getting you in the Black Friday mood!

4. Prep talk

Give a pep talk at the beginning of the shift. Just not a cheezy one yeah? Keep it real. Not some fake smiley version handed down from corporate.

As a leader, you should know what makes your team tick. You can also ask people to think of the best holiday gift they’ve ever received and ask them to remember how happy that made them feel. That’s the feeling they help generate among customers! Or ask them what motivates them while working at Black Friday.

Also: Make your team feel valued by asking if anyone has a last-minute suggestion or improvement point for Black Friday.

5. Bathroom breaks rule!

Make sure your retail workers have someone who covers for them when its time for a break. Bathroom breaks rule!

6.What should they expect?

Black Friday Protocol. For retail workers who are joining you for the first year, let me know what to expect and how you expect them to handle things. What is the maximum amount of customers the store will allow? What happens when someone has a complaint or wants to return an item? Dig into health & safety aspects, breaks, coupon deals, how to best cool down upset or angry customers (According to a survey, 12% of all Black Friday shoppers are drunk, couldn’t find the source for this though), when to involve another coworker, how to manage crowds, storytelling from seasoned employees, policy on wrapping gifts (got enough paper at all tills..?), etc.

7. A surprise at the end of the day

Give out surprise gift cards at the end of the shift. A voucher to get a nice foot or back massage? A sleep-in-day voucher? Or for teams to do something fun together?

8. Looking smart

Hand out new retail uniforms. How many times have those t-shirts been washed? New retail uniforms also make people look better in front of customers too.

9. If you see something, say something

Unmotivated coworkers drag down others. If you see something, say something – but keep it factual. If someone is lazy, give concrete examples. Others might have to pick up the slack to compensate.

10. Words and actions to support

When you’re on full capacity at retail shops, warehouses and shipping facilities, mistakes will happen for sure. Remember to maintain positive, no matter how hard or gruesome it gets. Try to stay calm and supportive of your employees. Fear only goes so far. Take the time to be sympathetic! Make them feel respected and valued by your words and actions.

11. Celebrate 

Celebrate small wins! Victory laps? Team cheers? Could be small and quirky things, stuff you know your people will appreciate. Or perhaps a fun contest where the whole team wins?

Watch our for impossibly high sales goals here though.


sales associates motivation tips for black friday

Building a great workplace takes time


Small things aside, Black Friday is also a good moment to self-reflect and prepare for bigger things.

Building a great workplace takes time. It takes commitment.

It doesn’t happen overnight just because you decide to throw a couple of extra bucks on your team or put fresh fruit in the staff room for your sales associates. There’s obviously more to the equation than that.

So if you’re expecting some magical solution to getting lots of green button feedback at this year’s Black Friday, chances are you already too late to the party.

The stress is still gonna be there, the long hours are gonna still be there.

But HOW your people react to the stress and the long hours, that you can impact, over time.


Black Friday sales associates and stress

What good retail assistants will leave after the holidays?


Here’s a quote from a US Amazon worker:

“It’s a depressing work culture because I’ve seen countless people get chewed up and spit out at this job. One of the biggest, depressing realizations is after I survived peak season, I couldn’t recognize my department anymore. So many people were gone.”

What good retail assistants and managers are you about to lose these holidays?

And here’s another part of the equation. Many customers go back to the same shop, month after month. They LIKE recognizing the staff working there as they know who gives good service, or who is the fastest behind the counter. It’s nice to recognize employees!

On their web pages, companies like to talk about how people are the biggest assets.

But if you talk to people who actually work there, they will often have a radically different opinion.

Hence not so positive reviews on Glassdoor, etc.

Do your people see a career path within your company?

Do you promote internally when new management roles are coming up?


Employee engagement is a marathon, not a sprint


If only organizations invested in people the way they invest in other aspects of their retail business, the ROI could be higher.

Because with timed breaks and minute to minute surveillance – where’s the trust? Where’s the human side?

Employee engagement is a marathon, not a sprint.

And the sooner you act to improve, the sooner you’ll see results. If you also measure employee engagement on a daily basis, you can verify the impact of the actions that you take in the day to day.

Or compare last year’s Christmas season with this year’s to know how you’re doing in comparison.

That way you can also predict how many employees you are likely to not be able to retain.

And take action to keep your talent!


Sales associates and employee engagement

How do you plan on motivating your employees this Black Friday?

Let us know if you have any nice tips :)


This article was previously posted on Linkedin.



Smiley feedback terminal Celpax

Like the idea of using the Celpax to measure employee morale? 

Standard cover Dashboard prices









Rebecca Lundin, CelpaxHej! I’m Rebecca, co-founder at Celpax. We use simple tech tools for managers to create better workplaces. And build a better society while at it! Let’s discuss retail workers’ metrics on Twitter? Or follow us on Linkedin.


Photo by

Share Button