Sean Q. stood, he says, like a “deer in headlights.” It was almost Black Friday, and his first day on the job. A long line of shoppers stood at his register. And he was dripping with soda.
“I think I made a mistake at the register, and the customer threw a soda at me,” he says. Sean wondered for a moment if maybe this job was too much for him. Then, his supervisor came over.
“He said, ‘Just breathe. They weren’t mad at you. They were just mad at the situation.’ He told me not to let that one experience impact my decision to stay with Walmart. You’ll have more positive interactions than negative ones.”
For Sean, the experience imparted some lessons about not getting discouraged—as well as the value of having an empathetic manager with good communication skills.
Today Sean is a co-manager himself, at Store 5495 in Glenolden, Pa., and he makes it a goal to always have the backs of the people he supervises.
“To me the most rewarding part of the job is seeing an associate who didn’t feel confident starting out, but every day you go back to them, and they’re learning, getting encouraged,” he says. “You want to be a cheerleader for your associates. When they think they can’t do something, you tell them, ‘You can do this. Maybe you don’t succeed the first time, but you’ll get this.’”
He continues, “You have to listen to what obstacles associates are facing, and not only in a professional position. Everybody says you come to work and try to leave your home life at home, but in reality that’s hard to do. But if you listen, you can help people move in a positive direction. Part of being a good leader is making sure your team feels like they can talk to you about anything.”
Most importantly, Sean encourages associates to look out for one another, since that helped him get over his tough first day.
“When it happened, a lot of associates came up to me and asked, ‘Are you OK? Do you want me to take over for you?’ And that helps a lot, to have people around you who care,” he says. “Even now, if I’m having a bad day, it’s the associates around me who make me want to come back to work every day.”