If you want to believe that your retail loss prevention staff is content and fulfilled, don’t spend time reading posts on these workers’ online forums. Although venting is clearly an element to many comments on these boards, significant griping is also on display. The fact is that negativity can infiltrate even the most staff-friendly and well-run LP department. So what can prevent it?
A growing body of research links officer attitudes to the training they receive, making systematic and standardized training an important tool to stave off workplace negativity. For example, in a 2013 study published in Security Journal, “Security officers’ attitudes towards training and their work environment,” researchers conducted in-depth interviews with US security officers and found that more training was key to improving their attitude towards their work.
The study results confirm what many LP managers have probably found: a strong training regimen improves staff attitudes, boosts morale, and enhances motivation. Thus, LP executives faced with negativity should evaluate training as a primary tool for improving attitudes.
What Else Can You Do?
Many retail LP officers—or perhaps most—will experience temporary bouts of negativity. When they do, here are some ideas from consultants, researchers, and LP managers for improving their attitude:
- Don’t take the negative words or actions of loss prevention staff personally. If you become defensive, you will likely become negative yourself in dealing with the employee.
- Don’t threaten negative employees. It fosters a sense that they have lost control and will only make them more negative. And don’t continue to engage negative employees in conversations unless they are willing to offer productive suggestions.
- Follow the “ACT” acronym. Hold negative loss prevention staff: Accountable for their actions and behaviors; Communicate to them performance goals, objectives, standards, norms and which behaviors are—and are not—acceptable; and Track their behaviors and give them feedback on any improvements they make.
- Get specific when loss prevention staff throw up their hands in frustration. Ask these employees for the three issues they find most concerning; then narrow their list to two, and finally, to one. Then turn the tables and ask for one possible action to address the concern or reasons, then two, then three. The idea is to get workers to think about roadblocks in a positive, constructive manner.
- Ask negative loss prevention personnel open-ended questions. Let them perceive that you are willing to listen to them and that what they say matters.
- Actively involve negative employees. Options offset negativity in the workplace better than anything else, according to personnel management experts. Hand over whatever controls you can to your employees. Empowering them will improve their attitude.
- Negativity can be a symptom of low self-confidence. Boost self-esteem and self-confidence of negative loss prevention staff by pointing out their skills, accomplishments, and strengths.
- Have a system in place that gives supervisors an opportunity to provide positive feedback and express appreciation of staff. Make sure all goals and expectations for staff are understood.
Some loss prevention staff may be difficult to reach with basic management strategies. For these officers, here are six steps for confronting them:
- Focus on the individual’s unacceptable behavior(s) and changing it; don’t focus on changing the employee.
- Identify the negative behavior in specific terms and the impact it is having on the individual, other LP employees, and the company.
- Ask the negative person to discuss the situation; they may share something with you of which you are unaware.
- Define alternative behaviors and, with the employee’s input, develop an action plan for implementing them.
- Discuss with the employee how change will be monitored. Will you observe it or get feedback from others?
- Provide employees positive reinforcement if the behavior improves, and the consequences of noncompliance if it doesn’t.