Make Up Their Minds: Achievement and Protective Mindsets in the Workplace

In the retail industry, we run into all types of employees: the perpetually late employee, the ambitious seller, the hard worker and the sluggish stocker. But all of these employees—the motivated and the apathetic, the dedicated and the indifferent—can be sorted into two basic mindsets: achievement and protective.
Once we lay out the indicators of each of these mindsets, youll easily be able to sort your employees based on their respective definition.
Protective Mindset
Its usually pretty easy to spot an employee with a protective mindset. At their core, this employee does just enough to keep their jobno more, no less. He or she never shows a desire to learn or improve upon their position; instead, theyre happy to coast and dont desire to put any effort into learning. You might find yourself worrying about this employee more than others; you have to check on their progress on projects and supervise their actions. And if you have to go out of town, this is the employee that you fret about, the employee that pushes you to call and check in more often than you should. If youre not overly specific, this employee can easily misinterpret your directions (usually in order to take the easiest path possible). You find yourself establishing safeguards and a more stringent environment to try and keep them in check. When it comes to managing these folks, they require a system of rewards and punishments; theyre never simply satisfied with a job well done.
Achievement Mindset
Unlike employees with a protective mindset, those who are achievementoriented are always striving to do and be their best. They enjoy setting goals and achieving them, and theyre always looking for opportunities to learn and grow. These employees dont sit on the sidelines and wait for their paychecksthey enjoy a challenge, they like to be evaluated, and they want you to notice them in a positive way. Your biggest responsibility as a manager is to remove the obstacles that stand in their way so that they can fulfill their destinyand make your store as efficient and professional as possible.
But those obstacles can come in a variety of shapes and sizes. Some of them are easy to spot: outdated P.O.S. systems and technology, for instance, can frustrate and stall the work of those with an achievement mindset. Other obstacles can stem directly from your role as a managera lack of training, progress in the workplace, a lack of acknowledgement of their achievements or progress, and upholding old tenets based on tradition. But the worst obstacle you can place in front of an employee with an achievement mindset? An employee with a protective mindset.
Protective versus Achievement in the Workplace
A weak manager who allows employees with a protective mindset to infiltrate the workplace is setting himself, and his employees who are achievementoriented, up for failure. There are a variety of detrimental effects that emerge as result of those protective employees. First, you spend too much time correcting or amending the habits of a protective mindset employee, causing the other aspects of your position to sufferincluding acknowledging and complimenting those with an achievement mindset. Your employees on both sides of the spectrum lose respect for you, and those with a protective mindset will even take advantage of you.
Those achievement oriented folks begin to question your methodsand their own. Achievement mindset employees may choose to leave rather than work under such poor leadership. Or, even worse, they may morph into a protective mindset employee. Why do I put in the extra work if he gets away with doing less? they may ask themselves. Eventually, you find yourself surrounded by the wrong type of employee.
Achieving the Achievement Mindset
So how do you avoid such a perilous workplace? The answer is simple: do not hire people with protective mindsets. This is obviously easier said than done. But even with the most emphatic, wellplanned training, its still difficult to break a protective mindset employee of their bad habits. Maybe you think that youre capable of helping this personmaybe you even think its your responsibility as a manager to do so. But, as we pointed out earlier, its a dangerous challenge to undertake and can put your entire store at risk; that time you waste trying to fix that employee would be much better applied in improving and supporting those employees with achievement mindsets.
Ensuring your store is filled with achievement mindset employees should be a priority from day one. As a manager, youre responsible for the environment in your store; make sure its one that welcomes those with an achievement mindset and never allows for those with protective mindsets. We like to think of it as an allow environment versus a causal environment. Do you simply lay out the rules for your employees, or do you enforce them and offer guidelines for accomplishment?
Heres an example: you decide to implement a new rule that the bathroom must be cleaned every day, and every staff member must clean the bathroom. If youre a manager that fosters an allow environment, youll take some steps to outline the rule; perhaps youll hold a staff meeting to go over the new bathroom guidelines, or hang a checklist that goes unmonitored. But if youve cultivated a causal environment, youll create a schedule that outlines, daybyday, who is to clean the bathroom and youll monitor the schedule to make sure its getting done. Perhaps youll even lead a workshop on how to properly clean the bathroom or create a checklist for every employee. The point is: you manage with responsibility, confidence, and hard work, and your employees follow suit.

Now that you know how to recognize a protective mindset employee, you know how to avoid them in the future. By creating a positive and ambitious environment for your employees, you set the tone for your store and help guaranteed your own success!

Comments (2)

Great article.

How do you spot these folks in an interview?

It's easy to see once you've had them on a floor or in training for a while but they can appear better than they are in an interview when trying to impress you.

I'm sure we can ask previous employers about this quality in the employee. Are there any questions you like asking them in the interview to get an idea on this?


Yes. Yes. YES!!

You can spot Protective Mindset people in interviews. We are doing our next series in 2nd quarter all around Interviewing and Selection. The key to effectively uncovering your amazing retail stars is letting go of the questions that drive philosophical answers. As interviewers you want to ask questions that provide you with specific past behavior. Remember: Past practice predicts future behavior. Get specific examples of when someone sold a GREAT experience.

Look for our Interviewing articles in April, May and June. You can also sign up to come to AVL to our Foundation Class where we spend a day practicing Interviewing!

Thanks Eric!

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