One thing that used to drive me crazy in retail was when we had just finished with a huge rush of customers, finally got a moment to breathe, and at that exact moment my father would walk out, see us standing around and yell at us to get busy since we were obviously loafing.
Had he walked out two minutes earlier, he would have seen poetry in motion as the staff expertly handled all the customers, the giftwrapping, the phone calls, and the interruptions with grace and ease. But no, he caught us two minutes later taking a deep breath.
I made a pledge that when I was boss I would never make snap judgments on the snapshot in time.
One brush stroke does not make a masterpiece painting. One snapshot does not make a complete album.
Let's play a little math game (feel free to skip the next paragraph if you're not up to math today).
Yesterday we had a decent day serving 256 customers. I had 97 employee hours scheduled which breaks down to 2.6 customers per hour per employee. The average actual interaction with a customer is around ten minutes of their time in the store, or 26 minutes out of each hour. That means each employee had more non-interactive time than interactive time. The likelihood of me walking out of my office and catching them not engaged with a customer was greater than catching them engaged.
(Okay, math over)
The key for me is to walk out enough to catch them when they are engaged and observe how they handle that engagement.
There are ebbs and flows of customers in any retail business. If all you ever do is catch your employees goofing off, before you yell at them, realize that the real problem might be that you aren't leaving your office enough.
PS I reminded one of my new hires today that we are not just creating sales today, we are creating sales a generation from now when the kids in the store today have kids of their own. Kinda changes the engagement when think like that, don't you think?
PPS Remember also that there is a fine line between goofing off and having fun. Since Having Fun is part of our Character Diamond, it is almost impossible for me to catch them goofing off. Such is life in a toy store:-)