Just the Cashier Lady in a Dirty Shoe Store

A question to Ask the Workplace Doctors about work in a dirty shoe store:

I work at a shoe store where I am the youngest and the only female employee. I don’t want to stereotype but the men that head the store are just lazy, messy, and inconsiderate. The store’s manager has been the store manager since before I was born, and from what I gather nothing has changed or been simply cleaned forever. Behind the cash register is so dusty and dirty that I can’t help but sneeze every time I work. The break room seems to be infested with flies because no one cleans up after themselves. I never stay in the break room because I feel very uncomfortable there. The table and chairs are covered in old sauces and noodle juice. It smells horrible. 

Since I mostly work behind the register, I decided to take it upon myself to take a day when business was slow to deep clean it. There was so much dust in the cubbies built into the register that I had to sweep it out. I asked my manager for the full-sized broom on Friday. I didn’t get it until Sunday because he says he couldn’t find it. In the back of one of the display cabinets, I found what seemed to be molded nail polish. I didn’t know that could even happen. While I was cleaning one of the managers came to me and said, “You don’t have to go so heavy on the cleaning, just clean what people can see.” 

My response was about what I have to see. He just walked away. The men there often refer to me as the cashier lady or they say, You are just the cashier lady. You don’t do anything anyway.” They got new headsets for everyone but me. I need one because there are problems at the register all the time. I’ve resolved all this by just getting another job and working at the shoe store one day a week so I can keep my discount. My question is, how can I be respectful and serious when voicing my opinions to my managers. The mess of the shoe store and how I am treated make me very upset. Signed–Just the Cashier Lady

 Dear Just the Cashier Lady:

 You are an unappreciated blessing to this shoe store and should get double a discount. Your question is one that circles about in many employees’ heads that work in  frustrating relationships with bosses and/or coworkers and some of them work in unpleasant environments. None we have received questions from have been as dirty as yours.

You have tried to demonstrate what you could do at the register, and you have found another job. What are the options other than biting your tongue or voting with your feet, and giving up on a shoe discount?

I’ll suggest several:

  • Show your righteous indignation about the dirt and messiness of the place. Apparently you haven’t expressed your disgust for the messy unsanitary condition of the place. A firmly voiced oooha probably would not disturb those managers, but it might shake up their taken for granted messiness.
  • Ask for an evaluation by management. Listen to their advice. Tell them that you want to be able some day to return and for them to be proud to say that they helped give you a start.
  • List the repulsive sites you’ve encountered. Print it in  LARGE BOLD FONT. Messages in print last longer. They can be posted. 
  • Compose a firm letter to the managers. In the letter mention whatever you have seen that any of them have done while selling shoes. A little recognition is needed in most workplaces. Praise for polite please and thank yous is worthy of mention. And then frankly say how much you would like to brag about working there. Ask if they help you be able to do that.                                                   
  • Take an indirect approach such as talking up brightening up the place. Suggest a time out staff meeting to talk about what they could do to make people want to come in and not rush out. Green plants a workday painting. Invite a school art class to decorate the walls with artwork. Possibly some local musician would welcome an invitation to play on weekends if they were awarded discounts.               Suggest a contest between managers led teams to compete in brightening the place. 

Do any of these options strike you as worth trying. Of course you can work on as you have and be glad when you can even say goodbye to this job forever. But I sense you are one content with what is wrong. Is it possible that you might see what you might do to leave this job in better shape than when you were first hired.  Might you see this shoe store as your personal experiment to apply some of the lessons you learned in your psychology, business and communication courses? Let me know. Working together with hands, head and heart takes and makes big WEGOS.  –William Gorden