Workplace | Employment | Leadership
When I was hired by Trader Joe’s at 16, I wasn’t even legally able to run a register. I was told I was hired based on my personality, even if I was almost useless. By the time I left seven years later, I’d worked across six different stores. And I don’t know how they do it, but they have the best managers possible, consistently.
Trader Joe’s hierarchy is organized unlike anywhere else I’ve worked. Each store runs with one captain, and a team of eight to 12 mates. Everyone else is crew. And yes, they are thorough with the sailor-ship deck theme.
I thought that having so many middle managers would cause problems, but in fact it turns out to be good for everyone. Oversight of opening and closing shifts are distributed evenly, and tasks and assignments are rotated throughout the week, which means no one is stuck taking in the frozen truck at 4 a.m. every single morning, or closing out our computers every night until midnight. Maybe that’s why managers are able to stay so nice to us. And if you don’t feel comfortable going to one manager about a problem or personal event? No problem, you have 10 others to speak to.
At my last store, my coworker was having a rough time in his personal life and the frustration was beginning to show at work. We watched a manager take him out back, presumably for a stern talking to. In fact, the manager handed him a box of broken eggs from the spoils cart, taped a plastic pallet wrap up to the wall of our loading dock, and told him to throw eggs at the wall until he felt better. It worked.