For the past four years, I have been working in the retail sector. Management outside of the actual store tends to shift back and fourth, and as a result, I have met quite a few "area managers".

Sometimes, they will come in and ask one of the workers a series of questions, in order to test understanding and procedure. If I am in, this is almost always me. I sometimes find myself tripped up, because the scenario built by these questions leads to inconsistencies that are only revealed when management starts to criticise my response.

To give a more specific example to highlight this problem, I was questioned on signing customers up to a customer loyalty program. The rough transcript as follows:

AM: OK, so you have asked the customer for their email, what do you say, next?
Me: Now I have their email, I ask them if they want to sign up to (x) for (y).

I have zero concern in relation to the specific case, for unimportant reason, but I would like to know how I could better respond to such questions, in the future. I am worried that explaining the core problem to said manager may come off as condescending and/or "attempting to pass the buck".

I am also concerned with how this looks, to other colleagues. I am often above par on whatever the topic of the day is; others who run under par often interpret this as a red light on them, and I have been asked several times if other employees were in trouble.

How should one best respond to questioning by management, when their issues derive from inconsistency in what they actually asked?

Further Clarification

Are you sure you are interpreting the questions correctly?

I would be more inclined to say possibly, if it was not an issue of inconsistency in very specific wording. I also often have several workers within earshot, including my actual manager, who confirm the questions as I interpret them. Management offers a distraction whenever these cases arise, so the area manager does not dwell on it for too long, but can not offer further advice. Going to management is not an option.

This sounds like a job for HR

As many users understand, HR is not your friend. I would also need more than my word, if it came down to it. Any witness I have is more overly concerned with the issues of going to HR, and the area manager could easily just say "I never said that". Furthermore, I feel this is an issue I need to learn to deal with professionally, myself.

If they only target you, that in itself sounds like the issue

In my case, I am also often the only approachable employee in store, from an area managers point of view. I am not only the senior member, but other than actual management, I am often the only one that has been there longer than a few months. It is a good job, if your good at it. I feel that approaching me instead of any other worker is the right decision.

This is not an issue of failed attempts to educate me, personally. I am never below par on anything that is not a statewide issue (I.e. everyone else is also below par, they publish all of these results for us to compare). In the example, above, I am above par and double the area managers median. This is not an issue of understanding, on my part.

Could the problem come down to hearing difficulty?

Most defiantly not. This occurs in a retail store, so general noise is maintained to a volume compatible with constant verbal communication. The AM is generally within close proximity, and others that are farther away confirm my problem.

Could you be more clear in your response?

I am of the opinion that I am very clear in my response. I could be clearer after the fact, as it is only then that the actual problem presents itself. I am still unsure of how to do so in a way that will be received well. Regardless, I do not believe this is the core issue. Again, the other employees do not appear to interpret the dialogue any differently to me. If this was the case, my manager would be able to provide better advice.

This is odd behaviour of an AM

For reasons I do not care to go into, this is not necessarily a "properly screened AM". I can only speculate, but I believe stress may play a part, on their side. The one instance where I cross checked my goals with their's, they were severely underpar. Regardless, in context, this is a moot point; I am not concerned with why someone would behave this way, I am more concerned with how I should conduct myself, in response. I can see how these actions might still peak curiosity concerning the AM.

  • In the example you gave, the AM is either not hearing you or not listening to you. Can the possibility that you are not being clear enough and not loud enough be excluded? Commented Jan 14, 2017 at 9:39
  • @VietnhiPhuvan, updated your questions into my question.
    – Gnemlock
    Commented Jan 14, 2017 at 10:35

1 Answer 1


It seems that your AM is asking questions, and not waiting for a response before they launch a tirade. The AM is interested in launching their tirade, they are not interested in your response unless your response validates their tirade.

Not much you or anyone at your level can do about this homing pigeon who flies high over your head and drops crap on you hair, except wash it and get on with the rest of the day.

I've had unfair bosses, crappy bosses. They will stick to being unfair and crappy because that's what they know and maybe that's what they like. Nothing you can do about it. You can't do anything about the rain except to look for a dry spot.

Try this:

AM: OK, so you have asked the customer for their email, what do you say, next?

Me: Well, based on the 20 customers I signed this month, I ask them once I get their email if they want to sign up to (x) for (y).


Me: WHAT do you mean, I haven't asked them for their email? You told me just now that I already got their email ! Or if you want to be more polite: "I'd like to remind you that you just told me that I already've got their email, sir!"

In this conversation, you told them two things:

  1. You've done it before, so it's not as if you don't know the procedure.

  2. You're pointing out to the AM the inconsistency of their questioning. If they want to ask you anything, they have to dot their i's and cross their t's.

You might as well apply for a position as AM in the near future. Otherwise, you'll keep getting visits from these clowns.

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