Black Friday is a phrase describing the hyper-shopping blitz that occurs on the day after Thanksgiving. It is synonymous with low prices,limited quantity specials, long lines, crowded malls, and violence. Each year it seems as though retailers have moved the Black Friday phenomenon earlier into the traditions of Thanksgiving Day.
Where did the idea of Black Friday get started? According to Mashable.com, the Philadelphia police department coined the phrase in the 1950’s to describe the crush of pedestrian and vehicle traffic flooding the city during the Friday after Thanksgiving. This negative connotation was the result of their own need to work extra hours on Friday and Saturday.
Later, retailers found a way to give this initially negative description to the day a more positive spin as they pulled shoppers into their stores to kick off the Christmas shopping experience.
I’m not a fan of Black Friday as a marketing ploy or a practical way to approach the holiday season. I dislike crowds, find the limited quantity specials to be misleading, and generally prefer to spend time with family on the Thanksgiving holiday weekend. If that makes me a Grinch, so be it.
As I reflected on the mayhem surrounding this year’s Black Friday, that once again made the news, I couldn’t help but draw a few parallels to some of the worst leadership behaviors I have observed and read about over the years.
- A focus on the wrong priorities. Black Friday encourages the worst type of consumption – shoppers trying to save money while racking up personal debt. Too often business leaders push employees to work under stressful conditions so the company can carve some extra market share or a bigger profit for shareholders.
- A lack of basic manners and respect. Every year there are Black Friday shopping events that turn violent or deadly. They include injuries from stampedes through blocked store entrances and even shooting deaths when arguments get out of hand. While managers and leaders are hopefully not being violent toward employees, they too often lack empathy, berate in public, and otherwise show disrespect for those they supervise.
- A short-term vision. Black Friday special offers are designed to expire after a limited time so shoppers must act quickly or miss out. Even online retailers limit their selections and deals. Leaders who surrender to the inviting temptation of short-term wins, risk the future of their organizations and those who work there.
There might also be some positive leadership lessons to learn from Black Friday experiences.
They could include the benefits of starting early, having a plan, encouraging teamwork, and standing up for yourself when required. I tend to think these positives are often lost in the chaos.
Whatever your thoughts and experiences with Black Friday as a shopping juggernaut, try not to allow the worst this event tends to bring out in people to infect your leadership approach.
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