You won’t see it on her résumé — that’s already chock full of prestigious jobs and internships with newspapers, advocacy groups, and politicians.
But if Hayley Benham-Archdeacon is being completely honest with herself, some of her most impactful career moments came during her seven-year stint at specialty grocery store Trader Joe’s.
As part of its Working It Out series, performance management software company Lattice asked real people to share stories about the moments that changed their career.
In her post “I’ve worked in politics, in news, in offices. Give me Trader Joe’s any day,” Benham-Archdeacon, who is now a policy advocate at a non-profit in San Francisco, writes that, out of the 12 jobs she worked during this period, Trader Joe’s had the best working environment thanks to its store managers.
“Almost every manager I ever had somehow made me feel like I could tell them anything, personal or otherwise — even though I didn’t have a lot in common with them, since they were mostly men, mostly white and mostly older. They did a lot of listening up front and opened up almost every conversation with asking what I think and then responding to what I said. I always felt trusted.”
Benham-Archdeacon isn’t the only person to feel this way about the grocer. Trader Joe’s was named one of the best places to work this year by employees on Glassdoor.
Here are a few key takeaways from Benham-Archdeacon about why Trader Joe’s managers make it such a great place to work:
More middle managers means better distribution of work
Benham-Archdeacon writes that Trader Joe’s hierarchy is organised unlike anywhere else she’s ever worked worked: each store has one “captain,” or store manager; a team of eight to 12 “mates,” or middle managers; and everyone else is “crew.”
“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.”
Managers at Trader Joe’s encourage people to take ownership of their work
Benham-Archdeacon writes that crew members are trusted to make decisions for and take the lead on various tasks.
“If you were assigned to write the order for wine, then all the decisions about your section were made by you: how you wanted to re-organise the shelves, what you wanted for a display, the creative signage you needed, or even if you felt like you needed new shelves entirely because yours seem to empty out too quickly Saturday evenings, or have one too many Charles Shaw stains,” she explains.
She says that crew members are encouraged to take ownership of their success and mistakes, but managers are always on hand to offer guidance or help when necessary.
“Mates maintained an attitude of ‘there’s 1,000 right ways to do something’ which made employees feel safe about making suggestions or changing up methods,” she writes.
They’re flexible and understanding of people’s needs
Benham-Archdeacon writes that, during her second year in college when she felt completely overwhelmed, she was allowed to call in “studying.”
“I found myself hyperventilating 18 hours before my first day of exams, having not yet found the time to finish final papers, work, shower, eat, sleep and study for the upcoming week,” she writes. She continues:
“Stressed and embarrassed, I went into my store and explained my situation. It didn’t take much convincing. ‘Yeah, that’s tough,’ the mate said, and pulled up our schedule. ‘All right, you want just tomorrow off, or the next day too?’ When I apologised for not planning my own life better and leaving the team short-staffed, he simply said, ‘We’ll figure it out. Get an A, OK?'” and dismissed me with a high-five. Sometimes I still can’t believe that really happened.”
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