Black Friday is a relatively new idea to the MENA region, that was launched in 2014 by’s CEO. He saw how Americans went crazy on that day and decided to try it on the Arabs. In the MENA culture the color black has negative associations, so some retailers decided to call it “White Friday” instead. They believe white denotes everything happy and positive. It surely seems white to the retailers who kick off the winter shopping season with a profitable bang. It might also look white to the customers who get exceptional discounts, but I bet you, it’s grim in the eyes of your retail frontline staff.

Lilian Wissa, CEO, Decorum

In the retail industry, employee experience (EX) has a direct impact on customer experience, thus on commercial results. It’s a well known fact that when staff are overstressed, poorly managed or not working well with each other, they won’t deliver on the brand promise which affects business results.

While customer experience has been the point of focus over the last few years, the pandemic has changed the outlook. Retailers are now investing in employee experience as brands become more and more “human-inspired” and employees are being recognized as the top strategic brand asset.

Black Friday: Putting Employee first.

During Black Friday, brands tend to overlook EX in favor of the huge amount of sales they expect to achieve, thinking that negative employee feedback is an unavoidable consequence of receiving large crowds.

However, if you play your cards right, you could potentially use this touchpoint to enhance employee engagement, build your employer brand and achieve better business results.

So what’s the key to an engaged employee; the one that every brand wants, the team member that believes in your brand and sells your business because they love working there?

1- Be empathetic to your employees’ feedback

Your employees feedback on their past experiences with the Black Friday will give you an inside scoop on their real thoughts and feelings towards how good you handle it. Put yourself in their shoes; Listen and be responsive. I personally have heard the following statements before:

“We weren’t really taught how to handle worst-case scenarios like violent outbreaks”, “There is so much pressure on everyone to have everything stocked and have the store perfect beforehand”, “The managers are stressed out, thus taking it out on the employees and giving them unrealistic expectations.”

2- Be proactive and apply Maslow’s theory to create an environment that elevates EX on a black Friday:

Maslow’s theory is known to be applied in one’s personal life, yet can also be an incredibly valuable tool in the workplace. You can use it as a rubric to elevate your employees experience on Black Friday. By working to help your front line team meet their basic needs, you are making it possible for them to be motivated toward higher goals. 

Maslow’s hierarchal model starts with basic physiological needs, proceeds to safety and belonging, and then tops off with esteem and self-actualization.

a) Physiological needs: Something as simple as providing free food and coffee, or fresh juice and yummy fruit for your frontline staff. Doing this will make them feel valued and will prevent them from being “hangry” while on duty on such a stressful day. Also make sure they have more breaks, and someone who covers for them. 

b) Safety:  Retailers are encouraged to take precautions to prevent worker injuries during the events where large crowds may gather.

The Occupational Safety and Health Act of 1970 (OSHA) created Crowd Safety Guidelines in response to the tragic incident of the worker who was trampled to death few years ago as shoppers rushed through Walmart’s doors to take advantage of a “Black Friday” sales event. This document gives you a list of things to do for “planning,” “pre-event setup,” “during the sales event,” and “emergency situations.” 

It’s important that you review and understand this fact sheet so you can ensure you’re doing everything possible to create a safe shopping environment for your employees and  customers.

c) Belonging: We all need to feel that we belong to something bigger. Brands need to create an environment where everyone knows they are part of a team. It’s up to you to foster this team spirit, create connections between the stakeholders: the frontliners, the line managers, the managers. On days like this you need to foster that team spirit. At the beginning of the shift, give them a heartfelt talk, not some scripted version handed down from corporate. As a leader, you should know what makes your team tick. Also, offer your employees beforehand exclusive discounts on the products or services they sell.

d) Esteem: To get to this level, you need to be handing out responsibilities, allow you team to step up. Give them a sense of accomplishment while offering guidance and advice rather than criticism. Train your staff properly on how to give an excellent service, handle the crowds, and deal with angry customers. Prepare them ahead for the high demands they will face. Let them know how you expect them to handle things; What is the maximum amount of customers the store will allow, what happens when someone has a complaint or wants to return an item, health & safety aspects, breaks, coupon deals, etc. 

e) Self-actualization: All of the above will help you achieve the most crucial stage in the pyramid: Self actualization. It’s where your employees have the same values as your brand, and as a result, they develop a sense of ownership and loyalty with what they have helped create. Praise hard work often and give tangible rewards.

Black Friday is a tiring and aggravating day for employees especially the frontliners. Praise to those few remarkable leaders who show empathy and help their employees push through the day with the least amount of stress possible.