Trader Joe’s and Their Leader/Follower Dynamic, Why Are Their Employees Always So Happy?

This summer I am working at a company that many know, Trader Joe’s as a Crew Member which is to say I am part of the labor force that stocks the store, cleans, and is also a part of customer experience, whether that is managing a register or answering customers questions about a certain product of where it is. The Leader/Follower Relationship dynamic at Trader Joe’s during the COVID 19 Pandemic is an interesting one, as those in a higher position who are referred to as Mates, are continually changing policies, as they receive new information from corporate. The way that the work environment is structured is different based on what you are doing for the company that particular day. When you punch in for your hours, you are able to look to a schedule that details how your tasks for the day hour by hour. For the hours that you are assigned to Product, you are expected to report to whoever the Product Leader is for that hour and they will assign you to a different area of the store to work that area and make sure that it is stocked properly. The Crew Members are the largest group of employees at the site, however they all have different levels of experience and responsibility. There are certain Crew Members that I know that have been there for three years or more and the Mates rely on them to take charge in situations, guide, and teach younger employees such as myself. The store is also split into various sections such as Snacks, Grocery, Frozen, Meat, and so on. There are certain Crew Members who are section leaders and do the ordering for that specific section. One way that Trader Joe’s manages to maintain its low prices is that each store orders daily, for whatever they need that day. There does not tend to be a large backstock of any particular item because the sizes of most Trader Joe’s do not allow for such a thing. Therefore while the Crew Members do make a large part of the store, there are various levels of responsibilities that each Crew Member can hold. Mates who are a level higher, are the ones who wear Hawaiian shirts and are responsible for delegating tasks and managing issues that the store may have. Whether a customer has a difficult time, or a Crew Member is concerned about their safety during this difficult time, Mates are supposed to offer a sense of comfort and leadership as they help us get tasks done in the most efficient manner possible. If a Crew Member is promoted to a Mate position, they must transfer to a different store in order to avoid favoritism. This is mostly because Trader Joe’s promotes the idea that the company and its employees should be extensions of your family. While I have not been there long enough to create those strong bonds, I can certainly say that these bonds and a sense of pride in my work is being formed. I have made work friends, and my most enjoyed days are when I can see fellow employees and catch up with them. There is a real sense of trust in those Crew Members who I have built relationships with, so much so that they take it upon themselves to teach me tricks in how to stock things, or helpful tips that they have learned along the way. I truly feel supported by my work environment, and that has made the COVID pandemic a bit easier to deal with, as an essential worker. It is quite clear that the Mates, and our Captain (the boss of the store) Leslie, wish to do whatever they are able to, to make sure that we all feel safe and supported during this difficult time. Another thing that has been helpful to improve the mood of workers during COVID is that we all receive an increase in the discount that we get when shopping at Trader Joe’s, as well as a bonus of sorts to say thank you for our work. This is being continued to the end of the year 2020, and shows that the company does care enough to extend some benefits to employees. There is also flexibility in insurance policies and hours of leave, but I have not worked there long enough to access those benefits as of yet. The central boss Captain Leslie, is a woman who is kind, patient, and has made me feel valued as an employee though I am but one of so many. This is the key to the common sentiment that many customers have when shopping at Trader Joe’s, in saying that the employees always seem so happy. It is because the job creates a sense of community, that treats every failure of sorts as a learning experience. In previous jobs I was always scared to fail for fear of repercussions and scoldings from managers, but in this job the lack of fear to fail, allows me to feel as though I can take more responsibility and try things that allow me to grow. I feel supported by those I work for, and that is something that is central to making a company successful, having employees who actually enjoy where they work.