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How to Deal with Problem Salon/Spa Employees

No one becomes an owner for the thrill and excitement of dealing with problem employees. In fact, dealing with problem employees is probably the most disliked of all ownership responsibilities. It’s stressful, exhausting and, next to financial stress, a major contributor to owner burnout.

FACT: There’s no secret training camp that prepares problem employees to infiltrate your business, wreck your culture and stress you out.

There are three primary reasons that problem employees find their way into your business:

  1. Bad fit: A potential employee may appear to be a good fit through the interviewing process but lack the necessary thinking and behavior to fit into your culture. Examples: Attendance, teamwork, following rules, attitude, mutual respect, etc..

  2. Evolved over time: A good employee can become a problem employee due to the work environment. This includes lack of or indifferent leadership, broken trust/promises, lack of opportunity, lack of appreciation, etc..

  3. Personal issues: Life challenges, personal relationships, drugs/alcohol, and other factors that have nothing to do with work can turn a good employee into a problem employee.

If you own an employee-based salon or spa, you will have to deal with problem employees. To what extent really depends on you and your approach to leadership.

Here are six No-Compromise Leadership strategies to effectively deal with problem employees — and to minimize their occurrence:

  1. Recognize a bad fit: It shouldn’t take long to recognize that the square peg you hired will never fit the round hole position you hoped to fill. Look for behaviors that don’t fit your culture. How does the employee interact and communicate with existing employees? Does the employee willingly engage or avoid work? What about absenteeism and tardiness? KEY: When the wrong behaviors are identified in the first days and weeks of employment, and repeated coaching doesn’t help, it’s a bad fit and time to terminate. It’s also important to listen when existing employees are voicing their concerns about the new hire. The longer you keep the bad fit on payroll, the more damage to your culture.

  2. Fix it while it’s small: Behavior and performance issues rarely, if ever, fix themselves. Owner procrastination to address employee issues quickly is the number one cause for problem employees and culture contamination. Key: If you see the problem, employees see it too. The longer you allow behavior and performance issues to continue, the more you are enabling what you don’t want in your company. Fix problems before they get locked in and spread to other employees.

  3. Establish absolute clarity: The goal here is to prevent a good employee from becoming a problem. When behavior and performance issues are first identified, the coaching process must begin. Many owners confuse coaching an employee through behavior and performance issues as confrontational and avoid being specific about the problem. KEY: There is no room for vagueness or candy coating when coaching an employee. Be respectful and keep your coaching hat on — not the disciplinarian hat. Discuss exactly what the issue(s) are and ask the employee if he or she understands what needs to be worked on.

  4. Timelines and check-ins: Coaching an employee through behavior and/or performance problems is seldom, if ever, a one-time conversation. Key: Once the employee has absolute clarity on what needs to change or improve, you must set timelines (by when) and dates/times to check in on progress. Without a timeline or scheduled check-ins, there is no sense of urgency for the employee to improve.

  5. Culture and behaviors over sales: Too many owners get stuck on “how much” a service provider brings in, rather than the all-important culture and expected behaviors. So much so, a problem employee is tolerated as long as he or she continues to generate revenue. KEY: The longer a problem employee is ignored for the sake of sales, the more damage is done to the culture. Other employees get frustrated and resentful. As a coaching company, we hear owners’ constant complaints about problem employees that they refuse to address. It’s only when that problem employee quits or is fired that the owners realized that firing should have happened long ago. A culture cannot heal while the cancer is still present.

  6. Listen to that little voice in your head: The smartest voice you’ll ever hear comes from that little voice in your head. When it keeps telling you that there’s a problem employee that needs to be addressed, listen and engage. KEY: Leadership has its rewards as well as consequences for avoiding the tougher work of leadership. The more you pay attention to what that little voice in your head is saying, the less tough stuff you’ll have to deal with.

Here’s my challenge to you: The six strategies just listed may not be rocket science, but implementing them takes work.

Your reward for implementing them is a culture that empowers employees rather than frustrate them.

It means finding your own positivity in your role as leader by dealing with far fewer problem employees.


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