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When Employees Choose Potential Exposure to COVID-19


Life is about making the right choices.

Careers are about making the right choices.

Respecting the wellbeing and safety for loved ones, teammates, and fellow humans, is about making the right choices.

When COVID-19 began to spread across the country last March, medical experts gave us three very simple safety guidelines:

  1. Wear a mask.

  2. Practice social distancing.

  3. Wash your hands and sanitize.

I don’t know about you, but my family and Strategies employees have followed these guidelines. In fact, seeing someone without a mask in Connecticut is rare. That’s why Connecticut’s positive test rate for COVID-19 is an extremely low .08%.

To me, all the controversy about being ordered to wear a mask being a violation of one’s Constitutional rights doesn’t make sense to me.

People starting fights or hurling insults because they were asked, or ordered, to wear a mask doesn’t make sense to me.

Ignoring a posted sign that says, “No mask — No entry,” intentionally and potentially exposes the employees and clients inside to the virus. And then having the nerve to get rude and nasty when asked to put on a mask or leave, is just a sad example of personal arrogance.

People having parties and gatherings with no masks or social distancing does more to help the spread of COVID-19 than stop it.

BOTTOMLINE: If wearing a mask and social distancing limits the spread of COVID-19 — wear a freak’n mask and keep your distance.

More stress for salon/spa owners

Surviving the shutdown, helping employees with unemployment, securing PPP and EDIL loans, rescheduling clients, implementing safety and sanitizing protocols, and trying to cover expenses when operating at reduced capacity is enough to stress an owner.

Now, owners are confronted with a new challengeemployees making choices that potentially expose them to COVID-19, such as:

  • Not wearing a mask outside of work.

  • Socializing with friends without masks or social distancing.

  • Bars (if any are still open).

  • Private parties.

  • Social gatherings including rallies and protests where masks and social distancing can be compromised.

  • Traveling to designated COVID-19 hotspots.

FACT: The willful exposure to potential infection and returning to work at the salon/spa — without self-quarantining for 14 days and getting tested — puts all employees and clients at risk of infection.

Simply put, an employee’s personal choice to risk infection has far reaching consequences to not only spread COVID-19 but could force the business to shut down to be fully sanitized, and potentially not reopen until all employees test negative.

THE BIG QUESTION: As an owner, what do you do when an employee chooses to be in a situation that increases his or her chances of infectionand the potential to spread that infection to fellow employees, and clients?

Even though there are no hard and fast rules to deal with such situations, as an owner and leader, it is your responsibility to make the best decisions to protect your employees, clients and business.

Here are some No-Compromise Leadership insights to help you coach employees to avoid these situations and to address them when they do occur:

  • Coach how personal choices impact work: “Culture” is best described as the collective thinking and behavior of a company. As we often say at Strategies, “Culture reflects leadership.” Given the severity of this pandemic, it is the leader’s responsibility to coach each and every employee on how their personal behaviors and choices outside of work can directly impact those they work with and clients they service. KEY: Relentlessly communicate exactly which situations employees should avoid outside of work that could expose them to potential infection. In addition to frequent reminders, consider having a document that every employee signs pledging to avoid social situations that could expose them to COVID-19. The key is to make avoiding infection a shared company behavior.

  • The employee’s responsibility: This is about each and every employee’s responsibility to inform the owner/leader if he/she is planning to travel to a known hot spot. This also means informing the owner/leader if he/she was in a situation and possibly exposed to the virus. KEY: If employee theft is grounds for termination, then what is knowingly being exposed to COVID-19, returning to work, saying nothing, and possibly spread the virus to employees and clients and putting the business at risk? It’s the employee’s responsibility to advise the company, self-quarantine for 14 days, and get tested. Anything less is grounds for termination. Again, this must and should be communicated to all employees.

  • The leader’s responsibility: This is all about the health, safety and wellbeing of employees and clients. More importantly, this is a “whatever it takes” responsibility. KEY: Through your decisions and actions, employees must see, feel and understand how serious you are about their safety and wellbeing. This means all protocols are followed without compromise. This means holding each and every employee to the same strict safety and sanitation standards. There’s no room for double standards when it comes to the health and safety of employees and clients.

  • Consequences for the wrong personal choices: You cannot build a great team-based culture without consequences. Employees should understand that there are consequences for making the wrong the personal choices. For example, if an employee plans to go visit a known COVID-19 hotspot, he/she must understand that choice means a mandatory 14-day self-quarantine (without pay) and a negative COVID-19 test result before returning to work. KEY: Your responsibility is to be clear on the company’s requirements to return to work should an employee travel to a hotspot, attend a gathering or party with no social distancing, and any other situation that will potentially expose an employee to COVID-19. This also should include what will happen if an employee returns to work and fails to disclose possible exposure.

Here’s my challenge to you: The leadership responsibilities and decision making associated with COVID-19 is stressful.

The last thing any owner/leader wants to do, especially with mandated reduced capacity, is to prevent an employee from working.

The consequence for your salon/spa is having the virus spread to other employees and/or clients. Once the virus starts to spread inside your business, everyone needs to be tested — and you need to shut down until everyone tests negative.

Ultimately, the CDC, state, and local guidelines are your best guide. No matter what, erring on the side of safety is always the best and right decision.


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