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When the Air Gets Thick — Let Employees Vent

September 28, 2019 | By Eric Ducoff | 1 Comment

Without a doubt, salon and spa businesses can become pressure cookers for drama, rumors and stress.

It doesn’t take much to thicken the air with emotional funk.

  • The departure of a vocal employee, voluntarily or otherwise, can stir the pot.
  • A new employee can disrupt the culture.
  • Changes to procedures, systems or pretty much anything can set things off.
  • Bad communication, budget restraints, promises made with good intentions but never fulfilled can fester and eventually contaminate the culture.

When the drama and stress go on too long, everyone pays the price. Employees are miserable, owners get stressed and client experiences suffer.

The BAD news is that too many owners allow the funk to fester, fearing the fix could make matters worse and one or more employees could leave.

The GOOD news is that employee frustrations can be solved relatively easy if approached properly.

Here are my No-Compromise Leadership strategies to bring fresh air in by allowing employees an opportunity to vent:

  • No one likes working in the funk: There’s nothing fun about coming to work in a toxic environment. It wears people down. It feeds employee turnover. It makes teamwork nearly impossible. Productivity suffers. It’s not good for client retention. Got it? KEY: Protecting the culture is a key leadership responsibility. The funk will not go away on its own and will only get worse if not addressed. Put on your leadership hat and get to the source of the funk. Your company is waiting for you to engage.
  • Addressing a single funk source: It happens in every salon/spa where the source of the funk is coming from one employee. Because human behavior is so complex, there can be many factors causing an employee’s disgruntled behavior. Key: If you know who the employee is that’s the source of the funk, it’s time for a “something is troubling you” private conversation. The purpose of this conversation is to understand what’s causing the employee’s behavior — not to reprimand. Explain that you are concerned with his/her behavior and would like to find a solution as it can’t continue. Keep the conversation safe and listen intently. Ask questions if anything said is unclear. To wrap up the conversation, repeat back the issues discussed and next steps. Follow-up conversations are likely until the issues are resolved. If no resolution can be found, it’s time to terminate employment.
  • Addressing a group funk: When the funk and disgruntlement spreads to most or all of your team, it’s a sign that you already waited too long to engage. It can also result from changes implemented without a sufficient level of clarity and understanding. Either way, the funk is spreading and disrupting your company’s ability to perform – especially when it comes to customer service. KEY: It’s time for a “let’s get all our frustrations on the table” all-staff meeting with your employees. These sessions can be tough, but it shows your employees you care and want to eliminate the frustrations. Open the meeting by stating your intent to address employee issues. Explain that this is an open and safe meeting, that everyone has a voice and that you want to hear their concerns. You can only fix what you understand.
  • Define the one or two BIG issues: The one danger of holding a group meeting is allowing it to get out of hand or go off in too many directions. In most cases, there are one or two big issues causing the funk. Chances are, you already know what the issues are. KEY: If you do know the one or two big issues, put them on the table for discussion. Discuss only one issue at a time. It’s your responsibility to manage the direction and focus of the meeting. Let your employees speak — and listen. Acknowledge their concerns. Take responsibility for issues you may have created.
  • Leaders establish common ground: Talking through issues is the fastest way to remove barriers and allow fresh air back into your company. Getting defensive and playing the blame game builds higher barriers. KEY: Although you understand your employees’ concerns, you may not be able to fully address them during the meeting. You may need to seek additional advice from your business coach or advisor. The last thing you want to do is offer up a solution that you cannot fulfill or afford. Common ground means that everyone understands and wants to find solutions.
  • Presenting the solution(s): Addressing your employees’ funk-causing issues doesn’t mean you can make everyone happy. It may be something out of your control like reporting ALL tip income and withholding taxes. And there will always be an employee or two that are hardcore naysayers and change resisters. KEY: Decide on and present the best solution(s) your company can realistically and affordably deliver. Maintain that common ground by openly offering up the “why, what and how” of the solution. As always, clarity is essential. Answer questions and keep listening.
  • Leadership and tough stuff: So, what happens if a few naysayers and change resisters continue to spread their funk? KEY: You did your best to listen and respond to your employee’s issues. Except for a few, the majority of your team is willing and anxious to move forward. It’s time to meet one-on-one and ask the holdouts if they can get onboard. If they can, great. If they can’t, it’s time for them to take their funk and leave. You simply cannot compromise the wellbeing of your culture and company for a few individuals. Once they’re gone, fresh air will fill your company.

Here’s my challenge to you: As the leader, the more you communicate and maintain clarity on where your company is going, the less funk you have to deal with.

Even then, cultural funk has a way of slowly taking hold until it finally grabs your attention. Once it does, deal with it because it never goes away on its own.

The bigger the change, the bigger the level of communication, coaching and clarity required.

Should a few naysayers and change resisters dig their heals in, it’s time to go into full leadership mode to get them onboard or weed them out.

No matter what, employees want to be heard and leaders need to listen. Venting relieves pressure and the funk that comes with it.

Categories: Leadership

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