Management / Staff

Preventing Bullying in Your Salon or Spa Business

4 min

Preventing Bullying in Your Salon or Spa Business

It’s an unfortunate reality that bullying and harassment issues can arise in any workplace. The close-knit nature of the salon industry means that the impact can be felt even more acutely.

Creating a safe and supportive space is not just about enhancing the work experience for our teams; it’s also about ensuring that our clients step into a welcoming and positive atmosphere. In this post, we will cover: 

  • What bullying and harassment actually are 
  • Some practical steps to address and prevent these behaviors 
  • How to take a proactive approach to fostering a culture of respect and inclusivity.

Bullying and Harassment in the Workplace

Bullying and harassment in the workplace can show up in many forms, from overt acts like verbal abuse and physical intimidation to more subtle behaviors such as exclusion or undermining someone’s work. In the context of working in a salon, this might, for example, include:

  • Demeaning comments about someone’s technique
  • Spreading rumors 
  • Excluding colleagues from projects or clients. 

It’s crucial to understand that both bullying and harassment create an unsafe and uncomfortable work environment and affect not only the individuals involved but also the overall team morale, their productivity and, as a result, your business.

So… what is the difference?

The terms “bullying” and “harassment” are often used interchangeably, but they have quite distinct definitions, especially in the context of workplace behavior and legal standards.

Bullying is defined as unwanted, aggressive behavior that involves a real or perceived power imbalance. The behavior is often repeated or has the potential to be repeated over time. Bullying can include actions such as making threats, spreading rumors, attacking someone physically or verbally, and excluding someone from a group on purpose. It’s characterized by three main features: it is harmful, it is repeated over time, and it involves an imbalance of power.

Harassment, on the other hand, is unwanted conduct related to a protected characteristic (such as age, sex, religion, race, disability, sexual orientation, etc.) that violates a person’s dignity or creates an intimidating, hostile, degrading, humiliating, or offensive environment for that individual. In many jurisdictions, harassment is specifically defined and prohibited under anti-discrimination laws. This means that while all harassment can be considered a form of bullying, not all bullying is legally recognized as harassment.

How do you avoid it… and what to do when it happens

Establish Clear Policies

One of the first steps in combating bullying and harassment is having clear, written policies in place. These should outline what constitutes unacceptable behavior and the consequences of those actions. By setting these standards, you’re providing a framework that supports a respectful and inclusive workplace culture. Encourage your team to familiarize themselves with these policies and understand that they’re in place to protect everyone’s right to a safe and positive environment.

When creating a policy for your workplace, consider the following elements:

  • Respectful Conduct: Treat all colleagues and clients with kindness, respect, and professionalism at all times.
  • Reporting Procedure: Report any incidents of bullying, harassment, or discrimination to management immediately. Your concerns will be taken seriously and handled confidentially.
  • Confidentiality Assured: Any reports of bullying, harassment, or discrimination will be kept confidential and there will be no retaliation for speaking up. Your safety and well-being are our priority.
  • Consequences for Misconduct: Bullying, harassment, or discrimination will not be tolerated. Those found in violation will face disciplinary action, up to and including termination.
  • Training and Support: Regular training will be provided to ensure everyone understands our policies and knows how to create a welcoming and inclusive environment for all.

Be Open With Your Team

One of the best things you can do to avoid instances of bullying or harassment is to create an environment where your team feels comfortable coming forward with their concerns. You can achieve this by creating multiple channels for reporting issues, ensuring confidentiality, and making it clear that retaliation against anyone who speaks out is not going to be tolerated. Regular check-ins with your staff can also help you gauge the team’s dynamic and address any issues before they escalate. Make sure to work on building trust within your team and encourage open conversation. 

On how to achieve this, Diversity, Equity, and Inclusion speaker, strategist, and organizational consultant Lily Zheng explains; “To build buy-in for any new reporting processes or tools, company leaders must build trust through their words and actions from the start. You can do this by not only making a public commitment to doing better but by establishing and publicizing metrics to hold yourselves and the company accountable.” 

You can read more on this here.

Be Proactive About Creating a Safe Workplace

Having a strong, supportive, and positive culture in your salon will go a long way. But make sure you reinforce this by also providing your team with training on recognizing and preventing bullying and harassment. This could include workshops on how to communicate effectively, deal with conflict, or support colleagues who may be experiencing harassment.

“While bully characteristics matter, bullying is a behavior of opportunity enabled by organizational environments that allow it to occur and continue. Organizations can’t eliminate egotism from human nature, but it is possible to create systems in which egotistical behavior is discouraged rather than reinforced.” –Ludmila N. Praslova in the Harvard Business Review

We all know that the salon floor can turn into a pressure cooker in a matter of minutes. It is important that you, as the leader, are the person who trains and reinforces your team in, for example, non-violent communication not only by example but also by calling it out straight away if it happens. These small, in-the-moment things are what build that systematical safety. Bullying or harassment can always happen, but the first line of defense should always be prevention.

Act Promptly and Fairly

When an issue of bullying or harassment is reported to you, it is so important to act quickly. At this point, you will need to conduct an investigation, listen to all parties involved, and take appropriate action based on your findings. Acting quickly and consistently demonstrates your commitment to a zero-tolerance policy for such behavior. Depending on the severity of the issue, this can be quite a complicated process, which is why it’s always good to get some support or advice from an HR professional if possible.

Dealing with bullying and harassment requires a proactive and comprehensive approach. Prevention always sounds like so much more work, but if you invest the time, you will reap the reward of a safe, positive, and thriving work environment and avoid the material and human cost that bullying and harassment inevitably bring with them.

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