The Guide To Dealing With Difficult Salon Staff

5 min

The Guide To Dealing With Difficult Salon Staff

We’ve all had a difficult salon staff member at some point. I’m sure each of us has a story that sounds oh so familiar. Throughout my own career, I can think of many difficult situations and team members that have made things heavy going and negative.

For example, I remember the difficult staff member who took it upon herself to take her holidays over the whole month of December despite the fact I had refused, as no one is allowed that time off (for obvious reasons). Or how about the person that created a mini-revolution regarding opening hours that I had changed on the Sunday. Then there was the person who decided to provide her own nail polishes and was not pleased to hear this was unacceptable.

Do any of these ring a bell?

Effects Of Having To Deal With A Difficult Situation Or Team Member

There are so many different situations and characters we deal with on a day-to-day basis that can be classified as difficult. And these are the effects of having to deal with a difficult situation or team member:

  1. It can take up a lot of your energy (I felt drained for days on end from these tricky situations).
  2. You can learn a great deal from each situation but there can be a lot of negatives before you see the positives.  Some situations can take years to get over.
  3. It can be hard to find a solution and it is not easy to know who you should turn to.
  4. It can be time-consuming and take up much of your concentration.
  5. Difficult salon staff members can be disruptive to the other staff in your salon.  They have a tendency to become the focal point of the business.

As the manager/owner, we deal with negatives constantly. We are in the midst of it all. The irony is that in our industry, we are dealing with the wellbeing of people. However, difficult salon staff members can siphon this wellbeing and, in turn, sour the atmosphere.

What You Can Do

So the first thing you must do is label it: “challenging team member.” By labelling something in this way, you remove yourself emotionally (“difficult” is far too negative…) and you have dealt with challenges before so you can just get stuck in and not let it affect you.

So, what we’re talking about today is giving your challenge a name. Something that sums up what the main obstacle is: Challenge Christmas, Challenge Nails Crisis, Challenge Holiday Time, etc.

Key Points

Having given your Challenge a name, answer these 4 key points and write it down (And I mean write it down… On paper. It will help give you a clear focus):

  • Assess: What is the challenge?
  • Create: What should I have in place? What is the source of the issue? What can I do to create best practice? We need to remember that each situation is unique and we can learn from them. We are not always right – challengers are great at telling us this!
  • Deliver:  How can I reach an amicable solution ? How can I resolve it?
  • Maintain: How can we ensure this doesn’t happen again?

Once you have answered these questions, there is only one step left to take: communication.

Communication is KEY to diffusing difficult situations. It is vital to iron things out and create a verbal contract with ALL problems. Without communication, assumptions are made. And assumptions can be dangerous.

Remember it is an industry made by people for people, and communication is the only way to resolve and move forward. At this stage, we should call it constructive communicationAnd in order to communicate with your challenge, you must make time for meetings.

Now I know it sounds obvious and I am not reinventing the wheel here. However, you will be amazed how many of us do not make time for meetings. We excuse ourselves from meetings, as we deem ourselves too busy for them. But imagine how much energy, effort & time we can save if we organise one meeting, that is dedicated to fixing a problem.

The key element here is: communicate effectively and tackle the challenge head on.

You must make space in your diary and prioritize such meetings. For 4 weeks, I would make that challenger see me once a week. Talk, discuss, hear their point of view and make sure they hear mine.  Your angle should be “yes I understand your point of view but for the business, this is what I need”. It is advisable to take a positive approach.

Potential Problems With The Difficult Salon Staff Meeting

A salon owner challenged me on this recently and mentioned that if she had done this to her challenge she would have said “you are picking on me” and accused her of bullying… This is why you must adapt your meeting to your challenge and create a solution for each of them.

For example, the opening hours challenge was very tricky as I was told the whole team is complaining. When I investigated, out of 50 staff members, 5 complained. Out of the 5, only 1 had a real issue about it. Only 1 difficult salon staff member! And this person was winding everyone up… (That’s how effective one negative person can be in your space).

In the opening hours example, I saw each of the complainees for over 4 weeks which allowed for the true challenger not to feel bullied. And together, we resolved the issue.

The question is: How often are you holding individual meetings as well as team meetings? You will find that the more regular you are, the more you will be able to iron things out quicker.

What Are The Consequences?

After the month has passed with your weekly meetings and things have improved, you may choose to let it go. Has he/she understood what you are doing? Has the atmosphere improved? Are they meeting your required standards?

If this is not the case then you can put her/him on Performance Management.

These will be official meetings where you will take notes and make her/him sign them. You decide how long you want to give her/him time for improvement. A good estimation is up to 3 months (to really give her/him the chance to improve). You will ensure communication is still positive and encouraging. Set the tone of support. There are 3 ways this can go:

  1. She/he will either carry on with their behaviour.
  2. She/he will understand and you will reach an amicable solution.
  3. She/he will resign.

Performance Management has a tendency to set the tone and they rarely want to go to the next step.

Now, it doesn’t mean that they will hear you, listen to you or even respect you.  Sometimes the response will be defensive. However, by just installing that communication process, you are taking control at the same time as giving the challenger the attention they are craving.

If they do not improve their behavior, you are then going on a disciplinary procedure.

Disciplinary Procedures For Difficult Salon Staff

difficult salon staff

There are great websites like the Government website, ACAS, NHF, or you can go to your solicitor.

Going through a legal procedure will affect the relationship and there will be consequences. However, this can also be beneficial for all in the end.

Don’t Forget To Reassess

Don’t keep brushing things under the carpet. It’s time to be in control and happy with your decisions. You want this challenger to feel that nothing gets to you, you are approachable in the way you manage situations. But in the end, everything comes down to the business needs.

On one last note: It isn’t all about dealing with difficult salon staff. Praising go behavior our goes a very long way. Regardless of your differences, you must acknowledge when someone does better.

“Sometimes those who challenge you the most, teach you the most.”

Thanks for reading! #LetsGrow

Valerie Delforge is a Commercial Trainer and Coach for the Spa, Beauty and Hair industry. Valerie specialises in creating specific workshops to support managers. Founder of Delforge + Co, she is keen to support the industry in achieving its best. For a list of procedures and coaching, visit Delforge + Co. or contact Also, Delforge + Co is proud to announce the modules available in The London School of Beauty & Make-Up, which you can sign up for here!


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