Managing Salon Staff Room Wars: Who Ate My Sandwich?

5 min

Managing Salon Staff Room Wars: Who Ate My Sandwich?

As grown-ups – and some of us mature people – you would think that salon staff room wars wouldn’t be a problem. That everyone would be responsible and somehow well, adults about their environments! Yet, as if you didn’t have anything else to deal with, I present you the latest one in the list of managers’ headaches: “Who ate my sandwich?”

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The underlying effects of salon taff room wars

Not too long ago, I got a call from one of my clients. The situation she was coming to me with, she didn’t know whether to laugh or cry about it: “Valerie, I have a staff room war going on. It’s getting out of control, and I don’t know what to do. I have a team member who comes in with a packed lunch, and by the time she goes on break, it’s been eaten. It has been happening literally every day for almost a month now. She has her name on the box and even hides it underneath others in the fridge. Regardless, it has vanished by the time she gets her break. I suggested that she took it in her room so that no one could steal it… I’ve even given her money so she could go buy a new lunch, but understandably, she is getting rather upset about the whole situation.”

I could understand why this team member felt annoyed. After almost a month of upsettingly no lunch, we were to deal with this quickly; it called for an investigation… the situation was escalating to war.

A classic case of ‘whodunnit’

For the sake of the story, let’s call this team member Melissa.

Melissa, well, let’s just say that she was quite vocal about it. She refused to cooperate because as far as she was concerned, she had the right for her sandwich to belong in the fridge. However, after seeing that the manager wasn’t dealing with the situation in a way she thought was efficient – and to be fair, a month is a long time – she took it upon herself to start hiding other team members’ belongings.

“You won’t do anything about it? I will…”

It was like a treasure hunt. From shoes to coats, anything would go! Nothing was ever stolen, but everything was misplaced or moved! That didn’t stop the culprit, who was either taking the piss or wanted to keep irritating Melissa. The sandwiches were still disappearing.

Team dynamic & leadership issues

At this stage, part of me is thinking, “Come on! Seriously!?” On the flip side, the team’s dynamic was fascinating. There was obviously an issue with leadership in the business. I could see that the managers were overwhelmed and not being proactive. Was it because they didn’t know how to deal with the situation? Or maybe was their impact on the team too weak?

For more time tips on company culture and navigating conflict, listen to Phorest FM Episode 65 with Aoife Kelly-Cooney & Elaine Heyes:

Emergency team meeting

I told my client: “Ok, let’s create a staff room procedure, have a team meeting and get everyone to sign it. Be firm and tell the team there will be consequences. Make sure those consequences happen quickly though – today if the situation still carries on.”

The emergency team meeting was held, and my client called me saying: “Everyone complained about their belongings being hidden and they all moaned about assuming the consequences when they hadn’t eaten the sandwich. Melissa shouted that one of them was to blame and that she would carry on until her sandwich was left alone.”

The bar was set. Now, to see what would happen next.

On the same day of the meeting, her sandwich was found in the bin… If it wasn’t yet an official war, now it was!

Individual meetings

The next step had to be one-to-one meetings with every single one of the salon’s team members, including Melissa. I explained: “These meetings need to happen today. If some of your employees are on a day off, you call them and talk to them. This can’t carry on. Put every single one of them on performance management for poor team spirit and tell them everyone will be monitored.”

  • Did they have an issue with Melissa being one of their colleagues?
  • Do they like her food so much that they eat it?
  • What did they think of the situation?

I suggested buying bigger lockers as a matter of urgency so that employees could store all of their belongings in there rather than the small cabinets the salon had. I also recommended adding a manager desk in the staff room, and have managers work there on rotation.

It calmed down. The manager working from the staff room was the most effective approach.

Click here to download your FREE one-to-one staff feedback meeting sheet.

Alternative measures for smaller sized salons

In this situation, the staff room was luckily big enough to have added larger lockers and a manager’s desk – not all salons have that luxury!

If that had been the case for my client’s salon, I would have taken the fridge away. The privilege of eating in the staff room? Lost. Staff would have been forced to eat out, which would rapidly impact on their finances (hit them where it hurts)!

Another option could have been security cameras. However, you would need to make sure you remain compliant with data protection policies and that your staff has agreed to be monitored. For instance, EU businesses would have to be GDPR compliant. Honestly, while an ongoing salon staff room war could be a good reason for installing cameras, I’m not a fan of the idea. You’d be monitoring people’s time out after all.

Some salons and spas prefer not having a staff room to optimise the space. If you recognise yourself in that, consider giving an allowance for employees to eat out as part of your budget; even negotiate discounts with local restaurants and cafes. From a wellness perspective, this is actually great. Staff need to get out for their lunch, breathe some fresh air and catch some sun (especially for therapists who work in a closed room all day).

How did it end for Melissa and the salon?

Feeling like she didn’t belong there, Melissa left. To be honest, hiding the staff’s belongings wasn’t healthy behaviour either. We never found out who exactly was responsible for the disappearing lunches. All we knew was that there was more than one person responsible. If there were only one, he/she would have had to work with Melissa at all times, and the rota didn’t reflect that.

I’ve had my fair share of dealing with salon staff room wars. While more often than not, they had everything to do with cleanliness, the “Who Ate My Sandwich” case is a classic example of underlying issues within the team. All the managers are now on my leadership programme, which will allow them to understand how to manage these situations quickly, deliver consequences for actions the team takes, and lead their team from a united front… Sandwich and all!

Reach new leadership heights with the Salon Management Course

The Salon Management Course is a free six-week program hosted by Valerie Delforge and designed to develop your managerial skills.

  • Week 1: How To Manage Your Staff
  • Week 2: Managing Your Salon’s Operations Successfully
  • Week 3: How To Motivate Your Salon Team
  • Week 4: Salon HR, Recruitment & Training
  • Week 5: How To Handle Difficult Salon Staff
  • Week 6: Transcending Management, Becoming An Exceptional Salon Leader

Given the entire course is hosted online, anyone with a laptop and an internet connection can sign up! Each week starting the day of your enrollment, you will receive a new email containing both the lesson’s presentation and workbook. Simply click here to register and get your welcome email.

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Thanks for reading! #LetsGrow


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