If there’s one way to get rid of the 3 pm slump, it’s by dancing maniacally to booming music in a room full of over 600 people, which is exactly what Sophia Hilton gets the audience to do when she bursts onto the stage at the 2023 Salon Owners Summit. Founder and self-proclaimed “boss lady” of NOT ANOTHER London, Hilton is an entrepreneur, stylist, social media whizz, and business coach who exudes energy and positivity. Today, she’s talking about workplace toxicity.
Beginning her talk, Hilton asks the crowd whether they’ve ever experienced a toxic person; at home, in the workplace, or out in public. There are many positive responses and nodding heads. She then turns the question on the audience, asking them if they’ve ever been a toxic person.
“Toxicity is not binary,” says Hilton. A toxic employee may be a perfectly pleasant friend or partner and vice versa.
She describes toxicity as “behaviors that create challenges or cause pain to others intentionally or unintentionally,” before going on to get answers from the crowd about what toxicity means to them. The answers range from the feeling of “walking on eggshells” around staff to selfishness and secrecy.
Usually, she explains, toxicity is a symptom that stems from a cause, and the only way to get rid of it is by eradicating that cause. If your workplace is breeding toxic staff, as a leader, it’s your job to identify and fix them. Jokingly, she notes that she first heard this from the film “A Bug’s Life”, quoting: “First rule of leadership: everything is your fault.”
How Can Salon Owners Eradicate Toxic Employee Behavior?
Drawing on her previous point, Hilton explains some practical steps that salon owners can take to avoid toxicity becoming the norm in their business. These include:
Listening To Staff & Encouraging Honesty
When staff voice their concerns about something in the salon, whether that’s a shortage of equipment or awkward timing to complete service, as a leader, it’s important to listen. Hilton explains that, whether you as a salon owner or manager feel that their requests are important or not, treating it as such forms a baseline level of respect, professionalism, and care. This all adds to creating a positive working environment.
Avoiding The “Danger Loop”
When things go wrong as a salon owner, such as when you’re time-poor, money-poor, or mental health-poor, it can be easy to let smaller things affect you and take it out on your staff. This, in turn, creates a “danger loop” where one bad thing leads to another and creates a top-level toxicity that trickles down to the rest of the team. Being aware of this loop and separating these larger worries from the everyday running of the salon can promote a calmer, happier workplace for you and your team.
Speaking To Staff With Respect
As a leader, the way you speak to your team reflects the way they will work in your business. According to Sophia, all conversations with your employees and about your employees should be respectful and kind. Never take your emotions out on your team, and lead by example to create a safe, calm, and respectful space for everyone to work in, where no one worries that they’re being talked about negatively in secret. “What I say, is what I think, and what I think reflects on them… emotional control is helpful” she quotes.
Being Aware of Generational Culture Changes In The Workplace
After helping the crowd fill out some worksheets that aimed to help build awareness of their own toxic traits in the workplace, Hilton explains how one massive cause of conflict in the workplace is that there are now more generations than ever in the workplace. For salons, this means that they could be operating with staff who fall across up to four different generations. This can cause conflict, as each generation has a different perspective on the world and different values. Being aware of this, and making changes to your salon to honor certain parts of each generation’s values and traditions, can be a massive help when it comes to avoiding or eradicating toxic behavior.
Stop Thinking About “Them vs Me”
Diving deeper to explain the differences between older generations (Boomers, Generation X) and younger generations (Millennials, Generation Z), Hilton continues to explain this melting pot of ages can cause conflict and disconnection in workplaces. For example, in general:
- Older generations were told you must earn respect, while younger generations believe you must respect everyone
- Older generations were told they are lucky to have a job, while younger generations believe a job is lucky to have them
- Older generations were told to hide their feelings at work, while younger generations believe you should be open and honest with emotions
- Older generations were told they should prioritize work, while younger generations believe in more work/life balance
- Older generations believe in professional hierarchies, while younger generations believe everyone is equal
Despite the stark differences between groups, a mixed-generation workplace signals huge opportunities for growth and skill-sharing, with everyone bringing a unique perspective to the workforce. Make the most of this by respecting the values of each of your team members, encouraging open and honest communication, and being open to tweaking the culture of your salon as new members from younger generations join.
Hilton is empathetic here, reminding older salon owners not to discredit “the woke generation.” She asks the audience to stop making fun of enthusiastic and unjaded young workers and to embrace everyone that works in your salon for their different perspectives. “Finding ways that we are closer and connected… rather than enjoying and reveling in the differences” is key to eradicating workplace toxicity and changing your business for the better.
Ending the talk, Hilton asks each audience member to write down one thing they’re going to change in their business to create a more positive work environment for the team, before encouraging them to stand up, raise their hands, and give a round of applause to themselves-a celebration for taking the first step in changing their salons for the better.
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