How to Deal with a Toxic Salon Work Environment

You shouldn’t have to be faced with micromanaging bosses, catty coworkers, or an overwhelming dread when you head to the salon each day. But the reality is, that may be precisely what you walk into as you clock in. The good news: It doesn’t have to be that way. As much as we all strive to land in a healthy place of work, we can’t always control those we end up working side-by-side with. But you can embrace ways to deal with their behaviors, advocate for yourself, and ultimately, remove yourself from a toxic work environment. From bad bosses to impossible colleagues, here’s how you can deal with an unhealthy workplace. 

Managing Problems with Your Boss

Not every boss is a good manager and even well-meaning managers might overstep from time to time. When you're working for someone else, you might find a few of the following issues cropping up. Here’s what you can do when they become problematic.

Micromanagement: If you’re faced with management that seems to be consistently checking in, following up, or questioning your skill, you can politely ask them to trust you. After all, they hired you and there’s a reason they brought you onboard. Remind them of your professional competence in a respectful way, and let them know that by trusting you, they’re trusting their own ability to pick the right people to represent their business.

Overstepping boundaries: When your boss begins encroaching on your personal time or even your professional scope of duties, it’s time to draw a line and protect your boundaries. The best place to start is by asking them to have a conversation so you can discuss your professional needs. Calmly share how it makes you feel when they overstep and let them know what your boundaries are. For example, you could say: “I feel less present for my family when you repeatedly call me after hours. I would appreciate it if we could keep our work-related conversations limited to salon hours so I can enjoy my time off and return feeling refreshed.”

Lack of professionalism or respect: Certain language or tones of voice aren’t acceptable, even if someone is your “superior.” When you find yourself in a situation where this lack of respect comes up, it’s possible that the best course of action could be to temporarily remove yourself from the situation – calmly step out for a walk, grab a coffee, or take your lunch break so you don’t respond with a matched level of disrespect. When the time is right, ask your manager for a chat and nicely remind them of the Golden Rule of treating others as you wish to be treated. Let them know that you would never speak to them that way and would appreciate the same in return.

Unscrupulous business practices: Should it come to your attention that some less-than-moral business practices have been in play, you’ll need to assess how serious the offenses have been. Don’t be afraid to ask questions if something seems off. Give your boss the benefit of the doubt – maybe they just weren’t aware that something might have been a faux pas. However, if they’re seemingly aware that what they’re doing is wrong, the last thing you want is to be associated with a brand or salon you suspect is committing illegal activity or cheating its clients. In a scenario like that, you may want to start looking for an exit plan to keep your name clean. 

Managing Problems with Fellow Staff

Salons get a bad rap for being catty and competitive spaces. While there may be some truth to the reputation in certain places, you can find ways to rise above the stereotype and set an example for others as you set your boundaries when the following issues arise. 

Competitiveness: The hallmark of a classy colleague is one that prioritizes collaboration over competition. To help keep overly competitive peers at bay, make an effort to create more meaningful interactions with them so they can get to know you as a team player rather than a competitor. Set up lunch dates with your peers, or take time to understand their personal life better, so they can start to see you as a friend instead of a foe.

Shirking responsibilities: There’s always that one coworker in the station next to yours who never cleans up their area or conveniently needs to leave early on the day it’s their turn to close up shop, leaving their responsibilities to you. It’s time to speak up. Go directly to the source and nicely explain how their behavior impacts you – you’ve had to stay late and missed a friend’s birthday dinner or you were late starting on a client because you had to clean up around you first. You might even mention how you do things to make their work life easier so they can understand the mutual benefits of being a team player.

Gossiping to clients: It’s never cool to hear someone’s been whispering about you, but when coworkers are talking negatively about you to clients, it’s an absolute dealbreaker. Choose the time and place wisely for this conversation to keep things from escalating. It may also be worth going to your manager and asking for specific house rules or a code of conduct to be put into place to keep the issue from recurring.

Client stealers: Collaborating with colleagues on a client is one thing, but them stealing a client from you is definitely not cool. While you won’t be able to control the client’s choices or preference on who they want to book moving forward, you may want to speak with your manager or team to define clear salon policies around who gets first dibs on clients. With a smart, teams-friendly salon booking system in place, you can even create the option for clients to book by professional so they always know who they’re getting. You can then ask your regulars to be sure to select you when it’s time they set their next appointment.

Moving on from Workplace Toxicity

As hard as you may try, you won’t always be able to influence those around you to treat you as you deserve, but you have every right to demand respect at a minimum. Whether you’re thinking of jumping over to another salon or embarking on your own journey completely, it's important to prioritize protecting your peace of mind and mental health. If feelings of imposter syndrome creep up and tell you that you don’t have the skills or resources to move on, acknowledge those feelings and dig into how you can overcome them. If you’re even thinking about going independent, you’re already giving off big boss energy – and the best part is, once you dare to dream big, the whole vibe of your workplace – along with every other aspect of your business – is completely under your (non-toxic) control.

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