By Khris Berry
We’ve all heard the old rhyme: “Sticks and stones may break my bones, but words will never hurt me.” However, if you’ve ever spent much time in a salon atmosphere, you may disagree with the wisdom this rhyme imparts.
The daily work life in a grooming salon can become routine; dogs check in, dogs get groomed, dogs go home. Pet stylists spend long hours in the company of their coworkers, often standing in one place for long periods while they complete their work. This dynamic can become a breeding ground where deeply rooted relationships are forged through conversations and sharing of life experiences. It can also become an opportunity for the negative aspects of informal communication to foster gossip and drama.
Informal communication is part of every business culture. It provides an opportunity for employees to learn about how the company works and bond with one another over common themes. Chit chat is both common and vital in a salon setting. It allows information to be passed between coworkers that improves their skills and clients’ experiences. Informal communication accounts for the intrinsic knowledge that is gained over time about how your business “does things”. As grooming shop owners, we rely on it to help train and educate our employees over time. It helps build teamwork and a thriving culture within your workplace.
Enter Negative Nancy (sorry to every Nancy I know, you aren’t all negative!). When the ideas being shared are of a negative nature, a salon can become derailed in a very short time. Some would say it’s human nature—negativity can creep into our moods and become part of our conversations before we realize it. In the dynamic group cultures which exist in grooming salons, negative speech and attitudes can become disruptive and result in the loss of clients, employees, and profit.
Due to the serious side effects associated with gossip and drama, I find it’s best to handle all situations and parties involved quickly. Time is not always your friend when dealing with Salon Soap. When assessing how to best clean up a situation in a salon setting, I identify the cast and crew of the Salon Soap production. In most cases, since most salons are relatively small, it will include your entire staff. I follow a few ground rules when dealing with issues such as gossip and drama to help ease my staff through these episodes with humility and professionalism:
1. Address all situations regarding negativity, gossip, and drama immediately and in a group setting.
2. Learn to assume the role of mediator. Your job as mediator will be to help conversation flow between the parties who have a disagreement while enforcing basic rules of courtesy. If you cannot mediate a situation without bias, ask another person to fill the role of mediator for you.
3. Call everyone together and hold a group meeting. Don’t cater to private meetings or discussions regarding the situation. Your staff will need to speak to you and their coworkers in a group setting.
4. Identify ground rules which allow everyone to speak freely without fear of retribution. When dealing with controversy, I use these simple rules: no cursing or raised tones, everyone in the room gets an opportunity to speak, and no one speaks over another person. This fosters courtesy and teaches coworkers to work through issues while respecting other people.
5. If anyone in the group meeting isn’t speaking for themselves, as mediator, I ask if they would like to have someone speak for them. We are pet professionals and often are more comfortable communicating with a Maltese Mix than a confrontational coworker. I let everyone know it’s normal and acceptable to feel overwhelmed handling the situation publicly. “We are all in this together,” is a common theme.
6. State the root of the drama or gossip and begin listening. I ask my staff for courtesy and respect with one another and I model that behavior. Most people respond to quiet, calm communication. If the conversation begins to become heated, it’s time to restate the rules of courtesy.
7. By holding open and honest communication sessions regularly, and immediately when a problem occurs, your coworkers will learn that misunderstandings often lead to issues. They will learn that your salon has an open communication plan. I find that Negative Nancy’s do not like to be in the spotlight and will typically curtail their negative speak after a few group meetings.
8. If you have a Negative Nancy who continues to be at the center of drama or gossip, you can let her know that you will not tolerate negativity. You can ask her to leave her negative comments and mood at the door. My experience has been that even Nancy learns to enjoy her work environment more fully when she is required to have a positive attitude.
Learning to quiet negativity in your salon atmosphere has many benefits. You, your coworkers, your clients, and their pets will notice a happier and lighter atmosphere. The stress of daily work life on everyone will be reduced and you will be freer to forge long lasting, valuable friendships with the people you work with based on trust and openness. When your salon has its own private Salon Soap production, I hope you find these tips helpful to clean it up! ✂