How To Effectively Manage Your Salon Staff

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Whether you’ve managed a salon for years, or are weighing the benefits and costs of doing so, the inevitable question becomes, “How can I effectively manage my staff?” Odds are you entered into the world of salon management because you love the creative minds you are able to interact with on a daily basis. However, this creates tricky situations when those creative minds become employees or renters. It’s no secret that in a tip or commission driven environment, the tone can quickly become cut-throat.

The opportunities to build a strong salon staff begin with you, the management. An old saying goes “an ounce of prevention is worth a pound of treatment.” Below you will find ways to both prevent and treat conflict in your salon for the most effective management possible.

Prevention – Creating a Constructive Environment

Communicating the expectations of your staff to your staff is paramount in effective management. It can’t be disregarded that most hair stylists like freedom, that’s why they chose their career path. Therefore, implementing strategies that work well in corporate environments might not work as well in a salon.

A successful salon manager will strike a balance between unreachable and too close to employees. Too distant, and the stylists will not feel comfortable speaking with you. Too close, and you might find stylists not taking you seriously as a manager, or even ignoring disciplinary measures.

Outlined below are several measures salon management can take to build the best environment for their stylists. Salon culture, written standards, recurring staff meetings, team building activities, and training are all vital in setting the right tone.

Salon Culture

Endless time is spent selecting just the right tools and décor to convey the desired feel in your salon, why stop that culture creation short? If salon management can impose a strong culture, all stylists will know exactly what is expected of them. Furthermore, when a clear culture is present, managing hairdressers becomes a true pleasure.

Written Standards

Putting your expectations of salon staff in writing is an excellent reinforcement of your overall culture. Decide on your standards and stick to them! One option is implementing a 3 strike rule with employees or renters. Whatever standards you choose, put them in writing and have each stylist read, agree, and sign it. Having transparent and clearly communicated standards will eliminate any misunderstandings and allow you to run your salon, not allow your salon to run you.

Recurring Staff Meetings

Staff meetings are a perfect way to bring everyone together and remind them of the salon’s overall goals. Meetings can be every two or four weeks, whatever works best for all of your staff. Daily or even weekly meetings can go a bit overboard and stylists could begin to dread them.

To avoid that dread, try stepping outside of the meeting box! Convene at a restaurant or order food and beverages to your salon. Using these meetings to not only review best practices, but to also acknowledge outstanding effort is a worthwhile move. Whether a stylist has sold the most product or had the highest client sales, recognize them and give out small prizes. These small acts of acknowledgement and reinforcement will cause your bottom line to rise.

Team Building Activities

The term “team building” is a bit daunting, so let’s just call them games! Having all members of your staff participate together (or even against each other) is a fun way to build relationships. A multitude of team building activities can be found online, Huddle outlines 10 quick and easy team building activities that should give you some great jumping off points.

Team building activities can even be as simple as downloading an app on your phone. Heads Up! is a hilarious game that is guaranteed to get every stylist involved. We play it in our office a handful of times a month. It gives us a needed mental break and even more needed laughs!


Building an educated and knowledgeable arsenal of stylists will only prove to serve you well in the long run. The additional money you spend on taking your staff to a show or a trade show will bring your group together and expand their knowledge. Hold in-house training once a month, at least. It is even recommended by some to make these training sessions mandatory and to take action if a stylist does not attend (within reason).

If your salon implements a strong culture, written standards, recurring meetings, activities, and training, you will without a doubt empower your employees. It will also lessen the chance of unpleasant situations arising.

Treatment – Handling Difficult Situations  

All of the team building and communication in the world will not prevent every employee conflict. An effective salon manager knows how to handle these situations in the most beneficial way for all parties involved.

Take Charge

Conflict avoidance is common in workplaces of all kinds. At times, it feels more comfortable to dismiss issues rather than address them. However, doing so creates unnecessary complexity and needless anxiety. It’s also important to remember that enforcing the rules and standards you have set is not bullying your employees, you are simply trying to set them up for success.

Resolving Conflict

While conflict avoidance is not effective, it can be destructive to confront an employee when emotions are running high. It’s important to remember to keep your composure, or walk away until it is regained. The Harvard Business Review outlines 3 steps to conflict resolution with employees, these are summarized below:

1.    Identify common ground: Find where you both agree at the start of the conversation, this could be a shared goal or understanding of the standards.

2.    Hear your employee out: Allow your employee to share her opinion and point of view, remember to listen to the whole story.

3.    Propose a solution: Use your common ground and new found understanding of the employee’s situation to offer a resolution. The solution should be mutually beneficial, where applicable.

Resolving Underlying Conflict

At times, the conflict occurring in salons is not a knock-out, drag-down fight, but something more subversive. Passive aggressive employees can be even more harmful than those who share their differing opinions openly. Typically, these are the employees that agree to the course of action, then do whatever they want. Again, the Harvard Business Review gives 3 steps to dealing with passive-aggression:

1.    Give feedback: Explain what disconnects you are seeing in what the employee says and the actions they take. It helps to describe the impact their behavior is having on the salon as a whole.

2.    Focus on the work, not the person: Remember, it’s not personal, it’s business. Creating this understanding will hopefully make the resolution process go much smoother.

3.    Ask for commitment: At times, peer pressure is a great tool to keep passive-aggressive employees on track. Ask everyone to communicate what they are doing, and by when, to show the employee in question that everyone is participating in the same way.

Prevention and Treatment: A Winning Combination

To think that all conflict can be eliminated is an unrealistic expectation. But, preparing your salon with the proper prevention methods and practicing effective treatment to unpleasant situations will make managing your salon a true joy.

Always remember that this is your business! Sometimes individuals are wired for conflict and those individuals have no place in your salon. The combination of excellent hiring skills and tactics mentioned above will set up any salon for success.

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