Karie Bennett, stylist, writer and owner of Atelier SalonSpa and Atelier Studio in San Jose,...
Karie Bennett, stylist, writer and owner of Atelier SalonSpa and Atelier Studio in San Jose, California

How do you deal with a disgruntled employee?

Do you know why they're disgruntled? Ask yourself this: How do you deal with an unhappy customer? Remember that your employees are the first customers you need to make happy. So once you find out what the issue is, think about how you would resolve the issue with a customer. Modify that resolution to work with your employee. Of course, there are certain situations that may require some tough love, or a difficult decision, but as a business owner, it's important to face the harder situations head on. they don't get better if you ignore them.

Ask the employee to meet with you and create an atmosphere of open communication. Meet in private or perhaps with a manager, to have a buffer, if necessary. Write down the issues, and resist the temptation to be defensive or jump to a response. Try to put some time between the action and the reaction, so you can think clearly and develop a resolution, an answer, or a plan.

Generally, people will appreciate that you care about their employment satisfaction, and will want to improve the situation. Thank them for giving you the opportunity to improve as a business owner as well. Because it's painful, but true—we learn the most from the hardest lessons. And when you're a salon owner, everyday is a lesson.

Comments from salon professionals:

"I agree, Karie, ignoring unhappy employees can turn into an even worse problem later. In my experience when a employee is digrunteled it is due to them feeling as though they are not getting a "fair deal." Often times this applies to compensation, promotions, or education benifits. In my salon achieving higher pay, more classes paid by the salon, and promtions are based on benchmarking and proformance. Although I always listen and then take time to process how to I can educated them and empower them on how to achieve their goals many times it just comes down to they are not great employees. I have, over the years, spent many sleepless night pondering what do do with unhappy employees, taking much time to ensure they are happy and ignoring those staff members who are happy. Meanwhile the unhappy staffers are doing a great job in speading their un happiness through out my salon ultimately creating a bigger problem. There is a saying hire slow fire fast. Assuming that the systems in your salon are setup for success and you are empowering your staff to achieve them....In my experience once employees become unhappy they are either just unhappy people or lazy, and need to move on."
BLU, California

"Keeping happy staffers is a big challenge, especially when it comes to dealing with creative employees. There are many things at play here, youth, inexperience, misunderstanding and lack of communication. You can't make everyone happy but there is a definite challenge in knowing when to give up on someone and move on. I believe that education and communication are key ingredients to success. While I attended the business forum at the ABS show last March in Chicago, I couldn't help but think how much benefit a stylist would gain from knowing the challenges owners face. No doubt this class was geared toward owners, but I could see great value in giving stylists a different perspective on what it takes to run a salon over and above providing a service. And my answer to all relationship issues is communication. If practiced and refined, it's a skill that will serve you forever." 
Tamara Jercha, The National Association of Eco-Friendly Salons & Spas, Chicago, Illinois

"I think that all employees in a salon should read the book "Be Nice or Else" by Winn Claybagh.The name of the book says it all. Just one disgruntled employee will pass on all their bad culture to the rest of the team.When an employee is not happy I always say, they have quit their job but they are still here. It is difinetly time for that person to move on. Remember the old saying the squeaky wheel gets all the oil!The employees that are doing their best should be the ones who are awarded. Time to let the disgruntled employees go. Remember always hire for niceness and train for talent."
Carol, Parlin, New Jersey

"My lessons as an owner have been very hard. When I first started I basically had no rules other than to come to work on time. Boy, did that bite me in the butt! Over the years I have learned set my expectations upfront and train/orient my people well so that there is no one that can say they didn't know, whatever it is... I also learned to address problems right away and that way you are not angry at them or yourself if you let something go on and on. If you don't address the problem that you see, the employee believes everything is ok when it's not and then you get angry, not worth it. I also set in place last year a system that helps them to grow if they want to and the ones who don't well then they will weed themselves out or I will. I had a very experienced stylist who was a total cancer in my salon and it took me a long time to finally see it. I let her go over some blatant issues and she took a couple of people with her. Good riddance! I am so relieved even if I suffered financially but I also learned what to look out for in future stylists. You all know the ones who can run your shop better than you etc... I think if you can take each person individually with monthly individual coaching and mentoring sessions it helps to keep the line of communication open. Now I hire for personality and train for talent just like the above posting, she is so on the mark!"
Susan, Miami, Florida

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