Two or more of your staff have very different personalities and can’t see eye to eye on anything. Despite the fact that you have put them at stations at opposite ends of the salon, they continue to wage war on one another and often try to sway other staff members to join the battle. Their arguments carry over into the breakroom, and sometimes clients even pick up on the snide remarks and comebacks. The constant squabbling causes tension in your salon, and drags energy down.

Don Bewley, Founder of Eufora: “I had two stylists in my salon who didn’t get along with each other. I told them they needed to work it out and sent them out for lunch together on my tab. I met with each of them individually afterward, and asked them: ‘What do you like most about working here? What do you not like about working here? What changes are you going to make so you can adapt?’

“Unfortunately, that didn’t resolve the issue. I liked them both and didn’t understand why they didn’t like each other. I was worried there would be a division among my whole team, so I decided to nip it in the bud. At the time I had two salons, and when the problem didn’t resolve itself, I transferred the stylist who was less willing to adapt to our other salon. I never spoke to anyone else in the salon about it, but I gained a tremendous amount of respect from my staff for quickly dealing with the situation.”

Ginny Eramo, owner of Interlocks in Newburyport, Massachusetts: “When I have a fight between staff members, I start with one-on-one conversations with each person, trying to empower them and coach them to communicate with each other. We’ve been pretty successful at ironing out squabbles when they occur and have never had anyone leave over this. I had a situation where someone new to the staff was accused of stealing. I listened to everyone’s story, then sat each down and talked to them. As it turns out, the person was not stealing and we proved it. It ended up creating an awkward situation, but eventually strengthened the team. Throughout we made sure the dialogue was open and not heated. People ended up bonding. The accused person understood the managers cared and wanted to take care of the situation, and the team learned a lot from having egg on their faces.”

Byran Nunes, owner of Blo in Raleigh, North Carolina: “We teach a culture where we acknowledge the fact that our trade and work environment are both stressful. We also acknowledge that no one intentionally sets out to upset another human being. Given these principals, we let our team know that it’s not if we are going to experience conflict, but how we handle it that defines us.

We start by inviting the squabbling staff members to take the conversation outside the salon and see it they can resolve it for themselves. If these situations continue to surface from the same two players, we empower and encourage them to figure out what the deeper issue is by putting them in a situation where they have to work together, such as a photo shoot or teaching a class. The activity doesn’t matter, the point is they are forced to work together to achieve a common goal, which will ultimately give them a deeper and broader understanding of themselves. I hold them both accountable. If they can’t resolve the issue, they’re telling me the conflict is worth more to them than their jobs.”

Kitty Tierney, owner of Impressions Salon and Spa in Mequon, Wisconsin: “I have to say this has rarely been a problem in my 25 years in the business. There will always be squabbles, but I ask the staff to come to me with a solution, not a problem. But you have to deal with challenges right away. If you procrastinate, it always gets worse.”

Lauren Gartland, founder of Inspiring Champions: “The major cause of these types of breakdowns is no communication or miscommunication among the parties. When this occurs, the smallest thing will set them off. Solution: We have to get to the bottom of why they don’t get along. Again, if you have a strong code of honor they have agreed to, you have a safe place where they can express anything, anytime. Once we know the cause, we can come up with a solution that both can agree on to move beyond this.”

Christine Zilinski, owner of Salon Concrete in Red Bank, New Jersey: “At Salon Concrete, we have an outside coach who comes in and works with the staff on having good communication. In the past, the staff would come to me with their issues and I would try to solve everyone’s problems. The communication coach explained that it’s not my job to solve everyone’s problems, but instead to clearly communicate that the salon does not tolerate this behavior, then give them the tools to deal with the issue themselves.

“I will coach the staff through the process of how to have a conversation with the person they have issues with, and I will even sit in on the conversation. The young stylists from the millennial generation typically need extra help with interpersonal communications. Because of the popularity of e-mail and text conversations, they have become ill-equipped to handle emotional situations.

“Eighty percent of our business is relationship- driven—having good communication is just as important as knowing how to do a good hair cut. We believe we are teaching the staff important skills that will help them in the salon and beyond for the rest of their lives.”

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