The hair and beauty industry is full of fun, creative, friendly professionals.

Or so we all like to believe.

Yet scratch the surface and you’d be surprised at how often bullying and harassment are the underlying cause of a demoralised team, a dwindling client base and a declining salon business.

Understandably salon bullying is not a subject that’s often discussed in the trade media and on industry forums. It’s an issue we all wish didn’t exist, and there’s a tendency to brush it under the carpet. Who wants to admit they have a bully in their midst?

In this blog post I look at:

  • How bullying costs you profit, staff and clients.
  • What amounts to bullying and harassment in salon?
  • How to deal effectively with bullying and stop it.


Salon bullying costs you profit, staff and clients

The effects of bullying can strike at the very heart of your salon or spa business:

  1. Absenteeism increases, as does staff turnover.
  2. Productivity takes a nose dive along with quality.
  3. Poor morale becomes the norm and your business reputation is damaged.
  4. Your business is vulnerable to employment and disability claims.

It’s estimated:

  • Some 18 million working days per year are lost in the UK through the effects of workplace bullying.
  • Bullying is responsible for 30 to 50% of all stress related illnesses in the workplace.

A devastating combination of these side-effects can cripple your hair or beauty business in a very short time.


Bullying is more widespread than you think

I’m talking here about bullying by a team member. Not bullying by salon owners or managers. That’s even more inexcusable, and a topic for another blog post.

Sadly, many owners experience first-hand the crippling effect one spiteful malicious person can have on team morale, behaviour and confidence. Bullying is not something we left behind in the playground. I am frequently taken to one side by owners confiding their worries about the intimidating actions of a salon employee. Often the owners themselves feel daunted by the situation.


So what behaviour amounts to salon bullying?

It’s easy to overlook bullying as just the team joshing about. As harmless salon banter and silly horseplay.

But bullying is far from innocent teasing.

It’s defined by psychologists as a persistent pattern of behaviour that humiliates, intimidates, undermines, embarrasses or negatively impacts on someone’s emotional and psychological well-being.

Do you see any of these examples of bullying behaviour in your business?

  • Ignoring or excluding a team member from normal salon sociable activities.
  • Malicious gossip and spreading rumours.
  • Throwing insults around.
  • Constantly highlighting errors or mistakes made by others.
  • Playing practical jokes on people you don’t like.
  • Non-verbal acts such as pointing, smirking and staring.
  • Constant criticism of a colleague’s work.
  • Setting unreasonable salon tasks or deadlines.
  • Sharing jokes, photos, emails online – cyber bullying.
  • Making unreasonable demands on junior members of staff.

And the list goes on…

All pretty nasty stuff.

And extremely hurtful and wounding if you’re on the receiving end.


How does bullying affect your spa or salon success?

Turning a blind eye to a bully in your salon or spa is not an option. The potential it has to damage your business, brand and pocket is too high. It may initially seem low-key or insignificant but the consequences soon well up and cause a cascade.

The danger starts because bullying spills over into the stylist or therapist’s work and affects performance (and you can understand why).

Bullied employees say they:

  • Suffer from work stress
  • Are less committed to their job
  • Are highly anxious
  • Suffer from anger
  • Dread work each morning

Whilst studies show that employees who are bullied spend over 50% of their time at work:

  • defending themselves
  • thinking about the situation
  • feeling de-motivated and stressed
  • networking for support

Who is going to deliver fantastic customer care and brilliant technical skills when they are feeling so isolated, wretched and low?

Bullying doesn’t just make your salon employee feel despondent; it can lead to both physical and psychological problems. Medical research shows bullied employees suffer from increased chest pains, headaches, high blood pressure as well as depression, anger, helplessness, shame, low self-esteem and even suicidal thoughts.


The law on bullying and salon owners’ responsibilities

Bullying itself isn’t against the law, but harassment is. This is when the behaviour is related to one of the following (which it often is):

  • age
  • sex
  • disability
  • gender
  • marriage and civil partnership
  • pregnancy and maternity
  • race
  • religion or belief
  • sexual orientation

In which case you, the business owner, have clear legal responsibilities you cannot neglect. You’ll find more information on the law surrounding bullying and harassment here.


How to prevent bullying in the salon or spa workplace

Telling someone to pull themselves together or to be thick-skinned is not going to help.

Put yourself in their shoes.

It’s horrible. All they want to do is get away from this bitter, malicious environment. And who could blame them?

Instead try these internal salon marketing and management ideas to prevent bullying behaviour, and tackle it more quickly and effectively when it does arise:


1. Create an anti-bullying culture in your hair or beauty business

Internal marketing (communication) is central to dealing with harassment and bullying:

1. Set the right example. Walk the talk and make it clear that your business culture won’t tolerate such behaviour and it is inconsistent with your salon, spa or clinic values.

2. Being upfront to the team about bullying goes a long way to reducing the likelihood of harassment. Talk about the problem openly in team meetings, give practical examples of unacceptable bullying behaviour, have a written policy on bullying in your staff room and include it in your induction processes.

3. It’s not just the person who is being bullied who suffers. The situation creates an atmosphere in salon affecting colleagues who feel uncomfortable and demoralised at the behaviour they are forced to watch. An agitated mood takes over the whole team.

To counter this, ensure your team understand they can approach you in confidence and ‘blow the whistle’ if they see persistent alarming behaviour towards a salon colleague.

4. Have a clear disciplinary process for harassment and bullying and ensure you take grievances seriously and investigate them immediately.


2. What if bullying is taking place in your salon?

Encourage team members to:

1. Talk to you

If you feel someone in your salon is being persecuted by a bully then a one-to-one is the time to raise it.

However, you may find they play down the situation. Most of us feel we should be able to cope with harassment and bullying, so don’t be fobbed off by “I can handle this,” “It will be okay – the bully was OK to me today,” or a complete denial. You may find this blog post useful for this situation.

2. Collect evidence of bullying behaviour

If they report intimidating behaviour to you then suggest they keep a diary of the bullying with supporting evidence such as emails, texts, voicemails etc. This will give you more information about the situation and the necessary ‘evidence’ when you tackle the bully.

3. Offer practical support

As the boss, staff may not feel they can talk to you about such intimate feelings on a day-to-day basis. So offer to involve a senior salon employee to give support and mentor them.


Don’t let bullying drag your salon or spa down

Tackle the situation early and you’ll save yourself and your team considerable heartache. It can be hard – I do understand, I’ve been there.

But the transformation is miraculous. I’ve seen it myself – a bully leaves the salon and the whole atmosphere lightens overnight.

Everyone starts smiling again, client sense the happier mood, the vibe is positive.