Inconsiderate employee leads to fuming customers
DEAR MARIANN: I am a salon owner with several stylists and am proud of the reputation I have built with an established clientele. One of my staff has become lax in work ethic, often running behind schedule and keeping customers waiting. How do I approach this without alienating this employee?
MARIANN’S RESPONSE: The joys of being a small business owner can be few and far between at times and this seems to be one of those occasions. My first thought in approaching this situation is to have a conversation with the stylist, possibly away from the salon at lunch where you are both on “neutral” ground. If the discussion occurs at your place of business, it might be awkward, especially if any customers arrive early during the midst of this dialogue.
Start the intended conversation with a compliment or mention something that the employee is doing well. The Rev. Philip Wilden of Asbury Methodist Church made an excellent commentary during this past Sunday sermon that we as individuals are “professionals at criticism but amateurs when it comes to praise.” Even though it might be difficult, starting the conversation on a positive tone will be beneficial and addressing those issues that you mentioned above possibly will be taken less defensively.
However, you also must be firm and state that for the success of your business, everyone needs to work as a team and share in the responsibility of courtesy to customers. The poor communication skills she has with the salon’s clientele could jeopardize your business future. Asking her to be more sensitive to the needs of customers is essential and should be stated clearly and without hesitation.
Recent research has been forthcoming as to the issue of adult Attention Deficient Disorder (ADD), which was addressed several weeks ago in this column. Habitually running late is a fundamental issue for so many middle-age struggling with ADD. During later years, ADD is more often diagnosed in women versus the young adult male of the typical ADD stereotype. Asking her if “running late” is a challenging issue in her personal life, along with professionally, might be the key to determining whether this issue could be the fundamental cause. If you are able to discuss this subject, suggesting that she see her primary care physician might be helpful as to a potential diagnosis and medical treatment.
Next, asking that your employee give upcoming clients a quick call or text once she starts running behind to avoid “the snowball effect,” might save much frustration with customers versus their timely arrival, only to be kept waiting without prior notice. Is there something you might do to assist when this situation occurs? Could you notify her next two or three clients and let them know? Some adults with ADD become so overwhelmed by “the snowball effect” that their prioritizing skills simply evaporate, leading to a sense of anxiety of a situation that is manageable for most but simply out-of-control to those struggling with this ADD issue.
Are there some weeks she does worse than others? Is there any correlation with other aspects of her life? Is she caring for an elderly parent, a sick child, have custody of children, or does she have a problematic spouse? Is she comfortable communicating with you when her personal life is chaotic? Even though too much information about your employees’ personal lives might be conflicting and time-consuming, showing that you care as an employer is of immeasurable value in this high-pressure, financially challenging, quota-driven business climate we are presently encountering.
If all else fails, stating clearly that you expect work site improvement, might be the last alternative. Documenting her time of arrival at the salon each day she is scheduled could be necessary, along with how much time customers spend waiting. Meeting with this employee weekly to discuss timeliness is essential.
And finally, don’t let this employee play “the victim” card of oversensitivity. It is easy to fall into this trap and back-off when the defense mechanisms are triggered. Those who are “oversensitive” or “thin skinned” are poor in being receptive to suggestions, no matter how constructive. Some people just do not have the emotional fortitude for any level of criticism. Hopefully this is not your employee, or, if it is, my sincere apologies at the “eggshells” you must walk, especially as “the boss.” If all else fails, reducing their hours or placing them on notice might be your last option before ending this employee’s tenure with your salon.
Mariann Main is a Licensed Counselor and a Delaware native. Her column appears weekly on Saturdays. To submit a question and have Mariann answer it anonymously, visit delgazette.com/life-questions-with-local-answers or send mail to the Delaware Gazette office, 40 N. Sandusky St., suite 203, Delaware, OH 43015.