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Last updated: November 10, 2017

Communicate Like a Pro in These 4 Common Salon Situations

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By Lauren Rees


You may be one of those exuberant types with plenty to say and a passion for interacting with your fellow human beings. Or maybe you’re on the shy side, and you prefer to let your hands do the talking by creating hair that makes your clients smile. Either way, as a stylist and/or leader, you may require some schooling on the art of communication. Because there is a huge difference between chatting (or not) in the salon and skillfully diffusing potentially explosive situations with staff, co-workers or clients.



According to Tracey Hughes,Vice President of Global Education for L’ANZA, savvy communication is rooted in emotional intelligence. “Watch, listen and observe all human behavior to develop your emotional intelligence,” she advises. “Surround yourself with highly motivated people—positive energy is contagious!”


So yes, words matter! Here, Tracey and other experts weigh in on how to communicate like a silver-tongued pro in four common salon situations.


 1. No One Likes the Money-Making Diva
What to do about the stylist who generates big dollars and big looks…but doesn’t get along with anyone.



First and foremost, no matter how productive the diva is each day, you must protect your culture. “Set a strict expectation of the kind of work environment you want to cultivate, and stay really true to that,” says Janine Jarman, owner of Hairroin in Los Angeles and New York City. “If someone isn’t fitting into the culture that you value, you need to have a serious conversation with them—once, twice. After that, they’ve got to go.”


Van Council, owner of eight Van Michael Concept Salons in the Atlanta area, insists his staff conveys graciousness and respect, so he’s embedded these ideals in the mandatory two-year training his new employees must go through to make sure they embody the salon’s mission statement, culture and vision and develop good habits. Being nice is not an option in his culture—it’s required. “I don’t consider discourteous and rude staff good employees,” he says. “So if we have someone we can’t work with, even if they’re high producers, we let them go.”


But before you start cutting people loose, try listening. “I like to have a relationship with my staff, and I like to know who they are as people,” says Andreas Zafiriadis, owner of two Salon Buzz locations in Chicago. “Often, what they want is to be heard and understood. So I try to coach them—I speak through my experiences so they can better understand what I’m trying to say.”



2. You Have a Better Idea
Your salon’s time-off policy is really strict and you think you have a way to improve the rules. Here’s how to approach your salon owner without making her mad.


  • Avoid the firing squad. Don’t talk to all of your co-workers before speaking to your salon owner, and don’t approach her with a group.
  • Conduct a private, respectful one-on-one conversation with the owner—don’t bring a petition signed by all the stylists.
  • Be sure your idea is clear and solid, and present it with a positive tone.
  • Ask yourself if your idea is also in the salon owner’s best interest. If it isn’t, figure out the “win” for her, otherwise she’ll have no motivation to put your plan in place.


3. Little Miss Backstabber Keeps Throwing You Under the Bus
She’s sneakily out to get you and it’s affecting everyone at work. Here’s what to do to erase those tire marks from your back.

“My best advice for dealing with any conflict is to go directly to the source,” says Tracey. “Start by figuring out what the problem is and how it began. Let go of fear of confrontation and put your mindset into the frame of a conversation instead. Deal with the issue immediately so that it does not escalate into a bigger drama than it really is. The longer a problem is left un-dealt with, the higher the emotion goes.”


You can absolutely get a manager to be a third-party liaison, Janine adds. “Doing so really helps settle the conversation and ensures it’s constructive,” she says.



If you can’t bring yourself to confront your co-worker, try a handwritten note, Janine adds. But here’s a tip: “Make sure you’re not blaming anyone—rather, describe how things are making you feel,” she says. “Like, ‘I feel surprised when I hear you telling people I didn’t put the towels in the dryer, when I actually did.’ The second you say, ‘You accused me wrongly,’ the other party will shut down.”


4. Client-zilla
She’s cranky and demanding and nothing you do is right. Here’s how to deal with the über-demanding client.

The consensus is—get your manager and let her diffuse the situation. “Our rule is that nobody is above a client,” Andreas says. “But when it comes to a very difficult client, that’s when the manager steps in. I don’t let my hairdressers walk into the lion’s den.”


But keep in mind, there are different degrees of difficult. “If somebody’s vulgar, that’s one thing we don’t accept. They don’t belong in our space, and we ask them to leave,” Andreas says. “But if somebody’s particular about their hair, so what? That means they know what they want and we aren’t delivering. That’s why I want the manager to step in, so it’s an honest conversation and we can get to the bottom of the problem.”


Van agrees. “Difficult clients want to be seen and heard. My general manager or location manager or I will sit down with the client,” he says. “We try to express our concerns while being calm and respectful. Then I give them to my very best service provider. If that person can’t make them happy, we have to look at the fact that we just might not be the salon for them. Is the client always right? No, but they are always the client. I don’t want my staff to get beat up over someone that nobody can please.”