Mass Walk-Outs: How to Deal
By: Stephanie Keltner
Having a stylist leave now and then, for whatever reason, is a natural part of owning a salon. But how about when more than one stylist leaves? What then? Naturally, large walk-outs like this are commonly a sign that not all is well in your hair haven. So what’s a salon owner to do? Recently, Debra Brooks, one of our BTC community members, posed this question to our Facebook fans: “How do you keep your employees and clients motivated when several people leave the salon simultaneously and you bring in new staff? In the seven years I have been in business, this is the first time this has happened. I realize there comes a time when people need to move on for various reasons, but unfortunately, it stinks that it’s happening within a month’s period. I don’t want to give our clients the wrong impression. How do you turn a negative into a positive?”
The Grass is Always Greener…
One common response is to take a deeper look into the reasons why multiple stylists have chosen to leave. After all, you want to do everything in your power to prevent another walk-out in the future. Mellisa Carlisle Bucklen believes, “There’s a reason they walked. I would find out and fix the issue(s). It may not be what you want to hear, but it is a challenge you need to meet to keep going.” ‘Hard to hear’ may be an understatement. Sometimes a large walk out can be the wake-up call you need to ultimately better your business and staff attitudes alike. “There has to be a sudden change in working atmosphere to cause all these stylist to leave in a short time. You need to definitely find out the reason for them leaving or the remaining will follow and the reputation of the salon will be just that. Sit everyone down and nip it in the bud,” advises Joy Guiler. Deana Leichenauer agrees saying, “The only time this usually happens is when employees aren’t happy. You may need to evaluate yourself and how things are run. I left a salon and two other stylists followed me shortly after, the salon closed a year later and the last stylist that had remained now also works with me. People stay in a positive environment but when you take your staff for granted it weakens the bond and risks the future of the salon.”
Stefani S. had a similar perspective: “Take it as a learning experience and get your act together. If a bunch of people left all at once, I’d put money on the fact that their reasons are related to how they’re being managed. People get fed up and are too scared to just quit on their own a lot of the time. They want to know that their complaints are valid and supported.” Talking to fellow stylists about their concerns may serve as the final push for those who were toying with the idea of leaving. “I was recently in the same type of situation and I was one of three employees to leave our salon within a week for the same reasons: poor management and problems with the owner. I loved who I worked with but not who I worked for! Sometimes the owner needs to take a good look in the mirror and make changes that will benefit the salon!” says Gaila Johnson.
It’s Not Me….It’s YOU.
So you addressed the concerns of the stylists that left and have remedied all of their issues. You’re doing the best you can as an owner, but there is still lingering problems in your salon. Could your own employees be the problem? Barb L. Hull explains that sometimes, there’s no pleasing certain stylists: “Some join and some just aren’t happy no matter what. Moral of story: one bad apple usually spoils the bunch. Make yourself happy; that’s all that matters.” Indeed, having some of your “bad apples” leave, could turn out to be exactly what your salon needs. Sherry Moxley Myers shares some motivation: “I have a 20-station salon. Over a year ago, I lost half of my staff. Two of my staff were opening a new salon and offered cheaper rent, which caused drama, tension, etc. It was traumatic at first, but turned out to be a blessing in disguise. They were just unhappy, jealous people. Now my staff is happy and better than ever, and so am I. Just move on and keep doing your best.” Kelly A. Allen also advises owners to brush off the losses: “Do what you can to stay inspired and motivated! And be careful what you give; for some, it’s never enough!”
At the end of the day, striking the right balance between management and staff is a very tricky thing. If you have had to endure multiple employees leaving at once, do your best to address the reasons why those stylists left in the first place. If you, as the owner, are to blame in some way, take the initiative to make improvements and keep the stylists that you still have. When you believe that you have an employee (or maybe more than one!) that’s negatively affecting your business, your other employees, or even your clients, see losing her as a positive development. Letting difficult or ‘problem’ stylists go will make room for more professional stylists to join your team and ultimately make your business better.
But, tempting as it may be, resist all urges to bad mouth any of the stylists that chose to leave. Michael Taylor says, “Just be graceful about it. Don’t show you are nervous or display any form of contempt for the stylists that leave. Speak positively about the changes and wish the list staff well, especially in front of clients. Never deny a client information on their stylist that moved, just make sure they know they are always welcome in your salon.” And, as Andrea and Eric O’Kelley suggest, just do the best you can in the aftermath: “Put your best foot forward to run your business professionally. If you meet those criteria, your employees should have no reason to go.”