As a salon owner, you dread two employees bickering with each other over duties, resources, space or perceived slights. Nevertheless, conflict happens. Here are a few approaches that may assist you in putting a little “family” in the feud:
The Advisory Approach
“Jane’s abrupt manner bothers my clients when they’re in the reception area. I’ve tried talking to her about it, but she just doesn’t seem to understand how she comes across.”
Here you’re being presented with potentially problematic—but not malicious—behavior. As an owner, your response may be to help Jane’s colleague solve the problem, not to directly intervene with Jane.
Your response may be: “Let’s think about the occasions when Jane’s mannerisms are acceptable and welcoming. What can you do to reinforce the value of this behavior?”
The Investigatory Approach
“Margaret made some inappropriate and vulgar comments yesterday.”
Here your employee is suggesting that Margaret may be behaving improperly. If left unchecked, Margaret’s actions could lead to allegations of harassment. You need to formally investigate the comments.
Your response may be: “Let me ask you to describe how the conversation started, and then recount exactly what Margaret said.”
The Planning Approach
Karen: “I’m being reprimanded for bad technique, but you were the one who taught me how to do it.”
Barbara: “The technique isn’t the problem. The problem exists in the application of the technique.”
Here you have a mess: interpersonal disputes, process problems and possibly inaccurate work. You may want to spell out concrete processes for techniques, requiring all parties to work together to overcome obstacles.
Your response may be: “Let’s talk about what needs to go into the process of applying this new gel system. Once we agree on the process, you will each be responsible for your own application procedures.”
The Mediation Approach
Sandra: “You’ve told other employees that I’m not
following the customer service procedures properly.”
Tara: “All I did was try to address some client complaints
about the way you handled the original purchases.”
At first blush, interpersonal conflicts seem to be at work here. A combination of poor communication and lack of clear-cut responsibilities may also contribute to a growing dispute over duties. You may want to bring in an objective third party to assess the situation and help the employees successfully resolve the disagreement.
Your response may be: “Victoria has some excellent experience in this area, and I’d like you both to meet with her. I hope that, once the meeting is over, we’ll be in a position to serve clients the way we promise.”
The Team Approach
Helen: “I can’t believe Megan spends the salon’s money on gourmet coffee for the break room. Half of us don’t even drink coffee. I’d rather see the money going toward the advertising budget.”
Megan: “I’m in charge of ordering break room supplies; it should be my prerogative to order what I believe we need.”
Again, interpersonal problems rear their ugly heads, along with some confusion about authority and responsibility. Since several people may be involved in the ultimate resolution of the issue, your response may be to put together a team to set things right.
Your response may be: “I’d like to create the Surefire Budget Team. You’re both members, along with Pat and Joan. The four of you will look at the good points each of you has raised and make recommendations on how to handle these spending procedures in the future.”
The Performance Approach
“I can’t stand the way Marlene organizes the reception desk. I don’t like working with her.”
This problem involves two employees and appears to be based on one employee’s perception of Marlene. Your response may be to provide your complaining employee with some coaching on work habits.
Your response may be: “Let’s talk about three things you can do to build a more effective working relationship with Marlene.”
The Dismissive Approach
“I just need to vent about all the noise that’s coming from Mary’s
station these days.”
In this case, the employee appears concerned with expressing her irritation. Your response may simply be to let her vent without attempting any action.
Your response may be: “It sounds like the noise bothers you, but you’re still doing a good job.”
The Directive Approach
June: “Kay monopolizes the telephone every time I have to call and
confirm my next day’s appointments. I usually have to wait so long for her to finish that I don’t have time
to make all of my calls.”
Kay: “June says she gives me advance notice of her telephone needs, but she really always waits until five minutes before she needs to leave for the day to get the job done.”
The circumstances are clear and the issues are simple: inefficient communication and planning. In this situation you may want to settle the problem with a dictate.
Your response may be: “June, I expect that you’ll let Kay know about your telephone needs at least four hours before you need the phone.
Kay, I expect that you’ll arrange your schedule so that June’s needs can be accommodated. You are both responsible for communicating with each other and making this arrangement work.”
Employee gripes and disputes are no fun. Without wise and skilled responses, these problems can quickly degenerate into anger and backbiting. So take the time to understand the people and circumstances involved, and fashion your responses accordingly. While there’s no guarantee of success, the response may produce a positive change in employee attitudes—and great results.
– Richard G. Ensman Jr.
[Image: Carsten Tolkmit via Flickr Creative Commons]