A Member recently contacted our free Legal Lifeline for advice concerning a serious argument between two team members which had taken place within sight and earshot of her clients. Clearly, this unpleasant incident had the potential to damage her salon reputation, affect team morale and impact on turnover.

Team disagreements and quarrels happen from time to time, no matter how carefully you manage your hair & beauty business, so in this post we look at the steps you should take when conflict occurs and the free legal support we offer NHF Members who find themselves with employment issues.

First, let’s look at the facts:

Airing her disagreement

In this case, a stylist was in reception talking to the receptionist about salon charges and how, in her opinion, the charges were unfair. She was very vocal with her opinions, so much so, that other salon employees and clients were able to overhear clearly.

Conflict between employees

Public quarrel between stylists

Another stylist decided to step in, approached the salon reception desk and asked her if she could “tone it down” because clients were able to hear. The first stylist fired back at her to “mind her own business” and swore at her, albeit under her breath.

Not surprisingly this quickly raised the temperature, with the second stylist asking her colleague to confirm what she had said, physically approaching her, shouting at her and waving her hands in front of her face. 

When the first stylist grabbed her colleague’s hands to move them away from her face, this then unleashed more anger, with the second stylist loudly making the clear threat, “I am going to smash your face in”.

How to deal with tensions, disputes and clashes in your salon

Clearly, the business faced a problem. Both stylists were good at their jobs, yet the bad blood between them could have a far-reaching impact on working relations in the salon, as well as damaging its reputation and professional appearance with clients.

1. First steps to conflict resolution

The salon owner contacted the NHF Legal Lifeline who advised her to speak to each of the employees separately and learn their version of events. The Legal Lifeline is available 24/7 to answer Members’ legal queries and is a free membership service.

2. Free employment advice

Our Legal Lifeline then advised the salon owner to consider whether it would be practical for these employees to continue to work together and, if not, how in a small salon they could realistically be kept apart or put on to different working patterns, so as to avoid suspension.

3. Two sides of the story

In their respective meetings, each stylist admitted to the allegations:

  • The first stylist, who had initially been complaining about the salon, conceded she had become angry and sworn, but said she had been frustrated by the way her colleague had spoken to her in front of clients.
  • The second stylist admitted to the same failings, as well as conceding she had made a threat and waved her hands in front of her colleague’s face in an aggressive and intimidating way. Her argument in mitigation was that her colleague had annoyed her, challenged her authority and sworn at her.

4. Witness statements

The salon also obtained two witness statements from colleagues who had seen what had happened, and which supported both versions of events.

5. Disciplinary hearings

Following the NHF’s Legal Lifeline advice, the salon owner invited the two employees into separate disciplinary hearings, to be conducted by a person not involved in the previous investigation.

Allegations of verbal abuse, with the addition of threatening and aggressive behaviour for the second employee, were put to them to respond to. Each case was considered serious enough to have the potential to amount to gross misconduct.

At their respective hearings both admitted the allegations but blamed their behaviour on the other as being the “aggressor” or the “provoker”.

6. Conflict resolution

Following the hearings, further advice was again sought from the Legal Lifeline. For the employee who had sworn and shouted at her colleague, this was considered serious but not serious enough to warrant dismissal. As it was considered a one-off offence the sanction was a final written warning rather than dismissal.

However, with the employee who demonstrated aggressive and threatening behaviour towards her colleague, the salon owner could not be satisfied this would not reoccur and, for the safety of clients and fellow employees, she was dismissed. The salon was of the opinion this behaviour did justify “dismissal in the first instance”.

Intriguingly, while each employee blamed the other, neither displayed any remorse for their actions, showing the difficulty salon owners can often face in resolving and defusing such situations.

Suffering from an employment problem in your hair, barber or beauty business? Our free NHF Legal Lifeline is available to Members 24/7 every day of the year for your employment-related queries and problems. Learn more about this exclusive Member service here.