When Salon Management Sends You Running For Cover


I guarantee you, your mother never told you there’d be days like this. Even the most level-headed, emotionally stable managers will have periods where they struggle to maintain their sanity. As I’ve said before, frustration comes with the job and your staff will occasionally test your patience. These tips will help keep your stress in check during those not-so-pleasant work days.

Know your triggers. Managers and employees have different stress triggers. Managers have quadruple the number of potential triggers because they carry quadruple the responsibilities of the staff they manage.

Employee triggers generally include things like demanding/unreasonable clients, inadequate supplies, being overworked, not receiving adequate appreciation or recognition, and hostile working environments. Manager triggers include difficult employees, unreasonable/uncompromising owners, hostile clients, inadequate resources (i.e. budget shortages), inadequate delegation of work, conflicting demands from fickle/inexperienced owners, inability to maintain a work-life balance, lack of support, lack of appreciation and much more.

When you know what your triggers are, you can counter them. For example, my two triggers are inadequate delegation and inability to maintain a work-life balance. These are triggers that I inflict on myself. Self-inflicted triggers are the easiest to correct. My failure to ask for help or to assign work to others is damaging. It’s self-sabotage. Because I know these things to be true, I can fix them by delegating more frequently and sticking to a set schedule.

Figure out what your triggers are and brainstorm creative ways to avoid them.

Communicate with clarity. I know I’ve said this before, but nothing is more important to a manager than the ability to communicate clearly. Failure to communicate clearly is usually the reason managers encounter problems in the salon. Your staff can not read your mind. You can’t assume that they understand what you mean when you haven’t provided sufficient instruction. Instead of sulking in your office or grumbling under your breath when tasks don’t get completed to your specifications, communicate those specifications in no uncertain terms.

I learned this lesson pretty early on. I would get so irritated because my employees would fold towels at their leisure and leave them stacked in the laundry room instead of putting them away. Initially, I assumed this was the way they chose to defy me and challenge my authority. I never said anything or reacted to it because I didn’t want them to think their petty attempts to piss me off were effective, but I would silently seethe on the inside.

At the time, I was reading a book on management and I read a chapter about communication breakdowns. The problem wasn’t the staff, it was how I failed to direct them. From that point on, instead of saying, “Can you fold the towels when you get a chance?” I started saying, “The towels are dry. Would you please fold them now and return them to the cabinets?” After that, I never had issues with the towels getting done properly.

Not all people take initiative. Many employees will do what you ask and nothing more, so be specific.

Admit your limitations. “Damn it, Jim! I’m a manager, not a wizard!” Sometimes, your salon family may forget that you’re only human. You have very real limitations and constraints on what you can and can’t do. There are only so many hours in the day and a salon’s budget can only be stretched so far. When the employees you lead are begging for the latest and greatest new color line or the salon owner is pushing you to take on more responsibilities than you have time to satisfactorily accomplish, speak up.

Don’t pressure yourself to be everything to everyone.

Conduct your orchestra. Managers sometimes forget that their job is to manage. Some managers don’t do their jobs at all and others go way overboard and try to take on every task possible. You need to strike a balance, which means delegating and outsourcing tasks.

Your job isn’t to do everything yourself; your job is to ensure that everything gets done and done well. So, if you’re too busy to take inventory, assign that task to someone who has the time. If holiday season is too crazy and you’re having a hard time managing the salon’s social media presence (a vital task during holiday season), outsource that job (or automate it) for the next couple of weeks.

The problem with managers who try to handle everything themselves is that they often end up dropping the ball.

Stress accumulates and they risk burnout. The best managers are the ones who know which tasks can and should be delegated or outsourced and who they can trust to take on those tasks.

Fight battles on your own terms. I play video games.One of the most important lessons you need to learn as competitive gamer (if you want to be any good) is to fight battles on your own terms. Running into a fight in unfamiliar territory, continuing to fight while your shields/health/ammunition are rapidly depleting, or engaging an enemy you when you’re in a vulnerable position will end in disaster.

There’s no shame in self-preservation.

Retreat should not be interpreted as cowardice. If you feel like the walls are closing in on you and you’re genuinely not prepared to face whatever you’re being confronted with, postpone it until you are. Run, hide, and live to fight another day.

Allow yourself to be human. Nobody can be Yoda all of the time.

Wisdom and patience you have, yes, but boundless they are not.

A day will come when you’ll want to melt into the floor and disappear. At some point, you might yearn for the power to light difficult employees on fire with your mind or wish you could command a squadron of robotic velociraptors to chase problem clients out of the salon.

Every so often, the planets will align and the universe will throw the mother of all bad days at you. If you crack a little bit under the immense pressure of your responsibilities and find yourself curled in the fetal position, sobbing in your shower, remember that nobody is perfect. Every manager gets overwhelmed from time to time. Our jobs are demanding, stressful, and largely thankless. Be nice to yourself.

[This post has been auto-posted, which means I’ve had yet another baby and am out of the office until further notice.]

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Beauty industry survivalist, salon crisis interventionist, tactical verb-weapon specialist, and the leader of at least a hundred workplace revolutions, Tina Alberino is known as much for her extensive knowledge as for her sarcastic wit and mercilessly straightforward style. She’s the author of the book The Beauty Industry Survival Guide and the blog This Ugly Beauty Business. When she’s not writing, educating, or consulting, she can be found overthinking everything, identifying problems people didn’t know existed, and stubbornly working to change the things she cannot accept.


  1. Hi Tina,
    Great website. I very much relate to your article on some very important points.
    But must say, as a second generation salon owner/manager, there are some of us men also working in this industry!!
    Keep up the good work

    • Lol, is this because I often use female pronouns? I started being more conscientious about it since men finally exceed 5% of the industry workforce–but they crossed that threshold only barely. (In 2015, beauty professionals were 94.8% female and 5.2% male, lol.) If it’s because most of the post images are of females, that’s because finding stock images of males who have the look of a beauty professional are really hard to find. 😀


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