3 Times to Throw Your Progressive Discipline Policy out the Window


At some point, every salon owner has to deal with disciplining their employees. Unfortunately, all salon owners also eventually run into a situation where they have to fire an employee.

Disciplining and firing employees can be tough, but having good policies for these situations can make it a lot easier.

When it comes to enforcing rules, I recommend using a progressive discipline policy. This style focuses on providing warnings for repeated performance or behavior problems and progressively increasing the consequences for these problems. This gives your employees a chance to correct their issues and demonstrates that you’re a compassionate and understanding boss. (Everyone makes mistakes, right?)

However, there are some situations where using a progressive discipline policy definitely isn’t the right move. Some behaviors in the workplace are so egregious that immediate termination will be your only option.

Here are three things your employees may do that warrant immediate termination.

1. Theft 

For all small business owners, our bottom line matters. Salons in general tend to operate on razor thin margins, so our bottom line matters a lot more than it might for a business with lower overhead expenses. When an employee threatens your bottom line by stealing, you have every right to fire them immediately. And you should.

Employees who choose to steal from your business shouldn’t get a second chance or the benefit of the doubt.

You need solid proof that the employee has been stealing before you fire them. This proof can take the form of surveillance footage, client/employee statements, or irrefutable logic. Once you have that proof, they should be out the door.

Take note: Theft from your salon can take many forms.

We aren’t just talking about taking money from the register. Employees could:

If you catch an employee doing any of these things, they’ve got to go. Give them the boot right then and there. 

2. Sexual Harassment 

In this age of #MeToo there is more focus on sexual harassment in the workplace than ever–finally. Sexual harassment is a serious offense, considered a violation of a person’s human rights.

Sexual harassment can take many forms. Every salon I worked at had an employee that liked to make lewd jokes and at least one employee who would probe clients about their dating or sex lives. Thankfully, I’ve never come across any professionals who use the close contact of a beauty service to cop a feel on a client, but we’ve all heard stories about them on the news.

Every one of these behaviors–from the verbal to the physcial–are absolutely unacceptable. As a salon owner, you should have a zero-tolerance policy for all of them.

While progressive discipline policies used to be considered appropriate for dealing with sexual harassment, this isn’t the case. (Why? Because time is up. We are done.) As soon as you identify gross behavior in one of your employees, your business is in danger. Get rid of the offender immediately. Your failure to do so encourages the behavior by setting a precedent. You don’t want to establish a reputation for being the type of business that allows a harasser to operate with impunity or the type of person that prioritizes a harasser over their employees and customers.

3. Violence

One of your primary responsibilities as a salon owner is the safety of your employees and your clients. This really should go without saying, but this means that you should have a 100% zero tolerance policy for violence in the workplace. 

Assault should result in an immediate one-way ticket out of the salon. Forever.

If one of your employees gets into a physical altercation with another employee or a customer, they should be removed from the premises and fired immediately. Don’t even let them back in to get their equipment. Arrange to have it sent to them.

Be aware that violence doesn’t always have to be physical. It can be verbal or emotional as well. Verbal threats and abusive language should also result in immediate termination.

What to do When a Progressive Discipline Policy Doesn’t Work 

Using a progressive discipline policy to deal with your employees’ performance and behavior issues is a great way to be a good leader and boss. It allows you to work with employees and correct issues before they become fireable offenses. 

But when employees engage in behaviors, like the ones we’ve mentioned, that puts your salon or the people in it in danger, a progressive discipline policy won’t work. Immediate termination is the right way to go and you’re well within your rights to take that action.

For more advice on how to be a great leader and boss, check out the Business section. Be sure to subscribe to The Newsletter and consider becoming a VIP Member to gain access to the VIP Library and The Community.

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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.


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