Ken’s Clinic

Ken’s diagnosis

This is always a difficult question for a salon owner as their priority is the efficient running of their business, whereas the priority of the team member is their personal issues. I often say to owners that one of the hardest roles to master is that of being a counsellor and mentor to our teams. It’s an extremely careful balancing act between the needs of the salon and the needs of the team member. 

Sometimes sickness is seen as a personal problem and a team member who regularly has days off could not only disrupt salon income but might also cause friction and unrest among those members who are rarely sick. This is where a system of managing sickness, such as absence scoring system ‘The Bradford Factor’, becomes important. Accurate records and the use of the system could not only help to reduce sickness by highlighting it, but could also give you the vital information required should you need to manage someone out of your business. I also believe that if you are paying your team in a way that truly rewards success, then you can reduce casual sickness.

Now let’s deal with the tricky element, the personal stuff. If you have built up the right culture of behaviour in your salon, then your team’s personal issues should never be discussed with clients. They don’t pay to listen to our problems, though they often like to share theirs with us.
This type of culture should be established at the induction stage of every new team member. 

Next we need to understand what it means to have empathy, to imagine yourself in another’s position. Now the fact that your young assistant has just split up from their partner who they only met a month ago, might not be a big deal for you, but if it was their first big relationship and they believed that they had met ‘The One’, then their world has just crashed down around their ears. You’ve been there, done that and got the T-shirt, but they can’t even face the world, so they call in sick or mope around the salon.

This is where your empathy kicks in and where you become the metaphorical arms that comfort, the shoulder to cry on. Listen and show that you care, but gently explain that they might be better off keeping their emotions to themselves. Even consider that it may be better for them not to be in the salon, rather than crying all over your clients. Find them something to do away from the shop floor, or even let them take a day’s holiday to recover. 

If someone has a longer-term emotional problem that is beyond your basic counselling skills, then encourage people to seek advice elsewhere and maybe even support them by offering the appropriate paid time off to do this.

Most of the time all people really need is emotional support. Someone who will listen to them and care. Someone to be non-judgemental and show empathy and compassion. Often this is all that is needed to help people find their own solutions. A basic need of any human is to know that we belong and that someone cares about us. It’s not much to ask but, in this age of social media and ‘friends’ that we never actually meet or socialise with, this is a need that is unfulfilled in many lives.

Ken West is director of business experts 3•6•5 – email him on


Ken West