Feeing like it’s time to throw in the towel at work? Before you wash your hands of the whole situation, think about what you can do to create more harmony between you and your supervisor.
Illustration by Quinn Kaneko
We’ve all had one; maybe some of us have even been one griping about the boss is as common in the workplace as coffee, but if your boss is making your job a nightmare, you’ve got to learn to get along or get out.
As uniquely difficult as some bosses are, they all fall into a few typical behavior patterns, Sometimes simply recognizing why someone behaves in a particular manner is the key to learning to deal with her. Before you throw in the towel, try to communicate with your boss to resolve conflict. If diplomacy and compromise fail, it may be time to consider moving on.
“His way of doing things is the only way,” says in intimidated nail technician in Las Vegas. “He won’t listen to any ideas from the staff. But it’s a beautiful salon and I love working here so I try to stay out of this way when he’s in a bad mood. If I need to talk with him, I wait until he’s in a good mood.”
New York industrial Psychologist Dr. Richard Kopff, president of the Personnel & Industrial Division of the New York Psychological Association, says that bosses are naturally intimidating -- just because they are bosses. “Just the way a boss dresses can be intimidating to subordinates.”
One effective way to deal with an intimidating boss is to recognize that, although you may sometimes be the “target” of his or her intimidating behavior, it is likely that others are often the target as well. Don’t take a boss’s bad mood or temper tantrum personally. Of course, if you have done something wrong, you need to correct it. And don’t forget that the boss is only human and is entitled to a bad mood now and then.
Another constructive way to deal with an intimidating boss is remember that he or she very likely started out where you are now, as someone’s employee. Some bosses may lord it over their staff that they’re stressed. Others push people around because they feel insecure or inadequate and need to puff themselves up. A kind word, a smile, or any other gesture of your approval may be just the thing a cranky boss needs to lift her mood or an insecure one needs to boost her self-esteem.
“Some bosses skim off the top when they pay out commissions,” says nail technician Cynthia Durham of J. Jensen’s Salon in Phoenix, Ariz. “And if you don’t keep track, how can you prove otherwise?” Durham’s solution is to keep her own ledger book and her own appointment book, writing down the pertinent information about services performed and money paid. She has been caught by surprise with deductions from her commission. “The boss may take off $1 to pay the receptionist &2_&10 a week for coffee, and a few more dollars for the towel service.” Find out what will be deducted from your pay before you start working at a salon to avoid any surprises.
Most states have statues to protect employees from money being withheld. Nonpayment of commission is a criminal offense in most states. Claudia Centomini, general counsel to the Massachusetts Department of Labor, has handled cases at salons involving nonpayment of commission, “There are often a lot of contingencies in the commission policy that aren’t clear,” Centomini observes. Some complaints can be filed anonymously, Centomini says, though these are harder for the department to pursue.
If you feed that your boss is not paying you your full commission, you can call your state’s department of labor and fill out a complaint report. Then the department will notify the employer, which if your boss is not cooperative, criminal proceedings can be undertaken “Usually employees come to us when they’re about to leave or have left. My advice to them is that the better their records are, the more help we can be,” says Centomini.
There are times when what appears to be greeding in a boss might just be a struggle to keep the business alive. There is often a small margin of profit with small businesses, and an owner’s attitude may reflect the strain of that.
“It looks like greediness, but it is the survival instinct, the attitude of someone trying to stay in business,” says Kopff. Or. Viewing someone as the greedy boss might be simply the unfair perception of a young, inexperienced nail technician, suggests salon owner and nail technician Shirley Thomas of Hair Port in Palmyra,, Ill. “Young technicians get hyped up at nail schools. They get the attitude they everyone owes them something, that they’ll never have to sweep the floor or clean up after themselves.
Working of an inexperienced boss can be unpleasant if she doesn’t understand the nails side of the business or doesn’t understand how to run a business in general. “One of my pervious bosses had no knowledge of the business. She didn’t schedule appointments properly. All the nail technicians would be sitting there with no clients. A client would call to schedule an appointment, and the boss would give it her daughter who was at home sleeping in. The daughter would come in without even showering, bringing along her crying baby. I knew I had to quit,” recalls nail technician Michelle Orton.
Some bosses show an obvious lack of experience in running their business. A common problem for nail technicians is that many salon owners and managers come either from a background in hair alone or from another type of business and possess little understanding of the nails side of the shop. Bosses who know little about nails may have a hard time properly keeping up an inventory of nail supplies and may miscalculate when scheduling appointments for nail technicians. “As the minority in the salon,” explains nail technician Sam Gould, “nail technicians always felt their needs were on the needs of the hairstylists.”
Clients may notice a boss’s neglect of the nails side of the business. Nail technician Nilsene Privette of Headliners Salon in Scottsdale, Ariz., says her clients noticed that the owner never said hello to them. “The boss wasn’t catering to my clients in the same way he catered to hair clients. There should be a bond between the salon owner and the nail client, just as there is one between the nail technician and the client.”
One way to solve some of the problems caused by a boss’s inexperience is to offer your own experience and help. An enterprising nail technician could offer to assist the owner in preparing product ordering guides that technicians could use. She might ask to be promoted to nail supervisor in exchange for a bonus, for example.
How can you handle an irresponsible boss, one who takes nothing seriously, including those vitally important salon sanitation practices? “Today there are more sanitation rules and regulations than ever before. If your employer is not willing to support you, you risk losing your license,” warns Durham. “The bringing the problem to your employer’s attention. If she continues to avoid taking care of the problem, like keeping the restrooms clean, she’s obviously not willing to maintain other regulations.”
If you’re caught in a situation like that and you cannot impress either men or women, look down on one sex, or use the salon environment to carry out unbusinesslike practices can make life unpleasant for everyone. One nail technician faced a sticky problem with a male boss __he was propositioning her clients! “My boss, who was a married man, would try to pick up my clients and ask them out to dinner. I never confronted him he intimidated me and it just wasn’t worth it. I quit after nine months,” recalls Laney Clark, now a nail technician at Fox and Company in Las Vegas.
If a firm statement from you to your boss making it cleat that you won’t tolerate his behavior isn’t treated seriously, you can report him to your state’s labor commission, your state’s department of fair employment and housing, or the Federal Equal Employment Opportunity Commission (FEEOC).
Be Assertive With Your Boss
You’ve got problems with the boss, but you’ve decided that you like your job and want to see things improve. You feel there is an opening for communication and want to be sure you handle it properly. Schedule an appointment with your boss and go in prepared, suggests Privette, who has had many positive experiences working things out with bosses. Request that you talk in private, particularly if it’s a sensitive matter.
Privatte recommends making a list beforehand of everything you want to discuss. “Even if it seems hard to bring it up, take the risk. Go in with an open mind and say, ‘This is what’s been both erring me,’ Don’t allow yourself to feel intimidated. Be comfortable with yourself and your abilities. Don’t attack, and remember, don’t be sidetracked from your mission.”
Gould cared enough about her position and her company to work out her problems with a new man ager. “After numerous fruitless meetings with her, I felt I needed a mediator. I went to the manager of the department store where out salon is based and the three of us worked things out,” says Gould.
“I knew I worked for a great company and had built a great business here.”
Gould advice to nail technicians who have problems with their boss is to stay professional and try to solve the problem directly with the person it involves.
“Don’t start talking with other nail technicians about a problem you’re having with your boss,” she says.
How do you know when a boss isn’t going to change and you need to leave? “Go with your gut instincts,” advises Orton, now happily employed after escaping two in tolerable work situations. “I love my work. It’s fun, I do it well, and I make a good living. When I was working at the old salon and was getting up in the morning not wanting to go work, I knew it was time to quit. In this business you have to feel good about your work because how you feel shows to your customers.”