Salons buzz with people — clients, vendors, and coworkers. It’s hard to prevent gossip-mongering with so many personalities around. But nail salon owners need to keep tabs on this beast if they want their businesses to run smoothly.
“Gossiping about coworkers can lead to negative team feelings — pitting one team member against another and undermining the reason for being there: providing service to the client,” says Patti Biro, director of education for the Day Spa Association. Biro, a veteran consultant to spas, sees this happening all the time. “One of my clients had an employee who was chronically late,” she says. The employee’s coworkers assumed she was out partying. “In actuality an arrangement had been made with the owner of the spa so she could take her elderly mother to a day respite center,” she says. The gossip not only hurt the employee, it created tension in the salon.
Gossip can scare away talented employees. Dan Lok, salon owner, consultant, and author of Lies Salon Owners Believe: And the Truth that Sets Them Free, says, “Gossip pollutes the atmosphere at a salon. I’ve seen really talented employees quit jobs they loved because the gossip of other employees had created an unfulfilling work environment.”
Salons where gossip happens unchecked are also at risk of losing business. “Clients trust techs and tell them a lot of personal things, as if techs are their doctors or counselors. If techs let this information out, the trust is broken, and the client will not return,” says Trish Rock, a multi-award-winning nail artist and author of The Nail Technicians Business Guide — How To Outperform and Outlast Your Competition. She adds that clients will spread the news around town quickly that the salon cannot be trusted.
Here are some quick tips for nail techs to avoid spiteful gossip at work:
1. Self-check: You are only human and will be tempted to indulge in a bit of gossip once in a while. It’s best to check yourself in such situations. “The easiest way to keep gossip to a minimum is to stay away from declarative phrases that start with the word ‘I,’ such as ‘I heard that...’ and ‘I found out that...’,” says Lok.
2. Change course: If a conversation is turning into a gossip session, switch the topic. “Ask questions to engage the client or coworker,” says Ashley Riddle, a salon professional in Baltimore. “Where did she have dinner last night? Has she seen any new movies? Has she read any new books? A simple change in conversation can help any tech stay away from gossip.”
3. Avoid controversy: Steer clear of topics such as religion and politics that can create animosity and anger and disrupt the functioning of the salon. Need a safe topic for discussion? Talk about the entertainment industry, whether that means celebrities’ relationships or even what they were caught wearing last week. “Everyone loves talking about the best dresses, nails, and hair they saw on celebrities, and some of our clients like to use these shows as examples for their own looks,” says Francesca Montesanti, co-owner of Salon Vogue in East Greenwich, R.I.
4. Motivate yourself: When you tend to gossip around a client, tell yourself that the more time you waste gossiping, the less you’re helping your business. “The time with clients is best spent focused on their services and needs, educating them on things like how to best extend the benefits of their services (i.e., oiling their cuticles regularly, how to avoid chips, etc.) and beneficial products for them,” says Marci Wolcott, owner at 1033 Main Salon & Spa, Mumford, N.Y. “If you spend that time gossiping, you are losing opportunities to sell retail and add-on services and to show your clients that you are there for them.”
5. Tell it straight: Sometimes sharing a juicy little tale will be important because there’s a lesson or two there. “On the rare occasions that I think there is a benefit to telling the story of something that happened to someone else, I never give names or identifying information,” Wolcott says. She would say something along the lines of “I had a client who had this situation and here’s what helped.” Another good rule of thumb is to only pass on fact and not embellish the content of your matter.
6. Get creative: Some people might reason that gossip lightens up a dull day and provides respite from their monotonous routines. Wolcott thinks that’s not the case. “Boredom is an indication that you are not really there. It happens when you are just going through the motions and letting your mind wander,” she says. “Keep up to date creatively and keep yourself inspired about your work. There’s plenty to learn about in the beauty industry.”
Most owners swear by the benefits of creating a positive environment at the salon. Too much gossip never helped a business. “I’ve never once heard someone say they left a shop over lack of gossip,” Wolcott says.
Salon Best Practices
Should salons have a policy on gossip? Many owners thinks so. “Salons and spas should have employee manuals that address how and when to bring up issues of concern,” advises consultant Patti Biro. “Client confidentiality policies should be in the manual too. It should be given to each employee and updated at least annually.”
Salon owner Francesca Montesanti suggests salon management be upfront with their employees and make a strict rule: Do not take part in gossip. “This means, never make any negative comments about clients, people in the community, or other techs,” she explains.
Montesanti adds that employees should be instructed on how to deal with situations when client themselves initiate gossip. “If clients start to gossip, don’t agree or disagree with them. This keeps the tech out of the conversation and the salon free of blame,” she says.
Dinsa Sachan is a freelance writer based in India. When she is not writing, Sachan is generally seeking amateur fashion advice.