We’ve let the behavior slide long enough. I know, a confrontation can be hard. And, yes, you thought she was your friend. Oh yeah, people just shouldn’t act like that! Well, listen up. This is the real world and the nail salon can be like an in-your-face reality TV show, complete with every bad coworker behavior imaginable. So, stop standing there with your mouth hanging open. Yes, you did just see what you thought you did. Now, what are you going to do about it?

We talked to techs, receptionists, and owners to get a feel for what you are really going through. Most of you are lucky enough to work with great coworkers, while some had a tale that would seem just bizarre to industry outsiders. We also found great advice for dealing with these “problem children” in the salon setting. Who are these enemies and how do they get away with so much?

The Client Stealer

Anyone’s clients are fair game, just as long as she doesn’t have to go out and recruit them herself!

You can identify the client stealer by her oh-so-sickly-sweet demeanor with your client. Of course she tells the client your book is full today but she would be happy to help out by fitting her in for a fill and pedicure. Turns out, your book is not full. She just wants your client. Watch out, she’s likely to rebook your client — just not with you.

April Thomason, owner of At Your Fingertips, in Huntsville, Ala., has developed a system of booking that puts the client first and cuts down on the potential for poached clients. “We moved into a larger space a year ago and had more salon traffic and employees,” she says. “If a client calls in to book an appointment, we honor the request of a particular technician. However, if they don’t specify, we book according to what appointment time the client prefers. It really evens out in the end. Everyone ends up with a more balanced book. We work by appointment only and strongly encourage a client to try someone else in the salon before going elsewhere.”

OK, clients are not property, though we feel awfully territorial about them. Make sure clients know you appreciate their business. This is one example where pre-booking client appointments before they leave the salon can ensure another tech doesn’t snipe them out from under you. There is also the possibility that a client may be better served by another tech in the salon. Developing a salon policy for handling client requests puts everyone on a level playing field.

The Lazy Tech

The lazy tech never sweeps, dusts, or cleans her implements and station. She may “borrow” items from your station simply because they are in reach. She means to take a continuing education class but just can’t seem to drag herself out of bed on a Monday morning. Forget about her being responsible for her guests. If she runs out of a product, a drugstore generic is the perfect stand-in. Planning isn’t high on the priority list so she is apt to run a bit behind. And, don’t look at her nails, she has been way too busy (yawn) to do them.

“I hate it when a tech leaves her station like a pig sty — on her day off. It’s bad enough when you are busy working, but if it’s a mess and you aren’t even there, it really looks bad to clients,” says Maggie Franklin of Art of Nailz in Visalia, Calif. “But booth renters don’t have a lot of control over what other techs do in the salon. I also don’t like it when techs let children rummage through my stuff or run wild. I’ve found subtle peer pressure works well to get the point across. It’s even better if a tech happens to overhear a client say something.”

“Sometimes we are a little lazy about paying attention to our surroundings,” says Jody Johnson, the receptionist at Country Cuts in Palmer, Alaska. “A salon can get really noisy at times. When everyone is talking and laughing it can make it hard to hear a soft-spoken client. There are four phone lines coming into the salon. I hold up a hand to let everyone know that it is getting a little too noisy. That gesture reminds the stylists about the noise level.”

Denise Carter, owner of Denise’s Nails, in Dothan, Ala., uses language such as, “We really need to get your station organized. She points out that when she says “we” she means the technician. She finds that if the tech is involved in the day-to-day activities of the salon, she is more invested and it is easier to get her to clean up promptly. “Technicians develop pride in the workplace.”

When others “borrow” without permission, Franklin suggests saying something to the person. “Please don’t touch my supplies; it’s how I make my living. The items must remain sanitized.” She jokingly says, “If they don’t get it, pick up a pair of their $300 shears and start clipping coupons. They will get it real fast. Ha!”

The Drama Queen

Everyone has the occasional mishap. Flat tires, no-show babysitters, and traffic are part of life. The Drama Queen makes the most of miniscule events and plays them out in larger-than-life detail, center-stage in the nail salon. The salon is her personal platform. The Drama Queen may share inappropriate information with clients, thus creating an uncomfortable pause when the client has no clue how to respond. Will someone please tell this tech that life is not always fair? Nobody really cares.

“Most technicians want to be successful and put in the effort even though they have other stuff going on in their life,” says Carter. “You have to find a way to keep it from dragging you and your business down.” When asked what types of things needn’t be shared, she said, “I have heard a technician go on and on about going out and getting drunk over the weekend — with a client in the chair. Or they might yap on and on about weird personal stuff. You just can’t do that.”

“Too much drama can suck the life out of you,” says Thomason. “I worked with someone who had a drug and alcohol problem. There was always something going on. There have to be some things that just aren’t tolerated. I have found that a set of rules, combined with an environment where people care about you and are genuine and thoughtful takes care of a lot of the bad behaviors. When there is a problem, I like to encourage direct dialog between the people.”

The Know-It-All Tech

Continuing education is for other technicians, since this one knows it all, has seen it all, and mastered it all. Don’t even try to sway her to a new ingredient or method of application. The Know-It-All isn’t having any of it. She may cut you off mid-sentence or finish your sentences for you, since she knows exactly what you are saying before the thought forms in your pea brain. She knows what’s best for everyone’s clients, including yours and isn’t afraid to share it, no matter how bad it makes others look. To be fair she probably is trying to help. If only we could appreciate her expertise.

“Sometimes it’s better to respect each other and give each other some room,” says Franklin. “You can’t really tell other booth renters how to run their business. In reality it’s like a little mall and we just share a roof. It’s a delicate ballet when working with people. You may know they are doing it wrong, but there is only so much you can do.”

While the Know-It-All’s holier-than-thou attitude may be annoying, her high self-regard can be a plus. Take the time to find an area where this “smarty-pants” excels and compliment her on it. Enlist her support and help. You could say, “I see you have a tremendous amount of experience in this area, would you mind helping me out with training other employees from time to time?” This should keep her busy stroking her ego, which is normally what she is after. Need to rein her in a bit more? How about having her research and present a subject for the monthly salon meeting. Being in the spotlight might mellow her a bit. Properly appreciated, the Know-It-All can become a model citizen in the salon.

The Irresponsible Tech

Don’t count on her to be on time. Heck, she might not even show up at all. Sanitation may fall by the wayside. She will open the last roll of paper towels without a word, or drain the monomer bottle dry and leave it for the next person to find. She seems lazy, but in most cases just doesn’t see how it pertains to her. It’s someone else’s job, someone else’s fault, someone else’s problem…she has an excuse for everything.

“It’s all about the clients,” at All About You Nail & Body Boutique in Yuba City, Calif., and co-owner Charee Thurman has seen her share of bad behavior. She and her partner sought to create a more professional environment when opening the salon.

“While working in a previous salon, a stylist walked out in the middle of a haircut. She answered a cell phone call and stepped outside. Next thing we knew, she was pulling out of the parking lot in her car. Someone else had to finish up. No one really knew what to say.” Thurman points out that this was one of the types of behavior that led to opening All About You. “You just don’t want clients witnessing that type of behavior.” She is careful to check references and encourages nail techs looking for employment to act professionally.

To encourage responsibility, Thomason puts all of the chores into a hat and lets employees draw them out. “If they don’t like the assignment they can trade with someone. This way we know that the garbage gets taken out each day.”


10 Commandments for the Nail Salon
1. Thou shall clean up your own mess.
2. Thou shall not bring your drama from home.
3. Thou shall continue to learn.
4. Thou shall show up on time.
5. Thou shall respect clients and coworkers alike.
6. Thou shall act in a professional manner at all times.
7. Thou shall deal with others directly and honestly.
8. Thou shall not invade another’s workspace without permission.
9. Thou shall not use the last of anything without telling the appropriate person.
10. Thou shall be a productive member of the team.

Illustration by Luisa Montalto

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