FIRE THEM! That’s the first bit of advice most owners or managers are given when they share stories about “toxic” employees at their shops, but this isn’t always the best advice. It may be better to engage with a difficult employee, especially one that you want to keep for any number of reasons (i.e. they are productive, you’re friends, or you just hate firing people). Here’s how:
Determine whether the employee in question is in fact “toxic.” Toxic employees usually fit into one of these categories:
- Argumentative: Always looking for a fight or an argument, this employee seems to always be the “contrary” one in every meeting or discussion.
- Depressed: The world is always ending for this employee. No matter what the working conditions may be, they always find a reason to be dissatisfied and morose.
- Backstabbing: This employee is always letting the employer know how awful everybody is and how everybody but themselves is ruining the business. Of course, they never mention this to the other employees.
- Time Wasting: This employee while sometimes appearing busy, always seems to find a way to get through the work day having done as little as possible outside of what MUST be done. (4 hours on FaceBook anyone?)
- Anchor: Why is it that when this employee is missing, so much more seems to get accomplished? This employee takes so much time and effort out of everybody else’s day because they are too busy dealing with the employee’s issues, problems, learning difficulties, etc. to get their own work done effectively.
Once you have discovered a toxic presence at your salon or spa and decided not to let them go, you need to engage that employee according to their toxic category:
The Arguer: Address this type of employee by bringing them in for a private talk to create a constructive way for them to vent. Let them know that if they have a grievance, they must remember three important rules. The first, and most important, is that they may not be negative or loud, but rather constructive and respectful of other’s opinions. Second, they must be willing to actively participate in seeking a solution everybody can agree on or work with; Disagreeing just for the sake of disagreeing is unacceptable. Finally, be sure that the employee is aware that not changing their behavior has consequences, such as demotions, losing shifts, or even termination. Remember to set a follow-up meeting in the future to discuss whether or not they have been adequately applying your advice. If not, it may mean that the second meeting may be to hand them their pink slip.
The Depressed: Sometimes a truly depressed employee is not something that can be fixed without real psychological attention. A person that is clinically depressed is not going to be effectively treated by your words of encouragement or offering of business related solutions. If this is the case, you can encourage them to seek treatment or simply let them go. However, there are times when an employee’s situation is not clinical. Studies show that many “depressed” employees are simply not satisfied with their current lot, like being unhappy with their pay or the type of work they are doing.
Start by seeing what you can learn about the employee by having a serious conversation about what they are unhappy about in general, rather than the daily nitpicky, never satisfied, minutiae. Try offering time off or rearranging job duties, depending on the employee’s particular situation. Once again, complete the conversation(s) with the understanding that not changing their behavior has consequences that could possibly cost them their job.
The Backstabber: This is often an easy one to conquer when the backstabber is really trying to help the business but is not confident enough to confront problems themselves. Let them know how important it is that if something is amiss it should be brought up, in a polite way, to the offender. If they are unable to do this, they should keep it to themselves as the constant “tattling” can be tiresome, especially if it is about minor irritations. If it is something egregious that they cannot confront the other staff with (i.e. illegal activity), then of course they are welcome to come to you privately, but the constant negativity about their co-workers can make them look even worse than the supposed offenders. Once again, if the behavior cannot be remedied, it may mean they must start looking elsewhere for employment.
The Time Waster: Time wasting has more to do with lost productivity than actual time away from their duties. Of course, lost productivity means lost revenue for your shop. In your private meeting with this staff member, it may be helpful to use comparisons with high producing staff in relation to the offender’s numbers. Show them the fruits of using their time effectively. For example, spending less time on their phone may result in monthly payments for that new car they keep saying they want. Of course, making sure that you have opportunities for them to occupy their time is also important, don’t simply tell them to stop playing around if you have nothing constructive for them to do.
The Anchor: There are only two things to do with an employee that seems to bring everybody else’s productivity down: Training or removal. If they are bringing down productivity it is usually because they occupy others’ time with questions or the need for help. This doesn’t mean that they won’t eventually be productive and even help others at some time. You need to make a decision as to whether the proper training and best practices motivation is going to make a difference. If the answer is no, it is time to cut the anchor’s chain.