A woman (let’s call her Kendra for simplicity’s sake) emailed me and asked me what my opinion was on owners that install surveillence cameras. I replied that surveillance cameras are a great investment and that the owner should install them to protect the business and her staff. Kendra’s reply sortof shocked me.
The cameras are facing into the salon…at the staff and clients. They’re on the salon floor, at the front desk, in the break room, and in the dispensary.
The best part? They record sound and have a high enough resolution to see the display on a cell phone from across the room. Meaning this owner can hear your conversations and read your text messages if they were so inclined. The staff is outraged and sees this as a huge invasion of privacy. Many of them are upset because they feel the owner has no trust in them.
I asked Kendra if the installation of these security cameras had been prompted by anything in particular. Was there a theft or anything else that made this owner think that the staff required constant babysitting? According to her, there hadn’t been, which is why the staff felt so betrayed.
Kendra and her coworkers are creeped out by the whole situation. She told me, “I feel like I can’t be myself anymore. Every day at work I’m like a robot. I have to watch everything I say and do as if my boss were standing in the room.” It was this statement that made it clear to me why the owner installed the cameras – the staff are not behaving professionally when she’s not present. The owner wants the staff to believe they’re being watched at all times so that they’ll behave as if they’re being watched at all times.Since it’s impossible for the owner to be there from open to close every day, the cameras are a suitable stand-in. Obviously, they’re doing their job. If she simply wanted to eavesdrop and spy on her staff, she wouldn’t have told them that the cameras record sound and can view cell phone displays. She wants the staff to know that every move they make and every word they say is being recorded.
I explained to Kendra that she and her coworkers need to be grateful for those cameras because they’re motivating them to conduct themselves appropriately, which clients greatly appreciate. When you’re at work, you shouldn’t require any privacy. You shouldn’t ever be speaking about or doing anything that you wouldn’t say or do in front of your employer. Your behavior in the salon reflects on the business as a whole and affects the success of those around you as well. All of us, at one point or another, have lost good clients due to the actions of our coworkers.
At the end of the day, the one thing most owners care about is making money. They don’t care if your boyfriend left you or if you’re about to be evicted from your apartment because you blew your rent money on shoes. They’re not interested in your gossip, your drama, or that rash you can’t get rid of. If your owner feels the need to install cameras, they’re not “spying” on you…they’re babysitting you because at some point, you’ve proven that you can’t be trusted to behave like responsible, professional adults when you’re left to your own devices.
One of the concerns raised by Kendra was the privacy of her clients. We all know that some clients get a little too personal in our chairs. This oversharing tends to make me extremely uncomfortable, so I have no problem telling people, “I’m a professional, not a confessional.” I’ve found for the most part, however, that a good deal of other industry workers see themselves as therapists and have no problem handing out advice as if they were qualified to do so. Personally, I have no interest in gossip or the personal affairs of my clients and I certainly don’t think it’s appropriate to offer advice, whether it’s solicited or not. I will always listen to my clients, but it is not my place nor am I educated enough about them or their personal situations to give them any advice…and neither are you, but that’s another post for another day.
How you handle protecting the privacy of your clients that tell all is your decision. If I were in a similar position, I would just tell the truth about the cameras and leave it at that. I’m sorry I don’t have anything particularly useful to add here. This is a situation I don’t have experience with since I would never allow a client to get that comfortable with me to begin with. If there are others out there that do have experience in this department, feel free to post your solutions in the comments. I will edit this post to include them.
Anyways, a nosy owner that wants to “spy” will not tell you they’re installing a surveillance system. They’ll do it when the staff is gone for the day and not breathe a word of it to anyone until it’s time to start firing people. An owner that wants you to shape up will let you and the rest of the staff know that the system is going in. Be grateful your owner is being courteous enough to give you the warning. You might be able to save your job.