We’ve all worked with “That Girl”–the one that shows up early, works late, and has energy and enthusiasm in excess. She’s the one with all the bright ideas for salon events, new services, and strategies to improve the salon’s operations. She dresses spectacularly and is always the picture of professionalism. She’s motivated and takes initiative.
Love her or hate her, one thing is certain–she is going places.
A lot of owners see That Girl as a threat to their leadership. They interpret her enthusiastic suggestions as backhanded criticisms of their management style. At some point, owners see That Girl as some breed of mutineer in the making. These owners often butt heads with That Girl and fire her before she can become a competitor. I’ve seen it happen over and over again. I’ve been ordered to fire That Girl by insecure salon owners more than once and have argued against it every time.
You want to know the reasons these owners had for ordering me to terminate That Girl?
“If we don’t get rid of her, she’ll end up being our competitor.” [Insecure.]
“I’m the owner, not her.” [Intimidated.]
“She isn’t as great as she thinks she is.” [Jealous.]
Salon owners, get a grip. Firing That Girl is not going to keep her from reaching for the stars. You’ll never kill that spark. You will never break That Girl. She’s bulletproof and she’s in this business to stay. Deal with it.
That Girl is not your enemy. She is a natural born leader, and those professionals are your stars. They are to be coveted, not discarded like trash or excommunicated like traitors. Don’t let their ambition, motivation, or ability to take initiative intimidate you. Help them develop it.
If you fire That Girl, you’re shipping a massive asset directly into a competing salon owner’s hands. That salon owner might be a lot smarter than you and actually utilize her talents properly.
That Girl is the definition of management material. If you’re lucky enough to have one stumble into employment at your salon, hold her tight and never let her go. Take her in as your protege and nurture her professional development. When she’s ready, promote her. Put her natural talents and enthusiasm to work for you.
That Girl needs challenges. She thrives from seeing the business grow. To her, failures are valuable lessons that motivate her to work harder. Successes are incredible victories that encourage her to bring the business to the next level. Treat her right, compensate her appropriately, praise her efforts regularly, and give her responsibilities that allow her to utilize her talents. Keep her happy, make her feel like a respected colleague, and she’ll never leave your side.
Drop your petty insecurities, your jealousy, and the fear that is eating away at you like a cancer. If That Girl decides to go out on her own after a few years, support that decision and maintain a good relationship. Take pride in the fact that you helped create a spectacular professional. There are plenty of clients to go around and there is no room in this business for infantile rivalries.
Are you That Girl in your salon? I was. I was brought into this business because I was That Girl.
My first owner was fantastic. She recruited me when I was 15 years old and immediately began grooming me for management. A hurricane wiped out our salon and our owner revealed that she had been battling cancer–and was losing fast. She had the site demolished and gave it to her sons for their landscaping business. I left that job after three years with a naive, idealistic impression of this industry. Everything was sunshine and rainbows! I had a great career in a wonderful industry where my hard work was appreciated and well-rewarded! My job was the best! Surely my professional life would be eternally wonderful! …right?
Wrong. The next two years were torture.
My subsequent owners weren’t like my first. They didn’t appreciate my input or my hard work. I was accustomed to working without direction or instruction. If something needed to be done, I just did it. My first owner told me that my ability to take initiative was an admirable quality. Under new ownership, I found myself getting yelled at for dusting shelves, arranging retail displays, and refilling backbar without “asking for permission.” (As if I should have to ask permission to do my job.)
“You didn’t ask me if you could wipe down the cabinets!” (Sorry, I think? Is this a joke?)
“If I wanted to have the salon’s work featured on models on runways at Sarasota Fashion Week, I would handle it. I don’t need you trying to run this business for me.” (My friend is a coordinator for the show. She asked if I’d relay the offer…)
“What is this? Why did you take it upon yourself to create this brochure proof? Don’t you think I could make our brochures myself if I wanted them?” (…if you could do it yourself, why don’t we have any?)
“What is this IRS shit about employment classification? Don’t you think I know how to run my business?” (If you did, you wouldn’t have everyone in here misclassified. You’d know that if you looked at the packet of paperwork I provided you with. Sorry for trying to keep you from being audited.)
I spent that small portion of my early career being treated like an enemy, eyed with suspicion, and getting “put into my place” for being competent and self-directed. I was even accused of corporate espionage once (yes, really).
Several of my coworkers were disdainful of me.
“You’re stupid if you think doing all that extra work is going to get you a raise or something.”
“I hope you know that you’re never going to get promoted, no matter how hard you work here. Why do you bother?”
“I remember when I was new, young, and naive as a freshly fallen leaf. You’re so green, girl. This business will eat you alive.”
I could do no right. On the rare occasions my hard work was acknowledged by whatever asshole owner I was working for, the backlash from my coworkers was brutal.
“What are you trying to prove? You’re making all of us look bad.”
“You’re an asskisser.”
“Nobody likes a teacher’s pet.”
Nothing I did was right. I made the mistake of desperately trying to befriend my coworkers. I swept their hair, shampooed their clients, worked late for them, took their reception shifts and their Sunday shifts…nothing worked. Instead of gratitude, I was gifted with more hostility.
“My client booked with you! That’s the real reason you’re helping us! You’re poaching clients!” (I wasn’t.)
“Get Tina off the front desk, she’s stealing walk-ins.” (I was nearly fired because of that accusation. Thankfully, I was able to prove that I hadn’t taken a new client–walk-in or otherwise–in three weeks…which pissed them off more because not only did I not get fired, they discovered that I had established a following of regulars.)
“You’re just trying to win points with the boss. You’re transparent.” (I was trying to win points with them at that point. I had long since learned the owner was a lost cause.)
I was depressed and fed up. What the hell was I doing wrong?
I was loyal.
I was reliable.
I was hard-working.
I just wanted to help make the salon owner’s life easier and keep the salon running smoothly for everyone.
Why the hell was I being treated like a criminal?
…because weak, insecure salon owners see That Girl as a threat instead of what she is–a massive asset. Coworkers that have worked under that kind of incompetent management don’t thrive. They become just as miserable as the owners that shoot them down every day. These owners need their staff to be incompetent. It’s how they exert their dominance and stoke their ego.
Don’t let yourself become a victim like I did.
My next job interview was very different. I was upfront in my resume about my dedication and my work ethic. I interviewed the owner intensely. I explained to her that I had experience in management and was not interested in working somewhere that wouldn’t utilize my strengths. Just because I was young didn’t mean I wasn’t damn good at my job. I had no problem proving that to her, but I wasn’t about to allow myself to be taken for granted and disrespected again.
I was hired and enjoyed another three and a half years of bliss before I moved to Tampa. Since I asserted myself in that interview ten years ago, I have never been mistreated again. I’ve had a few owners try and fail, but by then I knew my worth and I knew better than to tolerate it.
If you’re That Girl, you need to do the same thing.
…and if you’re one of those asshole coworkers, start treating That Girl better. She may end up being your boss one day.