Overcoming feelings of recurring guilt in the salon 

Feeling guilty

Mental health in the hair and beauty industry is not an issue that ought to be taken lightly. Behind the radiant smiles of most salon staff lie dormant insecurities, anxiety, stress and physical exhaustion. The apparent solution to resolving such adversities would be to take a much-needed vacation, right? Unfortunately, for many hair and beauty professionals, that’s simply not possible – especially those who are dealing with guilt.

Although this seemingly trivial issue is often looked over, specialists who overly immerse themselves in their work can find that their once beloved salons have turned into a metaphorical ball and chain, weighing down their lives. The most common symptoms of guilt you may be overwhelmed with are feelings of wrongdoing regarding closing the business, being overcome with an unwavering sense of duty to adopt problems your clients are facing and in some cases, self-condemnation for either defending yourself or your salon in certain situations. But where exactly do these feelings stem from, and what can you do to prevent them from taking over?

“I have to close today”

It’s one of the most difficult sentences to utter to booked clients – even if you need to close for half a day. For hair and beauty specialists who consistently have to give it their all in order to make a profit, closing during the day can mean significant financial losses, however, that’s not the worst part. Clients who were expecting to book a visit to the salon might be a bit displeased, but not as much as those who were already booked – in this case, any specialist would feel guilty for rebooking appointments.

It’s during these situations that one might be driven into an uncontrollable guilt trip. You had an unexpected emergency come up, or you just felt like taking the day off, and instead of focusing on what you need to do, you’re more worried about your clients’ reactions to the news that they need to be rescheduled. Most of them will understand – after all, things pop up sometimes. But that might not be reassuring enough for most overly-ambitious specialists. You may begin to feel guilty, and as a knee-jerk reaction, rash decisions are made – massive discounts are given out to clients, extensive apology texts are written and you may even be contemplating taking these customers after hours.

Although any respectable hair or beauty specialist would feel even a minuscule amount of guilt in this situation, it’s important not to get swallowed up by it. Remember, you’re a human too, and unless you work for someone, then your business is your domain – you’re in control of it. It’s vital that you know your worth and respect yourself as well. You’re not the only person on the planet who experiences last-second emergencies or just needs some time off. So, how should you go about this situation? Start by:

  • Informing clients – whether you’ve planned to close your business for some time or have to do so in the last-minute, sincerely apologise to clients and recommend a more appropriate day for their visit.
  • Gifting them – you know your customers like no one else. If they’re more like patrons, they won’t mind being rescheduled, but in most cases, it might agitate them. To let off some steam, give clients something unique. A discount is fine but oftentimes forgettable and not a very genuine form of apology. Instead, give dissatisfied clients a voucher, redeemable at your salon.

Tip: need to inform clients that you’re closing in the last-second? Do so with Versum, salon software! Sign up for your free, 14-day trial.

“I had to fire a client”

Most stronghearted specialists treat their fired clients like badges of honour – they share their stories on how they gracefully went about doing so on social media groups (obviously anonymously) and collect praise from other hair and beauty professionals. And that’s understandable. It requires a lot of nerve to banish an unruly client, and in most cases, it’s a necessary course of action. Difficult customers (who use profanity, are vulgar, harass you or your team and make threats) are not only bad for business, they may make you feel insecure, disheartened and potentially drive you into depression and cause self-doubt. However, taking all of these factors into account, some specialists actually feel remorse for firing burdensome clients.

Feelings of guilt caused by firing a client are often due to underlying conditions – usually self-doubt, which can be brought on by previous encounters with difficult or unsatisfied clients. One or two uncontented customers may make you think twice about the quality of your treatments or customer service, but a few more and you may begin to even doubt your professionalism – and that’s when you may feel concerning guilt. “Did I fire the client on a whim? Surely I was right to do so, but then why do I feel bad about it?” – if these questions are constantly on your mind, consider:

  • Speaking with your team – your staff work with clients on a daily basis. Although their opinions pertaining to you firing a client may be quite biased, in most cases, they’ll take a neutral stance on the issue. If your team feels that you may have exaggerated, they will most likely let you know, in order to prevent future client firings. However, if they agree that you were in the right to fire the customer, they will firmly stand with you and reassure you.
  • Carefully assessing the situation – did you fire the client because you or your team were threatened by them? Or because they weren’t satisfied with your work? Although being criticised by a client can put a dent in your self-esteem, it isn’t worthy of firing. If you’ve fired a client because of this, then genuinely apologising would be recommended.
  • Getting advice online – if you’re active on social media, then consider reaching out to other hair and beauty specialists with your situation. You’re not the first and last salon owner to feel guilty about firing a customer – share your story and get advice on whether or not you’ve acted accordingly. However, be prepared to receive mixed responses. Being open with other specialists can help bolster your self-esteem and mentally get you back on your feet in no time.

“I’m worried about my health”

Due to the recent COVID-19 epidemic, hair and beauty salons have been forced to introduce government-enacted regulations, which have completely changed certain paradigms in the industry. Staff are required to work in face coverings and regularly disinfect work stations and tools, and you have to operate in an appointment-only system – and that’s just the tip of the iceberg. These regulations are meant to prevent outbreaks, however, many hair and beauty specialists feel that they’re not enough to ensure safety – which is why salons all over the UK are limiting their hours of operation and creating their own regulations in addition to those required by law. And that’s when problems start to arise.

Most customers abide by your protocols – after all, they too want to feel safe when being treated. As for limited working hours, although customers might be irritated by this, they are actually less likely to no-show on their booked visits, seeing as how tightly-packed your schedule is and that simply walking into the salon for a last-second booking is out of the question. But there are salon clients who will ridicule you for doing so, which may ensue your feelings of guilt. Such customers tend to scoff at additional safety regulations, remarking that you’re probably overreacting, giving into the fearmongering and that they prefer to take their business elsewhere because of this.

Even the most ardent hair or beauty specialist can be moved by these hurtful remarks, which in turn, may activate feelings of guilt. To counteract or prevent this from occurring, consider:

  • Sending a pre-booking message – using Versum salon software, send a message to each client, informing them of the regulations that are to be upheld upon arriving at the salon, and that failing to do so will result in the cancellation of the appointment. You may also wish to share this information on your social media fan pages – that way, difficult clients don’t have to make a fuss about it when arriving at your business.
  • Inform but don’t apologise – never risk your health for a booking. If you’re in the at-risk group for COVID-19 or are simply worried about your wellbeing, let your customers know. COVID-19 is a serious matter, and putting yourself at risk for an extra appointment isn’t worth it.

“I need to help a client”

One of the more common factors that often lead unsuspecting salon owners to being overwhelmed with guilt is the need to help clients. However, it’s important to make note that this doesn’t include trivial matters related to helping the client decide on which article of clothing will go with their nails or hair, but more dire situations. And chances are you’ve probably been caught up in more than one. You’re probably less-lenient with new clients, but you’re always there to lend a helping hand to your favourite patrons. Then this happens – they ask that you give them a discount, as they have financial problems, or they break down in your chair and go into personal issues (marital or mental health problems) and ask for your help or advice.

Now, you’re probably feeling guilty for even thinking of not helping them. However, here’s one thing you ought to bear in mind – advising on an issue you’re not entirely familiar with can be especially harmful to both the client and you. You’re a hair and beauty specialist, and taking on the additional role of a counsellor in the salon will run your batteries dry as well. But then again, seeing your favourite client in a state of misery pulls on your heartstrings. So what should you do?

  • Recommend a specialist – if your client is in distress, recommend that they seek professional help. Find helplines and crisis contacts that will provide the client with sound advice and offer the professional support they need.
  • Stay in touch – be in contact with the client and ask how they’re feeling, especially if they’re close to you and your business. This will not only help them cope with their issues, but will also lift the guilt off of your shoulders.
  • Form a partnership – giving clients who have financial problems a free treatment or overly discounting one isn’t a good business practice. Although you may feel guilty for not doing so, it’s important to know your worth – your treatments are a luxury. Instead, work together with your clients, using Versum’s Loyalty Program. Reward them for bringing their friends and family to your salon with a discount, voucher or a free gift.

Seeking professional help

In almost all of the aforementioned cases lies one main underlying factor which can trigger feelings of recurring guilt – a lack of self-worth. By putting your clients before you and your business, you unconsciously push yourself and your needs into the last place. Then when your efforts need to shift to your own priorities, you begin to feel guilty for doing so. And in some cases, like when helping a client, you may feel obligated to do so in order to avoid feeling guilty.

Although finding acceptance and support from your team and the hair and beauty community can significantly bolster your self-esteem, it tends to be only a temporary solution. If you’re experiencing only acute feelings of guilt, then sometimes even a drop of self-reassurance can bring you back to your old self. However, if this is persistent, then your condition may worsen to the point of chronic depression, which requires long-term treatment in the form of interpersonal therapy or CBT.

Your clients, staff and your salon are what keep you going, but you need to bear in mind that you’re at the heart of the operation. Depression and guilt are not trifling matters – allowing them to take root will only create more problems. If you’re experiencing difficulty in dealing with guilt, then seek professional help, before it evolves into an uncontrollable condition – and remember, your loyal clients and staff will support you all the way!

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