Should I Buy The Shop When I Dislike An Employee?

Question:

I am a hairstylist and have been working a children hair salon for two years. The previous owners that hired me were two wonderful women who sold the business a year ago due to other obligations in their lives.

They hired me to work full time as a hairstylist to work with the other lady who had been there a year before me. Since day one she was not happy about my arrival. She is older, approaching sixty, and I am in my late twenties. I tried very hard too get along with her but she has insisted on fighting me on everything.

We have to equally share clients that call for appointments, and I have always played nice. She insists on booking clients with her that don’t ask for her, even when it’s my turn to take a client. She lies on her time card and is always checking the book to see who has more clients. She constantly accuses me of doing stuff when in actuality she is guilty of that same accusation.

She has brainwashed the other co-worker there to not be fond of me so she has an ally to talk bad about me with, I have tried so hard to get along with her and just when I think we are on the same page she will turn on me.

The new owner wants to sell the business to me. My evil co-worker got wind of that and went ballistic saying she would quit. This would make my life so much better, but if she left I would lose business and it might look bad to clients that she’s not there anymore. I have tried to tell the owner how much stress she causes me and how upset she gets me and he understands that she has that ability to really get under peoples skin.

I don’t want to quit because then she wins and gets the whole salon to herself, which is what shes always wanted. But, I like it there too. I just want her to leave.

Do you think I should buy the business? This is a wonderful opportunity and why should I let some bitter jealous lady get in the way of that? Or, should I just walk away?

She drives me crazy. But, me purchasing the business without her might be too risky. The owner doesn’t want to let her go because he doesn’t want to be liable for her. Help! She is a nightmare, trust me .

Signed,

Can’t Decide


Answer:

Dear┬áCan’t Decide:

I think you should find someone who is seasoned in the hair salon business and talk to them about this issue. They will have a better perspective about some aspects of it. I can share a couple of thoughts that might help you develop a plan of action about it, but could not accurately advise you about the professional issues.

This sounds like an unpleasant situation for both you and the other person. She feels she has justification for her attitude toward you and you feel she is not a nice person. Another employee apparently takes her side in the dispute. (It’s easy to say that the employee was “brainwashed”, but most of us will not make friends or enemies if we do not have some personal experiences of our own to back up our reactions.)

Whatever the reason for all of this, my view is that you certainly should not consider keeping her if you buy the establishment. For one thing, let me assure you as a client, that conflict between hair stylists is obvious to others, no matter how they try to conceal it. So, you may find that not having her there will make some clients happy, no matter how other clients feel. I don’t know if the employee works directly for the salon or only contracts for a booth–that would make a difference perhaps. But either way, your current owner’s statement that he is concerned about being liable if he tells her to leave, sounds like an excuse to me.

Few laws about hiring, firing or sub-contracting (booth rental), apply to very small businesses. If this is a large national chain he still would be able to let her go if he can show she has caused problems.

He probably likes you but also likes her well enough to keep her. Or, he doesn’t dislike her enough to go through the hassle of telling her to change or else.

It seems to me your options are: Buy the business and tell her you want her to stay, then find ways to work together.

Buy the business and hope she leaves. Buy the business and tell her in advance that she is not part of your business plan, so you want her to leave.

Not buy the business, and you work for her after she buys it.

Not buy the business and leave after she buys it. Not buy the business and continue to work with her after someone else buys it.

Not buy the business and leave after someone else buys it.

If it’s a wonderful opportunity for you, it would seem you should buy it. But, what is the point in owning a business if you have to work with people who dislike you and will create problems for you behind your back?

That’s why I think you should ask an experienced salon owner about this. Talk to some of the people from your training and education program, or talk to others you respect. They can not only advise you about this matter but can also talk to you about other issues.

One thing is for sure—if you are being made miserable now, it will only be worse when you have the stress of owning the salon on top of all of that. Don’t do that to yourself!

A final thought about how to handle things in the meantime. Keep your focus on your own work as much as possible and stop trying to be her friend. Clearly she does not want to have a good relationship with you. It’s a shame, but that is apparently the way it is. Aim for just being a professional colleague. Never talk about her behind her back and keep things are upbeat as possible when you talk to her.

If you really want to deal with her behaviors, ask the owner to be present when you talk to the coworker about the situation. Tell her that you want to get along, but it makes you feel irritated and upset when she accuses you of things that are untrue. Get it out in the open and say what you don’t like and how it makes you feel.

If you don’t want to do that (and I don’t blame you for not finding that fun to do!) then you need to simply let it go and shake your head over how foolish it is for her to act the way she does. Try to maintain equity about booking appointments, but unless you are truly being deprived of clients repeatedly, to the point of severe economic harm, just move on.

You might occasionally want to compare client numbers in front of everyone, to make sure they all see that no one is doing a much different amount than others.

Focus on your customers and on building the business as a whole, if you are going to stay. If you find you cannot keep the conflict from bothering you, that tells you something about what you must do in the future.

If you have the time and wish to do so, let us know what you decide about this and how it works out. Best wishes!

Tina Lewis Rowe

Tina Lewis Rowe

Tina had a thirty-three year career in law enforcement, serving with the Denver Police Department from 1969-1994 and was the Presidential United States Marshal for Colorado from 1994-2002. She provides training to law enforcement organizations and private sector groups and does conference presentations related to leadership, workplace communications and customized topics. Her style is inspirational with humor.