Barred from the Barbers: Confronting Unacceptable Behaviour

Just a bit off the top. Don't go nuts!

Just clip a bit off the top. Don’t go nuts!

I recently played golf with a guy who owns a hairdressing business and he relayed the following story…

Steady Custom: In his salon, copies of daily newspapers are bought for customers to read while they are waiting (sometimes they just don’t feel like talking when someone is working on their hair). Every week, like clockwork, one particular customer came into the salon to have her hair done.  She would read the paper while waiting and then throw it on the floor when her turn came. He mentioned this, using humour to overcome any awkwardness, but she continued to leave the paper in a mess.  The staff would pick up the paper and re-fold it for the next customer (but complain to the owner about having to do this). It was a nuisance – but difficult to know exactly how to respond.

Unhappy Punter: Most weeks this particular customer would find a reason to complain about the outcome.  The colour was dark, the water too hot, the salon overly stuffy and so on. Now, during the recession, the hairdressing business hasn’t exactly being going gangbusters. Like the Tesco slogan ‘every little helps’  this guy wanted to retain her custom. But not at any price.  So, after months of ‘paper throwing’ and complaining, he politely (and very discreetly), asked her not to come back. I asked: “How many people get ‘barred’ from a hairdressers”? He just laughed. This was a first and hopefully last time that he will have that particular conversation.

Unacceptable Behaviour: In organizations, by the time external consultant’s get called in to offer support, employee relations cases are usually well advanced. The ‘bad behaviour’ has normally been underway for some time. Usually managers, just like that hairdresser, have tolerated a lot of stuff. Missed days. Hangovers. Rudeness. Poor quality work. 187% raw cynicism and so on. The 5 Sorrowful Mysteries. The question is when should you confront this?

In General Electric, I came across the phrase ‘if you can’t change the people, change the people‘. You try to get the best from staff. You recognize that people can have an off-day or a particular project which underdelivers. Unless you are a psychopath (or a manager who has never made a mistake yourself), you don’t drag someone around the back of the factory and shoot them for a genuine effort. But, while you might have to tolerate bad behaviour from customers, you never have to apologize to staff for telling them to do their job.  And, if they consistently underdeliver, you have to act on that. Don’t let the ‘need to be liked’ (hardwired into most of us) stop you from doing the job you’ve been paid to do.

Now, who’s next for the snip?

Make me look like a

Can you make me look more exotic?

Paul Mooney

PS: Lighter Moment

Guy goes into a barber and says that he wants to look like George Clooney. While he is reading a men’s health magazine, the Barber shaves his head completely bald. After a quick glance in the mirror, the customer goes nuts and asks:

“What’s the story? The instructions were crystal clear. I said I wanted to look like George Clooney”. Barber says: “You’re a ringer for him. I saw him in the King & I loads of times”.

PPS Lighter Moments (Hairdressing theme continued):

A woman was at her hairdresser’s getting styled for a trip to Rome with her husband. She mentioned the trip to the hairdresser, who responded:

“Rome? Why would anyone want to go there? It’s crowded and dirty. You’re crazy to go to Rome. So, how are you getting there?”

“We’re taking Continental and we got a great rate!” 

“Continental?” exclaimed the hairdresser. “That’s a terrible  airline. Their planes are old, their flight attendants are rude, and they’re always late. So, where are you staying in Rome?”

“We’ll be at this exclusive little place close to the Tiber River called Teste.”

“Don’t go any further. I know that place. Everybody thinks its gonna be something special and exclusive, but it’s really a dump. They must have used a wide angled lens to photograph the rooms.”

“We’re definitely going to see the Vatican and maybe even get to see the Pope.”

“That’s rich,” laughed the hairdresser. “You and a million other people. You will be so far away, he will look the size of an ant. Good luck on this lousy trip. You’re going to need it.”

A month later, the woman again came in for a hairdo. The Hairdresser asked her about the trip.

“It was wonderful,” explained the woman, “not only were we on time in one of Continental’s brand new planes, but it was overbooked and they bumped us up to first class. The food and wine were terrific. I had a handsome 28-year-old steward who waited on me hand and foot…and the hotel was great too! They’d just finished a €5 million remodeling job, and now it’s a jewel, the finest hotel in the city. Because is was our anniversary, they gave us the owner’s suite at no extra charge!”

Well” muttered the hairdresser, “that’s all well and good, but I know you didn’t get to see the Pope?”

“Actually, we were quite lucky, because as we toured the Vatican, a Swiss Guard tapped me on the shoulder, and explained that the Pope likes to meet some of the visitors, and if I’d be so kind as to step into his private room and wait, the Pope would personally greet me. Sure enough, five minutes later, the Pope walked through the door and shook my hand! I knelt down and he spoke a few words to me.”

“Oh, really! What’d he say?”

He said: “Who f****d up your hair?”

Final Note: Interesting call for mediation examples for entry into the Workplace Mediation Awards.  The Entry Form is available at The closing date for entries is 5 pm on Monday 30th September, 2013. Dr. John O’Down, one of the team in Tandem Consulting is heavily involved – hence the plug!

Check our website or call 087 2439019 for an informal discussion about executive or organization development.


About Tandem Consulting

Paul Mooney holds a Ph.D. and a Post-Graduate Diploma in Industrial Sociology from Trinity College, along with a National Diploma in Industrial Relations (NCI). He has a post-Graduate Diploma and a Masters in Coaching from UCD. Paul, a Fellow of the Chartered Institute of Personnel and Development, is widely recognised as an expert on organisation and individual change. He began his working life as a butcher in Dublin before moving into production management. He subsequently held a number of human resource positions in Ireland and Asia - with General Electric and Sterling Drug. Between 2007 and 2010, Paul held the position of President, National College of Ireland. Paul is currently Managing Partner of Tandem Consulting, a team of senior OD and change specialists. He has run consulting assignments in 20+ countries and is the author of 12 books. Areas of expertise include: • Organisational Development/Change & conflict resolution • Leadership Development/Executive Coaching • Human Resource Management/employee engagement
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