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Why & How to Set Boundaries in a Salon

By: Christine Turek (@painthatmane)

One of the great things about working in a salon (or owning one of your own) is that you get to spend your days interacting with people you love every single day. Ideally, that means coworkers who are just as passionate and inspired as you are; it means a boss who enables you to be your best in everything you do and who sees the value that you bring to the business; and it means clients who appreciate your skill and who are willing to pay you what you are worth.

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But some days, the very thing that makes working in a salon so great—the people—can also be one of the largest drawbacks. If you haven’t established strong, clear boundaries with the other people in your life, it’s all too easy for them to affect your mood and well-being.

Here, we explore why it’s so important that you establish boundaries in the workplace, the role that boundaries play in helping you avoid burnout, and offer advice you can use to set boundaries between yourself and your clients, your coworkers, and your boss.

Why We All Need to Set Boundaries

When we don’t have healthy boundaries established between ourselves and others in our life, it is all too easy for us to find ourselves caught up in—and affected by—things that are not really our problem or concern. 

Stylists tend to take on every client as their best friends, and we generally care about what is going on in someone else’s life. The problem with this is that, without healthy boundaries, we can become sponges, absorbing and carrying around other people’s burdens as our own. We care about the people in our lives to such an extent that we’re willing to sacrifice some of our own happiness to help them. 

While this is fine in moderation, it often causes us to give and give and give to others, until there is nothing left for us. At its worst, it can enable a bad boss or demanding coworkers to take advantage of our desire to please. 

Healthy boundaries create space for you and realistic expectations for everyone around you. It is important to remind ourselves that we don’t have to carry someone else’s pain. That is their burden, not ours. While we might be here to listen, we shouldn’t be so ready to absorb.

Listen to Episode 7 of the Hair Goals Podcast to hear from Jamie and Christine about the importance of setting boundaries in your salon.

How to Set Boundaries with Clients

Working to create boundaries can often feel uncomfortable, especially for people who are used to saying “yes” all the time. For people pleasers like us, learning how to set boundaries with others can feel almost like a conflict or confrontation, but it’s important that you realize that it doesn’t have to be that way. If we never do this, nothing will change—and if nothing changes then you’ll just keep on suffering.

Clients look to their hairstylist as someone they can tell anything to, almost like a therapist. But while it’s great to have an open flow of communication with your clients and to care about their wellbeing, there are limits to how much you should care and how much you should get involved. You want to acknowledge your client’s feelings and listen to them, but never take on those feelings as your own. They are responsible for their own wellbeing and happiness, and you are responsible for yours, and that is what boundaries are there to help you realize.

After all, if you spend all day every day for a week listening to client after client unload their negativity on you, and you absorb it into your own being, just how happy and positive can you expect yourself to be?

One powerful word that stylists often fear is the word “no,” because it brings with it the potential that the person listening to it will be upset with us. This fact makes us uncomfortable. But you must remember that we are not here to please everyone who graces our path. We are also here to teach others. If their lesson involves hearing the word “no” from you, that can be a powerful lesson.

How to Set Boundaries with Your Boss 

Creating boundaries with your boss can be just as stressful and uncomfortable as creating them with anyone else. After all, this is the person who writes your checks; you’re used to saying “yes” to them. But just as with your clients, you need to be comfortable and able to say “no” when it’s right for you.

One of my key pieces of advice in regards to establishing healthy relationships with your boss is to communicate with them about what’s going on in your life. Most often, it is a lack of communication that creates an environment for exhaustion and burnout. But if your boss doesn’t realize that there is a problem, they can’t fix it. If your boss is asking too much of you, you need to tell them.

Similarly, if you need certain things or certain support in order to be better able to do your job, you should also speak up. Once your boss knows about your needs, they can take one of two courses of action. Either they can give you the support you need, and you can flourish, or they can deny you your needs, empowering you to find that support elsewhere and make the changes that are right for you.

How to Set Boundaries with Your Coworkers

When it comes to establishing boundaries with your coworkers, the single best piece of advice I can offer you is to control your reaction to everything that they do and say. 

If someone exhausts you, then you need to remove yourself from that conversation. If this is a person that you can speak freely with, then try having a conversation about how what they are saying or doing is impacting you; but if it’s not someone you feel comfortable talking with, then you need to walk away.

You will never control how someone else does something. Expecting someone to change is like asking them to remove every trauma from their childhood and retrain their brain. The less you expect of someone, the more likely they will not disappoint you.

Tips for Setting and Maintaining Boundaries

Here are some general tips for creating and maintaining boundaries at your salon:

  • Be very clear about what you need from your boss right from the start. Ask for a schedule that will work for you, and seek support along the way.
  • Do not overbook yourself out of guilt. The more you say yes to people who “just want to squeeze in” the more you will burn out. In a way, we are training people to understand our work schedule. If you start off fitting people in constantly, it will lead to complete frustration and exhaustion. We have to understand that hair is not a life or death situation. Clients will start respecting you more once you set up proper limits to their needs. 
  • Lower your emotional reaction to what other people are dealing with around you. You do not need to fix every problem that happens during the day. Save your energy for when you personally need it. 
  • Remove yourself from toxic conversations. The more times something is said to us, the more our brain will believe it. If every coworker is upset about something, chances are you will feel the same way, even if you aren’t! It’s easy to get trapped in this situation. Separate your thoughts from other’s thoughts. 
  • Find a quiet space where you can get away and destress during the day. Turn your phone off when you feel you really need space. Not answering the text message or phone call still leaves it hanging in the back of your mind. Putting your phone away will help you enjoy your time off to recharge.

Healthy Boundaries for Work-Life Balance

Knowing how to establish and maintain healthy boundaries with your clients, coworkers, and boss is an important first step towards self-care. Whether you work in the hair industry or another industry, it’s an important lesson to learn. 

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