So, after I published yesterday’s post, I had a bit of blogger remorse.
This doesn’t happen often round these parts, but when it does it’s because I feel like I’ve crossed the very fine line I walk around here in terms of reporting from the Beauty U trenches. Because my goal is to bring back tales and observations that relate to the beauty industry as a whole, using Beauty U as a microcosm. When I tell you about say, upselling, it’s not because I think my teachers are oh so crazy, it’s because I think the Beauty U experience of upselling reflects what’s happening at beauty schools, salons and spas, industry-wide. And that’s important because the upselling phenomenon has quite an impact on the way beauty industry workers are perceived and feel about their work and the way female consumers are perceived, and feel about their appearance.
Meanwhile, as fascinating as I might think it is, I try really hard to keep gossipy things like rumors about people’s personal lives, or turf wars between students, or what have you, off the blog. Beauty U is like any school or workplace, so we have plenty of that kind of intrigue going on — but it’s not relevant to the big picture issues so it would be hugely unprofessional, unethical and just plain mean of me to blog about it.
But it’s a tricky balance. Being embedded can make it hard to see anything but the trees. I did a lot of big picture research before I started school and will continue to do so (there’s a little hint for you about what happens to this blog after August’s graduation) but right now, I’m focused on getting the ground level view. So sometimes I get all riled up about something, like this weird rule about how nobody can see the client schedule anymore, and think “Ahhh! This story must be told!”
And then I step back and think, oh wait, bosses are weird in every workplace. I once had a boss who would only write in pink pen (and wrote the meanest pink penned messages to you, too). Maybe this rule is like that, just a little Mr. G idiosyncrasy, and one that doesn’t have any bearing on the industry as a whole.
I do think lack of autonomy is a common issue for salon workers. You tend to work in close quarters with your salon’s owner, which creates opportunities for micromanagement. Milady’s often mentions what I call the McFacial; how you should expect to have to perform services exactly the way your spa tells you to, down to the number of massage strokes used. This is frustrating for estheticians who want to take creative pride in their work and hone their own style and techniques because it reduces the job to an assembly line gig.
And it troubles me how little confidence I see in the teachers at Beauty U. They enforce school policies largely out of fear, constantly saying, “we’ll get in trouble if you do that wrong.” It takes weeks of bolstering and pleading before we can get them to talk to the managers about a policy that frustrates us (like the problem of junior students working on clients and missing instruction). And no wonder; the one teacher who did push for changes was pushed right out of her job. I suspect this kind of workplace culture is also an industry-wide problem because this is a field with many part-time workers and very little job security.
So when I think about the new “hands off or you’re fired” policy about the appointment book in that context, it seems important. But I’m willing to concede this is some murky gray territory. And as always, I value your input on whether something is hitting you as an Important Revelation or more Virginia Should Get More Sleep Before She Blogs. The beauty of blogging all this primary reporting is that I get your real-time feedback. And you all can see the forest, while I scurry about in the trees.