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8 ways to tackle nail industry bullying

By Alex Fox | 27 April 2021 | Feature, Health & wellbeing, Tech Talk

Nail On Sunday

The truth behind a bully – an insight by UK nail tech Leo Ko-Nkengmo


by nail artist & educator, Leo Ko-Nkengmo of The Nail on Sunday blog 

The hair and beauty industry has taken a beating this past year alongside other industries. The monotony of the pandemic is a factor, however it’s not just this global disaster that has got our community in a spin, there’s also something that’s been happening within the industry for a long time – backseat bullying.

The beauty industry is full of vibrant, creative talented individuals, groups and businesses, which are some of the best things about this industry. Celebrating individualism, similarities, differences and creativity is what, especially at the present time, we should all be doing.

We all need love and support more than ever before. Many of us have been through hell and back this past year; and in more ways than one. Some have lost someone close to them, some have lost business, their health has suffered (both physical and/or mental), their steady incomes; the list goes on.

When feeling at a loss or confused, it’s important to feel part of a community; to connect with fellow nail techs, therapists and hairdressers; like-minded people that can truly lean on each other. However, this unfortunately is not always the case. There are some in the industry that feel the need to tease, goad and in extreme cases, bully, yes bully others in the industry for no reason. Or, do they have a reason?

Bullies often torment others because they are jealous. They may be envious of relationships, popularity, one’s ability to make friends or because one has a loving family. It may be envy of talents, abilities and achievements. They may bully because one appears different to them, for instance hair colour, religion or culture.

Whatever the reason someone is  choosing to bully, remember they often feel inadequate in themselves and therefore, it’s wise to not take it personally. I know this is hard, but as Google defines, a bully will, ‘seek to harm, intimidate, or coerce (someone perceived as vulnerable)’. This definition is good because it describes what a bully does, which is someone who harms, intimidates people he or she perceives as vulnerable, but this definition is incomplete. It misses out that bullies are people who are in the habit of harassing people. Once in a habitual state, it’s hard to come out of it.

Ever heard the saying ‘once a bully, always a bully?’ That’s because it’s a behavioural habit. Just as smoking, eating fast food or drinking too much alcohol can be classed as bad habits, so can negative behaviour patterns.

The ‘bully’ may have the thought 10 times a day that they really don’t want to behave in a negative manner, however, habit drags them back into that practise. Nevertheless, this is just one perspective, there could be more explanation and elaboration made for each individual case. Even so, the bottom line is, bullying unacceptable in any circumstance or under any guise or excuse. And let’s remember, a bully doesn’t quantify how strong or vulnerable a victim may be, what they’ve experienced in life and then the consequences of how their actions may manifest in the future.

I feel strongly, that there’s no place for bullying in the nail industry. It may be a competitive industry, however, competition can be very healthy as it drives one forward and acts as a stimulant and motivator. Then there’s the projects that can be enjoyed by supporting and collaborating with each other, by embracing each other’s unique styles and qualities. We should be working together as a community.

Bullying in the workplace

by mental health & wellbeing coach David Heffernan & The Nail on Sunday collaboration

How many times have you heard the saying, ‘There is nothing certain in life except for death and taxes’. I would like to add a third option, which is ‘coming across a bully in the workplace and either directly or indirectly being impacted’.

Bullying in the workplace is on the rise – a recent survey by SME Loans surveying 2,000 UK-based employees on their experiences at work to date, found that:

  • 23% of the British workforce has been bullied at work
  • 25% has been made to feel left out in the workplace
  • 12% admitted to struggling to make friends in their place of work

Acas received over 20,000 calls to its helpline centred around bullying in the workplace. There are reports suggesting that employers are being very heavy-handed bringing employees back into the workplace, especially to those who’ve been shielding, are vulnerable and who may have legitimate concerns about their safety and well being when they return to work.

Most occurrences of bullying do present the perpetrator as insecure or with their own story of being bullied. It’s extremely important for the victim to be looked after in the first instance and feel safe however, (and this may be an unpopular opinion), it’s also important to understand and get to the heart of WHY the aggressor has done what they’ve done. This is why it’s important to have a solid, wellbeing policy within the workplace and in my view an open-door policy, so all staff members feel heard and supported. So many instances of bullying may well be avoided if employers took wellbeing seriously.

If you have a nail salon with staff or self-employed techs – how well do you know them? The amount of stress that each and every one (including yourself) has gone through during the last 12-months means we must all have a heightened awareness of each other’s needs. Many will have lost loved ones. It is important to understand that there’s potential for staff being triggered by a throwaway comment or look, which could get out of hand very quickly and become a perceived bullying issue if you’re not fully appreciative of your staff’s mental state.

This is such an important issue and as such if you have a salon with more than two staff, then I want to support at least five of you and provide your staff and yourself with some well being calls and resilience training. I will also throw in  a full month’s worth of myself as your resident mental health first aider until you feel comfortable around dealing with mental health in the work place, as well as group training to help your staff with strategies to ground themselves while learning to recognise the signs of stress and mental health issues in their clients.  This will be a free service while I further develop a full-service offering, so please email me at if you would like to be part of this programme.

Bullying in the industry

by Sam Windsor

I think we all know someone in the industry who has experienced bullying and harassment in some form, and many of you reading this may have been victims of this type of abuse yourselves.

There is one clear message that needs to be put across, bullying and harassment in any form is simply not acceptable. Think before you speak or type!

Whilst there are no specific laws protecting against bullying, there are laws in place to protect against harassment. It’s also important to understand that online stalking and harassment is illegal in both England & Wales.


Bullying may include the spreading of rumours, offending an individual, unfair treatment, regularly picking on or undermining, or making fun of an individual. In the workplace it may include denying training or promotion opportunities.


Cyber bullying is the use of technology to harass, threaten, embarrass, offend and belittle others. It can include private messages, texts, emails, photos and comments posted on social media sites.


Harassment is when the unwanted behaviours/treatment are linked to one of the following protected characteristics:




Gender reassignment

Marriage & civil partnerships

Pregnancy / maternity

Race Religions and beliefs

Sexual orientation

Employers Responsibilities

Employers have a duty of care for their employees. They are responsible for preventing bullying and harassment in the workplace, they are also liable for any harassment suffered by employees.

It’s advised that employers have anti-bullying and harassment policies in place, and foster an open working environment whereby employees feel able to bring concerns to them before they escalate.

Complaints of bullying or harassment should be taken seriously and dealt with in a prompt and sensitive manner.

What to do if you are being bullied…

  • It may help to try telling the bully or bullies, how their behaviour makes you feel, they may be genuinely unaware of the impact of their words or actions.
  • For workplace bullying, you can talk to your manager, a senior staff member, HR department or trade union.
  • Stick to facts and remain calm.
  • Keep a diary of events so you can produce evidence of the behaviour if wishing to make a formal complaint.
  • If you’re experiencing cyber bullying, keep evidence of the incidents (messages / screenshots).
  • Update privacy settings to protect your content.
  • Report and block users on social media.
  • In extreme cases, a criminal offence may have been committed, in this instance a report should be filed to your local law enforcement agency.