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Groomer Who Walked Out

Real Deal: Readers share how they would handle a groomer who left for lunch and didn’t return until the end of the day.

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THINGS ARE FINALLY turning around in the store’s grooming department, Jackie thought as she looked at her grooming reports. It takes time to find a good groomer, but the new one she hired, Emma, had passed all three parts of the interview process.

ABOUT REAL DEAL

Real Deal is a fictional scenario designed to read like real-life business events. The businesses and people mentioned in this story should not be confused with actual pet businesses and people.

ABOUT THE AUTHOR

NANCY GUINN is founder and president of Dog
Krazy Inc., an award-winning pet supply store in Virginia with six locations. Also a clinical pet nutritionist, she consults with veterinarians and pet parents alike. Nancy shares her life with business partner and husband Chris, and their pets Sushi, Pork Wonton, Stirfry Fatguy, Tala, Jimmy Dean and Max.

Having to turn away appointments due to being booked so far out was draining — Emma was helping to relieve that stress. The day started off great, with every customer walking in being greeted with a smile and a “What kind of dog are we shopping for today?” All of the groomers were fully booked, and the store was filled with shoppers.

After lunch, one of the associates let Jackie know that Emma had not returned from her lunch break. Jackie asked how long she had been gone, and was told two hours. Two of Emma’s dogs were still in the kennels, and two more were due to arrive in the next hour.

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Jackie tried calling Emma from the store phone, but her cell immediately went to voicemail. She talked with the other groomers to see if they could fit in the two dogs already there as well as those coming in. They figured out how to take care of the clients already booked for the day, and Jackie went back to trying to contact Emma. She hoped nothing terrible had happened.

Shortly before closing for the day, Emma returned to the store. Relieved to see her, Jackie asked if she was OK and what had happened. Emma rolled her eyes and told Jackie that she was overwhelmed and needed a break, so she left.

Jackie asked her if she expressed her concerns to anyone in the store before leaving. Emma responded that she didn’t tell anyone, that she just needed a few hours to herself, and she then asked what her day looked like tomorrow.

Jackie looked at her completely confused and didn’t know what to say. What she did was a fireable offense, but the thought of having to call and reschedule dozens of appointments would be a task no one in the company would want to take on.

The Big Questions

  • Should Jackie go over the next day’s schedule with Emma and let her leaving go this one time?
  • Or should she write Emma up and tell her that if she walks out on her schedule again, she will be terminated?
  • Or should Jackie fire Emma on the spot?
Beth S.
DOWNERS GROVE, IL

Day One?! I would consider it as she resigned by leaving her post. If Emma did it once, she will do it again. I would also consider not booking a full schedule for a new groomer. Too many unknowns until you see their actual work ethic.

Nancy C.
NEW YORK, NY

Fire her. If she behaves like that on her first day — and rolls her eyes, which is akin to saying that the boss is making a big deal out of nothing — Emma will continue to behave in a questionable manner. Allowing her to do that tells the entire staff that her behavior is OK. Additionally, it causes stress to the rest of the team, which is definitely not OK.

Karen C.
DELAVAN, WI

I would terminate. There is no justification for disrupting the business, inconveniencing the clients and leaving the dogs. Small businesses thrive on teamwork. This employee is beyond selfish and immature. Even if she was the best groomer on the planet… still gone… no way she could be trusted. I would hope that if the stress was too great or someone was overwhelmed, they’d speak up long before they went AWOL.

Beth K.
IRWIN, PA

I would send Emma on her way and begin the search for another groomer or figure out how to manage without another one. No one shop can groom all the pets in the area, and I’d rather keep my current groomers happy than risk her flaking out again and leaving everyone hanging.

Maria C.
BEACH HAVEN, NJ

I would fire immediately. 1) Trust is broken. 2) Groomer has no respect for owner, clients, dogs, etc. 3) I would be on pins and needles wondering when she would walk out again. Because she will.

Debbie K.
ST. AUGUSTINE, FL

I would look at it as a blessing in disguise and let Emma go. It would be one thing if she discussed it with someone, but to just walk out — not acceptable. That doesn’t bode well at any type of a job let alone leaving pets in crates probably longer than necessary.

Sheila R.
ARLINGTON, VA

Immediately fire. Too often I have tried to “work with” challenging employees because I was concerned that letting them go would be an issue, but I learned that by not having immediate consequences, the other employees’ morale declined.

Jennifer B.
NORTH RIDGEVILLE, OH

I would fire Emma on the spot. The thought of rescheduling those appointments is daunting, but imagine having to do it every week. An unreliable employee puts more stress on the good employees, so she might end up in worse shape as far as staff goes.

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Carol W.
ST. LOUIS, MO

Let her go. People are on their best behavior the first few weeks and months. If this is her best, let her go now. It will get worse.

Becci S.
SCOTTSDALE, AZ

Write Emma up and go over policies in regard to leaving during a shift, offer tips on how to handle it if she becomes overwhelmed again, reminding that the team is relying on her but will also help when necessary. Be clear on how it will be handled if she leaves them in a lurch again.

Janelle P.
PLAINFIELD, IL

Written up, but I would also discuss what’s going on and if I could help her. People don’t just walk out on shifts. Being overwhelmed and needing a break could be something we can help with. Perhaps Emma has other issues, or maybe it’s just too many dogs for her in one day. Maybe she just needs a day off (unpaid of course) to deal with some personal issues. They always have to request the time off first, or if things aren’t going well during the day, they should always speak to their supervisor. Try to get to the root of the problem, but certainly write her up, yet see where we can help out!

Linda H.
MONROVIA, CA

Jackie’s in a tight spot. However, she cannot allow Emma’s choice to leave go unnoticed. From experience, an employee’s first few days are a statement of how they will perform over time. Left unchecked, Emma will be dictating her own terms of employment, and that may not sit well with the other staff. Truth is, there IS a groomer shortage. But Jackie’s been without an “Emma” before and she can do it again; not optimal but do-able. I’m all for giving people the opportunity to change. My approach would be to ask Emma what was overwhelming her and address that issue. I would quickly need to help her understand what are acceptable practices and what are not. Then give her another chance. In the meantime, Jackie should be looking for her next groomer. If past behavior is a predictor of future behavior, she’ll be hiring again soon.

Doug S.
NEW CITY, NY

We are in some rough times. It has been quite trying on everyone. But in life and business, communication is paramount to healthy relationships. This groomer was in the wrong for not communicating the need to “clear her head” for a while before returning to her duties. If there is no written company policy addressing this, it should be added immediately and she should be told that it is unacceptable to leave without telling anyone her intent. There is a major shortage of employees in all fields today, so if this was a first-time thing and she is a good employee otherwise, a verbal warning with a note in her employee file should be enough. If the behavior continues, then perhaps the relationship needs to change.

Kris M.
FORT SMITH, AR

There is nothing wrong with being booked out and having a good, reliable customer base. Groomer burnout is a real thing, and having a groomer on staff who doesn’t respect the strain they put on others when they bail is FAR MORE stressful than being booked. Too many groomers are taught to take as many dogs as possible and crank them out to maximize $, but it’s not sustainable. If the idea of rescheduling the dogs is too much, write up Emma and understand that keeping her on will likely mean this happens again — you will be rescheduling her dogs at some point. today or next week — and then step back and look at the booking practices and drop the idea that being booked out is a bad thing. More money can be made in grooming with add-ons and cross-promotional sales, and it’ll be easier for the staff to maintain and result in less turnover.

Helen B.
CHESTER, MD

I would write her up (and be VERY clear on expectations moving forward) — but give her a second chance. Not just because good groomers are hard to find, but everybody deserves a second chance. I would also make sure she had breaks built into her schedule so she didn’t get overwhelmed.

Tammi B.
MISSOURI CITY, TX

Knowing finding a good groomer is hard, Jackie should let Emma know what she did was unacceptable when there were appointments assigned to her already. Let her know that if she needs help, to just ask so Jackie can work around that. Let Emma come back the next day with two to three appointments with easy dogs, just in case. Jackie may need to discuss the situation with her other groomers and ask for them to prepare for backup on those fewer appointments. For the rest of the appointments, Jackie may need to reschedule. Jackie taking Emma back is a risk for another walkout, but she may be able to re-train Emma if she is worthy.

Angela P.
STRATFORD, CT

I’ve had a similar problem! It’s hard to find a groomer, let alone a great groomer, and then to have somebody whose life issues or mental health get in the way of them doing their job, well it’s certainly concerning. I would go over the next day with this groomer and give her the benefit of the doubt. Perhaps we had overbooked her or expected more than she could put out. But that doesn’t dismiss the fact that she walked out unannounced to no one. What if no one had checked that room and those dogs were just sitting around in crates all day? It’s borderline negligence, not something I would want on my plate. Dismissible but again, benefit of the doubt. And although I agree that the groomer probably should be let go immediately since we are setting an example for the rest of the staff, good luck finding another person. So frustrating. I can totally identify.

Dawn T.
VERO BEACH, FL

Yes, Jackie should go over the next day’s schedule with Emma and let it go just this one time because of the number of pets and how hard it is to get groomers. Plus, Jackie should write Emma up and tell her that if she walks out on her schedule again, she will be terminated — it’s only right considering she didn’t care enough about the other groomers nor the clients and pets. Compliment her on her work but also state that everyone is overwhelmed and everyone at the store, including groomers, are a team so everyone has to help and look out for each other.

Jodi J.
SAUGERTIES, NY

Absolutely not. I would not let her back in the store for employment.

Jennifer F.
TAMPA, FL

Fire her immediately. The situation will not improve with this employee.

Sarah E.
WHITMORE LAKE AND LAPEER, MI

Yes, despite the labor shortage, sadly she needs to terminate the groomer’s employment. Unless there is a company progressive discipline policy requiring Jackie to keep Emma employed. Without a valid reason such as a medical emergency (that she should have called to tell Jackie about) if she did keep Emma employed, this would set a precedent for future situations like this and disrespect the employees who do a great job.

Deana D.
PARK RAPIDS, MN

She did it once, she will do it again! But… I would let her know what our “break policy” is and explain the importance of fulfilling her obligations. If it is allowed to continue, Jackie will likely overwhelm the groomers who had to pick up the extra load and may lose them as well. I would also not book any more appointments with her until she proves to be able to manage her stress and complete her assigned dogs.

Val C.
SOUTHOLD, NY

Definitely a tough situation being that she really needs a groomer. For this to happen on the first day is generally a bad sign of things to come. I would put it in writing, what happened, and list the consequences if it happens again (termination). Then verbally empathize with her and the stresses of a busy day and let her know “we all” feel overwhelmed at times, but that her actions forced undue stress on her coworkers and that’s something that needs to be avoided. Simultaneously, she should continue interviewing for a new groomer… it’s probably just a matter of time!

Alissa K.
LOCKPORT, NY

Fired. If she gets away with it, she will be setting an example that she can do as she pleases, and other employees will think they can leave when they want. She will not be a reliable employee and will poison other employees.

Jennifer F.
SHERWOOD, OR

I would immediately terminate. This is a business offense that probably has happened before and will happen again if tolerated. Any employee who puts the business in a deficit is not a valued employee, and a new employee should be trying to show their best side for at least the first 90 days. Loss of revenue based on “I needed a couple of hours to myself” and not communicating with anyone is a lack of respect to the entire team and business.

Margaret S.
MASSAPEQUA, NY

I would talk to her and give her one more chance.

Sandy H.
HAMDEN, CT

She should have been fired on the spot. No question. It was completely unprofessional. The other employees had to take on her work when they had a full schedule. If you allow her to stay, it signals to other employees that this behavior is acceptable.

Janene S.
HOUSTON, TX

Unless it was an extreme emergency she should be fired.

Bill H.
COLORADO SPRINGS, CO

It’s easier and more beneficial for all involved to work problems rather than just trying to solve them. I would reply to her by saying, “Let’s not worry about tomorrow right now. Let’s talk about today and about what’s going on with you.” That response starts a conversation. You HAVE to work through whatever the root problem is. Once that is addressed, the employee needs to be held accountable for walking off the job. A write-up is appropriate. I would also make it clear in the write-up that another incident like this will result in termination. But if you have done your due diligence in working through the problem with your employee, you won’t likely have another occurrence of the same problem. All that said, if the employee is unwilling to discuss the issue at hand or becomes indignant, etc, termination would be appropriate. People are the most valuable asset in any business. As leaders, we MUST work to retain, coach, and mentor our employees. Always worth it.

Melissa S.
KNOXVILLE, TN

Fired on the spot. All Emma had to do if she was so overwhelmed was go to Jackie and express this, but by walking out and not returning until the end of day, she in essence quit her job. It is very unprofessional behavior that Emma will more than likely repeat, if not worse.

Ramie G.
EVANSTON, IL

Emma quit. She left without telling anyone there was a problem, which means she most likely will repeat this behavior. We had a staffer leave in December for lunch and not return. I was initially worried that something happened outside of the store, then realized this person does not have the skills to communicate their needs or discuss a problem, nor do they have the maturity to give notice or quit in a way that is not setting off a bomb. They called two days later and were surprised that they could not just come back. This behavior hurts the store and its customers temporarily, but it mostly hurts their coworkers who have to pick up the slack with no warning. My feeling is that we survived before you got here, and we can survive without someone who would do this. Ideally, I prefer to have a conversation and see what can be done to solve a problem: reduce their hours, change the tasks they are working on, address the stress levels.

Cyndi S.
LONGVIEW, WA

Fire her on the spot. If she does it once without remorse, she’ll do it again. After many years in this business, we’ve learned how to weed out the flakey ones ASAP!

Joe S.
CINCINNATI, OH

Fire her on the spot. There was zero communication. She had no remorse for what she had done, and you certainly can’t trust that she won’t do it again.

Pam A.
CLEVELAND, OH

I would fire her on the spot. If Emma had told her she was stressed or overwhelmed, Jackie could have tried to help the situation. If she did it once, she will do it again.

Paula G.
MUSKEGO, WI

I think if Jackie doesn’t fire Emma, she is opening herself up to others following in Emma’s footsteps. I think it’s best to let her go right away and deal with the rescheduling because if Emma did it once, she most likely will do it again.

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Blake G.
CENTENNIAL, CO

The groomer’s total lack of responsibility and treating the situation in a casual manner would be an automatic firing. She just started the job and it WILL happen again.

Shane S.
MILL CREEK, WA

Emma’s actions were inexcusable, and she should have been terminated immediately. She bailed out on the team and her clients, and left them scrambling (and worried!). When a person shows you who they are, believe them. Emma demonstrated she doesn’t care about her co-workers, the customers or her grooming dogs, and clearly did not think her actions were a big deal. Yes, it will suck to have to try to make things right with Emma’s clients, but I would offer the other groomers significant bonus pay if they can help get in all dogs as scheduled for the next day or two (or longer, if possible) and immediately try to reschedule people beyond that. Admittedly, I don’t offer grooming so I may not fully understand the scope of how this might affect their business long-term, but in my eyes, there’s no other option but firing her immediately because her actions were completely unacceptable. Situations like this make me glad we don’t offer grooming!

Lorin G.
REDLANDS, CA

I’ve actually had this happen. Like Jackie, I attempted to understand what happened and why. I got exactly the same response including the eye roll. Yeah, that eye roll is the deal breaker. While the story wasn’t super clear as to whether it was the groomer’s first day or how long she had been working, the bottom line either way is this: 1) when someone shows you who they are, believe them. And, 2) what you allow will continue. Being desperate for help allows for you to be held hostage by unprofessional and inappropriate actions and behaviors you would never tolerate under other circumstances. Don’t tolerate it now. I’ve done that and deeply regretted it. It also only delayed the inevitable outcome, which was termination.

Julie S.
MARYSVILLE, WA

Emma would be fired on the spot. She abandoned her position with zero regard to staff, customers and their pets. Allowing this behavior once for one person because “we have to reschedule dozens of appointments” portrays to the other staff that there is reward in bad behavior and sets the stage for bad morale. The best indicator of future behavior is past behavior and Emma’s future behavior will look the same, or worse, if allowed to stay.

Rachel M.
PARRISH, FL

Emma should be written up and told that if something like that happens again, it will be a fireable offense. However, if she is not written up and told that it is a fireable offense, it sets a horrible precedent not only for Emma (she gets away with bad behavior), but also the rest of the staff as it shows they could get away with it, too. Labor shortage is real and has been especially high in the grooming field. Though the more we let staff “get away” with that kind of behavior, the more they will think it’s acceptable. This will only create more headaches down the line.

Darleen W.
CAMDEN, AR

Write her up and make sure she understands how wrong she was by her actions and explain that it cannot happen again. If I thought she would be dependable, I’d give her another chance, but if she acted like she didn’t care, I’d probably show her the door.

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Nancy Guinn is the founder and president of Dog Krazy Inc., an award-winning natural pet supply store in Virginia with six locations. She helps other small businesses succeed through her contributions to industry magazines, webinars and podcasts. The Guinn household includes Nancy’s husband and business partner, Chris, and their furry and feathered inspirations Sushi, Pork Wonton, Stirfry Fatguy, Tala, Jimmy Dean and Max.

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