Those two words have so much innuendo. Often used in job descriptions and interviews, professional behaviour in some occupations is obvious, but when it comes to the fitness industry, there appears to be so much ambiguity. I think that maybe it because our industry is so young and constantly evolving that it becomes challenging to sort out what is professional and what is not. Some things are clear, e.g. swearing at a class or client is not professional. Stealing and doing other illegal activities is another obvious no no, but when it comes to what instructors or personal trainers say in person, to a group, in text and on Facebook, it can become a nightmare of what is appropriate and not appropriate.
Having had my own personal experience recently of ‘she said, he said’ situation, I was confused. All sides felt that they were injured by words and their ‘apparent’ meaning behind the words that I wondered what the appropriate professional behaviour in this situation should be. The fitness industry does not have a clear way to mediate conflict and the end result can be less than satisfactory. In my mind, I thought that we were all trying to achieve the same goal, which was to provide a positive exercise experience to our clients. The third party in the conflict was of course the team leader but it wasn’t clear to me as to what the real direction was and how to clear up the issue. For me, it wasn’t a matter of right and wrong, but how can we move forward so that we could get conflict resolution.
In an industry that is purely focused on people, it appears that we have a weakness – how to deal with each other. Much is written about emotional intelligence and wellness coaching and even the professional way to deal with clients, but little is discussed about how to deal with our peers and colleagues. I have often been told that the fitness industry is a ‘bitchy’ environment, and even my recent experience may encourage me to think differently, but I refuse to believe this theory. Either I have been living in a bubble, I simply don’t see issues or I choose to think that people want to work together. The challenge is that when an issue arises, there doesn’t seem to be a way to deal with it so that all parties feel that they are being heard and the conflict brought to a resolution.
So when I see the next ‘professional behaviour’ written in some job description that I am requested to sign, I will be asking very specific questions: What is their definition of professional behaviour with clients? and what is their definition of professional behaviour between staff and contractors? I want to know what happens when there is conflict and how it is dealt with. I want to be assured that these procedures, if there are any, are followed through and finally, what is their experience with dealing with challenges. The term ‘professional behaviour’ goes both ways, for the staff and for their employers. I believe that this will go a long way with lifting our standards in the fitness industry when we can treat our fellow colleagues with dignity and courtesy.