Interpreting the words ‘Professional Behaviour’
My Aqua Mentoring group recently discussed professional behaviour within the aquatic fitness industry and how to manage this expectation. It was refreshing to engage with other instructors and hear about their challenges in navigating this complex issue. The two words “professional behaviour” carry significant innuendo and can be interpreted differently by various individuals. While these words are commonly used in job descriptions and interviews across multiple occupations, the fitness industry needs more clarity when defining and upholding professional standards.
Appropriate or inappropriate behaviour
Because our industry is so young and constantly evolving, it becomes challenging to identify what is professional and what is not. Some things are clear, e.g. swearing at a class or client is unprofessional. Stealing and doing other illegal activities is another obvious no-no. Still, 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 inappropriate.
Having had my own experience of a ‘she said, he said’ situation, I was confused. All sides felt that words injured them and their ‘apparent’ meaning behind the words, so I wondered what the appropriate professional behaviour in this situation should be.
How to resolve conflict
Unfortunately, the fitness industry does not have a straightforward way to mediate conflict, and the result can be less than satisfactory. We were all trying to achieve the same goal: to provide our clients with a positive exercise experience. The third party in the conflict was, of course, the team leader. Still, I needed clarification on the actual direction and how to resolve the issue. It wasn’t a matter of right and wrong, but how can we move forward to get conflict resolution?
In an industry purely focused on people, we have a weakness – how to deal with each other. Much is written about emotional intelligence, wellness coaching, and even the professional way to deal with clients. Still, 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 don’t see issues, or I choose to think that people want to work together. The challenge is that when a problem arises, there doesn’t seem to be a way to deal with it so that all parties feel they are being heard. Finally, the conflict is brought to a resolution.
Treat colleagues and clients with courtesy and respect
So when I see the following ‘professional behaviour’ written in some job description that I am requested to sign, I will ask precise questions: What is their definition of professional behaviour with clients? And what is their definition of professional behaviour between staff and contractors? First, I want to know what happens when conflict occurs and how it is dealt with. Second, I want to ensure that these procedures, if any, are followed through and their experience with dealing with challenges.
The term ‘professional behaviour’ applies to the staff and their employers. This will go a long way in lifting our standards in the fitness industry when we can treat our colleagues with dignity and courtesy.