Avoiding Conflict

Most people hate the idea of conflict. This is no different for many fitness professionals and gym owners. In fact, the fitness business is such a personal business, that it makes the avoidance of conflict and confrontation all the more likely.

Clients, staff, and contract trainers at a facility are more than just a revenue stream... they are friends, they are like family; the last thing anyone wants to do is have a fight with their family.

Nowadays, gym owners are some of the most caring business owners out there. However, this wasn’t always the case. Many current gym owners have worked for a “bad” gym owner at some point in their careers. That owner who would sell his or her own mother for one more $20/month gym membership.

This only serves to exacerbate conflict avoidance. The last person a gym owner wants to be like is that jerk they used to work for. In turn, when warning signs with a staff member or contract trainer come up, they get ignored and the assumption is that the issue will somehow get better on its own. Unfortunately, this position of being too nice and avoiding the difficult conversations is slowly killing the business.

The too-nice-trainer or gym owner needs to realize that some people will inevitably see niceness as weakness and look to exploit that to their advantage. For example, if an independent trainer who rents space from a gym owner is constantly showing up late or perhaps even missing training sessions with their client, while the client isn’t the gym’s direct client, thinking that the gym’s reputation isn’t affected by this independent trainer’s behavior is dead wrong. All the client knows is they go to a gym and the trainer is unprofessional. The last thing a facility needs is an independent trainer ruining its reputation. It is the responsibility of the gym owner to address and remedy the issue or ultimately suffer the consequences of guilt by association.”

Another situation that often gets ignored is when a new trainer gets hired at the gym. After a short time, the owner realizes the trainer does some exercises with clients that the owner feels are dangerous, and the trainer seems oblivious. Many too-nice-owners will pull the trainer aside and let them know that the dangerous exercises aren’t safe nor appropriate. But too often, instead of letting the trainer go when they know they are not training safely or appropriately, they continue to allow the trainer to train clients under their roof.

This is a huge risk for the gym owner. There is simply no way to know all the things that the trainer doesn’t know. They’ve already shown a certain lack of skill and/or ability to judge when a situation is unsafe. By knowingly allowing a trainer who has previously demonstrated unsafe practices to continue working at the facility is opening the gym up to the possibility of a huge lawsuit.

In business, next to turning a profit, the single most important issue faced is avoiding catastrophic failure that will end the business. Great care must be taken to protect both the reputation of the business and to minimize the risks of a major lawsuit that could ultimately cost the business more than it can afford.

The risks of avoiding conflict are not limited to trainers and staff but include customers as well.

While the old saying may say, “The customer is always right,” this is not always the case. A wrong customer can do just as much damage to the business as a bad trainer. For example, a customer tells an inappropriate joke while in the facility, creating a toxic environment for everyone who works and trains there. This must be dealt with immediately and forcefully. If a gym owner doesn’t address the problem immediately because they want to avoid conflict, they will invariably suffer for it.

Many good clients who may feel uncomfortable won’t say anything to the owner. They want to avoid conflict, too. They just stop coming back. Good customers are too hard to come by to risk losing by being afraid to confront a bad customer.

As difficult as conflict within a business can be, and as much as a gym owner shouldn’t have to worry about poor quality trainers or inappropriate members, it’s the reality of business. Conflict is unavoidable. In fact, owners should actually look at small conflicts that would normally get ignored as an opportunity to improve their skills at conflict resolution.

Conflict resolution is similar to going to the gym. It’s a muscle that must be worked to improve. Imagine not deadlifting and then entering a powerlifting competition. The results likely wouldn’t be good. Yet many owners avoid conflict so often that they miss out on the training that addressing the little things provides. They will be much more likely to handle the big problems if they’ve had practice dealing with smaller problems first. By meeting the smaller problems head on, it’s far less likely there will be any catastrophic issues to deal with. And that should be the goal of any well-run business.

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