If you’ve been in the fitness industry for a few years, more than likely you’ve been in the uncomfortable situation where someone starts telling you critiques about another fitness instructor. For the most part, participants will keep their comments to themselves, but every once in a while one will come up to you to say negative things about another instructor that puts you in an awkward situation. It’s unprofessional for you to engage in conversation talking trash about your coworkers, but you also don’t want to scold your members for sharing their opinion.
So, how do you respond when a participant complains about another fitness instructor?
First, if the participant tells you that a colleague is teaching something dangerous or unsafe in their class, then you do have a responsibility to act. You can tell the member to notify the Group X director or front desk staff to make sure that it is reported. If you know the instructor, you may want to reach out to them to let them know your concern. Otherwise, you can bring it up with your director, as well.
If that’s not the case, then you get to decide how you’d like to respond. And for the most part, these comments usually have nothing to do with safety and everything to do with the participant’s preferences. When a participant complains to me about another instructor, I’ll respond with something like,
“I’m glad you’re starting to figure out what types of Group X classes you like. That’s the reason we have so many different classes and instructors: so that everyone can find something they like. More than likely you won’t like all of the classes and instructors, and that’s okay. That’s why we offer so many options.”
What I like about this response is that it doesn’t discount their opinion – everyone has a right to prefer certain classes and teaching styles over others. I know I personally have my favorite classes and instructors, so why can’t my participants have the same thing? But, at the same time it doesn’t contribute any negative sentiment about your colleagues.
There are many ways to address this conversation and you have to go with a response that feels authentic to you. It’s a good idea to think about how you would respond to a comment like this, so that you don’t feel flustered if it ever comes up.
For more fitness instructor advice, check out the group exercise ideas and tips page.