Fitness Faux Pas: How to Handle an Overly Flirty Member
By Lauren McAlister
This information contained herein does not constitute financial, legal, or other professional advice and is meant to be used solely for informational purposes. It does not take into account your specific circumstances and should be not acted on without full understanding of your current situation, future goals and/or objectives by a qualified professional. Mindbody assumes no liability for actions taken in reliance upon the information contained herein.
As a studio owner or manager, you’ve likely encountered an awkward social situation—or few. And whether you like it or not, it’s your responsibility to handle those occasional cringe-worthy moments (yikes!) so they don't turn into frequent happenings at your gym.
One especially uncomfortable topic? An overly flirtatious client.
How do you deal with this kind of overt studio swagger? How do you prevent it from happening in the first place at your gym?
Here are a few suggestions to ensure your clients and staff feel completely comfortable (but not that kind of comfortable) during workouts in your space:
Sweat here often?
When a client is more interested in flirting with their workout partner than their workout routine, you might have to get involved. Your goal, however, should be to prevent these types of interactions at your gym in the first place.
The culture of your business sets the tone for how clients behave, which is why creating and maintaining a safe space is key. To do so, you'll need to look at your gym's brand holistically. This includes:
The imagery you use
The voice and tone you write in
The music you play in your space
The people you hire
The values you promote
The policies you put in place
Don’t leave your policies up to interpretation—flirting included. Instead, include a clear policy on the frequently asked questions (FAQs) page on your website. Detail the expectations and consequences and refer any member who’s walking the line of being a bit too friendly at your gym. Be sure to consult your legal counsel to confirm specifics.
I lost my phone number, can I have theirs?
That awkward moment when a client asks for another member’s or one of your staff’s contact information at your gym or studio.
In this scenario, politely let them know your staff’s and clients’ personal information is private (theirs is too!) and you can't share it. Again, reinforce your studio policies and values during the conversation, and refer them to your FAQs page for more information.
Can I be your teacher’s pet?
It’s not uncommon for clients to develop a bond with their favorite instructor because part of their job is to inspire and motivate each client in a workout class.
However, it’s possible for clients to misinterpret certain studio scenarios as flirting in a gym atmosphere. Perhaps that adjustment your trainer made felt like special attention. Or maybe your instructor called out a client’s name for doing a great job in the middle of class. Either could potentially lead a client to think it’s flirting—indicating more than just a normal instructor/client relationship.
To prevent flirting and unwelcome advancements from happening at your gym or studio, encourage your fitness instructors to have a conversation with clients and/or explain what adjustments and call outs mean at the beginning of class (i.e., to correct form, prevent injury, etc.)
Keep in mind that happenings outside of the studio can affect client/instructor relationships. There's nothing wrong with a client and your instructor being friendly with one another in the real world. That said, there's a chance your instructor might feel like a friendship is crossing a line.
If this happens—and your staff has asked for your help—it's time for you as the studio owner to step in and protect your team.
Won't you be my favorite student?
On the flip side, what happens when the flirting reverses and a client makes a complaint about one of your instructors or staff?
Schedule a meeting, individually, with the staff member to have a conversation immediately. Seek to understand what happened and reiterate your policies and associated consequences. If necessary, consult with your legal counsel to confirm next steps. Be sure you have your lawyer add or review verbiage in your staff contract related to these kinds of situations as well.
There's no doubt that this topic is a bit uncomfortable, but it’s also important to talk about it. After all, you want to be sure both your staff and clients feel as safe as possible at your fitness studio or gym.