"What would you do if you had a conflict with a fellow trainer at your workplace?"

I am very fortunate to work with an awesome staff. We work as a team, a fact that has reduced conflicts to almost zero. I think that the key to resolving conflicts with other trainers is to remember that we are a team committed to delivering quality training to our clients. My integrity as a trainer depends on this team concept.

In the past, I worked at a gym where trainers were paid on a commission-only basis. This policy fostered an atmosphere where conflict was inevitable, since trainers were competing for client hours. In order to survive, I always kept in mind, as I still do, that my clients came first. Competing trainers did not always do the same, and I often heard them badmouth other trainers, including myself. I handled this situation by putting my clients’ needs ahead of my own, planning each training session to maximize time and client goals, never speaking ill of anyone else on staff and letting my reputation speak for itself. Although I left this job within 3 months, I received letters from former clients and members of the gym recommending me as an excellent trainer who cared more about her clients than petty gossip.

After being in this work situation, I decided that private-studio personal training was the right job for me. A private studio is more conducive to a team atmosphere in which I can feel free to ask questions and to share knowledge and experience with other trainers on the team. I know that if for any reason I am unable to train a client, I can ask another trainer to take my place for that session, if my client so desires. If the client feels more comfortable with that other trainer, I am mindful that my client’s needs come first and I will gladly step away rather than create conflict. A “training team” atmosphere not only reduces conflict in the workplace; it also ensures that my clients always receive the quality training they deserve. My reputation as a great trainer depends on maintaining an attitude that does not create conflict.

Mary Miriani

Certified Personal Trainer,

Reality Fitness Inc.

Naperville, Illinois

I believe it is inevitable that we fitness professionals (like people in any relationship) will find ourselves at odds with one another from time to time. It is the way we deal with disagreeable contests that marks our professionalism and respect for each other. Besides, good things can come from conflict.

In all cases of conflict, I’ve found that the best course of action is to think in terms of honesty and to consider how I would like to be treated. Although I have experienced discord with a few trainers, one notable instance involved the “stealing” of my program. A new trainer was keen on training mountain bike athletes. I worked with many such athletes, and they loved the program I had created for one of my riders. The other trainer thought it was okay to photocopy the workout sheet and use it “as is” with other clients, not crediting the source.

In this instance I chose to first address the issue with a letter. To me, a letter can be a graceful way of dealing with a situation. The person can read it in private, taking time to consider a response. An added bonus is that you both have a hard copy of what is being discussed, so you don’t get the “he said, she said” confusion that can happen with a phone or even an in-person conversation. I wrote my letter based on the premise that the individual did not know that what she was doing was wrong. The letter explained that copying the program without my permission was not appropriate with respect to copyright. I then went on to offer a solution. I said I would sit down and discuss my research and resources to help this trainer increase her knowledge base so she could develop her own programs. Five days after posting the letter, I followed up with a phone call.

It turned out that my premise was correct. The trainer had gone to conferences and always walked away with programs and choreography she could use in her classes, and she didn’t see that copying my program was different from those situations. She was extremely embarrassed in making, in her own words, “such a rookie mistake.” We sat down, chatted and cleared everything up, and then I mentored her.

I could have taken an aggressive route, making an uncomfortable situation worse. However, when I was honest and clear with my concerns, discussing them calmly and offering a solution to the problem, all turned out well. To this day this individual is a friend and a respected colleague, and I truly value our relationship.

Diana Rochon, CSCS, IDEA Elite

Personal Fitness Trainer

Director, Dynamic Core Fitness

Whistler, British Columbia

I spent a good part of my earlier life avoiding confrontations at all costs. But having learned that avoidance is not always the most productive approach to conflict, I now find that being thoughtful and direct usually leads to a positive outcome.

We have five full-time staff trainers and several part-timers in our facility, and we leave notes on the desk, on the computer schedule and on each other’s voicemail all the time. Still, conflicts can arise over finances, scheduling, program design—you name it. While my knee-jerk reaction might be instant, irrational irritation at the trainer in question (which finds expression with my inside voice), I usually find, when I step back and carefully read over the situation, that my colleague has good intentions. My outside voice asks a few simple questions to try to frame the context of the issue and discuss how to work it out in the best possible way for the client first, for each other next and also for the rest of the team.

Dealing directly with the trainer as soon as reasonably possible delivers a message that what each of us does is extremely important to the others, and it also helps minimize confusion and resentment. Sometimes a “sticky wicket” kind of personnel issue will arise, and I will go right to the owner to discuss how best to address it; but mostly the other staff members and I work things out among ourselves. We each have our individual styles and strengths, but we can always improve in some areas (which provides fodder for some gentle ribbing). I believe we all keep in mind that our diversity helps make our team stronger overall. While I take my work seriously, I try not to take myself too seriously. Maintaining a sense of humor about the ups and downs of our business goes a long way toward making our work environment more enjoyable.

Jane Hawksley Ogle

Fitness Professional, Plaza Fitness

at Stuyvesant Plaza

Albany, New York

If I had a conflict with a fellow trainer, I think the best thing I could do would be not to approach the situation or conflict at that specific time, especially if anyone else— including clients or members—were present. However, I’d make sure the situation was discussed privately and in a timely manner.

Passing judgment immediately would be a mistake. I would first explain to the person what I felt was wrong and then wait to hear his side. Sometimes conflict can arise because there are two entirely different viewpoints and/or sources of education, and the situation can make sense to the other trainer and me in our own ways.

By bringing the conflict out into the open and discussing it with the other trainer, I could possibly get new insights into my own viewpoint, gain knowledge, grow personally and professionally and establish a better overall relationship with my fellow trainer. Knowledge is power!

Sharon Mehalek

General Manager, Personal Fitness

Trainer, Group Exercise Coordinator,

LifeStart/Executive Sports &

Fitness Center

Chicago, Illinois

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March 2007

© 2007 by IDEA Health & Fitness Inc. All rights reserved. Reproduction without permission is strictly prohibited.

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