Confronting a Time Stealer

Q: A:

The teacher before me is running late again. Our back-to-back classes have only 10 minutes between them, and now my class will start late. What should I do? Barge in? Wait? My class participants expect me to do something. I need advice for handling this problem immediately, when the director isn’t around.

Carol Scott New York, New York

First, diffuse the immediate situation. Talk to the students waiting outside the room. Acknowledge the problem and tell them that you will address it directly with the other instructor, and that a solution will be coming. Apologize for the inconvenience and thank them for their infinite patience. Compliment them on their ability to take the high road while they wait. The best-case scenario is to address the situation immediately, the first time it happens. As soon as possible after the incident, ask to meet over coffee or a smoothie to talk about it in a mature, professional manner. Be understanding and empathetic–you get more bees with honey. Maybe the instructor before her was late. The point is, get the facts before you presume the worst. Explain the effect her lateness has

on you and your class and say that the members are complaining. Ask her what she thinks you should do. Making her part of the problem solving might help. Agree to follow up after the meeting to cross-reference your schedules. If there is an obvious scheduling error, let the director know about it immediately. In the long term, if the issue isn’t resolved, speak to management. Never confront the teacher in front of class. It is unprofessional and counterproductive and will only antagonize the instructor.
Carol Scott is the 2003 IDEA Program Director of the Year, president of ECA World Fitness Alliance and national director of group fitness for Equinox Fitness Clubs.

A:

Keli Roberts Tujunga, California

Anyone who has taught more than half a year has dealt with this problem, and it can be so frustrating! But no matter what, do not barge into the late class or interrupt it. That would be rude. Wait outside. Apologize to the participants who are also waiting. Say, “I’m really sorry for the delay. I’ll speak to the instructor later so we don’t run late

again. Thanks for being so patient.” Make sure you end your class on time if another class follows, even though you had to start late. You can’t expect others to be punctual if you’re not. If the room is available after your class, offer your participants the option to “make up” the lost time, but also make it comfortable for people to leave at the scheduled ending time even if you have the luxury to extend the class 10 minutes. Later, speak directly and politely with the instructor who was late. Remind him that you really need to start on time, which you can do only if his class ends when scheduled. Explain your need for setup time as well. Don’t go to your manager unless the problem persists. If you do have to speak to the manager, let her know that you have already spoken with the late instructor. Usually in a situation like this, if you are polite and deal directly with the person, the problem clears up.
Keli Roberts is the 2003 IDEA Fitness Instructor of the Year, an ACE spokesperson and group fitness manager for Equinox Fitness in Pasadena, California.