Handling a Client’s Questionable Conduct
As a fitness professional, there’s a level of conduct that’s expected of you as you train and give instruction—to act professionally in every way. It’s expected of you by the clients who pay for your services, and certainly by your boss! Hopefully, it’s a part of your own personal code of ethics, too. Despite tales of fitness trainers being encouraged to be flirtatious with clients, engaging in flirtatious behavior while providing instruction is unprofessional and unethical.
Yes, you’re expected to be enthusiastic and build a good rapport with your clients. And yes, working as a fitness trainer typically involves up-close-and-personal, and sometimes even hands-on, contact with your clients. But remaining focused on the objectives at-hand—helping your clients achieve their fitness goals—demonstrates your professionalism and good character, and will garner respect from your clients and colleagues.
But what if it’s the client doing the flirting—or worse, making an unwelcome advance? After all, you’re helping them get into shape and, in the process, boosting their self-confidence and self-image. It’s understandable that a client may become attracted to you as a result. So how do you handle the situation?
The nature of the client’s behavior will dictate how best to handle each particular situation. Below are some helpful tips on how you might address a variety of different scenarios:
- Refrain from engaging in any flirtatious behavior with a client. Be conscious of your own body language and remarks so you can avoid having your clients get the wrong impression about the praises you are giving. Be mindful of your tone and expression as you compliment your clients on how well they are doing or how their physical appearance is toning up.
- Be honest and forthcoming when communicating with your clients. If a client’s comment or action appears to be a harmless show of gratitude, you should simply, but matter-of-factly, say that while you appreciate their enthusiasm and value your working relationship, inappropriate remarks or actions will not be tolerated. Usually giving a warning will do the trick. An eager client may not realize they’ve done or said something that crosses a line, and a light-hearted warning will usually put a stop to that kind of behavior. Reacting to flirtatious comments with a sheepish grin or a giggle can give the wrong impression and may even be encouraging to a true offender. Be firm and assertive and set the expectations straight up front.
- Have a few tactful comebacks ready when an awkward situation presents itself. Think of a few scenarios that might invoke an awkward moment and practice using your comeback phrases. This will help to alleviate that uncomfortable feeling when the time comes. If a client continues to make remarks that make you uncomfortable, you should advise your employer and ask that the client be assigned to a different trainer.
- Immediately inform your employer if behavior or comments are of a threatening tone or nature. Remarks of this type are grounds for permanent dismissal from the facility. If you’re self-employed, your best option is to discontinue providing services to the client. A record should be made by you, or your employer, of any instances that could later raise question.
- Trust your instincts when it comes to how you perceive a client’s behavior and comments toward you. Lewd and outright comments or behavior are easily identifiable, but sometimes a situation isn’t black and white. If a client you enjoy working with suddenly makes you feel uncomfortable, you must address it immediately, especially if you want to continue working as his or her trainer. But in most cases, you have every right to dismiss the individual as a client—or at least remove yourself from the situation.
Committing yourself to the highest standard of professionalism is an essential part of being a fitness pro, but in the world of fitness instruction, you can never be too careful. However professional your intentions are, you never know how a gesture or comment may be perceived by a client and result in a claim of impropriety. Securing a personal Professional Liability Insurance policy is the surest way to defend yourself and protect your good name.
Thank you so much for your prompt response. Might I add, Veronica was a delight to work with and her professionalism and attention to detail made this an overall pleasurable experience.