You Want to Be Treated Like a Professional? Then Act Like One!

Via Kelli Harrington
on May 27, 2012
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passive-aggressive and proud tee

The Three Behaviors to Avoid.

I was in a yoga class at my own studio recently when an instructor from another studio came to take class. With an air of thick arrogance, she made it a point to inform one of my employees that she was a teacher. It was obvious she was trying to intimidate my well-trained instructor into feeling inferior.

Class began and our visiting Yoga Diva refused to follow any of the cues given by my instructor. In an effort to keep my un-yogic feelings from surfacing and to allow for professional growth, I let my instructor handle her class without my interference or protection. As I had hoped, my instructor rose to the occasion and tried politely to work with Ms. Diva to have her stay with the rest of the class.

Ms. Diva was not having this—she wanted to prove to the class that she was the better instructor-practitioner on deck. She publicly laughed in my instructor’s face after several gestures of kindness! With my Jason Bourne Ninja-like blood boiling, I paused to see how my instructor would respond and was pleasantly surprised: “Maybe this is not the class for you so perhaps you should leave now,” she responded to Ms. Diva’s insult. It was not a question.

It was not a request. It was a loud and clear “get out!” with a calm air of confidence that caused Ms. Diva to be knocked off her game. With that, Yoga Diva rolled up her mat, exited as annoyingly as she had entered, and class proceeded without a hitch. Like a proud parent, I smiled for the rest of class. NamaFreakinSte!

The point in sharing this story is to engage discussion about professionalism in the field of yoga. In my experience, more often then not, (unfortunately) professionalism is lacking.

In place of professionalism, here’s what I’ve found:

1. There is a morass of passive-aggressiveness; enough for several rounds at the bar during happy hour.

2. There is more then enough flakiness to cover the landscape during a New York winter.

3. There is a healthy serving of cliquishness that keeps those not part of the “cool yoga club” out of the loop in yoga studio purgatory because they did not have those $92 yoga pants or a $100 Eco-friendly, pretend-I-am-earthy, techno yoga mat! (By the way, mid-day mommy, it’s about the practice—not your latest yoga trinket! But, I swear, I’m not bitter!)

Stereotypical jokes aside, where is the professionalism? I ask this with sincerity; it frightens me as a business owner, yoga instructor, and trainer that such behaviors are the norm. It is low-vibration and reflects badly on  the entire field on multiple levels.

When I train and hire new staff, I know I can give them the tools to succeed—train them well to feel confident in their craft whether in the yoga studio or behind the front desk—but is unprofessional behavior so deeply embedded in the yoga field that I am up against more then I expect? After much thought, my answer is a resounding no.

Business 101 dictates: If you want to be treated like a professional, act like one! Plain and simple.

The three behaviors I discussed earlier: Passive-Aggressiveness, Flakiness, and Cliquishness are pervasive in the yoga world. Please don’t deny that such behaviors exist among instructors, managers and business owners alike. Admit it drives you crazy, embrace it as a truth, and help me examine and mitigate it for the good of all yogis. Remember, the first step toward health is admitting there is a problem.

1. Passive-Aggressiveness: I equate this problem behavior with the mold inside the yoga studio; nobody wants to call in an expert to disinfect. This behavior can bring about the death of your business. If you are honest and direct with your students, staff, and clients, you work from a place of integrity and strength, rather than a place of awkwardness, manipulation, or deception.

Bottom line: As a business owner you need to treat everyone equitably and with honesty, even during times when you wish you didn’t have to say no or to deliver unpleasant news. Taking leadership in this area does eventually mitigate passive-aggressive behavior throughout the studio, even among the students.

2. Flakiness: Get up! Shower. Slap on some deodorant. Comb your hair. Dress appropriately. Check your teaching schedule. Arrive early. Teach. Step up when necessary. Exude positive energy. Leave the studio as you found it. Simple formula, folks! If you want to get paid, have opportunities available to you, and grow in your craft, be responsible in these ways. If you’re sick, call in advance. If you need of a vacation, plan in advance.

Have respect for your colleagues and supervisors: you are part of a team and not the center of the universe. Not showing up to work or making excuses as to why you were late or could not fulfill your duties is just that—excuses. Make it happen and you will be treated like a professional. This goes for managers and owners, alike; you cannot expect to have your students and staff respect you if you’re not willing to do the same yourself!

Bottom line: Show up. On time. With a good attitude. And a strong work ethic.

3. Cliquishness: Sixth grade behavior. I have seen it with students and more alarmingly, I have seen it with staff. Grow up! It’s fine to have friends, but to deliberately or passive-aggressively block others out from “the cool club” is not only immature, it gets you a first-class ticket to nowhere. Stop any immature whispering or secret-sharing and step up with honesty and integrity.

Bottom line: People who exhibit this behavior are emotional vampires that suck the life out of positive energy and good yoga studios. Take your unprofessional, negative behavior back to kindergarten where it belongs. Again, you want to be treated like a professional—act like one!

The only way the field is going to change is if we hold one another and ourselves accountable and responsible. We need to raise the bar. The only way to do that is to stop resorting to the lowest common denominator of behavior and to act like a professional, even when it’s hard. You can do it—you’re a yogi!


About Kelli Harrington

Dr. Kelli Harrington is a teacher trainer, a yoga teacher and co-founder of ZenSpot, Inc.--Hot Yoga, Human Empowerment and Feng Shui design company dedicated to creating positive life balance for mind, body, and spirit. Harrington is also the co-founder of the ZenSpot Institute, a yoga teacher training facility and online education school dedicated to certifying high quality yoga teachers and wellness change-agents. As a certified fitness trainer, Ayurvedic lifestyle and weight management specialist, stress management and life coach, Reiki Master and wellness leader, Kelli spends her days running her business in service to others. As a vegan, EdTech geek, social media junkie, entrepreneur, activist, and environmentalist Harrington earned a doctorate in Educational Organizational Development and Leadership from the University of San Francisco; two Masters degrees at Teachers College, Columbia University and Pace University respectively. ZenSpot, Inc., is based in Oregon with facilities in both Portland and Eugene.


9 Responses to “You Want to Be Treated Like a Professional? Then Act Like One!”

  1. ValCarruthers says:

    Great article, Kelli. As a yoga teacher and EJ writer, I'm saddened by such behaviors from fellow teachers. Where's the mutual respect? The humility? The openness toward learning another style of instruction or practice?

    I've encountered visiting teachers like Ms. Diva in my classes, including a couple who were also members of the country club where I was teaching them. Talk about a rock and a hard place!

    There's a Buddhist expression that goes like, "As soon as you consider yourself an expert there's no possibility of enlightenment." The clear freshness of beginner's mind is lost.

    Your instructor absolutely did the honorable thing by firmly stating that Ms. Diva should leave. And actually honored the Divine in Ms. Diva in the process. All the way along, your instructor was speaking to Diva's higher self. But alas, Diva (for whatever reason brought her in the door, and there could be many) was unable to hear.

    And, with equanimity, the class proceeded.

    The only thing is, that we as the "prevailing" teacher or studio owner, must watch our own tendencies around pride of being right. Or to use another Buddhist aphorism, "In putting down another, elevating self." Even dharma can be a double-edge sword sometimes.

    The beauty part was. as you said, "professional growth." As a result of that incident, everyone grew. You, because you wisely remained the quiet witness, your teacher because she did her dharma. And Ms. Diva, whether she knows it or not. Maybe one day. For now, all that remains is to wish her well.

    NamaFreakinSte, indeed.

    Valerie Carruthers
    Team Leader
    Elephant Spirituality

    "Like" Elephant Spirituality on Facebook

  2. Vision_Quest2 says:

    You know why I don't return to a studio I left?
    No matter how they entice me to return (well, not all of them. I don't think the original founding partner wants me back.)
    You just wrote the article.

    And I'm not even another yoga teacher.

  3. Sadly, not remotely confined to the yoga world. I think the difference is that they should be aspiring to do better. And it is long past time to remind them of it. 😉

  4. Kelli says:

    Valerie, Thanks so much for you wonderful feedback and I am glad others understand these unfortunate situations as well. It can be frustrating but handling such incidents' and/or people with grace but firmness is the only way in my opinion. Namaste!

  5. Kelli says:

    Thanks so much Vision_Quest2! We see this all the time with studios and it is unfortunate that it happens. Glad this resonated with you! Namaste!

  6. Kelli says:

    Michael, could not agree more. Thanks for reading! Namaste!

  7. @yogatwit says:

    Thanks for a great article.

  8. Kelli says:

    Thanks so much for reading @yogatwit!

  9. spiral_dancer says:

    What an insightful, well-written (and hilarious) piece! As a student of yoga who plans to become a teacher, I was unaware of the pervasiveness of these problems and am considering myself well-warned.

    Thanks for giving me strategies to take with me and thank goodness for all the honest, open and inspiring teachers who exude compassion and positive energy. They are the ones who have inspired me to take up this path and they are living examples of a commitment to the practice we call yoga.