There have been some disturbing news stories recently regarding sexual misconduct, and even assault, at various massage studios across the country. Nearly two-hundred women, so far, have stepped forward to share their experiences and desire to bring about whatever changes are necessary to ensure this never happens again.
Besides the horrific accounts of what they endured, these women have shined a light on another important matter; the fact that massage studio managers and front desk staff lack training on how to handle situations regarding sexual misconduct. In fact, there appears to be little, if any, training available. Many of the women who have spoken out said that they felt the studio managers mishandled the situation, or recited an obviously scripted response. The result was that those reporting felt as though they were not being taken seriously and that the business cared only about its reputation. It would be bad enough if there had been one incident, but it appears to be a widespread issue which means the need for training is both crucial and immediate. The training needs to begin at the corporate level, but it is also the responsibility of each individual franchise to ensure their staff is prepared to properly handle any situation.
Over the past decade I have worked in three different industries. Automotive, sales, and massage franchise management. Though it may seem as though these three industries have nothing in common, they do share at least one thing. Each industry has a pre-existing stigma attached to it that must be overcome in order for them to succeed. Those people who work within the massage industry have worked hard to ensure that the art of massage is viewed as an important part of one’s overall health and well-being, which it is. Therefore, it is imperative that all massage franchisors and franchisees create training on how to handle situations of sexual misconduct.
I realize that questioning victims of sexual assault requires very specific training and expertise, and it may be unreasonable to expect every staff member of every massage studio to obtain this expertise. Still, it is obvious that some action must be taken.
So, what can be done? I certainly do not have all of the answers, but while my business partner (Mandy R. Clark) and I were co-managing a massage studio we designed some training and policies around this topic. I hope that, by sharing these five tips, you may be inspired to implement changes where you are. Together, we can make a difference.
1) Clarify Your Sexual Misconduct Policy
You must be crystal clear and specific on this when training your staff. Outline exactly what is and is not acceptable behavior. After you have done that, you must also outline with extreme clarity what action a staff member should take when encountering a sexual misconduct situation. Though your staff may not have the expertise to properly question a victim of sexual assault, they can be an expert on how to handle the situation. For example: If a client expresses to one of your staff members that they have been sexually assaulted by another member of your staff, the staff member receiving the report must act immediately.
Regardless of the laws in your state, we recommend you train your staff to contact the police (just like in any other case of sexual assault). If the accused staff member is a therapist and they have already begun their next session, that session should be interrupted. You can be discrete about this, and I know how awkward it feels, but the action must be taken.
Many massage studios train their therapists on how to handle a client who is displaying unacceptable behavior, but far fewer train on how to deal with an offending staff member.
2) Hiring Process
So much of what happens within a business begins with the hiring and onboarding process. This is where you set the parameters of employment, express expectations, policies, and so on. The hiring process is the perfect time to make clear your policy on sexual misconduct. Let your new hire know in no uncertain terms, that in the case of a staff member behaving inappropriately, the first step will be to contact the police. Making this clear at the beginning can serve as a deterrent, and may even help weed out a bad apple before they even start.
3) Not Just Your Managers
There is no reason to only train your managers on how to handle these situations. Your manager may have the responsibility to ensure action is swiftly taken, but all members of your team should be equally trained. By doing this, you are intentionally designing the culture of your business to be proactive and intolerant of sexual misconduct.
4) Revisit Frequently
If you thoroughly train your staff as you hire them, you do not have to remind them of your sexual misconduct policy every day, but you should definitely revisit it often. Maybe you do so at monthly and quarterly staff meetings, in a company newsletter, email, or all of the above. It is important to not take for granted that your staff will remember every detail of their previous training. By periodically going over your policy, the information will stay fresh in their minds. You do this for other areas of training, so why would you neglect this important topic?
5) Two Guiding Principles
In the massage studio I co-managed, there were two guiding principles that we taught to everyone. They were even painted on the wall in the breakroom.
1) Do whatever is in the best interest of the client
2) Do whatever is in the best interest of your coworker.
If you effectively train your staff, and get them to embrace these two principles, you will find that they will almost always do the right thing regardless of the situation.
Here at Winning Mindset Consulting, we believe that training the employees of all massage studios on properly handling sexual misconduct should begin at the corporate level. It should be included at each franchisor’s “franchise university”, national conferences, as well as taught by their regional trainers. We also believe that each individual franchise owner should take responsibility for training their own people, no matter what training may or may not be available from their franchisor.
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