I've been thinking a lot lately about professionalism and ethics. Specifically, the differences between them, and the applications of those definitions on our actions and words as massage therapists.
I've labored over various definitions. I've looked at situations where I've used the words interchangeably and probably incorrectly. I've though about where I've used each word properly. And I've come to a conclusion.
I kinda don't care about getting the exact verbiage right.
I care about the meaning, the intent, and the context of any particular interaction. What follows is the story of how I started thinking about this.
I saw a funny graphic on Facebook. It was pretty funny. It said, " Crazy Client Request "I want extra work on my neck, but don't mess up my hair."" Lots of people commented on how funny it was. A few hundred people have shared it. Because it's funny. And true. We know it happens all the time.
But it bothers me. It bothers me that a few hundred massage therapists think it's okay to publicly joke about client requests. (Side note: I expressed this in the comments under the image and got nailed. Rightly so. I know better than to start a fight on someone else's turf. I should've just sent a message to the page owner. I've apologized for that. I was an asshat.)
Plenty of people disagree with me and think I'm being a tightass. They are correct. I am a tightass. My question is: Why aren't they?
If a client walked into your office and said, "I've got an awful headache, but please don't get oil in my hair, I've got to go back to work after this," would you actually say, "That's a crazy request, hahahah!" Would you holler out to a colleague, "Hey, Jane, check it out, this client wants me to work on her head but not get oil in her hair. HA!" Probably not.
Shouldn't we all be extra sensitive about accidentally, or intentionally, saying something that may make a client afraid to speak up, or afraid to come to us?
Let's apply this to real life
Let's say a very shy person, a potential client, is following your Facebook page. They enjoy your posts about stretching, the links to local community events, and the occasional picture of your silly office antics. They're warming up to the idea of getting massage as they get to know you through your marketing.
Then, they see a joke titled Crazy Client Request. A joke made at the expense of a client. What's the underlying message here? If you ask your massage therapist for something, they may make fun of you. Publicly. It's pretty safe to assume that the shy person will never step foot in your office.
Is this an extreme line of thinking? Yes. As it should be. When we're talking about the feelings of clients, about accidentally intimidating someone, alienating an otherwise ideal potential client, or about hurting a current client's feelings, we should absolutely think in extremes.
In the most extreme of circumstances, this man committed suicide. He refused to seek help because throughout his childhood he heard his parents and other medical practitioners breech confidentiality and make sport of their mentally ill patients.
Jokes about hair are not extreme. They are silly and funny. But it's a slippery slope, and a very easy connection for an already shy person to make.
Ummmm, Allissa? Aren't you a preacher of Marketing with Personality?
Yup. I even have an adorable ebook about it! (Go get it, it's free.) I'm a big fan of letting your personality shine through in your business.
But let's be clear, there's a big difference between being silly enough to display a Darth Vader cookie jar in your office, and actively making fun of a client.
Marketing with Personality isn't about casually treating your clients like crap. It's about being human, warm, and fun in your business. And if you're too busy to download the ebook, no worries, here's the important stuff:
You want to be yourself. But you want to be a professional version of yourself. This is a huge topic, we could spend endless chapters on boundaries. Here are some potential land mines to be aware of, and avoid.
Be yourself, unless...
You’re a jerk. If you're surly and grumpy and super-sarcastic, rein it in. I’m not suggesting that you flip into Happy Cheerleader mode whenever a client walks in the door. Just consider the way your edges could be smoothed to improve the client’s experience.
You’re a flirt. If you're a highly sexualized person, very flirty and touchy, rein it in. When you are anywhere that could be a marketing/networking possibility, stop it. Don’t do a giggle and a hair flip, don’t talk about sex. Don’t. Just don’t.
Take some time to explore what your weakness are. Recognize them, and have a plan in place to diffuse these land mines before they explode.
Be yourself, unless...
You’ve got a guilt complex. If you're someone who likes to give and give, and you tend to overcommit and overwork yourself trying to help others in all aspects of your life, rein it in. It's simply not an effective way to run a business, it's not a healthy way to work.
You’re a pushover with your schedule. Stop it. Find the easy ways to say no. Practice saying “I'm sorry, I'm booked up.” Get cozy referring out to MT's who work on your days off.
It's important to acknowledge that there should be real thought involved in this process. These guidelines are not One Size Fits All. We're not talking about ignoring ethical concerns and getting casual at your place of business. This is a process, and like any other aspect of business, you need to use good judgement and common sense.
So for me, I think of it this way: I may have clients leave because they don't like my hands-on techniques. I may have potential clients who never come in because they see an occasional atheist sentiment in my twitter stream. I'm okay with that. But if I ever lose a client or potential client because they felt I was insensitive to their needs, or they feared I would make fun of them, I will consider that a huge professional failure. Huge.
For you: Well, you've got to figure that out for yourself. Consider your feelings. Consider the feelings of the people who will see what you 'like' and post on Facebook, and interact accordingly.
Image courtesy of David Castillo Dominici / FreeDigitalPhotos.net
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