How to Handle Negative Gossip

27 Nov

A gym is very much like a small town…

People get to know one another and talk about whatever is going on in the community. Sometimes this friendly conversation can turn in to negative gossip. It’s amazing what people choose to discuss and for the most part it’s easy going conversation. What happens if there’s someone amongst the crowd who gossips and puts down other people? Maybe this person says negative things about your gym. I’ve experienced that before. Some people have nothing better to do than spread negative gossip. It’s important to know how to handle this situation.

There’s A Time and Place 

First of all a gym is not the place to discuss serious topics. I’ve had people get in to shouting matches over which politician they hate. I’ve had to intervene several times and say, “Hey guys. Let’s keep it light. This is a gym, let’s keep things positive.” It’s important to not let these kinds of conversations escalate beyond friendly banter. While I appreciate you can’t monitor every conversation, it’s important not to take sides. Everyone is entitled to their opinion. I tell people, “There’s a time and place for certain conversations and the gym isn’t that place. People come here to escape the rigors of life. Let’s keep things light and positive.” I don’t go out of my way to embarass anyone. I just make sure to assert myself if and when conversations escalate. I tell people privately, “If you find that you don’t get along with this person, choose to do your own thing and don’t engage this person.” That normally solves the problem.

Negative Nancy

I’m sure we’ve all met this kind of person at the gym. This person is nothing but negative. In fact people tend to avoid this type of person. If and when they do choose to converse, it’s often a complaint. They’ll complain to anyone and everyone about what’s wrong with the gym. The only person they won’t talk to is the manager. I’ve heard things through the grapevine. In these situations I make a point if reaching out to this person privately. “Hi there. I appreciate you have some concerns about our gym. I’d love for you to let me know what you think so I can fix these issues.” I’ve even been in the bathroom and clients walk in unsuspectingly. These people have proceeded to make negative comments about our fitness classes, or about this person in the gym or even about me. I normally just come out and say, “You know what. You’ve got some interesting points there. I’d certainly appreciate you discussing it with me personally the next time. I’d be happy to help you.”

I’ve learned how to assert myself without being rude. I let them know that I don’t appreciate negative comments. In the same sense, if they have legitimate complaints I’m happy to listen.

When Gossip Goes too Far.

It hasn’t happened often. When gossip goes too far, then we simply give the person an opportunity to change the behavior. If they don’t change their behavior then we ask them to leave. It is your right as a manager to give somone a fair chance to change their behavior. You can only give them so many chances. If someone is mean and is saying nasty things about you or other members, then they need to go. You can’t have those kinds of people in your gym. It negatively impacts you and your members. You have to keep it professional.

“Out of courtesy to you, I’m letting you know that we’ve had several complaints and would like you to address and fix this problem. If you cannot change your behavior and these issues continue, then we will have to ask you to leave.”

The purpose here is not to embarass anyone. The next purpose is to assert yourself properly. The ultimate goal is to allow this person to improve their behavior. If they don’t, at least you did them the courtesy of letting them know. Asking someone to leave is never easy. It’s important to do it in a way that is both professional and courteous. “We thank you for your business. We’d like to wish you the best of luck in the future at another facility.”

You are the professional! Always, above all… Treat others the way you want to be treated.