As we grow bigger, we want to be transparent about the issues that affect QuickSteps as a community, dance studio and as a business.
One topic that comes up from time to time is our Professional Conduct Policy which instructs the QuickSteps team to keep their relationship with members professional, not personal.
Our Professional Conduct Policy is commonly known in the dance industry as a ‘no fraternisation’ policy.
The types of studios that have this policy are normally the larger, more established studios with full time teachers. Studios with mainly casual teachers and who are likely to specialise in salsa and other Latin dances generally don’t have a policy like this.
The reasons behind these dance studio policies are multi-faceted, so if you’re interested, read on.
1. Maintaining the right vibe
Before starting out in 2011, Michelle and I had wide ranging discussions about the vision we had for QuickSteps. There were many goals we had, but first and foremost we wanted to create a studio with a relaxed, friendly yet professional atmosphere. We call this the ‘vibe’ – and every night, the first thing I ask Michelle is ‘how was the vibe today’.
We noticed that one big problem affecting vibe in dance studios is the formation of cliques which, by definition, excludes certain members. The teaching team fraternising with members accentuates this problem, because in their limited time, a teacher (without this policy) may end up generally spend their time with members who are more sociable.
Gossip also saps vibe. There is some gossip that is always going to happen. But we want to minimise it and keep gossip away from our team. That gets much harder when teachers and members are socialising and a teacher drinks a little bit too much and says/does something a little bit silly.
2. Looking after our team
Dance teachers have more intense one-on-one human interactions than most people. Members are often quite surprised to learn that teachers will spend much of their weekends keeping to themselves and recharging for the week ahead.
With each teacher having between 30 and 40 members, it’s logistically impossible for teachers to accept invitations from all the members that might want to see them socially. This puts teachers in an awkward position. Which invitations do they accept? What happens if they don’t actually want to go? You say ‘yes’ to Frank’s 50th birthday, what would Franzine think when you say no to her 50th? Cue: gossip! The Professional Conduct Policy solves this problem – a teacher politely declines all invitations.
When discussing our Professional Conduct Policy every teacher has a story of when they wanted to accept an invitation. But teachers appreciate immensely the benefits of having downtime, and it is for this reason our team are very supportive of this policy.
3. Running a sustainable business
The more teachers spend time with members socially, the more likely at some point a member will say ‘If I pay you $50, can I just have a lesson at home?’
It’s certainly a tempting offer – the teacher earns an extra $50 and a member gets a cut price lesson!
But you don’t have to be a business genius to see the problem. Your payments don’t just pay for your teacher, but the events, the training, the back of house, marketing, the studio, those pesky taxes and someone to run the show. To top it off, word gets around that Johnny is having lessons on the side, so others want to start doing the same thing. Cue: gossip!
4. Teacher safety
Yes, I admit, there are a few oddballs in the dance community as there are in any community.
Simply being able to say, “Sorry, we don’t take lifts from members.” has made life much easier for several teachers over the years. Don’t worry, we make sure teachers get home safely after events.
Over the years when we’ve explained the Professional Conduct Policy to various members, we’ve had various reactions. They range from ‘well, of course, it’s obvious’, to ‘that’s draconian’.
I’ve found those who hold the later opinion often make the following mistake.
They ask themselves the question: ‘Would I ever do something inappropriate?’, or ‘Would my teacher ever do something inappropriate?’. And the answer is generally ‘No’.
But those are not the right questions to be asking. As a studio of hundreds of members and a growing team it’s imperative we have one common policy for all. It wouldn’t be manageable if each teacher had different exceptions for different members/situations.
So therefore the question to ask is ‘Could a QuickStepsmember or QuickStepsteacher ever do something inappropriate whilst socialising, and if they did, could that severely damage the studio?’.
The answer, we’ve concluded, is ‘quite likely’. And this, in a nutshell, is why our Professional Conduct Policy exists.
So what guidelines do we give our team?
Our Professional Conduct Policy says:
I hope we’ve managed to explain to you the reasons underpinning the policy, a topic that can be quite sensitive for some. If you have any questions or comments, feel free to comment below, or speak with me, our Studio Manager, or one of the QuickSteps Team.