Q: How do you handle “drama” at your studio? Our dance company policy manual states that bad-mouthing, arguing and general lack of respect will not be tolerated. My co-director wants me to come down hard when we feel that someone has broken these rules, but I know people want to feel validated and understood. I’m struggling with the balance of being assertive yet understanding. I feel that if I sound accusatory, they will be on the defensive and nothing positive will be accomplished. How do you define the difference between entitled opinions and drama/gossip/bad-mouthing?
A: The fear of losing students will often have us back down from confrontation; however, inaction will not make negativity disappear. Gossip and drama are often the result of exaggerating the facts, a misunderstanding or an unmet expectation. If you are accused of playing favorites, unfair class placements or general insensitivity, for instance, you must take action to get to the bottom of the complaint.
If someone violates a stated policy or clearly impacts your studio culture in a negative way, you must stop the behavior from escalating to drama. Take action immediately and make a phone call or schedule a meeting to get to the bottom of what is wrong. Always include parents and others involved and let all parties know you want to move forward in a positive way.
Manage drama by encouraging parents, teachers and students to take a concern directly to the person who can to do something about it, rather than complaining to others or spreading rumors. Be available to discuss issues about teaching styles, audition results, solo choices, costume picks, music selection, personality conflicts, payment plans and rehearsal schedules. This does not mean you will necessarily change your choices or decisions, but it conveys that you value their opinions, both positive and negative. In this way, you and your co-director will display solidarity and leadership to ensure a respectful and professional environment.
Kathy Blake is the owner of Kathy Blake Dance Studios in Amherst, New Hampshire. She and Suzanne Blake Gerety are the co-founders of DanceStudioOwner.com.