When to Stand Up, When to Shut Up?

How long have you owned your studio?  If you have owned your studio for more than a few months, I would hazard to say that you have probably experienced at least a little bit of bullying.

According to Websters Dictionary a Bully is a
blustering, quarrelsome, overbearing person who habitually badgers and intimidates.

Sound famiiar?  This can take all shapes and forms.  It can be the parent who grumbles to others in your lobby and starts a wave dissension, or the one who constantly questions you about your decisions and policies.  It can be a staff members who habitually does their own thing even though you have a clear policy about the issue at hand.  It can be a student who challenges your authority or stands with arms crossed and rolls her eyes in the classroom.  It can even be a family member or a friend who gives you a hard time about your “hobby-job” and the time it takes.

How do you know when to stand up and when to shut up?  Here are a couple of my “tales from the trenches” and the path I chose to take:

Issue:
A high school student had become increasingly problematic and I was always putting out fires.  I got emails every week from her mom (sometimes three times per week) and the student had become defiant in class.  She disrespected every teacher and had become something of a toxic yeast in the classroom.

Response:
Stand up.  For the greater good of our program, this had to be stopped. I had the student and her mom in for a meeting with all of our teachers. We layed out her positive qualities and the areas we saw as problems.  She answered me by saying that I had “screwed her out of her senior company position”.  I told her she had to work for it, not complain her way into it.  Her mom replied, “Well, it has always worked for me.”  I knew at that moment that I would not be able to fix the situation and I let that family go:)

Issue:
Last season I received an two page, handwritten, anonymous hate letter.  Among other things the letter criticized the way I dressed, my faith, my giving of scholarships to our students, and our show.  The worst part?  The part where it said “you had better start acting in public like a mother of five.”  What exactly does that look like?  I may not be the most stylish person, but I really value my faith, giving, and being a mom.  I was crushed.

Response:
Shut up.  For starters, the letter was anonymous, which means it was sent by a cruel coward and does not merit my time.  Always consider the source.  I said above that I was crushed.  I was crushed, but, I was not defeated.  I chose to let the incident make me stronger and more confident in my mission.  The writer’s objective was to bring me down, but I could’t let that happen.  I have 700 students and a family who count on me.  So, I cried for about an hour, ate ice cream for about a day, bought a nice outfit (that was one good thing that came out of it:) and then chose to forgive and let it go.

Wisdom from the trenches.  This is what we as studio owners, teachers, and entrepreneurs have at our disposal every day.  No experience, positive or negative, is wasted in this life when looked at through the eyes of wisdom.

What about you?  I would like to feature a great story about facing a bully in your business and how you handled it for next week’s newsletter.  Send me your story!  October is Anti-Bullying month.  Let’s celebrate how we have survived the bullies in our lives!

Inspiration!  See how a friend of mine and local new anchor, Jennifer Livingston, stood up to a bully on air this week.  Since Tuesday, she has gotten over 7,000,000 hits on YouTube for her on-air response.  She’ll be on The Ellen Show next Tuesday and is the one who inspired todays edition.