What do you think is the greatest challenge facing spas today regarding reports of sexual misconduct
The greatest challenge is to do with reputation. This is very problematic for our industry because it damages the hard won reputation of spas and massage. It is just starting to be widely associated with wellness and healing (in the minds of the wider public) and now I fear we are taking a step back to the time when massage was associated with “extra services” in the massage parlour. I don’t say this lightly either, I do think that this has the potential to do great damage to the spa industry and the reputation of massage.
We must remember that both therapist and clients be subject to sexual misconduct. There are victims on both sides and this is vital to acknowledge.
What are some of the most important steps spa management can take to minimize the chances of sexual misconduct occurring in their spa?
Apart of having clear policy on sexual misconduct – it has to be totally based on what sexual harassment and sexual misconduct actually is. Each spa has to clearly define what they mean for every therapist – what it means when the client is crossing the line and when the therapist is crossing the line. Total clarity.
I suggest that if a spa doesn’t have a clear policy – to develop it in conjunction with the therapists. What does sexual misconduct mean for them? When in their experience that line is crossed.
It’s a grey area. If there is no clarity – it will create confusion and wont serve its purpose.
Secondly, education for the staff – we are forgetting that therapists operate within their own mind, body and soul connection. They are literally the tools themselves.
Therefore, the training must go beyond protocols, operational procedures and product – the training must go beyond that to be life coaching. They are young people facing the challenges of the reality we live in. It’s confusing and very uncertain times. It is important to understand their struggles, dilemmas, worries.
The conversations with your team has to expand to their life purpose
And those discussion must also include discussions about pornography as this is almost directly related to the sexual harassment. Why spas need to provide therapists in such education? because nobody else is doing it. So it’s better to support them rather than to hope that they will take care of their growth by themselves. Some of them maybe will do. But the young majority will not have enough tools to do it by themselves.
If sexual misconduct or harassment is about exercising power in the most disfunctional way – we need to look at that. What can I do about it as a spa manager? What support can I give to my team. They need to be empowered – they need to have an base an emotional base.
Its opening a completely new chapter in opening the relationship between the therapist and spa manager. It’s a total shift.
How should a spa go about creating procedures and a policy for handling the reporting of sexual misconduct?
Defining sexual harassment and misconduct is key. Create a clear policy and communicate this with the staff. Make sure they are happy with it and fully understand this. Then you create the tree (the flow chart of action and reaction) – if a certain situation occurs then this happen – I know who to go to.
For example, if an incident happens, then the therapist knows that he/she is entitled to leave the room immediately – understanding who to go and that person is clear what they do with that. Say, if it is spa manager (who may have a day off) it has to also be clear for the next person in charge. There has to be someone separate to end the treatment.
It has to be clear for the client as well. The spa should have a policy about this that would protect the client as well if the therapist is crossing the boundaries. Clear guidance and support for therapist and client.
The team must work on this together to be aware of this and have a sense of ownership of the policy and procedure.
They need to have a full understanding of the impact of their behavior.
Do you have any other advice for spas on the topic?
The biggest challenge is reforming the recruitment system. This is because the whole recruitment system is broken. Managers are under pressure to reach targets – everything is based around profit – there is not time for full interviews and sometimes the right person will not be interviewed for the job. It is all very superficial.
There is also not enough training – especially in resorts. The HR team doesn’t want to take on people before the high season. They just take them in the last moment, then managers find that there’s not enough time to train them correctly.
I don’t think that we allow ourselves enough time to discover if we are employing the right person.
Look at the set of questions – it has to be professionally done. Some spas have a very good interview system that looks at psychology in addition to skills. But others, I have seen are chaotic in their desperation to find someone.
The difficulty lies with a lack of understanding of higher management and owners about how important that vetting process is. They want the time for recruitment to be as quick as possible. They are not fully aware of the role that therapists are playing and the risks, if therapists are recruited ad hoc.
Part time and casual staff can also be an area of concern – people taken for 2-3 hours are completely outside the context of the team. There is also an issue with vetting of agency staff. I understand the importance of these people. But they should be the exception not the rule.
What impact do you think the “me too” campaign and recent publicized reports will have in the long-run on the spa industry?
Hopefully it will start to change the industry.
I believe it will empower therapists, create a much more professional and clear workplace, it will help to further define therapists roles and their obligations and responsibilities. Sending a clear message to the client of their rights and their obligations and their responsibilities. The whole relationship between client, therapist and spa will evolve and become more conscious than it is at the moment. The role of the spa will deepen and more valued and highly regarded as a contributor to people’s health and life and wellbeing.
It gives women and men a voice. It brings the sexual topic out from the dark. It gives relief and a voice to those who were harassed or abused. It also forced society to explore what kind of relationship we have with sex and power.
On one hand, it educates the predators about what is right and wrong, it also returns power to the victim. It opens the global conversation on our relation with our own sexuality.
This is a conversation that can not be reversed.
It also enormous opportunity to revise the belief that woman serves as an object, hence educate society what woman really is, what represent, how needs to be seen and treated.
We have to also remember that the sexual harassment goes both ways and there are Many therapists abused by clients too., these therapists – they will not go to spa managers, because they believe that they were the cause of the issue.
There is hope that together with bringing this topic to the light there will be a place in the spa for the therapist – that they have space and a safe place to go and share this and that they will be taken seriously.