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Massage Today
October, 2002, Vol. 02, Issue 10

Spa Letters

By Steve Capellini, LMT

Author's note: The Spa Letters column features news, personality profiles, trends, and plenty of professional possibilities for LMTs in the spa industry.

The style is epistolary, meaning the articles are letters to a fictional massage therapist friend of the author.

Dear Lou,

The decision has been made. The die has been cast. As the supervisor of the massage department at the spa, you recommended that the male therapist accused of harassment be fired, and now he's gone. It was a tough decision, wasn't it? And, as if it wasn't bad enough having to pass judgment on a fellow therapist, now you're facing an additional, completely unforeseen problem having to do with your old nemesis, Ms. X, the spa director.

Surprisingly, it was the director who ended up most perturbed by the firing of the therapist. After a time, it seemed as if she was the only one who felt giving him a second chance was a good idea. Everyone, even the therapists closest to him on the staff, agreed that he'd overstepped his bounds, that his flagrant actions were definitely grounds for dismal. The owners and other upper management of the resort were pleased with your actions, too.

So, what's up with Ms. X?

The Green-Eyed Monster

Lou, in my opinion, what you've just encountered is the first sign of a situation that may lead to your ousting from the spa you've come to love. The situation is called jealousy, and the spa director is aiming it at you. She sees you as someone who is climbing the corporate ladder, because that's what she's been doing herself for years. She doesn't realize that you're operating based on an entirely different set of motivations. You reached the position you're in because you have a passion for your work and the field you're in, not because you want to manage other people. This director, on the other hand, is there precisely because she wants to manage others, taking the fast track to managing an entire property one day.

Tread lightly, Lou, because, whether you like it or not, Ms. X is still the one with the power to have you fired. In fact, from what you've described, it looks to me that's exactly what she's planning on doing.

Consider the signs: Instead of her going to the spa director's retreat that you recommended, the management sent you in her place because you were more of a "hands-on" person, and Ms. X professed feeling uncomfortable about taking all the time off to attend the retreat. She thought she was scoring points with the spa owners by keeping her nose to the grindstone, but what really happened was that she revealed how insecure she is in her position.

Getting Groomed

Guess what? The more I think about it, the more obvious it becomes to me. The owners of the resort have begun to groom you. They think you're director material yourself. You've been there a year and a half already, which is a lot more time than many other therapists have spent before getting tapped for directorship positions.

No wonder Ms. X is worried. She should be! You're her worst nightmare, even though all you're doing is following your heart and doing the best job you can in the position you've been given. Do you see how it's working? The spa owners see you as someone who could more fittingly represent their philosophy and make their guests happier. You've already proven your ability to manage people and make difficult decisions. The practical skills needed to perform the daily tasks of a manager can be taught. What you've got - heart and talent - is not so easy to instill.

The Bomb

Do you want to become a spa director? It's a question you couldn't even imagine asking yourself two years ago, but now it's a real possibility. The spa owners have already asked you to attend the annual International Spa Association (ISPA) trade show along with Ms. X., and she's not too happy about it. In fact, she's requested that you not attend, citing scheduling difficulties. We both know that's hogwash.

My guess is that if she really does succeed in barring you from attending the show, when she returns to the spa afterward the bomb will be dropped, and you will be named the next director. It's either that, or you'll get fired.

Ms. X. has already shown all the signs of backstage maneuvering. She can't afford to let you keep doing what you've been doing. In this situation, I have two bits of advice for you, and I hope they help.

Stay True to You

First of all, I think it is most important at this juncture to get firmly back in touch with what brought you to where you are in the first place - namely, bodywork. You've been considering taking one of the CranioSacral workshops offered by the Upledger Institute. I'd consider this a prime opportunity to do just that. Get away from the spa for a weekend. Take the course. Immerse yourself in a new technique. Feel your hands on people, doing what they love to do best.

This, in my opinion, is your true strength. You're a great massage therapist - sensitive, strong, and with great palpatory skills. To downplay this aspect of your personality now would be a mistake. As you move forward into the spa industry, if indeed that's what you end up doing, it will be good if you keep yourself grounded in the real work being done there. It's all too easy, as I've learned from personal experience, to get caught up in the mechanics of the spa world, rather than its message.

Stay true to you, Lou. Take that time. Settle your heart and clear your mind. Things will look different when you come back from the workshop.

Go to ISPA

Second, no matter what happens with Ms. X., I say go to the ISPA conference anyway, even if the spa doesn't send you. That's right. It might sound strange, but I believe you'll end up better off if you make this move. In the end, we're all private agents in this industry, and you're now getting to the point at which networking and contacts are going to be vital for you. ISPA is the best place to create and nurture those contacts.

What do you think Ms. X. is going to be doing at the conference? That's right, nurturing her own set of contacts. If you don't go, and then somehow through political maneuvering you get ousted from the spa, where will you be? You'll be up a creek without a paddle. Also, I think your spa owners will look favorably upon your attending this conference on your own. They'd see you as serious about your spa career if you pay for it yourself, because it's an investment of several hundred dollars, as much or more than one of your weekend massage workshops.

You can't lose by choosing to go to ISPA, no matter who pays for it. It will open up doors for you that you didn't even know existed. After the conference, things are going to change for, you one way or the other, so you'd best be prepared.

Good Luck,

Steve Capellini, LMT

Click here for previous articles by Steve Capellini, LMT.


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