I was at a show recently and overheard a verbal exchange between a trainer and his customer following an unsuccessful performance by the customer. Far from supportive or encouraging, I witnessed a brutal degradation on a personal level with little helpful critique to the actual performance. Rather than walking away with a valuable learning experience, I suspect the customer was left with a bruised self-esteem and little motivation to come back for more.
We all get frustrated at times, but thoughtless expression of that frustration can cause long-term damage. This can be a difficult industry to set relationship boundaries. An office job allows us to associate a time (9-5,) and a specific environment with work. Consequently, there tends to be more distance between our personal and professional relationships and different dynamics.
This structure makes it easier to define and maintain professional relationships even when socializing outside of work. I am not ignoring the fact that there is always the exception to the rule as sound judgment can elude even the most diligent professional.
In our equestrian industry, however, the lines can become blurred. The work day can start and end at anytime of the day or night depending on what it is going on right now. We often travel with our customers and employees, or employers. We generally socialize together and stay in the same hotel so it can be difficult to maintain a professional distance.
The dynamics constantly change as does the environment and it can be difficult to remember who, if anyone, is in charge. An individual may go from paying customer to stall cleaner with the flick of a pitch fork. As the boundaries become blurred we become more familiar and less professional with each other and we tend to do and say things that overstep that invisible line. Feelings can be hurt, and relationships destroyed beyond repair simply because we forgot to maintain some professional respect and distance.
For some reason, people seem to think that the rules set at home don’t apply when you are travelling. Remember that this is a business. You have responsibilities to your customers, employer, or employees. Keep some professional distance and respect even in social circumstances and you won’t wake up tomorrow smacking your forehead.