You Don’t Have to Take It: How to Handle Inappropriate Clients

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Being a massage therapist is a rewarding career that allows you to help people and bring them comfort, both physically and mentally. Of course, no career is perfect, and there are some downsides to the profession. Of all the downsides, however, there is one that seems to come up over and over again: People who think that getting a massage is a good excuse to act inappropriately, or to say inappropriate things.

This problem is pervasive enough that we thought we should share some things for massage therapists to know and do to handle people who are acting inappropriately.

  1. You do not have to take it: The most important thing for you to realize is that you do not have to put up with people who are being inappropriate. Some people might try to justify their actions by saying they were nervous and trying to lighten the mood up a little. Others might tell you that the 80-year-old man is harmless and doesn’t know better. Hogwash. If you are uncomfortable in any way, you have the right to walk out of the room.
  2. It doesn’t matter what the offender thinks, it’s what you think: It doesn’t matter if the offender says he or she didn’t mean to be offensive. It doesn’t matter if other people you told feel that the offender’s actions or words aren’t a big deal. If you are offended, it doesn’t matter what anyone else thinks.
  3. Talk to a supervisor or another appropriate authority: If you are working as an MT for a company, you should talk to a supervisor and report what happened. Make careful note of the time and day and also take notes on what you told them and what they said. If the supervisor doesn’t do anything about the problem, you may have a case against them and the company. If you are working for yourself, you can talk to a lawyer or even the police.
  4. You should not have to choose between your job and standing up for yourself: One massage therapist writing in a forum felt that her employer wasn’t taking her complaints about a particular repeat offender seriously. This particular client was an 80-year-old man who said things that made the younger MT feel uncomfortable and, on one occasion, tried to pay her by putting the money down her shirt. After her numerous complaints to her employer went unheeded, she contacted a lawyer. The employer took her complaints a lot more seriously after that. The point of this example? You should not (and do not) have to choose between having a job and standing up for yourself.
  5. Do not feel bad about standing up for yourself: You were not the one that tried to do something inappropriate or said vile things, so you should not feel guilty. Period.
  6. Another option besides walking out: If you are uncomfortable with someone being inappropriate but feel like walking out isn’t necessary, you have another option. Give the offender a warning that you will not put up with their actions or words again, and if it continues, you will walk out and make a formal complaint with your employer (or with appropriate authorities). Odds are very good that the offender will behave after that.

If you feel like you are being harassed or that some of your clients are being offensive and your employer isn’t doing anything about it, you should talk to an attorney or another authority. You don’t deserve to be treated this way, and dealing with inappropriate people is not part of the job.

Do you have other suggestions for massage therapists dealing with people who act offensively? Have an experience you could share and how you solved the problem? Please comment below.

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