Editor Speak | Trust and Teachers

Photo by Chris Hardy

Trust is so important between employer and employee.

Studio owners often come to our guru-in-chief, Rhee Gold, with this complaint: “I trusted my staffer! And now she’s betrayed me.” Whether the betrayal involved poaching students, overstepping authority, or spreading comments shared in confidence, the sadness and fury of the injured studio owner is palpable in every word.

There’s the fear of adverse business consequences; that’s real. But money isn’t the core of it, I think—the hurt feelings are. She betrayed me. The emotions of middle school relationships never really go away, do they? We just express them differently as adults.

When we extend trust, we open ourselves up to hurt. But maybe an attitude of trust (informed, not blind) is worth it anyway. I keep thinking about a comment I.D.E.A. board member Melissa Hoffman made at the 2016 I.D.E.A. conference. An attendee asked Hoffman whether she used non-compete agreements at Melissa Hoffman Dance Center in Hudson, New Hampshire, to contractually prevent her teachers from working at nearby studios. But keeping teachers on a short leash is not Hoffman’s style. She gave as an example her senior teacher, Sandi Duncan, a life coach and DSL’s Teacher Tune-Up columnist, who works at area studios and around the country as well as for Hoffman. “You know, I wouldn’t want to limit her,” Hoffman explained.

What a beautiful expression of friendship, trust, and, yes, leadership. Like Hoffman, a great boss, in my opinion, doesn’t try to hem in her employees. She wants them to spread their wings, and she’s proud of their achievements, not threatened by them. She knows her business flourishes when her employees flourish, and she tries to make them feel trusted and valued. And if they decide to move on, amicably—as employees do, for many reasons—she wishes them well and keeps in touch. —Tamsin Nutter

DSL associate editor Tamsin Nutter lives in Berkeley, California. A former MoMA marketing writer, she trained at Vassar College and The Ailey School and danced in NYC with Regina Nejman & Company and others.