Yoga teachers exposed!

Private critiques of job applicants were publicly shared -- should the studio apologize?

By Cary Tennis
December 3, 2010 6:20AM (UTC)
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Dear Cary,

I am a yoga instructor and I recently applied for a job with the biggest yoga studio in my city. The interview consisted of 10 candidates teaching each other 15 minutes of yoga in a round while three directors took notes and assessed our performances.


A few days ago, I ran into a teacher who had also auditioned and she mentioned she had received a mass e-mail to many teachers in the yoga community from a teacher at this studio (who was not involved in the hiring process) who was looking for a sub for her class. Included in the body of this e-mail were the detailed personal critiques of all who had auditioned. These were comments that were not shared with any of us personally and many of the comments were quite critical.

I have been teaching in the city for a number of years and I am quite upset that my reputation as a teacher may have been compromised by this company's carelessness.

How should I respond?


Downward Facing Yogi

Dear Downward Facing Yogi,

I think you should write a letter to the yoga studio. Make it a letter on good quality stationery and have it signed by as many of those affected as you can find who are willing to sign it.

Explain what the mistake was and how it damages you. Be concrete. Use names and dates. If your reputation has been damaged and that damage will harm your ability to get work, say so. If current clients may leave you as a result of the mistake, say so. If it made you feel personally insulted or violated, say so. And if it caused you to doubt the care with which they go about their business, say that as well.


Then tell the yoga studio what you want them to do to rectify the mistake.

What do you think they should do? Apologize to all those affected? Hire them all? Fire the teacher who made the mistake? This is for you to decide, but I suggest that you make it something the yoga studio might reasonably do.


My guess is that some kind of apology would be in order.

If you start thinking about apology and talking about it and reading about it you see what a rich and fascinating field it is, and that it's not just repair that we seek but some kind of moral balance. You realize that all the institutions we deal with day-to-day exist in a fairly precarious moral balance. We really can change things if we go about it in a way that offers the offending organization a way back into the culture's good graces.

Here are some things the studio might say in an apology. They might say that these critiques were candid but were not intended to be shared and that the inadvertent sharing of these critiques was an error for which they feel very sorry. They could emphasize that each critique was the work of only one individual and no individual critique represents the view of the yoga studio as an institution, that these were all individual views and that individual views can vary considerably according to taste and background. They also note, in a spirit of generosity, that the cause of yoga is a noble one and that anyone who makes the teaching of yoga his or her vocation is making the world a better place, regardless of the purity and perfection of his or her performance on any given day.


It should also be pointed out that in any audition a given number of very talented auditioners are going to do poorly. People bomb. They flop. It happens. Flopping in an audition does not brand one as incompetent. It's just a blown audition. And an audition is not a public performance. One ought to be able to flop in private.

Nothing's ever as simple as it looks, of course. What seems like common sense to an American may be viewed differently by people from other cultures. There is a widely held American belief that we are all capable of error and are all deserving of forgiveness. I guess that's a Judeo-Christian thing. Not everybody may feel that way. There may be matters of saving face involved. So consider cultural differences.

 In some cultures it might be incumbent upon the person who wrote the letter to resign. The bottom line is, I think, that whatever cultural norm holds in this instance, it ought to be followed, so that the incident can be acknowledged, so that everyone can take a minute to think it through and then move on.


It would be great if the yoga studio would have the humility and decency to address this.

Will they? Who knows. Can you make them? I don't know. You could try.

I just think that when we screw up like this, then we're supposed to own up to it.

Which reminds me. Have I screwed up lately? Probably. Have I apologized? Probably not enough.


That Special Time of Year

What? You want more advice?


Cary Tennis

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