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Shirley, Gold’s Gym, and the problem of group disappointment

Tuesday, 9 February 2010

I went to the gym to my regular workout, which includes an hour doing an aerobic workout with the beloved instructor Shirley. Shirley is this little tiny woman who has obviously worked out her whole life. She’s buff and compact, cheerful and friendly. She is conscientious, and thoughful, and responsible, and fun. And every Monday evening as I leave, I look forward to her saying, “I love you Sharon Drew!”

But tonight, Shirley wasn’t there, nor will she ever be again, apparently. Where did she go? She was fired. Why? No one knows. After years and years of training 15 classes a week, she was gone, leaving behind hundreds of angry, confused people who love her and depend on her.

Gold’s Gym had no comment. It seems that the day before people picketed; hundreds of emails brought a form letter that says nothing; people in her classes wrote petitions. Nothing. I know of at least 2 people who quit their memberships because Shirley wasn’t there.

Here is the question: how should a large behemouth like Gold’s Gym do crisis management when they have to let go a beloved icon? How can they handle it in a way that doesn’t leave behind angry people? How can they maintain their corporate brand when so many people are saying bad things, starting rumors, denigrating their management here in Austin.

Let’s discuss this. Send me some comments. There must be a way through this so there is a win-win. Or is it possible that sometimes, no matter what the intentions, there is just no win?

sd

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