Remember the letter from the reader whose company had started an annoying initiative involving health and religion? In the name of “wellness,” the company was passing out materials recommending attending religious services and drinking alcohol, among other things. Here’s her update:
A while back I wrote you about the company I work for joining the Blue Zones initiative and pushing everyone to be a part of it.
After hearing from you and your insightful readers I did write a reply to the most recent mass email from HR. The gist of my email was “I don’t know if you realized this, but Blue Zones prescribes X practices and recommending these practices in the workplace will likely make Y uncomfortable. I hope we can reconsider our participation in this program.” I received a reply from an HR manager, who wrote that Blue Zones is a voluntary program and a “learning opportunity.” She blew off my concerns and directed me to the program website. Her email annoyed me and I planned to write back, but I didn’t get around to it and there was a holiday weekend. At some point I felt that too much time had passed and I hadn’t seen any new Blue Zones promotions anyway.
Then one Monday morning everyone had flyers on their desks that read “We need your help to meet (company)’s goal!” This is the only time I know of that flyers have been distributed that way, to everyone. The HR person who had responded to my email was also sitting next to the lunch line in the cafeteria, asking people waiting to buy lunch if they had signed up for the program. I emailed the HR person again, because I saw the flyer as a direct solicitation. This time I took text directly from the website, and stated again that it is inappropriate to promote highly personal choices that have nothing to do with work, in the workplace. I also stated that while I feel I am free to ignore people with clipboards at the farmers market (as the city government is behind Blue Zones), I am not free to ignore a flyer left on my computer.
The response I got included “Please do not feel you can’t ignore the flyer—simply put it in the trash if you don’t care to be involved” and “Our senior leadership is in full support of this initiative.” The part about putting the flyer in the trash seems snippy to me. She forwarded my email to a senior vice president of a group who is at this site, and that woman’s response was even more condescending. She wrote that this company is joining Blue Zones as part of a statewide initiative, and wrote that there is “absolutely no pressure for you, as an individual, to enage…” She also wrote “While not all aspects of the Blue Zones comply with your own code or decisions, they have been academically studied and are effective in support of a healthy lifestyle.” That last part is inaccurate, and the first part is just rude. Neither of these people actually owned their role in the initiative; they just assured me that people high in the company do support it.
And that ends my pushback on the Blue Zones. I’m sure this will end up as most non-work workplace initiatives do, with a small dedicated group getting very excited and most people just ignoring; the whole idea remains creepy. I’m glad that I spoke up so that HR does not mistake the apathy that most employees show for acceptance. I would not have sent the emails if I planned to be at this company for much longer, though, because squeaky wheels don’t get much respect around here. I’m actually planning a switch to a completely different career in the next few years.
Who’s up for “Wine@5″?