my company is making us do mandatory sessions with a pushy, rude gym trainer

A reader writes:

I’m the newest employee at my small organization (have been here less than three months). At the first staff meeting of the year, our director announced that we would be having mandatory ergonomic training sessions for the nest three months, so we would learn to lift things safely, etc. I wasn’t enthused, but it seemed inoffensive at worst and possibly helpful.

Until yesterday, when the first of these sessions took place. The session leader was a guy of about 24, who talked to us about how much protein we should be eating (not eating steak for breakfast, sorry!) and then asked if we have pain and, if so, where it is. I’m not comfortable discussing my body like this in a room of my coworkers, in a mandatory work setting! Then he had us each lift a crate in front of everyone so he could coach us on how to lift things properly. I loathed being made a public example of in this way. Finally, he had us all complete various exercises and stretches to help with sitting-related injuries. It felt like I was in an exercise class I didn’t sign up for, filled entirely with my coworkers, in work attire.

From what I gathered, the guy conducting these sessions is our director’s personal trainer at the gym, and may not have any real qualifications in workplace safety.

This feels completely inappropriate to me, and it bewilders me how my coworkers seemed to accept it so easily. I feel creeped out and a little violated, because I was forced to either participate physically or revel personal medical information about why I couldn’t that I don’t necessarily want being common knowledge at work (I have a chronic pain condition and a mild spinal deformity that causes some discomfort). This guy even told our secretary when she couldn’t get her back flat against the wall that it was because her butt was too big! That kind of commentary doesn’t belong in the workplace, to me, and I severely question all of these decisions.

Am I overreacting? Is this normal? I’ve only been in the workforce a couple of years, but I’ve never encountered anything like this before.

Noooo, not normal.

Maybe he’s the partner of the weirdly pushy office dietician from a few years ago. (And here’s the bonkers update on that letter.)

If this were a one-time session, I’d tell you that as a new employee, you’re probably better off just rolling your eyes and letting it go.

But you’re going to be having these sessions for the next three months? Someone needs to say something to your director.

Ideally that someone wouldn’t be you, since you’re brand new. Did you notice anyone else seeming put out or annoyed? Maybe the secretary who was subjected to an unsolicited assessment of her butt? Because one option is to talk to others, mention that you were taken back by the assessing of people’s bodies and being asked about personal health information, and see if that spurs anyone else to speak up too.

But if that doesn’t work or you don’t want to stir things up, you could try just opting out. You could something like this to your manager: “I have a health situation that means I shouldn’t be doing some of the exercises that the trainer had us do, so I’m going to sit out future sessions.” Of course, you risk your manager telling you that you should share your health issue with the trainer so that he can customize his advice for you (at which point you could say, “I’m not really comfortable doing that, so I’m going to just opt out of the session,” but ugh).

Or hell, you could just be straight with your boss: “That session was pretty uncomfortable for me. The trainer was pushing nutritional advice that won’t be right for everyone, asking us about personal health issues in front of other people, and having us do exercises that might not be right for people with injuries or some health conditions. I’d like to skip the future sessions.”

Alternately, if you have an HR department, they’re likely to recognize this as problematic in a way that your director was apparently oblivious to, so you could just go straight there.

Any of these is a reasonable way for you to respond.

And for the record, this is a silly thing to spend work time on, and an over-reach into people’s personal lives.

Read an update to this letter here.

{ 313 comments… read them below }

  1. The Not Mad But Occasionally Irritable Scientist*

    Oh, cool, another boss who thinks supervisory responsibilities extend into employees’ personal lives. Where do these bonkers-ass bosses come from?

    1. Snarkus Aurelius*

      As Americans continue to work more and more outside 9-5 and mobile devices mentally tether people to the office, I’m not surprised these ridiculous situations arise.

      Fifty years ago, you went to work, did your job, and came home. Did the boss call you at home? Only when necessary, and it probably happened a handful of times a year. Work stayed at work; home stuff stayed at home. Formal boundaries were respected aside from the office Christmas party.

      Today, now that workers are spending more and more time with each other, there’s a false assumption that time spent together equals emotional closeness, which fuels a sense of entitlement over personal lives. That’s why you see complaints about Silicon Valley job interviews sounding more like dates. Interviewers want to know hobbies, favorite movies, travel experiences, etc. Those things don’t have anything to do with the work at hand; they want to know because there’s an assumption you’ll be working a zillion hours together so they want to make sure they like you. (Never mind the fact that this is also a good way to shut out women, minorities, and poor people, but that’s a whole other mess of problems.)

      Catching snapshots of one another’s personal lives is unavoidable in this new environment. Even if you go to great lengths to keep your life private, this bizarre work culture allows for the blurring of those professional boundaries and invites such intrusions.

      This work culture also explains why a coworker I barely know gave a really weird speech about me to my coworkers when I wasn’t around. She went on and on about how I have my act together, I’m so professional and capable and accomplished, blah, blah, blah, that she wants to be a “maternal figure” for me. If she thought I was so great, I have no idea why she’d think I’d need another mom, but here we are. I’m almost 40, I’ve been working since I was 16, I’m educated, I haven’t lived at home in 20+ years, and this lady thinks I need a mom.

      So this letter? Not surprised at all.

      1. The Not Mad But Occasionally Irritable Scientist*

        I’ve had the same thing happen! I’m a 34 year old male (with a PhD, a kid, and a mortgage) and I’ve had an older female coworker say she wants to “take me under her wing” and “be a maternal mentor figure” to me. I just sat there blinking for several moments, moving my lips, trying to figure out what the hell-ass to even say. Finally said, “Cathy, my mom is still in my life and offers me too much advice as it is, but if I need an understudy I’ll let you know.”

          1. The Not Mad But Occasionally Irritable Scientist*

            I’m usually in your boat. It was a glorious moment for me.

        1. Venus Supreme*

          Coworker and I are the same age. Boss is around our parents’ age range. Boss told me almost as soon as I started working here that she sees Coworker as her “second daughter,” mainly because Coworker has the “work = family” mentality and essentially grew up in this organization, since she’s been working here since she was 18 (I started a year ago, Boss 4 years ago). And this has completely affected how I’m treated (socially) versus how Coworker is treated (socially).

          I actively keep my work at my work and my personal life my personal life. I COMPLETELY agree with what Snarkus Aurelius said– mobile devices mentally tether people to their offices.

          Unfortunately I’m not surprised either by this letter. It seems to be the norm that you make your work your life and when personal matters (like health and wellness) get into play… that’s murky territory. And it ends up affecting people like me who still keep work and personal stuff two separate categories.

      2. irritable vowel*

        You know, I’ve been watching The Mary Tyler Moore Show for the first time in recent months, and I think some of this attitude started even then, perhaps as a direct result of that show. It was the first show to acknowledge that the people you work with can be kind of like a family, and really, they seem to have very few boundaries – Ted and Lou are always showing up at Mary’s apartment door with one crisis or another, Rhoda and Phyllis are always visiting Mary in the office…I know some of this is a construct to ensure screen time for all the characters, but it kind of created this fantasy land where everyone is friends with their coworkers and their non-work life extends into the office, and it all works so nicely and everyone gets along… (Contrast this to 10 years previously, where you would have maybe had the boss and his wife over for dinner once in a while, but it would have been a formal, high-stress affair, and, like you say, the only time you let your hair down around coworkers was at the holiday party.) So, I would say that ever since the early 70s there has been this cultural expectation that boundaries between work and home are porous.

        1. Mike C.*

          Did they do the whole “boss comes home for dinner” thing? We can at least be thankful that has died out!

        2. MuseumChick*

          Off-topic but I wonder if The MTMS started this trend or was the first to acknowledge a growing trend? Chicken or egg situation.

        3. turquoisecow*

          A lot of shows followed that sort of pattern, now that you mention it, with coworkers being friends and not really having outside of work relationships. Part of that is, like you say, a creative construct for the sake of the show, and due to the fact that a lot of television shows have been focused on the workplace, whether that’s a hospital or a lawyer’s office or a police station, but I do wonder if that influenced a lot of people to think that their jobs are their social lives and if they’re not close friends with their coworkers, they’re doing something wrong.

          1. Snarkus Aurelius*

            The principal on Boston Public snapped at his Assistant Principal on this matter. The AP repeatedly asked the Principal to go on vacation.

            “Dammit, I see you 60 hours a week during the school year not to mention all the school activities over the weekend. Whatever precious time I have to myself, I prefer to spend it alone! Aren’t you tired of me??!?!”

        4. MillersSpring*

          The whole coworkers-as-family concept was quite evident 10 years earlier in MTM’s previous show, The Dick Van Dyke Show.

  2. AnitaJ*

    NONONONONONONONONONONONONONONONONONONONONONO this is completely inappropriate for your office. Negative comments on a person’s body? I would be filing a complaint as soon as the words came out of this trainer’s mouth. Even if it wasn’t about me. This is disgusting.

    1. The Not Mad But Occasionally Irritable Scientist*

      It really is revolting. I’m just imagining this gym-rat dudebro just tossing out little comments at the un-fit.

      1. madge*

        +1000. I’m a gym addict and wouldn’t stand for that dude-bro’s behavior. HR needs to be contacted immediately about the secretary/butt comment, and the fact that safety training has regulations. If someone gets injured after following his advice, the company could be legally liable. I’d also request dude-bro’s credentials.

      2. Aunt Margie at Work*

        Your reply led to my having this thought. My initial reaction to the LW’s description was exactly that, “really classy. making judgement comments about unfit people.”
        And then I thought about women with larger er, um, butts, that are in no way unhealthy or unfit. But by saying that, he’s putting that idea out there to the group. As dubious a leader as this guy is, he still told everyone Jane has a big butt. Let the jury disregard, but it’s still out there.
        what a jag.

        1. Natalie*

          Right? You have the size of butt you have and to a certain extent it won’t change. Same with boobs, width of shoulders, and so on.

          I’m assuming a real ergonomics expert would tell you how to lift safely with the body parts you have, rather than tell you said body parts are too big or too small.

          1. OP*

            He didn’t say her butt was too big to lift things; this was earlier, when he had us try to straighten our backs to press them flat against the wall (I’m sure he tried to explain why we were doing this, but I don’t think I grasped it). He did, ultimately, excuse her from being coached on lifting the crate after her first attempt, when he learned she has a bad back and two artificial knees. He asked if her job involves any lifting, and after she told him several times that she does absolutely no lifting, he believed her.

            1. Observer*

              Worser and worser

              There are so many things wrong with this. But the key piece of this one that you want to bring to your boss (I saw that you don’t have HR) is that he is giving people instructions BEFORE getting the information he needs to instruct them properly. I think that any defending lawyer would tell him to get out his checkbook if he gets sued over someone who got hurt during or after one of these sessions, or while following his instructions.

            2. Not So NewReader*

              A person can be unable to put their back flat against the wall for a number of reasons. I think this guy does not have a good grasp of how the human body works AND how the human body compensates when things go wrong on the inside.

        2. AdAgencyChick*

          Late to the party, but I find it ironic that someone who purports to be able to teach people how to lift things, would object to the size of someone’s butt. Because, um, a frequent result of lifting heavy sh!t is that one develops a big, muscular butt.

          I mean, on top of the fact that it’s inappropriate, of course.

          1. wickedmizeri*

            Late to the thread,but exactly this. I am purposely doing just that because my butt went completely flat in my 40s….

    2. OP*

      I didn’t hear it, myself! I got it from another employee, when I was putting out feelers later that day about whether anyone else had been unsettled by things. The one I heard it from said that he said it “really nicely” (????), but the coworker *did* mention that she didn’t think it was okay. I don’t know how the secretary felt about it; I can’t imagine “good.”

        1. yo yo yo*

          You have a J-Lo, Kim Kardasian, *insert celebrity name here* booty? I have no clue.

          This guy seems like a clown. I’ve also heard that there are some legal restrictions on how much dietary advice personal trainers can give, assuming they aren’t real nutritionists.

          1. paul*

            No. Personal training isn’t a heavily regulated field. There’s a few different private associations of varying quality that grant credentials but (at least at a federal level) there’s not a hell of a lot of restrictions on the industry. Some states may have more restrictions or licensure requirements though.

        2. rubyrose*

          The ergonomics person at my last job said it this way: “you are packing a lot back there.” No longer employed there.

            1. Working Mom*

              Um, yes – crazy! And also, you can discuss workplace health and safety without ever having to comment on the size of one’s behind. If you’re to the point that you need to call out the size of someone’s behind because it’s relevant, you’re doing many things wrong.

            2. rubyrose*

              Yep! I was shocked that it was occurring. She has worked for the company forever, so the chances of a complaint being effective was not good. I gave her a cold stare with eyebrows raised. She moved on.

              I just read to link to the dietitian issue. I had my own dietitian nightmare about 40 years ago (not in the workplace) where bad advice and my inexperience (meaning, young and I followed their instructions) put me in a metal brace for 25 years.

              So based on that, I am extremely cautious about any advice about my health, especially if it is being given without the other person taking a full history and their telling me exactly what their advice is based on. Not the type of situation you have in the workplace.

              1. ownedbythecat*

                In addition to being flabbergasted i’m super confused how one’s butt size is necessary to the conversation. One could also say “i’m packing a lot down there” but it’s because of horseback riding and yoga and the fact that my muscles are toned (and hence bigger than they once were) has really helped get rid of lower back pain. I <3 mah butt muscles.

              1. Damn it, Hardison!*

                And now I want to eat a fluffernutter sandwich while watching corgi videos on YouTube.

        3. The Not Mad But Occasionally Irritable Scientist*

          Short of singing “I like big butts and I cannot lie” I can’t really get there.

          1. Paquita*

            Off topic: I had never heard that song until my workgroup did a thing at Halloween. One of my coworkers rewrote the words to be about our job functions. Two of the girls recorded it and we acted it out in the background. Won two hours of paid time off in the contest. Someone put it on YouTube!

              1. Tequila Mockingbird*

                It’s a shame that kidsthesedays don’t know their Sir Mix-a-Lot lyrics. Blake Lively got in trouble last year for quoting that line on Instagram (referring to her pregnant self at the time) and she got raked over the coals by a bunch of kids too young to realize she was quoting a very popular song from a quarter-century ago.

                Yes, that’s right–that song was a QUARTER OF A CENTURY ago. WE ARE OLD!

                1. Anna*

                  People weren’t objecting to Blake Lively because they didn’t recognize the song. People were objecting because coming from a white blonde lady, as opposed to from the original artist, those lyrics come off as pretty racist.

        4. Lily in NYC*

          I still tease my BIL about when he was getting fitted for his wedding tux and the tailor commented that he had a nice bubble butt. My BIL looked shocked and the guy was like, “What? It’s a compliment! I see so many guys with flat butts here.”

        5. Rusty Shackelford*

          How on earth do you tell someone “your butt is too big” nicely???!!

          “Some people with really nice shaped butts, like yours, can’t put their back flat against the wall…”

          Yeah. Nope.

          1. SignalLost*

            “You have a really deep lower back curve – nothing to be concerned about if your medical professional hasn’t brought it up! – but I don’t think you’ll be able to get your back flat against the wall.”

            I have a 16″ hipspring. My back is not going flat against that wall. (Note that I don’t think the trainer should say what I wrote, but that’s one way to do it without commenting specifically on someone’s butt.)

            1. Observer*

              *if* getting your back flat against the wall, that would be the way to say it. But, given that it’s not really relevant to anything ergonomics or even “wellness” related, even that’s too much.

      1. Observer*

        “really nicely!?” Someone made a comment about being acculturated to certain things. This sounds like a perfect example.

        This is NOT ok, no matter how “nicely” it was said.

    3. Allypopx*

      Yeah between that and the fact the OP feels like they’re being put in a position where they may be forced to reveal medical information I’d advocate the HR route.

  3. K.*

    Yeah, no. I’m into fitness and I would not consider doing this. If I want a trainer, I’ll pick one and that’s not my company’s business. I’d tell my boss I wasn’t doing it and get bHR to get my back. This is not normal.

    1. I@W*

      I try to stay fit and go to the gym, but that is my personal time. I hate when work tries to encroach into your private sphere. At what sounds like an office job why is their so much training needed to lift boxes? Are the boxes that heavy that you need to do wall squats with your back flat against the wall, which aren’t the easiest thing to do? And, that has nothing to do with ergonomics. That director is so misguided and setting people up to get injured on the job.

      1. OP*

        It’s not an office job, precisely; there is some light lifting. But some of us (like the secretary mentioned) don’t do any lifting at all, and it is not considered an essential job function to be able to lift more than, say, fifteen pounds– once or twice a week at most.

        1. Working Mom*

          Okay so here’s the thing – I can actually see where this manager had decent intentions, but completely botched the delivery. I used to be a personal trainer, and I would often have the clients ask me if I would come to their office and give a talk about nutrition, exercise, etc. (I don’t think I ever did, for what it’s worth. I recommended them to the gym’s corporate wellness division.) Anyway – What I see here is the boss has a personal trainer, and the trainer has helped boss improve his quality of life. Boss thinks “this is amazing, I want everyone to benefit!” But again, completely botches the delivery. If I were OP, I would approach the boss and convey the following: “Hey boss, I have some concerns about the training sessions. I completely understand the goal here – to help us all stay healthy and strong, and I appreciate the effort. Unfortunately, I think the setting was all wrong. It felt like a gym class, at work – and several of us were pretty uncomfortable with the whole thing. What if instead of training sessions, we had a workplace health & safety expert come in and do a mini-seminar about health-related topics, like a lunch & learn? We could cater in a healthy meal, and make it a really fun experience, and we’d all take away some great tips.”
          As a side note – if the boss is really happy with his training and wants his staff to be able to benefit, maybe boss could consider a subsidized gym member or discounted training for employees? Maybe even suggest taking ergonomics to the next level – make standing desks available for those who would like them? He’s got a good idea and good intentions, but went about it all wrong. Compliment the boss on his great idea, and then suggest more work-appropriate ways to convey healthy and safety information.

          1. Paige*

            Yeah, my first thought on reading the letter was that this isn’t a white-collar office but one with at least light lifting. And it is not unusual for such jobs to have instruction on how to lift safely (to avoid injury to yourself, to others, and to the product). But it’s usually one session, and sometimes it’s even done via a video module.

            But I am surprised by how many readers just assume every writer is in a white-collar office, this seemed so clearly not the case.

            1. LavaLamp*

              My lift safely lecture was accompanied by an early 90’s video illustrating spinal injuries by breaking frozen pizzas in half.

  4. embertine*

    Um. Manual handling training has to be given by accredited safety trainers, not by personal trainers. That’s totally inappropriate and may be exposing your boss to a lawsuit.

    1. The Not Mad But Occasionally Irritable Scientist*

      A thousand times this. If he gives poor or incomplete advice and someone gets hurt, that’s opening up the director to get absolutely cleaned out.

    2. Lora*


      I mean yes, you should have training on safe lifting if lifting things is something in the job. From a safety trainer, who has experience in OSHA regulations and knows all about when to use a hoist/block and tackle/etc.

      I have done such training, because it isn’t unusual for me to have to lift 50-100 pound stainless steel filter housings and tank manways, and it came from a guy who used to be the union shop steward in a welding facility and he had a bunch of OSHA-blessed training about the limits for hoist use and how to attach connector hooks/carabiners and when to use chains vs rope sort of thing. We did an exercise where we lifted boxes and pails of varying weights to practice using our legs instead of our backs, and if you used your back out of habit they would stop you and say, “back! you’re using your back!”

      We were also provided with a bunch of box-grabby-container handle things. Basically plastic bins that create handles on a box so you can lift it properly. But if someone said yeah, still can’t lift things even with my legs, it was fine, they just made a note to buy a small hoist or a cart for the person. Carts are cheap. Little hoists are cheap. Back injuries are EXPENSIVE. It’s not a big deal to tell the UPS dude to please put the box on the table so you can scoot the box onto a cart to move it without having to lift at all. We had a bunch of dollys to move things too, if it was on the floor and you couldn’t pick it up.

      This is not lifting safety training. This is a bunch of nonsense. Would it be possible to suggest that you need additional training from someone accredited so the Director can see what real training is?

      1. Elizabeth West*

        OldExjob ended up buying a heavy duty foldable hand truck for me to use when shipping sample boxes and other heavy stuff. Didn’t happen until after I got tennis elbow so bad I could neither straighten nor bend my arm. Prior to that, I’d been using a small hand truck I ordered from Staples. They sent me to a PA who gave me a band, which did nothing, and a month later, they had to pony up for physical therapy. This was not big heavy boxes; I was very careful with those. It was 10-20-pound boxes over a period of nearly six years. Injury is not always acute–it can be cumulative.

        I knew about the back and lifting with my legs but got nothing on how to keep this from happening. At least they took care of it when it became necessary. But they really need to have someone show them how to lift properly, and that person should know what they’re doing.

    3. INFJ*

      Yep. The most disturbing thing about this story (besides the butt comment[!!!]) is that this guy doesn’t appear to be credentialed to do what the employer wants him to do.

    4. Mike C.*

      What are the specific/typical accreditations? It might be fun for the OP to ask the trainer for them by name. :D

          1. 2 Cents*

            +1000 At your next session: “Hey, Trainer, I don’t remember where you said you got your . Can you refresh my memory?” Then enjoy.

    5. Girasol*

      True. But be careful of using a health condition to get out of lifting training if lifting happens to be part of your job requirements. This doesn’t sound like the usual lifting safety training, but if the boss thinks it is then begging off could signal that you can’t do your job.

    6. LKW*

      Seriously. Why is anyone in an office hauling around crates? You hire movers. You have carts. The heaviest thing anyone should ever have to lift is a box of copy paper and if you don’t feel you have the back to do it – you get someone who does.

      I think the trainer conned the boss into this in order to get more clients.

  5. Retail HR Guy*

    While the particular “expert” this company hired seems to suck big time and the number of sessions seems excessive, a GOOD version of this class is not a terrible idea. Even in an office environment you’ll find people lifting heavy boxes of paper or files, moving heavy printers and copiers, etc. Most people do not regularly practice good lifting techniques and there absolutely is a right way vs. a wrong way. If the class saves a single workers’ comp claim it has paid for itself.

    1. Leatherwings*

      Offering a training to employees who really want it might be okay, but even a good version of this should never be made mandatory or done in front of other people. Imagine if someone has body or health issues. Requiring them to lift stuff in front of their coworkers or a random stranger is awful and humiliating.

      1. Gandalf the Nude*

        In general it shouldn’t be mandatory, but I feel like it would be fine to require it on an individual basis if an employee is regularly practicing such poor form that they injure themselves on the job, which is a liability for the company. It would be in the same vein as requiring sensitivity training for someone who’d harassed someone or defensive driving course for someone who had multiple car accidents.

        1. Anna*

          It should be mandatory if lifting is a regular part of your job. There’s nothing wrong with requiring ergonomic training to try to keep injuries down. There is something wrong with how it was done at OP’s workplace.

          I was required to take defensive driving as part of my job requirement because I drive company vehicles. You don’t wait until the problem occurs to require the training; you give the training and hope if avoids the problem.

          1. Gandalf the Nude*

            This is very true and something I should probably push for at my company. I’ve let our reactive culture infect me!

      2. Retail HR Guy*

        That’s seems like a bizarre attitude to me. Why would lifting something in front of someone else be “awful and humiliating”? Even the more unfit among us move objects around in front of other people multiple times every day. (Maybe I’m imagining a lighter training object than you are? I’m thinking training with an empty paper box or something else lightweight than anyone can do without straining.)

        And I see nothing wrong with making training sessions mandatory, barring a legitimate medical need to opt out. Safety training isn’t like a weekend team-building ropes course, it’s a bona fide business interest of the company and can often be required by law or by the company’s insurance.

        1. yo yo yo*

          Yeah, this confuses me too. Safety training should be mandatory. A lot of times it is legally required, depending on what you are doing. People bend and lift things all the time without thinking about it… even a pen falling. As long as the training is focused on proper form and not forcing people to lift heavy objects/evaluating how much they can lift, the outrage over practicing in front of others makes no sense of me. The outrage should be focused on an unqualified, rude and disrespectful person being hired to train on something they have no business training on.

          1. ket*

            “Alright, let’s have Rosie hold that position! Look right here at where the arch in her back should be, and now at the position of her hips with respect to her shoulders. It looks like Rosie tends lose her lumbar curve when she lifts office paper. Instead,” (instructs Rosie to put down the box) “start standing tall,” (adjust Rosie’s pelvic tilt) “and then reach back with your butt holding your chest high. Rosie, you’re going to have to work on your hip mobility to maintain that lumbar curve! I think your hamstrings are really tight, too!”

            Basically an a-ok conversation in the Olympic weightlifting seminar I went to last month — we paid for public feedback on the positions of our “posterior chains”. Not an a-ok demonstration in the office, especially if you didn’t know it was going to be like this and didn’t think about how your panty lines might come across holding a lifting position as all of your colleagues look at your butt.

            The instructor doesn’t sounds like the kind of guy with enough sensitivity to *not* say, “Wow, looks like you’ve got some scoliosis here!” in front of everyone — he’s commenting on the size of people’s butts in public, after all.

            1. paul*

              That means that the method of presentation is inappropriate for an office setting, not that the idea of a class on how to lift properly is inherently bad. The presenter wouldn’t have to spot me on a heavy squat or anything

            2. EW*

              But there are ergonomic trainings that can reduce the risk of a WC claim that involve participation. There’s a good way to do it and a bad way to do it. Just like if you were giving a normal training, calling on people for answers, and then telling them how wrong they are, it doesn’t mean you shouldn’t do the training.

              The good version of this training would be to have multiple people doing the activity at the same time, and being able to “coach” individually (focusing on the movement, not their body) OR asking for a volunteer to demonstrate and get coaching in front of everyone.

            3. halpful*

              Not only is he commenting on butts, it sounds like he blamed everything on that and didn’t even *mention* forward pelvic tilt. Inappropriate, insulting *and* incompetent.

        2. Observer*

          Well, the problem is not that there are mandatory trainings, but that they are being done in such an inappropriate manner.

        3. Anon for this*

          +1. I don’t see anything wrong with making safety training mandatory or why lifting things would be “awful and humiliating.”

          I have a connective tissue disease that can limit how I exercise (my joints and skin can be injured much more easily than the average person’s). If a given exercise isn’t a good idea, I’ve been able to say “I’ll sit this one out” many times without embarrassing myself or sharing more than I want to. Is this something that would be problematic?

          1. Leatherwings*

            That’s obviously not something that would be problematic for everyone, but for some people it would be. What about a pregnant coworker?

            Look, if someone is required to lift a bunch of crap for their job, fine. But an effort should be made to make sure the practice is as private as possible (not done in front of coworkers please), and if it’s not a regular part of a job then it should be opt in.

            1. Anon for this*

              I’m with you on the second paragraph, unless it’s such a large group to train that individual sessions wouldn’t make sense.

              But I simply don’t see going through exercises (or opting out of them if needed, with the real reason or some excuse or polite, unexplained refusal) as a traumatic ordeal.

              1. Leatherwings*

                Well, it’s a pretty traumatic ordeal for me (and something I would fret over for the days/weeks leading up to it), and likely would be for at least one of your coworkers too. Just because you don’t see it as such doesn’t mean it isn’t.

                It costs literally nothing to move the lifting practice to a private room/area. That small gesture could easily save someone weeks of grief and anxiety.

                1. Rusty Shackelford*

                  You mean change the training from group to one-on-one? How does that cost literally nothing, considering that it takes more of the trainer’s time for each person?

                  I understand that going through the exercises, or opting out of them, could be traumatic for some people. But those people are outliers, and it’s generally not practical to design the whole thing around their needs. It’s better to meet their needs on an individual basis and then let everyone else train as a group, if that’s what makes sense for the group.

                2. Leatherwings*

                  The entire training doesn’t need to be one-on-one, just that the act of practicing lifting and being critiqued on it is better done in private.

                  And really, these situations are not nearly as outlying as you’re implying they are.

          2. OP*

            Well, I didn’t have a problem with the broader concept of “mandatory safety training” when it was announced. It was really limited to the way the sessions operate.

            1. Aunt Margie at Work*

              Did you perhaps take issue with mandatory safety training that does not involve a safety professional, a set of guidelines, goals to achieve those guidelines, or anything other than a personal trainer reviewing your lifting techniques and then judging not those, but one’s personal appearance? Cuz that’s a bunch of BS!

        4. Leatherwings*

          I can offer you my personal perspective on this: I had an eating disorder for a long time and I’m pretty sensitive about my body. Being required to do something physical and be corrected on it while all of my coworkers stood around and watched me tuck my stomach/put my knees this way/arch your back/whatever would be hugely triggering. I’ve been in recovery for ED for a long enough time that there’s no way I’d qualify for a “medical need” to back out.

          If it’s in the legitimate business need, it should be done in private. I don’t think people should have to practice lifting things in front of coworkers.

          1. yo yo yo*

            But this is a special circumstance that you can work with HR or whomever to accommodate your request. We can sit here and debate all day about what is and isn’t appropriate and you will never get 100% agreement on anything. There are however accepted general norms that the company should abide by. Expecting coworkers to practice lifting in front of other people is a very reasonable request.

            1. Ask a Manager* Post author

              Yeah, I’d agree with that. There will always be exceptions where it’s not a good idea for a particular person for particular reasons, but in general this stuff is considered reasonable — as long as it’s conducted in a reasonable way, which of course it wasn’t in the OP’s case.

          2. Retail HR Guy*

            That sounds like a legitimate medical need to me.

            You must understand that your situation is very atypical. The overwhelming majority of people are going to be fine standing in front of their coworkers and lifting a 2-pound box. If you even have only 20 employees, having the trainer do private sessions just multiplied the work of the trainer by 20 and he/she is going to charge accordingly.

            1. Leatherwings*

              I so strongly disagree with this (and it’s unusual that I disagree with Alison). It’s not nearly as atypical as people think it is. And it’s nice that it sounds like a legitimate medical need to you, but I it’s not something I’m open about at work and since I’m otherwise able-bodied if a boss asks *any* follow up questions it becomes pretty obvious what the issue is. This is something I’ve gone through before, and I’ve talked others in similar situations about going through before.

              Just because you don’t think this is a big deal doesn’t mean it isn’t. In my experience and in the experience of others I’ve talked to with similar experiences, this is a blind spot for lots of employers.

              My personal situation is illustrative of a larger point: people don’t like body-conscious activities in front of coworkers. Literally all I’m asking is that people lift the thing and get critiqued on their form in a private space. They can all watch demonstrations and ask questions in a big circle if they want. I don’t find that request remotely unreasonable, and it would help out a lot of coworkers who would otherwise be extremely uncomfortable with the situation.

              1. yo yo yo*

                I don’t doubt that it isn’t as atypical as people think it is. I bet over half of people by age 30 have gone to some type of therapist or mental health professional (myself included). Almost everyone has triggers related to something traumatic that may not make sense to everyone else (myself included). If something makes you uncomfortable for some specific reason, you have to speak up to ensure that your employer can work around that. Your employer cannot read your mind and they cannot read the minds of everyone at the organization. You cannot expect them to accommodate something they don’t know about.

                1. Leatherwings*

                  I really don’t need a lecture on accommodations. This isn’t an above and beyond thing. This is a pretty common courtesy thing that I’m asking people to consider, not a request to consider broad sweeping triggers.

                2. Ask a Manager* Post author

                  Okay, wait, I don’t think yo yo yo is trying to lecture you on accommodations, just responding (reasonably, in my opinion) to what you’d just said.

                3. Leatherwings*

                  Fair enough. But I don’t think it’s unreasonable to ask that employers consider a basic thing like “being critiqued on something related to physical fitness in front of a bunch of coworkers might make some people really uncomfortable.” And I guess yo yo yo’s comment as saying “it’s 100% on the employee to bring that up.” If that is what they were saying, then I disagree and should’ve said so more politely.

                  If that’s not what they’re saying, I apologize for the knee jerk reaction.

                  Either way, I should’ve been more measured in my response. Apologies.

              2. Ponytail*

                What circumstances would you be working in, where you have to lift boxes ? Unless you’re working by yourself, wouldn’t you be doing the actual thing you’re being trained to do safely, in front of people anyway? I’m not picking on you, I just don’t get why picking up a box as training would be different to picking up a box for real, which I’m presuming you’d have to do ? What is different to doing it in the H&S session than doing it in your workplace ?

                1. Leatherwings*

                  There’s a pretty big difference between picking up a box and walking down the hallway and doing it while having my form critiqued while a bunch of coworkers are specifically paying attention to my body.

              3. Allypopx*

                I agree with Leatherwings. I honestly got anxious just reading this letter. This kind of thing would be very upsetting for me and probably seriously impact me at work for at least a few days. My anxiety is also a legitimate medical condition, but no one’s going to take it seriously in this context, I’ll be told to suck it up and deal with it. This is true with many different conditions, as Leatherwings gives another example of. Public physical scrutiny doesn’t belong in the workplace.

                “Just because you don’t think this is a big deal doesn’t mean it isn’t. In my experience and in the experience of others I’ve talked to with similar experiences, this is a blind spot for lots of employers.

                Exactly. Just because it’s considered an acceptable and reasonable practice doesn’t mean it should be.

                1. Jane Doe*

                  I also agree with Leatherwings re: being physically critiqued in front of coworkers. If I would be mortified if I was picked to use as an example in a class of coworkers. “Jane is not tucking her butt and stomach in so that could cause an injury”. Everyone would have to look at my butt & stomach to see how *not* to do something.

                2. Natalie*

                  I think it’s important to note that no one is advocating for ergonomic training that involves lots of public physical scrutiny. The training the OP is describing is not actually standard and totally inappropriate as well as likely useless. What’s normal and accepted practice is well-done ergonomic training that, incidentally, does not include talking about each other’s butts or what have you.

              4. Retail HR Guy*

                And I strongly disagree that it is the employer’s role to anticipate any medical issues that an employee might have and proactively provide accommodations to every single employee just in case. Business would grind to a halt if that were the norm. (“Your building has stairs? Unacceptable! What about those employees with knee issues that don’t want to talk about it?”)

                Employers cannot read minds. It is unreasonable to be unwilling to communicate with your employer about the need for an accommodation yet expect to be accommodated regardless.

                1. Allypopx*

                  But employers do do that, that’s why job descriptions include physical requirements. That way employees can self screen and know that they are agreeing to those terms and otherwise have to bring it up or pass.

                2. Leatherwings*

                  I don’t expect every accommodation to be anticipated. I truly don’t understand why I’m getting so much push back on the idea that people don’t want to be physically critiqued in front of coworkers.

                  My situation is an example I clearly shouldn’t have used, and really regret using now, but there are plenty of people who would just plain feel awkward about that.

                  And most employers are already required to make their buildings handicapped accessible so people who can’t handle stairs can access them. That’s literally enshrined in the ADA, so using that to illustrate just how unreasonable accommodations for common needs are isn’t maybe the best.

                3. Retail HR Guy*


                  You are incorrect about the ADA. It does not require workplaces to be handicap accessible if there is no disabled employee with a need for it (unless those workplaces are also places of public accommodation). The example works fine.

                  In a good version of the OP’s class no one is being critiqued on their bodies; they are being trained on proper techniques. That’s a huge difference.

                  And if we are now talking about avoiding employees feeling “awkward” vs. “awful and humiliated” then you’ve moved the goalpost on us. I’m totally fine with a few employees feeling awkward if the safety training has a decent chance of preventing actual injuries.

                4. Leatherwings*

                  The ADA requires that most (newer) buildings meet minimum accessibility requirements point blank, actually.

                  And I don’t think it’s necessary to nitpick awkward vs. humiliated. It’s a sliding scale, and I don’t think employers need to subject employees to feelings anywhere on that scale if avoidable.

                5. Anon for this*

                  I agree, and I am an outlier who can require accommodation in a lot of ways. Connective tissue disease, mental health problems, a learning disability, and probably a sensory problem (more testing needed). I think that’s actually what is informing my opinion here.

                  Everyone has specific needs that a compassionate, thoughtful manager would want to take into account. A manager can’t do that unless we ask. If we don’t ask, it’s perfectly reasonable for a manger to do something like, say, provide safety training by someone who’s qualified to give it (i.e. not the instructor OP had to deal with!).

                6. Natalie*

                  @ Allypopx, but they don’t provide an exhaustive list. I’m not even sure how that would be possible. Being able to anticipate common issues doesn’t mean employees shouldn’t also be expected to advocate for themselves if their particular issue wasn’t anticipated.

                7. Observer*

                  The problem here is that there are SOOOO many ways that this scenario can go wrong, that it it’s not a matter of accommodating someone’s personal issues anymore. As others have noted, it’s not just the act of picking up the box in front of people but the detailed examination of people’s bodies and how they use them.

                  Here are the groups of people I could see having major issues: Anyone who has been sexually assaulted; anyone who has been sexually harassed; anyone who has been subject to catcalls; anyone who has been treated differently because of their looks; anyone who has significant weight issues; anyone who is at all shy; anyone who has had an eating disorder; anyone with body image problems; anyone who has been bullied in public; anyone who is wearing clothes that are not appropriate for these kinds of exercises and this kind of display (it sounds like that applies to a LOT of people in the OP’s workplace); many religious women (ime, guys don’t mind as much), anyone who doesn’t like performing.

                  I’m sure there are plenty of others. But, the point is that the setup here is such that a lot of people would reasonably find this whole thing extremely unpleasant or worse. Considering that there is absolutely no value to this display, it just makes no sense for this to be happening.

              5. yo yo yo*

                You are saying “being critiqued on something related to physical fitness in front of a bunch of coworkers might make some people really uncomfortable.” I work very closely with a lot of ergonomic specialists and have witnessed quite a few ergo evaluations.

                Ergonomics is not about physical fitness. Yes, someone who is physically fit *may* have an easier time with sitting up properly or lifting correctly, but that is not a guarantee. The training and advice they have given is 0% about how fit they are and would apply to anyone regardless of body composition. If someone is doing an ergonomic evaluation and making fitness- or body-related comments, they are not qualified to do their job. (Which I think is the case of this “personal trainer” that we can all agree on.)

                1. Leatherwings*

                  I’ll amend then

                  “Being critiqued on the way you are using your body while coworkers are staring at your body would make lots of people feel uncomfortable.”

          3. OP*

            Yes, you’re very right– body sensitivity could be playing a huge role in how all of this is affecting me, too.

            The problem is, there’s no way of telling who in your employ is going to have any of the above issues– being private about their body or their health, etc.– and there’s no reason for you to need to know that stuff, unless it interferes with our ability to do our jobs. (Which in my line of work it would be very unlikely to.)

            1. Whats In A Name*

              Was your boss present for the meetings? Can you approach your boss to say that the trainer was inappropriate and the feedback regarding body composition did not fall in line with reasonable expectations of a session on ergonomics. You don’t have to mention anything personal; anyone in the session should know this is not what you thought you were going to.

        5. OP*

          It was the whole classroom aspect of being used as an example that I objected to; I pick stuff up in front of people fine, but I don’t like being subjected to that level of scrutiny, physically, by people I don’t know very well who are supposed to respect me afterward. Furthermore, I don’t want to be corrected publicy– which I assume is a common emotional response, since Alison often counsels managers to give feedback in private.

          Also, it was not an empty paper box. It was a thick plastic crate, full of books. Not super heavy, quite comfortable for me to pick up, but no kind of light training material; something analogous to what we might pick up in our actual jobs (rarely).

          1. Karen D*

            Yeah, that right there suggests that dudebro didn’t know what he was doing at all. I think you’ve put your finger on exactly what is very reasonably objectionable about this whole thing.

            Also – I don’t know if your company is doing this or not but with the mostly sedentary work life you describe, it would be far more beneficial to do what my company did, which was come around with a (qualified!) ergonomics expert to assess everyone’s desk situation. When they did that here, the guy sat in the cube area for awhile just watching, from a few different vantage points, and then went desk-by-desk in a very quiet manner talking to people about their work setup.

            He didn’t force solutions on anyone – for example, he originally recommended lowering my keyboard surface and I didn’t like that suggestion, so he came up with a different arrangement that worked really well. And he suggested things that we didn’t even know to ask for – like footrests. That seems as if it would be way more useful in your situation, since long-term repetitive-stress injuries can really do a number on you and be much harder to correct than a single acute injury.

            1. OP*

              That sounds wonderful– unfortunately because of the nature of our work, we share workstations a lot, and we don’t have control over very many variables (I can change the height of the chair in most of the locations I work [in one of them there are no chairs, and we must stand]; I can choose to sit or stand in one [it is counter height with a tall stool]; I can change the height of the keyboard or screen in none of them, not even at my own desk– I have a work laptop, not a desktop). So there’s a pretty limited ability, with the infrastructure given, to change or control anything other than my own behavior.

              So when this guy comes and has us practice stretches to decrease the low back pain he got one of our managers to admit she has, it almost seems reasonable.

              1. EW*

                If the company wanted to make the workstations more ergonomic they could. I’ve actually seen people who travel and use a laptop have issues with their wrists and necks because of the cramped keyboard and lower screen.
                We deployed the following items in our “hotel” offices where I worked one time. (Not saying you need to implement these in your workplace.)
                External keyboards and mouses are awesome. Having docking stations for laptops (if they’re all the same) works well. Having monitors on an adjustable arm means each person can adjust it for themselves. Having footstools and wrist rests available.
                I’m so sorry you had a bad experience with this trainer guy. There’s a lot of super knowledgeable ergonomics experts out there.

                1. OP*

                  I doubt any of that is going to happen– I can’t see how we would have the budget for it, even if the desire was there, and I suspect it’s not.

          2. AlvinLeChipmunk*

            Did he ask people to come to the front to demonstrate? I would immediately default to the “no thanks” rule where you continue saying “no thanks” until the person stops making the request. If I didn’t volunteer I’m not coming up to crouch down in my work clothes and use my puny upper body strength to lift something in front of an audience. Also, don’t most trainers re-position people when correcting them? I wouldn’t want random trainer guy touching me at work either.

            1. OP*

              “Ask” is a really gentle word. Everyone went to the front to demonstrate, taking turns. It was not framed in such a way that it would have been natural to get out of it.

        6. Temperance*

          Okay, I’m coming at this from the perspective of a person who has always struggled with fitness and who is a huge klutz. My worst memories from school are from gym class, where we would often be picked apart on our performance by both the teachers and the annoying jocks in the class. As an adult, having to relive that in front of coworkers sounds nightmarish.

          1. anonderella*

            until this comment, I was pretty neutral on the debate, but Temperance is right there, for me – I will not Not NOT do pull-ups in front of anyone, ever. But I will tell the story!

            Bc this 9yr old scrawny girl-child, who knew it wasn’t going to work out but had no idea how awful it would really go, reached up and pulled, and swang top-speed into the wall from which the pull-up bar was affixed, like a foot out.
            Swang, crotch-first, into a wall, in front of my entire gym class.
            Not kidding, I still remember the look of the boy who stood next to where I fell; some humor, a little fremdshaden, mostly horror. Actual horror; he did not know how to react.
            One or two people quietly laughed, but this was one of those awe-inducing silence moments, where empathy failed me and everyone else in the room, and humiliation does not even begin to describe an understanding of that moment, then or now. I was a very laugh-at-myself kind of kid, but I could only sputter a weak hah! and crawl away from the scene.

            1. twig*

              I keep thinking of the PE teach who used my body as an example of NOT runner’s physique in front of the whole co-ed PE class. When I was a 13 year old girl who was already picked last or second to last for teams.

              Didn’t help the self esteem much.

              1. Zombii*

                My PE teacher made rhymes about our weight in grade school, while weighing us in a co-ed line-up in front of all the other kids.

                I got “One-oh-two, eyes of blue.” I don’t know if that was supposed to soften the fact that I was way-too-effing-fat at the time or what, but I am 33 and have remembered that forever, and the humiliation, even though I can’t even recall the PE teacher’s name anymore.

                1. anonderella*

                  woah.. that’s supremely awful. If it makes your child-self feel avenged, I challenged my PE teacher to do as many push ups as he was asking me to do – he asked if I would stake my grade on it, and I said yes. I felt like I won (bc I passed the class) at the time, but I realize now there was probably a policy against gambling students to better grades than they deserved. Now it took teenagery to grow that kind of chutzpah; idk how that would have gone over at 9 yo. “The *Presidential* Fitness Test?? Where’s he at, then??”

                  Side question, was your PE teacher a sadistic Linda Belcher?

        7. Not So NewReader*

          Some people do not like to be stared at while they do something. And even more people do not like it when an entire group stares at them doing something. It feels like being on stage.
          Many people do not like being corrected in front of a group. That stands alone pretty well but if you add in having to explain a injury or birth defect for all to hear, that can turn people’s workday into a living nightmare. I had a friend who had her spine broken by an abusive relative. No, she cannot lift that thing there. She should not have to explain it to her entire workplace. We can come up with dozens of examples, but you see the general idea here.
          Additionally, if you have a toxic office or even one work place bully, three minutes in front of a group can provide people with enough material to ridicule someone for months, if not longer.

          Bottom line, I expect to work in a workplace. I don’t expect to go to a gym in a workplace. And the very reason many people do not join a gym is the reasons we see right here. I am all for doing things to help our health. But each person should be able to chose what is best for them and make that choice privately.

      3. Natalie*

        I think it depends on the nature of the job. If lifting things or some other physical action is a regular or critical part of your job, it’s perfectly appropriate to make “safe lifting class” a requirement.

    2. Stephanie*

      Yeah, I agree. But key is to make it opt-in (or mandatory if they have a job that requires a lot of lifting) and not having the trainer asking about people’s pain.

      He shouldn’t have had y’all lifting crates. Ironically enough, that’s asking for an injury during an ergonomics class. When I worked at Big Shipping Company, we had trainees use empty cardboard boxes that were less than a 1 lb until we knew they knew how to properly lift.

    3. OP*

      I do seem to have left out that the sessions are ONCE a month for the first quarter– so, one down, two to go.

        1. Joseph*

          If it’s only two more sessions, I feel like this situation is tailor-made for an unfortunately timed ‘cold’, ‘stomach virus’ or ‘food poisoning’. You know, those illnesses which are common and mild enough that it won’t raise eyebrows, but enough that you wouldn’t want to do strenuous activity that day.

          1. 2 Cents*

            My go-to for any sick day I might need is a stomach bug, complete with side effects no one wants to hear about.

          2. Not So NewReader*

            I think me and my looong doctor’s note outlining what I can and cannot do would be in attendance just to watch this guy react to what happens next.

      1. Stephanie*

        …for proper lifting? At the risk of trotting out a cliche…it’s not rocket science. Even at Big Shipping Company, where the loader’s job was literally to loads boxes into a truck all shift, we just had a one-and-done four-day course.

        1. OP*

          This is three forty-ish minute sessions, spread out over three months. I have no idea what he will cover in the other two; he seemed to be somewhat uncertain himself, and I hear he taught different activities to different groups (there were three subsections) based on what the participants said their pain was at the top of the session, right after he finished lecturing about the right hours to eat proteins and fats.

    4. Liane*

      Yes, but the trainer still needs
      *Proper Credentials for workplace safety training, NOT whatever Local Gym wants their Personal Trainers to have
      *To do it correctly. I’ve had REAL lifting training and that sure wasn’t it
      *Not to do things that Just. Aren’t. Done in workplaces. Like possibly exposing an employee to ridicule. Like anything that smacks of body-shaming or overly personal comments or sexism. Like making an employee feel the need to give out their private medical information.

      1. OP*

        I guess I just have no idea what *real* lifting training would look like– this feels way over the professionalism line, to me, but it’s really more a feeling than an informed judgement.

        1. Lora*

          I mean, I can suggest some companies that do onsite training but you’ll probably do just as well with Google.

          When I did it there was a presentation on the OSHA weight limits for using lifting equipment and the need for safety shoes, a demonstration of various types of lifting equipment (dolly, cart, hoist, hydraulic vs electric hoist limits, chains conveyors forklifts etc) and whether you needed a special one for certain purposes (compressed gases need a special dolly), and then proper lifting of A Thing On The Floor was demonstrated and A Thing On The Countertop. Then we practiced doing that and the trainer would point out if we were using our backs until we did it properly.

          There was also a fairly elaborate description of the trainer’s personal back injury and how it took him ages to recover and he still can’t do everything he used to do, sort of thing, to make it clear how bad a back injury can be. You had to take the class if you were lifting more than 20 pounds regularly, but if you weren’t then you could skip it, and if you had some health issue that prevented you from lifting more than 20 pounds they would talk to you separately about getting special lifting things for you. We also went through our work areas afterwards to see if we needed to buy any additional equipment, and were given the contact information for the person who purchased the equipment so they could buy it for us.

          1. A Plain-Dealing Villain*

            Yes. This sounds like an example of a good safety training for a business, and much better than the 15 minute video that most do. What OP had was not normal or appropriate. Also, I want to point out that none of this safe lifting training is ergonomics, which involves adjusting workstations to fit individuals, so that’s another indicator this trainer doesnt know what theyre talking about.

            1. OP*

              I think he’s been brought in under the assumption of “wellness training,” which can mean anything he wants it to, I imagine. I doubt there are any firm criteria on what that means.

  6. Meeersha*

    OP – I wonder if this job is physical? That’s the only exception I can think of (and still the trainer was out of line with the details he went into). There was a job I had once that involved a lot of lifting heavy items, and we did have a training session during orientation when we started that talked about proper lifting techniques, how to avoid hernias, and a few other relevant things. It was conducted in a group setting. It seemed appropriate to me because it was directly connected to work tasks (in fact I seem to recall it may have been connected to OSHA requirements even). But if you have a regular office job, this is very, very out of line.

    1. Not a Real Giraffe*

      Even if the job is physical, this kind of training needs to be given by someone who is certified and qualified to deliver it. It doesn’t sound like this trainer fits that description at all.

    2. MCL*

      Sure, I think physical jobs that have a lot of physical movement and labor are absolutely appropriate for training on how to safely perform duties. However, that needs to be done by a person who is a trained and accredited safety professional, not just some guy who is a personal trainer with no workplace safety expertise.

    3. OP*

      It’s not an overtly physical job, no. There are situations– infrequent– where someone in my role would have to carry a box of donations for a short distance, or put them in a car for transport– but it is not a primary job function for anyone who works here. The training also covered things to do before sitting for long periods, which is more in line with what we do, although we also stand for long periods and walk some.

    4. Retail HR Guy*

      You’d be surprised how many workers’ comp claims arise out of a typical office environment.

      1. Jadelyn*

        Seriously! Repetitive strain injuries are more common than most people realize. Back problems from sitting with poor posture, hand/wrist/arm/shoulder problems from having a workstation set up improperly, etc. Ergonomic efforts are actually a pretty vital part of minimizing on the job injuries, even in an office environment.

        The key, though, is that training and assessments need to be done by a qualified ergonomics specialist, not some dude’s personal trainer, and should be handled with sensitivity rather than this jerk’s attitude.

        1. Observer*

          AND – It would need to be done by someone who is addressing common issues such as RSI rather than what this guy seems to be doing, which has nothing to do with the office environment. Steak for breakfast? Really?

      2. Lynxa*

        Workers’ comp attorney here. I am CONSTANTLY amazed at the ways people manage to hurt themselves in relatively ordinary situations.

      3. TG*

        That’s why you’d want an ergonomics professional (ours was the safety officer) teaching any class on ergonomics, not a random personal trainer.

  7. Stephanie*

    Haaaaa, I was totally thinking of the dietitian letter from way back.

    Yeah, I’d see what your other coworkers thought. I can’t imagine anyone who’d like this (because even the seasoned gym goers probably have their own routines). It’s probably tough being the newbie and complaining, but maybe there’s someone who also agrees and is willing to go to the boss or HR.

    1. DuckDuckMøøse*

      Both this and the dietician seem the same to me. The bosses meant well, but they really didn’t think it through, to consider than a one-approach-fits-all doesn’t work when it is applied to real people. Real people are not text book cases, so “do it this way” doesn’t always work. If these hired subject matter experts don’t see that, and/or aren’t willing to personalize their advice for each person, then I see no problem with them being ignored, and the bosses being told thanks, but no thanks.

    2. Karen D*

      I grinned when I saw that dietitian letter. I always pictured it as having been written by Captain America. The tone of the OP was just so polite with just a hint of gritted teeth.

    3. Jersey's Mom*

      Oh, I wish wish wish I worked with OP. I’ve currently got a job that requires certified OSHA training (climbing, enclosed spaces, general construction, hazmat and a bit of electric and gas), and I was diagnosed with a heart condition that resulted in going on a very specific diet. I would love for the opportunity to have this nitwit gymbot try to tell me how to lift a box and eat more steak. I would absolutely blow my top — and when that happens, I revert back to my roots of NYC. Yup. The accent, the hands, the getting right in your face. OP, if you’re in the Wisconsin area, let me know.

  8. Sabine the Very Mean*

    Oh man, you know in these situations I would have found it difficult not to say (even as a new employee and even not being the woman being [ass]essed), “excuse me, but why on earth do you think that is an appropriate thing to say?” I don’t like that people get away with saying obviously bad things and not being called out for it.

    1. Bonky*

      Lord, me too: I’d be very vocal. I’d caution against it for OP, though; at the stage in my career I’m at now, that’d be absolutely fine, but I used to be very blunt about this stuff when I was much younger too, and it went down like a lead balloon, especially in environments where other colleagues have been acculturated not to speak out (I am amazed the poor lady whose bottom was commented on stayed silent). Very difficult if you’re a new employee.

      OP, nothing to add to Alison’s very sensible advice, but I did want to say how much I feel for you. The session you describe could have been taken directly from one of my nightmares.

    2. Gandalf the Nude*

      Yeah, I’d be hard pressed not to blurt out “Wow. That was really rude.” If she wanted an assessment on her posterior, she would go to the gym herself. Someone needs to explain to that guy that he’s not there in a personal trainer capacity and that the standards of professionalism are different from what he’s probably used to at the gym.

      1. chocolate lover*

        As someone with a large posterior of my own, I also don’t need someone pointing it out to me as if I don’t know it already. I’d be tempted to respond “No sh*t, Sherlock.”

      2. Not So NewReader*

        I did actually do something similar. I was in a training session with a guy who had a real cowboy attitude about stuff. He did something over the line and very loudly I said, “There is no need to do that!” (I stated the nature of the offense right out loud. Did I mention I was LOUD?)
        I went back to my boss, she gave me paperwork and I wrote a complaint.

        No one after me had any problem that day.
        It’s amazing how well this technique works. Immediate results.

  9. Tomato Frog*

    My work sometimes involves a lot of heavy lifting, and I’ve always thought there should be mandatory training on how to lift and carry heavy items, especially when getting them from high shelves. When I picture this training, it involves someone briefly demonstrating and explaining proper technique once for, like, 15 minutes. Maybe it’s a video that we watch at our leisure? Anyhow, it doesn’t include any mention of diet or butts.

      1. Tequila Mockingbird*

        Hahaha, Googling “Child’s Play” is going to bring up lots of images of a psychotic doll from 1988!

      2. A Plain-Dealing Villain*

        Funny that you mention the Chucky movies though, because the doll factory layout in #2 is really good for a laugh from a safety perspective.

    1. Pebbles*

      In high school and college, I did overnight stock for a large retail store and part of the job requirement was being able to regularly lift 50 lbs. My training as a new hire was to watch a video just like you describe. There were also reminders throughout the stockrooms about how to lift appropriately, and if anyone saw you lifting with your back, they would remind you to lift with your legs. I was never embarrassed the few times I forgot and got called on it, and my butt was never mentioned once.

  10. Snarkus Aurelius*

    Correct me if I’m wrong, but it sounds like you have an office job. (Your references to sitting-related injuries made me think so.)

    What on earth do you need to learn *over the next three months* about ergornomics that you couldn’t learn from a pamphlet or one hour information session from a qualified individual or a quick Google search? What else is there to literally teach you about sitting-related injuries that hasn’t already been said in a multitude of existing HR resources? What is the point of demonstrating physical activity over a three month period?

    Regardless of the type of labor you perform, OSHA’s workplace safety training requirements cover all of that anyway minus the unsolicited dietary advice. (As a side note, that steak suggestion is really clueless as there could be people who don’t meat for a variety of private reasons.)

    1. Grits McGee*

      Maybe it’s the unrelenting cynic in me, but I wouldn’t be surprised if classes 2-infinity are a hard sell for private training sessions with this guy outside the office.

      1. OP*

        He did mention willingness to work with people “at the gym,” and also he’s going to be bringing things– foam rollers, straps maybe??– to SELL at future sessions.

        1. The Not Mad But Occasionally Irritable Scientist*

          So he sold the boss on group lessons at his group training rate, and he’s using the lessons to sell overpriced fitness crap and advertise private sessions? Damn, this boy knows how to hustle.

          1. Emi.*

            There are several, now that you mention it.
            Do you want to hear about the great workout I’ve found? It’s really improved my overall energy and I just know I look better than ever! Let me add you to my Facebook group! I’m doing a free intro session! I KNOW YOU’LL LOVE IT.

        2. The Southern Gothic*

          Yeah, my guess was the pushiness would eventually be about selling supplements/vitamins, but “ergo” equipment would tie in even better to your group.
          Bleh. So much nope.

    2. OP*

      Slightly more physical than an office job– there’s more standing and walking, more in line with customer service– but way, way less physical than, say, a warehouse job, where workplace injuries are common. Everyone who’s been injured on the job since I got here (1 woman) slipped on ice while out on work-related business away from our location.

      Sadly, we don’t have HR, so there’s nothing in the way of pamphlets or videos. But, my god, when I started to notice my neck hurting, I googled that shit and found a couple of things I could do at my desk to lessen it in about fifteen seconds. It seems like there could be some happy medium between that and a seminar where me and all my coworkers put our legs up on a table to stretch our hip flexors– while in business casual!

      1. Observer*

        I’m struggling to find words for this. This is insanity!

        It’s neither appropriate, nor remotely useful, if your boss is worried about ergonomics or workplace injuries. I don’t even want to know what he was thinking!

      2. Nea*

        No way in any circle of hell would I lift my leg table-high while wearing a skirt. No way in any circle of hell *could* I lift my leg table-high while wearing a pencil skirt.

          1. officebitch*

            Haha I actually broke my foot getting off the bus in a pencil skirt (I missed the curb and twisted and fell…)

    3. Whats In A Name*

      The more I read (after initial comment) the more my blood boils. This guy, and your boss (if he knows this is going on) are morons. Selling products to you all? Offering to help at the gym? he’s basically getting a free platform for marketing his services (which I would advise against BTW)

  11. DuckDuckMøøse*

    I’d tell the trainer that I have shoes older than he is, and unless he wants one inserted up one of his orifices, to leave me alone. But I’m old and cranky. With vintage shoes ;D
    (Yes, I read AAM so I hopefully don’t blurt nonsense like this out ;)
    Now get off my lawn!!

  12. Observer*

    There are two different issues. One is the idea of mandatory ergonomics training. That’s actually appropriate. What is NOT appropriate is the way it’s being handled. When you go to HR or talk to your boss focus on that. Not that you don’t “need” or want ergonomics training, but the real issues with the way it’s being done.

    1. Personal trainers are not necessarily qualified to do this type of work, and the fact that he didn’t mention any qualifications is a strong indicator that he doesn’t have them.

    2. If I understood the exercise he was having you do, and his comment to the admin, he sounds like he really is not even minimally competent for this role.

    3. The comment to the Admin (and all such comments about people’s bodies) are out of line, and really could create a liability for the company. They also indicate either a lack of competence in general, a lack of understanding of office norms and life that would affect his ability to give appropriate advice, or both. I’m going to point out that it’s one thing to tell someone that they need to lift like THIS not like THAT. But the size of one’s butt, belly or any other body part is NOT actionable information.

    4. Diet and general fitness advice it totally out of his purview. And, as above, he doesn’t seem to be even minimally qualified to provide such advice or he would know better than to give the kind of blanket advice you describe.

    5. While it may be legal, forcing people to share personal medical information, especially when it really doesn’t affect their ability to do the job, is a really, really bad idea.

    1. Anon Today*

      My company offers 1:1 ergonomics assessments of your work station that come with a bit of training from our ergo person. They come to your desk, chat about about what you’re willing to share about any ergonomic issues, watch how you work, do some training on proper ergonomic work habits for your job and then write up a reccomendation of any equipment the company should get for you. This can range from keyboard trays and monitor arms to special chairs or risers for your desk/laptop. I am in love with my mouse that is sized for my giant hands, so that I actually can drive it with my arm and not my fingertips.

      I’ve also been in a group ergonomic training session, but that was opt in, and it was done really well. Anything that needed an example, the teacher either did it themselves, or they used a demo skeleton to show the impact of what they were suggesting. They started the class by asking about limitations people were trying to work with and proposed modifications for specific people with special needs and offered modifications for different needs as a way to practice thinking about how to identify ergonomic problems. It was very respectful and helpful and not at all drill seargent-y or assessing someone’s butt!

    2. AnonAnalyst*

      Yeah, I can see some value in having ergonomics training for everyone, but clearly this guy is not the person to deliver it, for all the reasons mentioned above.

      As an aside, I find the whole letter horrifying but the diet part really baffles me. Why is this guy commenting on how much protein people eat? How is that remotely related to the reason he is there? Was there really a concern that people were not consuming sufficient protein or calories to perform the duties of their office jobs? I am just so, so confused about that aspect of his “training.”

      1. Kelly L.*

        I wonder if someone told him “it’s about lifting” and he thought it meant pumping iron as a serious hobby, not lifting work stuff during work? But then he did use boxes once he got there, so IDK.

        1. OP*

          He definitely knows he’s not talking about recreational exercise. He specifically tailored the activities he had us do based on the responses he got to his initial query of whether anyone in the room was in pain right then.

      2. halpful*

        With the MLM comments above… maybe he sells protein supplements too! :P

        And for the record, it’s bad advice for the average office worker. If you want to gain muscle, you may need to eat more protein, but if you’re sitting at a desk all day you could probably eat much *less* protein than the average and be just fine (or healthier, according to some).

  13. Katie the Fed*

    “This guy even told our secretary when she couldn’t get her back flat against the wall that it was because her butt was too big”

    IANAL but I think that’s one of those situations where murder is excusable.

    1. Allypopx*

      IANAL either but I’ve watched a really unhealthy amount of law and order and I’m sure you’re right.

      1. knitcrazybooknut*

        I used to have 103 eight-hour videotapes filled with every episode of Law & Order and I know she’s right.

      2. Dorothy Mantooth*

        Sorry if too far off-topic, but if you love L&O check out the “…These Are Their Stories: The Law & Order Podcast.”

    2. L Dub*


      I’m pretty professional at work, but if someone told me my butt was too big, I’d have some choice words for them, and I’d be marching my perfectly big butt into HR.

    3. Liane*

      IANAL either, and don’t watch law shows, but I am sure a jury of one’s peers would acquit you. Or me, or anyone else here.

    4. Emi.*

      Even if it’s technically not legal, I’ll be in the back of the jury box preaching jury nullification.

  14. overcaffeinatedandqueer*

    Giving dietary advice, besides not fitting everyone, harming those with past eating problems, and shaming, doesn’t work. Simply put, not everyone can follow them.

    A ton of protein is expensive. I make a living wage but still don’t eat a ton of meat, as it’s expensive. Mostly pasta, stir fries, crockpot dishes with a rice base, or soup are standard. I I can’t afford ridiculous breakfast steak. And I have a severe egg intolerance so that cheap source is out.

    Plus, not everyone has time to cook. People have to take care of kids or pets in the mornings and evenings, may have second jobs, or may not have the skills to cook healthy food. They might live in a food desert.

    I only get full, complex, cooked meals because my wife works from home and can use the time usually used on a commute, to cook dinner. I couldn’t do it because I lack skills, and work out after work each day and so am too tired.

    1. Ask a Manager* Post author

      It’s close to “not everyone can have sandwiches” territory though, isn’t it? But it’s certainly true that one-size-fits-all dietary advice doesn’t work, and that’s what this guy was doing. Personalized nutritional counseling by someone with actual expertise and competence, tailored to the person they’re talking to, would be more helpful for most people. (Although it still isn’t the role of an employer.)

      1. overcaffeinatedandqueer*

        I didn’t mean to violate that rule- just to demonstrate the absurdity of this “trainer!” Sorry.

      2. A Plain-Dealing Villain*

        I know this goes against the general consensus of the community here, but I do want to say that workplace wellness programs have a place, and done correctly, can be combined with other safety initiatives to good effect. That is clearly not what is happening with OP’s situation, and this type of thing is what can give these programs a bad reputation. Not trying to get too political, but as long as health care is the employer’s responsibility, then maintaining worker health is going to be one of their roles. For OP: look up NIOSH’s Total Worker Health program for a guide on how employer’s can do this sort of thing correctly. It may help you push back on what they are doing now.

  15. AllTheFiles*

    If I had to venture a guess, I would say director is getting complimentary personal training sessions (or at least discounted) from this guy in return for having him come in to do these workplace safety “classes”. If the trainer is getting paid for them then…it would be by the business instead of director. I would also bet at the end the trainer will offer up services outside of work for those of you that need to work on stuff…like big butts apparently.

    1. OP*

      He didn’t even wait until the end of the first training to suggest it, and there will be various paraphernalia available for sale at future sessions.

      1. Bonky*

        What. A. Creep.

        I am unsurprised, but also horrified. Is your boss taking part in these sessions, OP? Or has he just initiated them and left you all to suffer?

        1. OP*

          Our director did not participate, but he did “drop in” to observe toward the end of (as it would happen) the session I was in. Worst of both worlds!

          1. AllTheFiles*

            Shocker! Ugh, I think my inclination would be to tell them I cannot participate because my Doctor recommended I do not get any sort of physical assessment/nutrition advice/training from a hack trainer that is only here to do a sales pitch. But then again, I’m a little direct and a little snarky.

            If they pushed on it I would request a copy of the trainer’s credentials and insurance.

            1. 2 Cents*

              I’d be tempted to ask the director (again, in front of everyone), “Hey, so is the company springing for these foam rollers / equipment?” said in a joke-y manner that also signals “why did you bring someone to shill under the guise of ‘training’?”

      2. The Not Mad But Occasionally Irritable Scientist*

        So he’s billing your boss for personal sessions and I assume group sessions, selling crap at those sessions, and advertising to you for future personal sessions? Let it not be said that the son of a bitch can’t hustle. Damn.

    2. Liane*

      My suspicions also. Director and “Trainer” have some cozy deal that benefits them and “Trainer” hopes to get more private clients out of this. IIRC, didn’t the update about Pushy Dietician from Hell mention that was apparently what the dietician’s practice/business group was trying to do? Sign on private clients, preferably athletes, from OP’s company

  16. Amber Rose*

    The evil part of my personality would have immediately responded to the big butt comment with “Oh. My. God. Becky, look at her butt.”

    Anyone who tells me my butt is too big gets the rest of the song. :|

      1. SouthernLadybug*

        Off to google that song.

        And I think you and I would be great friends :) I would have lost it in that situation and started dancing really, really badly.

          1. Amber Rose*

            Richard Cheese is fantastic. I also highly recommend his version of Chop Suey from System of a Down.

            And you can’t sing Baby Got Back without dancing. ;)

      2. knitcrazybooknut*

        If you love Richard Cheese, you should check out the Mike Flowers Pops. And Big Daddy. And Golden Throats. And The Squirrels. Just in case you needed more things to be a fan of….

  17. Flabbergasted x10*

    WHAT the heck?!

    No. No no no. I worked in an environment for 4.5 years in which ergonomics was key (a membership-based wholesaler) and I NEVER experienced anything like this. We were given biannual ergonomics information and that was about it. No training sessions, and certainly no three-month training sessions.

    It’s also completely inappropriate for him to insist on blanket diet instructions. 1. Personal trainers are not dietitians and 2. Even if he had extensive dietetic training, any dietitian worth their salt knows that everyone’s needs vary based on goals, overall activity, and health conditions. Just. No.

    My mouth dropped open when I read the part about the woman’s butt. That would be inappropriate in a personal training session, and is ten times more so in a group session. I’m also appalled that you had to divulge medical conditions to a group rather than someone having a brief one-on-ome asking if there is anything that might inhibit you during this unnecessary training.

    This should not be a thing. Goodness.

  18. Michelle*

    Yuck, yuck, yuck. I have actually dealt with something very similar at my job. If we participate in what is called the “Healthy Coaching Program”, we can get a huge discount on our insurance. Now this program entails having a lipid panel done once a year, complete with having a stranger measure your waist circumference and having a little machine calculate your body fat (and if you hold that little machine at different levels, you get a different reading). Depending on what risk category you fall into, you have to have 1 on 1 sessions with the coach, attend “Healthy Breaks” and sign up for competitions to earn points. If you are high risk you have to do all 3 throughout the year.

    One of the Healthy Breaks last year was a exercise class and you had to attend for 4 weeks. So this female coach rolls in wearing gym clothes and athletic shoes every week and those of us who needed to earn points would trudge into the banquet room and have to exercise in our office attire. When the 30 minute session was over we all go back to the office all sweating and red faced and complete our last 3 hours of work. My direct supervisor attended these classes and it was beyond awkward to exercise in front of him and see him exercise. But I had to earn those points because my 2 chronic conditions threw me in the high risk category and there is no consideration/exception for people who have medical conditions.

    I understand the importance of trying to maintain a healthy lifestyle. I get that if we do this our employer gets a discount on our insurance and in turn gives us a discount and more money in your pocket is good. But I think any kind of exercise class should be done after-hours or at the end of the day so you can be dressed properly. Exercising in front of coworkers, and especially my direct supervisor, would still be super awkward but you could at least be dressed for it and not have to be sweaty at work for hours.

    We are always assured that our medical info from the lipid panel is kept confidential and not released to our employer, but I have my doubts. In order to get the discount you have to participate. If you participate, you have to earn X amount of points depending on your risk category. How does the employer know if you earn enough points if they don’t know what risk category you are in? I asked the healthy coach and she said they don’t tell the employer your risk category, so I’m confused as to how they keep track of who earning enough points to get the discount.

    If our health insurance wasn’t so expensive, I would opt out. But $60 a year for medical (only) insurance vs. $1200.00 year is a big enough difference that I suffer through. We get minimal dental insurance and no vision.

    1. Flabbergasted x10*

      Is it possible the insurance company itself is tracking the points? I know my insurance company has ways to earn reward points and such by adopting healthy habits, sending in proof of running 5ks, stuff like that. It’s not the same as a reduction in fee (I just got a $20 Amazon gift card…which I spent on a 3lb bag of cereal marshmallows because I was feeling rebellious), but my employer knows nothing of the results.

      1. Michelle*

        I don’t *think* the insurance company is tracking it, but I honestly don’t know who is in charge of it. We just meet with the healthy coach and when pay stubs come in it shows that we are paying the reduced fee for insurance. If you have family insurance you get a bit of a discount but not as much as employees who are only covering themselves, because it’s a liability to have non-employees participate in the program. Also, most spouses are not going to submit to the testing and even if they did, then you have figure out how they could come to the training sessions, 1 on 1’s, etc, because they may work or have other responsibilities that can not be shifted or what have you.

    2. AnonAcademic*

      Did your work schedule prevent you from changing into exercise clothes before the fitness class, and then changing back into work clothes after? When I used to work out on my lunch break I would do this, and clean up after with baby wipes and dry shampoo. Now as a bike commuter who sometimes rides at lunch, I have figured out how to go from “sweaty and disheveled” to “presentable and work appropriate” after a 5-10 minute bathroom break to freshen up. It is possible with planning! I also hate the indignity of working out (being sweaty, having my makeup run, etc.) but I have found workarounds for all of these things (wear removable, moisture wicking layers; build cool down time into my schedule; use makeup setting spray religiously so even if I get poured on I still look ok). However my schedule is pretty flexible and I’m not in a public facing role which I know makes a difference.

      1. Michelle*

        Management made it pretty clear that even though they were doing this to help with insurance rates that they wanted an absolute minimum of interruption to our work day. One lady did bring exercise clothes and was changing but she got a email stating that she could only have 5 minutes before and 5 minutes after the class to change/freshen up and that it would count as her mid-afternoon break. Also, it was only a 30 minute class. The coach would talk for 5 minutes, have us do some stretching/warm-ups and then about 15 minutes of a high-intensity workout. I never saw anyone above my director attend any of these classes, and I know that at least one of the higher-level managers was considered “high risk” because she told us, so I think maybe they were exempted from having to do the healthy break meetings and challenges.

    3. Not So NewReader*

      This sounds like my idea of hell on earth.

      What bothers me the most is that the insurance company appears to be overcharging everyone. I cannot think of another reason why they would be able to offer such a significant drop in their rates.

      1. Michelle*

        Before the Affordable Care Act, our insurance was about $600/year for a single person. When ACA went into effect, our insurance doubled to $1200/year for a single person. When they announced the rate that year, there was a collective gasp, followed by absolute silence, then people freaking out. The family rate was outrageous; I can’t remember exactly but I think it was something along the lines of $4200/year, and this was just for medical. I also can’t remember exactly why, but the insurance rep said that we could try to find insurance on the website, but we would not qualify for a subsidy because of something work was offering. I think the healthy program was the only way for them to get a discount and then they also started paying some of our premium because people were talking about finding another job with better insurance rates. It was near mutiny around here for a while.

        I don’t know if it makes a difference but I work for non-profit (501 (c) (3)) and we usually don’t get a raise every year. I think I’ve gotten 2 raises since I moved into my full-time position.

  19. Chickaletta*

    Sigh. Another example of “just because you opened a small business, doesn’t mean you have the expertise to run one”.

    Slightly related: at my first job out of college, at a sales job, the small business owner brought in a motivational speaker/trainer. At one point during the “training”, we were asked to say out loud what our dreams were and my boss criticized mine for being unrealistic and not the kind example they were looking for. Fun times, fun times.

  20. Serin*

    For crying out loud. If companies want a more muscular workforce, how about offering free gym punchcards and putting a veggie tray in the breakroom??

  21. Katniss*

    I have no advice to add, I’m just here to say that I hope that creep of a trainer steps on Lego for the rest of his life, always.

  22. H.C.*

    I have no problem with the ergonomic classes in general (hopefully it also comes with ergonomics assessment & adjustment of your workspaces) but this “trainer” went beyond appropriate with dietary advice (hugely personal issue), mandated exercises (when him demonstrating the various stretches/movements would be fine) and criticizing others’ bodies (!!!).

    I agree with going to the director about how out of line the first session was and hope there is some course correction. Also, if you feel empowered to, speaker up to this trainer at the next two sessions when he does something inappropriate (esp commenting on others’ bodies *cringe*).

  23. The Other Dawn*

    I would LOVE to see one of Alison’s special “interview with a (career)” posts with a personal trainer. I use a personal trainer and some of the stories he tells me a quite amusing. Plus, he’s just a big ol’ fountain of knowledge and I learn a lot from him. I have started to think a little about whether I’d want to be one or not and would love to hear all about it.

    1. Pebbles*

      Unless you have a religious or dietary restriction like being vegetarian, not a darn thing in my book! And I’d like mine wrapped in bacon please!

      1. MoodyMoody*

        There are also medical dietary restrictions that make steak for breakfast a bad idea. My mother has chronic gout, which means that she has to be very careful with total protein intake. We used to go to a gym that pushed high-protein, low-carb diets, and she asked how she could modify for her situation. The trainer had no clue. (To be fair, my mother was a registered dietitian and therefore fully qualified to answer her own question. She just wanted to see the trainer squirm.)

    2. Tuesday*

      You know the opening sequence of Dexter where he makes coffee, fresh squeezed orange juice, fried eggs, and bacon, and then goes off to work? It’s supposed to be a viscerally disturbing sequence, I think, invoking murdering people, but all I ever think is, “Who takes that much time to make breakfast on a work day?” That’s sort of how I feel about the idea of cooking a steak in the morning.

      OTOH, I realize there are people who don’t stay in bed until the last possible second, then grab a yogurt as they rush out the door. I don’t know what it’s like to be one of those people, but I understand that they exist.

      1. Zip Silver*

        Oh, yeah. Me actually. I wake up at 4am, from a cup of coffee, in the gym at 5, and off to work by 7:30. I usually scramble eggs every morning.

      2. Candi*

        I can’t do that. I’m usually operating on automatic until about half an hour after I get up, more if caffeine isn’t involved.

        There’s a reason I get up forty minutes before I’m due to kick my daughter out of bed for school. (Most of the time, kick is the right figurative description.) My son gets ready faster, so he gets another fifteen minutes.

    3. Not So NewReader*

      Lack of variety over a period of time can be harmful. And we do need fruits and veggies.
      Depending on how the steak is cooked, pan frying would be a no-no for some folks.
      Dietary restrictions as part of religious practice or doctor ordered.

  24. Mimmy*

    As I was reading the question, I honestly wasn’t see what the problem was. Then I got to the guy’s comment to the secretary – that’s a big “nope” in my book. WTH??! Alison’s answer makes sense as well. At times, I’m a little more open than I should be, but I do realize that many people are not comfortable sharing their personal information.

    If others were annoyed by this as well, you can share your thoughts and offer to join them if they go to speak with the director or HR, whichever is applicable.

  25. Tuesday*

    This makes me think of the, “Why did we have a one-hour meeting for this when it could have been covered in a single email?” phenomenon. You can show someone how to lift correctly by sending them a YouTube link. No need to bring in some dude from the gym.

    I also want to express my appreciation for the crazy dietician letters linked in this post. I’d missed that one the first time around. It needs to be an episode of some office comedy (guest starring John Cena as the bodybuilder and Kristin Chenoweth as the dietician.)

  26. CT*

    Well its safe to say that your boss is really close with her personal trainer if shes bringing him to work to teach the employees. It also says shes probably a health nut. Therefore id say if you go to her and voice your opinion it is going to make get upset and offended(especially) because your new. She may very well take it as you questioning her managing abilities. Going to HR would be even worse because then your going to experience some retaliation.
    It’s clear that you dont like these classes but it doesnt sound so bad to being paid to workout in my opinion. We all have to do things at work and life that we dont like or rather not be doing. If everytime you do not like something at work and want to bail or not take part, well you probally wont past there long. Just sayin. But if you want to really impress your boss, ask the trainer for a few one in one sessions wherever he trains normally and work really hard. Bet you get a promotion in no time; -)

    1. OP*

      Well, he’s not a health nut, based on other things I know about him, so there’s something else going on here. I handle all sorts of situations at work that I don’t necessarily like with aplomb, but this crossed a line to me– it was not that I just didn’t love what I was doing, it was intimate and intrusive

  27. ArtK*

    I’ve imagined a couple of possible scenarios about how this came to be. I’m sure that there are variations on these:
    1) Boss is well-intentioned but clueless. He wanted to get some ergonomic training for his staff (a very good thing) and asked his trainer for recommendations. Trainer said “sure, I can do that” and boss hired him. Of course, not considering that a personal trainer is *not* an expert in workplace ergonomics.
    2) Boss and trainer cooked up a scheme together whereby trainer gets more business and access to potential clients while being paid by the company. They use the “ergonomic training” excuse as a cover.
    So, one is a bad boss by way of being clueless; the other is a bad boss by way of horrible ethics. Neither is good.
    Neither is the fact that the company thinks that they are paying for one thing and are getting something very different. This is a very bad thing. I hope that the OP can get some support from someone with seniority and get this addressed.

  28. Colorado*

    No, just a hell no! But I do want to thank all the commenters for the great laughs in the commentary. Just what I needed today.

  29. sounds familiar*

    Ugh, this reminds me of something that happened in my old job. My boss’s boss invited our whole dept to his apartment building for a “team retreat”–brainstorming meetings for the upcoming year in the building’s common room, then BBQ on the roof deck. A perfectly nice & normal idea in theory–and the roof was lovely! But he brought his personal “life coach” to lead part of the meetings. Ugh, ugh ugh! The guy had us go around and share our positive feelings about each other (which took forever, and was as repetitive and pointless as you can imagine), and then we had to fill out worksheets about what areas of our personal (!) and professional lives we wanted to work on, and then discuss in small groups.

  30. Aurora Leigh*

    Yikes! And I thought our 10 minutes of stretches and yoga stuff every morning was irritating!

  31. Anonenony*

    I wonder what is in OP’s job description regarding lifting requirements? A typical office job, I think, would require lifting up to 25 lbs. A large crate of books could easily be heavier than that. (In my experience, 12-20 regular hardback books weigh up to 25 lbs., so a small crate or box.) if the job doesn’t require lifting over that amount, it seems to me you could decline the training on the basis of it not applying to your job. It is especially weird that the “trainer” is using actual heavy materials rather than a substitute, lighter box to show the techniques. In OP’s situation, I would have declined the exercise saying that the item was more than I could safely lift and that my job did not require lifting such heavy items. (If the second part was not true or I wasn’t sure, I’d leave that out.) Maybe it’s because I’m old, maybe it’s because I’ve been injured before and know how easy it is, but I think I would have declined to pick up that box. And then sorted it later with boss or HR. “Oh, I’m sorry, but that looks heavier than I can manage so I think I’ll sit this one out.” “Come on, try, everyone else has done it, you can too!” “Are you telling me to risk a workplace injury in a class intended to reduce workplace injuries? (Laugh) no thanks!”

    1. OP*

      No one who works here has it in their job description that they have to lift over 20 pounds, to my knowledge. Small crates and paper boxes, not anything more serious than that.

    2. AdAgencyChick*

      I was wondering exactly that.

      Sounds like the boss is just on a fitness kick and wants to evangelize. Bleh.

  32. NiceOrc*

    3 months? Wow, that seems overly long. I am one of a team of trained ergonomic assessors for my work, and we do a one-on-one session at people’s desks, which is 30-60 minutes – when they ask for one! Usually have a checkup 2 years later, or if they move desks. We also run group stretch sessions for people who want them, completely voluntary attendance. Eg I will send an email out saying something like stretches at 10am, pop along before you have your tea break. I would never dream of commenting on someone’s body, the closest I get is asking if they have a four-finger space between the backs of their knees and the edge of their seat! And would never mention diet – nothing to do with ergonomics!

    1. OP*

      I don’t rightly know that the word “ergonomic” was really ever used by this guy, honestly– I think the more-used terminology might be “wellness training,” which can mean whatever the hell they want, I guess!

  33. sitting on my butt all day*

    I guess I’m in the minority here – my huge company (several thousand employees) does similar stuff to this: someone from the on-site gym gets scheduled by team leads to come up and do team stretch breaks, ergonomic evaluations, etc. We love it! The stretches are a great break from sitting in front of a screen all day, the ergonomic evals/tips are important since we sit alllll day long, and generally people around me see this as a benefit.

    Of course, people can opt out (a few do) and no comments are made about butts.

    1. ArtK*

      The problem is that that’s *not* what this trainer is doing. It sounds like they’re just doing a normal fitness training. They call it “ergonomic” but that’s not what is happening. Dietary tips have *no* place in a workplace safety discussion, for starters.

      1. Observer*

        It’s actually worse than that – this guy is not even doing a decent or proper fitness training.

    2. OP*

      No one is scheduling me TIME to do these stretches and exercises– I get the distinct impression that I’m being taught them so I can do them in my own time.

      1. Not So NewReader*

        Really. Well that goes to transparency. He is transparent but not in a way he wants to be.

        My hunch is this is going to blow over. I would be very surprised if there was a third session because I think the next session he is going to get hit with so much resistance he will not be back. I don’t think you are the only one who is totally ticked off.

  34. Whats In A Name*

    OK, so I haven’t read through everything because as someone who works as a consultant designing and implementing workplace wellness programs this is NOT what this guy is doing. Ergonomic training is teaching people proper body mechanics and offering/demonstrating some things they can do to alleviate discomfort/prevent issues. These might include lifting items, how to adjust your chair/monitor/devices, stretching you can do at your desk while working, etc.
    Any crowd participation should be limited to you doing some of the stretches, maybe lifting to feel the movement but definitely not in front of co-workers or singled out. Reading the room is important.

    People like this make me want to bang my head on a wall repeatedly. Because people like me become salmon. Swimming up stream.

    1. OP*

      A lot of that sounded like what he was going for, but he took it way too far– he wanted us to do plank on a desk chair, to do this backwards kick exercise for thirty seconds on each leg, etc., and I kind of worked up a sweat, which just doesn’t feel like it should be happening when I’m in heels and slacks in a conference room. No discussion was made of adjusting any monitors, etc, and I doubt there will be, because my workplace would have to significantly overhaul its infrastructure to make it customizable like that, and this is more about teaching our behavior.

      1. Whats In A Name*

        Please tell me he didn’t want you to plank on a desk chair WITH WHEELS????

        Also, what he is teaching you is NOT ergonomics. Sounds like he is teaching you exercises at your desk?
        A monitor can be adjusted with a stack of paper or old books, or magazines. Basic stretches can alleviate muscle tension that leads to things like carpal tunnel and tennis elbow and a forward head posture.

        Anywho, all that aside this guy is so far out of line (as is your boss) with the things he is doing and bringing into the workplace I have to stop reading and commenting. Daily battle. Daily.

        1. OP*

          I think “basic stretches” is kind of what he was going for, but he kind of veered off into strength training.

          Adjusting monitor heights isn’t really feasible– some of our workstations are shared among many employees, and a couple of us work on laptops when at our personal desks, rather than desktops. The workspace is not set up in a way to maximize employee choice, which makes this whole thing that much more unreasonable.

      2. Observer*

        A fitness instructor having people do these kinds of exercises in HEELS?! OMG!

        Here’s the deal – this guy is an incompetent twit. Please tell everyone you know not to ever use his services.

        1. Not So NewReader*

          Heels are bad enough on their own. Doing exercises in heels is just asking for a lawsuit.

          BTW, if the woman was in heels then OF COURSE her back was arched and she could not be flat against the wall. omg. Did he get his certification from a certification MILL?

          ‘scuse me. I have to go pound my head on my desk to make this pain go away.

          1. OP*

            She wasn’t in heels. That was just me, I think. Like I mentioned in some other comment, we are on our feet a lot, so most people don’t wear them. I find it helps me to vary my footwear, and that day I was wearing chunky rubber-heeled boots.

            1. Observer*

              Even ONE person is too many. You just do NOT have people doing anything that requires balance etc. in any sort of heels.

              There is a reason why exercise / fitness instructors want people in bare (or stocking) feet. Also, notice how common it is for instructions for specific exercises to start with the instruction to have your feel FLAT on the floor.

  35. ThatAspie*

    What the heck!? ಠ_ಠ I am absolutely confounded as to how the heck this dude got let into that workplace. I can only imagine actually being THERE. o_O What is wrong with some people!? Assessing people’s BUTTS!? At WORK!? Making people do ridiculous stretches!? At WORK!? There aren’t enough emojis to express how confounding this is, but I’ve obviously included a few.

  36. GermanGirl*

    Honestly, aside from the horrible instructor, I think having an ergonomy training at the work place is not such a bad idea.

    I mean scratch the bogus dietary advice, the butt comment, the workout part and the singling out and just practice safe lifting (or whatever) with everybody.

    For example, in Germany it is mandatory to educate your employees on workplace safety once a year and that can include how to safely lift heavy things, how to position your computer monitor, desk and chair and that you should take a short break looking out of the window if you’ve been staring at a monitor for more than an hour. In some companies, the person responsible for workplace safety will inspect every work station for safety and ergonomy a day or two after the training. And if a manager sees someone doing something unsafe like lifting wrong, they are supposed to go through the instructions on safe lifting (or whatever) with that employee asap. BUT in Germany companies have to pay for up to 30 days of sick leave when you’re ill with a doctor’s note, even if you got the injury while lifting your groceries out of your car, so they are pretty interested in helping their employees form healthy habits. That said, I wonder why our canteen food is still so unhealthy… :/

  37. animaniactoo*

    #1) While my rear is large and in charge the reason I can’t get my back flat against the wall has to do with a minor C-Curve scoliosis which is dealt with (primarily) by paying attention to how I sit. So that guy would have been hearing from me…

    #2) “Boss, can you give me some more details on the rationale for this particular course? I’m all for safety training and ergonomics, but what we did in the last one seems to be out-of-step with what I’ve heard of how these courses are normally implemented.”

  38. ScarletInTheLibrary*

    This trainer is fairly young and may not realize an office setting is different gym setting. The only thing he knows is how to do their job at the gym, which means how to lift, give dietary advice related to building muscle, selling goods, and promoting their services. It may be possible he only trains folks in one-to-one sessions. People are more likely to share issues such as a bad knee in these private consultation. Maybe he doesn’t realize that his skills don’t transfer as well as he thinks.

    Maybe boss thinks he doesn’t need these sessions because he already works with the trainer.

    Yah. The implementation is bad.

    1. Observer*

      Oh, please! My 18 year old, who has never held a job knows better than that!

      If you are old enough to hold a job, you should be old enough to know that there is a difference between an office and a gym. And if you are supposed to be a fitness trainer, you should know the difference between what kinds of exercises are appropriate in a group vs individually; what exercises work in gym clothes vs office clothes; and what appropriate general diet advice (which is very, very limited, btw) vs individualized diet advice.

      1. ScarletInTheLibrary*

        I glad your son is not like this, but people like this exist. Sadly I have interacted with too many people who don’t know better. My father, in his seventy is one of those people and thinks every work situation is the same. When I was in undergraduate, the sports exercise majors were a lot like this trainer. I worked with the colliegate sports stats department and overheard one trainer make a comment about the color of an administrator’s yoga pants. They were brown work pants. Some were in the grad program and the only jobs they had ever had were in the fitness industry. They usually only worked with students, so some of the advice was the same instead of individualized.

        1. Observer*

          As your father proves, this is totally not age related.

          I object to providing ANY level of “excuse” based on this guys’ probable age. Also, to painting young people in such an unfair and negative light.

  39. Cryptic Critter*

    I’m thoroughly surprised no one noted that the actual cost for an OSHA certified workplace trainer is probably triple what you pay for a non-OSHA personal gym trainer. The loss would be hard pressed to swing that past the budget without good reason, like a workplace with repeated multiple workplace injuries.

    Or the boss legitimately didn’t know there was a difference? Which happens.

    I’ve had both and can say I wasn’t shy about pointing out without the proper credentials I wasn’t participating. It worked out fine as it really was an unfortunate oversight by our ED. At that point in the “training” we were informed it was strictly voluntary and many people opted out of the physical component, but listened attentively instead. Our workplace ergonomics trainings were changed within a month to a voluntary sign up for a anonymous wellness program thru a local hospital system. All our HR dept knew was how many people signed up, not who. The who was known thru our medical insurance carrier for a reduced rate.

  40. Chris*

    While this guy doesn’t sound like the WORST worst (It’s still insane, and I would have been annoyed as well), I’m always curious about these personal trainers who like shouting/belittling to do their job. How do people who scream at other people about physical issues not get punched, like, literally all the time

  41. TheLiz*

    Noooo, no, no, no, no. I know it’s too late for OP, but fellow women, *do not* take advice on pretty much anything related to back or hip posture or stretches from a man unless you have good reason to believe he’s specifically trained/accredited to give it (and vice versa). The correct things to do for one sex will cause active damage to the other*. If my dance teacher wouldn’t work with male students because she wasn’t qualified, don’t trust cowboys like thisas far as you can throw them.

    *Sex isn’t gender, intersex people exist, but this is related to the structural configuration of hips and spine, so I put things in those terms.

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