my employer requires us all to do tai chi in the office

A reader writes:

I am struggling with management’s requirement that all employees of our small nonprofit participate in twice weekly tai chi sessions. These are paid for by the organization and held in-house, during the work day. When first presented to staff, tai chi was billed as a team-building activity that would last for 12 weeks. The activity has been extended for twelve additional weeks and is now framed by the CEO as mandatory employee wellness/team-building, despite zero outcry from staff for more of either.

I have a chronic condition that was aggravated by the first session, and obtained physician confirmation that I should be exempted from the second. The CEO has decided that I must still sit through each session, even though not doing tai chi. Not sure what the purported benefit of this is to be, but the result has left me feeling singled out and punished for not being able to participate. I dislike questions from coworkers about why I’m not following along with the program.

To be clear: there was no discussion with employees about their wellness needs prior, nor have there been more typical incentives to encourage wellness (subsidized gym memberships, PTO/flex time for outside activity). And the bottom line is that I come to work to be treated like an adult professional, not to have decisions about my health made for me by my employer. “Going to HR” means talking to our CFO. I put my concerns in writing to my manager and asked that she share this information with the upper management. So far, no response.

Is there some constructive way to get the CEO to back off? Is a six months’ mandatory group exercise program remotely justifiable? Suffice to say the CEO is suddenly and TOTALLY into meditation and fitness after being advised by a doctor to hit certain health-related goals (I’ll spare you the level of detailed PHI that gets routinely shared with staff…sigh).

Agggggghhhhh this pisses me off.

It would be fine for the organization to offer this as a perk to staff members who wanted to participate.

But making it mandatory? For six months? That’s ridiculous, it’s a huge overstep, and it’s paternalistic BS.

Your employer is not your parent, your guardian, your doctor, your therapist, your priest, or your wellness advisor, despite some employers’ attempts to proclaim otherwise.

This sounds an awful lot like the CEO is on a health craze and has decided to have the organization subsidize it, at everyone else’s expense.

How do your coworkers feel about this? Are there others who are annoyed and don’t like it — or maybe even some who don’t mind participating but who disagree with making it mandatory? Or who take issue with you being forced to sit there during it? Because your attempts to deal with this yourself haven’t worked so far, it might be more effective if a whole group of you push back on this.

Talking points for a group to use:

* “We welcome wellness perks when they’re optional, but we don’t want to be required to participate in something that doesn’t relate to our work and which we may have personal reasons — medical and otherwise — for preferring not to take part in.”

* “It’s not appropriate for an employer to mandate specific types of exercise for employees. It feels like overstepping and we’re uncomfortable with this being required.”

* “If the organization wants to invest in employee wellness, we have lots of ideas that would be optional and welcome — like better health insurance, subsidized healthy snacks, flex schedules, and more time off for our own wellness pursuits.” (75% chance that this one kills the program.)

You can use those points on your own as well, but I think at this point you’re going to find more strength in numbers (and it will be harder for your CEO to push back and label you just a grumbler or not a team player or so forth).

{ 335 comments… read them below or add one }

  1. JokeyJules

    * “If the organization wants to invest in employee wellness, we have lots of ideas that would be optional and welcome — like better health insurance, subsidized healthy snacks, flex schedules, and more time off for our own wellness pursuits.” (75% chance that this one kills the program.)

    I FIRMLY believe that this is the ONLY involvement your employer should have in your health. ONLY.
    Please gather a group of your coworkers to get this nonsense to stop

    Reply
    1. voyager1

      Yes. And it sucks. My last employer did a wellness program where they found blood pressure and weight and told what to improve or some such. First year was voluntary, second year they tried to make it mandatory so they could get cheaper insurance. I declined both times and the second time they thought it was ridiculous.

      I looked a AVP in the face and said “you want to give information to an insurance company who’s job is to make a profit and one of those ways is pre-existing conditions you go and do it. Obamacare may not be around to protect us in the future if the corporatists get their way.”
      The AVP looked at me like I was crazy because this was 2013, now it is 2018 and look who is in charge of the government and what do they want to do, roll back health insurance protections.

      (sorry if that was too poltitical)

      Reply
      1. Antilles

        My last employer did a wellness program where they found blood pressure and weight and told what to improve or some such.
        I’d just like to point out that weight is an absolutely horrendous measure of health. Since muscle weighs more than fat, someone who’s in phenomenal shape can easily get classified as ‘overweight’ or ‘obese’ via BMI*. And on the flip side, it’s entirely possible for your weight to be fine but be unhealthy in other ways.
        And really, this perfectly highlights the biggest issue with companies trying to get too involved with your health: Companies usually try to address ’employee wellness’ on a simplistic basis applying the same measures to everyone, while completely overlooking individual differences.
        *Fun fact: After college, I went from ‘healthy’ to ‘unhealthy’ based on BMI because I started working out 6 hours a week with a personal trainer and ended up gaining 30 pounds of muscle. Ironically, it was simultaneously the most unhealthy I’ve ever been (by BMI) *and* the most healthy I’ve ever been (by every other measure you could think of).

        Reply
          1. TheVet

            His BMI just barely makes him obese, but the vast majority of us do NOT look like The Rock so it’s a bit ridiculous to use him as an example.

            Reply
            1. Blue Anne

              I mean, my BMI is also in the obese category, and I can deadlift more than twice my weight. It’s not totally ridiculous to use him as an example. Lots of athletes have the same problem with BMI.

              Reply
              1. JessaB

                Not to mention BMI is a number designed to look at populations not people, it’s a measure of starvation issues, and food scarcity things it’s for large numbers and designed to crunch em down to something manageable. The scientist who came up with the measure has clearly and repeatedly said, this number has no meaning without a group. This is not a number to decide individual outcomes, stop using my population science stuff to diagnose individuals.

                Reply
                1. One of the Sarahs

                  Standing ovation!!! It’s a broad population measure, means nothing at a personal level.

                2. grey

                  I did not know this. That makes a whole lot more sense. I just always knew that BMI was one of the worst measurements out there.

              2. Parenthetically

                I think I read that the MAJORITY of Olympians in certain categories (stuff like shot put, heavier lifts, anything that requires pretty serious force behind an object) are technically obese. BMI is a terrible indicator of health.

                Reply
                1. Blue Anne

                  Yup! When I was a kid, we had a lady staying with us who was on the Olympic rowing team. Total amazon. Well over six feet tall and was squatting more than 400 pounds. The lady was one enormous muscle. Not an ounce of fat.

                  And her BMI was around 45.

              3. Bureaucrat with a Side of Coffee

                You can still be strong but have what is considered an unhealthy amount of fat by medical professionals. There are multiple different indicators of health and fitness.

                Reply
        1. Alienor

          Yeah, weight is definitely not a good measure of health. I’m a thin-to-average vegetarian who exercises, doesn’t smoke or drink, etc., but I have high blood pressure (controlled with medication) and my cholesterol was borderline high last time I had it checked. I look fine, but there are probably people who outweigh me by 50 lbs and have better numbers than I do. I asked my doctor what the issue was and he said some bodies are just like that.

          Reply
          1. Anonforthis

            Yep, I’m a thin person, but I’m a casual smoker, drink pretty much every day, and get winded opening an envelope. And I have basically no upper body strength – but no one inquires about my “health” because I’m not overweight.

            Reply
            1. Kat in VA

              This. I’m on the low side of BMI, tall for a woman (5’8″ and some change), muscular but slender, smoke like a chimney, and live on Red Bull. But BMI says “You go, girl!”

              Reply
          2. Parenthetically

            My father-in-law is ridiculously fit, not just for his age but for any age. He cycles, walks, runs, swims, eats a really nutritious diet, and his idea of a fun holiday is a multi-day, 1000km+ cycling tour. Plus all of his numbers are great — doesn’t have problems with blood pressure or cholesterol, resting heart rate is <50, on and on. And he's on the border between "overweight" and "obese."

            Reply
          3. MsSolo

            Friend of my parents was a fell running, teetotal, non-smoking vegan (healthy eating vegan, not pizza vegan!) who had a massive heart attack just before sixty. When he asked the doctors if there was something he needed to change about his life, all they could tell him is that the heart attack was basically inevitable, and his lifestyle was why he’d had it at 60 rather than 20. Genetics lay the foundations for huge amounts of this stuff, and lifestyle is what dictates the when.

            Reply
            1. soon 2be former fed

              Yeah, my mom lived to 91 and smoked for decades, drank beer, ate pork, and never exercised. Her siblings all lived to ripe old ages and also did not do particularly healthy things. I guess she would have lived to 150 had she been more health conscious.

              Reply
        2. Trout 'Waver

          Eh. I’m going to push back a little on this one. Weight absolutely should not be stigmatized, but it’s wrong to say weight is an absolutely horrendous measure of health. Weight is a pretty good predictor of some health issues.

          Obviously if you reduce health to a single number (BMI), a lot of nuance (muscle, genetics, metabolism, other health issues, body type) is going to be lost. But, if you view it as a population statistic, in virtually every way a modern first-world population would see their health outcomes improve at the population level if average BMI were reduced.

          Reply
          1. So long and thanks for all the fish

            Sure, on average. But for small sample sizes, and especially as N approaches 1, it’s not generally useful.

            Reply
          2. SunshineOH

            “Weight is a pretty good predictor of some health issues”… if you’re a doctor. My employer doesn’t know and doesn’t need to know.

            Reply
          3. Antilles

            Obviously if you reduce health to a single number (BMI), a lot of nuance is going to be lost.
            But that’s *exactly* my point! Weight is a horrendous measure for companies to use because they do just that – reduce health just to “what does the scale say?” while ignoring all nuance, context, and individual-specific information.
            As a general population statistic for countries, weight/BMI has value in general health predictions because everything eventually averages out…but that’s dramatically different from an individual company looking at individual people trying to apply one single number (weight) to evaluate whether an individual person is healthy or not.

            Reply
          4. Specialk9

            So Trout Waver, you’re saying BMI can be useful, if used by experts in a nuanced way that workplaces just don’t do?

            I think you’re actually making the point you’re arguing against.

            Reply
          5. soon 2be former fed

            No, it’s fat, not weight, that may be an issue but even then fat is often made to be a scapegoat for health issues. Lots of thin people at the morgue, they get sick and die too.

            Reply
        3. Anonforthis

          Yep. My brother is a bodybuilder, he’s technically obese, because he’s literally a solid chunk of muscle (I did not inherit either those genes or any interest in working out).

          Reply
          1. Antilles

            It’s horrendous in the way non-medical people tend to view it.
            Can it be a useful item of data when considered as part of the overall context of your health? Sure.
            But the key words there are “item” (singular), “part” and “context”.
            But companies (and individuals too) often just treat weight as a magical One True Number that represents your overall health, ignoring all the nuance.

            Reply
        4. the one who got away

          “Companies usually try to address ’employee wellness’ on a simplistic basis applying the same measures to everyone, while completely overlooking individual differences.”

          ^^ I think this point is totally valid and relevant to the conversation.

          But can we move away from discussion of whether weight is an indicator of good/poor health, whether BMIs are useful, who is/isn’t obese, etc? In my experience this tends to lead to fat shaming (often well-intentioned, but still) and I think it’s unhelpful to the discussion.

          Reply
    2. smoke tree

      I’m okay with any employee wellness perks that are totally optional, outside of the office, and paid for by the employer. And they should be thought of as perks that employees will appreciate, not “initiatives” to cajole them into being what the CEO considers to be healthier. I know some people who have great perks that they love, like employer-paid gym memberships of their choice. I even know someone whose employer pays for her pottery classes because it’s good for her mental health.

      Reply
      1. OhNo

        Okay, now, pottery classes are a benefit I would absolutely adore. You don’t happen to know how she convinced her employer to pay for that, do you?

        Reply
    3. Anonymeece

      I actually enjoyed (most) aspects of my college’s wellness program. They had the whole points awarded to pounds lost (despite the fact that we brought up not all people need or want to lose weight), but the bulk of it was actually focused on all types of wellness. There were some classes on how to use gym equipment, stress control, meditation and breathing exercises, nutrition on a budget… And they were all optional, not mandatory.

      Wellness programs can be done well! They just so very rarely are.

      Reply
      1. One of the Sarahs

        But even the one you’re talking about wasn’t done well, because it was grounded in “you all need to lose weight, regardless of anything else”. It’s bad enough when one is a skinny person who probably be healthier with an extra few pounds (my partner, eg, who has a very fast metabolism, and generally doesn’t have anything to lose) but for people struggling with eating disorders/anxiety about weight, it would be actively harmful, no matter how many pottery classes they offer.

        Reply
    4. Blue Anne

      At my company the wellnessincentive is that you can sit down with your boss, set a goal to achieve in the next 12 months (must be measurable, like a belt in karate or a 12 minute mile) and if you achieve it fully they’ll reimburse you 125% of the cost.

      Pretty cool. I’m talking to my boss right now about using it for a good bike.

      Reply
  2. Detective Amy Santiago

    I would love to have the option of doing tai chi in the office.

    OPTION being the key word.

    Reply
    1. AvonLady Barksdale

      Yup, option. Like a mandatory wellness hour during which no one sends any email and one can read a book, go for a walk, meditate, watch something on Netflix…

      “You must attend! Sit in the corner and be still!” That doesn’t sound very relaxing or rejuvenating or mindful, which is kind of the point of tai chi, isn’t it?

      Reply
      1. Clorinda

        It’s also not great for the others because now they’re doing tai chi with someone watching. The only way I can do yoga or stretching or anything like that is if I’m in the back of the room and can pretend nobody sees me.

        Reply
        1. sarah

          YES. I had an old employer who offered a (totally optional) lunchtime stretching class with a personal trainer a couple of times a week. It was awesome (and again, totally optional and there was zero pressure to participate), but I cannot imagine doing it with someone sitting there watching me and not participating! That would be incredibly awkward.

          Reply
        2. EddieSherbert

          +100

          My office has (OPTIONAL) yoga over lunch… with the lights off in the fitness room (and little twinkle lights around the perimeter of the room). Haha, it’s perfect and I love it.

          Reply
          1. EddieSherbert

            Also, the instructor totally encourages you to do your own thing if you don’t want to follow along, so some people (sometimes named Eddie!) legitimately just lay on a mat and nap in the back.

            Reply
            1. CoveredInBees

              You do, you, Eddie! I would take any opportunity for an employer-sanctioned midday nap. I’d probably do the yoga too, but the nap…a thing of beauty!

              Reply
      2. Database Developer Dude

        I’d prefer taekwondo to tai chi… but then again, I should not do taekwondo in the office ;)

        Reply
    2. JokeyJules

      Yes! i’d love it if my office booked a yoga instructor once a week or month or so…

      but there shouldn’t be any pressure to participate

      Reply
    3. AnonyMouse

      Also jumping in on how I’d love it if my employer did more (optional) wellness activities. But emphasis on optional… required Tai Chi is a little weird.

      Reply
    4. Lily Rowan

      Yeah, I once worked at a place where the CEO’s wife gave an exercise class once a week. It was after work, free, and 100% optional — perfect!!

      Reply
    1. Princess Consuela Banana Hammock

      For the most part, employment law tries to protect workers from exploitation, so it focuses on wage and hour rules (and benefits/healthcare), occupational safety, and antidiscrimination. Unfortunately, that doesn’t include an employer’s made-up rules about participation in “terribly intrusive, non-business-related ‘health’ programs” unless there are other laws out there which protect an employee’s interest. Combined with at-will employment, it means that businesses can undertake ridiculous activities as long as they don’t run afoul of the issues I flagged, above. Of course, this is super frustrating—the program OP described is ridiculous, and the boss should not be treating employees like this is high school PE class.

      This is a stretch, but OP, does your chronic condition qualify as a disability under the ADA? If so, you might be able to make the case that forcing you to attend but sit out is stigmatizing. But I agree with Alison and others that perhaps the best option is to lead a coworker coup against mandatory tai chi.

      Reply
    2. CAA

      Which law do you think it would be violating? Assuming we’re talking about the U.S, Congress has never passed a law prohibiting mandatory group exercise, and generally if we don’t have a law prohibiting it, it’s legal. They are providing accommodations for her medical issue by not forcing her to move in ways that aggravate her condition. This is just “other duties as assigned”.

      I agree it seems like a waste of the salary they’re paying her and everybody else during these sessions, and if I were a stock holder/owner of this company I’d be questioning their judgment, but I really don’t think this is illegal.

      Reply
      1. MatKnifeNinja

        My friend works for an Expat Japanese school in the states. She is not Japanese.

        Every morning is morning stretches to music that EVERYONE “must do”. Kids, janitor etc. If you can’t do it, you sit/stand whatever, but you can’t read a book, listen to your pod cast for the 10 odd minutes.

        Someone complained and was told it is not illegal. You are allowed to sit quietly/stand whatever. The answer that came down was exactly what CAA said. As long as you aren’t punished for not participating, you have to deal with goofy nonsense.

        I had a boss who would open meets with a group a generics free version Christian prayer. Someone complained. Now we have a 5 minutes of silence/mindfulness/prayer. I have two coworkers either side of me quietly mumbling prayerful intentions, while I look at my hands.

        Totally legal.

        Reply
        1. rubyrose

          I worked for a large Catholic healthcare organization. Their culture was that group meetings were started with a contemplation. One person was assigned in advance to bring in something to contemplate. People would bring in Christian prayers. Others would bring in something from Deepak Chopra or a quote from Robert Kennedy or Martin Luther King. I would bring in something from the Talmud. It took 3 minutes max. In that environment, it worked.

          Reply
      2. Friday

        If she’s salaried, I hope like hell that she’s not working late hours to make up for time away from her desk for this nonsense.

        Reply
    3. Ask a Manager Post author

      It’s helpful to realize that with the way American law works, everything is legal unless it’s specifically been made illegal. (Maybe that’s a simplification, but it’ll work for the sake of this answer.) So with employment law, there are things that have specific laws against them — discrimination and harassment, for example — and there are specific protections in place (minimum wage, safety regulations, etc.), but for things that haven’t been specifically addressed by law, the answer to “how is this legal?” is “there’s no law that says it isn’t.” We tend to like that model in other areas of life, but it tends to surprise people when it comes to workplace rights.

      Reply
      1. Armchair Quarterback

        OP indicated that they had a chronic condition, which immediately made me think of potential for an ADA issue. The EEOC has issued guidance on workplace wellness programs that seems pertinent to this situation.

        https://www.eeoc.gov/laws/regulations/qanda-ada-wellness-final-rule.cfm

        9. When is an employee’s participation in a wellness program considered “voluntary”?
        Like the proposed rule, the final rule lists several requirements that must be met in order for an employee’s participation in a wellness program that includes disability-related inquiries or medical examinations to be considered voluntary. Specifically, an employer:

        may not require any employee to participate;
        may not deny any employee who does not participate in a wellness program access to health coverage or prohibit any employee from choosing a particular plan; and
        may not take any other adverse action or retaliate against, interfere with, coerce, intimidate, or threaten any employee who chooses not to participate in a wellness program or fails to achieve certain health outcomes.
        Additionally, in order to ensure that an employee’s participation is voluntary, an employer must provide a notice that clearly explains what medical information will be obtained, how it will be used, who will receive it, and the restrictions on disclosure. Finally, an employer must comply with the incentive limits explained below. (See Qs & As 12 – 14, below.)

        Reply
        1. Ask a Manager Post author

          Yep, the OP could cite that if they hadn’t excused her from participating — but it won’t prevent them from having her sit there during it. Letting her sit instead of participate is the accommodation.

          Reply
          1. Amber T

            That was my confusion… “allowing” her to sit on the sidelines and not participate in the actual activity is considered the accommodation? That’s… still ridiculous, but I see the legal logic.

            OP, I hope enough of your coworkers come together and management comes to its senses!

            Reply
        1. vonlowe

          Some could be entirely possibly like that.

          Like how something like ‘freedom of speech’ is protected in US law. Where I live the ( (the UK) it isn’t protected.

          Reply
    4. Guitar Lady

      I’m surprised there isn’t someone with a religious objection as well, a lot of fundamentalist Christian groups are very against any Eastern-style practices.

      Reply
      1. I Love Thrawn

        My last church employer had a weekly yoga class for members, but billed it as low impact exercise.

        Reply
        1. RJ the Newbie

          I’m training to be a yoga teacher. There’s a local group that infuses yoga with Christianity. I’m not familiar with their exact practice, but it seems to work for them.

          Personally, my last employer kept stressing the importance of their weekly yoga class and I pushed back hard. These wellness programs should always be optional. What is forced is endured, not enjoyed.

          Reply
      2. Genny

        Personally, I wouldn’t want to participate because of faith. The West tends to strip out a lot of the spiritual meaning of things like yoga and tai chi. If this class follows suit, I wouldn’t feel comfortable stripping away the meaning behind the movement, and if the class kept the spiritual nature of the movement, I wouldn’t want to participate because I disagree with that religious/religious practices. If I were dying to do some sort of meditation, stretching, exercise thing, I might be open to seeking out options that would work for my conscience, but I would want to do that on my own time, not through work with limited options.

        Reply
        1. Girl friday

          That would be a creative objection on cultural grounds, particularly if Op found it disrespectful or personally offensive. If Op’s objection is to mandated physical activity, it might be better just to opt out quietly from each suggestion. I’m worried that her culture encourages more physical team building and would be generally annoyed by more sedentary offerings.

          Reply
        2. bunniferous

          That is my take as well. (I found it interesting to note that some Hindu practitioners are actually offended at what the West has done with what to them very much is a religious practice. ) In any case, this activity should be optional for everyone not just those of us who would not participate for religious reasons.

          Reply
        3. grey

          That was exactly my thoughts/concerns reading through this – that for me (and many others) it would be a religious objection.

          Reply
    5. Alton

      The main ways something like this could be illegal in the US would be if 1) the company was treating this as a mandatory off-the-clock activity and wasn’t paying non-exempt and hourly employees or 2) they were discriminating based on a protected class. If the OP’s condition fell under the ADA and the CEO forced her to do tai chi or explicitly punished her for not doing it, that could be illegal. Requiring the activity but allowing exemptions based on things like health or religion probably isn’t illegal, however. It’s just bad management.

      Reply
  3. WellRed

    Have you actually said you feel “singled out and punished, which I am sure is not the intent for what is supposed to be team building”?

    I would be surprised if you don’t have a few other coworkers who also hate this.

    Reply
    1. Hills to Die on

      I think it’s important to stress that point. People who do this crap are generally thoughtless about how their actions are received / interpreted. Spell it out and maybe you can get out of sitting there watching tai chi.

      Reply
    2. Bow Ties Are Cool

      If the CFO is even vaguely versed in HR norms, the words “I am being singled out and punished for a health condition” should strike fear into their hearts.

      Reply
      1. Ask a Manager Post author

        Eh, I don’t know that it will. Being asked to sit with your coworkers for an activity isn’t “punishment” in the way the law would normally look at it. It’s still ridiculous for all sorts of reasons; I just don’t want to encourage the OP to put too much weight on this angle. (But I do think it’s good advice to frame it the way WellRed suggested if she hasn’t already, because putting it in stark terms like that is helpful.)

        Reply
        1. Princess Consuela Banana Hammock

          I agree with Alison. As CAA notes upthread, technically OP is receiving a medical accommodation. Sitting while everyone does tai chi can certainly be stigmatizing/exclusionary, but it’s not really “punishment for a health condition.” For the most part, there’s not a good legal hook based on what OP has shared.

          So in addition to Amber Rose’s recommended passive-aggressive tactics (which I truly and sincerely love), WellRed’s framing is helpful because it’s so stark and it addresses the absurdity of the “team building” justification. And if that doesn’t work, I’m throwing my hat in for an employee mutiny ;)

          Reply
          1. Ask a Manager Post author

            What exactly did they say in response? And was this to your manager, who seems to feel disempowered to do anything about it (in which case I wouldn’t be surprised by it having no effect), or to the CEO himself?

            Reply
            1. OP

              My manager said the intent wasn’t to make me feel singled out; my response was that I certainly hoped not (!!), but that was the result nevertheless. I have heard nothing directly from upper management.

              Reply
              1. Ask a Manager Post author

                Yeah, I think your manager just doesn’t feel like she has the power to do anything about this. I wouldn’t recommend continuing to push it with her; you’ll have to go higher (directly, not with her as your emissary).

                Reply
    3. Blue

      Yeah, that’s the point I’m really stuck on. “I know you want this to be a team-building activity, but I’m having the opposite experience,” should be eye-opener to the CEO, but he seems sufficiently obsessed with “wellness” at the moment that I don’t think he’s going to see reason.

      Reply
  4. Amber Rose

    Nooooooooo. D: D: D:
    I’m so sorry LW. I hope you and a group of other suffering coworkers can push back on the mandatory nature of this thing. I’m all for making wellness stuff available, as long as people are actually volunteering to participate and not being voluntold.

    Anyways, kudos to you for keeping your cool. I’d be 20 kinds of passive aggressive if I was made to sit through other people’s tai chi classes during work. Listening to headphones in the back and chair dancing, for example, or reading a book on corporate mismanagement and occasionally mumbling things to myself like, “oohh, so that’s what’s going on!” Or bringing in work, piling it up around me, and going through it with some exhausted sighing and conspicuous checking of my watch.

    I’d be fired, but in some ways it would be worth it.

    Reply
    1. Ask a Manager Post author

      reading a book on corporate mismanagement and occasionally mumbling things to myself like, “oohh, so that’s what’s going on!”

      Good lord, I love this image.

      Reply
    2. Hills to Die on

      “Reading a book on corporate mismanagement” : passive aggressive level expert. That’s awesome.

      Reply
      1. eplawyer

        Oh no. The book you should be reading is “Ask A Manager” and with a dark red pen circling all the worst boss stories.

        Reply
      1. Amber Rose

        Yep. And use a package of highlighters and just start highlighting things in different colors. Maybe jot down some notes. :D

        Reply
        1. Drew

          Get one of those multi-packs of Post-It Flags. Every so often, shake your head, go “oh, me,” and put a red one in the book. Or nod slightly, mutter “wouldn’t THAT be nice,” and put in a green one.

          Reply
    3. AKchic

      This is something I would do.

      I have a book called “Dictionary of Corporate Bullsh*t” that I started bringing to directors meetings when my then-boss started latching on to new buzzwords and catchphrases. I was the one he had taking minutes, so when he’d drop a new word that he’d not used before (at least 3 every hour), I’d glance at the book. At least once a 2-hour meeting, I’d raise it up behind his back to flip through to “check a word”.
      He’d been told numerous times he was confusing people with new terminology that didn’t make sense for our industry or our organization. He wanted us to be more polished and corporate. That wasn’t us. He lasted 4 years because of reasons. After a month I was asked to stop bringing the book because too many upper management types were having trouble with giggles. I still have the book… in my new office at my new job.

      Reply
      1. irene adler

        I want this book.
        Found it on Amazon. It’s about 200 pages. Kinda thin when you think about what it covers.

        Reply
        1. Sara without an H

          Yes, it’s available as either a paperback or a Kindle version. Of course, the Kindle version wouldn’t get the same effect.

          Reply
    4. Liane

      Amber Rose, your book suggestion and the ones in the replies make me so happy. It confirms my belief that, “Passive Aggression, done well, is A Superpower. ” (Though of course, it can be misused.)

      Reply
    5. Marzipan

      Speaking of passive-aggressive, if I were one of the LW’s colleagues being made to participate – especially if some poor soul was obliged to sit and watch – I would become comically, irredeemably awful at tai chi. I would channel my inner Posy from Ballet Shoes, and ‘consider, if I was made to attend it in spite of what I said, that I had a right to do what I liked during it’. I would do everything that was asked of me, diligently, while wobbling, falling, confusing my left and right, being seized with coughing fits, be wildly overdramatic – whatever amused me in the moment, all with a very straight face. It would be glorious.

      Reply
        1. Marzipan

          Not just read – I have a tattoo of Pauline as the fairy godmother, from the original Ruth Gervis illustrations (she was Noel Streatfeild’s sister, fun fact)!

          Reply
      1. Amber Rose

        Haha, yes! You just made me remember a thing. Way back in high school, we were forced to do Tai Chi videos as part of gym class, and my friends and I spent the entire time pretending to accidentally punch each other in the face and randomly colliding into each other.

        I know the teacher gave up on us completely after a while, so I can’t say it wasn’t effective. We must have spent a solid month on workout videos and yoga and stuff and they were each worse than the last.

        Reply
  5. Madame Secretary

    Makes me wonder if the CEO gets some sort of kickback for having the tai chi classes at his office. (Nothing in the letter points to this, I’d just be curious enough to do some light research to see if they are connected.)

    Reply
    1. Princess Consuela Banana Hammock

      I suspect the CEO recently started tai chi and feels it changed his life, so now he wants everyone to do it. I have a few friends who are like this with yoga. (I love yoga, but I wouldn’t want to have to do mandatory yoga at work.)

      Reply
      1. Seriously?

        It is even possible he thinks that it would help with the OPs health problems if they would just push though and thinks constant exposure will make that happen. Awful, but some people think that way about whatever diet or fitness trend they recently started.

        Reply
        1. asleep or maybe dead

          In my experience this is the most common scenario.
          I wish OP could look the CEO dead in the eyes and shout “Your experiences are not universal” loud enough to make his ears ring for days. Bonus points if this interaction happens in the middle of a open-plan office.

          (I’m kidding, OP, don’t do it)

          Reply
        2. Girl friday

          I think if that was ever put in writing, that would be actionable. If you equate it to skiing, where a large group of people are Black Diamond level and one person needs to stay on the bunny slopes, they should still offer some kind of before and after activity that everyone can participate in together. They can’t discriminate against either skiers or non-skiers. There’s always a solution for inclusion.

          Reply
      2. Jennifer Thneed

        AND he’s getting the company to pay for it! (Assuming there’s an actual professional instructor coming in, which the OP doesn’t address. If there is not an instructor, are they even doing it right?)

        Reply
    2. John Rohan

      Where would such a kickback come from? Unlike many exercise fads like Taebo or Crossfit, Tai Chi has been around for hundreds of years, and there isn’t a company or corporate brand associated with it.

      Reply
      1. Emi.

        If the boss is paying an instructor or a local school, he could theoretically be getting kickbacks from them.

        Reply
      2. J.B.

        Maybe tax breaks for him, paying out of corporate account vs personal account, goodies offered by a studio?

        Reply
      3. Bow Ties Are Cool

        CEO is getting their twice-weekly tai chi class in, on the company dime, and doesn’t even have to go somewhere for it!

        Reply
  6. Professor Ma'am

    I’m uncomfortable just reading this letter, let alone having to live it. I’m certain that if this were me I’d be aggressively, but respectfully, hellz-no’ing this and staying at my desk to work. You absolutely have colleagues who feel the same way. Find them and get this shutdown!

    Reply
  7. neverjaunty

    And there is no HR to go to outside of a single executive? That’s massively troubling for all kinds of reasons, not just this mandatory-exercise nonsense.

    Reply
    1. CAA

      Lots of small non-profits (and small for-profits also) do not have a separate HR department. It’s very plausible that they have an Office Admin who manages the day-to-day forms and tracking of PTO, but all the policy decisions are made by a C-level exec.

      Reply
    2. Ask a Manager Post author

      It’s really common in small organizations (the OP says the org is small). You usually don’t see a trained HR person until around 50+ employees (and often not until something more like 80-100). You’ll get the bookkeeper who handles payroll and benefits issues, but not someone who’s actually trained in HR. It usually doesn’t make sense to devote someone’s whole job to that when the organization is small; they would have very little to do all day.

      It becomes a problem, of course, in the cases where you actually need HR. But the fact that they don’t have an HR person isn’t in and of itself shocking. (And really, in a small org, if they did have someone designated as an HR back-up, it would be likely to be someone without training or expertise in it, who would defer to higher-ups on something like this.)

      Reply
      1. Detective Amy Santiago

        As an aside to this point – the staffing company that I used to work for actually provides an option for clients to purchase HR services. Basically, they provide them with a toll free number and professional HR support for a minimal fee. If any readers work for smaller organizations that would like some sort of HR support, you should see if this type of service is available in your area.

        Reply
        1. Bend & Snap

          A couple of small companies I worked for hired HR consultants…on site periodically, on call for whatever. It makes a lot of sense.

          Of course, the first was brought on to fire people and the second was to make sure they didn’t mess up in California, but still. Handy.

          Reply
      2. neverjaunty

        But the problem isn’t “we’re too small for a whole department” – it’s that all HR oversight is consolidated in one executive, and there’s no one else to go to, apparently. Is the message here really that small organizations can’t be expected to have any oversight so suck it up?

        Reply
        1. Ask a Manager Post author

          In small orgs, it’s usually easier to go to someone else if you need to escalate it. But in this case where the CEO is the one making the decision, yeah, there’s not really anywhere else to go. For really serious things, you could go to the board, but this doesn’t rise to that level.

          Reply
    3. Patsy

      But Tai chi is basically just standing still. You can modify it. And I’m sure your job description like most says things like “routine sitting, traveling, etc”

      Just sit there and meditate.

      Reply
      1. LarsTheRealGirl

        Well clearly it’s not just “standing still” as the OP aggravated a medical issue because of it.

        Reply
      2. Chinookwind

        As someone with chronic pain in my right SI joint, I can tell you that sitting and meditating can actually be painful for long periods of time (especially in a chair that may or may not be the right height for my feet to hit the ground). I actually prefer kneeling in prayer as it reduces back strain and I appreciate that my church uses all sorts of body positions and movement during our hour long services (affectionately known as “Catholic aerobics”). I have learned during day long meetings that I actually need to get up and either stand or move if I ant to be able to walk the next day.

        So, OP, I understand where you are coming from and I too would be getting a doctor’s note to be exempt from this even though I am quite physically active and fit.

        Reply
        1. Pommette!

          Echoing this!

          I have chronic pain. I can handle some “hard” exercise without problem (hiking, mountain climbing, etc.) but can’t handle tai-chi, yoga, and other practices that are often promoted as being “easier” on the body.

          My workplace offers in lunch-time yoga and tai-chi sessions. It’s optional and a wonderful idea that many people enjoy. I couldn’t participate without taking my pain from frustrating to disabling. (Which is too bad, because the sessions do act as team bonding opportunities, and I would love to partake!).

          What Patsy describes would be really unpleasant for someone like me. Most sitting positions are unbearable for me, as is holding pretty much any position (other than lying down) for more than a few minutes.

          Every exercise or practice you can think of, no matter how wonderful it is for most people, is going to be horrible for someone. People need to accept that there is no universally beneficial practice, and that forcing employees to do engage in “wellness” activities is not a good idea.

          Reply
      3. Flower

        (1) Taichi involves lots of movement.
        (2) Standing still is literally the most painful position for my chronic pain riddled body to do and I have difficulty doing it for more than a few minutes (by 5 min I’ll likely be looking for somewhere to sit or lean or somewhere to walk around and stretch in lots of weird ways), that doesn’t really necessarily help.

        Reply
        1. Mockingjay

          Exactly. I do yoga and pi-yo (pilates/yoga) 2 to 3 times a week. I love the classes, but I would never foist them on anyone because of how strenuous the poses are. Holding 15 seconds of Warrior One or Down Dog can be endless and truly hurt you if you haven’t worked up to it. It took me a couple of years to be able to do more than beginner poses. I can’t fathom being forced into doing a full Tai Chi set.

          Reply
      4. Just Tired

        The OP didn’t take the job to do Tai Chi every day. But more important, it’s not OK to tell someone what to do with his/her/their body. Even if OP doesn’t have a single health issue that could be aggravated by this activity (which is absolutely more than just standing still), OP shouldn’t have to be subjected to it, or made to sit there and watch others. Not to mention, if you told me to “just sit there and meditate,” you would get an earful, because I don’t want to meditate either, and I shouldn’t be forced to do so.

        Reply
      5. SarahTheEntwife

        You might be thinking of qigong? But even there, standing still in defined postures can be very strenuous to do for any length of time, especially if you have existing health issues.

        Reply
      6. J.B.

        I’m a healthy person, do yoga and Pilates, etc. I have been struggling for a long time with chronic issues which were exacerbated by stretching and sitting. OP feels singled out and she shouldn’t feel singled out.

        Reply
      7. Not a Mere Device

        I just finished a course of PT for my knee. They have an evaluation form, asking whether/how much the problem you’re being treated for affects your ability to do a bunch of things. One of those things is “standing for an hour.”

        Reply
      8. whingedrinking

        A completely unsolicited piece of advice here, but no one’s problems ever go away because someone said, “You’re wrong about having a problem.”

        Reply
      9. Epiphyta

        During a simple standing pose in yoga, a classmate on the mat next to me tore a tendon in her foot badly enough to require surgery.

        If (generic you) aren’t an MD/that individual’s MD, “just do this physical activity” is not good advice.

        Reply
  8. Michelle

    We have a “wellness” program where I work. It’s billed as optional but if you choose not to participate, you pay full premium for insurance (vs. $2.50 per month if you do participate). If you do participate, you have to get a lipid panel done yearly, then you are categorized as low, medium or high risk. Then, depending on your category, you have to attend X number of “healthy breaks” per year (you and coworkers sit in a conference room for 30 minutes, get a preprinted form with info on the subject and then listen to the healthy coach read it) and attend X number of personal coaching sessions. Now, all this is suppose to be confidential and no one knows your category except the healthy coach, but when coworkers see other coworkers trudge to the conference room each month, and the same coworkers are in there with you each month, we know.

    Also, no consideration is given if you have chronic health conditions and are under a doctor’s supervision for said conditions.

    Reply
    1. Bow Ties Are Cool

      That is gross.

      We have a program where you can have certain tests performed and/or attend health coaching sessions, too, but doing so gets you extra $$$ in your HSA, no impact on premiums. And coaching is all phone sessions, so entirely private. Carrot vs. stick. Sorry your company chose the stick.

      Reply
      1. Danger: Gumption Ahead

        We have one that rewards you for weight loss. Thus far I have made $2000 losing the same 10 lbs that was going to come off anyway once I start training for race season.

        Reply
        1. nnn

          I wonder if this system could be gamed by pigging out right before your initial weigh-in, then allowing your weight to return to its natural equilibrium

          Reply
          1. Danger: Gumption Ahead

            It is kind of what I do. I take Nov-Jan off training and just do light running. January is when they do the weigh in, so I am usually 10ish lbs above my competitive weight. I start getting back into training in February, so by March/April I am back to race weight. The pattern repeats every year and I get $500 for losing 10 lbs every year

            Reply
          2. Anonymeece

            My friend did that because he really wanted the prize at his office. He drank tons of water before the first weigh-in, and pigged out for a few weeks before then. He also really did work his tail off to lose weight after, but he wanted to make sure that it was ~extra~ dramatic.

            We blinked and said, “Are you… min-maxing weight loss?”

            (He was, and it worked, because he did end up winning.)

            Reply
          3. blackcat

            Or just tons of salt water.

            I’m tiny, and I can totally increase my weight by ~5lbs by pounding water.

            Reply
        2. Lance

          I hope it rewards for anything else as well, because not everyone has any weight to lose (for some, of course, it’s quite the opposite).

          Reply
          1. Danger: Gumption Ahead

            It is a stupid program that only rewards weight loss. Hence why I am perfectly OK gaming the system

            Reply
            1. neverjaunty

              If they aren’t smart enough to see the problem with their system, it’s their lookout, not yours.

              Reply
        3. Oilpress

          Paying people to lose weight sounds like a terrible idea. What about people with eating disorders? How does someone implement a program like that without considering such a possibility?

          Reply
    2. Princess Consuela Banana Hammock

      I don’t want to dive into politics, but stories like this emphasize the absurdity of a healthcare system that relies heavily on employers to provide coverage. This story makes me so angry—your company is penalizing folks who are “less healthy” (read: lower cost insureds) to benefit its own bottom-line. I get why employers do this sort of thing, but it’s deeply frustrating, overly instrusive, and demoralizing. If a person has a prior condition, no amount of “healthy breaks” and personal coaching sessions will change their underlying DNA.

      I’m really sorry your employer is doing this.

      Reply
      1. Myrin

        I will honestly never even understand how that works, even though I read the comments about it whenever the topic is breached here. It seems so convoluted and confusing to me! (I mean, that might just be because I have no personal experience with it but I always feel like this is a case of “the simpler, the better”.)

        Reply
        1. JustaTech

          Health insurance is provided by employers because, during WWII wages were frozen by law, so employers started offering benefits like health insurance in lieu of higher wages. (My first class in grad school was about health policy in the US and it is very convoluted and a lot of the reasons things are the way they are don’t make any logical sense.)

          Reply
          1. Totally Minnie

            I can’t speak for addiez, but my workplace does biometric screenings as well. It’s outsourced through a third party vendor, and we’re told that our organization receives an anonymized version of the data. So they’ll know that 13% of employees have high blood pressure, but not that Bob and Colleen are part of that group. The idea is that they’ll take that information and realize, hey, we’ve got x number of employees who might make use of coaching in this specific health area, maybe we should offer that.

            The reality is that some of my coworkers get a free weight watchers membership because they’re willing to go to in-person meetings, and I pay for my own membership because I’d rather do the online version and not have to talk about my weight and eating habits with strangers.

            Reply
        1. Just Tired

          I used to work for a company that received a discount if enough people went through one of those biometric screenings. The CFO, who took care of all the insurance, but didn’t use a doctor (too cheap, and it allowed her to horde her HSA for retirement), so didn’t really care, and thought it was “fun.” One year the insurance company gave businesses the option of allowing employees to use an at-home kit. CFO thought that wouldn’t be “fun,” so on behalf of all of us, chose the option that required us to make appointments at a local chain drugstore, where a random employee would do the screening. Not a nurse or a physician’s assistant. Just “Joe” who happens to be working there that morning. I refused (even though you received a $100 credit card gift card for doing it) because I’m not thrilled with going to my doctor’s office for this stuff, I’m sure as heck not doing it while people are milling around me buying discounted holiday decorations and pork rinds and Joe is reading the directions on the equipment he’s supposed to be using. And I let the CFO have it about not giving employees a voice by not even asking what they would prefer to do.

          Reply
        2. mrs__peel

          As a lawyer, my general feeling on that is “Why I should I give you that information without a warrant?”

          Reply
    3. Detective Amy Santiago

      We have a similar program, but all the coaching stuff is done online/via phone, no trudging off to conference rooms with your coworkers.

      Reply
    4. ragazza

      This would piss me off. I have high cholesterol but it’s due to genetics–I work out regularly and eat healthy meals (not a lot of meat, etc). I don’t need health coaching. I’m doing way more than a lot of people with low cholesterol.

      Reply
      1. Chinookwind

        Ditto for me and my high blood pressure. My diet is on track, I work out strenuously 5 times a week and I still require meds. Health coaching would have zero value for me and probably frustrate me because of how infantalizing it would feel.

        Reply
      2. Thursday Next

        There’s also some research (sorry, I don’t have a citation) showing that certain ethnicities have higher propensities for certain things. For example, there’s a higher rate of high cholesterol, I have been told by many doctors, among South Asians (e.g., my mom, whose only animal product consumption is some daily yogurt, has been on statins for years—there’s really no dietary modification she can do that would impact her cholesterol level or explain why it’s 300+ in the first place). So these programs are potentially problematic on this basis as well.

        Reply
      3. Ophelia

        Ugh, and I get totally anxious when a “new” person takes my blood pressure, so it SKYROCKETS. My GP has me relax for 5 minutes, and that, combined with the fact that I know her well, means it’s always totally fine, but if I went to a biometric screening with a random person *in my office* I would definitely look unhealthy.

        Reply
      4. blackcat

        I have super low cholesterol–low enough that it causes health problems.

        Also, my blood pressure is low enough that if I stand to quickly, I pass out. I’ve already given myself one concussion this way, so it’s a real problem.

        This system would likely categorize me in the healthy category. And the issues are 100% genetic. I eat all the butter and cheese and eggs and I mix it with ALL the salt. Cholesterol won’t budge. I can generally keep my blood pressure above 85/50 through dietary choices, but that shit takes work.

        Reply
      5. Sasa

        My company has this type of program where you have to participate in health coaching for a “discount” if your biometric numbers aren’t within an arbitrary healthy range. It is quite condescending. I join it every year because of a chronic health condition, hoping I will learn something new. It’s always the same info and just annoying calls I try to get out of the way as soon as possible.

        Reply
    5. Seriously?

      Oh wow! We have a wellness program as well, but it actually is optional. We get a discount on insurance but it is reasonably priced even without the discount. We are also incentivized with gift cards.

      Reply
      1. Seriously?

        Also, the benefits are the same regardless of whether your health is deemed good or bad (no the terms they use, but it’s what they mean). No one has to go to extra meetings.

        Reply
    6. Amber Rose

      See, it’s stuff like this that leads to me being passive aggressive. Me being actually aggressive would lead to the entire building being on fire.

      Reply
    7. Workerbee

      We have a similar program, down to the curious lack of inclination to put in chronic health conditions. Which, being chronic, are still there the next year, and the year after that, and affect things like obsolete BMI and more.

      “Oh,” says each wellness coach, each year (it’s never the same one), making no move to note it anywhere. Nowhere for the employee to put it in, either. But make sure you eat the allotted vegetable quotient!

      Bah. Such a rip-off.

      Reply
    8. Quickbeam

      I’m weighed every year and my waist circumference taken! No allowances for post-menopausal status. I fail only on that so I have to be “counseled” in order to get an employee discount on my health insurance.

      Reply
      1. Jadelyn

        What in the actual f***. I’m not sure I want to know, but morbid curiosity prompts me to ask – what does the “counseling” consist of?

        Reply
        1. Quickbeam

          We have to meet with a “health advisor” who has less credentialing than I do. We are advised to eat more vegetables and move more. I’m ok on weight, just not waist. And I’m pretty much resolved that this is a metric that ain’t going no where. When I told the advisor how much exercise I am ready get she was hard pressed to work more into my day.

          Reply
        1. blackcat

          One of my friends worked for a company that did this and did not account for pregnant people! So her coworker was penalized for 1) having a “too large” waste measurement and 2) failing to attend the counseling (due to maternity leave). It was total bullshit.

          Reply
      2. Sasa

        Not to mention if your job is sedentary in nature…when exactly are you supposed to be exercising? I have about 4 hours a day when I am not sleeping, commuting, or working…

        Reply
    9. Jadelyn

      Ugh…silver lining, at least it’s based on actual testing re the lipid panel, rather than just BMI? Still, that’s awful, and I’d have absolutely lost my shit if my company required something like that. What a wild overreach.

      Reply
      1. Michelle

        They also check our BMI and waist circumference. Our BMI is checked with some kind of electric current machine that you hold in your hands (pregnant women and anyone with a heart condition are not allowed to use the machine). Depending on how high or low you hold it, you get a different reading. I showed the healthy coach one year and she, no kidding, just picked the lowest reading and put it on my chart.

        Reply
        1. Jadelyn

          …welp. That’s…really something.

          Like how do you in good conscience continue to provide a “service” that you obviously know is not reliable or accurate??? If you’ve literally seen readings vary based on how the device is held, to then continue using it just amazes me.

          Reply
          1. Michelle

            I asked that question and was told that if I didn’t want to participate, I could opt out. I replied that if we were going to participate in the program, shouldn’t the tests, etc. at least be correct? Someone could get put in the high risk category only because the machine and/or test is wrong. I was again told that if I didn’t want to participate I could opt out. Now I’m known as the “contrary” one.

            Reply
        2. blackcat

          You could totally game such a machine by drinking tons of water or dehydrating yourself. Or even just having really cold hands. I am 90% sure such a device would measure your resistance (in the circuit-definition).

          Reply
    10. RandomusernamebecauseIwasboredwiththelastone

      My husband’s wellness program just reinforces unhealthy practices and encourage eating disorders. All the guys starve themselves before their weigh in and then binge eat after.

      Reply
    11. Turquoisecow

      My old company was dysfunctional in many ways, but their wellness program was okay. We got a discount off health insurance if we had a yearly physical. There was an additional discount for not smoking (at first you just had to sign a paper saying you were not a smoker or planned to quit soon, then later they made everybody take a blood test to prove this – which was annoying but I didn’t have to pay for it). They also had some walking challenges during the year where teams used pedometers to track steps, and competed for the most steps, rather than the most weight loss or anything like that. Which was completely optional.

      I’m not sure any of these initiatives actually encouraged or succeeded in getting any of the employees toward better health. I knew a few people who claimed they would quit smoking for the discount on insurance, but none who did (and honestly smoking is so expensive now that a financial incentive is unlikely to make a difference). The people participating in the walking challenge were either people who walked a lot anyway, or people who stopped walking a lot after the challenge ended. The company basically openly admitted that this was all so they could improve their standings as a company with healthy employees.

      Reply
      1. Michelle

        My company does the walking challenge *and* the weight loss challenge. The company does pay for all the tests and they will take your yearly physical in place of their test (as long it includes a lipid panel).

        I have 2 chronic conditions that will never get better. It doesn’t matter how much water I drink or how much walking/exercise I do, I will always be considered “high risk”. Also, your age is a factor. Exercise and healthy eating/habits, etc. do not reverse age*, so even if you are healthy, if you are over a certain age, you get a point towards being high risk.

        *I realize eating healthy and regular exercise will help you liver longer and can improve your quality of life. I think it sucks you get dinged just because you are over a certain age.

        Reply
        1. Matilda Jefferies

          I recently had a doctor ask me how I “got this way” – meaning overweight, of course. She was treating me for a neurological condition, nothing to do with how the rest of my body looks or behaves, but she was very focused on my weight for some reason.

          I responded “A combination of age, genetics, pregnancy history, sedentary job, antidepressants, and stress. I’ve tried diet and exercise to lose weight, but they’re not enough to overcome all the other factors that I can’t control.” With deadpan eye contact the entire time. She wasn’t thrilled with that answer, but it did get her to tone down the weight loss talk a bit.

          Reply
          1. J

            My mother had a doctor ask her the EXACT same question once. Then he looked at my dad and asked why he allowed her to become and live like that.

            She didn’t go back to him, obviously.

            Reply
            1. Michelle

              That’s disgusting. Good for you Mom to not go back. I think I might have been mad enough to walk out as soon as he said that. So much for compassion in the medical field.

              Reply
    12. Liane

      Oh, yes, the “Totally So Not Useful For Your Situation/Goals Required Meetings.”
      Had some seminars required to get unemployment benefits. I took copious notes- -mostly A) ludicrous advice to quote in AAM Friday Thread to amuse/appall you all. B) questions to ask my Game Master before the Roleplaying Game session. C) Possible weekend schedule.

      Reply
    13. Persimmons

      We have basically the same thing, but we get “cash back” instead of different premiums. I assume eventually they will cut out the pretense and just charge the non-participants more. I’m still not doing it.

      Reply
  9. OP

    There are other employees who either don’t want to or can’t participate, but nobody seems to want to rock the boat. Because this has also been cast as teambuilding, and there’s a huge emphasis here on being part of the team. (I didn’t even mention the overnight retreat planned for later this year, which will include more of the same.)

    Reply
    1. Bow Ties Are Cool

      I was wondering about that–if there were people who could make themselves participate, at the cost of private pain. There are so many conditions, like for instance mild/moderate arthritis, where a person could grit their teeth and participate in activities like this but would pay for it afterward.

      Reply
    2. Detective Amy Santiago

      Oh no. Can you print out some of Alison’s articles about team building and casually leave them lying around the office?

      Reply
      1. Hey Karma, Over here.

        I don’t think subtle will work. OP told boss that the exclusion is demoralizing and feels punitive and was told to kick rocks. Unless OP prints the articles on 140# paper, binds them in cloth and beats boss over the head with them, I think offering information isn’t going to work.

        Reply
        1. Matilda Jefferies

          Unless OP prints the articles on 140# paper, binds them in cloth and beats boss over the head with them…

          That kind of sounds like a good idea, actually. More therapeutic (for the OP) than the tai chi, at least!

          Reply
    3. Blue

      Oh noooo, OP. Overnight retreat sounds like a complete nightmare!

      In an ideal world, maybe you could convince your coworkers that pushing back as a collective is a team building exercise in and of itself? And a much better/more effective one, at that…

      Reply
            1. Another Comma, Enter

              It sounds like your CEO watches “The Office” and thinks its a documentary about a model business.

              Reply
          1. CM

            Mandatory glamping and tai chi???
            If you can’t get out of the tai chi, just fake food poisoning to get out of the glamping.

            Reply
    4. Myrin

      This actually seems like an especially good starting point for speaking up as a group!
      You’ve already started to “rock the boat”, so if you feel comfortable taking others under your wing, so to speak, there’ll probably be a satisfactory outcome. (I’ve also found that quite often, once you actually appear before the powers that be as a group and the person spearheading the whole thing has expressed their reservations, others suddenly feel comfortable speaking up as well because they simply can’t stop themselves now that the topic’s out in the open.)

      Reply
    5. MuseumChick

      Ugh, I am so annoyed on your behalf. I think this might fall within the “You boss sucks and isn’t going to change” perhaps “sucks” is to strong of a word, I’m getting the impression they are pretty tone-deaf/oblivious. But either way it appears unlikely to change.

      Reply
    6. Hey Karma, Over here.

      You said you work for a nonprofit. Is there some way to get the word to stake holders that your boss has gone rogue or will that backfire and create an all work, no play environment?

      Reply
  10. CatCat

    This sounds awful.

    What if OP just doesn’t go?

    The CEO sounds terribly misguided, but not necessarily intentionally nefarious. If asked about skipping it, respond, “For my own health and wellness, I’ve decided not to attend. I keep my health information private and would prefer not to discuss it further. Thanks for understanding.” The CEO can then make it weird or can move on with life. But if the CEO decides to make it weird (or punitive!) after that, I’d honestly start looking for another job. Because this is ridiculous.

    Reply
    1. OP

      That’s how I first approached it, after participating for the entire first 12 week session. I was told that it’s a group activity and I was expected to be there, even if that was sitting and doing nothing.

      Reply
      1. asleep or maybe dead

        OP, knowing your CEO and your enviroment, do you think it is possible to set up for them to come check out a session in which you’ll be participating?
        Sometimes when people mix good intentions with stubbornness, showing them the immediate (bad) results of their well meaning can be effective.

        This approach can end up being overly confrontational, so it is risky, but you’re the best person to consider the possible consequences.

        Reply
  11. Beautiful, talented, brilliant, powerful musk ox

    This may be a dumb question, but I was always under the impression that Tai Chi had some spiritual aspects to it as well, in which case it would be KIND OF dicey for anyone whose beliefs prohibited that sort of thing (like, I actually knew a lot of people growing up who were really against martial arts of any kind — whether it was a misunderstanding or not, it was still a religious objection). Is this not this case?

    Reply
    1. SoCalHR

      This popped in my head as well, but I also don’t know enough about it. Although even yoga, depending on how its led, could be a gray area in the work place with regard to spiritual emphasis.

      Reply
      1. Beautiful, talented, brilliant, powerful musk ox

        Right. I don’t think it would be inappropriate to offer the classes just like offering yoga classes isn’t a big deal. But forced participation in something that is against religious beliefs is WAY more problematic than just offering the chance to participate, and it seems like it’s something that could cause legal trouble if anyone joins the team who is religiously opposed.

        Reply
      2. Rosemary7391

        Yeah. I’m a christian who has started to learn yoga exercises for the health benefits. It took me a little while to find videos I was comfortable learning from, and once I’ve got the hang of it I tend to mute the video and overlay christian based meditations. Not something I want to deal with in the office.

        Reply
        1. savethedramaforyourllama

          Have you heard of “holy yoga”? It is more Christian-oriented yoga. I’m assuming you may be able to finds some videos for that too.

          Reply
    2. Kittymommy

      I was thinking about this also. I know there are some faith practices that would have a problem with the meditation aspect.

      Reply
    3. LadyByTheLake

      I practice Tai Chi and it isn’t particularly spiritual, but it depends on the teacher — just like yoga. That said, every single Tai Chi instructor I know would be horrified to learn that it is not an optional activity. Making it mandatory goes against everything Tai Chi stands for.

      Reply
      1. Princess Consuela Banana Hammock

        Yup, this. The concept of Chi is kind of inherently religious, but the same is true for many of the principles and practices in yoga (even chakras have a religious connotation). All that said, many providers strip out some of the more overtly religious content and call it “mindfulness” in order to market the practice to a broader range of people.

        Reply
        1. pleaset

          I’ve walked out of things bad “mandatory” events at work and went to my desk and started working. Or in the case of some BS at retreat, i just said “No, I’m not doing that” and walked out of the room.

          I have a fair bit of job security and life security, and was willing to risk losing my job. So I was kind of daring my bosses to escalate things to force me to waste company resources (my time).

          I recommend this IF possible. Not just arguing about not liking sitting there but rather that you want to get the work done and not waste organizational resources. In a nonprofit, you have responsibility to use the resources well.

          Also, I’ve insisted on not going to overnight portions of staff retreats – but that contributed to my being laid off. Which was OK – I really didn’t want to go.

          If the OP can handle the risks, I urge her to push back hard. This is service not just to yourself, but also to other people who might not be able to do it for job security/money reasons.

          Reply
          1. StarHunter

            This. Does the BOD know about using org resources for not org mission stuff? At the nonprofit I used to work at we had an annual one day retreat but it was always something everyone could participate in and there was no negative if you didn’t show up.

            Reply
    4. DaniCalifornia

      I wondered the same. I have in laws that do not participate in yoga because of belief systems. I’m sure they wouldn’t want to sit in a room with others doing yoga.

      If I were OP, religion aside, I would not be participating and urging any who didn’t want to, to address this as a group to the higher ups. I think this is reasonable push back.

      Reply
    5. Kir Royale

      Yes, T’ai Chi is rooted in Taoism, pronounced Dowism. When you bow to a pushing hands partner, sparring opponent, or instructor, you maintain eye contact. You lower your eyes when bowing to a T’ai Chi master or yin yang symbol (Taijitu) which represents the Tao, or the Way.

      Reply
    6. Logan

      I live in a fairly atheist society, and tai chi tends to be taught as a good way to stretch and improve on balance. Definitely no belief systems, or talk about anything other than the physical aspect. I have taken classes from several people over the years, in different locations. Although there are many different people who teach it, so it’s likely that I could find someone who taught it more spiritually, if I looked for them.

      Yoga is the same. I have attended classes with a variety of locations and instructors, and only one of them had any spiritual / religious / more-than-paying-attention-to-my-body aspect.

      Reply
    7. Not A Morning Person

      On board with all the other comments about how the practice of either yoga or Tai Chi is more or less spiritual based on the instructor. In my personal experience, the classes I’ve taken had no spiritual component at all. The first Tai Chi class I attended was at a YWCA and they didn’t reference Christianity either.

      Reply
    8. ThursdaysGeek

      Yeah, for some people this could also be a concern.

      Years ago, my spouse worked for a federal contractor. And they had some sort of multi-day team building event that involved trying to bend spoons with their mind and other activities that had a very strong new age religious feel to it. I objected to having my tax monies spent on it, and he objected to spending his time on it. But it was mandatory and his objections were overruled.

      I didn’t object (although I felt uncomfortable) when my Mormon bosses started a holiday company dinner in prayer, because it was 1) an optional event and 2) a company owned by the LDS Church, so not unexpected.

      Reply
    9. Genny

      Personally, I would opt out on religious grounds. I find stripping out the religious elements of it to be a bit offensive to the original religion (though I know there’s a debate within those religions about that), but I wouldn’t in good conscience be able to participate if the religious aspects were kept. Personally, I don’t find changing spiritual terms like “meditation” to generic terms like “mindfulness” all that convincing. We all know what you’re talking about still.

      Reply
    10. Epiphyta

      The studio where I practice makes it very clear: “We emphasize the religious aspects of yoga as well as the physical. This is not for everyone, and we can wholeheartedly recommend many of the other studios in the area if this conflicts with your own beliefs.”

      Reply
  12. John Rohan

    What country is this? What country are the corporate owners from? There are Chinese companies where it’s normal to start out every day with Tai Chi.

    Reply
  13. wayward

    Curious…if an employee got hurt doing a “mandatory” wellness event, would that make them eligible for workman’s comp?

    Reply
    1. Amber Rose

      Where I am, yes. Since this is mandatory for everyone, it falls under the umbrella of “in the course of your usual duties.” Which means anything that happens to you during that time is covered under WCB.

      Of course, I can’t speak for anywhere else, or anywhere in the US.

      Reply
    2. Jennifer Thneed

      Injured on the job = worker’s comp. Doesn’t matter what the activity is. (Please notice gender neutral wordchoice.)

      Reply
    3. SoCalHR

      My mind went there immediately when OP said the first round of sessions “aggravated” her condition. But it really depends on the state’s rules.

      Reply
    4. Emi.

      According the the Know Your Rights posters at my office, you’re eligible for worker’s comp for any injuries that happen at work, even if you just slip on the ice while walking to the cafeteria.

      Reply
    5. Quickbeam

      Absolutely yes! That’s what I do for a living. I ahd a claim where an accountant was forced to roller skate at a mandatory employee event. She broke her ankle. If you make an employee do something and they get hurt, it’s WC.

      Reply
      1. Chinookwind

        OP – there is your solution. Do one session to the best of your ability, go to your doctor to complain about injury and tell him it was aggravated by a work activity your were forced to complete (despite giving the boss a head’s up) and claim worker’s comp. This should hit him in the pocketbook where it may make a lasting impact on future choices.

        Reply
        1. Laurelma__01!

          Don’t forget to file the accident report and see a physician that is on the WC’s list of approved doctor’s.

          Reply
          1. Bea

            They can’t choose your doctor for your diagnosis. Usually only when further treatment is required.

            Go to your PCP or urgent care.

            Reply
            1. Totally Minnie

              My workplace’s WC program requires us to report the injury within 24 hours and go to one of the approved clinics or ERs. And I know someone who went to her own doctor for a workplace injury, and her medical insurance wouldn’t cover it because it was supposed to go through the worker’s comp program.

              Reply
        2. SoCalHR

          The difference here is that she has been given the opportunity to not participate, now. It is kind of shady if she does what you suggest at this point and participates now with the intent to file a claim. However, to my point above, if the first session truly aggravated her condition then that would be a legitimate reason to file a claim.

          Reply
        3. neverjaunty

          Workers’ comp fraud is not really the OP’s best option here. I’m not sure deliberately getting hurt in order to claim workers’ comp is a good plan either.

          Reply
        4. feminazgul

          Going through the entire process of worker’s comp fraudulently seems like a LOT more work than just bringing a book and sitting through the session, frankly

          Reply
    6. Not A Morning Person

      Didn’t read all comments, so perhaps someone already pointed this out: Workers Comp is state by state. Each state may have different criteria, but most likely any activity that you engage in for your work or at the direction of your employer is covered.

      Reply
  14. Augusta Sugarbean

    OP, would it do any good to offer an alternative team building thing that you’d be able to do? Or at least object to less? If the CEO/management is hell bent on doing some team building activity, maybe you could say that “being made to sit on the sidelines doesn’t make me feel part of the team so I’d like to suggest X activity that we can all participate in”. You might break through their stupid exterior and get them to hear that this isn’t about not wanting to be a part of the team but wanting to do so safely and in a constructive way. Good luck.

    Reply
    1. Workerbee

      I like this suggestion. If you offer a choice, people are far less likely to opt for the third, unspoken choice of “No.”

      Reply
  15. Observer

    OP, have there been any other repercussions to you because you can’t take part? If there are, it might be worth pointing out that this could create an ADA problem. Because 1. You might be covered under the ADA. 2. There may be others covered under the ADA who have not pushed back because they see that you have been punished. And that means that the organization is threatening to punish people who essentially take an accommodation under the ADA, which is illegal.

    Reply
  16. RandomusernamebecauseIwasboredwiththelastone

    I’ll probably be in the minority on this one, but if it were me I think I would just go along with the Tai Chi (attending but not participating). If this is how the CEO wants to spend the money and I’m getting paid to sit in a room with my coworkers stretching, so be it.

    I can totally understand where others would feel different, but I’m not sure that there is anything to be done here so it may be best to accept this odd practice as part of the job.

    Reply
    1. LadyByTheLake

      Tai Chi isn’t “stretching.” It is activity. I practice Tai Chi and it does require certain physical abilities — it can particularly be killer on the knees.

      Reply
      1. RandomusernamebecauseIwasboredwiththelastone

        My comment about stretching was said mostly tongue in cheek. And you’ll notice I did say attending without participating.

        Reply
    2. MuseumChick

      I would 1) feel boarded out of my skull. 2) Be thinking of all the work I could be getting done instead of sitting there. 3) Wondering why my company values me so little to not find a different team building activity and/or switch up the activities so that I would be able to at least participate some of the time. 4) Feel that my medical condition was being pointed out by being the only person not participating while in front of all my co-workers.

      Reply
      1. RandomusernamebecauseIwasboredwiththelastone

        Oh yeah, for sure very understandable thoughts and responses, but at the end of the day it sounds like the OP has pushed back as much as they can and CEO hasn’t budged. Sometimes it’s better to accept the situation and move on.

        Or the other standard advice, find a new job where Tai Chi is not on the team building menu.

        Reply
    3. Allison

      Nah man, that doesn’t sound great. If I had to sit there and do nothing while people did a thing, and my only choice was to watch, and I had zero interest in watching, that would suck. I don’t even like sitting in on team meetings when the content has nothing to do with me. If I’m at work, I wanna spend that time getting work done, eating, or taking mental breaks on my own terms, doing something I enjoy like checking out AAM or watching a YouTube video.

      Reply
      1. RandomusernamebecauseIwasboredwiththelastone

        Again understandable, and I’m not discounting that it does suck for the OP. But at a certain point the OP can’t do any more to push back. Sometimes it’s best to either accept it or move on. This doesn’t seem like one of those cases where the OP is going to be able to change the situation.

        Reply
    4. pleaset

      Working at a nonprofit organization I feel a responsibility to not waste money, and this is a profound waste of money.

      It’s also very demoralizing to be forced to waste money.

      Both not good.

      Reply
      1. RandomusernamebecauseIwasboredwiththelastone

        Admirable qualities, but how does that translate into actionable advice for the OP?

        Reply
        1. pleaset

          See my comment above – don’t sit around doing nothing. If you can afford the risk, just leave the tai chi and go to your desk and work.

          I walked out of a stupid exercise to designed to help us be less self-conscious at a staff retreat held the family estate of the chair of my organization. Just said, “No, I’m not doing this” and left the room. Pulled out some work related reading and sat and did that instead.

          Reply
    5. AnonAtAllTimes

      I’m with you, randomusernamebecause…

      I’d either suck it up and just sit there, or I’d find another job. Probably the latter. If the org is this dogmatic about this, I doubt they’re paragons of work wonderfulness in other areas, either. Sounds as if the place is being run like somebody’s person feudal fiefdom. I’d GTFO as soon as I could and just sit and watch the other people do their exercises in the mean time.

      Reply
    6. smoke tree

      It just feels beyond paternalistic to me–like making a kid sit in the sidelines in gym class. I’m guessing the real reason is that the CEO doesn’t want to be seen allowing anyone to opt out entirely, since everyone else will want to do it, too–which isn’t a ringing endorsement of the activity.

      Reply
    7. Database Developer Dude

      This is where I disagree. This crosses a line for me. Employment is employment. You’re hired by the company to do a certain job, not be your boss’ puppet.

      I am a taekwondo student, and I still wouldn’t want weekly taekwondo classes at work. (The fact that I despise most of my current coworkers for the way they act is totally beside the point…even though the fact that I’m likely much better at taekwondo than any of them would cause them to resent me for it and act accordingly).

      Reply
  17. Banana in Pyjamas

    Did the CEO find some article that exercise at work is better for employees? I’ve seen articles about companies in Japan have mandatory exercise during, or before, the work day. I wonder if they were inspired since so many articles about it tout the benefits of it.

    Reply
  18. Submerged Tenths

    Does OP’s “small nonprofit” have a Board of Directors? Sounds like this bunch just might disagree with the CEO paying for this ridiculous waste of employee hours.

    Reply
    1. Victoria Nonprofit (USA)

      It would be a significant overreach to go to the board of a nonprofit over something like this.

      Boards shouldn’t be in the weeds of day-to-day employee management, even if executives are implementing ridiculous wellness practices.

      Reply
      1. Totally Minnie

        Even if the ridiculous wellness practice is wasting the nonprofit’s personnel budget?

        Hypothetically, if there are 12 employees in the office and they all make $13 an hour, that’s $156 per Tai Chi session, $312 per week, $3,744 per 12 week time period, $7,488 overall. That’s not nothing. And a lot of non-profits are operating on a very limited budget. If I was on the board of a nonprofit that could barely afford the supplies necessary to accomplish the mission, but was spending thousands of dollars on mandatory employee exercise sessions, I would be seriously angry.

        Reply
  19. DaniCalifornia

    I don’t want to exercise with anyone I work with. I come to work to work. I would not be comfortable sweating and exercising with my coworkers. I don’t even love the gym and prefer to work out at home. OP I think this is a reasonable area to push back on.

    Reply
  20. Let's Bagel

    Alison,
    You frequently offer the advice that people should band together and push back as a group. I would be really interested to see a future post on exactly HOW you advise doing this! Literally the logistics. Should the group of people physically get together and go knock on Person X’s door? Set up a meeting in advance? Who should actually speak–one person, who has run his/her script by the rest of the group for approval, or several people? Or should it be done a different (maybe less confrontational?) way–e.g., via email or conference call? I am always curious about this when I see your “push back as a group” advice. Would love to hear more details!

    Reply
  21. E.R

    The office across from mine does tai chi on Fridays. It loos uncomfortable to do it in your office clothes! (and would be a pain to change every day). I’m all about health and fitness, although I suffer from chronic pain from an injury (so some activities really help, and others I cant do). This would be really stressful for me.

    Reply
    1. Midge

      I was just wondering this! Like, if I wore a pencil skirt on tai chi day would I still be able to participate? Or would it end up hiked up around my waist while I was trying to do the moves? How sweaty does one get doing tai chi? Would I have to change my shirt? And if people are changing, is there actually enough private space for them to do that? I’m just trying to picture how this would work in my office, which has single stall bathrooms, and I’m imagining a long line forming as people change before and after. So many questions, which I’d be willing to bet the CEO has not thought through.

      Reply
  22. Formerly Known As

    This is awful! I had a severe knee injury several years ago and although I’m fully healed, that knee will never be the same as my uninjured knee. There are certain activities that I simply can’t do (running) or that are extremely painful/difficult (kneeling). Doing long flights of stairs is difficult–I’m always sore after our building does a fire drill, for example.

    So the idea of an employer mandating exercise without giving any consideration to those with medical conditions is infuriating. I hope the OP is able to get a group together to push back on this.

    Reply
  23. Cait

    This reminds me a bit of WeWork’s recent policy decision to not only no longer provide company meals with meat but also to not reimburse meal expenses that include meat as the co-founder feels vegetarian/vegan lifestyle is superior and wants his company to follow those beliefs.

    Reply
    1. Rosemary7391

      That is obnoxious. I can eat vegetarian/vegan perfectly well, but I can imagine it’s difficult for those with certain dietary requirements, and nigh impossible if there is more than one requirement in play. As well as it just generally being harder when eating out as well!

      Reply
    2. Detective Amy Santiago

      This could definitely get into ADA territory. I have a friend who has a largely meat-based diet due to a plethora of medical issues and food restrictions.

      Reply
    3. Not A Morning Person

      Yes, vegan and vegetarian are not always the best choices. Tofu would kill a friend of mine; she’s allergic to: beans, tomatoes, chicken, seafood (both fish and shellfish), eggs, tree nuts, and perhaps some other things I don’t recall. (Yes, I know chicken and fish are neither vegetarian nor vegan.)

      Reply
    4. Observer

      “Evil HR Lady” did a piece on that piece of brilliance. She pointed out that aside from the issues brought up here, there is also an interesting issue for employees who need to expense lunches with prospective clients etc. These are people you are trying to court. Are you really going to tell them that they can’t have a burger at the lunch you just offered to buy them?

      Reply
  24. Clueless

    “I loved this so much I now do private lessons! Unfortunately I have to sit out from now on–I have a note from my instructor, and he would prefer it if I didn’t expose myself to any training that might derail his teachings.”

    Reply
  25. Not Into Stretching

    My last job had an optional “stretch/work break” once each afternoon where people gathered to do a series of stretches lead by a personal trainer from the on-site fitness center. I didn’t want to do it but my teammates and HR nagged me into doing it. Hated it. It interrupted my work, was awkward to do in dress clothes, and felt awkward to do in front of a bunch of strangers (I’m self-conscious). After a few weeks the trainer made some comments on my hair and body (was already feeling self-conscious and that made me feel even worse). Couldn’t force myself to go after that.

    Reply
      1. Not Into Stretching

        At least now I know not to let coworkers/HR convince me to do things I don’t want to do if they’re only optional, right? :)

        Reply
  26. Hiring Mgr

    Was the CEO completely normal before this? Making you sit there reminds of gym class in elementary school when the kid who couldn’t participate had to sit on the bleachers. I think the best option is the group confrontation as Alison says..

    Reply
  27. feministbookworm

    Ugh. Companies need to stop doing this stuff. There’s no way to do an organized health thing in the office that won’t come across as patronizing, obnoxious, or best case, just thoroughly uninteresting. Our HR department does an annual “health week” that appears to be the pet project of one particular HR staff member. She sends out a “health tracker” form she made and asks people to track their servings of fruits and veggies, physical activity and water each day. It’s not mandatory, but I still find it extremely annoying. In past years other staff pitched in to organize a marginally fun afternoon walk/race/scavenger hunt around downtown. Also annoying, but at least optional, and it sometimes resulted in amusing photos (for example, of people spelling out our org’s acronym with their arms or recreating a famous scene from a movie filmed in our city)

    This year, she planned a health fair advertising short massages. Great! except that in order to get a massage, you had to sit through a “screening”/hard sell for a chiropractor’s office (which of course, didn’t accept our office’s health insurance). Everyone at the fair was trying to sell their services. My head nearly exploded.

    Reply
    1. McWhadden

      With stuff like this I always think it’s not about providing interesting services it’s about minimizing their healthcare costs. So, yeah, definitely go to the chiropractor (not covered) rather than a doctor for chronic back or joint issues!

      Not so much the fun run/scavenger thing. But the rest is a pretty textbook minimize costs move.

      Reply
  28. Scott

    This seems like something Michael Scott would organize. Love it, if just for the awkwardness it creates in the office.

    Reply
  29. McWhadden

    This is something I feel like I would LOVE and think was a really really good idea the very first time we did it. And then by week three want to never ever do again. I’m sure tons of employees have no “excuse” (not to minimize your totally valid physical limitation as merely an excuse) have no desire to do this any longer even if they once did.

    Reply
  30. Amethystmoon

    I would be looking for a new job. Have back issues due to an old injury, which was ironically gotten from trying to exercise. I walk to & from work, which is exercise enough.

    Reply
  31. Girl friday

    I know playing devil’s advocate is sometimes unwelcome, but there iForm of ODD that pops up with these initiatives: “I won’t and you can’t make me.” My advice would be: choose this hill to die on, but make sure you don’t die on every hill. It’s not a good attitude on people. The next initiative could be worse and being congenial in your approach is desirable . I am sure you generally are! Once people know that people aren’t participation-minded, they might take their suggestions less and less into account. When you get the results you want make sure to participate actively! I don’t think Wellness initiatives are going away soon. You might consider running the idea of Tai Chi past your doctor, it might be more benign than you think.

    Reply
    1. Blue Tuna

      She has run it by her doctor: “I have a chronic condition that was aggravated by the first session, and obtained physician confirmation that I should be exempted from the second.”

      Reply
  32. Allison

    Hell no! My diet and fitness habits are personal, and while I might talk about it if I’m excited about something (loving barre fitness and super addicted to chickpeas these days) I don’t want anyone butting in and telling me what to do, much less forcing something on me, especially at work. No, I don’t wanna cut carbs with my teammates. I don’t wanna do yoga in the conference room, I don’t wanna go on some team outing to the boxing gym, I’m kind of interested in meatless Mondays but if my workplace made it a thing I’d probably go out for BBQ every Monday and go meatless on Tuesday.

    The best wellness programs I’ve seen are ones where the company buys you a Fitbit but it’s not mandatory to get or use it, and there are challenges but there’s no pressure to participate, and Wellness Week is mostly vendors popping in and giving out free stuff, and you’re entered in a raffle for trying stuff but no one cares if you don’t do it. Now, if only my current company would consider doing something useful, like subsidized ClassPass memberships or something.

    Reply
  33. ArtK

    My personal philosophy: “There is no idea so good that it can’t be ruined by making it mandatory.”

    Reply
  34. Nicky Nichols

    How about, instead of this, we just allow our employees to take the time off they need to take of their health and medical issues without pushback or punitive consequences? Or is that too radical of a concept?

    Reply
  35. Marthooh

    Note to CEOs: if the best that can be said of your lastest initiative is “At least it’s not yoga”, then just don’t bother.

    Reply
  36. sheworkshardforthemoney

    Every morning at an old job we had 5 minute rah rah session, people were praised, milestones acknowledged etc. One cynical co-worker called it out 5 Minute Hate after 1984.

    Reply
  37. HereKittyKitty

    This reminds me of employers that offer cheap “perks” like these instead of paying for actual things that would benefit people’s health, like better insurance, flex hours, or better PTO.

    Reply
  38. SDJ

    In the country I work in, companies in many industries start the day with mandatory exercise/stretching. A friend of mine noticed an older co-worker opted out one day, so she did, as well, when she had a cold. Her boss called her into the office and reprimanded her for it. Luckily, I don’t work in one of them.

    Reply
  39. Ciela

    huh? Mandatory *observation* of a tai chi class? WTF?
    I used to work at a dojo, and all us instructors were expected to still attend our regular classes. But then if we hadn’t already been excellent students for 2+ years, we would not have been asked to be assistant instructors. But the front desk lady? She didn’t want to attend classes, and she didn’t. She was asked by well meaning students why she didn’t take class, and her cheerful “it looks fun, but it’s just not for me!” certainly ended the inquiry.

    Reply
    1. Database Developer Dude

      If your front desk lady wasn’t a karate student (I’m assuming karate because you said dojo, not dojang), and her job was to staff the front desk, why should she attend classes if she doesn’t want to?

      Reply
  40. Ursula

    I personally love the idea of office tai chi. It is hard enough to find time to exercise and having a twice weekly class in the office would be ideal for me. If my CEO said “oh by the way from now on twice a week there will be tai chi class in the conference room for anyone who wants to go” I would sign up so fast. But if my CEO said “there is now a mandatory twice weekly tai chi class” I would instantly resent having to go. Because even people who like this idea (and I accept many people won’t want to participate even if they have no health reason for not doing so) will resent anything made mandatory (with an exception for work relevant things like training for a new piece of machinery).

    Reply
  41. MsChandandlerBong

    It’s funny how the solution to rising health-related costs/concerns about wellness is almost never to pay people enough so that they can afford insurance/co-pays or give them enough time off without penalty that they can go to the doctor and catch things before they become major problems. It’s always some kind of ridiculous B.S.

    Reply
  42. Ginger ale for all

    I wonder if other naysayers could also get doctor’s notes and slowly form an increasing line of people who watch but do not participate. And then see if they can all just stare deadpan at the CEO while the class runs.

    Reply
  43. Cheapskate

    One of our managers is having his team (fortunately that doesn’t include me) do planks every day as of a few weeks ago. It’s with an underlying idea that “it’s all in good fun” and I’m sure if someone truly wasn’t up for it then it wouldn’t be a problem. But it still reeks of paternalism to me and I can’t help but cringe every time. Let people decide themselves whether and how they want to improve their “core”.

    Reply
    1. Database Developer Dude

      My response to a manager telling me I need to do planks with the team would be “I run two miles, three days a week. The other workdays when I’m not running, I’m in taekwondo class. I do not need to do planks, and I have too much work to do.”

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  44. Chriama

    Honestly I’m wondering what would happen if OP just said “I’m not able to attend these sessions in the future,” and elaborated “watching from the side while other people do Tai Chi does nothing to improve my wellness, nor does it foster team building when I’m visibly sitting out. In addition, it’s inviting scrutiny and curiosity from my coworkers and emphasizing that I have medical conditions that make me unable to participate. My lack of participation implies the existence of a medical condition they would otherwise not be aware of. Since this is not related to the work I was hired to do, it seems problematic that the company is – albeit unwittingly – publicizing my health status in this way.”

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  45. Database Developer Dude

    Honestly, this is an aspect of employment in general that I find completely and totally disturbing and insane: the idea that the employer can make you do anything not-illegal they want you to do. You’re an employee, not a slave. You get hired for a specific job.

    I’m working as a database architect. If my government lead then wanted me to babysit his grandkids, I’d push back, hard. I didn’t sign up for that. If he wanted to make outside activities mandatory, even if they were things I enjoy, I’d push back, hard. I was hired to do a job, not to be someone’s puppet.

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    1. Observer

      Well, there are actually some rules around this. If you are non-exempt then if your boss makes some non-work event mandatory, you have to be paid for it. If you are in a government job then (at least in the US), it’s illegal for your supervisor to make you babysit his grandkids, or do any personal work for him.

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    2. soon 2be former fed

      It’s not called wage slavery for nothing! See the post about being made to deliver a note to a grave. Sometimes you simply must say no or find a way not to do something reprehensible. If I remember correctly, the OP in this case got fired anyway, so she could have at least maintained her integrity if she was going to get fired anyway.

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  46. Star Nursery

    Oh goodness no please don’t mandate this. I think I would love it if it was Optional and offered as a free perk but making someone sit in the room and calling the session as mandatory Is Really Awful.

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  47. soon 2be former fed

    I would just ask why was I sitting there, or what was I supposed to do while sitting there. I would point out that watching people exercise is not beneficial in any way. It’s like being made to sit in the corner or something. Ugh, I feel for you OP.

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  48. Mitch

    Interesting that you call it ‘paternalistic’ whilst assuming the CEO is male, I can’t see anything in the letter which would indicate gender.

    Also, this is during the work day and paid, so no great sacrifice on the writer’s part – and billed as team-bonding so not a great leap to see that maybe the CEO sees including this person as important.

    Reply

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