a manager (not mine) told me to stop organizing lunchtime yoga

A reader writes:

I work for a large corporation. There are 30 people who do my job. We are divided in to three teams of 10, each with one manager. Our culture encourages taking lunch hours, and it’s common for people to leave the building, schedule an appointment, or eat together in the break room.

When we went back to work in person in 2021, I asked my manager if I could use empty conference rooms for 20-minute yoga practice. While working from home in 2020, I got used to a movement break and didn’t want to give it up if I didn’t have to. My manager gave me a green light as long as the room was empty. Within a few weeks, a few other people expressed interest so I started a Slack channel for the building. On Sunday night, I check which rooms are available and post where and when yoga will happen that week. The practices are about 20 minutes, streaming free on YouTube, beginner level, and some are even labeled as stretching. It varies by schedule, but we have about 10 people at each practice.

Another team’s manager left and was replaced with a new manager, Polly. Earlier today, I was chatting with my manager, Henry, in the foyer when Polly approached us. She asked if I arranged yoga and I said yes. She said, “I think you need to reconsider this. You are spending a lot of time on an extracurricular that is intended for your personal time. It’s also an exclusive activity, anybody with mobility issues cannot participate.” Henry interjected that my productivity is excellent and nobody has ever complained. Polly said that people might not feel comfortable complaining but it was likely making them feel excluded. Henry told me I have his permission to continue yoga practice.

I know I technically can continue, but I am not sure if I should. Specifically, I have these questions:

1. I have worked under Henry for four years, including during Covid, and have seen him navigate all sorts of complicated situations and difficult issues. He is always a good listener and measured in communication. With Polly, he was blunt and almost dismissive. Do some managers treat their peers differently than direct reports? Is it possible they have a conflict I am unaware of and yoga practice is a stand in for whatever issue they have? Or was Henry frustrated because Polly asked for something irrational, which leads me to question 2.

2. Is lunchtime yoga practice exclusionary and that is a good reason to stop it?

3. If I do not stop lunchtime yoga, should I let the participants under Polly (two regulars) know that she really doesn’t like this practice?

I get a lot of benefits from lunchtime yoga practice and I do not want to quit, but I will if it’s the right thing to do. I could use some help reading this room.

What on earth! Polly is being ridiculous — and Henry was letting her know that.

First, her statement that you’re “spending a lot of time on an extracurricular that is intended for your personal time” makes no sense, since you are doing this on your lunch break. You’re not organizing an hour of daily yoga during work time; it’s on your break time, and it’s none of Polly’s business if you choose to use your lunch break to eat, do yoga, run errands, catch up on Netflix, or design your next tattoo.

Second, lunchtime yoga is not an exclusionary activity in the sense that Polly means. Yes, it’s true that not everyone will want or be able to participate, but that is also true of a wide array of other optional workplace activities — book clubs, potlucks, happy hours, pretzel Fridays — and that’s generally understood as fine.

Employers do need to be thoughtful about inclusivity and accessibility when it comes to things like benefits, perks, and team activities. But that doesn’t mean they could never sponsor (strictly optional) lunchtime yoga classes — and in your case, you’re not the employer! You’re an individual employee who happens to do yoga on your lunch break and has offered to let others to join you if they want to. This is just not an issue.

There are circumstances where it could become an issue, mostly revolving around power dynamics. For example, if you were a manager and your whole team joined you except one person, I’d be concerned that you had inadvertently created a situation where people got extra access to you just for being yoga-inclined, possibly at the expense of the person who didn’t participate (and I’d also be concerned about whether anyone participating felt pressure to). But that’s not the situation here.

It would also be fine for you to invite others to join you for lunchtime walks, or to hit the nearby gym, or to get a drink after work. And similarly, if you were a manager, you’d need to be thoughtful about how power dynamics might play out there too, but that doesn’t take those activities off the table across the board.

As for Henry’s tone with Polly, it’s highly likely that what you heard was his annoyance with how off-base and overstepping she was! She not only tried to issue an absurdly wrong decree, but she also injected herself somewhere she had no business being (trying to reprimand his employee for something he approved, which probably pissed him off and rightly so). If you want to, you could follow up with him about it — framing it as, “I was surprised by what Polly said about lunchtime yoga and wondered what your thoughts are.” I’m quite sure he’ll tell you she was being ridiculous and you should ignore her.

I do think there’s some value in letting the two regular yoga participants who work for Polly know what she said. If Polly feels the way she appears to feel about the yoga, they deserve to know that so they can make fully-informed decisions about whether they want to continue or not. I’m also guessing this isn’t the only issue they have run into, or will run into, with Polly’s judgment.

{ 383 comments… read them below }

  1. Baby Yoda*

    Years and years ago we’d lock the office doors at 5pm and I led an aerobics class for ladies only. Your class should not be a big deal or problem.

    1. Artemesia*

      And yoga, especially a beginning routine involving stretching is physically very inclusive. I have never done a lot of yoga because a lot of it is beyond my capabilities — I don’t bend, never have. But a lot of yoga is quite gentle — and it is a voluntary activity that a few people are doing. It doesn’t have to be something everyone wants to do or can do.

      1. Powerpants*

        A disabled person who comes with experience usually is would know how to adapt moves for their body. This post is from a disabled person, who uses mobility aids and participates in able-bodied classes. I either adapt a move or choose to do something different, when I can’t do what the instructor is doing. As long as the person leading the class is open, welcoming and inclusive – I do not see a problem.

        1. Dahlia*

          The yoga routine I do is from a youtube channel that has a lot of videos about modifying poses to work for you, including using props or even doing them in a chair instead.

          Still not possible for everyone (like for people with EDS) but like… it’s just stretching. It’s not a requirement or anything. Who cares?

          1. Empress Penguin*

            As someone with a medical reason to avoid yoga (joint hypermobility syndrome), IMO there’s nothing exclusionary about a completely optional, employee-organised yoga session ‍♀️

        2. Modesty Poncho*

          I’m able-bodied and I still often adapt my moves or do different things than the instructors. That’s something I love about yoga and look for specifically in in-person classes – if I have any sense that anyone cares what I’m doing as long as I’m not disturbing anyone else, I’m out of there.

          1. The Rural Juror*

            I’m all for this! I used to regularly attend classes from an instructor in her 70s (she was amazing!). She liked to say something along the lines of, “Every day will be different. Sometimes the right side of your body will do things the left side won’t. Some days you just need to take it easy. It’s always ok, and no matter how many modifications you do, it’s still yoga.”

        3. Tai*

          Yes… I use a stability ball and don’t do the movements that my lower body struggles with. The idea that yoga is not inclusive is bananas.

    2. JustaTech*

      Years ago when we got new management my coworker and I asked to be allowed to lead these kinds of yoga classes during lunch – just fire up a YouTube and do like a 15-20 minute practice.

      No, absolutely not. (No explanation as to why, just a hard no.)

      Then a few years ago another coworker just started leading classes on the deck in the morning and it was no big deal at all. (New management again by then.) The classes stopped when that coworker left, and I miss them (and their classes).

    3. AnotherOne*

      my employer regularly offers a stretching class and this winter offered a bar-less barre class. pre-covid, they had weekly walks a few times a year, but they had to shift to zoom- cuz covid- so they changed to these exercise classes.

    4. Reluctant Mezzo*

      We had a lovely lunchtime knitting group in an empty conference room, with at least one gentleman participant.

      1. kalli*

        I hope you know that physical activity with (misplaced or otherwise) concerns over physical accessibility and inclusion of actual real people with medical needs is very much not the equivalent of A Man, Knitting!

  2. DisneyChannelThis*

    Make sure however you tell Polly’s reports about her dislike of yoga that you aren’t creating drama (ie dont do it in a gossipy way).

    1. some author*

      Yeah, I’d tend not to say anything for this reason. If Polly wants to get snippy with her people about yoga, let her do it in herself; don’t anticipate her.

    2. I'm Just Here For The Cats!*

      I wonder if the reason why Polly thinks it is taking up too much worktime is because she has overheard those 2 reports talking about it, or maybe they take time before their lunch break to change or something and it’s affecting the rest of her team? And she thinks that everyone is taking too much time then? Or she’s overheard them talking and is one of those mangers who thinks if an employee is talking about something not work then they are not working hard enough. Either way Polly is over reacting.

      1. EPLawyer*

        If someone changing in and out of yoga clothes affects the team’s workload, then Polly has bigger problems than yoga. Which would not surprise me.

        1. Bunny Lake Is Found*

          Actually, the sign she has a bigger problem wouldn’t be that potentially her reports are taking longer lunch breaks for yoga (or spending a noticeable amount of time discussing it), it would be that she confronted the LW in front of their actual manager accusing HER of wasting time, instead of, you know, managing her team and talking to THEM.

            1. Bunny Lake Is Found*

              You make a valid point on that– I kind of just assumed that if there was a “problem” of changing for yoga getting in the way of the work it would because the changing part was excessive rather than the workload unreasonable. But Polly’s lack of reasonability does make “taking 5 minutes to change for yoga is creating a MAJOR PROBLEM” a distinct possibility.

      2. Escapee from Corporate Management*

        I think it’s simpler than that. Polly doesn’t see lunch as personal time and that doesn’t jibe with the corporate culture of this company.

        1. RVA Cat*

          Silly Polly, the advice to beat someone up or become someone’s b**** is for your first day in *prison*, not as a new manager.

        2. Where’s the Orchestra?*

          I also wonder if this is the case. I have worked under a manager in the past that mistakenly believed that lunch breaks (even unpaid lunch breaks) belonged to the company because it happened in the middle of the time that you were working.
          They were not fun to work under, and I ended up leaving in the end because they just wouldn’t stop micromanaging their team – even when the things they were micromanaging ran counter to the rest of the company’s culture.

          1. Hannah Lee*

            At one of my first real job, a VP, who was the son of the founder/CEO asked someone to summon me to his office. I was at lunch, and had gone for a 15 minute walk around the building. I was a mid-level data analyst, not on call for any reason and had never spoken to the guy before.

            When I got to his office after someone waved me in from the parking lot, he asked me where I’d been and I told him “I went for a walk during my lunch break”. Him: “out of the building? don’t do that again”

            Even 25 year old me knew that was BS even though in the moment I was a bit intimidated and just smiled meekly. It was my lunch break and I could do as I pleased.

            It didn’t help his case that the question he wanted to see me for was a really trivial one and the answer was in the 2-page report he was holding in his hand. Led me to think he was a moron. Turns out that “summoning a plebe randomly” was one of his go-to moves to keep people on their toes and intimidate them. So he was actually a moron and a big bully.

      3. Observer*

        I wonder if the reason why Polly thinks it is taking up too much worktime is because she has overheard those 2 reports talking about it

        Help! Where is my fainting couch?! Some staff are talking about a non-work topic! They MUST be taking too much time!! / sarc

        maybe they take time before their lunch break to change or something and it’s affecting the rest of her team?

        It’s a *20 minute* session during an hour long lunch. If a few minutes of prep time is affecting the team, she’s not allowing people to tale their full lunch hour – in a culture that *encourages* lunch hours.

        And she thinks that everyone is taking too much time then?

        Still not her place in the least bit. If she doesn’t want her staff participating, that’s something can – maybe – enforce. Trying to ban it for everyone? WILDLY out of line. On the other hand maybe she knows that she can’t actually ban her staff from joining so she’s trying to make the sessions go away so that her staff no longer have the option.

        Which is to say that she’s not just “over-reacting”. She’s so far over the line, that you can’t even see it any more.

      4. alas rainy again*

        This! I’m just Here For The Cats, I bet you nailed it! I met a bunch of Pollies in my carreer and they just can’t tolerate the subordinates enjoying a break, independently of lenght of lunch break. If it were a subordinate taking too much time before or after yoga class, a concerned boss would have requested the class to be shorter, as opposed to canceled. Polly is a power-tripping jerk.

    3. Bunny Lake Is Found*

      Yeah, I think also wait until after talking to Henry. If the issue is Polly is just irrational about many things or she and Henry have some beef, it is unlikely to impact the 2 reports very much. However, if somehow Polly has some real vendetta about yoga or group activities like this, the reports need to know Polly may view them as part of an “exclusionary clique”.

      Also, in the framing, LW should make sure to point out that Polly first said that maybe LW (as the organizer) was spending too much time on this and only after that was shot down mentioned people with mobility issues could not participate. Because it is possible Polly has no issues with the attendees, but just that LW looks like she is spending work time on it and it appears “supported” by the company.

      Or Polly just hates yoga.

          1. Falling Diphthong*

            I was going the other way, with some sort of disagreement over semicolons between Polly and a person who did yoga.

            It’s why academic fights are so vicious: the low stakes.

        1. Outofthepool*

          Eve Dallas investigates a Wellness Center where the android yoga teacher has been hideously dismembered, its body parts arranged to spell YOU’RE NEXT.

        2. elle *sparkle emoji**

          Polly is a pilates-purist. The notion of other mat-based physical activities offends her delicate sensibilities.

    4. Lavender*

      Yeah, I was thinking about that too. I agree with Alison that Polly’s direct reports should be able to make an informed decision about whether to participate in the yoga sessions. On the other hand, though, I’m not sure how phrase things a way that conveys “I’m telling you this because it might affect your working relationship with Polly” and not “I’m telling you this because I’m annoyed at Polly’s attitude.”

      1. Bunny Lake Is Found*

        This is probably too long, but this is how I would likely roll:

        “Just wanted to let you know Polly brought up to me that she wasn’t the biggest fan of my daily yoga sessions. She thought it might be taking up a lot of my time to plan the sessions and that folks with mobility issues might feel excluded. I don’t think it’s a big deal, but I did want to give you a heads up. Like, if you knew Henry was a huge Middle State Llamas fan, I would want someone to tell me before I showed up wearing their rival’s, the Western Teapots, jersey on casual Friday, you know? If only to be prepared for an awkward conversation about how I could possibly support such a terrible team.”

      2. Michelle Smith*

        I personally would ask my boss how to handle it in the follow-up conversation I had with him.

    5. H3llifIknow*

      I dunno. I don’t think saying, ‘Polly has expressed to me that she thinks my lunchtime yoga is a waste of time/resources, so I wanted you to make an informed decision about whether or not to continue with it,” is gossipy or dramatic. I think it’s giving them information they might need and can use.

      1. Me (I think)*

        Yes, but it’s exclusionary to people who can’t eat or don’t like pretzels, so we can’t have pretzel Fridays. Sorry.


        1. LifeBeforeCorona*

          I don’t like pretzels, they taste like salt and flour to me. Therefore: No one can have pretzel Fridays!

            1. SpringIsForPlanting!*

              They’re salt, flour, and a basic (basic as opposed to acidic, not pumpkin spice latte basic) coating, which is why they’re gross.
              /ban pretzels
              /but seriously if you offer a catered snack and it’s ONLY pretzels I will be annoyed

              1. Reluctant Mezzo*

                Only yogurt covered pretzels will be allowed! (so I can take them home to my cat who licks off all the yogurt coating, true story)

          1. Outofthepool*

            And what about the mustard? Is the mustard organic? What if some misguided soul wants…hummus to dip the pretzels in?

        2. Can'tEatPretzelsbutLikesFun*

          I have Celiac and would be a little sad if everyone had pretzels and I couldn’t, but I wouldn’t let that stop the joy of other people’s pretzel Friday! I’d probably just grab some chocolate and share with anyone around me that also couldn’t eat them.

              1. Charlotte Lucas*

                How sad! Then whatever a GF version would be.

                Rice Krispies are also not GF. I learned that when shopping to make treats for someone with celiac. (Luckily, you can find GF puffed rice cereal in the natural foods section.)

                1. Kella*

                  The vast majority of licorice is made with large amounts of wheat because that’s what gives it is chewy texture!

                  The Rice Krispies brand does make a gf version but you have to make sure you’re specifically getting the right one.

              2. Chirpy*

                All the gluten free licorice I’ve seen came in short pieces, but I’d stick several together in a pretzel shape for you if I couldn’t figure out how to make a gluten free pretzel :)

            1. Lydia*

              The gluten-free pretzels I’ve had are actually crispier than standard pretzels and taste pretty good.

        3. Environmental Compliance*

          Is there a difference if they’re boutique pretzels versus cheap ass pretzels?

          1. AnonInCanada*

            You just made me spit out my water. Good thing it was just water and not coffee or something that can ruin monitors. :D

          2. HonorBox*

            HAHAHA. I was at a college class this morning and there was discussion amongst the students of an upcoming pot luck. I chucked to myself thinking about cheap ass rolls.

      2. Miette*

        I live and work in Philly. We had pretzel Wednesdays twice a month at my last employer. It was wonderful.

    1. Dr. Rebecca*

      srsly now I want pretzel Fridays. I mean, I could do it anyway, I work from home, but it’s just not the same.

      1. Kacihall*

        a place I worked in St Louis used to have a vendor come in with fresh soft pretzels on Opening Day of baseball season. Hockey got cookies.

        It came up on my Facebook memories the other week and I have been craving soft pretzels since.

      1. Michelle Smith*

        I’ve never been more jealous of someone else’s workplace until this moment right here.

    2. Somewhere in Texas*

      I’m dreaming of this as an “everyone brings their favorite pretzel to share” activity. Each with a different flare, a mix of purchased fancy pretzels and seasoned sweet or savory pretzels.

      Separately, I’ve been wanting to create a trail mix bar where a campy-themed event has an activity where people create their own trail mix from an assortment of products.

      1. Lurker101*

        That is my go-to children’s party goody bag/activity! I hat plastic crap and the kids love scooping up their treats. I’ll name it something to fit theme like Reindeer Treats for Frozen ect.

      2. Miette*

        This reminds me of the cookie “salad” a friend would put together for tailgating, which was basically several bags of mini-sized cookies (like Oreos or Nutter Butter) thrown into a big bowl for all to enjoy :)

      3. Michelle Smith*

        I’ll be over in the corner with the sad diabetic friendly “pretzels” that no one else wants to eat LOL

    3. DryEraseAficionado*

      I was just looking at the National Day Calendar, and apparently in the US April 26 is National Pretzel day in the US, so if you’re not ready to commit to weekly pretzel day it’s a great way to start small I guess?

      1. Mad scientist*

        My old workplace had Monday cookies. There was a roster and a different person would make and bring in cookies to share with the group. Totally voluntary of course.

  3. Escapee from Corporate Management*

    Given that Polly was a jerk, Henry (rightfully) figured out that you don’t stop jerky behavior by trying to calmly talk someone out of it. He sent a clear message that she should stop immediately.

    1. ferrina*

      This was my read. He’s probably faced off with Polly in other arenas, knows what she’s like, and isn’t going to waste his breath or validate her bananacrackers complaints.

      1. Three Flowers*

        Yep, and this is good, because he’s clearly already drawing a hard line and demonstrating that his people don’t have to take her nonsense. It sounds like she hasn’t been around long, and he’s not waiting for her to affect others enough that they get to the point of complaining about her. There have been sooooo many letters here about managers who never put their foot down about this kind of nonsense, or don’t do it until after everyone is pissed… Henry gets an A+ from me!

      2. old curmudgeon*

        Makes me wonder if there’s a letter from Henry about “how do I deal with my new fellow manager’s intransigent attitudes about her staff” letter waiting in Alison’s queue somewhere…..

      3. Random Dice*

        I really admire how he spoke up immediately! We see so many letters from people who wish they had, later.

        Also, as a disabled person who has actually cried at how difficult “gentle yoga” is for me… you’re totally fine.

        This isn’t exclusionary, the same way a running group at work isn’t exclusionary, or a book club, etc. If it were a mandatory work event with career implications that would be different, but FFS this manager is using us disabled folks as a weapon, and that’s not cool.

    2. Sara without an H*

      Actually, I thought Henry was remarkably tactful…compared to what I probably would have said in his place.

      Getting back to the LW’s question: Yes, managers do relate differently to peers than they do to direct reports, since the power dynamics are different. In this case, Polly was out of her lane, and Henry firmly told her he wasn’t having any of it. Good for him.

  4. Eulerian*

    Some people have allergies so extreme that they can’t be in common food areas for fear of food particles making them ill.

    Everyone therefore needs to stop eating lunch together because some may not be able to join them.

    1. Pink Candyfloss*

      Please don’t treat food allergies – which genuinely can be life threatening *and* can genuinely require accommodations – in the same ballpark as an optional 20 minute stretching session. Even as a sarcastic joke.

      I understand and take the point you are trying to make, but there are already people who don’t take food allergies seriously and make co-workers lives challenging & difficult because of it – in ways that are real, and not as imagined as Polly’s issue with yoga seem to be.

      1. ComputerJanitor*

        Mobility issues can impact people’s lives just as much as allergies can. It was a fair comparison.

        1. Bella*

          Not really because someone else being mobile doesn’t affect people with mobility issues directly. Peanut free spaces may need to be designated for someone with a peanut allergy.

        2. Emma*

          The difference is that if you have an extreme food allergy, then other people eating that food in your workplace can make you extremely ill or kill you.

          If you have limited mobility, then other people doing yoga in your workplace will not affect you in any kind of direct, physical or medical way.

          They are very different situations.

      2. amoeba*

        I mean, the allergies are real, but going from that to a food-free campus would still be ridiculous. Just as people who cannot join a yoga class obviously exist, but that doesn’t mean the class has to stop…

      3. Chutney Jitney*

        It wasn’t a joke. It was a comparison. People do in fact have life threatening allergies and yet other people are still allowed to eat things those people are allergic to.

        1. allathian*

          So? The vast majority of food allergies, even life threatening ones, only affect you if you eat the allergen yourself. There are some exceptions, like severe airborne peanut allergy, which absolutely have to be taken into account with accommodations to protect the health of the allergic person. But in general, policing what other people eat at work is a bad idea. Even microwaving stinky food isn’t a problem in offices with a separate lunch area and decent ventilation so the smell doesn’t spread to people’s desks.

          Employees are allowed to organize yoga sessions during their unpaid lunch break in a free conference room. Even if there are people who can’t join in because of mobility issues, nobody’s organizing the yoga sessions *at* them.

  5. soontoberetired*

    holy crap.

    We have official lunchtime exercise stuff at my company, and have for years. someone objecting to this is just so off base. And power tripping.

    1. Totally Minnie*

      Yeah. We’ve talked a lot on this blog about how companies shouldn’t *require* their employees to do exercise related tasks for teambuilding purposes, but this is not that. Nobody’s being required to do anything, the company is simply allowing employees to use work space to engage in the activity of their choice during their unpaid lunch hour.

      1. soontoberetired*

        its “official” at my work because they make the space available to it, but don’t require people to do it. It is considered a perk, and they do provide instructors thru a third party but participants pay. it is a plus for all those who participate and no one else cares.

        1. ferrina*

          We’ve got a similar set-up. A volunteer leads the activity (usually a YouTube-led exercise) and it’s totally optional. The company lends the space and makes everyone aware of the activity. So….official but suuuuper optional.

        2. allathian*

          Yes, my employer provides this service as well. They pay a part of the cost and provide the space, including changing rooms, lockers, and showers and pay some of the cost. Employees pay their share, in part to avoid people signing up and then not showing up after all, which is more likely to happen if the employer paid for it all.

          My office is in a government building with several agencies, in total about 3,000 employees, all of whom have access to a gym and a swimming pool (12.5 meters or about 40 ft). Individual agencies pay for exercise classes for their own employees.

          Nobody tracks who participates and who doesn’t. It’s a perk, not an obligation.

    2. Putting the Dys in Dysfunction*

      Maybe the OP should get a parrot, and train the parrot to say “Polly thinks we’re slackers! Polly thinks we’re slackers!”

    3. Lizzianna*

      Yeah, my workplace bought a corporate subscription to a meditation app, making it free (but still voluntary, and not tracked at the individual level) for all employees. And the email that announced it made clear that if we need 20 min to organize our thoughts, doing a meditation was an appropriate use of work time. There are some sessions that are guided gentle stretching.

      I’ve noticed we have much more productive afternoons as a team if my team gets a real lunch break, especially if people do something totally different from working, like yoga, walking, or just sitting outside for a few minutes. This seems like something an organization would want to support.

      1. Candi*

        Pre-pandemic, my then-company had unofficial meditation breaks. None of the managers cared if, when, or how frequently we took breaks so long as we got our work done. One team started doing meditation for a bit for themselves. I and I few others invited ourselves (and we’re welcomed). By the time we moved into a new building, 10-15 of us were meditating every day for 15 minutes. It was every day at the same time, in the extra spare room nobody had been using up til that point. (It later got turned into a quiet room, specifically meant for things like meditation, stretching, finding a quiet spot after being overstimmed, etc.) we usually did a meditation from an app a couple of us had, and every once in a while we had a session led by a coworker who had a long-established meditation practice. It was GREAT, and a good way for us to get over the afternoon hump. I know many of us returned to work a bit more energized and collected.

        They also didn’t care – sometimes even encouraged! – if we went for a walk, long or short, so long as we, once again, came back and got our work done. I know a few of mine probably lasted 45 minutes to an hour, but again I came back much more productive and ready to work. My boss encouraged me to take those long walks when I was facing a problem I couldn’t wrap my head around. The walks almost always helped me to figure out what my next steps should be (pun not intended).

    4. Falling Diphthong*

      And power tripping.

      I think the take away here is going to be “It was never about the yoga.”

  6. Olive*

    I’m glad that the OP included that she works for a large corporation with many employees doing similar job tasks. Voluntary in-office groups typically look a lot different in a 100 person office than in a 10 person office.

    1. FD*

      Yeah, in a tiny office where you could easily have the situation where everybody except one person participates, I feel like the scenario would be a little different because you could inadvertently create an in-group out group, but at the size of this company, there’s clearly going to be lots of people who aren’t participating.

  7. FD*

    What a busybody! I can’t help but wonder if her real beef is that she doesn’t like the company culture of people daring to take actual lunch breaks and this is her being indirectly passive-aggressive about it.

    I mean fundamentally her reasons don’t matter but this is such a weird thing to be hung up over in the context that the LW isn’t a manager and this isn’t a sponsored team building activity or anything.

    1. Cake or Death*

      This makes sense! Her comment, “You are spending a lot of time on an extracurricular that is intended for your personal time” definitely gives the impression that she doesn’t think lunch breaks are “personal time”. I wish Henry or OP would have shot back, “lunch break IS personal time” to Polly.
      Personally, I think this needs to be addressed with Polly by someone with authority over her. Both her ridiculous views on the employees doing yoga in their personal time and her overstepping with Henry. OP is certainly in the right being ticked off by Polly, but Henry should be too! Like, who do you think you are, Polly?

      1. I'm Just Here For The Cats!*

        I’d say only if she brings it up again or badly treas those employees who do partake.

      2. Bunny Lake Is Found*

        I assume the “extracurricular” comment meant more about sending out the messaging, streaming the videos, planning, etc. not the actual 20 minute yoga session.

        But that is also kind of ridiculous. Even if LW is doing all of this during her 9 to 5, Henry confirmed her work is top quality, and this group yoga is clearly something that makes LW (and her coworkers) happier while at the office. A thing which is a huge benefit to the company.

        Polly saying this in front of Henry is just boggling, too. It’s not even like Polly was trying to discretely bring this up to the LW (like “Hey, LW, I understand that you enjoy arranging group yoga, but there have been issues with when folks in my department ask you for things, they take longer to turn around than one would expect. Is it possible the yoga is taking up too much time?”).

    2. Where’s the Orchestra?*

      I’m also wondering if Polly has approached your manager about other culture things where she has been out of sync with the office previously – and the frustration you heard was a case of “we’re having another one of these conversations” spilling out.

      If I was in your shoes I’d double check with your manager, and if he gives you the green light keep going. But I’d also give Polly’s folks a matter of fact “this conversation happened, want to make sure you are aware so you can factor it into your decision making process.”

      1. Tina Belcher's Less Cool Sister*

        Based on Henry’s reaction I assume Polly has previously brought this up to him/upper level managers and been shut down, so now she’s trying to do an end run and take it straight to OP herself. If that was the case and I was in Henry’s shoes I’d be PISSED that another manager is trying to micromanage my staff about things that are in line with company values and I’ve personally approved.

        I hope OP comes back with an update! I would bet Polly won’t be with this company for long.

    3. Gracely*

      I would bet that Polly doesn’t like the yoga. Some people ascribe weird connotations to yoga.

      It’s really bizarre that she would try the tack of “you’re doing an extracurricular during your personal time” when…isn’t that exactly what people should be doing during their personal time?

      Either way, it’s good that OP’s manager has her back.

      1. Irish Teacher.*

        Definitely possible. There was a rumour going around the college I attended that one particular lecturer had objected to yoga as not being Christian. I don’t know if it’s true. The lecturer in question was very religious, but also pretty laid back (and politically very left-wing, which I know doesn’t necessarily mean open-minded, but yeah). Whether it was true or not, there definitely are people who feel that way.

        1. Ssssssssssssssssssssss*

          There was an article years ago about a Muslim woman raising eyebrows in her community because she did yoga. Yoga can be very spiritual. It can also just be really good stretching! If Xmas can be celebrated in a completely secular way, then so can Yoga.

          1. Bunny Lake Is Found*

            Yoga practice obviously runs the gamut, but then it would seem like maybe Polly would have brought that up in a more concrete way if that were the issue.

            Whatever Polly’s “problem” is, she doesn’t actually seem to want to “fix” it in any way but having no more yoga.

          2. allathian*

            My MIL’s church offers something they call “Christian yoga”. It’s meditative exercise, where they strive for a closer connection to their god.

            Personally, I find this a bit odd. I’m certain that people of any faith, or no faith at all, can benefit from exercise, but you don’t have to call it yoga.

        2. a clockwork lemon*

          This isn’t an uncommon position–there’s a lot of discourse overall about yoga and religion, because depending on the practice and individual practitioner, there can be a large spiritual/”religious” component.

          In this particular case though it sounds more like Polly is pissed she’s got two employees taking lunch together to go do something that isn’t specifically work related.

        3. Random Dice*

          Oh yeah, in the 1990s the evangelical Christian scare circuit hit the “yoga is New Age* and evil” message hard. Meditation for lumped in there too, even with the long monastic tradition of meditation.

          *New Age, yes, the easy listening music, that one. Also The Force in Star Wars. And so much Satanism panic, like so much.

      2. Chilipepper Attitude*

        I came here to say this. I used to teach yoga so it came up in social settings and I occasionally got variations on, “I have a religion so I don’t do yoga,” dropped into conversations. There seems to be a sense that yoga IS a religion or it is a practice attached to a religion. I can see why, but no.

        1. ThatGirl*

          I mean, yoga does have its roots in Hindu and Buddhist practices and Sanskrit gurus. It is kind of a philosophy unto itself.

          But. It’s also become so widespread and modified and secularized that the philosophical/religious side to it has largely been forgotten or ignored, especially in the US.

          1. Iris Eyes*

            And there’s a not insignificant push against the secularization (usually called colonization or white washing) of yoga, which is certainly something to consider. America is quite good at taking spiritual practices and turning them into billion dollar a year industries with little to no benefit to their culture of origin.

        2. Antony-mouse*

          I have been told before by yoga practitioners that I’m not allowed to do yoga because I don’t ascribe to the religious and spiritual history of it. If I just want to do it for stretching and movement I have to call it ‘active stretching’ or something! I’ve been staying away from doing yoga much since then

          1. Sorrischian*

            It’s really complicated (of course), because there are good arguments for being cautious about stripping yoga practice of its spiritual/religious roots, but there are also good arguments for why reifying those aspects of yoga is also kind of dicey, because a: orientalism and b: the ways it is entwined with Hindu Nationalist rhetoric and caste oppression. It’s wicked complicated – I recommend Thenmozhi Soundarajan’s interview on the Conspirituality podcast as a place to start if you’re interested .

            1. Random Dice*

              Is Hindu Nationalist rhetoric what Modi is doing? I hadn’t heard that term before.

      3. Student*

        Yoga has a strong connection to spirituality and religion. These are not “weird” connotations. It’s closely tied to a religion, spiritual philosophy, and practice you appear to be unfamiliar with personally. It comes off a bit wrong when you call something from a different cultural tradition “weird”, even if you do not practice or agree with it.

        You can do yoga without the spiritual component, certainly, but yoga’s origins come from religious traditions and texts. Many, but not all, contemporary yoga sessions in the USA incorporate some of these traditional spiritual and/or religious elements into the exercise/stretching aspect of yoga. Yoga is inherently more connected to religion than, say, basketball or figure skating.

        I think you may be on to something in suspecting this connection could be tied to Polly’s objections. Some people have very strong negative reactions to any activity that is tied to any religion other than their own. However, there’s not really any strong basis in the letter for that – it’s just speculation off a commonly raised objection to yoga.

        Given the power dynamics and the info presented, I’m not sure there’s anything actionable for the OP from this angle yet. If Polly does direct future attacks on her yoga time in this direction, then Polly might be able to put some HR pressure on Polly to back off by prevailing on the company’s legal obligations to prevent religious discrimination.

        1. Timothy (TRiG)*

          Yoga derives from spiritual practice, yes. So does American Football*.

          The main differences are (a) American Football derives from Christianity, while Yoga derives from Hinduism & Buddhism; and (b) modern American Football is mostly divorced from its religious origins, while modern Yoga runs a whole spectrum from fully religious to entirely secular.

          * Ref: Moore, Jack. “Muscular Christianity and American sport’s undying love of violence”. The Guardian 8 May 2015.

          1. yogapractitioner*

            Yoga derives from the Vedic texts, which is the same source material as Hinduism. Thus, it is very similar in philosophy to Hinduism, but it does not derive from Hinduism.

          2. Crooked Bird*

            The whole Muscular Christian movement was a very interesting, weird, very American phenomenon, but it does not elevate football–which predated it–into some sort of spiritual practice of Christianity now largely divorced from its roots, like secular-Christmas or something. The parallel with yoga is extremely forced.

        2. Chirpy*

          I have seen “Christian yoga” classes advertised. Typically they’re for those who want to incorporate the spiritual component in a way that’s meaningful to them. I’ve never been to one, but I’ve heard some interesting (good) things about the ones that are done respectfully.

      4. GrooveBat*

        I was coming here to say that. I’ve read news articles about school districts banning yoga as a phys ed activity because they think it’s demonic.

        1. Seashell*

          We had one marking period of yoga for our gym class when I was in high school in the 80’s. I’d say that was about the only gym activity I didn’t find demonic. No competition, no getting picked last by team captains, and I actually felt relaxed and pleasant afterwards, instead of sweaty and cranky.

    4. EPLawyer*

      I think this is it. Lunch time takes place during the work day therefore you must not do anything personal. Although the culture of the place IS to take lunch for yourself.

      Polly is being ridiculous. She’s going to find out that trying to micromanage people’s lunch time is not going to go over well. There will be people transferring out of her department and just plain leaving the company. She will then stand there going “No one wants to work anymore.”

    5. Ama*

      I would not be surprised at all if Polly is annoyed that two of her employees are doing yoga on their lunch breaks so she can’t interrupt them with a “quick question.”

      I had a boss once who regularly would come find me in our employee lunchroom to ask me a question that was absolutely not urgent — she just was thinking about it and couldn’t wait half an hour for me to get back to my desk. When it was warm enough I’d go eat outside (our office building was thankfully near a large park) just so she couldn’t find me.

      1. Zweisatz*

        Yup, the comment about personal activities on company time certainly supports that interpretation

      2. Where’s the Orchestra?*

        My “no break is real” manager left lunches alone (because it was also her lunch break), but at one point I was taking my breaks hiding in the ladies room – just to get away from the “quick question” that ensnared your whole break (but you could never then go take another break because you already had break).

    6. mcm*

      This was exactly my thought — she’s still considering lunch breaks “company time,” which they fundamentally are not. But not every office has that healthy of a culture around lunch breaks

    7. Observer*

      I can’t help but wonder if her real beef is that she doesn’t like the company culture of people daring to take actual lunch breaks and this is her being indirectly passive-aggressive about it.

      I think that this is a very real possibility. And I suspect that this may be at least part of the reason why Harry reacted the way he did.

    8. Hi! Hello! Good morning!*

      I took it as the opposite. “You’re doing a lot of work for what’s become a team activity on your personal time.” Meaning her personal time isn’t a personal time anymore (including the organizing and coordinating activities) since she’s leading a yoga class. This yoga class is also on company property and might now look like a company or team thing. This makes it look like LW’s personal time is no longer person and is shrinking and she’s not getting her full hour.

  8. Not Tom, Just Petty*

    Is this where we invoke “not everybody eats sandwiches?”

    Honestly, companies PAY consultants to tell them to start health initiatives. That this one grew organically from grassroots interest is testament to a healthy workplace dynamic.

    Maybe she has a disability, but I think the future will prove that she has not only ableist ideas about what people are and are not able to do, but what people should and should not do.

    1. Non-yoga-doing person.*

      Yeah. I can’t do yoga, and if the entire population of the world except me did yoga from 12 noon to 12:20 every day I would somehow manage to soldier on.

      Polly’s engaging in misplaced sensitivity. She’s professing to be concerned about the feelings of a hypothetical disabled person who might hypothetically feel excluded by LW’s yoga sessions, while having no concern at all for the feelings of LW, LW’s boss, and LW’s fellow yoga-ists.

      I’m sure I used to work with Polly. She drove us all nuts.

      1. Stuckinacrazyjob*

        Nod since the yoga isn’t required for my job I’d just ignore it. the whole ableism thing is mostly about people saying you need to lift 25 pounds for your job to weed out people with physical disabilities or not letting people take the sick time they earned. There are sometimes step challenges at work but I ignore them* * I can walk but it hurts sometimes

      2. Observer*

        Polly’s engaging in misplaced sensitivity

        Given the context, I don’t think that this is about sensitivity. It sounds way more like concern trolling with a dash of excuse making.

        1. Bunny Lake Is Found*

          Agreed, given that her first issue is that LW is spending too much time on this “extra” thing (implying she was not giving enough time/energy to her real work) even though Henry (LW’s actual supervisor) immediately shot down that line of attack.

          Polly wants the yoga to stop, I think it is super unclear what her true motives are.

          1. Not Tom, Just Petty*

            I saw that pivot, too. Since OP was in the presence of her own supervisor, who did not support Polly, Polly pivoted to a different angle. If OP’s boss had said, this supports the company’s health initiative/goal, she would have said that OP is stepping on HR’s toes and now they can’t do what they want.
            Polly doesn’t like it, so Polly will argue to stop it.
            I think Polly will argue every strong view she has on every subject. Because she is a control freak.

      3. Freida*

        Yep, I also can’t do yoga and I’d be totally fine if other people met up to do it. I also do a fair amount of disability-adjacent work and IMO Polly’s not doing disability advocacy here, she’s disgruntled about some other aspect of this and *using disability* as her cover for that disgruntlement.

        If a request ever came from a person who wanted to join but couldn’t for accessibility reasons, there are adaptive yoga practices that you/they could consider.

      4. Yoga-ish*

        I would say out of the variety of exercise-based activities they could choose, yoga caters to the largest range of ability levels. You can modify poses or skip some entirely. Every yoga class I have been a part of has given participants permission to do what feels best for their body.

    2. Keeley Jones, The Independent Woman*

      My husband has a recent mobility related disability and people like Polly are what bother him the most. Act like they are helping but really they are making assumptions on what his abilities are and draw attention to him. Also his abilities can often change if he’s having a good day or bad day. Some days he could do some modified yoga, some days he cannot carry his dinner plate to the table.

      1. Just Another Zebra*

        I have EDS, and it’s exactly like this. Some days are great, others are horrendous, most are somewhere in between. Polly throwing a fit about something I could do most days (whether I chose to or not) on my behalf would irritate me.

        1. I just work here*

          Fellow zebra here who has been advised to never do yoga d/t frequent subluxations and dislocations. Polly needs to step off.

      2. tusemmeu*

        I have so much sympathy for him. I hate when abled people try to speak for those of us who aren’t. Even the genuinely well-meaning (and I have my doubts about Polly here) can be exhausting when they make assumptions instead of allowing me to navigate my own situation the way I’ve learned works best for me.

    3. I have RBF*

      So, I can’t do yoga – I have hemiparesis and yoga wants a lot of symetrical movements.

      But I would never say that my coworkers shouldn’t get together to do yoga, walk together at lunch, or even have an after work softball team. As long as I’m not required to participate nor penalized for not doing so it’s not a problem.

    4. Random Dice*

      “Maybe she has a disability, but I think the future will prove that she has not only ableist ideas about what people are and are not able to do, but what people should and should not do.”

      Ding ding!

      I’m disabled, and would bet money she’s not.

      It feels like using us disabled folks – who have enough struggles in the workforce dammit! – as a weapon. Polly is using DEI as a club to enforce her hidden agenda. (I’m guessing she disapproves of people actually taking their breaks.)

      It’s a vile combination of ableism and manipulation, that has the end result of actually creating a harmful impression of us disabled folks… by an able-bodied person.

      Polly can go pound sand.

  9. rayray*

    I do not understand people like Polly who act as if employees in the workplace are little kids who need to be told what to do or not do. We’re grown ups, and people can do as they choose with their time.

    If people want to join yoga, great! If they don’t feel like it, totally fine! My workplace sometimes does different challenges, like marking off every flight of stairs you take or every 1,000 steps and then you can enter for a contest. There are other things that happen that aren’t physical activity, but may not appeal to everyone. No one is tied up and forced to participate. I like the activity challenges, but then when people have wanted to do potlucks, I usually opt out for my own reasons.

    1. Cj*

      “people can do as they choose with their time”.

      Exactly, which is why Polly’s objections is so strange. It *is* the employee’s own time they are doing this on, and she tried to make it sound like they were doing it on company time.

      1. Baby Yoda*

        She would have had better luck arguing there was a potential liability problem if someone hurt themselves.

        1. Allonge*

          Yes, I read the title and was thinking… is the room not available, is it a logistics thing, do clients see yoga-clad people around, it it legal? And even then it should be a discussion, but this? Polly clearly has too much time on her hands.

          1. Bunny Lake Is Found*

            The yoga-clad people/visibility is the ONLY real argument Polly could have. However, I suspect if that was her real issue (“Hey, so it is super weird to be walking clients passed a room of sweaty people in downward dog” or “It makes it hard to enforce the “no yoga pants at work” rule when, for 30 minutes before and after daily yoga, people are running around in workout gear”) she would have suggested a fix. Maybe there is a better location for the yoga? Out of the main area, close to a bathroom? Clear rules that even if someone is going to yoga, while not actually in the practice session, they need to adhere to normal office dress code?

            1. Allonge*

              In my workplace there would be at least 3 different, legitimate reasons not to do this, but then OP would have known / been told about them in the first place.

              There are potentially reasons, depending on the location/company! Maybe it’s even easier to spot some of them when you are new. But what she said was not one of these and addressing it the way Polly did is not the way to go.

        2. Wilbur*

          My extremely large company has a research center with a large college campus style quad. I’ve seen people told off by security for playing frisbee (casually tossing it to each other, not ultimate frisbee) due to liability.

          This is all the same neighborhood of someone doesn’t quite understand a topic (liability, law, inclusion, etc.) and feels the need to do something about it.

          1. Bob Howard*

            When I worked at a corporate set of labs, the lunch-time inter-departmental football was by far the biggest cause of lost-time injuries. The liquid steel, liquid nitrogen, heavy machinery, high voltages, corrosive acids and toxic gases we had on site caused far fewer problems!

        3. Not Tom, Just Petty*

          I’m expecting that to come up next. She tried the “too much time on extracurriculars” and OP’s boss said no. She tried, it’s exclusionary, but it’s still going on. She will keep trying until she finds something that sticks.

  10. Roscoe da Cat*

    If I were your manager, I would be brusque with Polly too. It isn’t her place to say anything to you about your productivity. If she has a concern, then the correct thing to do is to bring it to Henry and not ambush both of you in the hall!

    Although you are lucky Henry was there to immediately nip this in the bud.

    1. NotAnotherManager!*

      Same. I will always take constructive criticism of my team from other managers, but I prefer it in private and not to be ambushed with the team member standing right there. Polly’s approach and method would have both rubbed me the wrong way, and I have shut that down quickly. I try not to be brusque or dismissive, at least in the first instance, because I do think it’s important to model constructive disagreement, but Polly’s kind of over the line and handling this badly.

      My folks organize lunches, coffee runs, planning to attend the same fitness classes, walks, etc. during breaks in the work day – if they are getting their work done and doing it well and being inclusive, why would I put a stop to their efforts to get to know each other and take a stretch break?

    2. Qwerty*

      Yeah, if Polly tried chastising my employee in front of me, I’m going to step in and shut it down hard for the employee’s sake.

      OP, if Henry had been more diplomatic, there is a good chance that you’d be second guessing yourself and wondering if he secretly agreed with Polly or had concerns about your performance. She was out of line and Henry was showing that he has your back.

    3. Alanna*

      Henry sounds like an awesome boss. Kind and patient with his direct reports, ready to firmly but politely shut it down if another manager is telling them off for no reason. OP is lucky.

  11. GreyCat*

    Polly was overstepping AND she is new, so I can see how Henry didn’t let her words get any oxygen. She needs to learn some lessons about company culture at a minimum. It would have been more appropriate for her to approach Henry, or her other peers and ask them about the sessions if she had any concerns. It’s possible it also wasn’t the first time Henry has dealt with her stepping in where it is not appropriate for her to do so, which could have increased his bluntness.

    1. Where’s the Orchestra?*

      “ It’s possible it also wasn’t the first time Henry has dealt with her stepping in where it is not appropriate for her to do so, which could have increased his bluntness.”

      This is my suspicion as well. Polly has ideas that run counter to company culture, and she keeps bringing up complaints that nobody else sees as a complaint or problem. Combine that with the fact you were present this time for Polly’s yoga issue and blunt Henry appeared.

      1. Not Tom, Just Petty*

        Polly has ideas that run counter to company culture, or a management level decision or a lunch decision by a group of her peers.
        And she will still over-argue the point.
        She is only concerned with what she wants, not the why. She wants yoga gone. She will argue any angle she can think of to get her way. I’m sure this trait appears in every situation where she doesn’t like the outcome.
        It’s never, “I don’t personally like this/disagree with this.” It’s “You can’t because X.”

  12. RJ*

    Polly is being very reductive. I’m training to be a yoga teacher and I worked under a teacher who specialized in mobility for trauma and injury. All practices can be modified to suit a user’s needs and physicality. Ignore her, OP and keep up your practice.

    1. Peanut Hamper*

      Came here to say this. People with mobility issues can and do participate in yoga. They may not do it in the same way or to the same degree that people without mobility issues do, but it is ridiculous to assume that it automatically excludes anyone with “mobility issues”.

    2. I'm Just Here For The Cats!*

      I was going to say the same thing. Even people who use wheelchairs or other mobility aids may be able to do a modified version of sitting yoga. Now there are conditions where yoga could be problematic and someone wouldn’t be able to participate. But no one is making anyone attend. It’s no different than when I decline to participate with my coworkers who walk at lunch. I know they will be going for a lot longer walks than I can handle.

    3. ferrina*

      Yes! If Polly did have a legit gripe, yoga is a really weird thing to single out. Every studio/practice I’ve ever been to has said up-front that every body is different, every day is different, so do what is right for your body on this day. It’s the most inclusive physical activity out there. Polly’s going full concern troll and ignoring logic.

    4. HollyTree*

      I’m a support worker a man whose only range of movement is one finger, half of one thumb, a few of his toes, his eyes, and part of his mouth and tongue. He can sort of move some of the fingers on his other hand with help.

      We do yoga with him nearly every day.

      Ignore Polly. If anyone wanted to join the yoga club but wasn’t sure if they could manage it, there is plenty of stuff online about how to adapt yoga practice for themselves to look at or potentially take to a doctor to ask about. It’s easy to assume that some activity is inaccessible unless you really look, which may be Polly’s mistake here. Sometimes people aren’t concern trolling, just ignorant. Or you know, they could start a club they could participate in themselves because disabled people don’t need rescuing, especially when they’re clearly able to hold down a job without Polly saving them.

      That said, I do think that it’s not about the yoga and Polly’s just making stuff up, but on the off-chance it was a serious comment, yeah, yoga can be adapted for everyone (although I wouldn’t put my hands on a colleague (!) to help them as we do with our gentlemen, that is my job and I’m trained and insured)

    5. Blomma*

      I have a great book called Yoga for Everyone: 50 Poses for Every Type of Body by Dianne Bondy. It shows multiple modifications for each pose to help different types of bodies (including different sized, pregnant, and disabled bodies).

  13. Cj*

    I would have had a problem with this because it was ladies only. Yes, it was after hours, but still on company property, so I don’t think it should have been limited to women.

      1. Baby Yoda*

        CJ it never came up but if any of the male employees had shown even a flicker of interest, I’m sure we would have said okay and join in. But this was in the 80s and no one really cared (and the guys seemed to be scared of aerobics.)

    1. I'm Just Here For The Cats!*

      Why? there can be women-only events at work, including exercises. My work has a biweekly event at the gym where only women and nonbinary people can come to work out, attend a class.

    2. Lenora Rose*

      Was it limited to, or happened to only include women?

      I don’t know that I’ve ever been in a Yoga class with more than 2 men even though I have also never been in a Yoga class that was not explicitly open to being co-ed. And I was last doing Yoga in 2019, not the 80s.

      1. El Muneco*

        Same experience here. My (relatively extremely progressive) company brought in a yoga instructor biweekly in 2018-2019 and I’m pretty sure that besides me there were never more than 2 other dudes in a class of 10-15 that was explicitly stated to be inclusive.

  14. CL*

    Agree with everything Alison said, especially the part about Henry’s tone toward Polly.

    On the accessibility front, Yoga can be accessible for many people…try finding a chair yoga video to run on occasion.

    1. rebelwithmouseyhair*

      Yeah the whole point of yoga is that it’s how mind and body connect. We all do what we can, and there’s no shame if you do it sitting on a chair while everyone else in the class is doing it in full lotus position. It’s not an Olympic sport, there are no gold medals, you do it only for yourself.
      OP is not actually a teacher, if I understand correctly, she’s just doing a few postures and is happy to let others come and do it too, so I don’t think there should be any pressure to find videos that show how wheelchair users might join in her session. The wheelchair user might like to explore the topic and work out for herself how she might be able to join in the session.

      1. Starscourge Savvy*

        Chair yoga isn’t just for wheelchair users! It caters to a wide variety of physicalities.

        1. Alexander Graham Yell*

          And honestly, as a desk worker, having some yoga moves I know I could do in my desk chair would be AMAZING.

    2. Jack Russell Terrier*

      Right – they’re now talking about ‘desk yoga’ because … it’s good for everyone. I like the idea of checking out different yogas if they like or staying in this sweet spot.

      I’m a yoga teacher and for a moment I thought the issue was going to be liability, but she’s not taking the class. They’re all just following ‘Yoga with Adriene’ or Brett Larkin or something like that.

    3. Thin Mints didn't make me thin*

      I’m a wheelchair user and I might or might not choose to do yoga with co-workers, but I definitely wouldn’t feel excluded if they did. (I’d be far more likely to start a lunchtime book group.)

  15. Jo-El (Kryptonian)*

    I love busybody managers who feel the need to insert themselves into every situation. Stay in your own lane.

  16. rebelwithmouseyhair*

    Polly’s reaction is so weird. She’s using language that she’s just picked up as buzz words for complaining, but isn’t actually thinking what any of it means. This is what toxic people do.

    1. Heidi*

      Polly might be conflating this yoga at lunch with some activities that are problematically exclusionary, like mandatory team-building at an obstacle course or weekend trips for only male employees.

      1. I'm Just Here For The Cats!*

        I’m wondering since she is new if Polly’s former workplace had an issue where people were devoting too much time to outside activities like this. Or maybe the former workplace had problems where there were exclusionary activities and she is trying to put a stop to it in her new job, not realizing she is overstepping and it’s not the same.

    2. Peanut Hamper*

      Polly said that people might not feel comfortable complaining but it was likely making them feel excluded.

      Yes, this part bothered me as well. What the hell does she mean by this? How would she know? Polly’s writing some real fanfic here, methinks.

      1. Richard Hershberger*

        Speaking as someone with absolutely no interest in joining, go forth with my blessing. My psyche can withstand the trauma.

        In related news, if someone wants to read a book at lunch, they may read a book that does not interest me, so long as I get the same privilege in choosing my reading material.

  17. kiki*

    On Henry’s tone, I’d have to bet it’s a combo of this request being kind of wild and perhaps Polly has been out of pocket with some request before? It’s also possible Polly raised this once with Henry, he shot it down, and then Polly decided to bring it up directly to you, which he didn’t appreciate. I would focus, though, on the fact that your manager says it’s fine.

    1. Daisy*

      Yes, and perhaps Henry is feeling a bit frosty because she went around him and is instructing an employee who isn’t in her chain of command. I would be a bit peeved about a new manager jumping me and reprimanding one of my employees. Especially about something that I have previously approved. The new manager is out of line in several ways.

      1. Antilles*

        Yep. Henry got angry because from his perspective, (1) he’d already approved this and (2) Polly had already tried to bring it up and been shot down. Now Polly is directly undermining his authority by reprimanding his employee – and right in front of his face too!

  18. Twix*

    As someone who has health issues that would preclude participating in yoga, this is ridiculous! In addition to Alison’s very valid point about OP not being the employer here, this kind of pearl-clutching around disabled employees’ hypothetical feelings of exclusion does far more harm than good. Don’t get me wrong, actual exclusion of disabled employees (like what Alison was talking about with power dynamics) is an important thing to be aware of and try to avoid. But it would be unfair of disabled people to expect their coworkers to never do anything they can’t, and trying to police that in a misguided attempt to promote DEI does nothing but stoke resentment.

    1. Observer*

      Yes, this is true.

      What makes it worse is that I’m pretty sure that this was not actually a good faith but badly mistaken effort at inclusiveness. It really sounds like she was looking for an excuse to shoot down an activity because it’s ~~gasp~~ “personal” and “extra-curricular”.

    2. Ama*

      Yep, this was my thoughts as well. I would really struggle doing yoga at lunch, and would hate being pressured into having to try, but I’d equally be horrified if someone else were being prevented from doing yoga that they were enjoying just because I can’t/ don’t want to!

      I don’t think you’ve anything to worry about here, and I’m glad to hear your manager at least sounds sensible and has your back!

  19. mlem*

    I’m wondering if Polly is a “new manager” not just in the sense of “new to her team” but “new to *managing*”. Some organizations throw you into a ton of trainings when moving you to management, and it’s *possible* she got overwhelmed and confused “mandatory biased activity” with “voluntary downtime group use of company resources”.

    I am not at all saying she’s right; just that I wonder whether she was trying to do a “right” thing and missed badly.

    1. Peanut Hamper*

      I’ve been to a lot of managerial trainings, but I’ve never been to one that said “feel free to stomp all over the chain of command” because this is exactly what Polly is doing.

      And if that’s what she took from one of these meetings….just wow.

      Either way, she has definitely missed…and very badly.

  20. Green great dragon*

    I wonder if for some reason Polly believes you’re doing it on work time? Any chance that one of her staff members is actually taking this out their work time rather than their lunch break?? Because otherwise it makes no sense. If she thought it was work time, the ‘exclusionary’ comment makes a little more sense too, because there’s a higher bar for work-arranged activities.

    I’d want to let Polly know this is done entirely in my own time, since she brought that up and it sounds like you were (understandably) too taken aback to correct her in the moment.

    1. Casper Lives*

      That’s a good point. I think Henry should ideally be the one to clear that up with Polly. Polly isn’t LW’s manager, came in guns blazing (accusing LW of being ableist), and is new to the company. LW could discuss with Henry. I’d leave it alone after that if I was LW.

    2. Sloanicota*

      This was my only though. Does it appear externally to be taking more time/energy than it does? I guess it’s possible, if OP ends up posting multiple times a day to the office slack or something.

      1. Observer*

        Yeah, but the OP describes a situation where they are posting the to the Slack channel once a week. That hardly seem like a big deal. And even that seems to be happening after hours (Sunday night).

    3. Observer*

      ny chance that one of her staff members is actually taking this out their work time rather than their lunch break

      And? Why would it be her business that the OP is taking the time, even if it WERE work time? And in fact, Harry – the LW’s ACTUAL supervisor, kind of addressed that potential issue by saying that LW’s productivity is excellent.

      And Polly still pushed it.

      It makes no sense as something that a reasonable person would do. Even with the kind of scenario you posit.

      I’d want to let Polly know this is done entirely in my own time, since she brought that up

      Nope. Do NOT follow up with Polly. She was out of line, and she has no authority to push on the issue – especially once Harry made his view on the matter clear. The OP is best off not engaging here.

      1. Green great dragon*

        “her staff members” – I meant Polly’s staff members, two of whom are regulars. I don’t see any mention of OP having staff members.

        1. Observer*

          Yes, Polly’s staff members. And my point stands. If Polly is having issues with POLLY’S staff taking time they shouldn’t, that does NOT make it reasonable for her to try to ban people on a *different team* from the activity.

        2. Antilles*

          Perhaps, but even if so, the answer is that Polly addresses that directly with *her* staff members and telling them not to do it during work hours or that she really needs them available even during lunch breaks or whatever Polly’s concern is here.
          The answer is not Polly jumping the chain of command to push OP (someone else’s employee) to stop doing something that they have direct permission to do.

          1. allathian*

            Yes. And even so, requiring her employees to be available even during their unpaid lunch hour would probably be acceptable in many companies, but it looks like at this one they have the right to disconnect during lunch.

    4. Where’s the Orchestra?*

      I’ll also throw out there (having worked under one of these misinformed souls) that some managers believe that even though you aren’t getting paid for it your lunch break still belongs to the employer and they have the right therefore to tell you what to do on lunch. They do exist even in companies that are very good about not infringing on employee breaks.

    5. commensally*

      Yeah, it’s almost a reasonable objection if Polly thinks it’s being done on work time. Still weird to go straight to LW instead of through her manager, but if some subset of workers were doing organized yoga on-the-clock, I too would be upset.

      So I would at least ask Harry to make sure Polly knows it’s during lunch hour and not during worktime, and that company culture allows for doing personal things on lunch time.

      (It does kind of sound like this company doesn’t have set lunch breaks? That it’s just “culture” to be able to take an hour or so. So if Polly feels like the yoga people are taking extra-long lunches when the official work schedules don’t allow for that, that could also be a problem. But that’s a problem with the way the workplace handles lunches, not with what LW is doing.)

  21. EMP*

    The combination of Polly’s confusion over using lunch time for personal hobbies not being personal time, and her insistence that yoga wasn’t inclusive enough, makes me think she mistakenly thought this was a work sponsored event. Is she clear that though you are using space on work property, this is not a work event?

    1. Sloanicota*

      I can imagine that Polly feels the yoga is part of the office culture now, and she doesn’t like it for whatever reason. It can be true that things don’t have to be “official” in order to influence culture.

      1. EMP*

        This is true, and some offices have policies about using work resources (including the building) for non-work events, but just from the letter that didn’t seem to come into play here.
        That said although I didn’t get this impression from the letter, if it’s very easy for a new employee to think that LW’s yoga sessions are “official” in any way, that could be something to fix if it otherwise complies with company policy.

      2. Peanut Hamper*

        Some people object to yoga on religious reasons. But if that’s Polly’s reasoning, then again, that’s on Polly and Henry handled this appropriately.

        Her reason really doesn’t matter; her behavior is ridiculous. Yay to the Henrys of the world.

  22. Peanut Hamper*

    Shall I start on office pool on how long Polly remains a manager? Because holy batshit banapants, Batman!

    1. KatEnigma*

      They will probably promote her “to get her away from people.” That was the common reason in my old company.

      1. Peanut Hamper*

        And honestly, if they can move her to a position that she is actually good at, I’m fine with that. It works out for everybody.

        What really bugs me is when a company just keeps moving someone who really should just not be an employee anymore. Too many companies do this.

        1. Tea. Earl Grey. Hot.*

          Agree with this – happened a lot where I used to work.

          (also, kudos on your handle – can’t wait for lower decks to come back!)

        2. allathian*

          Yeah. When my employer went through a reorganization, my then-manager was removed from her position of authority. It wasn’t personal, though, we were about 2,000 employees then and more than 70 first-level managers became senior ICs instead while their salary remained unchanged. The idea was to make every manager a professional manager who needed to have enough reports that they could focus on managing the work all day. I can only assume that she’s much happier now as an IC and does great work in her field. She’s not a bad person just because management isn’t what she’s best at.

  23. Lavender*

    This is only kind of related, but taking a short break to stretch or move around during work can be great for productivity. I do it all the time—it helps a lot to “reset” my brain and prevents soreness from sitting in the same position all day. When I was teaching, I would have my students get up and move around for a few minutes at regular intervals throughout the day, and for some kids it helped a lot with concentration.

    Again, this doesn’t really matter because OP was doing it on their lunch break and they’re not obligated to be productive during that time, but even putting that aside it’s still not a bad use of their time.

    1. kiki*

      I think there can be kind of an old-school “butts in seats until the work is done” mentality that drives some managers to see things like stretch breaks, yoga, or a midday walk as slacking or just extraneous. And while it does take away a bit of time from the workday, it tends to payoff in better quality work, increased focus, and burnout prevention. I wonder if Polly has the old-school mentality and that’s coming into play.

      1. Lavender*

        Could be. And I mean, some people do work better for long stretches (no pun intended) with few breaks or interruptions, so that very well might be strategy that works *for Polly.* But it’s far from universal!

      2. Polly Hedron*

        it does take away a bit of time from the workday

        Not in this case. It’s during the lunch hour that everyone is already taking off.

    2. Marketing Ninja Unicorn*

      My daughter’s teacher has them do ‘brain breaks’ between each lesson (she’s early elementary school, so has the same teacher for all her subjects), and my daughter will now ask for a ‘brain break’ at home in the evenings between her homework activities; e.g., we did spelling, so let’s do a brain break before math homework and then another one before reading.

      (Now, my opinion on first-graders and homework is another issue entirely…)

      1. I went to school with only 1 Jennifer*

        Well, now I want to know what those “brain breaks” entail!? Is it a chance to jump around to silly music, kinda thing?

  24. KatEnigma*

    My husband worked for a company that contracted with an outside gym to run various greatly reduced cost exercise classes of differing types in their space before/after business hours and at lunch. It was old no longer used manufacturing space with locker rooms and showers that they converted for the purpose. This was an old Fortune 500 and not one that had gone the way of Google in offering bunches of perks or on site amenities. Polly would have lost her mind.

  25. Random Bystander*

    Back in the in-office days (I worked in an office physically located in a hospital), the entire campus was surrounded by a broad sidewalk that was intentionally put there for people who wanted to walk (community as well as employees). The length of the walk was such that you could only really go the full way on a lunch rather than a break, but I know there were several co-workers who let it be known that they were going to walk on their lunch and there quickly became a group that always went on that walk together. I never considered it a big deal (they were all peers to each other, no one in supervisory status joined).

    I’m actually reminded of one thing that I considered to be a small perk that even now I’m a little salty about it being removed. We had someone in the office who arranged for chair massages on a regular basis. A professional masseuse would come in (one of the classrooms was booked for this) with the massage chair. Before the chair massage day, the person who organized it would send out a group email to everyone “Chair massage will be taking place on [date] between [start time] and [end time]. If you are interested, please reply with your name, the length of massage you want, and preferred time by [deadline, about a week after the group email was sent]. If you are new, massages may be taken on your lunch or on your break. You are also permitted to combine break and lunch. Cost is $1/minute, payable to the masseuse.” So I would go at some point in the middle of the day and get the chair massage, which was lovely–especially the suboccipital part. I would feel great for the rest of the day after that. After that group email, another email would be sent after the deadline for responding was past with the specific schedule and which room had been booked (usually one classroom, but there were a few others if the primary choice wasn’t open). It usually was the same people taking advantage of the opportunity, but no one was ever turned down–in fact sometimes the hours became shorter than originally announced because there were only five hours’ worth of people wanting massages instead of the scheduled six and a half. Then someone who wasn’t going to the chair massages complained about it, and the whole thing was ended.

      1. Random Bystander*

        It was clearly someone like the LW’s Polly. (Not that I know who, I just know someone whined about it taking place and it ended well before Covid sent us all home from the office.)

    1. I Could Use a Massage*

      In college I temped for a year at a law firm that did chair massage for staff (and temps!) every Friday. It was free. They set up in an empty dimmed office for privacy (not that we were getting naked or anything). And it was AWESOME. It was an utterly boring job, but man it is 20 years later and I still think about those weekly neck/shoulder massages.
      It’s a perk you don’t forget.

    2. I'm Just Here For The Cats!*

      Had something similar at my last place i worked, only it was paid by the company. Only thing I miss about that place!

    3. The Prettiest Curse*

      We have chair massages once a month at my office. (Everyone pays for their own session.) Like the yoga, I’ve got no interest in doing this at the office, but I’m really happy it’s available for people who want to do it!

    4. Escapee from Corporate Management*

      I was at one company where they had a massage room and a part-time professional masseur. You paid your fee directly to that individual. I knew C-level people who got massages–on company time! I am sure Polly would find all of this awful and would lecture her great-grandboss about their poor productivity.

    5. allathian*

      Yeah, we had one of these before the pandemic, but so few people have returned to th office that this hasn’t been brought back.

      I tried it once and enjoyed it, but had to work early because the massage left me so woozy, so now I don’t even consider getting a massage in the middle of the day.

      I do enjoy the massage chair that my hairdresser has. I also enjoy the scalp massage she does while she’s washing my hair.

      It’s odd, though, because I don’t have a problem with service providers touching my head, hands, feet, neck, shoulders, and upper back, but there’s no way I’d volunteer for a full-body massage, the idea just makes me feel so vulnerable.

  26. frapperia*

    As a salaried employee and a yoga teacher, this is extremely ridiculous to me and Alison’s response is quite right! I did have problems when asked to organise similar in my last job, but that was more to do with a small office and limited rooms and politics, so I gave up trying to teach in the office, and then COVID hit…

    Also, yoga isn’t inherently exclusionary – it’s actually accessible to every body, because it’s not about aesthetics, but rather proprieception (awareness of body in space) and interroception (how it feels inside), along with breath awareness, so anyone from someone completely paralysed to a contortionist can participate.

    Ignore her and carry on.

    1. I should really pick a name*

      I think it’s better to let individuals decide whether yoga is accessible to their bodies or not than to state that it is definitively accessible to every body.

        1. Roland*

          Their point is that you don’t have to do downward dog. I mean obviously they aren’t saying someone paralyzed can do downward dog. You should not do yoga if you don’t wish to, of course, but I’d agree that there’s something for anyone if they want.

          1. Totally Minnie*

            I used to work in a library that offered Chair Yoga for seniors. It was all stretches that could be done while sitting, and nobody was going upside down.

        2. Cake or Death*

          While I don’t agree with definitively saying yoga is accessible to everyone, there are definitely many yoga poses that don’t involve bending your body upside down. For instance, Shavasana, or Corpse Pose, is literally just laying on your back with your arms and legs resting in a slightly spread position. My in-laws go to a senior yoga class which is mostly sitting and lay down stretching poses to help with mobility. Just food for thought :)

        3. Another Yoga Teacher*

          Downward facing dog is just one pose, you don’t have to do it in order to do yoga!

        4. Jack Russell Terrier*

          Yoga is not just movement. It’s also pranayama, meditation, mantra – and more.

          Yoga is connecting to your body without moving or just moving in specific ways. I teach Kundalini yoga and I love their moving meditation. You can put your hands on your shoulders or your waist, elongate your spine then gently inhale as you slowly twist to your left, exhaling with a slow and gentle twist to the right. Your head comes along with your body. Do this for three … eleven or even more minutes.

          Bringing breath and movement together is wonderful.

      1. jasmine*

        frapperia is saying that you can do yoga without doing yoga poses because getting into a physical position isn’t what yoga is about. Hence why the included the example of the paralyzed person. You don’t have to move a certain way to do yoga, in fact you don’t have to move at all. Spending all session in shavasana (i.e. lying down) is also valid.

        People might have reasons they can’t do yoga (or they might just not want to!) but there are no bodily limitations.

      2. kiri*

        yeah, agreed. i appreciate that many, many people benefit from it, but i don’t personally find much of it accessible for my physical needs/limitations. i recognize i could probably put more work into finding a teacher or practice that better suits my abilities, but i just hear so much about how inherently inclusive and accessible it is that it kind of leaves a bad taste in my mouth when that hasn’t been my personal experience.

        i’m happy for others to do it if it works for them! it’s just not for me.

        1. Cake or Death*

          YouTube is a great source for finding accessible yoga routines. My husband has a portion of his spine replaced with a metal rod and has found a few great routines for people with severe back issues; they’re all specifically tailored to not aggravate back issues but help you to strengthen your core, which in turns helps with back pain and weakness.
          Just an idea if you’re interested in pursuing it :)

        2. Silence Will Fall*

          Have you checked out Yoga with Zelinda on YouTube? I don’t know if she’ll meet your needs, but she’s definitely all about helping people with a wide range of bodies find a yoga practice that works for them. I’ve found her teaching to be very restorative, mind and body.

    2. FG*

      I know what you mean about the accessibility of yoga in the broadest sense, but unless there is a trained instructor*making it* accessible, and explaining that in the invitation, then lots of folks would opt out. As an older overweight person who enjoyed an anusara practice when she was younger & merely chubby, I would never dream if trying to walk into an average class, much less a casual workplace YT session. There are even plenty of trained instructors who wouldn’t even know how to modify for me. I know my limitations, & I know what sort of session is possible. For someone with limitations who’s never practiced, this sort of thing would be out of the question.

      In case it’s not clear, I am 100% in favor of OP’s lunch sessions & wouldn’t give them a second thought if I were in their office

    3. Minerva*

      This! I am not very flexible thanks to injuries and I adore instructors that are like “here’s the thing we are doing, but it’s your practice, you do what you need in the moment”

      1. londonedit*

        Yep – I do Pilates and at the beginning of each class the instructor says ‘Do what you can, I’ll give options to make things more difficult or easier, choose what feels right for you, if you need to stop and rest that’s fine, and if anything feels uncomfortable please stop and let me know and I can suggest an alternative for you’. During lockdown I did online yoga classes via a friend who’s a yoga teacher, and she’d say ‘If you literally just want to spend the hour lying on the floor and resting, please, feel free to do that’.

    4. Marna Nightingale*

      Yoga, the collection of physical activities intended to lead to improved fitness, isn’t inherently exclusionary.
      Yoga, the culture, ranges from incredibly inclusive to unbelievably exclusionary and inaccessible.

      I’m also seriously in favour of the lunch time yoga thing and the one thing I want to flag, wrt inclusion, although OP probably knows this and is working within their limits and doesn’t need to hear it, but just in case:

      If you decide to take the comment about inclusiveness as the one good bit of Polly’s critique — and I don’t know what you’re doing now, I’m not there, maybe you do feel like that’s a point, maybe you’re already doing inclusion really well —

      It’s awesome to be inclusive, and at the same time only a trained instructor should teach someone else how to modify a pose, whether they’re just out of shape or whether they have a disability that involves different fragilities and risks.

      Encouraging people to modify if they already know how to, or to skip anything they’re unsure of and just stretch gently while everyone does the thing: awesome.

      Inventing a modification for someone else: requires specialized training to do safely.

  27. GreenShoes*

    In answer to your question #1:

    As a manager I would have reacted the same way Henry did. Yes, managers do interact with their peers different than their employees. It’s possible it wasn’t the first time he’d heard about this from her and had already addressed it, which could explain the bluntness. But even without that I’d not be happy if another manager (with no standing) tried to undermine a decision that I had already made to an employee.

    #2: No it’s not exclusionary. Not everyone will want to or be able to participate in every activity at work. It is not a mandated activity and you don’t have the authority to compel people to join. This falls into the same category IMHO as the office sports bracket or fantasy team league. Usually these are offered to anyone interested, but some won’t participate because they aren’t interested, don’t gamble, etc. Same for bible studies, knitting circles, card games, book clubs etc. all of which I’ve seen organized and run by employees over lunch hours.

    #3: Yeah you probably should give them a heads up. But it’s a shame as they may feel like they have to stop participating

    Follow your manager’s lead on this. Henry has both given permission and backed you up publicly. Keep going with the yoga.

    1. Lilo*

      As someone who supervises I will say I absolutely don’t equivocate when I’m defending an employee. I have to be direct.

      1. Antilles*

        Especially when the employee is standing right there and seeing your reaction. The way you handle it is a message in and of itself.
        -Henry being blunt and dismissive towards Polly itself sends a clear sign to OP that you have his full support, this is ridiculous, and you absolutely go right ahead.
        -If Henry had instead gone with a vaguer and more polite answer like “I think it’s okay, but we’ll consider what you’re saying” – that’s a much different signal to OP.

  28. Retired Vulcan Raises 1 Grey Eyebrow*

    Employees are relaxing and having fun together during their break…

    Polly fumes: “Fun is verboten. I must keep all employees miserable and under my thumb all day”

    Henry’s blood pressure rising: “Miseryguts interfering again with my employees; she needs to stfu”

  29. MonteCristo*

    Just an idea, but you could float a chair workout in your slack channel and see if there is an interest. I’ve not participated in one myself, but I quilt, so have a lot of older friends and acquaintances, and workouts you can do from a chair have come up now and again.

    But I think you are definitely ok to continue your yoga break. Sounds like you have decent participation, but it isn’t like 29/30 people are doing it (which might be some kind of problem).

    1. Delta Delta*

      Chair yoga or chair stretching is great. Might be a fun thing to incorporate sometime if OP feels like giving it a try. It might also entice people who haven’t participated in the past.

      I think Polly’s attitude here is very unfortunate, as it sounds like this is a nice thing OP created.

    2. allathian*

      Yeah, but the OP’s not a trained instructor. She was doing yoga by and for herself when some coworkers asked if they could join her. It would be fine for her to continue to do yoga during her lunch break even if she’s alone.

  30. Fiona*

    I don’t think I agree with telling her reports what she said. If it were me, it would leave me in a weird frame of mind – do I still go to yoga? Do I go but feel guilty? Do I approach Polly? Do I blame the messenger?

    If Polly has an issue with this, she is free to tell her direct reports. Based on this interaction, she doesn’t seem to have a problem with speaking her mind. Her direct reports can proceed with the information straight from Polly, not second-hand.

  31. Swamp Witch*

    He might have been short with Polly because he may have already fielded this complaint with her privately, but I’m also going to guess it was a manager bluntly approaching an employee that was not theirs and trying to dictate what they do.

  32. Cat's Paw for Cats*

    Seriously? OP, Henry is rightfully annoyed with Polly because she made the egregious mistake of trying to countermand his approval to his own employee. In my world, giving instructions to an employee not under your supervision may well have resulted in a fistfight in the parking lot. Stay in your lane, Polly.

    1. Captain dddd-cccc-ddWdd*

      > countermand his approval to his own employee

      I’m not sure if she was criticising OPs use of time though, or her (Polly’s) employees who have got drawn into it and approached OP as the organiser rather than in a management capacity.

      Actually does Henry have the authority to allow OP to use the meeting rooms like this? I’m a manager myself and although I have authority over work assignments, discipline, hiring etc I don’t think I could authorise the use of the company’s meeting space for yoga etc – that seems like it should be more of a HR or facilities thing.

      I bet the yoga-related chat is taking up more time than people think – messages on Slack about “is yoga on this week” etc etc.

      1. Cat's Paw for Cats*

        If Polly has concerns, she should privately discuss them with Henry and if that doesn’t result in a satisfactory outcome, with her supervisors. She should never discuss issues with an employee not under her supervision.

  33. Monty*

    I once interviewed at a company that offered lunchtime yoga alongside a number of other wellness-based in-office perks. It was one of the reasons I applied. Then I went for the interview and got to witness two employees badger a third employee about why he hadn’t been attending lunchtime yoga and how he needed to burn off the calories he ate at lunch and how disappointed they were that he hadn’t even been showing up to morning run club recently. I instantly wrote the company off.

  34. Minerva*

    Polly approaching you about this directly while you were talking to your own manager seems like a weird power play.

    Be careful around her.

    1. Lisa B*

      Yes! I wonder if that’s tied up in “I’m a new manager and must assert my authority” behavior. I would be equally frosty if someone tried lecturing MY employee (!!!) in FRONT OF ME (!!!).

  35. Hiring Mgr*

    I don’t know why Polly would care so much, unless it’s that type of hot yoga, which could be unnecessarily running up the company’s utility bills by keeping the room hotter than normal. It’s also a very “sweaty” form of Yoga, so I can see where there might be concern.

    1. Stuckinacrazyjob*

      They are doing yoga with the YouTube girlies. I do this all the time. ( at work but not in the office because that’s awkward)

    2. Observer*

      This doesn’t make sense. For one thing, I can’t think of ANY form of Yoga that is SO strenuous that 10 people doing if for 20 minutes a day is going to actually affect utility bills, in a company of this size.

      For another, if this were a real issue, they STILL would not have the authority to approach the OP about it. And also, a reasonable person would have brought up the cost not some baloney faux-inclusion nonsense or complain that the OP is spending too much time on “personal” and “extra curricular” activity.

      1. Hiring Mgr*

        It’s not like school where there is a curriculum so the fact that Polly used that term is in itself an eye raiser, if not a yellow flag. Although with these Fortune 500 you never know – they may be into the latest management lingo that comes straight out of Harvard Business School.

  36. Irish Teacher.*

    My guess is Henry may also have felt, with some justification, that he was being undermined. He is your boss, he gave you permission and she basically told, in front of him, that he was wrong to do so. I don’t really blame him for being a little short.

  37. OC*

    She didn’t say this, so I could be reaching, but one thing to consider is a religious aspect. I was totally unaware of this before beginning to work at a fitness center with a Christian emphasis, but apparently there are Christians that consider yoga to be an “Eastern practice” and therefore inappropriate for Christians. That could be what she meant by exclusionary. I don’t know how widespread this belief is, but I have received very negative comments about the fact that we offer yoga, so those that do believe it, believe it strongly.

    1. Marketing Ninja Unicorn*

      I have deeply religious friends who do hold that worldview, but you know what? They just…don’t do yoga. One of them works in a building that has a yoga studio in the building and offers discounted classes to anyone who works in the building and she just…doesn’t go. She doesn’t get offended by people who do go, but it does conflict with her religious beliefs, so she doesn’t do it.

      As a religious person myself, there are lots of activities my work does that I don’t feel comfortable participating in, but since they’re voluntary and not work-related, I just skip them, and wish other people well in doing them.

      My religious beliefs do not get to dictate what my colleagues do on their own lunch breaks, even if they’re on work property.

      In fact, the only time I have cared about someone else’s religious practices that I disagree with is when someone wanted to ‘smudge’ our whole office building with sage and SET OFF THE FIRE ALARM and we all had to evacuate for several hours. I was annoyed by that.

      1. Observer*

        My religious beliefs do not get to dictate what my colleagues do on their own lunch breaks, even if they’re on work property.


    2. Cthulhu's Librarian*

      meh. those that believe the earth is flat believe it strongly. The strength of their belief doesn’t change that they’re still wrong.

      Even if that was where Polly was coming from, her beliefs about other practices doesn’t mean she gets to police them, anymore than I would get to police her personal practices.

    3. Goldfeesh*

      30 years ago the Methodist church in my small town would rent their basement out for activities. Some of the older ladies got upset over a Jazzercize class. I think they eventually had to rent from a different church.

    4. OC*

      To be very clear, I’m not saying I think this is a legitimate reason for Polly to try to shut it down, I’m giving a potential explanation. She doesn’t have any right to push her beliefs (IF this is her belief) on other people.

    5. Observer*

      but apparently there are Christians that consider yoga to be an “Eastern practice” and therefore inappropriate for Christians.

      It’s not just Christians. Yoga the physical exercise is rooted in Yoga the Eastern religious practice. That’s a simple fact.

      But it is also utterly irrelevant to the situation. For one thing, if Polly had an issue with that, she could and should have said so. Don’t complain that the OP is doing something “extracurricular” and “personal”. Also, she wouldn’t have made up the baloney about being exclusionary to people with disabilities.

      For another thing, there is no reason why a group cannot gather for a religious ceremony in this kind of context. It’s not being organized by management, no pressure is being applied, the LW’s boss made it clear that the group cannot keep anyone from using the room(s) for business use, etc. Given all of this, even if they were having an explicit prayer service, she’d be out of line.

    6. Qwerty*

      By your logic, it is exclusionary if a couple coworkers and I get together for lunch during Ramaden or to eat ham sandwiches on a Friday during Lent, since that violates the practices of someone’s religion.

      You don’t get to hold one employee to the standard of another employee’s religion. Fairly certain the company would be in trouble for religious discrimination if they shut down an unofficial employee group on the grounds that it was related to practicing a non-Christian religion.

  38. Keymaster of Gozer*

    Okay, I can’t do yoga (disabilities and other issues) and if this was some mandatory team building stuff I’d be incensed.

    But this is just a few people on their lunch break! This kind of ‘everything must be suitable for everyone’ tripe actually HARMS disabled people!

    I bet your boss was trying really hard to not roll his eyes at this. Carry on doing what you’re doing and ignore her attitude.

  39. Educator*

    As a manager, I definitely talk to my peer managers differently than the people I manage. With my reports, I am aware of the power differential and want to do a particularly good job of listening and being supportive. Part of my job is making sure they have what they need to be successful. I can be much more direct with my peers, not only because I know they have the reciprocal authority to push back if needed, but also because we need a certain level of directness and candor to make sure our teams work together well. I think most good managers are also a little territorial about protecting their teams from issues (like overstepping managers) elsewhere in the company. So Henry handled this just like I would, and it does not mean there is anything else going on.

  40. Nightengale*

    I’m a disabled person who jokes she is “allergic” to yoga and hates workplace wellness initiatives. . .

    and this sounds FINE. It is voluntary and the workplace is involved only as far as supplying space and the communication platform. It is not a mandatory or strongly suggested or a sponsored work activity and is occurring during lunchtime when people are free to socialize, read alone, hold a book club, leave the property for a walk or do yoga together.

    1. Nightengale*

      But also can we not with “actually yoga is accessible to everyone.”

      OK. If someone were to take the time to verbally explain to me exactly what to do with my body than maybe possibly yoga could be accessible for me. But every time I have been exposed to yoga has been either imitating what others are doing or trying to imitate poses from photographs or line drawings. I can’t learn from visual imitation. Unless both an instructor and I were to put major additional time into explaining everything to me in words, yoga is not going to be accessible for me.

      1. Keymaster of Gozer*

        Agreed. I’m disabled and I cannot do yoga, or mindfulness or any number of other things that people assume are accessible.

        I’d only complain if someone tried to a) make the events mandatory or b) tried to explain to me that I’m wrong and that anyone can do X.

        People off doing an optional social event? No skin off my nose.

        1. Bunny Lake Is Found*

          I tried to figure out a way to articulate this, and I preemptively apologize for being reductive, but I am trying to explain a semantic nuance.

          I am very afraid of needles. Full on phobia. Not great. Getting blood drawn for routine tests is a whole event that takes days (and meds) to prepare for.

          I cannot get a tattoo. Well, yes, technically, I guess if you knocked me unconscious and did it without my knowledge, I could physically be tattooed. Or if you threatened to kill someone I loved and the only way to save them was getting a butterfly on my lower back. Tattooing me would not violate the laws of physics and create a wormhole that swallows the entire universe. So yes, I can get a tattoo.

          But I would hate it, it would be traumatic and I would relive the trauma of the very IDEA of a needle piercing my skin whenever I saw the result, even if I had no memory of the event itself. My long term mental and physical health would be forever damaged even though, no, I am not some sort of alien being whose skin cannot absorb the inks of Earth. And that is what I REALLY mean when I say “I cannot get a tattoo”.

          As others have pointed out, many forms of yoga can be done by many people with various physical, mental, and developmental restrictions. The fact that, somehow, we can gerrymander “yoga” to technically fit within most people’s limitations is true. But that isn’t what it means when someone says they “cannot do yoga”, it means that gerrymandered yoga practice would be a terrible experience that certainly would not result in any level of centering or improved physical being and would actually be anathema to “doing yoga” .

          All of which is a roundabout way of saying everyone can do yoga, but a person who says they cannot do yoga is not, per se, incorrect.

          1. Nightengale*

            Oooh I love the gerrymander concept here.

            Yeah. “I can’t do yoga” is shorthand for “I can’t do yoga without putting in huge amounts of time, effort and energy and potentially needing an instructor to do the same, which I am choosing not to put into an optional activity that is supposed to be beneficial for me rather than a source of additional stress, time, effort and energy.

            I actually put said effort into learning a form of folk dance. I got people to loan me books. I eventually got instructors to tell me what they were doing in words. (It is really really hard to get instructors of physical activity to answer specific questions about what is going on in words rather than “just showing me” again.) I was in a place and time in life when I was able to put in this extra effort and I had reason to believe the eventual payoff would be worth it. It was. I am not now.

      2. Violet Rutherford*

        Maybe it should be phrased more as “*potentially* accessible to anyone, with the right instructor and personalization” rather than an automatic “it’s for everyone!!!”

        1. allathian*

          Yes, this!

          I’m sure I could do some form of modified yoga, just as I can do tai chi, but it’d have to account for my inflexible joints and fat body in a way that would prevent injury.

          I can’t even sit on the floor with my feet pointing straight forwards for more than a few seconds, so the lotus is completely out of the question.

          Tai chi works for me because you do it standing up, and the poses can be modified so that you don’t even have to crouch very much. My achilles tendons are too short and I’ve never been able to sit on my haunches with my heels on the floor, not even as a toddler according to my mom. But the movement and breathing exercises help center me like nothing else can.

          Mindfulness is also one of those things that’s often touted as being accessible to everyone, but the two times I’ve tried it were very unpleasant experiences so I’m not going to try it again.

  41. Office Lobster DJ*

    It sounds like the time and location for yoga shift every week. I wonder if that could be contributing to Polly’s impression that it takes up a lot of planning time, or maybe it’s the element of unpredictability that goes against her nature. Not that it should matter, if it’s always on a lunch hour, but it may take up more headspace than “Yoga is always at noon on Tuesdays” and have gotten blown out of proportion from there.

    If I were Polly’s reports, I would want to know.

  42. Llama Llama*

    If another manager told one of my team members to stop an innocuous activity, I would be extremely short with that manager too.

    1. Red Pajama*

      And right in front of you too- that’s basically accusing you of not being a good manager, in front of the person you manage.

  43. MissAmandaJones*

    While Polly is being completely ridiculous, the bigger issue is the company’s liability. There isn’t a certified instructor who has their own liability insurance leading these sessions. If an employee gets injured, the company can still be liable.
    I worked for a company that had a great gym as well as conference rooms set up like 70s rec rooms. We’d do lunchtime workouts, until HR shut it down for that reason. A coworker became a certified instructor with their own insurance. The company worked out a program for both lunchtime and after-work classes that paid the employee better than her hourly wage.

    1. I'm Just Here For The Cats!*

      That’s a stretch, and I don’t think that’s what Polly’s problem is. What about people who walk around the building or walk stairs on their lunch. If a bunch of them schedule a time every week to do that and someone trips or pulls a hamstring would the company be liable because it was on company time?
      And really couldn’t a release stating that you do this on your own and the company is not responsible for injuries

      1. Peanut Hamper*

        Yes, exactly. This is not something being offered or required by the company and that greatly changes the insurance aspect of it. Any company with a company gym would also have insurance to cover that gym. (Because that’s what insurance companies will point out to you.)

        As we’ve seen before, HR departments are not always the most knowledgeable of people. Shutting down an exercise program for this reason sounds like overreach or a misreach.

    2. Yes And*

      I came here to say pretty much exactly this. People can get injured doing yoga, and there’s a difference between an employee doing their own practice and leading a de facto group class (with streaming no less!). Doesn’t excuse Polly’s nonsense, though (as you said).

    3. Observer*

      the bigger issue is the company’s liability.


      I worked for a company that had a great gym as well as conference rooms set up like 70s rec rooms. We’d do lunchtime workouts, until HR shut it down for that reason.

      Given her ridiculous behavior, I have to believe that if that were what was bothering Polly, she would have already gone to HR. That would be the obvious way to deal. But even if she didn’t think she could go to HR, there are SOOOO many other ways should could have handled it that would have been at least possibly reasonable. Also, if that was her issue I can’t see a good reason to not just say so instead of making stuff up.

    4. Violet Rutherford*

      If Polly’s truly concerned about liability, she should ask the company’s legal department, if there is one, or HR. Not just shut it down on her own authority. She’s gone about whatever her concerns may be, if there even are any legitimate concerns, in entirely the wrong way.

      (For the record I do think discrimination and legal liabilities are legitimate concerns in general!)

  44. Spicy Tuna*

    Gosh, my company sponsors yoga several times a week during lunch or after 5PM. Polly is way off base!

  45. BaskingInMyWindowlessOffice*

    Thank goodness Henry was there when she spoke to you! I have seen exercise stuff turn cliquey, maybe Polly had that experience too and is trying todo something about it. Who knows. But it is okay for all the reasons that Allison identified.

  46. Daisy-dog*

    Agree with everyone else that Henry’s tone was warranted. It’s a pet peeve for me when someone decides to tell me or anyone else how to do their job when they have no idea what would be included in that. Henry was reacting to Polly’s judgment about your work output – which she doesn’t know about!

  47. Lord Dr. Importantpants*

    Hold on, Polly is definitely wrong, but did she actually tell LW to stop? “I think you need to reconsider” might be pushing that way, but it’s hardly an ultimatum.

    1. Allonge*

      From a manager, that’s a pretty clear indication to stop.

      She stopped short of saying it explicitly for sure, perhaps because OP’s actual manager was there, but yes, this is saying stop it without actually saying stop it.

    2. EPLawyer*

      Not even her place to say that. She barged into a conversation she was not part of, to then lay out her arguments that yoga needs to stop. The “you need to reconsider” was a polite phrase for stop.

    3. Student*

      Maybe your office works differently, but in most places I’ve worked, a person in a manager’s position telling someone lower in the hierarchy to “reconsider” in the way this was presented is not making a request.

  48. JSPA*

    I’m going to give Polly some benefit of the doubt and suggest

    1. she’s concern-trolling (which is bad) based on her misinformed assumptions about what yoga intrinsically entails (which is bad) but she is at least aware that exclusion in a work setting would be problematic (which is a good thing to be aware of).

    2. if she’s aware of the streaming, she could quite reasonably feel that this could be seen as a public face of the business, which would (legitimately!) add to her concern of this being seen as a work event. I would lose the streaming / youtube component, pronto. LW is putting their employer’s space on the web in a way that the employer doesn’t control…and the employer could legitimately be leery about that, for multiple reasons.

    3. if LW and friends went walking together at lunch, It would (similarly, but not intrinsically problematically) be exclusionary against people who can’t walk at their pace (or walk at all), and the “using workspace” aspect would be absent. Nevertheless, if it became a key way that alliances were forged and decisions were made, it would nevertheless come to suffer from the “guys Beach weekend and golf outing with the boss” problem, or the “5 of 6 people on our team eat lunch together” problem.

    If you’re happy with literally anyone and everyone being in the room and learning, this is significantly mitigated. And if it’s not drawing in people from all levels of the power structure, and there’s no “we invite everyone but Jane” problem, most of that risk is already absent.

    But it would make a heck of a lot more sense for her to have talked through her concerns with the LW, and discussed awareness and inclusion, instead of coming down like a ton of bricks!

    1. EPLawyer*

      She is isn’t streaming the sessions. She is using youtube yoga instructors FOR the session. No one is being filmed in the company.

    2. Shuthmili*

      When LW says “streaming on YouTube for free”, I am 100% sure she means they are playing free YouTube instructional videos of yoga workouts for the employees to copy, not that they are filming a group of employees practicing yoga and posting that on YouTube.

    3. Observer*

      but she is at least aware that exclusion in a work setting would be problematic (which is a good thing to be aware of)

      If you actually are AWARE as in trying to do something about it or avoid doing it yourself, yes, it’s a good thing to be aware of. But when all it is, is an excuse for concern trolling and making excuses for inappropriate demands? I don’t see any benefit to it.

      if she’s aware of the streaming, she could quite reasonably feel that this could be seen as a public face of the business, which would

      How? The OP is not streaming the office to the web, they are streaming a class into the conference room. The fact that you have a YouTube stream coming into your office does NOT put your office out on the web.

      Nevertheless, if it became a key way that alliances were forged and decisions were made, it would nevertheless come to suffer from the “guys Beach weekend and golf outing with the boss” problem, or the “5 of 6 people on our team eat lunch together” problem.

      So basically, according to this, Polly is making up stuff because MAYBE, SOMEDAY the practice could become exclusionary. That would be bad, but given your examples, it would really absurd, because the whole team is way too big, and the way the system is currently working simply doesn’t lend itself to this kind of thing.

      All of which is to say that Polly is being so unreasonable that I don’t think that there is any need to go into pretzel mode to find a reasonable “reason” for her behavior. Because regardless, the situation is the same – Polly is an unreasonable person who deserved to have Harry be curt with her, and the LW should not engage with her nor stop her current groups.

  49. Xakeridi*

    I’m thinking Polly wants her direct reports to not take a full lunch but can’t say that in this business culture.

    1. El l*


      I’m also guessing what raised Henry’s hackles more than anything else: She led with telling his direct report how to spend their time. Which is far more his call/problem than hers.

  50. Baron*

    I’m a person with a disability who could not do yoga, and I’m a pretty vehement accessibility advocate. That said, I agree with Alison completely here. Literally any activity you could name is going to be inaccessible to someone. The solution isn’t “no one can do any activities”. You’re doing great, LW. Don’t let Polly get to you.

  51. Call Me Wheels*

    As a wheelchair user at least for my mobility issues this honestly seems like one of the more inclusive lunchtime exercises you could be doing. It’s easy to find seated yoga/stretches videos and gentle stretching is good for pretty much everyone (those who are the exception would know) and people with mobility issues tend to know pretty well what they can and can’t manage. Others have already said it was none of that manager’s business for butting it anyway I just wanted to add my 2 cents you’re all fine on the inclusivity front

  52. HannahS*

    Hello, I am a person who cannot participate in yoga for disability-related reasons. I care 0% about whether or not my colleagues organize a yoga break. My colleagues organize yoga classes on our “wellness retreats” and I just…don’t attend. I agree with Alison; if you’re not a manager and this is organized for colleagues, I think it’s fine.

    I get that lot of folks with illnesses and disabilities have been subjected to “but have you tried YOGA???” a lot; I certainly have. It’s sucky, but it’s also not a reason for other people to not do yoga. Different strokes, etc.

    Out-of-scope of this question, but my own experience with “yoga evangelists” has led me to read some fascinating articles about yoga as a physical/spiritual practice rooted in India and how it’s been adopted/coopted by the predominantly white “wellness” movement. A topic worth exploring! But it’s unrelated to this question, so I won’t post more about it. Carry on, OP.

  53. Dancing Otter*

    Re exclusivity, I could almost see that argument if all the members of a department were participating except one. It would be like almost everybody going to lunch together but not inviting one person. (Been there; it stings.)

    But if they’re averaging ten people out of forty, that’s clearly not the case here.

    Maybe Polly resents that SHE wasn’t invited.

  54. MyOpinionandaFewBucksWillGetYouaCoffee*

    Based on the headline, I assumed this was going to be the case where the right answer was something along the lines of “Thanks for pointing that out [not my manager’s name], let me run that by [my manager’s name],” which is a polite way to say “you’re not in my chain of command.” Looks like LW’s boss was already on this!

    If I were in Henry’s shoes, I’d be “not thrilled” if other managers tried overstepping their authority to lower morale on my team. I’m not surprised that he immediately pushed back.

  55. H.Regalis*

    Does anybody have or know of a good way to explain when being exclusionary is harmful vs. not, like when it’s systemic /institutional vs. just life stuff?

    I feel like that’s the difference between things that need to be dismantled vs. silly things like Polly is saying, like POC not being promoted at work because of their race, or an adoption agency having a policy that doesn’t allow LGBTQ+ people to adopt children, vs. my coworker organized a lunchtime murder mystery book club, but I don’t participate because I don’t like murder mysteries.

    1. Qwerty*

      I think a good bar in a work-adjacent activity is whether there are career repercussions for not joining or if people are being pressured to do things they are sincerely uncomfortable with. These make the activities mandatory rather than optional, at which point you need to make sure it is genuinely accessible to everyone.

      Alison gives some good examples on how a lunchtime yoga could be problematic. Some other scenarios that could crop up unintentionally:
      – Yoga sessions are 80% of the team/department, so it starts to feel more like an official team activity rather than an organic optional one
      – Participants are pushy about getting their colleagues to attend
      – A manager or multiple managers are regular attendees with their team, giving a perception that attendees are in better team standing (the managers can fix this by attending less often or trying to position themselves near people outside their department)
      – Yoga group starts to become a “clique” during the rest of the work day (awareness of the issue usually helps clear this up)

    2. Observer*

      Does anybody have or know of a good way to explain when being exclusionary is harmful vs. not, like when it’s systemic /institutional vs. just life stuff?

      Well, the first step is figuring out what actually IS exclusionary. “Some people cannot do this thing” is absolutely not the same thing as “exclusionary.” That’s the issue here, NOT whether this is “acceptable” exclusion vs “unacceptable” exclusion.

      1. H.Regalis*

        That’s a good point. I’m still not sure how to articulate that other than I know it when I see it. Ex. posting a meme of “Does anyone remember eating peanut butter and jelly sandwiches as a kid?” is not exclusionary to people with celiac disease; but “your hair in its natural state is unacceptable and you must change it to look like mine in order to get a job” is.

        What’s a good way to articulate what exclusionary means? My start would be it’s things that affect power, money, where you can go, your opportunities, your safety, your livelihood, your health, etc. Structural inequalities that have a huge impact on your life, not “Steve can’t eat fruit so if you put a bowl of apples in the break room then you’re human trash.”

  56. old curmudgeon*

    The biggest take-away I have from this is that Henry has his staffs’ backs, and that he will go toe-to-toe with anyone to defend them.

    That is solid gold in a manager. If my manager has my back, I will do darned near anything they ask me to do.

    Ultimately, the issue with Polly is likely to turn into a very short tempest in a teapot to be forgotten as soon as she moves onto her next job (which may indeed be quite soon). But regardless of Polly’s tenure with the company, the OP knows in no uncertain terms that her direct supervisor appreciates her and will defend her, and at least for me, that counts as far more important than one little micromanager who got her knickers in a twist over a 20-minute optional, non-company-sponsored yoga session.

    OP, if you are able to update us at some point, I’d love to hear how this all shakes out.

  57. Tea. Earl Grey. Hot.*

    I absolutely can see the religious angle here, but I’m also wondering if Polly is just the type to be miffed that she wasn’t invited/included? I’ve known people who would try to shut something down if they weren’t specifically invited.

    1. Observer*

      What religious angle? Given everything the LW says, even if this were an explicit religious meeting, Polly would have been out of line.

  58. MyDogIsCalledBradleyPooper*

    We had a group that organized a HIIT workout in one of large meeting rooms/flex spaces that I was not a big fan of.
    1) They had booked the with a re-occuring meeting at 11:00 – 11:45 M-W-F for the full year. To their credit they would cancel the booking if anyone needed the room. However it looked like it was occupied in the calendar and some people may not have know who was booking the room or who to talk to about cancelling their session.

    2) They streamed a workout off youtube but it was quite loud and I would have found it distracting if my office were on that floor.

    It doesn’t should like the OP is doing either of these so I really would not have any issues and yes Polly is off-side on this.

  59. Hosta*

    Yes, some managers treat their peers differently than their directs or their stakeholders. I am one of those managers. With my team I’m almost uncomfortably optimistic and upbeat. That’s what my current team needs from me to be productive.

    With peers, I’m a bit more reserved. A bit more pessimistic. My humor is darker. And with peers or stakeholders that have a history of being unreasonable or hard to work with I’m clear and concise to the point of bluntness at times.

    Both of these approaches are “me”, I just turn certain parts of my personality up or down depending on the needs of the relationship.

  60. jas*

    My company has a stretching program. They spend plenty of money promoting it, it is just 15 minutes of stretching and totally optional but they give everyone 4 hours of training that goes over the stretches, modifications, and good body mechanics. We also have a small amount of exercise equipment at the office. the stretching is optional but is to be done during paid time. They said since they introduced the program even with only some participating their MSK injuries have decreased significantly. I also find it helps my focus and community feelings. I do it mid day and its a great time to release some tension and then I can go back to my desk ready to rock! Yoga and stretching, of all physical activities, are some that can also be more accessible than many other things. You can find chair yoga, yoga for seniors, floor yoga, etc.

  61. HonorBox*

    OP, to answer your specific question… yes, the interaction between managers is, and should be, different at times than it is with their direct reports. In this case, though, I’m not sure Henry would have needed to handle it less bluntly had it been a peer of yours that he witnessed challenging you about the yoga. This approach was out of line, regardless, but especially because Henry had given his blessing as your manager and you were being questioned by someone who is not your manager.

    Polly’s reasons for shutting this down are weird, obtuse and make no sense. This is an activity that people can join if they want to. And just because it is a physical activity doesn’t make it wrong to have going on in the workplace over lunch hours. It is no different than a group that gets together to play Clue over lunch…other than there are a finite number of players who can play Clue at any given time.

    I’d continue on, and maybe because he’s obviously got your back, you could ask Henry if he feels like you should give Polly’s two reports a heads up about her questioning the yoga. He seems to have a good head on his shoulders and may provide you some insight.

    And honestly if Polly says something to you again, I’d strongly consider leaning WAY in with information. Let her know that organizing a group of coworkers brings you joy. And that you spend time each morning before work selecting the video. And that you’ve built in 10 minutes so everyone can get changed at the top of the lunch hour. And that you’re only doing 20 minutes. And that leaves everyone 30 more minutes to get changed back into their work attire, grab a bite to eat and be back to their desk. And ask her if she’s directly questioning whether people are entitled to their company-provided (and legally mandated) lunch hour.

    1. Observer*

      Why on earth would the OP do this. It’s a lot of work and explaining that would be unnecessary with a reasonable person, and won’t help with someone who is unreasonable.

  62. Pam Poovey*

    Putting on my yoga instructor hat: people of all abilities CAN do yoga, they just might have to adapt it to their needs (look up accessible yoga!)

    I might be concerned if LW was acting like an instructor without training, because that can be dangerous, but it sounds like they’re just getting together and streaming something from the internet.

    1. Fiddle Faddle*

      FWIW, some years ago I had a friend with osteoporosis whose doctor said ix-nay on the yoga. I’ve also been told to avoid inverted poses because I’m at risk of a detached retina. I *love* inverted poses and I’m not sure I totally believe this, but I’m not willing to risk it.

      Of course, there is yoga and then there is yoga. The very gentle kinds that may be taught in senior centers may be appropriate for everyone, but the more vigorous kinds may not be. The problem is that inexperienced people won’t know enough to safely adapt poses, and a video on the internet won’t necessarily provide that information.

  63. Fiddle Faddle*

    Actually Polly is more right than wrong IMHO.

    It may surprise some, but yoga is not suitable for everyone, and some people don’t find out until they try it and are injured. So yes, it is exclusionary to some extent.

    There is also potential liability for the company if this is perceived, rightly or wrongly, as a work sanctioned event and someone gets hurt. Management needs to address this risk with the company’s insurer.

    Finally, it doesn’t sound like the OP is a qualified yoga instructor. She probably won’t be paying attention to who is doing the poses properly and who isn’t and is risking an injury. In addition, OP *herself* is probably not insured if someone chose to sue her. This was a concern when I substitute-taught step classes.

    Polly actually is doing what she should be and is protecting the interests of the company. If OP and her coworkers want to continue to exercise during lunch hour – which sounds like a great idea – they need to seek out other options.

    1. Fiddle Faddle*

      Forgot to mention: any physical activity should involve signed Release of Liability forms that spell out the risks involved and state that the participant assumes all risk.

      Any organized physical activity I’ve participated in has involved such forms. Some of them even included the phrase “up to and including death”, which is why qualified and properly insured instructors are essential.

      Since this form is intended to protect the company from liability, the form should be vetted by the company attorney. In fact, this whole issue should get an attorney’s opinion. “Just a bunch of coworkers watching a video and doing yoga together” probably won’t cut it from a legal standpoint.

      1. *kalypso*

        Qualified instructors are essential because the legal form is written in legalese designed to minimise the chances of a tort claim?

    2. HonorBox*

      Maybe… but Polly is dead wrong in her approach, which leads to her being more wrong than right.

      1. If there is a concern about liability, Polly could have approached this in a MUCH different (read: more professional) way. Pulling OP (or Henry) aside and suggesting that perhaps there could be some liability for the company if someone were to get hurt and encouraging them to check with legal … in a non-confrontational way … would have been OK.

      2. OP is not actually the instructor. OP is putting on a YouTube video and participating along with everyone else.

      3. I don’t understand your last sentence. If OP and coworkers want to continue to exercise, why is yoga not a worthy activity? How is yoga any more of a problem than coworkers who like to play racquetball or walk up and down the back stairway or go for a walk. Yes, people could get hurt doing yoga but someone could also choke on a hamburger if there’s a “DoorDash lunch club” too.

      If the OP feels like running this by a company attorney, they sure could. That said, perhaps when OP got permission to do this, perhaps Henry already ran it by legal.

    3. Observer*

      It may surprise some, but yoga is not suitable for everyone, and some people don’t find out until they try it and are injured.

      Which has WHAT to do with the situation. There are a LOT of activities like that. Does that mean that no one is ever allowed to suggest an activity that someone might not realize they should not do?

      So yes, it is exclusionary to some extent.

      Still not exclusionary at all. The fact that some people might not know that they can’t do it doesn’t make it more exclusionary than if people do know that they can’t do it. And Allison addressed quite clearly why this is not exclusionary.

      There is also potential liability for the company if this is perceived, rightly or wrongly, as a work sanctioned event and someone gets hurt.

      Firstly, this is not true. Work sanctioned is not the same as work required (officially or effectively.) Secondly, Polly was explicitly not addressing liability.

      She probably won’t be paying attention to who is doing the poses properly and who isn’t and is risking an injury.

      And? It’s not their job. All they are doing is scheduling the room and streaming the class. Why do they have any further responsibility?

      In addition, OP *herself* is probably not insured if someone chose to sue her.

      So? People can choose to sue for all sorts of ridiculous reasons. The OP cannot not spend their life avoid anything and everything that someone could sue them over. It’s literally not possible, because someone could choose to sue them for something they did, and someone could choose to sue them for NOT doing that thing.

      This was a concern when I substitute-taught step classes.

      Which has what to do with the situation? You were an official teacher of a class that apparently someone was paying for, which does create a liability. Someone doing Yoga on their own time with others doesn’t create a liability for either them or the company.

      Polly actually is doing what she should be and is protecting the interests of the company.

      Nonsense. For one thing, Polly clearly didn’t have an issue with liability. Secondly, there IS NO ISSUE WITH LIABILITY. Thirdly, in a case where there could be such an issue, the way to deal with it is to go to the supervisor or HR, not to try to boss someone in front of their actual boss with baloney excuses.

    4. I should really pick a name*

      It may surprise some, but yoga is not suitable for everyone, and some people don’t find out until they try it and are injured. So yes, it is exclusionary to some extent.

      This was addressed in the answer.

      Employers do need to be thoughtful about inclusivity and accessibility when it comes to things like benefits, perks, and team activities. But that doesn’t mean they could never sponsor (strictly optional) lunchtime yoga classes — and in your case, you’re not the employer! You’re an individual employee who happens to do yoga on your lunch break and has offered to let others to join you if they want to. This is just not an issue.

    5. Ask a Manager* Post author

      Polly doesn’t have the authority or standing to do what she did. If the company has those concerns, they undoubtedly have someone whose job it is to address it. There’s no indication that’s Polly (and every indication it is not Polly).

  64. McS*

    I have to speculate that Polly is ruffling feathers in a lot of places and Henry is generally irritated with her overstepping and that’s why he reacted that way. Yoga is no more exclusive than chit chatting about the latest sports ball game at lunch and I doubt Polly is worried about that.

    1. Observer*

      I suspect that she is worried about that, but can’t say so. Because I don’t think she is worried about actual exclusion, but people spending time together on “personal” stuff.

  65. Sheila*

    Just in response to your first question: “ Do some managers treat their peers differently than direct reports?” YES. It’s a very different relationship. Just like you might interact differently with your peers vs your manager, your boss may interact/react differently with you as a direct report vs his peers.

    I have an annoying peer manager. She is a nice lady in general, but extremely anxious and a terrible micromanager, and one of those people where everything you say or do is wrong, always. I feel really bad for the handful of people who work for her. One of my direct reports helps her with a weekly process, and it’s been a struggle to make sure he’s shielded from the worst of her behaviors. I recently found out that she emailed him some unfair and inappropriate feedback that contradicts my opinion of his work and I was STEAMED and I’m pretty sure it showed. I try to keep my criticism of her at a peer level or above and always strive to be professional, but I’m not perfect. Managers should generally be unified and harmonious in front of direct reports and handle differences behind closed doors, kind of like coworkers in front of customers, but sometimes something is so inappropriate or frustrating that a little “wtf” slips out, either because you can’t help it, or because it helps the direct report/customer understand that there’s something bigger happening here and what this person is saying/doing doesn’t represent the norm.

  66. Sans Serif*

    I haven’t read most of the answers yet, but some people (especially conservative Christians) consider yoga a religion and don’t like it or avoid it because of that. I wonder if Polly is reacting because it’s yog

    1. Sans Serif*

      Ack! My answer was cut off. Maybe Polly is thinking yoga is a religion – a religion she disagrees with, as well – and is reacting irrationally because of that.

        1. Sans Serif*

          Of course not! Just thinking it’s an explanation for her weird antagonism toward yoga classes.

  67. scurvycapn*

    “Polly, is there some new org chart I’m not aware of? Last I knew, I didn’t report to you.” *walks away*

  68. Science KK*

    This reminds me of a woman on another floor, who is part of a completely separate lab, and complains about our dress code.

    She’s literally gone to her manager and said PETUNIA GETS TO WEAR SHORTS AND SANDALS and is mad when her manager says I’m not Petunia’s boss. She also will make passive aggressive digs at Petunia and others in front of large groups. Genuinely has no idea how bad it makes her look.

    Are there legitimate reasons Petunia shouldn’t wear shorts and sandals? Absolutely. Is it this other person’s problem or business? Nope, not even a little bit.

  69. CLC*

    I can see if it is distracting, like if you are doing it in a conference room with glass windows while others are at their desks trying to work. But Polly didn’t cite that as an issue so I’m assuming that’s not it, but just to play devils advocate is it possible Polly was relaying complaints from her team and didn’t get it quite right?

    1. Observer*

      The devil doesn’t need advocates. But if you’re going to take on the role, try a more compelling argument.

      What you suggest is possible, of course. But it would still be extraordinarily incompetent. She’s getting the complaints wrong, and she’s trying to order someone who does NOT report to her around – in front of their manager. It doesn’t really land any better at all.

  70. Manglement Survivor*

    Power-tripping Polly is so far off base she’s in a different area code. Hope you keep doing absolutely anything you want on your lunch break!!

  71. Sleeve McQueen*

    Polly is off the mark, but I do wonder about the legal implications if someone gets injured. I took a break from corporate life when my kids were little and became a personal trainer. Occasionally my team ask me if I would run lunchtime session workouts. I always decline because as the head of the business, I don’t want someone who is no longer insured and no longer has the continuing education credits to keep the certification valid, running something even vaguely associated with the company because I don’t know what the liability is for me personally or the business in case something goes wrong. I understand that “screening a Yoga YouTube video” in a conference room is probably different than “ex-PT running a boxing class in the park” but I also think it would probably be important that everyone attending understands that.

  72. Anon a Bit*

    Ok. Stating upfront: Polly is wrong in her approach, her articulation, and, OP, you should take Henry’s response as confirmation that your yoga sessions are a non-issue.

    All that having been said, OP, I do think you should consider the “exclusionary” element, if only for your peace of mind as you seem (based on your specific inclusion of stretching/low impact sessions) to be very aware that not everyone has the same level of ability regarding yoga and you want those people not to feel as though these sessions aren’t something they can participate in. Polly’s articulation with “some people” potentially having a problem is ridiculous, but you should have a gander at the demographics of attendees of your yoga sessions. Are they all young? Super fit? Thin? Caucasian? Brunettes? Really into thrash metal?

    I am not suggesting you consider this because Polly has a leg to stand on, but more the way this blog and the commentariat, consider whether company “culture” and “fit” means creating a team who thrive and build off of each other or if it is actually creating a place where only people with similar backgrounds and experiences are hired or are able to achieve success. If for some reason everyone attending your sessions is a bit homogeneous, it may be worth considering if you want to diversify your practice. However, as this is a totally optional thing you do in your free time, there isn’t an ethical requirement to do so even if all the people you do yoga with at work hate disco and have red hair. If your yoga practice happens to only appeal to certain people, there is nothing wrong with that.

    I am over qualifying this comment, but as I hadn’t seen it mentioned, I felt it was worth bringing up. This is likely me projecting, but if I was the LW, the whole “exclusionary” comment would nag at me and the only way to fully put it to bed would be to actually sit with it and consider it from many angles.

    But again: Polly’s behavior is just…eek.

    1. allathian*

      Yeah, I agree with your last sentence. That said, I don’t think the LW has anything to worry about from a DEI perspective, because this is a large company and only a handful of people participate. All the company is doing is lending them the space for the exercise and the equipment/internet connection necessary to stream YouTube videos. The LW isn’t running a class, she’s exercising for her own benefit and if someone else wants to join in, they can.

    2. I should really pick a name*

      They’re not hiring people based on whether they do yoga or not.

      A subset of employees who want to do yoga are doing yoga.
      This is not homogenizing the workforce.

  73. YogaCanBeProblematic*

    Most companies I’ve worked at would not allow any type of employee organized sessions of this sort, even if they had a gym, mainly for liability concerns. Some would allow yoga on premises if given live by a certified instructor; employees would need to commit to and pay for an entire series of sessions (usually 8-12) and not get reimbursed if they missed some sessions or dropped out. One place I worked required you to shower afterward before returning to the shared office space if you did any exercise during a break which meant it could be a very lengthy break if groups of people did yoga or ran together or had any other joint exercise program (there was one shower in that office).

    At another place I worked nearly all of my direct female coworkers and my female boss participated and there was pressure from them to participate too (I was not medically cleared for any exercise but the reasons were not yet obvious and I was not particularly eager to explain why to my coworkers). It came up a lot and definitely hurt my professional standing with at least some of them.

    So while I think the way it was handled could have been better, there are legitimate reasons why optional non-instructor led yoga could be problematic.

  74. Cdubs*

    I have been in work situations where all the activities incl team building were all pretty exclusive and it was a real bummer. Like, once our official women’s group (in an industry where women were like 1 out of every 10 people) gave us the choice of (not even exaggerating) : horseback riding (with a weight limit), hot yoga class, or a skills course (things like being harnessed and jumping off ledges). The women’s group was always stuff like yoga and hiking and I just felt excluded and singled out every time. It sucked. They couldn’t do just ONE ceramics or craft class??

    Assuming there isn’t something cliquey going on, or they’re not monopolizing the space or getting special treatment from management (like always getting to use the space over other groups or meetings), and people don’t see OP as some kind of authority they can’t say no to (and no bullying if people don’t join in) I don’t think leading a yoga class is that exclusive as long as it’s not an officially sanctioned or perceived as mandatory thing . The only thing I could see is maybe yoga gear is not exactly work-appropriate but I feel like if people were being inappropriate she could’ve brought that up instead. And I kinda see there could be a chance for some liability with using the space in case something happened. Maybe she is also objecting on religious grounds, which I could see being really uncomfortable if I was participating and the video OP chose was heavy into the spirituality stuff (I’d similarly be uncomfy if someone tried to get everyone to pray before a meal or something, I don’t want to participate in anyone’s religion at work)

    1. *kalypso*

      Given the letter specifically says mobility issues and given the number of people I’ve met who think yoga is just a form of exercise, like aerobics or circuit training, I don’t think that religion is likely to have come into any of the thought processes here.

  75. Gigi*

    As my mother (may she rest in power and bossiness) would have said, some people just want to pee in your cheerios. I feel like Henry was protecting your cheerios. Take him at his word and let him protect the cheerios.

  76. Seashell*

    I wonder if Polly actually wanted the room being used for yoga for her own purposes and is using the other excuses to try to get OP out of there.

    1. Snell*

      If she had a legitimate need for the room, it would be so much more efficient (and professional) to reserve the room under that justification instead of menacing other people’s employees and hoping somebody divines her intent.

    2. Observer*

      Then all she needed to do was reserve the room. The OP says that their boss said that they have permission as long as the room being used is empty. And the OP checks each week to see what room availability is.

  77. E*

    the real question, are people sweaty and gross after this? do you guys all shower after?
    how many people on the slack channel? whats that chit chat like?

  78. Here for the Insurance*

    I think I’m in the minority here, but I wouldn’t do anything here except ignore Polly. People, including managers, are allowed to have opinions, even shitty stupid ones. That doesn’t mean you always need to do something about them. You’re not doing anything wrong and Henry gave you permission to continue, so there’s really nothing that needs further discussion.

    I also wouldn’t talk to Polly’s reports about this. If she has a problem with her reports doing something she doesn’t like on their lunch breaks, let her say so directly. I doubt if they’re unaware that Polly is an overstepping buttinski.

  79. Former_Employee*

    I assume the person’s name isn’t really Polly. If it were, I’d be so tempted to put up a picture of a parrot and under it write “Polly”. I can’t help it if my friend’s parrot happen to be named Polly, can I?

    In case no one can guess, I can’t stand buttinsky types unless it’s about something important. (I used to butt into conversations at work all the time if I overheard someone giving incorrect information to a co-worker.)

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