It appears wellness vendors must be running into all types of objections and “path blockers” in the form of workplace leadership. Recently Dr. Troy Adams posted a short video titled, “How to Overcome 5 Leadership Objections to Wellness.” And then Jesse Hercules posted “7 Personas Who Can Destroy Your Wellness Program, Who’s Blocking Your Path – And What To Do About it.”
I’d like to know why leaders object, and why these newly defined personas want to destroy wellness programs. Doesn’t matter, I guess. We must identify, contain, stop, and overcome them. Ours is not to question why…
According to Dr. Adams, we need to overcome objections like, “Wellness is not our job… There is not enough time or space for a wellness program here… What about privacy?… Wellness programs can’t help here because of high employee turnover, and… We love to chomp down herds of red meat, mountains of French-fried potatoes, and drink barrels of beer here.”
OK, I made that last one up.
Of course, Dr. Adams turns all of these “silly” objections and more on their heads. So, that takes care of the Top 5 Wellness Objections that only Dr. Adams has ever heard. And in just under four minutes of video.
Mr. Hercules’ 7 Personas was a lot of fun. You gotcha ya free lunchers… chicken littles… just-write-the-check types… next-year procrastinators… the obsessed (with employees who may cheat)… paper processors (want everything in paper)… and my favorite, the Mr. Magoos (nearsighted people just looking at this year’s claims data).
I have a few questions after watching / reading these posts:
a. Are workplace leaders really objecting to wellness programs? I wish more of them were. Dr. Adams is finding them in greater numbers than Google®. And five objections? Wow! You’d have to know who Al Lewis and Vik Khanna are to find more than that in one place. Warning: They’re from the dark side of the Force, Luke.
b. What wellness destructive type of persona are you? I really wanted to be a Magoo. I love Mr. Magoo. But actually, I am a Chicken Little. I am one of those people who takes Mr. Hercules’ definition of “far-fetched risk as a real show stopper” as credible. As in, what are the chances an employee revolt against an established wellness vendor and program could be engaged on a large U.S. campus by the faculty, and then hit the mainstream media? See Penn State Employee Wellness Program Causes Controversy. Whoops!
c. Maybe I’ve fallen through my bathroom mirror into another dimension? Or I must live in another paradigm, parallel universe, or planet? I really don’t understand how workplace wellness programs as practiced by many earthlings makes any sense. See my recent blog that gives reasons for my disagreement with traditional workplace wellness ̶ Are HRAs, Biometric Screens, and Incentives in the Pursuit of Wellbeing Bad? 3 Groups are Starting to Push Back. Hmmm, maybe there really is something to this “push back” thing?
Adams’ Top 5 Objections and Hercules’ 7 Personas That Can Destroy Wellness Programs, although highly entertaining, seem like total fiction in my world (which includes real people ̶ and dogs). It’s the proverbial metaphor of fussing over the placement of the deck chairs, while the Titanic is sinking.
But you’re in luck. When it comes to objections or blocking paths to traditional wellness programs, I’ve got a few good ones, too. These objections also make the why of the objection obvious.
So I am happy and honored to fulfill your un-request and release them here for the first time ever to the three of you who regularly follow this blog. Drum roll, please…
5 Nightmare Questions for Your Wellness Vendor (Oh ?&#*!)
1. Why should we implement a program here based on disproven 17th-century science, outdated 19th-century management practices, and a B.F. Skinner like stimulus-response behavior modification model that PETA would sue you for if you tried it on a mouse? See “How to Build a Thriving Culture at Work: What’s Science Got to do With It?” by my two colleagues, Rosie Ward, PhD and Jon Robison, PhD.
2. Does the program use extrinsic incentives (positive or negative)? If so, why is there no credible research to demonstrate that extrinsic incentives work for long-term behavior change? And why use extrinsic incentives when they are known to harm intrinsic motivation?
BTW, when a vendor stops giving money (to bribe) employees into different behaviors, and instead takes away benefits for non-compliance, that is still extrinsic motivation. I’ve noticed some “experts” claiming they ended the incentive and increased participation when all they did was trade in the carrot for the stick. There is a ton of literature on this topic. Start with “Drive, The Surprising Truth About What Motivates Us” by Daniel Pink.
3. What is a viable alternative to a workplace wellness program? What if we focused on improving the everyday culture by excusing bad leaders, preparing and training new leadership, articulating a vision for our organization’s future, building in autonomy for the employees, and assuring value for all stakeholders − including investors, community, employees, and customers. Learn more about “Conscious Capitalism.” And pick up the related book by John Mackey (Whole Foods President / Founder) and Raj Sisodia. And take a look at one of my recent blogs about The Zappos Way – “Return on Community” An excellent model of what wellness could mean.
4. What data do you have on over-diagnosis, misdiagnosis, over-treatment, false positives, and lost revenue as a result of classifying previously healthy people as patients via your screenings and HRAs? If none, why? We know those things happen a lot in medicine. Aren’t we referring a lot of people into the healthcare system via our screenings? How can we assume they all avoided medical errors or inappropriate care?
Lots of literature on this issue, start with, “How We Do Harm: A Doctor Breaks Ranks About Being Sick in America” by Otis Webb Brawley, MD with Paul Goldberg. If you believe I am being overly dramatic on this point see, “We’re Still Not Tracking Patient Harm.” Also, “Wellness vs. Illness: How to Use 21st Century Medicine to Your Advantage Without it Eating You up Like a Paper Shredder.”
5. Do you engage in any screenings in excess of The U.S. Preventive Services Task Force Recommendations? If so, why? You’ll often find the reason to be financial. The more screenings, the easier it is for vendors to make money. I am all for making money by adding value. But most workplaces would be better off leaving the practice of medicine to healthcare providers.
Why Wellness Vendors Don’t Like Me Much
(In Case You Needed Clarification)
When you publish on an online forum like this, you better have some thick skin. I make fun of some workplace wellness commentary, while maintaining some respect (some of the time) for the people I disagree with. I upset wellness vendors (to my delight) and they let me know it (to their delight). But so far, it’s always been because my ideas (and like-minded) jeopardize their livelihood. Their displeasure with me has never been because the facts were not accurate, and the recommendations not sound. They just don’t want to change. Too bad.
Some vendors have suggested there must be a middle ground, a compromise of sorts that we can agree upon, a way that I will not “alienate” myself from the profession (good luck with that).
My dad hammered into his kids to think for ourselves. I can still see him pointing at his head as he said that about a million times. I’ve never accepted anything just because everyone was doing it, etc. Critical thinking is a rare and valuable skill. It’s what is missing right now in workplace wellness.
I firmly believe we are not helping solve any problems with traditional wellness programs; and in fact, we’re causing harm. Louis Pasteur (see my blog Louis Pasteur’s Crazy Idea Doctors Were Wrong… and What Wellness Managers Need to Learn From That) either believed microscopic germs spread infection or he did not believe it. When he looked through his microscope, he knew the new paradigm would be accepted sooner or later because he could see the evidence. Why conduct one more surgery with a rusty surgical instrument, or with dirty hands. How do you compromise with that? And that is exactly how I feel about workplace wellness today.
Wellness vendors can change, accept the clear and overwhelming evidence, and support healthy workplace and community development. But you’re going to have to make them. It’s going to take a paradigm shift, some creative destruction, and new thinking. Meanwhile, there is always enough humor in the absurdity of today’s wellness world to get us through.
Shawn is the President and Founder of Hope Health. For over 30 years, his work has focused on bringing clear, easy-to-read and watch health messages to the public via workplaces. He bills himself as the “Best C+ Student in the Wellness Biz” because, as he says, “I like to challenge the notion that there is no such thing as a stupid question.” Shawn is on a mission to tie workplaces into their surrounding communities to share resources and ideas in an effort to improve the health of all Americans.
You may reach Shawn at sconnors@HopeHealth.com or 800-334-4094.