Dear Coach Joan,

My boss is on an exercise and diet kick. Up until last year she was overweight and out of shape, but when her husband, due to health problems, started a diet and exercise regime, she got on board. In a big way. Now she is a zealot, and although we see that she really seems happier, more productive and energetic, we resent her trying to recruit us to her cause. We find it rude and intrusive. Kindly advise.

Skeptical Susan
Dear Susan,

Ah, those exercise and diet zealots! They can drive us crazy with their enthusiasm and desire to get us all into their low carb, vegan, paleo diets, on the treadmill, up at 5 am for jogging, weight-lifting  etc.

And what do I think of it?

I am of two minds regarding bringing one’s personal life into the workplace.

On the one hand, I find any kind of evangelizing at work to be rude and inappropriate. Whether it is for religious causes (not allowed), for the purchase of selling Girl Scout cookies (controversial) or for a particular diet or exercise regime, it is iffy if it belongs in the workplace. Some companies have specific rules and regulations around this topic.

Yes, we are naturally enthusiastic about things that we feel help us in our lives, but is the workplace the best place to share and encourage our practices, belief and habits? I think we need to step back when it is clearly crossing a line. And what are some examples of that?

It is crossing a line if a colleague is printing out her religious prayers at work, on work equipment.

It is crossing a line if a manager says that absolutely no sugar can be brought in to work events. (Unless it is a food that could cause a serious allergic reaction, as in the case of some peanut allergies, for instance.)

It is crossing a line if the company mandates that everyone uses the company gym and monitors usage.

But is it crossing a line when your manager strongly recommends that you clean up your diet and start an exercise program? When does a recommendation turn into a mandate?

Here’s where I stand on the boss being a diet and exercise zealot:

1) Let them be a great role model by sharing the improvements they are noticing to their work performance. Perhaps they find they are more alert, agile and productive. Yes, they can share those findings, and offer to be available to discuss how they have managed this change. But that should be done on a one on one basis, not to the whole group, unless perhaps the whole group agrees they want the information.

2) If they take up work time, say in a staff meeting, discussing the details of their new eating and exercising regime, I suggest that in a one on one setting you let them know that you are not interested, and don’t find this relevant to work. If it persists, you might poll others on your team and discuss it with HR. That is, if,  they have seriously crossed the line into evangelizing on work time.

3) In your one on one meetings with your boss, perhaps you do want to learn more. It doesn’t sound like your boss is demanding your participation but hey, if you notice they are really improving in ways that you find positive, maybe you do want to learn more. And maybe the company might even give you the time and some financial support in joining an athletic center or providing work time for sports activities.

Yes, Susan, zealots for any cause seem inappropriate in a work setting, but in the case of good health habits, with noticeable positive results, it just might be something to check out!

Heading to the gym now,

Coach Joan