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Wellness in the Workplace 2.0 – All Hail the Benevolent Dictator!

Wellness in the Workplace 2.0

What Got Us Where We Are Today…Won’t Get us Where We Need to be Tomorrow

10 Key Observations from Thirty-Five Years in the Field


Okay, for those of you who do not know me or my work here’s a quick bullet bio:

  • 12 Year Cancer Survivor & Thrivor
  • Graduate Degree in Education from the University of Michigan
  • Vietnam Era Veteran of the US Air Force
  • Former Public School Teacher, Counselor, Administrator
  • Co-Founded the National Center for Health Promotion in the late 1970’s
  • Founding President & CEO, The Health & Wellness Institute
  • Retired SVP, Health & Wellness Services, Blue Cross and Blue Shield of RI
  • Author of 5 Books on Health Promotion & Behavior Change
  • International Speaker on Leadership, Health Promotion & Cancer Awareness
  • High Altitude International Mountain Climber and Trekker
  • Adjunct Professor, University of Rhode Island, Health Management Services
  • Annual Guest Lecturer, The University of Michigan, Ann Arbor
  • Married 39 Years with 3 Children and First Grand Baby due in April (Yea!)

I give you this background information to show that the observations that follow are grounded deeply in both personal and professional experience and not just the product of distant observation, casual research, coffee house debates and focused literature review.  I’ve had the academic training, taught the classes, written the books, delivered the keynote addresses, conferred with esteem colleagues, built the health promotion companies and passionately lived the life.

Over the next several days I will note my key observations followed by a summary entry on suggestions for Wellness in the Workplace 2.0…

Disclaimer:  It is arrogant and presumptuous to suggest that a mere essay on lessons learned and suggestions going forward is anything more, than … well … an essay.

es . say \e-s­­­a­: an interpretive literary composition usually dealing with its subject from a limited or personal point of view



1st Key Observation: All Hail the Benevolent Dictator!

When Augustus, 1st, Emperor of Rome, wanted roads and aqueducts, the Empire got roads and aqueducts.  When Maria Theresa wanted the children of the Austrian Empire educated and the creation of a unified judicial code, the children of Austria were educated and Austria had a unified judicial code (which eliminated the inquisition, burning at the stake and public torture, I might add).  When Catherine the Great wanted an end to religious bigotry and recognition of basic rights for women, Russia entered a period of religious tolerance and the role of women was elevated.

Of course, the list of atrocities under each of these rulers would fill several pages; however, …the point is this:  When you’re in charge, you get to make the rules.  CEOs of today’s private companies, like their counterparts ruling ancient Rome and sitting on the thrones of 18th century European monarchies, get to call the shots.  If they want free-fruit Thursdays and a smoke-free campus, all they have to do is say so.  Of course it is also a fact that if they want chili-dog Tuesdays and junk food vending they can have that, as well.  As long as they conform to the letter of the law (and—in a union shop—provisions agreed to in collective bargaining), corporate rulers get to rule, absolutely.

Here’s the rub, in corporate America the wellness culture of an organization can all change in a heartbeat — for better or worse.  If you have a great boss who BELIEVES in the inherent value of an evidenced-based healthy worksite, INDEPENDENT of strict number-crunching-proof-specific-to-your-company, great.  No problem; you’re one of the lucky ones.  But what happens when out walks Joan of Art and in walks Attila the Hun, Ivan the Terrible, Bloody Mary or Vlad the Impaler?

Champions are great but unless and until evidence-based health promotion and disease prevention (EBHP) measures are woven into the fabric  of your organization —read: written into your policies and procedures manual—your health and wellness program is at the mercy of boardroom circumstance.

Tomorrow: Key Observations 2 and 3

“Show Me the Money” &  “The Other 16 Hours”


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