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by Donald B. Ardell, Ph. D.
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Wellness in the Headlines
(Don's Report to the World)

Hire the Wellest of the Well.

Monday October 27, 2003

Last week, I suggested that if you want to better your chances for a good job, you might want to fine-tune your lifestyle to demonstrate that you will do your part to hold down company health care costs. Today's essay goes a bit further--I suggest that companies SHOULD consciously hire the wellest of the well, other things being the same (in other words, that candidates be qualified to do the work!)

Not long ago, a large university in the South ran such a job ad that explicitly noted that candidates should be committed to healthy lifestyles. In part, it read, "Earned doctorate in Public Health or Health Promotion, evidence of scholarly productivity and a wellness lifestyle that reflects the philosophy of the program." Makes sense that a job calling for someone to promote healthy lifestyles would him/herself be expected to be living accordingly, don't you think?

Several health professionals wrote to me, asking if I had any objection to ads like this. In reply, I said the question recalled a parable. The parable concerns an American in Spain during the Franco regime (described in a Wall Street Journal editorial on 6/30/98, p. A18.)

The Yank wanted to know what Spaniards thought about the dictator, so he asked a man in Madrid and was promptly taken in three different cars to an isolated lake and then in a rowboat to the middle of the lake, where the Spaniard looked around to make sure no one was watching and whispered in the American's ear, "I like him."

I like this ad! Since I don't live in a totalitarian country or work for a politically correct university, I could say that without feeling any need to take the person who asked to the middle of a lake to say so. The ad did not seem draconian in any way. It did not suggest that they would NOT hire someone who was not perfect in attitudes and lifestyle behaviors. They seemed to be saying that they cared about employee well being (let alone saving the university a lot of money in health insurance and other benefit costs associated with employees who do NOT live sensible lifestyles), and would like candidates who share that interest.

Actually, I'd like to see more employers INSIST UPON such descriptions and qualifications! I would also like to see more information in the ads as to what the employer has in mind concerning the nature of a wellness lifestyle! What a splendid public service such job requirements would represent if they were combined with detailed descriptions of various aspects of self-management for lifestyle artistry, especially if such ads were backed up by wellness educational campaigns.

Ever wonder what might happen if more employers identified a wellness lifestyle as a desired quality for successful job candidates--and hired accordingly? Here are a few possibilities:

Maybe corporate leaders at a wellness-oriented worksite will ask me to describe what I think should be included in a wellness lifestyle. If this happens, I will assure them that wellness does not mean complete freedom from all bad habits, absence of physical or other disabilities, or anything that would rule out or disadvantage anyone who has lifestyle qualities beyond his or her control or choice.

If the university folks who wrote that ad ever come up with another like it, I'd like to see a change or two. For instance, I'd recommend adding, "A sense of humor is also expected of all candidates." This could be accomplished by substituting the usual phrase about "an affirmative action employer" (read, "white males will be excluded, other factors being more or less equal") in favor of the delicious send up that mocks all discrimination from the movie "Life Is Beautiful," namely, "No spiders or Visigoths allowed."

What's your opinion of all this? As usual, I welcome and delight in hearing from you. Look on the bright side and be well.

Domain: purpose
Subdomain: applied wellness

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