Wednesday, April 23, 2008

Machiavellianism Run Amok

Imagine, such cavalier disregard! Where is the respect for such a caring corporation when workers behave in such a manner?
Whirlpool Corp.'s suspension of 39 production workers at an Indiana plant who were seen smoking after declaring themselves eligible for a $500 annual tobacco-free insurance discount may signal the end of the honor system that rules most corporate wellness programs, experts said Tuesday.

The action also underscores the difficulty of enforcing so-called voluntary programs when fines or incentives grow big enough to encourage cheating and snitching, they said.
How could simple workers look at their company's wellness program with such a jaundiced eye? Don't they realize that their company wants what's best for them? How could these workers so cynically take advantage of the corporation when everybody knows that only the corporation is supposed to take advantage of the workers. Could it be that the simple working man or woman is also capable of acting disingenuously?

Say it ain't so.

If this kind of thinking keeps going on, the "wellness" boys are going to have to fold up their binders and brochures and head back home.


Addendum 26 Apr 2008 - A roundup on the issue is offered over at the New York Times.


Anonymous said...


The wellness guys are here to stay and so is corporate America’s commitment to stimulating the health and wellness culture.

DrWes said...


Corporate America and the insurance industry certainly "know" the term "wellness." After all, they created the term. But they are not in business of healthcare, they are in the business of providing health insurance to their employees. Let's not confuse the two.

What is really happening is that "wellness" has become the curtain insurers hide behind in the name of rationing healthcare to their "high risk" employees, and it's now potentially costing at least 39 employees at Whirlpool their jobs. How much will re-hiring new employees cost?

And do we now want the police state that has formed in the name of "wellness?"

The employees in this case wanted less expensive care, so they checked a box that said "I don't smoke" and the insurers and corporations caught them in the act and called them on the carpet, even though the insurers and companies want to cut their costs, too.

Unfortunately, it's the little guy who always loses. This, my friend, is anything but a "wellness" system to me. What's next, detecting nicotine in blood the prove employees aren't lying?

Anonymous said...

Dr. Wes,

You have hit the nail on the head.. I really fear the day when I have to, once again, participate in a 'wellness program'.

When I was at Motorola, there was a 'health fair', that was non-optional. Everyone had to go to the 'fair'.

I still get angry about this 10 years later, when I think of the twit (an RN, by the way) who told me that I needed to talk to their 'councilor' about my weight. Yeah, sure enough I was 20# over the 'optimal weight of a female of my age and height', but I am also a powerlifter who spent 45 minutes shifting iron EVERY WEEKDAY. (Less so now at the age of 58, but I still move some serious iron 3 days a week). By all measurements that were available at the time, I was 16% bodyfat, with visible muscle and very little 'pinchable' fat. But what really galled me was the note on my record that I was 'uncooperative, argumentative and unwilling to work with health professionals to solve my weight issues.' I was none of those things, I simply told them I did not want to talk to a councilor as my weight was not a problem. Motorola did not fire anyone, or even follow up on that 'fair', however. But that was then. Lord knows what they would do now.

THEN there was the 'health fair' at another company, (again, non-optional, EVERYONE had to go...), where I was declared to have 'High Blood Pressure! and a racing pulse of 85' It was sky-high, too. (To brag: my bp is right around 120/60, with a heart rate a reliable 55.) When I showed shock at the reading, the nurse (bless her!) said, "Have you taken any medications in the last 24 hours?" I thought for a minute and said, "Neosenepherine for a little sinus congestion?" she replied "Bingo!". Also, she was pretty happy about my 'physical condition' and made no notes about me being 'overweight and uncooperative'. Just asked some questions about lifting weights.

But you see my point, this kind of 'general wellness' deal, where everyone has to fit into a predefined pattern, can be in itself, just wrong. One nurse that had the sense to look at the individual and one did not. But that's the problem with universal anything. With health or 'wellness', one size does NOT fit all.

I am very uneasy about companies being in the business of telling people how to live. If I told such a 'wellness' motivated company what I eat on a daily basis, they'd call the morgue and make a reservation based on the 'wellness' guidelines. I eat fat and protein, very few carbs. At least 3 eggs a day. I've done it for years and by all all lights, I should be dead.

I can understand companies wanting to narrow their costs, but I really miss the days when they stayed out of my personal life, and just paid the insurance bill.

Good call, Dr. Wes. But I am afraid we are dinosaurs.. You know what happened to them... On the wrong end of a gas pump.