Career Limiting Fitness Habits

Finishing up on another 60 hour work week last week, I finally decided to get some help with the back office work that’s been burying me for months. As I crafted my Help Wanted Ad for a Marketing and Executive Assistant, it was natural for me to include the requirement that the candidate must have “… demonstrated exercise habits and have above average fitness levels for consideration”.

After all, I’ve written ads like this for years in recruiting trainers, and hadn’t thought twice about it. But then I did think twice about it. Was it discriminatory to screen applicants who were actually overweight? 

Concerned, I checked The Federal Equal Opportunity Employment Law posted by the U.S. Equal Opportunity Employment Commission. What I found was that Title VII of the Civil Rights Act of 1964 prohibits “…employment discrimination based on race, color, religion, sex, or national origin.” And that’s it. For 45 years, this has been the written rule. Nothing about fitness or fatness. Perhaps the lawmakers of 1964 foresaw the health care epidemic we now face, and felt it fair to omit fitness from the statutes. (yeah, right)

I personally have no trouble telling candidates that FT MSP’s simply not good fit if they’re not fit – it’s our job to be fitness experts AND role models. But I do wonder how many other organizations think and screen that way in making hiring decisions and simply don’t say it. Or think and screen that way for promotions, and simply don’t say it.

Career limiting behaviors are normally pretty easy to identify: having the boss unexpectedly overhear you bad mouth his decisions in a conversation with a co-worker; bumping into an exec on the golf course after calling in sick; manipulating the time clock; etc.

Less obvious, but likely more severely limiting career behavior is chronically inadequate exercise habits and fitness levels. Volumes of documents chronicle the benefits of regular exercise and fitness for employees: increased productivity; reduced sick time; reduced time off for doctor’s visits; increased energy; reduced stress levels; reduced blood pressure; and elevated motivation. Everyone is more productive and more valuable to an organization if she exercises regularly. I’m not saying that women need to flaunt a size 2 figure, but they must regularly exercise. Men don’t need to sport a 30″ waistline, but they must regularly exercise. Yes, part of being fit includes body composition, but cardiovascular condition, muscular strength, flexibility, and muscular endurance are equally important.

Fit people walk more quickly to meetings, can take a flight of stairs to avoid elevator congestion, and spend less time in restroom. No job is completely un-physical.

Think about the promotions, lateral moves, sales calls, project bids, and proposals you’ve sought or pitched, but didn’t get over the past 10 years. And what that may have cost you in earned income. Thousands, perhaps Tens of Thousands of dollars have been lost because of unspoken decision-making based upon fitness levels. Or think about the last outdoor vacation you took, and how valuable being fit (or unfit) was to you.

One of the more frequent excuses we get from people who come to us for a consultation, but then don’t begin a program is that they “don’t have time” to regularly exercise 3 or 4 days per week. Ladies and gentlemen, if you’re serious about your career, your business, your family, or your spouse, you CAN’T AFFORD NOT TO exercise regularly.

A long time Minneapolis client once told me that she knows she’s overweight when people stop opening doors for her. I thought she meant it literally, but now wonder if she’d been figuratively speaking all along.

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