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Positive Psychology for Wellness Pros
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Hiring for Wellness

Hiring for Wellness

Clients often ask me what low-cost strategy they can implement to promote organizational wellness, other than the typical wellness committee and/or wellness champions.

My response? “Make wellness part of your hiring process.”

The classical reaction to my suggestion usually includes a flush of frustration to the face, as if I had just suggested they discriminate against the 66% of the population that has weight challenges.

So let me reassure you right away: I don’t mean that recruiters should focus their efforts on finding the most shapely candidates.

Promoting Health While Hiring

Recruiters could consider the following interview strategies:

  1. Ask direct questions, such as, “We have a culture of wellness around here. How do you see yourself contributing?” The comfort level of candidates as they respond, how genuine they seem, and how resourceful they are will help you identify who will engage actively, who will support meekly, and who will withdraw completely from your wellness efforts.
  2. Screen out takers, people who focus on what they can get from other individuals or from the group as a whole for their own benefit or promotion.Says Adam Grant, author of Give and Take, “Research suggests that it’s less important to screen in givers, and more important to screen out takers… Once an organization is composed mostly of givers and matchers, it can be quite effective to create marketplaces for help exchange, so that people know what others need and how they can contribute.”Read more about the contribution of givers in the Scientific American article, The Secret to Success is Giving, Not Taking.Screening out takers may be a key element in creating a culture where people feel safe sharing, where people support each other, and where resources such as well-being ideas are exchanged in a way that promotes greater wellbeing for all. Here are two ways in which you can detect takers:
    • Ask people to tell stories about how they’ve worked with others, particularly people below them in the company hierarchy. Who did they help become more successful and how?
    • Watch for how they deal with credit. Are their stories full of “I” language, or “We” language?
  3. Share the idea of random acts of workplace kindness. Give examples, such as sending a hand-written reminder of earlier successes to someone whose morale has dipped lately, or offering an extra healthy snack to someone who seems to be having a particularly busy week. Then ask your candidates if they can think of actions they would like to initiate. If they stare at you blankly, you know they won’t contribute much. But if they smile and come up with ideas, no matter how odd or impractical for your organization, then you know they are willing to play ball.

“Change your mindset about wellness — from something you do to an atmosphere you create. People are ready to change their health behaviors when they’re ready, not necessarily when making their open enrollment decisions… But you can be positioned with the tools and resources, the voluntary interventions, and the attitude that says ‘I’m ready to help you when you want the help.'” Dean Witherspoon

For complementary information on how to build cultures of wellness at home, take a peak at my article, Wellness Doesn’t Happen in a Vacuum, co-authored with Dr. Judd Allen. Or listen to my episode on 5/15 in the Life Habits podcast series with Karel Vredenburg.

MJ Shaar – in 20 seconds


MJ is one of the most sought-after experts blending positive psychology and health promotion. She spent over 15 years coaching, teaching, speaking, researching and testing smart health habits. Marie-Josée Shaar received her undergrad at McGill University in Organizational Behavior, followed by a Master of Applied Positive Psychology at University of Pennsylvania. She's certified as a Wellness Culture Coach, a Personal Trainer, and a Nutrition and Wellness Consultant.

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