June 9, 2012

Risky Girl Tests Corporate Business Ethics. ~ Elena Shlychkov

It was interesting to listen to a podcast interview with Alan Shelton that was recently posted on elephantjournal.com, about the development of corporate leadership.

“Leadership in the corporate world is broken in two areas,” said Mr. Shelton. “Transactional leadership and developmental leadership—when our leaders are ready to look at how their own behavior might be an impediment or an obstacle to the outcome of the group that they lead”.

I also noticed, that there has been an ongoing discussion in the media (Forbes Magazine) about the “risky girl” on the boards of corporate businesses, and how her behavior can “Spell Economic Meltdown.”

I personally believe that ethical business practices should not only contribute to the profit of the corporate organization itself, but they should also enshrine good manners, professionalism and compassion.

As a lifetime yoga practitioner and as a fitness consumer who happened to be in the midst of similar discussions, I am uniquely situated to elaborate on this topic at length. I believe that the fitness centers that offer training in yoga and meditation should also provide an exceptional and outstanding customer service apparatus and an ethical internal environment that will keep employees and customers loyal to the company.

I am not the only one who is discussing this topic: a large portion of the media in the United States shares my opinion. After reading some of these articles in the press, I feel that there is an urgent demand to create ethical corporate practices and a healthy environment for everybody in our society, including families, working moms, children, veterans and other groups.

Over the last several years mainstream fitness industries have been trying hard to reach their financial and ethical goals. Despite the economic downturn, fitness businesses have been expanding across the city. Beautiful. Why, then, are the best instructors and potential members leaving award-winning fitness facilities? Unfortunately, in the mainstream fitness and yoga corporations there is consistent evidence of a hostile work environment created by some employees, one that is sometimes sustained by superiors.

What would you do if you see an embarrassing situation when an employee of the yoga club would consistently offend another employee (who happened to be her teacher) in front of a large group of club members without any attempt at an apology?

I have witnessed these environments firsthand. In the midst of this agitation, it was never made clear why this employee/student was allowed to make derogatory remarks in front of other yoga teachers, fitness instructors and club members. She was aggressive, negative, behaving like she was on reality television. But her attitude did not just create an unfriendly atmosphere. From a legal standpoint, she had created what is termed a hostile work environment.

This type of environment is inappropriate. It is especially damaging for fitness and yoga centers, because the negativity seeps out into the overall community, and affects members who have nothing to do with the ongoing intra-staff disputes.

Let’s take a closer look at the definition of what a hostile work environment actually is. According to Section 9 of the Labor Bureau, a hostile work environment is one in which there are inappropriate images, offensive comments, gestures, lewd jokes, sexually suggestive statements, emails, or any combinations thereof. A hostile work environment doesn’t just damage staff morale; it affects every member of the organization, including customers. A hostile work environment violates the rights of both the employees and the consumers. Most corporate business administrations are aware that certain groups of people are protected by law.

They know that both their employees and their customers are entitled to a safe environment, and they are required to provide a reasonably safe place for business to occur.

In other words, if the people leaving their jobs are all older men, and the gossipers are all younger girls, or if it’s Asians quitting of their job, while majority of the gossipers are white girls, or veterans are leaving the workplace or a gay person – there is severe violation of the above law.

According to the research of Professor Barbara Frederickson, a positive and secure relationship is linked to a number of psychological and physical benefits such as decrease in stress hormones, control blood pressure and improved immune system.

We also know that for practitioners who approach yoga with respect, the words “compassion” and “seva” (Sanskrit) are essential and valuable. To return to our original example, it is obvious that the “risky girl” stagnant mindset runs contrary to these yoga principles, safe business development or economic prosperity of the company.

It is also unlikely that the fitness consumer will pay his or her membership money to experience or witness an abuse and destruction. Under no circumstances should the uncivilized mindset of the above employee be supported and cherished at the yoga space. A consumer must have a privilege to exercise and meditate safely at the yoga places instead of experiencing the hostility and violence promoted by the fatally insecure and overstressed “risky girl” on its board.

We can often read about fitness consumers who demand quality and value out of their fitness experience.  By doing this we enter a sphere of broadly discussed developments in workplace spirituality, corporate and social responsibility, character ethics, positive psychology and responsible leadership. I believe that a wholehearted leadership that has a consensus on the content of values, attitudes, and behavior is necessary for positive human health of the broad masses and not just a relatively privileged few.

I agree that gym denizens include not only local celebrities, news reporters, skinny girls in spandex, and body builders, but other representatives of our society such as teenagers, working moms, or veterans.

It is well articulated in the media that an increase in yoga, dance and fitness programs for teens and families helps to build a better community.

Many young practitioners use yoga as an outlet of expression, which diminishes bullying, reduces violence towards LGBT and contributes to the overall growth of compassion and tolerance. Unfortunately, teens do not bring to much profit to fitness corporations.

Perhaps, that is why for the majority of fitness and yoga clubs teenagers and family units represent an invisible subgroup?

Speaking about the “social responsibility” it is obvious that the above groups of the broader community and their interests are not fully represented, supported or promoted by fitness and yoga corporations and their PR, perhaps due to a lack of experience. To return to our original example it seems that mentality of the “girl” on the corporate board struggles with transitioning. Her painful, never-ending departure from her “teenage-hood” does not let her understand or enjoy the reality of responsible womanhood, since that reality remains mysterious, scary, unknown and threatening.

Whatever the reason is, I hope that most of the people will agree that the effort to improve business ethics and employment practices, promote responsible leadership and support members of the broader community is in urgent need to change and to be replaced with a nicer “role model”.

Until then, I would suggest that  everyone sit down in a conformable position, mediate and imagine that the opportunity to make the world a better place depends on you, your personal manners, integrity, good faith and  compassion.



Elena Shlychkov has a master’s degree in education and she loves to teach her students how to read, write and behave. As a certified yoga instructor, Elena is an advocate for juvenile health, wellness and non-violence. Her educational model consists of sufficient physical health, mental health and emotional health in school-age students of New York City. In her spare time Elena practices yoga and meditation, reading and writing articles on various topics, sewing, skiing in Colorado, running or playing tennis with her family and friends in the Central Park. As a fresh juice and quality food addict she loves to try out a new recipe and browse through the fresh food and ethnic markets. Her mission is to promote, teach and encourage the practice of good health. She believes that, through mindful education, balanced nutrition and daily exercise many issues can be remedied. Elena resides in Manhattan.


Editor: Hayley Samuelson.

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