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Home » Uncategorized » Schlumberger’s program confirms that in wellness, harming employees is the new black.

Schlumberger’s program confirms that in wellness, harming employees is the new black.

Do you know whether heartburn pills are safe for long-term use?

Silly us. We thought Wellsteps’ wellness program was an outlier when it came to harming employees. But Wellsteps has nothing on Schlumberger.  Almost immediately after reading last year’s post on the harms of crash-dieting contests run by Healthywage, Schlumberger instituted  — hang on to your hats — a crash-dieting contest run by Healthywage.  They even included some decent-size prizes — $1000 per winning participant. How did they finance those prizes, with sales of their drilling equipment falling by about half from its peak? Simple. They canceled their employee gym membership subsidy.

Then, as some may remember, it turned out that Healthywage’s understanding of arithmetic rivaled their understanding of obesity. In their contest, somehow five teams lost exactly 16.59% of their body weight.  This is clearly alternative math, since the chances of that coincidence using real math are about 1 in 4 quadrillion, meaning that the odds of winning the lottery are about 1000 times better than the odds that Healthywage’s executives are not a bunch of idiots.

So Schlumberger harmed employees, wasted money, and got ripped off by alleged weight control experts who can’t read a scale. What does a company do in situations like this? Double down, of course. Literally. Yes, this year, they’re back partnering with Healthywage…with twice the prize money — $2000 apiece for the five members of the winning team.


They gave employees a week’s advance notice, so that they could pack on some pounds that they can take off later.  Plus they could time their consumption of salt tablets, and concoct other ways to bloat up, before the contest began.  Basically they needed to figure out how to become as unhealthy as possible, before starting the unhealthy process of crash-dieting. (As an aside, several teams apparently tried to recruit pregnant women whose due dates fall during the contest period.)  And now that they contest is underway, who wouldn’t pop a few OTC diet pills to make $2000?

The difference is that this year, several concerned employees wrote to me and urged me to inform their benefits department of the indisputable facts that:

  1. Crash-dieting is a stupid idea;
  2. Offering prizes for crash-dieting is an even stupider idea.

I wrote the requested letter to Schlumberger, and explained all this to them, not that anyone with an internet connection should need an explanation of why crash dieting contests don’t work, or, more basically, why being stupid is a bad idea.

Their response?  The benefits department appears to have tried to determine who sent me the announcement, presumably in order to get them fired. It was actually multiple people since I have family in Texas in the oilfield services industry. I had anticipated this, so I un-linkedin with all of them before writing to Schlumberger. I’ve learned through experience that in wellness, you need to anticipate the most inappropriate and misanthropic reaction to any helpful offer, because that is the reaction you will get.  (For instance, rather than being concerned about Wellsteps harming their employees, the Boise School District wellness program coordinator told Wellsteps I was blowing the whistle on them for harming their employees.)

Update:  Healthywage presents alternative math, Volume 2. If the rule is (as stated) that you must sign up in teams of five, what is wrong with this picture?


And just as I was about to click “publish,” I noticed alternative math, Volume 3.  Apparently Healthywage thinks you can lose a high percentage of your total weight even if “you only have a little weight to lose”:


And that brings us back to the main, decidedly unfunny, point: crash-dieting contests, especially with big prizes, are a very bad idea…and companies like Healthywage ought to be ashamed of themselves for making a business out of harming employees.






  1. Mitch Collins says:

    You can’t make this stuff up. Have you ever considered sending a lettr to the BOD of a company? Now that will get their attention. CEO’s in particular get antsy about it.


  2. Not Going to Participate says:

    I find it curious that employers continue to readily embrace this level of liability. If someone incurs significant harm to themselves through this inane process, it’s not going to be pretty. Completely avoidable risk.


    • whynobodybelievesthenumbers says:

      And it isn’t a 1-in-a-quadrillion shot either. 703 people do this with this kind of money at stake, odds are at least one person will OD on diet pills, faint from fasting etc.


  3. temerick479 says:



  4. William McPeck says:

    What makes this even more maddening is that it is not just Schlumberger. The contest announcement insert listed several other companies in the oil and gas industry. Maybe we should make the industry as a whole a target for ridicule.


  5. Valerie Echter says:

    I’ve seen this first-hand. A co-worker of mine (in a leadership position, mind you) gained 18 lbs within a week in an effort to make a bigger impact during our corporate weight-loss challenge where the winning organization received a cash award.

    Wellness programs need to be driven more authentically, in my opinion. Obtaining overall health and wellbeing should outweigh any financial gain.


  6. Casey says:

    While I agree 100% that these types of programs are counter-productive to true, long-term health benefits, the situation where 5 teams reached exactly 16.59% average weight loss isn’t a statistical anomaly . . . that’s the maximum weight loss allowed in the competition. So every member of those 5 teams reached at LEAST (not EXACTLY) 16.59% weight loss.


In the immortal words of the great philosopher Pat Benatar, hit me with your best shot.

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