New secret to success: Working out with your boss

working out with your boss
self_logoThe gym used to be our escape from day-to-day life: no significant others, no kids and especially no work stuff. But nowadays, many working stiffs are forgoing that “me” time and spending it instead with their managers — and it just might be the smartest career move they can make!

With more employers encouraging workers to focus on health (which makes sense from a dollars-and-cents perspective: healthier workers save money on health care) and most companies still offering gym benefits despite other cutbacks, exercise time may be replacing after-work cocktails as the best — and most cost- and time-effective — way for employees and their managers to bond.

But is it right for you?

“This completely depends on the dynamics of your relationship with your boss, and your boss’s personality and management style,” says Donna Flagg, a blogger for Psychology Today and the author of Surviving Dreaded Conversations.

“The worst thing you can do is misjudge the level of formal versus casual behavior with which he or she would be comfortable — so take the time up front to evaluate whether your boss is ‘stiff’ or ‘loose’ to determine just how chummy you can be.”

The potential benefits to your career are clear.

“Exercising together expands the boundaries of an otherwise well-defined relationship and opens up opportunities to prove it by adding another dimension that allows you to get to know each other better,” Flagg says.

However, the risks could be great, too, especially if you and your boss aren’t the same gender.

“This is body work, and territory we don’t cover in the workplace, where we stay in our heads almost exclusively. That said, it is a gym, and there is a certain expectation that people will sweat and move and look different — avoid potential drawbacks by always being professional and modest,” Flagg says.

We asked SELF fitness director Meaghan Murphy and fitness assistant Jaclyn Emerick, who frequently work out together, what the boss-employee dynamic at the gym is really like.

Murphy admits that the fitness team doesn’t play by normal rules.

“When we’re at the gym, it’s research,” she says. “Sweating side-by-side checking out a new class is no different from brainstorming in my office.”

However, it’s no surprise that both parties love it.

“Because exercise makes you happy (endorphins!), I feel like we’re always in the best mood when we’re working out together,” Emerick says. “Even though there’s a bit of pressure — it’s rare, if ever, that I whine or back down from a fitness challenge, but I would never consider doing that in front of Meag — it’s a good opportunity to talk about work and personal things.”

If you want to give working out with your boss a try, Flagg recommends a casual approach, such as: “I’m going over to the gym tomorrow during lunch. Do you have any interest?”

As for potentially awkward locker room moments?

“Plan for it. Have an idea in mind of what to do if it gets weird: Jump in the shower, go to the bathroom, bring a change of clothes, get dressed in a different area.” —Anna Maltby for

Would you work out with your boss or employee?

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