cable news plays in my office all day, and it’s killing me

A reader writes:

My office runs cable news on TVs visible from all break and work areas during work hours. There is no business need for this news; we’re a software development office in an industry not directly related to politics or activism. I’ve previously spoken to my manager and cited them as a distraction. He agrees with me but has stated that my grand-boss (my boss’s boss) wants to keep them.

I have a diagnosed anxiety disorder, and over the last weeks especially I’ve found these headlines, snippets, and inevitable water cooler talk to be an anxiety trigger, up to and including panic attacks. I’d like to address this with my boss, but I am at a loss for how to get traction. Do I bring up my diagnosis? Do I involve HR? Do I request a blackout on news media in work areas or request some kind of individual work area accommodation?

I feel compelled to add that I do organizing and activist work outside of my office hours, so I’m not trying to stick my head in the sand about current events, just to mitigate the work impact. I also work very hard at managing multiple chronic illnesses, and my boss has been consistently impressed with my individual work and team involvement since I began a year ago. I am the most junior member of my team, and the only female member.

You can read my answer to this letter at New York Magazine today. Head over there to read it.

{ 202 comments… read them below or add one }

  1. Nan

    I agree with Alison, but also, how often is GrandBoss in the office, specifically where the TVs are? Can a TV be put in GrandBoss’ office? Or perhaps “lighter” news fare. Maybe something like the Today Show or Good Morning America in the morning, then “not so light” news fare in the mid morning/early afternoon like CNN or Fox or whatever floats his boat, then back to easier news like a local news channel in the afternoon.

    Alternately, all our office TVs run PowerPoints all day of office birthdays, anniversarys, and other goings-on. Perhaps news part of the day and happy events the other part?

    It’s not not a perfect solution, and requires someone to change the station, but it may be enough to lighten your mental load and keep the GrandBoss happy?

    The business across the hall from us has their lobby TV on news 24/7 and just seeing it all the time when I go out in the hall wears on me.

    Reply
    1. PatPat

      But why does the TV need to be on in an office AT ALL? I’d find it very hard to concentrate with the noise, even if I didn’t have a problem with the content. I want quiet at work so I can, you know, work!

      I really hate this modern habit of TVs on everywhere. When I’m waiting in the doctor’s office, at the mechanic, or pumping gas why am I forced to be a passive consumer of TV? What is wrong with a little contemplative silence?

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      1. Isben Takes Tea

        This! I posted below that ANY TV station would distract and stress me out. If not the content, the commercials! If not the noise, the constantly changing visuals! If you work better with a background buzz, that’s why we have headphones!

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      2. lowercase holly

        ugh, same. morning news shows are basically what i associate with ER and mechanic waiting rooms and the worst. the worst. if i had to see and hear them every day, i would quit. no TV at work unless relevant to job!!

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        1. Not So NewReader

          It’s a great sedative. People just sit and stare at it, you know, instead of,like, doing things.

          I spoke to one manager whose theory was the tv was a baby sitter so that people would be less apt to notice how long it was taking to get service. I am working on that theory, I try to observe where there are tvs and if there is adequate staffing.

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        2. JessaB

          And even if I did care about them nobody puts on a caption and I can’t hear a word, so unless it’s all day sports, I have no clue what is going on which really really distracts me because I stare at it trying to figure out if that storm or if that crime is anywhere near me. Or matters to me at all.

          Request – offices, malls, restaurants, hospitals, whatever. If you are going to put on a TV all day to entertain your customers or employees, (a lot of the offices I know have like game shows or something like a talk show and not the news,) PUT THE CAPTIONS ON. Make the default of any TV in the public sphere to be CAPTIONED>

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      3. The Not Mad But Occasionally Irritable Scientist

        The one I hate is when the TV is on at a bar. Everybody’s just staring, slack-jawed, and totally silent. My little neighborhood brewery has ZERO TVs. People…..actually chat with each other! They come in for a crispy one, meet their neighbors, talk beer, make friends.

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      4. PlainJane

        Yes! I had a medical test done last week, and I was delighted that the TV in the hospital waiting room was showing beautiful nature scenes and playing quiet, relaxing music. Usually medical offices around have either HGTV or ads for medical procedures (think vision correction or plastic surgery) blaring in the waiting rooms.

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      5. Lily in NYC

        It would drive me nuts. Our PR dept. has one on all day, but they keep it on mute with captions so people can read it if they want but no one has to hear it.

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      6. Chickaletta

        +1000.

        Just because you can hang a TV in a room doesn’t mean you should.

        I once worked in an office where TVs were in all the rooms for no reason other than the owner liked to have them. Everyone in the office (it was a small office) loved this idea and kept them on all day while they worked. I was subjected to cable news, sitcoms, and music videos all day long. I didn’t have my own office so I couldn’t get away from it. The constant noise was annoying and slightly depressing.

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      7. fposte

        I’m changing dentists because the one who inherited the practice put a TV in the waiting room.

        (And everybody in the waiting room is looking at their phones anyway, so it’s annoyance for nothing.)

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      8. Fiennes

        Me too. I’ve given up going to a couple of restaurants bc they installed TVs all over the place. I get the concept of a sports bar & such, but these are sit-down places that had atmosphere. If I want to eat in front of the tv I can do that at home in my underwear! Hardly going to pay for the privilege.

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        1. JessaB

          Yeh there are two types of eating places, places with bars and sports type things (Fricker’s, some Applebees, those kind.) And the kind where you don’t go to watch the sports (Bonefish Grill, and fancier non chain places.)

          If I do not want to watch sports or whatever important thing is on, I don’t go to places I know have TVs. If I do, I make sure it’s the kind of place that will put the sports we WANT on. That’s key. If they have 15 TVs and they’re all tuned to the same game and the person in that back corner doesn’t watch football and want’s the basketball, that’s not an unreasonable customer request.

          On the other hand it’s not out of line to call the doctor’s office regarding the TV. There’s no legit reason except making the staff happy during the day, in which case move the TV Behind the counter.

          I get it, they’re trying to give some unnecessary impression that their employees are not paying attention, but either they can watch it/listen to it AND work, or it should be gone anyway no matter what is on it.

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      9. Lablizard

        Airports kill me with this. It is already a noisy, stressful place. Do we need more noise and more stress?

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      10. Bonky

        Even if the sound was off, I’d have trouble with this, no matter what the channel was. It’s so hard not to be distracted by bright, moving images; I actively avoid bars and restaurants where silent TVs are the norm, and I’d absolutely hate it if they were present in my workplace too.

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      11. WildLandLover

        +10,000%! It’s near impossible to get away from the constant noise of television sets no matter where one goes these days. It’s gotten so bad I don’t want to go to any restaurants or doctor’s offices or even shopping malls! The TV in my home is on only occasionally; sometimes not all day or night (this past Sunday, for instance). I love the quiet where I can contemplate, unwind, listen to the birds outside, read, let my mind wander, and just generally chill.

        If I had to work in an office where television was on all the time — much less cable news TV — I would go stark, raving mad. :-)

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    2. Leslie Knope

      I once had an office with several TVs (mandated from above) that lined the walls. However, employees would frequently change the channel they displayed to something very benign–like golf.

      So here’s what I’d recommend:
      – Have the sound turned off (if it isn’t already)
      – Have a blackout period during the day (such as every afternoon)–maybe you can man the remote? And it can be your responsibility to turn off daily?
      – Recommend channel changes (golf, images of sweeping landscapes, or even just a less polarizing news channel)
      – Ask for a change of desk /office where your vision is not directly at the TV (if possible); or rearrange monitors

      Reply
  2. Winger

    I totally identify with this letter writer – I am super politically engaged and do activism/organizing work in my spare time, and my job is even tangentially involved in politics. Yet I need SOME kind of space to get my day-to-day work done without drowning in this stuff, especially in the format that cable news (of all stripes) tends to present things.

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    1. 957

      Yeah! I love politics and thankfully my Wall Street office plays CNBC all day, not Fox news, but angry guys yelling all day gets old really fast. Its very distracting. The other day they played 6 hours of Jay Leno’s new car show instead of, as my coworker put it, “talking Trump Trump Trump” all day. It may have been less stressful, but not really less distracting.

      Reply
        1. Whats In A Name

          OMG my SO loves Jim Kramer and made me listen to him ON THE RADIO on our last road trip. I thought I was going to gouge my eyes out. It’s actually worse than the TV version.

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      1. Countess Boochie Flagrante

        Yep. We’ve got Bloomberg on (but muted and closed-captioned) which is a useful thing in a lot of ways — not to mention kind of fun to watch during the SNAP IPO last week! — but politics and finance cross over heavily and it’s exhausting having it in my peripheral vision all day.

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    2. KG, Ph.D.

      Yes!

      I also wonder if there’s something different psychologically about TV news vs. written. I peruse news websites and related commentary all day, via news websites and Facebook. I’m sure it raises my stress level, but that’s nothing compared to the level of anxiety I feel when I pass by a TV playing news or commentary in the airport, cafeteria, etc. I don’t know why, but even TV commentary that I agree with makes my shoulders go up around my ears. I feel super on edge. Perhaps because it’s in a common area, and I’m subconsciously worried that a coworker is going to make a comment and try to draw me into a conversation about it? I don’t know. But ugh, it’s the worst.

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      1. Winger

        Ahhh yes I totally agree with this. I will read the news on and off throughout the day, even if it upsets me. It’s just a very different experience than having to listen to someone talk, often loudly and obnoxiously, about something, especially when it’s happening in a shared space and you can’t turn it off/down.

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        1. JessaB

          Also written news does not have that OMG HORRIBLE THING happened voice that a newsreader does (I hesitate to call most of the TV newspersons, REPORTERS, they read a feed, there are very few of them any more that actually go out and get and vet news.)

          It also doesn’t usually have horrid intrusive pushy interviews with panicked and screaming victims. Must these people always shove a mic in the face of someone who just found out their house burnt down or a person known to them’s body was in the bayou?

          Also it’s very easy to turn a page, on a newspaper, or close a window on computer news. You can stop interacting instantaneously if it starts to bother you, and come back later or just never come back. TV doesn’t stop unless you have full control of the remote.

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      2. Thumper

        Also the way it’s presented on TV in general can be hostile. I don’t take issue with cable news when it’s a single person reading off headlines, but those “talking heads” style segments where people constantly talk over each other and sometimes turn into full blown shouting matches drive my anxiety through the roof.

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        1. Solidus Pilcrow

          This is exactly why I don’t like the news channels. People (who often agree!) yelling at each other for 15 second soundbytes is both annoying and superficial. I mean, you have a 24 hour news cycle, take a full 60 seconds to let someone yet a thought out! Go in depth in the issues. Don’t scream at each other and the viewers.

          Reply
          1. Solidus Pilcrow

            Arg, *get* a thought out, not *yet*

            Apparently I was going for a combo of “yell” and “get” :)

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            1. MarsJenkar

              There’s a reason that, if someone asked me “Fox or MSNBC?”, my answer would simply be “no”.

              Reply
  3. Robbenmel

    Oh, this would kill me, too! I used to be a news junkie…but in the last few years, I have found I just cannot abide listening to any of it. It wouldn’t come to a panic attack for me, but I sure see how it could for some. I’m sorry I don’t have anything to offer but my sympathies!

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    1. Sylvia

      +1! Lots of sympathy here.

      I’m still a bit of a news junkie, but most people are happy working in a peaceful and quiet place. TV news is neither of those things.

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    2. Artemesia

      Me too. I have always been a news reader although less a tv watcher but these days I find I sort of sidle up to it sideways on line where I can move when I have my fill which is quickly. Being subjected to this all day long would make me really hostile; the rage filled noise just makes me crazy. Even rage filled noise I agree with makes me irritable; stuff I don’t agree with would be even worse.

      Reply
  4. k

    Uhg, that would really bother me too. I don’t like to think about politics at work because it just takes up too much head space. Like OP, I’m not ignoring current events at all, it’s just a matter of compartmentalizing. I wouldn’t be able to get anything done if the news was playing all day. I’m willing to bet there are others in the office that wouldn’t mind a break from it.

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    1. Stranger than fiction

      Yeah, I watch a half hour of news after work, and really, after that, it’s just repeating the same stories over and over again anyway.

      Reply
  5. OhNo

    OP, you have my sympathy. Being forced to listen to any kind of TV all day would drive me up the wall. And news reports would probably have me with you, trying to quietly have an anxiety attack in a corner. I really hope your boss and/or HR handles this well.

    If getting rid of the TVs altogether isn’t an option, there are some accommodations you can propose to HR. Noise-cancelling headphones, cube walls to screen you from the TVs, moving where you sit. Another possibility that your coworkers might get behind could be to have quiet hours. Like the no-meeting-Mondays trend that was going around, just establish some times when all the TVs get turned off to allow people to work in peace.

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  6. WalkerBlue

    This past election created tension in our offices. We switched from the 24 hour news cycle, to one of those DYI home improvement networks.

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    1. Gandalf the Nude

      Ooh, yes, surreptitiously change the TV to The Weather Channel. It looks news-y enough Grandboss may not even notice! Or he’ll be pacified by the soothing tones of Local on the 8s.

      **Don’t actually try to be sneaky. We saw earlier today how bad that is!

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    2. Elizabeth

      I feel like “We show House Hunters International all day on TV” should definitely be listed on the list of benefits to working there in their job postings. Sign me up!

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    3. Alex the Alchemist

      I’d love that, except I feel like it’d do some serious damage to my productivity. I get INVESTED in Property Brothers episodes.

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    4. Spoonie

      My breakroom has subtle channel wars. Certain people switch it between Cooking Channel/Food Network/HGTV/DIY. And then I have seen one employee (and presumably others) actively change it back to Fox News. It’s somewhat comical since no one actively eats in my floor’s breakroom, so you’re in there for maybe 5 minutes to get water, heat up lunch, etc.

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    5. Ama

      Heh, I was at an office last week where the waiting room was showing HGTV which seemed nice, except it was at a nonprofit office that helps people who have been displaced by a natural disaster or some other event that causes damage to their homes. We couldn’t decide whether it was tone deaf or aspirational (if these dumps can be turned into homes, yours can be fixed, too).

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    6. Princess Carolyn

      I always suggest HGTV (and its ilk) as perfect waiting room/public area programming. The Weather Channel is my other go-to, or ESPN Or the Golf channel. So soothing. Or Food Network.

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  7. KP84

    I saw the headline and thought, wait, did i send in a question in my sleep? I have the same exact issue as the letter writer. It drives me crazy – we have CNN on all day on the screen by my cubicle. I cannot go to the break room or bathroom without seeing it. It is just way too much – the news definitely causes me anxiety and it causes me sometimes to get angry/depressed/feeling helpless. My therapist told me to try to ignore it but easier said than done – there are also TVs in the cafeteria, gym and on the wall at then entrance where I scan my badge every morning. I try to turn it off when I leave but someone always turns it back on in the morning.

    My question is why? This is a place of work, why do we need TVs on all day? If people want to stay alert on the daily news, then they can use these new fangled things called computers to check CNN.com or their Twitter page or Facebook or Google news, etc etc etc.

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    1. irritable vowel

      I don’t understand why management would want their employees distracted by TV of any kind all day! Surely this must have an impact on productivity. I have so much sympathy for receptionists in medical offices that have awful daytime TV blaring in the waiting room; I can’t imagine having that kind of disruption in an office area.

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      1. Shhh I'm thinking

        It really does impact on productivity. There’s no such thing as ‘background noise’ when it comes o voices, whether that’s news, other tv shows, or music. Voices are hard to ignore, especially yelling or distressed-sounding voices. TV news also brings in learned helplessness, because these distressing stories rarely come with solutions.

        People are bad at multi-tasking; our brains can only do one or two things at a time and get round that by switching attention fast. But the more things you have to switch between, the worse the results you get become. Decision fatigue also kicks in when the news (or other tv shows) catch your attention, and then you have to constantly decide to watch the TV or switch back to your work.

        It also seems weirdly old-fashioned these days? If you really want to keep on top of the news, your smartphone is probably ahead of cable news anyway. (I feel so old now. I’ve just realised that cable tv rolling news was a genuine breathrough — back before our latest crop of interns were born!)

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    2. miss_chevious

      I thought the exact same thing. I don’t understand why my work place (which, like the OP’s has nothing to do with journalism or politics) needs to have CNN on 24/7. It’s muted at my workplace, though, so at least we don’t have to hear it.

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    3. Pat Benetardis

      I was thinking you might be my coworker! Except that we can’t turn the tvs off (or at least I can’t figure out how to). I was having a really hard time around the inauguration and in the weeks that followed. Every time I got up or went anywhere there was a headline that disturbed me. At least I can’t see it while I’m sitting. I’m fine now.

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    4. Solidus Pilcrow

      Just curious, is it the content that gets to you or the repetition? At a former workplace, the lobby had a TV set to CNN all day and I think the security guards who where always there must have been slowly going insane from the headlines on repeat every half-hour, regardless of what the headlines actually were.

      Reply
  8. overcaffeinatedandqueer

    This reminds me of my gym!

    Up until December, they played Fox, local, CNN, and MSNBC on the bank of several TVs right over my usual machine. Now, they no longer play MSNBC or any liberal networks, and the TVs are all on other types of news, but mostly Fox. I live in a blue state. But still, with how angry people are lately, I don’t think I’d be any more successful with “play MSNBC or a liberal view, too, or just local news,” than OP might be here. That is to say, not very.

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    1. Temperance

      Have you complained about this? You’re paying for a service, and they can’t even put on HGTV or MSNBC or CNN?

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      1. The Question

        They’re paying for a service. The gym. The TVs don’t really come into any of the agreement of service at all. Is it good business to lean obviously one way politically? Probably not. But it’s no different to going into a cafe and seeing the same stuff. You’re not obligated to watch it, nor are the managers obligated to change the channel.

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        1. JessaB

          The service that is being paid for is a comfortable work out of whatever intensity the person wants. It is absolutely not out of line. I know the gym my friends go to tend to play music channels with high beat music (I guess it helps people count reps, or run or do things with the beat?) But if you complain that OMG all that pounding rock is too much, you can actually get them to put on something generic like MTV and even CMC. But that’s more to have a good work out.

          They do NOT want people complaining that things are harshing their workouts. Whether biased news or the wrong kinda music. This is absolutely something I’d complain about how about opposite styles on opposite ends. Or something non news.

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    2. Midge

      It might be worth saying something to your gym. They’re probably giving in to the vocal minority. Giving them the benefit of the doubt, maybe they don’t know there’s a silent majority that doesn’t want to watch Fox every time they work out? (I’m assuming you’re part of the majority given that you say you’re in a blue state.)

      On a tangentially related note, last year when I went on a cruise I was dismayed to find that all the TVs in the gym were tuned to Fox. I’m not sure if this was the actual or assumed preference of the staff/visitors. But it definitely shaped my opinions of my fellow passengers.

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      1. Sylvia

        +1

        There’s probably plenty of moderates and conservatives who don’t want to watch Fox every time they hit the gym, too. I know I get fed up with plenty of media that’s made with my own political leanings in mind.

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      2. Kelly

        I’m always amazed at comments on a forum where we aren’t supposed to get political that thinly veiled insults against conservatives are always accepted.

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      1. De Minimis

        I saw a news article [can’t remember the location] where a YMCA decided to quit playing all news programming on the televisions. There were too many arguments happening while people were trying to work out. I understand the feedback has almost been completely positive.

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        1. really

          Scranton, PA. I was going to post this, too. They now run ESPN and and I believe the Weather Channel.

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          1. Temperance

            It’s because there were actual fistfights (as in, plural) over politics. I’m from that area, it’s not entirely surprising.

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        2. Pineapple Incident

          That is a wonderful idea! No matter which way you lean, almost anyone can get on board with that- you need a break from the news cycle. The gym is supposed to be a happy place. Ideally so is work, which benefits in numerous ways from maintaining neutrality among staff, especially about political stuff. Who would ever be okay with running news all the time unless it specifically pertains to the job?

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      2. JessaB

        Weather is starting to make me crazy, all those shows they air that have nothing to do with the daily weather in a certain place. All those disaster shows, the one with the tow truck people which is not always silly things like OMG that molasses is running down the hill we’re going to have moose country in ten minutes because YUM, lets get this truck righted.

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    3. Problem Solver

      I usually combat this by targeting one TV, picking a machine, and then finding a staff worker to change the channel. I get enough political talk with social media that I am not looking for it at the gym. Give me some sports, HGTV, or MasterChef Junior all day long.

      Or you can be like my husband and somehow READ A KINDLE while running. It’s amazing. I definitely don’t have that super power.

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      1. JessaB

        OT – OMG Master Chef Junior did you see the one a couple of years ago when they were making whipped cream and this tiny girl screams in a drill sergeant voice that the contestant (a boy,) should “Whip it like a man?” In any other context OMG sexist but she was the most adorable young cook ever and SO good at it.

        BACK ON TOPIC – I can deal with HGTV or anything that’s generally non newsish with news breaks at certain points for really critical stuff. I could even deal with a local network that shows news, soaps, shows, etc. Even though I don’t like soap operas (they’re at least usually neutral.) I think my main bug on local networks is Dr. Phil and his ilk.

        But yeh I think the MOST neutral is probably the Golf channel, most of the time even if you hate golf, the visuals are GORGEOUS.

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  9. Natalie

    Dear god that sounds insufferable. Not even given the current political climate – I would have HATED this anytime in the last 15 years since television news became the epitome of so many things that are wrong with the media and the viewing public.

    At my last job we had one TV in the reception area with the sound permanently muted, and just walking by it irritated me.

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    1. Electric Hedgehog

      Alison, would it be helpful to update your commenting guidelines to specifically prohibit political talk? I see why you took MaybeTomorrow’s post down (I saw it and replied to it initially), and it was… strongly worded… but I also could see why MT would have felt that it wasn’t too out of line, barring the politics.

      Also, I feel like your readership has a significant number of right leaning persons in it who feel like they can’t engage in the comments with an opposing viewpoint without being maligned or shut down.

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      1. Ask a Manager Post author

        Yeah, I probably need to add it to the commenting rules, although in this case the rudeness was equally an issue.

        I’m okay with people feeling like they’ll be shut down if they post racist, sexist, or otherwise bigoted comments, or if they talk with glee about people losing their health care or being deported, etc. That’s obviously far from the full range of right-leaning viewpoints, but I rarely see others come up here. (Personally, my politics are all over the map — I’m fiscally conservative on some issues and quite libertarian on others, so I’m not just enforcing one overall political line here.)

        I’m okay with this being a forum with a viewpoint though.

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        1. Electric Hedgehog

          I think many people who identify as right leaning do so because of fiscal conservatism or other totally non-horrible reasons, and it’s the characterization of right leaning people as sexist bigots who hate immigrants, want to deny healthcare to those in need and kick kittens that’s part of the problem. I have no issue with this being a left leaning forum (not that my opinion on that actually matter much, since it’s totally your site), I’m just hoping that those with right-leaning ideologies don’t get automatically pilloried or villanized, which is happening to some degree.

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          1. Ask a Manager Post author

            If you can point out specific instances of it, I’d be glad to respond to it. I mainly see it come up with stuff that’s obviously over the line. (And that may be because of a broader silencing effect when people get the sense that it’s a progressive-leaning commenting community, who knows.)

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            1. Electric Hedgehog

              It’s happened once or twice in the past that I’ve seen, and I will point it out in the future. Thanks for being willing to address this!

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              1. The Not Mad But Occasionally Irritable Scientist

                I’d be interested to see what specific comments you regarded as getting pilloried.

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          2. Mazzy

            This is interesting I’ve become more right-leaning lately and it did have to do with fiscal conservatism. Probably because I now pay over $500 a week in taxes so I literally feel like I’m paying for some of these government programs that are out there. Most of my leaning to the right has to do with my disillusionment of liberal politicians including local ones feeling like it’s their job to throw money at things that could be fixed without grants or by the private sector or private money.

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      2. Undine

        Yeah, I’m left-leaning, but I definitely get the feeling that “I am so stressed hearing about politics” gets more traction than, say “Every woman but me is going on strike on Wednesday, and I have to cover the front desk.”

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        1. Ask a Manager Post author

          I’d actually love to get that question! I don’t think that would be shut down here at all. And really, if it were the opposite politics — if it were 2009 and the question was “all my coworkers are going to a town hall forum to protest the health care bill” — I’d have pretty much the same answer, which is that political involvement is a good thing, and while you might not agree with your coworkers’ stance, sometimes you do end up covering for coworkers and it’s not an outrage.

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          1. Ask a Manager Post author

            That said, I don’t want to sound like I don’t get that there’s a clear political leaning in the comments here. There is. But I’m comfortable with shutting down comments that I think are mean-spirited, politically and otherwise. And yeah, that may contribute to that impression, but I will certainly speak up if anyone is getting maligned* for a political viewpoint solely because it’s a minority viewpoint.

            * But “encountering disagreement” does not equal “maligned,” and sometimes they get conflated.

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          2. Undine

            I would love to see that too! I’m not saying I think *you* would shut down that kind of discussion, but I do think the overall tone, the “broader silencing effect” would definitely make it harder to post something like that. So stating explicitly that you would be interested is good. It’s just such a tricky line to walk, especially with everything that’s going on right now.

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            1. The Not Mad But Occasionally Irritable Scientist

              Honestly, given what I’ve seen of the personalities and ethics on display in this commentariat – which is one of the most compassionate and ethical I’ve seen anywhere on the internet, ever – I’m comfortable assuming that if someone feels like they can’t express something, it’s probably not fit for civilized discussion anyway.

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              1. Ask a Manager Post author

                Eh, I can see why it would happen. It can be tough to jump into a conversation when you’re pretty sure everyone there will vigorously disagree with you.

                Reply
            2. Emi.

              I think there’s some coded maligning that happens, but moderating dog-whistles sounds like a nightmare! More commonly, I think there’s a fair amount of stereotype-reinforcing in the “something like this happened to me” comments. Someone writes in with a workplace problem they had with a conservative coworker who committed X wrong stereotypically associated with conservatives … and then the comments fill up with people saying “Ugh, same, I also had a conservative coworker who fit this stereotype.” No one has done anything wrong, but the overall vibe is that this community believes the stereotype and endorses the stereotyping. That this effect is stronger for negative stereotypes about conservatives than about liberals is probably because the commentariat is majority-liberal, but I think it’s also part of the reason why the commentariat is liberal-liberal. Conservatives-leaning types come into an environment like this, look around, and think they’d probably also be stereotyped that way (ask me how I know). That may be incorrect (and I’ve seen some heartening counterexamples), but it’s not crazy.

              I’m not blaming you for this, Alison–I just wanted to explain (in part to commenters) what people may mean when they complain about the political slant, especially because it’s a dynamic that’s harder to spot as problematic (or at all) when you’re on the “winning” side.

              Reply
              1. Ask a Manager Post author

                Yep, yep, yep, I do see that and I know what you mean. I don’t think there’s a way around it without significantly changing the way I moderate and the amount of moderation, but I think this is a very good explanation of how it plays out.

                Reply
                1. Not So NewReader

                  I am not sure if this is helpful, but sometimes 100 examples of the same idea is just overkill. If 2-3 people write in to tell their story that seems to be enough for people to get the gist of what the problem is. At some points I find myself scanning rather than reading word for word. I can’t be the only one doing this.

                  We live in a time where solutions are so valuable that solutions are almost priceless, that is, we are not able to put a dollar value on them.

                  Running at the same time, people have a lot of energy. Well, we could chose to harness that energy and put it towards seeing solutions or towards lessening the impact of negative things. Clearly this won’t work with every single thing that comes up. But we do have a common ground here. We like AAM and we find the site invaluable in our lives. So that becomes our foundation.

                  I am kind of chuckling to myself because of the awesome brain power sitting here reading together, as a group we probably have the education, experience and know how to tackle problems, big problems successfully.

                2. Lissa

                  Not So New Reader, I agree. Especially when it’s one person with a minority viewpoint having 30 people line up to tell them how they’re wrong, it just feels really unnecessary. To be honest, it’s why I stopped reading the Captain Awkward comments (still like her advice!). I get that some people don’t refresh or type at the same time, but that doesn’t account for all of it.

              2. The Unkind Raven

                I like this a lot; thank you for posting it.

                And maybe this doesn’t go along with this, but just because I don’t feel like posting twice: my sense (I’m not going back to find specific examples, so I will stick with “my sense”) is that this community gets very self-congratulatory about how civilized it is. I’m not seeing that sense of civility so much lately, and it’s getting to be a bit much with the pats on the back. My sense, particularly as a conservative (young woman, if it matters) is that conservative viewpoints are ridiculed, conservatives stop commenting as much, are hit back against with greater force when they do, and so we stop commenting or never comment in the first place. There are many voices here, but they aren’t all recognized or accepted, and they are targeted with very loaded language that is never addressed.

                Again, my perception. I just think that it’s worse for a community when voices are silenced.

                Reply
  10. Kitty

    As the most junior and only female on the team, I would resort to ear plugs and position my computer screen/work such that I did not have to see the flashing screen. You can make the accommodation for yourself. If you aren’t allowed to wear ear plugs, then stream music quietly or take up meditation or mindfullness classes to help you get passed this issue. You want the quality of your work to be what “Grandboss” remembers, not that you challenged him on his ridiculous TVs.

    Reply
    1. irritable vowel

      Well, frankly, the Grandboss should be getting sub-par work output because all of his employees are too distracted to be productive…

      Reply
    2. KellyK

      Noise canceling headphones might also work here.

      There’s nothing wrong with requesting a medical accommodation, and from what you describe, it sounds like an extremely reasonable one. But, stigma about mental health is a thing that exists, and it gets compounded with sexism. So, my recommendation would be to make your own accommodations quietly first, and only go to your boss or HR if that doesn’t work.

      Reply
  11. HelpDeskNerd

    Ye gods, I empathize. My previous job, I was (wo)manning the coffee bar/unofficial break area, and the TV was almost always turned to one of the shouty-screamy news channels. 8-10 hours of that every day wears on you…..at least I could get away with changing it to sports most of the time.
    And I definitely agree, something causing panic attacks is more than a distraction, it’s a work impediment and business-impacting.

    Reply
  12. Sabine the Very Mean

    I wouldn’t do this but I would really want to: just keep turning off a TV each time you leave a room with one on if it is accessible. When confronted about it, I’d just act surprised and confused. *Furrowed brow* “what do you mean? Oh, the television? I just assumed that because no one was taking break, it was left on accidentally… Oh, I turned it off again? I’m sorry, it’s a habit of mine to turn off un-used electronic devices. I’ll try my darnedest to get out of the habit”.

    Reply
    1. No, please

      This reminds of a friend who took a universal remote to her favorite bar. It took her bartender a while to figure it out, but then they all laughed. I’d be tempted to do that. (I wouldn’t really do it.)

      Reply
      1. JessaB

        If I had been the one that specifically asked for a certain channel to be on (and we do this a lot because we live in a football state and Mr. B is a basketball guy,) I’d be A: flipping out politely and B: lowering the tip every time someone did that to a show I had specifically asked to watch and were paying for food and drink in quantities enough to park that table through a couple of turn overs.

        If someone with a larger party came in and wanted that specific TV, I expect the server to come over and tell me that I’d been overridden by more customers than were at my table and did I want to move? In which case I’d be cheque please, pay it, leave a great tip, and go home to watch the game.

        I would be blaming my server NOT some random guest.

        Please ask your friend not to DO that.

        Reply
    2. Dot Warner

      That’s an excellent idea! You can also spin this as “it’s a waste of money to leave electronics on when nobody’s using them” and point out that you’re saving the company money.

      Reply
    3. Laurel

      Yes to this! Or mute it! I’ve turned off TVs in airport lounges, hotel breakfast bars, etc. People often breathe a sigh of relief. Many people won’t even notice. (Ask forgiveness rather than permission, etc.)

      Reply
  13. Erica

    OMG I would die. I would just die. I couldn’t take that. OP has my sympathies.

    A colleague of mine up until recently played political talk radio at his desk (no headphones) nonstop. I didn’t sit near him, but did occasionally need to go do a task in his area. I came away with extremely high levels of anxiety and anger, and I don’t even have any kind of diagnosis.

    I’m a little ashamed to say that when I heard this guy was fired…I was pleased. (It didn’t help that he was terrible at his job in ways that affected me, and also had made racist and sexist comments at me/in my presence.)

    Reply
    1. Sabine the Very Mean

      Good lord! I just relocated for a job and I have been twice referred to as a “chicken”. As in, “the chickens are back there clucking”. I’m waiting a little while to come up with a good come back—should I bother?

      Reply
      1. Temperance

        I would probably play it really straight and say something like, “that’s so strange, I don’t hear any chickens.”

        And then of course stare down that sexist weirdo because hell naw.

        Reply
      2. Trout 'Waver

        “You don’t even want to know about the ducks.”

        But seriously, I wouldn’t bother. It’s a gendered expression that diminishes your work. Nip it in the bud.

        Reply
      3. Rosemary

        Uggggh so gross. If you can, this would be my playbook:

        – ‘What do you mean by that?’ with a polite blank/slightly puzzled expression
        – Watch them flail with an increasingly unimpressed / slightly disapproving expression, OR, if they play the ‘Nevermind, it’s not important / it’s just a joke’ card, then:
        – something like ‘I only ask because I’ve only heard that phrase used as a way to compare women talking to the meaningless noise chickens make, and I wanted to make sure I wasn’t misunderstanding…?’
        – ‘It’s just a joke, jeez!!’
        – ‘You’ll get the hang of it soon, I’m sure’ / ‘Well, it wasn’t very funny, was it?’ / etc

        I’m sure this script won’t 100% fit your circumstances, but I hope it helps you as a starting point. The goal is to basically be all ‘I’m CERTAIN you didn’t mean [sexist/racist/etc] thing, what was it you were trying to say?’ It also helps to have a very pithy, one-sentence explanation of why what they said was offensive.

        Reply
    2. Erin

      I got a comment like this recently – a colleague from a different library branch was setting up for a program in our branch. One of my (female) colleagues and I were bantering with each other, kind of fake arguing about nothing, and he interjected with “Girls! You’re both pretty!”

      I was super taken aback and didn’t recover well. A few hours later I confronted him and straight up said something to the equivalent of “That was unacceptable. We get enough objectifying comments from our patrons and you should be on our side.”

      And he was so surprised that his casual misogyny was called out that he stuttered out an apology and avoided me all day. I’m content with those results.

      Reply
      1. SimonTheGreyWarden

        I confess, when my cats start batting at each other in play, I will look at them and say “Stop it, you’re both the prettiest!” They are neutered male cats. I make myself laugh. I’d never say it to a person, though.

        Reply
  14. Temperance

    I need to keep abreast of executive orders and such because of my job, but that would drive me up a wall, too. Our cafeteria has news playing throughout breakfast and lunch, and the amount of people who walk past a TV and groan/eyeroll/stinkface has gone up considerably in the past few weeks.

    I probably wouldn’t say anything because I wouldn’t want to be thought of as too sensitive for being the most junior and only woman on a team, but that’s just me. Hopefully some of your colleagues find this as annoying as you do.

    Reply
  15. MommyMD

    How can a television prattling in the background be of help to any office? When I go to work I’m there to deal with work. Not politics or cooking or advertisements or anything else. How annoying.

    Reply
  16. Isben Takes Tea

    I would have to reevaluate my employment if I was forced to work around ANY TV on ANY station while at work. I realize some people work better with an audiovisual buzz in the background, but it irritates and distracts me to the point of stress and anxiety. Add the stress of cable news to it (and the constant repetition innate to the news cycle), and I go bananacakes.

    Reply
  17. Mike C.

    What would really piss me off is how low quality cable news is. Very superficial coverage of topics, lots of “BREAKING NEWS” that isn’t really breaking (or new for that matter) and it’s just designed to suck you in and waste your time.

    Frankly, I’d turn it to a foreign station myself, but that’s because I’m cranky like that. BBC World or Al Jazeera English, something like that.

    Reply
    1. Electric Hedgehog

      Heck yeah! This might be a reasonable compromise. Less focus on the overwhelmingly Trumpy US political stuff!!

      Reply
    2. Rana

      This. It’s all limbic stim, no analysis.

      At this point, the only shows my family watches are ones streamed from the UK, because all the American stuff available to us seems to treat us like emotional idiots who need Dramatic Musical Cues for everything and are incapable of appreciating subtler things said in a normal tone of voice. (This is true across the board, from kids’ shows to adult. We find most tv to be actively tiring to watch. American children’s programming is especially shrieky and hectic.)

      Reply
  18. Ophelia Bumblesmoop

    Oh, OP, I feel for you. I used to work front office for a professional sports team and every single room in the building had a TV turned to ESPN. I would come home and my husband would turn on the tv “for background noise” and of course he would want it on ESPN. For more than 7 years my life revolved around athletic competitions and it was so overwhelming. I had to do what Sabine said – start turning the TVs off if no one was actively sitting in front of it. I definitely agree with Allison here; get a group together and ask that the TVs be reprogrammed. Put on a history channel or a channel relating to your industry, or get the interns together to create a video and PowerPoint slide about the company and the different projects you’ve been involved in. It could really become something entertaining, with different departments sharing news or what not.

    Reply
  19. Rebecca

    I canceled cable TV (I subscribe to internet and phone service only) for this very reason – I cannot abide the constant prattling on, 24/7/365, usually blathering on with filler stuff just to fill airtime. And when I go places where TV’s are on, especially to 24 hour news networks, I really notice it and it grates on my nerves.

    If I had to listen and see this day after day at work, I’d be miserable. Perhaps the OP could wear noise canceling earbuds, so at least the sound is drowned out? Yuck.

    Reply
  20. Undine

    I have a coworker with an autoimmune disease and she has been told by her doctor not to listen to the news, so it is definitely a legitimate health issue.

    Reply
    1. The Cosmic Avenger

      Yes, stress definitely weakens/suppresses the immune system. There’s actually a lot of peer-reviewed, reputable science to back that up.

      Reply
  21. Hlyssande

    They should just play Too Cute on repeat. All the time.

    That is my joking answer, because this sounds like an utter nightmare and I’m sorry you have to deal with it, OP. I hope some of the suggestions from everyone are helpful to you.

    Reply
      1. AvonLady Barksdale

        +1!!! We put this on during a party we threw, just to have a conversation piece. I am amazed by it! Then we switched to football.

        Reply
      2. Why Don't We Do It in the Code

        I have watched that several times! It also helps that I love trains and am of Nordic heritage so I feel a sort-of kinship. I turn the sound down because I’m not a fan of the clanging when the train approaches a station. Why can’t they play Norwegian train show at work instead of screamy angerfest?

        Reply
      3. fposte

        OMG how did I not know about this. (This is also a train ride I had planned to take and had to cancel, and it’s supposed to be beautiful.)

        I will try to dole it out to myself in hour increments, but the excitement may get to me.

        Reply
    1. Alex the Alchemist

      Honestly Too Cute is one of the best shows. Whenever I turn it on, my cat sits right in front of the tv and watches the entire episode.

      Reply
    2. Augusta Sugarbean

      I’d never heard of Too Cute until your comment. OMG, I’d never get anything done if that was playing 8 hours a day!

      Reply
    3. AvonLady Barksdale

      This is the best show to watch when I visit my grandparents, especially if there are chow puppies. Little teddy bears!

      Fun fact: Henry Strozier, who narrates Too Cute, is also known as the older guy in the Ocean Spray commercials. I love him.

      Reply
    4. Cath in Canada

      Develop a sudden passionate interest in cricket, OP. Especially five-day test matches. I don’t follow the sport (although it’s a lot of fun to play), but I love the sound of it as background noise. (When I was a kid my dad used to watch a lot of cricket while the rest of us read or did homework, so I formed that association early). Golf and lawn tennis work too, but not as well.

      Reply
    5. JessaB

      No, that would zero out my productivity. I’d spend all day squeeing at kitties and bunnies and puppies. No. OMG didya see the one where the baby collies were trying to herd ducks? They’d woof and the ducks would be all, are you kidding furball? Really? QUACK and the puppies would run for cover.

      IF the TV has to be on (and I argue that it doesn’t unless you’re a press room or a political office or something.) There has to be a middle between news, news, and OMG Kitties.

      Reply
  22. Brett

    Is it at all possible to get the TVs muted with close-captioning?
    Would that help?

    At last job, I had a co-worker who watched the weather channel obsessively. Every TV in every office and in the kitchen was on the weather channel from when he arrived until when he left. It was technically work related, and he would throw a fit if we changed it, so we left it but made the deal with him to mute every tv except for the kitchen one when he was eating.

    Reply
    1. Tuesday

      That might be the one channel I’d be okay with having on in the office. That or DogTV, the network designed to entertain bored suburban dogs while their families are away all day.

      Reply
    2. Beth

      I may be in the minority, but I think I’d be just as distracted by the closed captioning as I would be by the sound. Heck, the headlines at the bottom of the screen for news TV are enough to annoy me much of the time!

      Reply
    3. ExceptionToTheRule

      This was going to be my suggestion for a compromise option as well. I work in a TV newsroom and, sheesh, we don’t even have the volume turned up on 90% of our TVs.

      Reply
  23. Another Emily

    This would drive me absolutely insaneballs. Politics and bad news aside, if there is a TV on in a room, I absolutely have to look at it. Biologically I just can’t not look at a TV screen. So I would get zero work done in your office. I’m really surprised your distraction concerns weren’t taken seriously. How is that not a big deal in an office?

    Reply
    1. Blue_eyes

      This. My husband is the same way. We have to choose our seats at restaurants so that he can face away from the TV (impossible to do in many bars with multiple TVs). He would not get anything done in an office with a TV on.

      Reply
  24. Surrogate Tongue Pop

    I work in an office where our company is…on TV. However, all the TV monitors are tuned to our station (no news, none of the time). I sit outside an office where the occupant changes one of her TVs to a “news channel” and then turns the volume up. And doesn’t shut her door. So I hear basically a bunch of yelling every now and again for several hours. Regardless of her, or my, political views, I have a hard time fathoming how someone could listen to “background yelling/loud TV talking” as white noise. On a pretty high volume. It’s mind boggling, really! So, I pop in headphones for those days when she has several hours of yell-age on. If she happens to leave for the day and her TV is still on and loud, I just go in and shut it off. Or close the door. Because my sanity can’t even…

    Reply
    1. Tuesday

      Wait, she leaves for the day and just leaves her office TV on? Is this someone you could talk to and ask her to keep the volume down or shut her door when the TV is on? I have to wonder if she doesn’t realize how disruptive it is to people nearby, because why would you do that if you thought it through for even one second?

      Also, if she’s switching the channel from your company’s station to news station, then cranks the volume, isn’t she just advertising the fact that she’s not doing work?

      Reply
      1. Surrogate Tongue Pop

        No, because the culture here isn’t like that. All our TVs get left on (the public area ones on mute and tuned to our channel, each office has 2 small TVs mounted on the wall). She sits near her own team. And me. I’m fine to pop in headphones for me for the times she changes the channel to Yelling Central, I just wonder how she can tolerate the volume, the shouting, and doing her work load all at the same time. Also, I like her a lot and she’s trusting me with information and letting me help her with process, so I’d rather build on that relationship. I feel for the OP, and hope they can find a resolution.

        Reply
  25. Zooey

    Rather than your boss (who has made it clear he’s not going to bat for you on this), could you talk to the person controlling the remote, like the admin or office manager who gets in to the office first thing? He/she may be more than happy to at least mute the sound, or switch the news channel to something less political (like CNBC or another financial news channel). Grandboss is unlikely to notice this small change.

    FWIW, I work in an industry where we do need to have TV news on at the office, and it is incredibly anxiety-inducing. Aside from muting sound, a couple things that have helped me are: taking breaks to look at /r/UpliftingNews on reddit, going for brief walks outside, putting in my headphones and listening to comedy podcasts when I can, and praying the serenity prayer (a bit cheesy, but it works for me).

    Reply
  26. Tuesday

    In the work areas and break areas? It seems like it wouldn’t be too much to ask to make some sort of cable-news-free zone somewhere in the office.

    I’m kind of bummed out by how many commenters are saying their offices are the same way. I get it if you’re a newsroom, but otherwise, what a drag. I don’t even get the rationale here. TVs are distracting, even if you’re not interested in what’s on them. Why would you want all of your workers forced to be within viewing distance of a TV at all times? What possible benefit exists?

    Reply
  27. lowercase holly

    another person wondering why TV would have to be on in *work spaces* all day. break rooms, whatever, sucks that you can’t change the channel, but WORK SPACES?? how would a person concentrate?

    Reply
  28. lowercase holly

    passive aggressive move would be to just watch tv all day and get nothing done. what exactly is the boss’s goal here with the TVs?

    Reply
  29. Sue Wilson

    My mother’s tv was broken and she listened to CNN after I came home from work in my room for 8 hrs for two weeks in October and I, a chill person who is unnaturally calm according to my family, felt rage I have never felt before or since.

    So I feel for you, OP, and I hope you get it changed.

    Reply
  30. a different Vicki

    It’s not just the political content. I still remember spending something like 90 minutes sitting in a doctor’s waiting room (I was on time, he wasn’t) watching the collapse of Lehman Brothers in real time on the waiting room television. I had a book, but all the seats faced the TV, and it’s very hard to ignore excited and/or distressed voices. I suspect that television news in waiting rooms is an undiscussed aspect of white coat hypertension.

    There is very little news that I need continuous real-time coverage of, and most of that would be on the Weather Channel. I’m fairly sure, in fact, that in most jobs, if you need to be getting detailed news in real time, you shouldn’t be sitting at your desk, you should be grabbing your stuff in order to evacuate, or heading for the part of the building designated as a tornado shelter. I don’t need to hear all about $crisis while waiting to see my dermatologist.

    Reply
    1. Saccharissa

      Uggh, I feel your pain. I had a doctor’s appointment in the afternoon on September 11, 2001. All the TVs in the waiting room were on news channels. I don’t remember how long I had to wait, but it felt like forever, and I couldn’t keep my eyes off the screens. I was in tears by the time I saw the doctor.

      Reply
  31. Phantom

    My office is going through this same ridiculousness. Corporate headquarters mandated that we have TVs in our lobby and break room. No one in our office (which is all software dev and sales) wants them. When they were first introduced there was a minor war of people switching between Fox News, CNN, and off any time they walked past and disliked the state of a TV. Then we found out that off was not a valid option but that sports were. So, now we usually have on something like ESPN. Sometimes Golden Girls or Storage Wars sneaks on. People have stopped complaining since we’ve agreed we don’t want news on the TVs, but a lot of us still question why they have to be there at all.

    Reply
    1. Anonymous 40

      Did your corporate office give any rationale for the mandate? The thing I can’t wrap my mind around is what purpose all these TVs serve.

      Reply
  32. Annette

    I couldn’t do any TV at all in my workplace. Not news, not sports, not home and garden. I find television and commercials incredibly grating on my nerves! If I’m exposed to TV, I really want it to be on my terms only – in my house, with a show I have chosen, usually streaming so no commercials.

    The increase of TVs everywhere, like lobbies and restaurants and transportation, makes me feel very anxious all the time and I’ve had things like basketball games on big screens at a favorite watering hole trigger migraines.

    I would need headphones and blinders on to work in an environment with constant TV pollution.

    Reply
  33. Anonymous 40

    God I hate this TVs everywhere trend. I don’t understand where it even came from. Nobody asked for it. Suddenly there was a rush to install TVs in every public space imaginable. And it serves no purpose! Anyone who wants the news that badly can get it on the internet whenever they want. Yet the trend continues unabated, despite no one ever saying, “I’m so glad there are TVs everywhere you go now!”

    I feel for you, OP. It’s bad enough in restaurants, gas stations, and doctor’s offices. If we had them where I work, I’d probably have an aneurysm. Normal workplace distractions are bad enough but nobody should have to wear headphones al day every day to block out the sound of an unnecessary TV.

    Reply
    1. Slow Gin Lizz

      Agreed wholeheartedly! Once I was in a mammogram/breast care center waiting room and not only did they have obnoxious TV news on, but the story was about Isis beheading people in Iraq. I was only there for routine tests but can you imagine what it was like for the women there for, you know, breast cancer testing????? I was SO PISSED. I specifically requested to wait next to the receptionist desk rather than in the waiting room and wrote them a letter after the fact about how horrible this was for me and how it would have been a million times worse for any patient dealing with a life-threatening illness. Ugh. So, OP, I would LOSE MY MIND if I were at your workplace. I hope you can get the TVs removed forever. Best of luck.

      Reply
  34. Chocolate Teapot

    At a previous company there was just a large screen TV in the public area where clients held their meetings which was on BBC World News/CNN. Now all I have to deal with is lunchtime news on in the break room. Even though I like checking news websites during the day, 24 hour news would be terrible! Are there people who can work with that playing all day?

    Reply
  35. LW

    LW here. Thanks for the reply and the comments — I knew that other coworkers in my office were frustrated (it was a routine eye-roll topic and often during the lunch hour folks would change the channel to a science fiction or pop-sci show). I sent this letter in just after inauguration day and wound up reaching out to some friends for advice, and with their support I did the following:

    * Send an email to our off-site HR representative. I pointed out that I have a diagnosed anxiety disorder but softened the language around panic attacks a bit to just “distress.” The HR rep did not request medical documentation (and I didn’t specify medical accommodation) but I framed it asking for advice on my options.
    * Email my boss to to say that I had contacted HR for options. We discussed it briefly one-on-one. While I generally have a good rapport with my boss, I wasn’t 100% comfortable discussing it at length with him. He’s been supportive of my career goals and other medical accommodations (once or twice a month I need to duck out for a medical appointment during work hours), but I haven’t seen any existing dialogue around mental health issues in this office and I’ve faced stigma related to it in other workplaces.
    * HR discussed the issue with the managers-in-charge to get the workplace TVs turned to non-news material (now mostly marketing material related to our brand, or else off altogether). The breakroom TVs are usually muted or kept at a low volume, along with a reminder that people can turn the TVs in the breakroom to whatever channel they want (or off).
    * For about a week afterwards, TVs would show cable news at the start of the day and then get switched over to marketing material (usually before my boss arrived to the office). I followed up with HR who in turn communicated to the managers-in-charge that “no news on work-area TVs” was not optional.

    I didn’t get any pushback on it. I think it helped that the HR rep wasn’t any more excited than I was that news was playing (and in fact, their reaction via email was very similar to most of the comments here).

    Reply
  36. OlympiasEpiriot

    99% of workplaces do not need a TV at all, let alone one that is always on.

    I do my best to avoid bars, restaurants, stores and offices with them. If I applied for work at a firm that always had something on, I would give a lot of thought as to how badly I wanted or needed that job because that would be nearly a deal breaker all by itself.

    I used to have a wonderful little gage called the TV-B-Gone which was a universal remote with one button: Off. Yes, I’m one of those people and I used it. Eventually, it broke. Been meaning to see if I can get another…

    At my firm, we have a large monitor that plays a slide show of nifty projects of ours in the reception area. That is bad enough for me and I don’t sit in reception. Can’t imagine dealing with that near my desk, with actual shows on and with the volume up.

    Reply
  37. Rachel Green

    Having TVs on in the workplace, regardless of what’s playing, is incredibly annoying. I would push back on this so hard. I hate TVs in waiting rooms, too, and I’m not even trying to work in a waiting room. Just the other day, I was trying to read a book while waiting for an oil change and I know my reading pace was way slower than normal because I was trying to tune out the noise of the TV. Ugh, I can’t even imagine trying to get any work done with a TV on nearby.

    Reply
    1. Mazzy

      I wouldn’t be able to deal with the commercials half the time I try to watch regular TV I end up forgetting what I was watching or turning off the show because I feel like the commercials in the middle literally never end or sometimes I even forgot what I was watching and remember when it already went off because the commercials for so long

      Reply
  38. SystemsLady

    Imagine a company doing this in its customer training facilities where they’re selling training to a lot of young biotech customers and the channel the dial is stuck on is Fox News.

    You can replace that with oil and…actually pretty much any other channel with political debate shows for all I care, because I don’t get why you would show *any* show with angry political commentary in a customer-facing space. I was very annoyed and had hoped to make a news-free vacation out of that training…oh well.

    Making your employees sit in it as OP demonstrated is bad enough.

    Reply
    1. Other Duties as Assigned

      This. I think it’s bad management to run partisan political media in a customer-facing space. Given how divided people are, you’re certain to anger a large percentage of your potential customers…many of whom won’t even bother to tell you why they have stopped patronizing your business. Example: co-workers and I would regularly have lunch at a local ‘casual dining’ bar and grill near the office. However, a new midday manager is appointed and decides to blast the TV behind the bar with political content (it previously had been ESPN, but at lower volume). We stopped going there entirely and they lost our regular business. We found another place—it also had a TV, but it was tuned to one of those retro channels. The first time we were there for lunch we caught the end of an episode of The Rifleman and saw the start of Peter Gunn. It was a refreshing change of pace.

      Also, I was picking up SO at the doctor’s office and found I was the only person in the waiting area, where there was a TV, but turned off. The receptionist helpfully offered to turn on the TV for me and for whatever channel I wanted. I said I’d be fine if it stayed off and she seemed relieved. I asked her if this was an irritant and she confessed that a lot of people chose political commentary shows and she found them inappropriate for the setting. She said she was at a loss for what she could select as a channel. I suggested a local cable access channel that ran Classic Arts Showcase, sort of a classical music version of MTV. She tried it and said she’d likely default to that going forward.

      Reply
  39. Lucy Westenra

    God, I feel for ya, OP. TVs in restaurants are bad enough. The good news is, you’re not alone. I’m guessing at least a handful of your coworkers find TV at work to be some kind or other of annoying. Best of luck to you.

    Reply
  40. Paul

    If your workplace develops software, there’ll be enough technical knowledge to scatter a few “mini-remote controls” around in discrete places that’ll send the TV-off signal at intervals.

    Just in case the, you know, official channels don’t pan out.

    Reply
  41. zora

    I would literally be dead of a heart attack by now if this was my office.

    Or more realistically, I would have withdrawn from the interview process as soon as I saw the TVs in the office space.

    Really though, this is reinforcement for why seeing the space you will actually be working is pretty important, and if the company won’t show you that space during the interview, take that as a pretty strong red flag. I didn’t think about these things early in my career, and I wish I had! I had one interview that was in a coffee shop, and it turned out to be for a lot of other reasons, which were huge in my decision to leave that job about a year later.

    If you don’t get to see your actual work space, ask a LOT of questions about why and about the workspace, because there could be some serious dealbreakers involved. We spend a huge percentage of our lives at work, and these thing can have a huge affect on our wellbeing.

    Reply
  42. Not So NewReader

    I am glad to see that LW has worked out something.

    It seems to me that there should be studies available that show the negative effects of constant tv especially news.

    One place I worked they put in a biiiig tv. We wore them down with what we did.

    1) At first we just didn’t know how it worked. So if the screen was blank we’d just turn it off because there must be something wrong with it.
    2) Once we all had the idea of how it worked, we took turns losing the remote.
    3) When the lost remote idea started losing credibility we started asking everyone to repeat themselves because we could not hear over the tv.
    4) Then we moved to turning it on but turning the volume way down.

    Because there were quite a few of us we exhausted the bosses with having to constantly remind us. I figured out that it was a safety issue because we could not hear each other and it was distracting people as they moved around.

    One thing did happen that was disturbing. There was a news article on about a tragedy in the area, and of course they replayed it every hour. We had family members walk in just in time to see their family tragedy on the big screen. We all wanted to crawl under something.

    Reply
  43. JAM

    I could have written this 2 years ago or even 2 months ago. I work in a small office with a front desk, TV about 20″ away from the front desk, and 2 offices. Naturally I’m the front desk worker. For 2+ years I had to watch CNN (or MSNBC or Fox News) and I just couldn’t anymore. I thought I would go insane. I had largely ignored the TV after about 9 months but politics around election time was too much, then there was this little special on a health issue close to me that left me in tears that aired one day and I had enough.

    So I asked the boss if we could change it and he said no. (Too bad, I was doing it on days he wasn’t there starting on crying day). The next week there was a surprise shakeup at work and I had a new team of bosses. New bosses said I can expand my TV selection to ESPN, NASA, weather, local talk shows/news, or culture. We let the team in the office each day choose. That means some days they do choose news but I was also given permission to listen to music at my desk. The TV drowns it out enough and I can focus. Just knowing I’m not stuck for an infinite loop of talking heads is helping so much.

    Reply
  44. Chaordic One

    I would definitely want the sound off and closed captioning turned on if this was going to be in my office. In some places the radio playing can be almost as bad. Even Sirius FM has some annoying stations that I’d prefer not to listen to. There’s a grocery store near where I live that plays a Christian music station that is particularly obnoxious and just plain weird. It’s like heavy metal versions of songs about God’s love and I think to myself, WTF.

    Reply
  45. Julie Noted

    This is nuts. What an awful work environment for the OP!

    In every professional office I’ve worked in the last 10 years, a television has been rolled out/turned on for one of only three reasons:
    a) there is MAJOR breaking news (e.g. bushfire nearby, impending announcement of resolution to hung parliament or Ministerial resignation)
    b) it’s almost 3:10pm on Melbourne Cup day
    c) there’s test cricket on.

    Reply
  46. Sheworkshardforthemoney

    The main problem is that the news is on a constant loop. After several hours of hearing the same stories again and again, my mind would turn to mush. TVs in public and semi-public spaces are instruments of torture.

    Reply
  47. JKP

    One of the reasons for TV’s everywhere and always on is sometimes about generating ad revenue for the business itself. The office I work in right now (plus others I’ve worked at in the past), license the news content from the original source but place and sell their own advertising. They can charge advertisers premium rates for a known number of captive eyeballs. The Urgent Care centers near me all tried to sell my office TV spots for their waiting room TV’s. Their proposal showed how many patients sat in the waiting room each day and on average for how long, and if I bought X number of spots, then each patient would see my ad Y times during their visit. This is often the reason why the TV has to be on all day with only one or two stations as options, because they have to honor their contracts with advertisers. But to the patient waiting in the waiting room, it looks like the TV just happens to be on a news station and they don’t realize that the ads are not the same ads they would see if they watched that show at home, but instead ads bought specifically to run on that waiting room TV.

    Reply
  48. George

    My workplace has big TVs in the break areas, but at least the sound is off. (The sound is on for the TVs in the cafeteria.) I suspect a similar issue was at play here: I noticed them oscillating among CNN, FoxNews, and static over a period of several weeks; now I observe that they’re all set to the National Geographic channel.

    Reply
  49. Dot Warner

    I saw that OP posted a wonderful update, but if anybody else is struggling with TV news at work, I have a suggestion. Does your office do a NCAA tournament pool? If not, start one. Selection Sunday (the day that the tournament brackets are announced) is Sunday, 3/12, and it’s free to create a bracket pool on ESPN.com. Sign people up, have a prize (or don’t), and then you have an excuse to have the TV on sports for the next couple of weeks. After March Madness… well, gee, it’s baseball season, gotta see what the local team is doing…

    Reply
    1. Annette

      Honestly for me, ESPN is not much better. It’s still distracting noise pollution and people yelling.

      Reply
      1. The Not Mad But Occasionally Irritable Scientist

        I could maybe take some Bob Ross happy tree action, but other than that? Naw.

        Reply
  50. cc

    Many, many IT areas leave 24 news and weather on so they can be prepared to respond to sudden outages that may affect them.

    Reply
  51. JustFoundThisPlaceRecently

    If I thought I could use it VERY discretely I would consider getting a universal remote control and using it to lower the volume, mute the sound, or power it off. If you can’t get line-of-sight it might be possible to bounce the signal off the ceiling. Match the control to the brand and model of TV.
    But that could cause serious problems for me or anyone else crazy enough to do that sort of thing.

    Reply
  52. Carynz

    I now telecommute full time, but my office at a very large Fortune 100 company had a TV in the break room loudly playing CNN ALL DAY. It just drove me crazy!

    Reply

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