boss is demanding gifts back, right-wing talk radio in reception, and more

It’s five answers to five questions. Here we go…

1. Boss is demanding gifts back

My mom’s boss gave her multiple new iPhone 6’s as gifts. One of those which was given to me as a gift by my mom. Now her boss wants her to work 7-7 everyday and she can’t do that, considering other priorities she has to take care of, so now her boss wants her to pay the gifts back, which is about $700 a phone. That’s too much money to pay for our own good right now. If they were gifts and my mom already quit anyway, do we absolutely have to pay her back? Is there anything her boss can do legally considering the phones were gifts?

If they were gifts, then no, your mom has absolutely no obligation to return them, and your mom’s former boss is being a huge ass by trying to say otherwise. Gifts, once given, belong to the recipient.

Is there any chance that the phones were given to your mom to use as part of work, and not as a gift? That would be the only scenario where she’d need to return them. Otherwise, she should simply say, “These were given to me as gifts, and I’m not able to return them.”

2. Receptionist is playing right-wing talk radio

We have a receptionist who has been with us for over a decade now. She’s relatively good at her job but has one issue she insists on pushing everyone’s buttons on. She listens to right wing radio talk shows all day, such as Rush Limbaugh, and keeps the radio just loud enough so others (clients, etc.) who come in can hear the radio.

We’ve asked her at least twice to keep the radio off, or so low that nobody coming in can hear it, but it keeps getting louder and louder. Now we’re presented with the issue of either following up with some kind of reprimand or just pulling the radio out of the office all together (we really don’t want to aggravate the situation, but she’s decided to push this issue by continuing to ignore our requests).

What can we ask her to do or not do? What can we do to reprimand her without creating a problem for ourselves? By the way, the radio is not her personal property – it belongs to the office. And everyone else in the office is irritated at having to listen to people screaming on the radio when they walk into the reception area.

You absolutely can remove the radio altogether, or tell her clearly that she can’t have talk radio on at all in reception, or insist that it be kept lower. It’s completely reasonable to want to control what visitors to your office hear, and most companies would step in if they weren’t happy with the aural reception visitors were getting. So you’re on very solid ground with any of those courses of action. There’s no free speech issue here or anything like that; you’re allowed to set rules for your reception area, and even if she weren’t in reception, you’d be allowed to ban radios or require that they be kept at low volume.

I’d recommend just asking her what’s up, since she’s ignoring clear instructions: “Jane, I’ve asked you in the past to keep the radio off or so low that others can’t hear it, but it’s actually getting louder. What’s going on?”

From there, you can either remove the radio altogether, let her know that that will be the next step if the problem continues, limit it to music only, or anything else along those lines.

3. Responding to questions about why I’m not spending the holidays with my family

It’s the time of year where many people in the office are discussing holiday plans. I have an unusual family background and am not spending the holidays with my family. Some coworkers are more inclined than others to try to find out the reason why. Can you suggest a way to redirect the conversation? I’ve tried phrases like “My family doesn’t handle the holidays very well,” but I don’t even want to give that level of detail. I would like to be open with my colleagues, but this is still a sore spot for me and I’d rather not be known for my family drama. (I’m very early to my career and to this company.)

Yeah, “my family doesn’t handle the holidays very well” is too much personal information in response to what’s probably just a friendly and fairly generic inquiry. Instead of talking about what you’re not doing, can you instead say what you are doing? (For example: “I’m joining friends for a big blow-out feast and then we’re watching an X-Men marathon.”) If people insist on knowing why you won’t be with family, just say, “Oh, just made other plans this year” or “it didn’t work out this year” or “it’s hard to get us altogether” or something else similarly vague. And then immediately change the subject by asking about their plans — “so what do you have planned?” People like to talk about themselves, and if you ask a couple of follow-up questions, they’ll probably let it go.

4. Do minimum wage jobs expect you to accept on the spot, rather than asking for time to think it over?

I’m retiring and plan to get a minimum wage job to supplement my social security income. When I’ve been offered skilled or managerial jobs in the past, the employer has generally accepted a brief period to consider the offer. It’s my impression that in minimum wage work, the expectation is that the job should be accepted or rejected immediately when it’s offered. Is that correct?

Often, yes, I think so too — at least assuming that we’re talking about something like retail or food service work. If it’s a minimum wage job in an office, normal office norms would apply.

But even in retail or food service, I think you could still ask for at least a day or two. I’d phrase it this way: “I’m really excited to get this offer. Would it be okay for me to get back to you with a firm commitment on Wednesday rather than accepting on the spot?” (But my retail and food service knowledge is really outdated, so I’d love to hear from people with more recent experience who can confirm or deny this.)

5. Scheduled to work on days that we were supposed to be closed

I work in a doctor’s office. We all have set schedules and are open on weekends. Naturally, on the rare occasion that we have weekends closed, I make plans. Lately my boss has been opening days that had been closed for months without so much as a notice. In fact, if I had not looked at our patient schedule, I would never have known I was scheduled to work some days. My question is, is this legal? Can an employer make you work on days that you had been closed without any sort of warning?

Yes, it’s legal. It’s not very smart though, since it’s a good way to end up with people who don’t come in because they didn’t know they were scheduled. I’d say this to your boss: “I’ve noticed a few times recently that I’ve ended up scheduled for weekends that had earlier been marked as closed, and I only found out through chance after I’d already made plans for those days. Is there a way to get more notice when we end up opening on weekends that had previously been marked as closed?”

{ 600 comments… read them below }

  1. Mando Diao*

    OP3: “My family is small and not very religious. I’m planning on relaxing at the movies by myself.”

    It’s boring and complete enough to not generate much follow-up.

    1. Sara M*

      Yes. I can verify that this works.

      Usually people are envious when they realize how relaxing my holiday season is!

      1. Ella*

        Yeah, I have a great relationship with my family, but I’m still not spending the holiday with them. It’s not weird at all to not spend holidays with family. It could be they are traveling elsewhere to see other family and you couldn’t afford the tickets, you are spending it with your spouse/significant other/friends at home or elsewhere, or that your family is too far to visit. I would stick with Alison’s advice of saying what you ARE doing–no one normal is going to question that.

      2. Formica Dinette*

        Came here to say this. For various reasons, I don’t always spend the big holidays with my family. When I tell people I don’t have any plans other than having a relaxing day, or that I’m going on a hike or doing something other than spending it with my family, many people sincerely seem to think that sounds great. Those with small children are usually the most envious. ;)

    2. Shannon*

      “Scheduling conflicts, unfortunately.” You don’t need to tell them that you don’t want to put your family on your schedule for the holidays, ever, and it is unfortunate that your family can’t handle the holidays.

    3. CrazyCatLady*

      OP3 I usually just say something super vague like “just staying in the area, fortunately!” I make sure to say it cheerfully And then immediately change the subject to what they’re doing. No one vreally ever asks for more detail, at least not where I’ve worked

      1. Ask a Manager* Post author

        Yes — if you sound cheerful and happy about it, most people will follow your lead.

        It’s the same thing as how if someone asks you what you did over the weekend, and you say “nothing” in a mopey tone, they might respond with suggestions of how you can have more fun next weekend. But if you say “Nothing! It was amazing!” then people will usually respond by getting wistful that they didn’t get all that awesome relaxation time too.

        1. Anon On This One*

          I sound relieved. “We’re staying home and it will just be the two of us, and I am SO excited about that!”

      2. ReanaZ*

        I’m not a very good liar, and I don’t particularly like having to pretend I have a perfect, happy family, particularly at the holidays. It feels like a weird kind of on-demand performance art I just don’t have the energy or patience for. At the same, I don’t want to dump a lot of private drama on innocent coworkers just making casual conversation.

        I’ve finally settled on a cheerful, “Feature, not a bug!” when people make sad noises in my direction when I say I’m not going home or comment on how hard it must be to be so far from family this time of year (I’m an expat).

        People are generally a bit surprised, but roll with it with no awkward, generally, and it accomplishes my goals of not Performing Happy Family while keeping things light.

          1. Natalie*

            That it’s an intentional state of affairs, rather than something ReanaZ regrets or would rather avoid.

          2. November*

            It’s a software dev thing — basically, “this error-looking thing is not an error, we totally meant for that to happen, and that’s no lie”. “This blue screen of death that keeps popping up in this program is not a bug! it’s a feature! I totally meant for that to happen! isn’t the blue color so pretty? enjoy it!”

            1. Queen Anne of Cleves*

              ah! It’s an intended characteristic and not a mistake to be fixed. thanks! I didn’t know either.

              1. ReanaZ*

                Yes, exactly! (I do work on an IT team (for a non-IT not-for-profit), so it’s not a totally left-field thing for me to say.)

                Sometimes it is used in the tongue-in-cheek way November mentioned, but often it’s a situation where someone’s perception of how something should behave in a piece of software doesn’t match how it actually behaves–but it’s the perception that’s ‘wrong’ not the software’s behavior. But sometimes you have to convince people it really was intended as a feature even if they don’t like or understand it.

                It’s a good phrase.

        1. Introvert at work*

          +1, Love it!! I get you! I just tell people I’m spending it with friends, even if I’ll spend the day by myself. I frankly find it annoying that people are shocked if you don’t conform to their expectations of what a holiday should be. It’s taken awhile to avoid going out during holidays, but it makes my life so much less stressful and makes me so much happier.

          So, basically I lie and don’t give out too much info.

        2. A Cita*

          I’m not a good liar either. Additionally, I am pretty anti the “holidays.” I have huge problems with Thanksgiving and I have huge problems with religion in general. So when asked what I’m doing or if I’m going anywhere, I just say, “Enjoying some much deserved me time.” This works well because we all over-work and never take time off, plus they all have kids and can’t get a moment alone.

        3. Elizabeth West*

          Stealing! I work with software people, so that’s perfect!

          My family alternate Christmas and Thanksgiving get-togethers. This year, it’s Christmas. I prefer that because they never do anything and I get bored sitting around at my mum’s for four or five days. Plus, the longer I’m gone, the longer I have to pay the pet sitter to feed Psycho Kitty and that can get expensive.

        4. Gene*

          We are deliberately as far away from both families as we can be while still being in CONUS. Works for us.

          1. Lindsay J*

            Yeah, my default when friends inquire whether I am sad about not seeing family for the holidays, or if I am homesick, etc, is “There is a good reason why I chose to live 1600 miles away.”

      3. OP3*

        This is solid advice, thank you. After reading the comments I’ve realized this is an issue I’ve only had with my boss – he has a big family, and most people in the office already have their own families, so he’s used to hearing those kinds of plans, I suppose. I generally never talk about my family, but he asked some pointed questions and I wasn’t sure how to respond. Now to find a way to deal with a curious boss!

        1. OP3*

          To clarify, by “pointed questions” I mean to say that I already exhausted all of my standard responses (“quiet day at home with SO! What are your plans? My family is far away!” and ect.) when I, well, ran out. So I suppose I should focus more on dealing with a particularly curious individual than coming up with more standard responses.

          1. Artemesia*

            Maybe a ‘SO and I are trying out this great new recipe XYZ; we really enjoy thanksgiving’ or something more we are excitedly doing rather than ‘just spending it with SO’ or something more passive. Never ‘hear’ questions that probe about family.

              1. Lia*

                I can vouch for its success. My SO and I live a long way from our families, and holidays usually consist of us chilling at home with video games, Netflix, and not changing out of pajamas til 3 p.m., but for some of the nosier people we work with, this is not much of a holiday. We do our family visits off-holiday season — both of us are relatively new in our jobs so we are low in the hierarchy to get time off anyways!

                We say things like “SO and I are staying in town this time, and really looking forward to it! So, do you guys travel, or stay home?”

          2. Terra*

            If they’re asking repeatedly you may be able to get away with the “broken record” response. Basically you give an answer the first time such as “quiet day at home with SO!” and then every time they ask after that, repeat the response with a little comment about having already commented. Something like “Oh, didn’t I tell you? I’m spending a quiet day at home with SO!” or “Huh, I thought I mentioned this already.” or “Wow, deja vu.” Still keep it upbeat since it’s your boss but this way you don’t have to provide any additional information and the little comments about having already had this discussion will often eventually make the asker self-conscious and get them to stop asking.

        1. Laurel Gray*

          Thank you for saying this Katie, asking about holiday plans definitely falls under “common social thing”. When I ask someone about their holiday plans, the LAST thing I want to know is that their family is super dysfunctional. I’m mature enough to know that people find their happiness in a variety of ways so if a coworker is doing a Netflix and Chill Christmas, I see no reason to ask why.

          1. Hiring Mgr*

            This is why when I start a new job I make it clear to my colleagues that I’m here to work, and I couldn’t care less about your wife and kids and little nephew Timmy, so stay out of my business.

          2. hayling*

            FYI you might want to look up “Netflix and chill” in Urban Dictionary…it doesn’t mean what you think it means. ;)

        2. SevenSixOne*

          Right– they’re mostly asking to be polite and couldn’t care less what you’re really doing.

          I straight-up lie with something like “I’m spending the holiday with family in the area” because I can’t stand people SADDING all over me when I say truthfully that I have no plans.

          1. Elizabeth West*

            I sometimes say “I’m doing—NOTHING!” with a big smile, like it’s the best thing ever–and I’ve had people reply, “Ohhhh that sounds great, I wish I could do that, I have to cook, etc.” They don’t have to know that I don’t always like it.

      1. Mando Diao*

        Well none of the requested information (about family and the holidays) is strictly anyone’s business. Sometimes it’s easier to toss out a but of info to satisfy people and then move on.

    4. Bea W*

      That’s similar to what I was going to suggest. I have run into situations where people will insist that it doesn’t matter if you’re religious. So you might want to not specifically give that as a reason and say your family doesn’t do anything formal / get together for the holidays and you all do your own thing.

      I have been doing Thanksgiving with Friends for about 10 years now. It started to avoid family drama, and now that the main perpetrator has passed on, I still do it. My father has Christmas dinner at his place, but not Thanksgiving, and my only other option is friends anyhow. One of the years after our mother died my brother ended up home by himself because Dad didn’t think to invite him to eat with him at the in-law’s place, and I was out of town as usual. D’oh!

      1. Anxa*

        Yeah. My family is very into Christmas (although not as much now that that there are no kids in family) but we are not at all religious (well, one has become a Christian in recent years). To us, it’s a secular holiday.

      2. Ad Astra*

        I agree that “We’re not very religious” won’t satisfy most prying coworkers, but you could go with “My family doesn’t celebrate Christmas” if you wanted to. Sounds like that may not work for OP, since she’s already mentioned that her family doesn’t do well with holidays, but it’s one option for shutting these things down quickly.

        1. Honeybee*

          Uhh I wouldn’t go that route. My family doesn’t celebrate the holidays, but when I give this response I get way more questions, not satisfaction.

      3. Ihmmy*

        My mom and I had done an ‘orphans’ thanksgiving and easter for a fair while with family friends who, well, they weren’t technically orphans but they kind of wished they were. We set it up early enough that they could tell family they wanted to avoid that they already had other plans. Plus her and I are big believers that the family you pick is darned important, and the family you’re born to has decent odds of being people not worth your time.

      4. Hlyssande*

        I live 500 miles away from my family, so I have Friendsgiving with friends on the Saturday after most years. When I had roommates I would sometimes accompany them to family stuff, but now that I live alone, I really don’t. This year I played some Halo, watched some stuff, made a steak, and pet the cat.

    5. Turanga Leela*

      I’ve had good luck with, “I’m not traveling this year and it’s such a relief.” Follow up with plan for book you’re going to read, recipe you’re going to try, or show you’re going to catch up on.

    6. Not Karen*

      What does religion have to do with it? My family is completely anti-religion, and we celebrated Christmas going up.

      1. Oryx*


        My SO and I are from religious families but both are atheists now and we still absolutely love Christmas.

      2. neverjaunty*

        Christmas is a religious holiday in the US (and Europe). You can certainly celebrate the less religious elements of it, or participate in it as a cultural event, but that doesn’t make Christmas itself non-religious.

        1. Oryx*

          But which religion? Christmas, as we know it, has traditions co-opted from pre-Christian belief systems. Winter festivals have been celebrated in this world long before the Bible was written describing the birth of Jesus.

          1. Natalie*

            IMO it’s up to any individual to decide. I’m an atheist who loves Christmas, and I know a lot of people who are not Christians or not religious at all who also celebrate. BUT, there’s an unfortunate history of Christians insisting “Christmas is for everyone!” and thus it’s okay to have explicitly religious celebrations and assume all non-Christians are fine with that.

            1. neverjaunty*

              But…. isn’t that what you just said? I’m having a hard time understanding the difference between “IMO it’s up to any individual to decide” and “Christmas is for everyone”. (And IME, it’s not actually the Christians who insist their holiday is ‘for everyone’ – it’s less-religious folks who have a strong cultural and emotional attachment to trees, gifts, carols, etc., and get offended that people of non-Christian faiths may see the holiday differently.)

              1. Natalie*

                What part isn’t clear? I don’t think Christmas is necessarily for everyone, I said that there are some Christians who claim Christmas is for everyone and thus the town square’s Nativity scene must be fine. This is a fairly common argument in court cases around religious displays.

                Basically, it makes perfect sense to me that non-Christians celebrate Christmas, because it has a lot of cultural roots that can have secular meaning. But I don’t agree with insisting that non-Christians *must* be okay with celebrating Christmas as a secular holiday, because it also can’t be divorced from it’s religious roots. It should be a choice for a non-Christian to accept secular Christmas, not the default.

                1. neverjaunty*

                  I realize this is boring, but we don’t really disagree :)

                  The problem with the “Christmas is really secular too!” argument is when people try to divorce it from its religious roots (see all the comments here), especially with facile comments about how it isn’t really Christian because Christmas trees are originally pagan or whatever – because the next logical step is that if Christmas is secular, your Jewish friends are just being buttheads if they don’t want to sing “God Rest Ye Merry Gentlemen” or decline to attend a tree lighting.

          2. neverjaunty*

            Christianity. It’s a holiday celebrating the birth of Jesus, who to Christians, is the Christ.

            ALL religions incorporate and co-opt the practices of other cultures and faiths they absorb. Yet you don’t hear anyone arguing that, say, Hanukkah is not really a Jewish holiday because lots of faiths have a festival-of-the-lights, or because the dreidel game came from European gambling game and not from the ancient Hebrews.

            1. Turanga Leela*

              I posted below advocating for celebrating secular Christmas, so in the interest of full disclosure… I have also celebrated secular Hanukkah. We lit a menorah (sans prayer, which we didn’t know), we ate latkes, we did presents, there was gelt and a dreidel. We stopped doing this after a while, but I grew up in a very Jewish community and this seemed kind of like a normal thing to do as non-observant cultural Jews. My best friend’s family did the same thing, although I don’t think anyone else I know ever did.

              The late 80’s and early 90’s were a funny time. In school, we sang Christmas songs about Santa along with Hanukkah songs that were, yes, about the festival of lights (nothing about God), Kwanzaa songs about the nguzo saba, and non-holiday-specific songs about winter and being nice to people. We tried to secularize everything.

              1. neverjaunty*

                But nobody would turn around and say that because you (as many families do, and did) celebrate “secular Hanukkah”, that Hanukkah isn’t really a Jewish holiday.

        2. teclatrans*

          But the point is that Christmas is also nonsecular. You can grow up on Santa and his reindeers and presents and family and never once worry about the Christian meaning that was foisted onto winter solstice celebrations. (Historical Jesus was not born in the dead of winter.) I would never sent that this is a huge holiday for Christians, but it is also just a huge holiday for people who don’t have specific non-Christian hokidays.

          1. Ask a Manager* Post author

            Ooooh, I really disagree that Christmas is secular (which from the rest of the comment is I assume what you mean, not non-secular?).

            Sure, there are plenty of people who celebrate it in a more cultural than spiritual way, but it is a Christian holiday regardless. For many people of religions other than Christianity, it’s frustrating to be told that we should see Christmas as secular, because it really erases non-Christians from the picture.

            As a commenter here pointed out in a past year, Christmas celebrators don’t have to think about how religious their holiday and its symbols is – it can be considered kind of secular or universal simply because it has the privilege of dominance. But for those who don’t celebrate it, it’s not secular and it’s not universal. It’s important to be careful about recognizing that, because it tends to irritate/offend/exasperate (depending on who you’re talking to) those of us in the non-Christian minority in the U.S.

            1. Dr. Johnny Fever*

              Thank you, Alison. I’m one of those in a US non-Christian minority with a non-Christian background, and I was accused of being disingenuous in a previous thread because I don’t understand some traditions, like wishlists, then told I shouldn’t be offended for being told I was “pretending” to be ignorant of them.

              I’ll go on record as saying I don’t like and rarely partake in these conversations about gifts and holidays because of generalizations attributed to many religions. I more often feel like a target than a discussion participant.

            2. neverjaunty*

              Thank you for this. I’m so tired of people who have a strong emotional attachment to the cultural trappings of Christmas fussing about ‘well why can’t you just be the Chill Jew because I loves me some Santa’.

            3. Cat*

              I actually really disagree with that. I understand why people don’t want to celebrate it. But I object to being told I’m doing something Christian when I celebrate Christmas – I’m not. I’m appropriating some Christian (and non-Christian things) for my own purposes, but I’m not being Christian or doing a Christian thing. Neither are my atheist, Hindu, or Muslim friends who celebrate Christmas by putting up a tree and exchanging presents.

              It’s not secular for everyone but it is for me. And the fact that Christianity is dominant in my society means I feel okay about appropriating Christmas as a secular holiday, but I’m still going to continue emphasizing that I’m not Christian, because I’m not and that’s an important part of my identity.

              1. Chameleon*

                Yes, thank you. As an atheist who was never Christian, this is how I feel too. It’s a complicated topic.

                1. ThursdaysGeek*

                  I agree with both of you, and I’m a Christian. For me it is two holidays on the same day, and the secular part with snowflakes on Starbucks cups (or not) has nothing to do with the religious holiday celebrated the same day. But each of us see it differently, as is so clearly demonstrated by the comments here.

                  I’ll object to people who claim to be Christian and also claim that not having a winter drawing on a coffee cup is an attack against their religion, because that is illogical and they are defining my religion in a way that it is not. But the rest of us should be able to celebrate, or not celebrate in the way that we prefer, with no flak from others who define it differently.

                2. Liz in a Library*

                  Yes, I feel this way as well (also an atheist). It’s never going to be 100% religious for everyone or 100% secular for everyone, so assuming everyone must feel a certain way about it is not ideal. We should just try to be respectful and not foist any particular holiday (or judge the celebration of that holiday) on anyone. And I’ll keep enjoying secular Christmas.

              2. Ask a Manager* Post author

                I’m not saying you’re being Christian by celebrating it. But it’s a Christian holiday, both religiously Christian and culturally Christian. You may only be doing the culturally Christian parts, of course, and not relating to it in a way that feels at all Christian to you.

                I think the important thing to recognize is that the fact that you see it as secular (which is totally your call to make) can’t erase the fact that it’s not secular for the wider society, and it’s not actually a universal cultural celebration that we should assume everyone could/should/does partake in.

                The reason I feel so strongly about this is because this is what leads to people assuming that, for example, Jews celebrate xmas and saying/doing fairly offensive/non-inclusive/alienating things as a result … and not even realizing it because they think Christmas is some sort of universal cultural celebration.

                1. Honeybee*

                  In fact, I think the fact that so many people insist that Christmas is secular proves the point. Christmas can only be considered “secular” by some because of Christianity’s religious dominance in the Western world and thus Christian holidays’ ubiquity. I rarely see anyone trying to claim that Hanukkah or Eid al-Fitr (which I realize is not always in the winter) or Diwali are “secular” holidays in the U.S., even when many cultural, non-observant people raised in those faith traditions celebrate those holidays.

                2. Anon On This One*

                  I would argue we’re moving more toward a culture Christmas than religious. Considering the number of people who don’t identify as religious in the United States, I would be interested in seeing how many of them celebrate Christmas. It wouldn’t surprise me if in future history books Christmas’ section has a sentence in it that says, “What started out as a Christian celebration of the birth of Christ evolved in to a secular feast day not unlike Thanksgiving.”

              3. Chinook*

                “And the fact that Christianity is dominant in my society means I feel okay about appropriating Christmas as a secular holiday,”

                As someone who saw Christmas being celebrated in a very secular way in Japan (where Christians don’t even make up 1%), I think it is fair to say that appropriating the cultural aspects of this doesn’t even disadvantage Christians when they are a minority. It is one of the few religious holidays I celebrate that have distinct secular practices that are not based on religion. When I had one parent ask the religious significance of tree ornaments (after I had verified she wasn’t talking about a Jesse tree, which is something completely different), I said that there is none and it is done only because greenery, sparkly stuff and lights are cheerful during the dark of winter.

              4. Honeybee*

                Christmas literally means “Christ’s mass.” Secular means something that has no religious or spiritual basis. Christmas is not secular. It has a religious basis. I’m not Christian myself, but Christmas is a Christian holiday. Yes, some people have appropriated it for their own purposes but that doesn’t make it non-Christian or secular.

            4. Arielle*

              Thank you. I have had this argument so many times. Christmas is not a secular holiday if you’re Jewish. (Or Hindu, or Muslim, or any other non-Christian minority.) It gets frustrating when even the most well-meaning people in the world assume that you celebrate a holiday which you do not celebrate. (Especially in years like this year when Hanukkah falls early, so there’s a lot of “What are you doing for the holidays?” “Well, my holiday ended two weeks ago!”)

              1. Ask a Manager* Post author

                Yes — and to observant Jews*, it’s actually pretty offensive to insist we should see it as secular. (And I assume for other religions too, but I don’t have firsthand experience with that.)

                * Hell, even to many non-observant Jews, which is how I classify myself.

                1. Dr. Johnny Fever*

                  As long as Christmas is called Christmas, it’s not a secular holiday. It wouldn’t be called Christmas except for the connection to Christ and Christianity; otherwise, we’d call it Solstice, Festivus, Saturnalia, or anything other than Christmas.

                  Thank you again, Alison, for giving voice to this. I was a former JW and experienced first-hand the difficulties and outright pain associated with cultural and religious assumptions as I grew up and was ostracized for not following the “common” activities that “everyone” did. Those who insist that I (and others) should see a religious holiday as secular don’t understand the offensiveness of the generalization nor the privilege they enjoy as part of a majority group.

                2. Renee*

                  I frequently refer to our holiday celebration as “Yule,” because we’re not Christians. I don’t really like calling it “Christmas” because aside from the timing, that’s not what we are celebrating. I agree with the position that Christmas is not secular so I’ve tried to move away from that label. It’s hard though, because the idea of a secular celebration that’s something other than one of the religious celebrations that already occurs during the season seems hard for many people to understand (not people here — just in general).

        3. Honeybee*

          Sure, technically speaking Christmas is a religious holiday. But I think the point is saying “My family is not very religious” as a response to people asking why you don’t celebrate the holidays is likely to get you a blank stare and further questions, not satisfaction on the question asker’s part. Many many “not very religious” people still celebrate Christmas.

          Beyond that, there are other winter holidays that occur during the season, and a lot of companies close on some of those days, so the question may simply have more to do with why OP isn’t traveling during time off.

      3. LabTech*

        Muslim with a Christmas tree up checking in. There are non-religious aspects that can be celebrated (gifts, decorations, Christmas cookies), but understandably not everyone would feel comfortable participating in a religious holiday that’s not of their faith.

        1. Elizabeth West*

          I’ll celebrate anything that lets me eat cookies–even Cthulhu-shaped ones.

          Seriously, though, it is kind of hard to avoid the religious aspect of it. Not to mention how it makes you feel if you don’t have a family.

      4. Elsajeni*

        Sure, lots of people celebrate Secular Christmas (heavy on Santa, snowmen, presents, and pies, light on Jesus). I do, too. But Christmas is a religious holiday. I know Mando Diao is suggesting “I don’t celebrate because I’m not religious” as a polite fiction, but it doesn’t really matter — someone who says some version of that when asked about their Christmas plans is telling you they don’t celebrate, whether religion is the real reason or not, and it’s weird and pushy to start arguing with them about whether they could, if they wanted to.

        1. Joline*

          My decorations are pretty Jesus-heavy for all that I identify as agnostic for the most part. Force of habit more than anything.

          I have my nativity scene up and light candles on my advent wreath on each of the four Sundays before Christmas. I don’t actually know what the advent wreath is supposed to represent…but it’s something that the German Lutheran (more in word than action) family did growing up and it’s stuck for me.

          1. Chinook*

            “I don’t actually know what the advent wreath is supposed to represent…but it’s something that the German Lutheran (more in word than action) family did growing up and it’s stuck for me.”

            Ooohh, ooh, ooh, I know that one (though I didn’t realize non-Catholics did it). You light one candle every week to help count down the time. Each candle represents different things: hope, preparation, joy (which is pink while the others are purple) and love. As Christmas gets closer, the light gets brighter. But, as we told the kids when we sent them home with them, you don’t leave them lit when you are not around (maybe only 20 minutes at a time).

        2. Honeybee*

          And even Santa and the presents is based upon Christian myth/folklore, so Santa doesn’t let you escape either. His name means “saint” and his figure and gift-giving is based upon a Christian bishop who gave gifts. (Although his appearance and actions also have heavy influence from Germanic and Norse mythology as well.)

    7. Chicken*

      If your family isn’t local & you do see them sometimes, something like “I hate traveling during the holidays, so I usually see my family at other times of year” is a nicely impersonal reason to give.

      (Also, it’s rude to ask *why* someone isn’t seeing family over the holidays. IMO it’s fine to ask about holiday plans, but not inquire into why someone made one choice vs another.)

    8. Abradee*

      This is good, but a response that includes “by myself” might prompt someone to invite OP over to their place for the holidays. If the OP or anyone else in this situation is up for that, great. But if s/he would rather be alone (understandable) or doesn’t want to spend that time with someone from work (VERY understandable), leaving out the specifics of being alone might be better. Too many equate “alone” with “loneliness” and therefore “sadness,” especially around the holidays. But as an introvert who has spent some holidays by herself, it can actually be the furthest thing from sad. In fact, it can be downright glorious.

    9. Vicki*

      Huh Many of us don’t consider Christmas t be religious, and small families like to get together too.

  2. Little Teapot*

    OP3: Same issue as me. Thankfully this year I am working so I have a legitimate excuse, but when questioned as to *why* I wanted to work when most people were scrambling to get out of it, I simply replied I am atheist and don’t celebrate Christmas. Done. Simple. Clean. They can’t argue with your religious beliefs (or lack thereof), can they? If they push about ‘holidays are family time in general’, you could deflect and say your family is scattered, or your family don’t place emphasis on December holidays, which is fair enough.

    I’m like you: a tenuous situation I avoid at all costs. I am atheist as is my family, however, they still get a Christmas tree and celebrate Christmas, as with most people in Australia, it’s a family gathering more than a religious event. Still, due to similar reasons as you, I prefer not to partake.

    Good luck OP! I find the same as you, I often get weird looks. But by saying I’m atheist and I don’t celebrate Christmas, and Christmas is merely just another public holiday to me, I’ve found most people accept it and don’t push too much. My housemate said to me that her family has tended to drop the ball with Christmas, as since her and her brother are mid-twenties, and Christmas is usually about the kids anyway – so until the two of them start having children, Christmas is a bit lax/doesn’t happen with her family. So perhaps that could be another excuse? That you and all your mid-twenties aged siblings prefer to hang with partners instead?

    I hope you enjoy the day regardless. If I wasn’t working, I usually go to my best friend’s family’s Christmas and hang with my partner. But even that invites questions, ‘why would you go to your friends Christmas and not your own family’s?!’

    Mind your own business people!! Haha.

    1. Bea W*

      Do you ever encounter people who insist Christmas isn’t just a religious holiday? I had this issue way too much!

      1. Turanga Leela*

        This is actually true for me—I celebrate Christmas as a secular holiday and always have. My family has a tree and presents and a big meal together. It’s very similar to Thanksgiving. (This isn’t to say that anyone else needs to celebrate Christmas or that workplaces should assume that Christmas is non-religious. But I think secular Christmas is underrated as a holiday.)

        1. Kelly L.*

          Yup! We did that too, growing up. There’s food and presents and “Santa” and decorations and singing, just no real religious element. We still do it. I’ve had people tell me they don’t understand how it’s possible to have a “Christmas” celebration without religion, but we certainly managed. :D

          (Another argument I’ve gotten is “Isn’t that Yule?” Well, no, I’m pagan now and I do that too, but that’s its whole own thing with its own set of religious content.)

        2. Ad Astra*

          That’s how it was for us growing up, too. My family is certainly more Christian than we are, say, Jewish or Muslim or something, but we never went to church and my dad was fairly open about being an atheist. Christmas was purely a secular, cultural holiday like Thanksgiving. And Easter was mostly about egg hunts and baskets full of chocolate bunnies.

          1. Lily in NYC*

            Same here! And now it’s a huge holiday in Japan, where it’s more about spending time together as a family, and with Xmas Eve being a romantic holiday for couples.

          2. Elizabeth West*

            We did go to church at both Christmas and Easter, and did the whole presents/chocolate thing. And when we got older, it was cool to go to midnight Mass because you got to stay up late. :) But now we just do family stuff at Christmas, if we get together then that year and not on Turkey Day. I don’t go to church anymore much at all, so it’s doubtful I’d stay up for midnight Mass now unless I was traveling and there was a concert, etc.

        3. sunny-dee*

          Funny story — Thanksgiving is also a religious holiday. It was set aside as a day of prayer to thank God for his provision and care for this country. :) But you can make the day whatever you want! It’s just time off.

          1. Turanga Leela*

            I meant that our family ritual is very similar to Thanksgiving—we celebrate Christmas as a time to be together.

        4. LawPancake*

          Yup! As a Jewish atheist who still puts up a tree. Although, I use blue and silver balls and call it a Hanukah bush…

          1. Turanga Leela*

            This is so exciting. I’ve never met anyone who had a Hanukkah bush. Our more observant half of the family used to call our tree a Hanukkah bush, but we just called it a Christmas tree. None of my Jewish friends who were even remotely observant had trees of any name. (My family was not remotely observant—we never went to temple, no one had a bar mitzvah, and the only Jewish holiday we celebrated was Hanukkah.)

          2. lfi*

            OH MY GOD. i told my jewish husband i wanted to put up a hannukah bush and he was not happy (and insisted i could not call our tree a hannukah bush ever again). but props and you made my day.

        5. Vicki*

          Same here! I’ve been saying “Christmas is a secular holiday” since I was 12 years old!

          I get so tired of people who insist that it isn;t and isn’t meant to be. You celebrate your holiday and I’ll celebrate mine.

      2. Woods-comma-Elle*

        We are all atheists or agnostics in my family and Christmas is a big thing. It’s about spending time together and nice food and pretty lights. This is true for most of my friends.

      3. Rita*

        When I worked retail in high school at a gift shop, I worked with a Jewish woman who LOVED Christmas. The secular parts – Santa and reindeer and such.

      4. Oryx*

        I grew up celebrating Christmas with a religious point of view, as an atheist now I still celebrate it, now it’s from a secular perspective.

        1. A Cita*

          Christmas was very religious in our household growing up too. As an adult atheist though, I have no interest in a secular Christmas, from a political and social point of view. I’m also not into consumer society, killing trees/adding to the tree trash problem, promoting Christian practices as societal norms, and I hate Christmas music, so I don’t know where a secular Christmas would leave me. :)

          Big meal and building snowmen? I have dietary restrictions and I hate the cold (snow needs to die in a fire).

          I sound like Scrooge. :D

      5. dr_silverware*

        Yes, unfortunately. It annoys me sooo much.

        And the thing is, I do believe that Christmas isn’t always, shall we say, religiously Christian. But it is always culturally Christian. Christian culture is just such a ubiquitous backdrop in America that that it looks neutral or default.

        I’m an atheist and also Jewish, both culturally and religiously; therefore, I do not celebrate Christmas. (Plenty of Jews do, but that means they’re doing a little bit of Christian culture in with their Jewish, which is perfectly fine. Assimilation, yay!) Just, it’s not a secular holiday per se even if you’re an atheist. End derail :p

        1. teclatrans*

          Interesting. How so? Growing up in a strongly athiest family culture, but also a strongly Christian country, I don’t see it. (I see the holiday as primarily Christian but not exclusively, and i feel like atheists and pagans get erased from view all the time, so I am resistant to this claim. But I am open to having my consciousness expanded.)

      6. A Cita*

        You know, I actually find saying, “I’m not a Christian” usually solves that problem, rather than saying I’m atheist or not religious. I think it’s possibly because the then assume I’m Jewish and it’d be pretty un-PC to push it at that point, or they are Christians who don’t generally practice and so feel some guilt at the reminder of the point of the holiday, or just feels like that it’s a loaded comment and they don’t want to get into some religious conversation at the workplace. Whatever the reason, it seems to work. Might not in a more religious area though. :)

        1. A Cita*

          Oh, and for the few who assume I’m Jewish and do say something about celebrating Chanukah, I just respond with, “Chanukah isn’t a major Jewish holiday.”

    2. ThatGirl*

      Personally I don’t think Christmas HAS to be a religious holiday – plenty of people at least in the US celebrate it with minimal or zero religious content. But I would certainly respect your right not to celebrate it regardless.

    1. On My Phone*

      +1 for the Judge Judy reference….you made my day. Watching my recorded episode now!

      “The court doesn’t get involved because you two decided to play house.”

      1. Chorizo*

        So happy (and vindicated) to know I’m not the only one who records her show. The BF thinks I’m nuts. I watched about 40 episodes over the holiday weekend!

        1. AvonLady Barksdale*

          Every day, for YEARS. We get four episodes a day here. In fact, I am watching JJ right now. :)

        2. On My Phone*

          Her show is #1 on my record list and yes, folks think I am nuts too…until I sound intelligent during a legal debate. Then its all “Oh, I forgot you watch Judge Judy.”

      2. Mimmy*

        Another JJ fan here! I don’t always agree with her decisions but she sure puts people in their place!

      3. Laurel Gray*

        I hoard episodes on my DVR and then when there is nothing on TV I watch 3-6 episodes at once. I can’t get enough of that woman!

    2. MK*

      I think that’s the whole question: were these phones gifts or not? I find it a bit odd that a boss would buy an employee “several” phones as gifts; but then again, why would anyone give several phones to an employee for work, they only need one. Were these items something like leftover stock (or unsaleable for some reason) or were they promotional gifts from a client/supplier?

      Also, it sounds as if the boss doesn’t want the actual phones back, she asks for their monetary value, and the retail one to boot. I think that even if the OP’s mother decides to return them, she has no obligation to give the boss money, just hand back the actual phones.

      1. Yetanotherjennifer*

        I thought that was interesting too. And who runs out of friends and family to gift brand new iPhones to? There might be a logical explanation but it seems passing strange with the info we have. At the very least I’d wonder why the boss is trying to recoup their value and not their cost.

        1. fposte*

          Oh, excellent differentiation. I bet the boss can’t find a receipt for that $700 payment.

          As an academic, I’m wondering if they were part of a grant.

      2. Ad Astra*

        If they were iPhone 6 models instead of iPhone 6S models (that S makes pluralizing very confusing), they may have been outdated stock, or the boss might have gotten a steep discount, or something like that — because they’re a half generation old. But it’s still strange to give someone several phones, either as a gift or as a tool for work. So I’ve got nothing there.

        1. Kelly L.*

          Yeah, I’m wondering too if they were gifts from a supplier–and maybe if the boss misunderstood what they were for, and wasn’t supposed to give them away, and now is panicking. That’s the best I’ve got.

      3. Father Ribs*

        Multiple iphone6s….Those are as expensive as laptops. Does multiple mean two or many? There is a lot to this story not laid out.

        In what sort of scenario would someone receive multiple iphone 6 as gifts?

        1. Laurel Gray*

          I am wondering the same. Retail value alone (outside of a phone contract) would make me suspicious of someone giving me multiple phones. Suspicious as in “are these stolen?” I can’t even think of a supplier giving these away for free when there is so much to be made on them – 6s is out now but u can still make $$ selling a 6, heck even the ones from 5.

        2. Nina*

          This. I know it’s dependent on the industry as well as your earnings, but it does seem really extravagant. I would be dubious about accepting one iPhone, much less several. It borders on the “Wow, this is really nice but I can’t accept something so expensive” mentality for me. It would make me uncomfortable. Even dated iPhones are expensive.

          Definitely wondering if the boss goofed up and these weren’t supposed to be gifts. Or if they fell off a truck.

  3. Artemesia*

    I am simply stunned at #2. If the OP is the manager of this insubordinate receptionist, why wasn’t the radio removed the first time she continued to play it after being told not to. And why hasn’t she been fired for continuing to do this. I would not patronize an office that forced this on me in their waiting room and there are plenty of people who feel the same; it is highly inappropriate to have politically charged material blaring in public spaces. It is also completely appropriate to decide precisely what you are willing to have on a radio in the common areas — Not responding to direction on this i.e. repeatedly flouting a clear directive is ground for firing. Why is there even a question about either directing the station that may be played or removing the radio complete. And ‘keep it low’ is IMHO also inappropriate. This is public exposed space, client exposed space — there is no ‘low’ that is really acceptable here.

      1. NJ Anon*

        No, you said what I was thinking. It seems clear to me as well. If the directive wasn’t followed it would be resolved by removing the radio. No muss no fuss.

        1. Mike B.*

          It’s better resolved by removing the receptionist, who is being directly and deliberately insubordinate. Maybe after ten years she’s forgotten that she’s still being judged by the quality of her work, and isn’t entitled to do as she pleases.

    1. Elizabeth the Ginger*

      Agreed. If she’s the receptionist, then any radio that’s loud enough for her to hear would be loud enough for a visitor to hear while they are speaking to her.

      OP, if you’re concerned about getting into politics, you could simply say either “music only” or “no radio”.

      1. LadyCop*

        I don’t even like the “music only” idea. Honestly, music drives me nuts in the workplace…it’s as bad as people (no matter how awesome they are) who randomly sing when you don’t have the option to run away screaming…

        1. Shannon*

          Yeah, I think the “music only” idea idea will need some elucidation. The next move in the passive aggressive play book would be to play the most obnoxious music you can tolerate. I would specify what type of music (soft rock, oldies…. When I worked in a book store in a historical location, we had one CD of instrumental Spanish guitar we had to play on repeat. On the weekends when the manager wasn’t there, we played the soft rock station. We were REBELS.)

          1. Elysian*

            Yeah, I don’t think saying “music only” would work well. I think it would need to be more along the lines of “These are the approved stations/CDs. You can pick one of them if you want to use the radio.”

            1. Introvert at work*

              Hurrah! Best comment ever! :D

              I would really be put off if I was in a reception area that played Rush L. It is definitely a reflection of the company. Either no radio or set it on a really innocuous station, like smooth jazz.

              Not to sound too snarky, but I’m surprised that this is even a question up for debate within the company.

              1. mander*

                Yeah, I’d think twice about using that company for anything. I’m pretty intolerant of Limbaugh and just hearing his voice would put me off. I haaaate it when my Dad listens to him when I’m around. Can’t we just listen to some inane oldies station or the baseball or what-have-you?

          2. Ankh-Morpork*

            Ugh. One CD is the worst. In collage I worked at Pier 1 and each month corporate would send us one CD with ten songs on it and that was all we were suppose to play for the entire month. Ten songs. And none of them were ever instrumental. At the end of the first eight hours of those ten songs we all hated them. I still hate those songs. Christmas was the worst though.

            1. Adam*

              I used to work at private shipping store. The owner had her own mix CD that she played on repeat. Every. Single. Day. All of it was romantic 80’s Power Ballads. I practically ran out of the building every time my shift was over.

            2. Abradee*

              10 songs? Yikes! I worked at an Old Navy in college and we got a new CD of music and ads to play in the store every month as well. The songs were usually super annoying, but it was a massive playlist on a 3 hour loop. It used to drive us crazy to hear those same songs every day, but at least we only heard them two or three times a shift. The same 10 songs during an eight hour shift? That has to be some kind of torture!

              1. Elizabeth West*

                That sounds like HellJob, where they played the soft rock station all day, and its playlist was absurdly small. I can never listen to “Maggie May” again in this life or any other.

            3. Alienor*

              Years ago I worked at a store that played an Israel Kamakawiwo’ole CD and Neil Young’s “Harvest Moon” album in rotation, day in and day out. I still can’t hear either of them without feeling like I should be running a cash register.

            4. Back in the saddle*

              I worked at a Christmas store right after uni, and we had to play the CDs we were selling. After a while we sold out of everything but a rather insipid rendition of The Nutcracker Suite and had to play it over. and. over. and. over. For 12 hour shifts. It took me *years* before I stopped cringing when it came on the radio!

            5. Former Cable Rep*

              I have an even worse horror story. I worked for a comfort shoe brand in the 90s and they sent us a video we had to play all day. It contained a 30 second and a 90 second clip of one song. All day, every day, for at least three months. It was an otherwise great job, but the lyrics of that song will be with me long after I’ve forgotten my own name.

              1. Editor*

                I lived in a college apartment above a laundromat. It was renovated to become a restaurant. The restaurant played a tape loop all night long until it’s bar closed an hour or two after midnight. Tenants complained to no avail.

                Then the restaurant got a new manager. The minute the doors closed the staff would cut off the tape and crank up the jukebox to top level. We called the cops after a few nights of unpleasant confrontations, including one night when one of us called down to ask them to quiet down, they cranked up the volume further, one of us slammed a chair on the floor repeatedly to get them to quiet down and the restaurant crew put on “Knock Three Times” in retaliation.

                The worst nights, though, were after the landlord, the tenants, and the restaurant owner came to an agreement about noise. The tape loop still ran and we could hear it, but it went off at closing time. Once in a while, however, the staff would forget to turn it off and it would keep playing all night long. We grew to hate those songs and moved as soon as we could afford to.

                It’s amazing how crazily angry repetitive, loud music that you have no control over can make you.

            6. mander*

              This is why I hate Christmas music now. I worked in the mall as an undergraduate and not only did we have our own selection of crap to play on repeat (Mannheim Steamroller in this case, plus some other New Age-type harp-based abomination) but so did every single other store, plus the mall’s own PA system. It was a terrible cacophony of endless variations on the same 4-5 songs.

              The only times I will deliberately listen to Christmas music now is when I’m making cookies with my family (this is a whole-family Event for us), driving around looking at light displays, or while doing holiday-related activities on Christmas and Christmas Eve.

              I’ve even been known to wear earplugs when I’m out shopping, that’s how much I hate crappy holiday music.

        2. hayling*

          Yes! My doctor’s office always has music playing and it drives me nuts. During the holidays it’s annoying Christmas music.

          One time I was waiting for a long time for a December appointment, and I subversively very slowly turned the music down every time the receptionist stepped away.

          1. LD*

            I’m not particularly bothered by music, but the proliferation of noise in waiting rooms drives me nuts! It seems now that everyone has a TV blaring! I want to find a quiet room without the talk stations or song lyrics or tv or advertising noise. Waiting rooms used to be pretty quiet and I’d love to go back to that. (Now I feel like I should say, “Get off my lawn!”) That is all. :)

            1. OhNo*

              Whenever I’ve been in a quiet waiting room, it’s been absolute bliss. Even if whatever is playing isn’t politically charged, I can absolutely guarantee that it isn’t something I would have put on voluntarily. I wish more offices realized that just because you view something as innocuous or inoffensive doesn’t mean that everyone will enjoy it!

              (Now get them whippersnappers off my lawn! :) )

              1. Ordinary World*

                Smooth jazz, mentioned upthread as an example of innocuous, is… really really not, for myself and others I’ve known, also.

                Hate that stuff, no idea why, but it makes me want to hulksmash things.

                So, yes, I agree, there are many different ideas about inoffensive, and it’s a tricky target to hit :)

                1. MashaKasha*

                  My one dr’s office, that I have to call a lot and who are always busy and so they always put you on hold, always ALWAYS plays Kenny G as their on-hold music. It’s one of those things that sound like a great idea in theory – inoffensive music that should appeal to everyone – but in reality, I’m ready to strangle the guy, burn all of his CDs to ashes, then burn the ashes.

                  It certainly is a tricky target to hit. Silence seems like the best option. I wish more offices would give that a try.

            2. WildLandLover*

              I completely agree! Seems like I cannot go anywhere — doctor, dentist, restaurants, professional offices, etc. where I’m not overwhelmed with the level of artificial noise. When did it become so ubiquitous, why did anyone think this was a good idea, and who’s blasted idea was it anyway! :-) Dagnabbit!

              I especially despise commercials, ALL commercials, no matter where . . . we are being buried alive under advertising . . . sigh . . .

              1. Elizabeth West*

                My dentist office has TVs in the waiting room and in every exam/treatment room. You’re supposed to need something to watch, I guess. I HAAATE IT. Sometimes it’s on Ellen, whom I love, but I don’t want to watch TV there. I have a book with me and I want to read.

                1. Editor*

                  The televisions are a new “amenity” at my dental office, too. I just asked the hygienist to turn it off the last time and she complied, but it was annoying to have to ask instead of having her ask if I wanted Intrusive New Thing. Plus, her choice of programming seemed really unpleasant to me (some family airing their dirty linen in some talk show with a host I didn’t recognize.

                  At least it wasn’t Fox News, which my pharmacy waiting area had for a year or so. I did complain about that.

                2. Honeybee*

                  Ugh, I hate this new trend of TVs everywhere. The place they bother me the most are in taxis in NYC now. At least now you can turn them off. They’re just endless loops of 30-90 second spots and if you take cabs with any consistency you see them a million times.

                  I have a smartphone, usually with some books!

            3. Alienor*

              The car dealership where I get my oil changes done has a giant TV in the waiting area. It’s always playing Fox News. I could die.

      2. jmkenrick*

        The fact that OP specified the program (instead of just saying a talk show) makes me think that OP is concerned the request might rankle the receptionist because it feels like a commentary on her politics. I agree that OP needs to remind herself this isn’t about approving or disapproving of the reciptionist’s policies, it’s about creating a non-disruptive environment.

        A talk show (all day? wow.) can be incredibly disruptive. I listen to podcasts sometimes, but only for certain housekeeping elements of work, because they are *super* distracting when I’m trying to actually muddle through a difficult problem. In fact, I even have trouble listening to music with lyrics when I’m trying to concentrate.

        1. Yetanotherjennifer*

          +1. There are accepted norms about music, or broadcast sound, in public spaces. It’s why Muzak is so…loved and respected. Sure, those norms aren’t as strong as they used to be but there are still accepted rules about what is appropriate public sound and what isn’t. This wouldn’t be an issue of she were blasting death metal or yodeling. No one would hesitate to ask her to turn that down or off. The hesitation here is because she is using the radio to express her personal political views and it feels like a sticky free speech issue. But it isn’t. The reception area is public, the sound is at an unacceptable type and volume and there is no reason not to make it stop.

        2. Rat Racer*

          I’ve been wracking my brain trying to think of an office environment where listening to political radio of any stripes would be appropriate. The only things I can come up with are: (a) You work in the office of the campaign manager of a political candidate who shares the political beliefs of the talk radio host, or (b) You work in the PR office of the radio talk show host.

          Otherwise, completely inappropriate.

        3. WorkingMom*

          I read OP’s comment as though the talk radio wouldn’t bother people if wasn’t a conservative talk show. The issue should be that the office does not want any radio playing (talk radio of any kind, or music) in the reception area. It shouldn’t matter if the receptionist is listening to Rush, Obama himself, or kids singing the ABC’s. Here is the litmus test – if the receptionist were listening to “left wing talk radio” would everyone still have the same reaction? Ultimately, the workplace should be a “politics-free” zone because it’s too polarizing. I would encourage the OP to focus the direction on no radio in reception at all – as opposed to no “right wing talk radio” in the reception area.

          1. mander*

            Good point. My brain goes to OMG I HATE RUSH but it would be just as inappropriate if it were anything else.

            I find people talking super distracting anyway. People who can watch TV while writing always mystify me. When I was in high school trying to write papers for homework, Mom used to come into the room where the computer was and turn on the TV, sit down, and start folding laundry. It drove me nuts. I’d start typing lines of dialogue from the program instead of whatever I was trying to write about.

      3. Ezri*

        Having music and tv in a reception area can really color my opinion of an office. Neutral is always good in those situations. For example, my doctor’s reception area plays really boring medical informational channels.

        The last time I was at the dentist, there was some MTV reality show on that was really uncomfortably explicit for a public office. I’m no prude when it comes to tv in my house, but it was pretty gross humor. It was just me and another lady in the waiting room, and we kept giving each other startled looks but neither of us was brave enough to say anything.

        1. MashaKasha*

          Yes, as a client, I would certainly make some conclusions.

          I had to have an emergency eye surgery three years ago; don’t remember much of the surgery, but what I do remember is that, when I went to see a specialist who ended up sending me into surgery, there were two TVs in his waiting room, and both were playing Fox News really loud. Ugh, it was more painful than the surgery or the recovery! They have other offices in our area, and I admit that I will go out of my way to make sure I never have to come back to that one again.

          I agree that something neutral is the way to go… Animal Planet for example? Or my other eye Dr’s office had a home buyers reality show on when I was there for my last checkup. Boring, but not in the least annoying or offensive, and you could easily block it out and concentrate on other things like reading.

          1. Person of Interest*

            Last year I was in the ER waiting room for several hours after a minor car accident, with the TV tuned to the Game Show Network. Cue the marathon of Family Feud (Steve Harvey version)! So that was awesome!

          2. LCL*

            Pro tip-if you can reach the TV, you can turn down the volume. There will be volume buttons on it somewhere that you can operate without the remote. Look on the sides, or near the bottom of the frame. I have been known to turn down waiting room TVs that were screaming.

            1. MashaKasha*

              There were a lot of avid Fox News watchers in that room. I really didn’t want to anger those guys… But thanks, this really is a good tip!

              1. OhNo*

                I’ve actually done that before. Not Fox News specifically, but a political talk show that was playing in a waiting room. I just stared them straight in the eye and said, very calmly: “This is awfully loud, let me just turn it down.” None of them challenged me, but I do live in a state with a very non-confrontational midwestern attitude. I’m sure they all went home and told their relatives about That Jerk In The Waiting Room, but I was at the point where I would have punched somebody if I had to listen to it a second longer.

                So it can be done! You just have to be willing to risk that confrontation. Sometimes, it’s definitely worth it.

                1. MashaKasha*

                  I once was the first person in a waiting room, because I had an early morning apt. It was in my eye Dr’s office and it was one of those intermediate waiting rooms, where they put you after they’ve given you the eye drops, and leave you there for 20 minutes until your pupils are dilated. I asked the nurse if it was okay to turn the TV off, she turned it off, and left. It was amazing! Then the room started filling with old people. I’m probably the youngest patient in that office by at least 20 years, due to my past eye injury. Everyone else is at least in their late sixties. There was no TV, so they all started talking to each other, getting to know each other better, and having a blast. It was the cutest thing! Of course, eventually they all wanted the TV back on and I had no idea how to do it (believe me, I tried.) A nurse came to take me to the Dr’s and I left. I asked her if she could turn the TV back on and she said nope, too busy. I guess they just continued to socialize on that particular day.

          3. Ankh-Morpork*

            When i went in to have my wisdom teeth removed there were several TV’s in the waiting room cycling though ads for plastic surgery – One of the partners there apparently specialized in in. A bunch of before and after shots of nose jobs. I had never been put under before and was suddenly really worried i would wake up with a different nose. It was just not comforting.

          4. anonanonanon*

            I’d say no to Animal Planet just in case there are clients who have certain animal phobias. And Animal Planet sometimes has some graphic or disturbing content, too.

        2. Ad Astra*

          I often find offices playing CNN on the TV, which seems like it would be innocuous, but there’s a lot of violence in the news. And plenty of legitimate news involves racial tension or some kind of sexuality — typically unoffensive when I’m watching at home, but really uncomfortable to watch in a room full of strangers. Also, Donald Trump is on the news a lot.

          For a TV, a channel like ESPN might be the safest bet, though sometimes SportsCenter covers uncomfortable topics too. Maybe just bore them to death with one of the home-shopping networks? Or drive them insane with Nick Jr.

          1. Kelly L.*

            A non-political example–years ago, I was working at a deli, and usually we played CNN and I think people mostly just ignored it. But one night, the owner’s uncle was managing, and he had an intellectual bent, and put it on one of the science channels. This was all fine and good when they were showing, like, astronomy. But we had to switch it super-fast when they started playing a show about surgery! Not what you want to watch while eating.

          2. Natalie*

            We have news in our office, which certainly isn’t perfectly innocuous but IMO it’s a completely different horse than Rush Limbaugh. The news isn’t deliberately ridiculously offensive or inflammatory, which is very much Rush’s schtick.

            There’s not really a left-wing equivalent, but if there were I would also find that pretty inappropriate for an office. Rush is just gross.

            1. Charlotte Lucas*

              There is The Mic, which doesn’t get as loud, but I wouldn’t play it in an office, just because of the fact that it isn’t neutral.

              Right now I’m listening to NPR’s classical station (on headphones). I would consider this OK for out-loud in an office, but once the news and All Things Considered started, I would be ready to change the channel, not necessarily because of the supposed liberal bias, but more because some of the stories can get pretty emotional or graphic, based on what is being reported.

          3. Lizzy May*

            If it doesn’t make you too hungry, the Food Network is fairly safe. We played cooking shows for a while and it was amazing watching people waiting getting totally engrossed in the show.

            1. Charlotte Lucas*

              If you’re using the digital broadcast TV, PBS’s Create is even better for this. (Who doesn’t love the This Old House guys? Especially in juxtaposition with America’s Test Kitchen?)

              1. Elizabeth West*

                Okay, if they put PBS on, I’d be totally into that. Especially if The Joy of Painting came on. Of course, that would most likely be right when they called me back. :(

            2. Kelly L.*

              I also think there’s a channel of soothing nature scenes (i.e. pretty landscapes, not lions eating wildebeests or whatever) with innocuous music. I think I’ve seen it in hospitals.

              1. Natalie*

                Over Thanksgiving we caught a bit of a show that was apparently just a real-time video of a train trip through Alaska. It was actually pretty cool!

                1. Natalie*

                  @ BuildMeUp, from some googling it was apparently the Thanksgiving special of a show called Railroad Alaska, which normally is your standard shitty reality TV. This explains the confusion we had over the cable description, which I think mentioned an unplanned pregnancy and a fight, while just snowy woods played on the TV.

                  I’m kind of bummed out that it’s not a regular show.

                2. NutellaNutterson*

                  There are YouTube channels of this stuff, too! We put our kid to sleep with some Swedish train program when nothing else worked. “This is too boring! Zzzzzzz…”

              1. Natalie*

                Not so sure about the latter – how many shows can you possibly have about buying a house, which is one of the most consistently boring activities for everyone but the buyer? HGTV was one of the only approved channels at my old gym, and they somehow had a house-buying show on no matter what time of day I was there. It was bizarre.

                (I do enjoy International House Hunters or whatever that thing is called, but that’s mostly because of how weirdly out of touch the shoppers are.)

          4. WorkingMom*

            In hotel lobby once – my husband and I were sitting in the lobby with our 3-year old son eating lunch while we waited for family to meet us there. National news was on TV; beheadings and terrorism and violence. I asked the hotel staff to change the channel to something a little less violent; since my 3 year old was sitting right there. She switched the channel to downton abbey, which seemed fine. Not 5 minutes later – a death during childbirth scene. Ugh. Can’t win! ;)

          5. Liz*

            Even CNN can be risky. I used to work near a fast food place that played CNN 24/7, which was usually fine. One night I stopped in when CNN was showing a documentary on mass murder, specifically Pol Pot’s Cambodia. The crew didn’t seem too bothered, but they changed the channel when asked.

            I’ve also eaten at 2 pizza restaurants where the TV was turned to a CSI-type crime show with really graphic forensics scenes. WHen I asked to turn the channel the bartender got very upset. One said no one else was complaining (because no one else was there). Am I the only one who does not want to watch an autopsy while eating?

        3. Bowserkitty*

          Ugh, MTV isn’t acceptable any time.

          Unless it’s Daria.

          Even then, no place for it in a waiting room.

            1. Bowserkitty*

              YAY more fans!!!!! She really shaped my life as I was growing up – still need to crack open the DVD set I bought last year but I’m still mopey about the music being replaced (which is even noted in a special print out from the creator).

    2. Little Teapot*

      I agree – much the same as banning say, heavy with swear-words rap music but allowing classical music.

    3. neverjaunty*

      The fact that it’s getting louder when they ask her to turn it down also suggests that this really isn’t about the receptionist wanting to listen to talk radio while she does her work.

      1. Merry and Bright*

        Yes, it sounds a bit like the image of the sulky teenager who won’t turn music down when asked.

        1. Elizabeth the Ginger*

          Unless it’s getting louder over a long time span, like years, which could indicate that the employee doesn’t hear as well as she used to.

          1. LQ*

            I did wonder if she can’t tell how loud it is because she has problems with hearing. I’ve been surprised by both people hearing my things and people thinking their music was quiet when I could hear it crystal clear. Sometimes this is just an acoustic effect, like shoving the radio under a pass-through ledge of some kind it might greatly amplify the sound that can be heard to the clients but make it quieter for the receptionist.
            (I’m still not really a fan of having this at work at all, but I think it might be possible that she might be trying to make it quieter, just ineffectually.)

            1. neverjaunty*

              I’m taking the OP at her word that 1) the receptionist plays this just loud enough that the clients have to listen to it and 2) the volume went up right after the request to turn it down.

              1. LQ*

                I think that both those things can be true, and there is a small possibility that the receptionist isn’t doing it intentionally. If you have poor hearing and one of the desks that has like a taller space for people to stand at you push the radio under it, you could easily get an acoustic effect that would make it louder. (Like if you put your phone speaker against a hard wall and it can get louder.) If it has been moved then just tell the receptionist, this spot is louder.

                (I’m trying really hard to not make the assumption that just because someone listens to Rush they are trying to force everyone else to listen to it and acting like a 13 year old about it. I’d still leave the business if I could and not come back so I think asking to not play it is totally reasonable. But there is a chance that if she was just told to turn it down and not stop, that she thinks she is making it quieter.)

    4. ginger ale for all*

      I am a regular at a restaurant where the teenage staff is allowed to play from a preselected stacks of cd’s. I also think that you can set up a Pandora station with preselected sings. The rumor in town is that the restaurant was blasting the milkshake brings the boys to the yard song while selling milkshakes. No idea of the truthfulness of that but it does make me laugh.

      1. Sydney Bristow*

        Oh this makes me think that if the radio is simply taken away that she may choose to play these programs she listens to through her computer. I think the manager might need to be pretty explicit about what is and isn’t allowed to be played at reception and at what volume.

    5. FiveByFive*

      Oh, come on.

      I agree the radio should be turned down or off. So will everyone who else who responds here. But let’s not go overboard with this. I’ve been in plenty of places where the TV or radio were set to things that wouldn’t be my first choice. Big deal. Everyone’s got different opinions and tastes. Actually I make it point now and then to tune into or read things that I might not agree with. It’s more interesting and it forces me to think.

      Again, I understand if the business wants her radio off. But let’s not pretend some horrible injustice has been inflicted upon anyone who ventured into that reception area.

      1. Almond Milk Latte*

        Yeah, but if I choose to do/not do business with a company based on their (percieved) beliefs, isn’t that kinda a big deal to management? It’s not a horrible injustice to be subjected to the wrong flavor of talking head, but it’ll for sure color my opinion of a biz.

      2. Liz in a Library*

        Well sure, but there are absolutely customers who will choose not to do business places where they are subjected to something they find poitically inappropriate. Just because some folks aren’t bothered by it doesn’t mean all aren’t, and the business should take that risk into consideration.

        1. FiveByFive*

          Milk and Liz, yes, and I agree the company can turn off the radio, and probably should based on the reasons you are stating. I just find it unfortunate that people think this way. I can’t imagine refusing to ever go somewhere again just because I heard Rush Limbaugh in the background for two minutes while I was browsing my phone.

          1. Liz in a Library*

            For whatever it’s worth, I think for many people the issue would be the tone that particular show takes, not (just) because Of his political view. That would be why I wouldn’t choose to repeatedly visit a business playing it, and I absolutely agree with you that it’s a good idea to hear out opposing views. I think playing, say, a Dan Savage political rant would be equally inappropriate for a business, and I love him when at home.

          2. Tinker*

            I’m openly and visibly queer. My car has a rainbow sticker on it. Is listening to winger stuff for two minutes in itself such a terrible experience? Perhaps not. Do I want my brakes serviced by a place that is apparently choosing to play winger stuff in their customer waiting area? Also… perhaps not.

            Not all political disagreements are abstract and impersonal.

            1. embertine*

              Agreed, Tinker. It’s very easy for people who are not members of the targeted group to say that those who are should shrug it off and not take it personally. It’s not personal to them because it’s not their life.

              In my experience these are the same people who froth at the mouth over red Starbucks’ cups.

              1. PlainJane*

                “It’s not personal to them because it’s not their life.” Exactly. Thanks for saying this.

            2. I'm a Little Teapot*

              +millions. Right-wing talk radio would be downright hostile and intimidating to potential customers who are LGBT (and in many cases also people of color).

              You are absolutely right that many political issues are not abstract at all. I had a cancer scare while employed part-time (couldn’t find full-time) and on my state’s public insurance. My boss was ranting about how there should be no such thing as government-subsidized health care. I looked him in the eye, explained my situation, and told him “By saying that, you are telling me that I and people like me should just lie down and die.” He shut up.

              1. Kate M*

                I’m so sorry about your scare, and hope you’re doing alright! But I have to say, I love when people get put in their place like this. A lot of times, people aren’t actually confronted and made to think about the people who are hurt by the policies they tout. I love your response.

                1. Hlyssande*

                  My dad got a similar rude awakening when my brother’s fiance got pregnant. He assumed they would get married and was shocked when they said no, they won’t – because she’d lose her benefits and her house if they did. I don’t know if it ever hit home like that to him before.

                  His views are still incredibly right wing and uncomfortable for me, but at least he got a dose of ‘this is happening to actual PEOPLE’.

              2. Liz*

                I’m a home health nurse. I work for an agency, but my job depends heavily on Medicaid funding. You would be amazed at the number of parents (of pediatric clients) who rant about the evils of government-funded insurance while I’m caring for their severely disabled child. It has taken every ounce of restraint I have not to say “Medicaid pays for me.”

            3. Nashira*

              Agreed. I no longer go to a f ormer friend’s deli because I went in one day and poof it was covered in anti-choice propaganda. If I can help it, I don’t give money to people and organizations that hate me.

            4. Kyrielle*

              This. I’m not in the targeted categories, but by playing that talk show, the business is telling me their politics align with his…and I absolutely don’t want to give my money or other support to a business of which that is true, so unless they had me locked in, I’d cancel/leave if I could. If I was a prospective candidate to work there, unless I was desperate for _any_ job/paycheck, I would immediately decline the interview.

              1. Collarbone High*

                This happened to me IRL. I was interviewing for a job, and every office I went in to — including the receptionist and HR — was playing either Fox News or right-wing talk radio. It was pretty obvious I wouldn’t be welcome there, and I didn’t take the job.

          3. Florida*

            I don’t shop at Hobby Lobby because they insisted on shoving their political and religious beliefs into their employees’ health care. This doesn’t affect me because I don’t work there, but I don’t want to patronize businesses that think that’s good business.

            1. Anxa*

              I’ll patronize small businesses owned and run by people with opposing political beliefs, even ones that verge on hateful and dangerous. I’d rather my money go to an individual that hates me than a corporation with real financial power to oppress me.

              But when business owners bring their politics into their business, it’s a lot different.

            2. Kerry (Like the County In Ireland)*

              I won’t give money through GoFundMe, avoid Chick-Fil-A, won’t buy from Hobby Lobby, go to Darden Restaurants, order from Papa Joe’s, etc. based on their political positions on things that are dear to my heart. If the only power I’m permitted as a citizen of the US is that of a consumer, I’m going to wield it with satisfaction.

            3. WildLandLover*

              Me neither. Same for Chick Fil A, and others of the same ilk. As Kerry said below, if the only power I have is that of a consumer, then I will spend my money elsewhere.

              1. Abradee*

                Same. It’s been so long since I’ve had Chick-fil-a, and from what I remember, they make a pretty good sandwich. But I just can’t. I refuse to eat homophobic chicken.

          4. Katniss*

            To be fair, it’s not that hard to understand. As Tinker said, this isn’t impersonal. I’m not going to give my money to a business that I perceive as supporting right-wing politics because the right wing is actively trying to take away my rights as a woman and a queer person. Why would I want to offer any type of support to people who hate me?

          5. TL -*

            In an extreme example, my Jewish friend was on a road trip and needed some car part in the middle of nowhere (USA). The first auto shop they found had some Nazi propaganda – they left very quickly without buying anything and had to drive more than an hour to find another auto shop.

            What kind of political propaganda you showcase in your workspace can absolutely affect your clientele and drive away customers. Some viewpoints that some right wing conservatives have definitely imply violence towards minorities. Why would you want to patronize somewhere that’s endorsing those viewpoints?

            1. Mike B.*

              Good god. I’d like to think that most people would walk out the door at that point, Jewish or not.

          6. KH*

            The thing is, it’s not about whether I have to listen to it for 2 mins while browsing my phone. It’s about the fact that if I walk into a business where they are playing Rush in the lobby at a volume where guests/customers/clients can hear, then I can only assume that the entire business supports and/or agrees with the things Rush is saying. At that point it becomes a question of whether I want to do business with a company that feels that way.

            It’s just like my choice not to buy food from Chick-Fil-A. It is absolutely the right of the owner to contribute money to anti-LGBT organizations. It is absolutely MY choice that none of that money will come from me. I see it as being no different.

          7. Ad Astra*

            It’s not just about people who consciously refuse to patronize a business playing conservative talk radio (which is quite inflammatory and really doesn’t have a left-leaning equivalent). You also have to think about the many customers whose visits will be negatively impacted because of the unpleasant lobby experience — they may not even know what they’re listening to, but they’ll know it’s hostile. That kind of thing will color a person’s opinion about the entire visit. Any business with a waiting room or lobby would be smart to create the best possible experience. That’s their first chance to make an impression.

            1. Observer*

              (which is quite inflammatory and really doesn’t have a left-leaning equivalent)

              Actually, not all right wind talk radio is inflammatory, and yes there actually are left wing equivalents.

              But, I agree that none of that is smart in a place like your waiting room, unless you WANT to screen out people who might find the experience hostile.

              1. LD*

                I’m curious. Where can I find a left-leaning equivalent to Rush? I don’t particularly listen to political talk shows or to any that have a particular bent, but I’d be interested in knowing what left-leaning host is as known for inflammatory speech about anyone with opposing views.

                1. Dr. Johnny Fever*

                  Check out Stephanie Miller online or on AM radio. She has her own site. Very information and funny, not inflammatory IMO – but very pointed in their criticism.

                2. anonanonanon*

                  I’d put Dan Savage up there in some respect. He can be pretty vicious and cruel to people who oppose him, not to mention despite being seen as a LGBTQA leader, he’s pretty transphobic, biphobic, and misogynistic.

                3. Abradee*

                  If you have satellite radio/SiriusXM, channel 127 is devoted to left-leaning talk. Stephanie Miller’s show is broadcast on there as well.

                4. Observer*

                  I’ve stopped listening to most political talk shows, because of how nasty so much of it it. So, I don’t know if any of the people I remember are still around. I just know that the genre still exists because I occasionally get subjected to someone’s radio going.

            2. Rat in the Sugar*

              Well hey now, not all conservative talk shows are inflammatory and there are plenty on the left that are, as well. While Rush is absolutely not appropriate, there are plenty of left wing shows that would be inappropriate, too.

          8. Oryx*

            First impressions count with businesses, too. If that is being played, even in the background, it’s a passive approval of the information and opinions being presented. I won’t eat at certain restaurants, or shop at certain stores, because of their more active approval through open donations and such, but that passive approval is just as bad and as an consumer I don’t have to give my money to a business who validates ideals I don’t support and that doesn’t mean I’m going “overboard”

        2. Shannon*

          If the radio station annoyed me, but, there were no other problems with service, I would go back there. But if there were any other problems with service, I wouldn’t.

        3. MK*

          I seriously doubt the number of customers who would stop patronising this office out of annoyance with the radio is enough to make management take action. Unless there are several identical businesses in a row offering identical service, people won’t change so easily. Remember, people choose to do business with a company for valid reasons (location, cost, quality, etc) and those reasons usually trump a momentary annoyance. Would you really change your doctor because the receptionist plays a station you dislike?

          1. Amber*

            If I had to listen to a political ranting talking show while I’m sitting the waiting room, yes. Yes I would change doctors. I don’t go somewhere to spend money to be aggravated about politics, it should stay out of the work place and even more so it shouldn’t be around customers when you’re taking their money.

            1. Merry and Bright*

              I agree. If you play something in an open area, why not just have something neutral? Being in the UK, I will have to google this station/show. But if I was being surrounded by something politically extreme that I objected to, then unfairly or not I’d probably think that was the organisation’s culture – and I would feel that by handing over my hard earned cash then I would be somehow validating it. The image you give to your customers does matter.

              1. Xanthippe Lannister Voorhees*

                Exactly this. my SO and I recently spent a lot of time in our area urgent care (they actually had a set up for repeat patients who were diagnosed their to receive their medical care! Maybe that’s not actually a novel thing but it was a very new idea to each of us!). They alternated between playing CNN, The game show network, and the Food Network on the reception TV. Only one of those options made me wish I had waited in the car, the other two were either interesting or easy enough to ignore.

            2. the gold digger*

              I don’t go somewhere to spend money to be aggravated about politics

              Which is why my college friend who writes international best-sellers would not donate to Primo’s campaign. “I have to stay out of politics,” he said. “I have to be about my books.”

              If only other artists agreed with him. I do not want to know what a musician or writer thinks about politics. In most cases, I lose all respect for the person once I know what he thinks.

            3. Marian the Librarian*

              I would also change doctors if a right-wing talk show or news program was being played in the waiting room. I am a woman, and I would not feel comfortable going to any medical office that amplified the message of politicians who are vehemently anti-choice. As others said upthread, playing the radio station at a volume everyone can hear implies something about how the workers at that establishment are going to treat people.

              1. Abradee*

                I came down here to post about my experience like this in a doctor’s office, and also advise OP #2 that this sort of thing could affect how outsiders view this business. I once went to a podiatrist who had a bunch of TVs displayed in the reception area and waiting room, all tuned in to Fox News. And the reading material in the waiting room consisted of right-wing propaganda and Bibles. I left and never went back.

                You want to watch Fox News at home? Fine. I also have nothing against religion (hey, I’m religious). I don’t care if you’re conservative or liberal, nor do I care what your religion is. You are in the business of fixing my damn foot. That is all. I just don’t think doctors should be in the business of pushing their personal political agendas and religious beliefs on their patients.

            4. Honeybee*

              And for me, it wouldn’t matter whether it was left-wing or right-wing. I’m pretty liberal but I want to hear left-wing ranting/screaming almost as little as I want to hear right-wing ranting/screaming.

            1. Kyrielle*

              Yes, this. If it was a doctor I’d seen for years (and thus liked/trusted, presumably), I would go into the appointment and ask, “Did you know they’re playing … in the waiting room?”

              And I’d give them one more chance (unless the reply was along the lines of “yes, isn’t it great?” in which case I would flee in horror). If it was a new doctor, I’d also give them a heads-up, but I probably would still switch practices without waiting for an appointment without the talk show present.

              1. Andrea*

                I left a doctor’s office because they were playing Fox News. I told them why, too, though I was nice about it, and they admitted that they had had other complaints but that the office manager chose the station. In truth, I’m not a fan of TVs in waiting rooms (or restaurants, for that matter), but I accept that I’ve lost that battle, and I just take my Kindle with me anytime I am going to be anywhere with a waiting room (and I keep earplugs in my purse). But I absolutely do vote with my feet with this kind of thing, and I know that others do, too. I will not patronize businesses that support or tolerate hateful or discriminatory speech or policies, whether I’m targeted or not. It absolutely is personal. And if I heard hateful political rhetoric in reception area, I would assume that the business owner approved, and I would not go back.

                1. Charlotte Lucas*

                  I once waited with someone in the ER, and FoxNews was playing on the TV in the cubicle. It had been set by a previous patient, and we couldn’t figure out the remote to change the channel, but we were able to (thankfully) turn off the sound. Disagreeing with idiots was found to be a good distraction from pain…

                2. Observer*

                  I told them why, too, though I was nice about it, and they admitted that they had had other complaints but that the office manager chose the station.

                  What one earth? How does the office manager get to play stuff that annoys clients so much that they leave over it?

            2. Charlotte Lucas*

              If it were an OB/GYN, I would leave even faster than a different kind of provider.

              Of course, based on where I live, I’d be very surprised if this occurred at any of my medical providers. (I could see it in one of the outlying communities, though.)

            3. K.*

              I’d say I’d be MORE likely to change doctor’s offices that played stuff like that, particularly if it were a new doctor. I’m a black woman and I would seriously wonder if a medical practice that played Fox News, which espouses bigotry toward people of color AND women, would provide me with a lesser standard of care. Not only would I not go back but I’d likely tell people I know about my experience, which would very likely cause them not to patronize that business (my friends are varied in sexual orientation and color and none of them are down with bigotry).

              I wouldn’t patronize any business that played that stuff (I do, have, and will continue to vote with my feet on this sort of thing) but a doctor’s office in particular would cause me to go “Yikes.”

            4. Mike B.*


              There are very few professionals whose services can’t be easily replaced–I could change doctors, dentists, or most specialists without a second thought. My therapist would be much harder to replace, but I’d also lose a lot of trust in him if he were to foist Rush on the patients in his waiting room.

              And even if you’re not losing your customers outright by playing politically charged radio, you’re ensuring that many of them–on both sides–will be in an angry mood as they begin their business with you.

          2. Tinker*

            “Hey, receptionist, while you’re listening to that dude go on about disgusting men in women’s restrooms, can you update my records to reflect my rather revealing legal name change? While you’re doing that, I’ll be waiting to tell your boss who could tell you to turn that radio off but hasn’t about what sort of sex acts I engage with, and with what sort and number of people.”

            Absolutely yes. I really would change my doctor.

            1. Sparky*

              I would give my Dr. a chance to turn off the offensive talk show, but I would follow up with changing Drs. if that didn’t happen. They would know why they lost my business.

              I already don’t show at Barnes & Noble because they’re a chain, but when they featured the rapey “Baby it’s cold outside” in an ad I sent them an e-mail. They sent me a totally neutral e-mail in response.

              1. Case of the Mondays*

                Now I’m going to have to google those lyrics. I love that song but never caught “rapey” part before. I don’t doubt you – I probably just didn’t pay attention to the lyrics.

                1. Ophelia*

                  So, there are some lyrics that could be considered “rapey,” but I’d argue that the overall tone of the song (which was written in the ’40s) is one that is winking at the societal conventions that are preventing a woman from (consensually) sleeping over, not actually implying that the dude put something in her drink.

                2. Honeybee*

                  @Ophelia – Yes, agreed. I’ve always taken the “say, what’s in this drink?” line to be more of “what is causing this powerful desire in me to stay? must be the liquor” and less “there’s something in my drink.” The lyrics of the song make it pretty clear the female singer actually wants to stay with her companion but feels like she can’t because of social mores.

              2. Sarak*

                FWIW, and I’m not sure how much I buy it, but Persephone magazine had a feminist defense of that song that I ran across last year (link to follow), arguing that some of the lines that sound creepiest to us today lend themselves to a different interpretation in the 1940s.

          3. Nea*

            I have. I also changed my doctor because advertisements in her office made me question her professionism, so this question is not as hypothetical as you think.

          4. Katie the Fed*

            Yes, I absolutely would. Like it or not, many people (including me) associate at least a significant faction of that party with racism and sexism – due in large part to comments made by front runners and people like the talk show host in question – and I prefer not to patronize businesses if I have reason to believe they think of me as a lesser human.

            1. Ad Astra*

              It’s getting difficult to think of conservatives as reasonable people who simply see things differently from liberals. The stuff GOP candidates are saying is so openly racist and sexist that I truly struggle to “agree to disagree” with Republicans the way I used to. I don’t know how my journalist friends manage to stay neutral.

              1. Kelly L.*

                The thing I struggle with is that some folks do put their bigotry under the same umbrella as their politics. So someone will say “(Awful stereotype of group X)!!!”, and I’ll go, “hey, that’s not cool,” and they’ll reply “Why are you trying to stop me from expressing my conservative beliefs?” Well, (a) I’m not stopping you, just disagreeing with you; and (b) I was willing to consider bigotry and conservatism as two different things, but some people seem to want to conflate them, and to give cover to the bigotry by saying it’s just conservatism. I’ve even seen it here, once in a while.

                (And of course there’s some problematic racist/sexist history behind certain policies, etc., but I used to think most people didn’t believe that stuff anymore. I hear that we’re so “PC” now, but to me it’s the opposite–it seems to have become acceptable to say things no one would say in public ten years ago.)

              2. Rat in the Sugar*

                Well, try to remember that individuals are different from the candidates. I’m in the process of switching my voter registration from R to None, but several friends and family members are still quite conservative (I am too, in some areas). They’re not Republican because they’re a bunch of racists (even if Donald Trump definitely is one), they’re Republican due to their views of fiscal policy, for many of them that I know. Many oppose Democratic programs because they genuinely believe that they don’t work, not because they’re evil.
                I myself once denied climate change, not because I am evil or stupid, but because a teacher I respected a great deal showed me a video when I was 16 of a man dressed in a suit, with letters after his name and lots of scientific charts, who told me it wasn’t real and I believed it.
                As someone standing in the middle, I see both parties vilifying each other a lot and I don’t think it helps any of us. People’s viewpoints may be radically different, but neither Republicans nor Democrats are devils out to destroy America.
                That being said, Donald Trump is super racist and the Repubs should not associate with him ever.

              3. Honeybee*

                I’m a pretty liberal person myself, but not all conservatives are like the vocal minority or the parade of GOP candidates. I’ve interacted with and respected many people with conservative political beliefs who genuinely are just people who disagree with me/see things differently.

            2. Dr. Johnny Fever*

              I did change doctors for this reason – my female PA (of all!), with whom I wanted to discuss a tubal ligation, commented that we needed to get me “nice and healthy so you can have more babies. At least 3!”

              That was my last visit.

              1. WildLandLover*

                A similar thing happened to my daughter. She wanted a tubal ligation after her second child, but the FEMALE OB-GYN (being a religious conservative) wouldn’t do it. My daughter, being introverted and meek, didn’t bother to find a doctor who would. Ta-da! A couple of years later, here comes baby #3, and while everything has turned out alright and we all love this extra child, it’s been a real struggle for her trying to raise three children.

                Luckily, she had a different doctor after child #3 who performed the surgery right after he was born.

                1. Honeybee*

                  My cousin was convinced that her state (NJ) had laws that prevented women from having a tubal ligation unless they were a certain age or had 3 children. And she’s one of those stubborn people who once she has fixated on something will refuse to be swayed otherwise even when shown proof. I think one of her healthcare providers either told her that (because that provider was themselves mistaken or lying) or a provider told her that their personal policy was not to do tubals until that point and she misinterpreted it.

                  Apparently, though, in her region of south NJ it’s pretty common for physicians to refuse to do tubals for women with less than 3 children or who are younger than about 30 because, purportedly, they are afraid of being sued.

                2. sam*

                  Response to Honeybee – afraid of being sued, or, of course, imposing their own values about women’s reproductive choices on women. Because no woman under 30 could possibly know that she doesn’t want children

                  (says the almost 42-year-old who has finally reached the age where people have *mostly* stopped telling her that she’ll totally change her mind about wanting children someday).

          5. pnw*

            Yes, without a doubt, I would change doctors if I was subjected to Rush Limbaugh in the waiting room.

            1. Book Person*

              Exactly. He isn’t just someone with conservative views, but someone with inflammatory and anti-woman (and anti-lots of people) views. I would have some serious concerns about having a doctor who plays a talk show host notable in part for thinking that women who use birth control are sluts. How exactly would my conversations about contraceptive care go? Ugh.

          6. NotMandatory*

            I would absolutely change my doctor if the reception area in his/her practice was playing Rush Limbaugh. He has claimed that women secretly want to be sexually harassed, he is against cheap access to birth control and against a woman’s right to choose. He has shown repeatedly that he actively hates women. If that were playing in the reception area, I would 100% believe that my doctor doesn’t care about my body or my rights as a woman and would immediately leave. I imagine that if I were black or Mexican or Jewish or gay I would feel the same way.

            I fail to see how someone could read this list of things that Rush Limbaugh has said and think that his show is acceptable to play in a place of business:

          7. Liz W.*

            I would not change doctors/business, but I would request (and have done) they change the TV/Radio station or turn it off. The exception being a waiting room full of people actively listening or watching.

            If the receptionist gets in a snit I would then report to the Doctor or Office Manager.

          8. Florida*

            It is interesting that we are discussing this today, the anniversary of Rosa Parks’ arrest and beginning of the bus boycott. Yes, people boycott businesses to make statements about their personal beliefs and sometimes to change the world.

            1. MK*

              If I understand it correctly, that was about a business who had racist policies, not an employee listening to the radio.

              I realise there are people who would stop patronising a business for such a reason; I just doubt there are many who would even complain. Perhaps more should do so, but the reality is that most people would barely pay enough attention to what the radio in the reception desk is even playing.

              In any case, I really don’t think this would be a strong argument for the OP, unless there have actually been numerous customer complaints. “Some of our patrons might be offended” may not carry a lot of writing if there is no indication that they did in fact lose custom.

              1. ThatGirl*

                If you understand the Rosa Parks bus boycott correctly? Forgive me, are you not from the US?

                It was about a bus company with racist policies, but those policies were part of a much larger legalized system of segregation, particularly in the south, known as Jim Crow. It was about sparking a civil rights movement.

                And while that may not be exactly the same as a receptionist listening to something offensive, it could represent policies (official or unofficial) held by the business he or she is representing. Which is exactly why you want to not play politically charged radio in a public area of a business that presumably serves a wide range of people.

                1. fposte*

                  Spelling suggests that MK is indeed not from the US, so even knowing about Rosa Parks is pretty good. I don’t know if I could name an Australian civil rights leader, for instance.

                2. Charlotte Lucas*

                  Also, most people who are unhappy about something at a business are more likely to just stop patronizing it (and telling other people they’re doing so) than actually say anything to the business. I stopped shopping at Hobby Lobby due to their ACA lawsuit, and I didn’t bother to let them know. I have told others, though.

                3. Laurel Gray*

                  Right. When you own or manage a business or any part of it, you usually have some sort of authority to shut down bad behaviors or policies without waiting from push back from outsiders. If managers and others think a radio setting is inappropriate for a reception area, they should speak up and end it.

                  The receptionist sounds like a real piece of work. I use the radio to help pass the time and keep me feet tapping during the day. I say take the damn thing away from her altogether, she’s already proven to be a problem.

                4. ThatGirl*

                  @fposte true enough – I didn’t catch the spelling, and I know nothing about civil rights in Australia, though I could tell you a bit about other countries depending.

              2. Kelly L.*

                Who is “most people”? I would certainly notice, and there are a lot of other people in this thread who would too.

                I probably wouldn’t complain; I’d assume it was the opinion of the business as a whole, and that arguing about it would be pointless. I’d just file it away in my head and take my business elsewhere.

                1. Florida*

                  Agree. I wouldn’t complain. I would just move on to another business. That is even worse for the business than you complaining and leaving because they never know why you left.

                2. The Cosmic Avenger*

                  They say that for every one customer who complains, ten just take their business elsewhere. It’s not very scientific, but the jist of it, that if 10% of people complain, you definitely have multiples of that who are dissatisfied, is undeniable and well-researched.

                  (Now, there are complaints that are worthy of dismissal — I won’t go into them here, as any regular reader should be able to recall letters where customers lied or took offense at things that most reasonable people would agree are not offensive. But I think we’ve established that this is politicizing and polarizing the environment what we can safely assume is a non-political industry. Personally, if I were a manager there I would be equally careful about liberal talk radio. Or sports talk radio, which seems to rile many people up at least as much.)

                3. Ad Astra*

                  That’s the rub. Most people who are unhappy with something a business does (or doesn’t do) never complain. They just don’t come back.

                  Really, though, I’m not worried about convincing the receptionist that her choice of radio content may offend customers. If the boss tells you to turn it off, you turn it off.

                4. Observer*

                  @Csomin Avenger,
                  Personally, if I were a manager there I would be equally careful about liberal talk radio. Or sports talk radio, which seems to rile many people up at least as much.)

                  Exactly. You don’t want to annoy your customers.


                  Really, though, I’m not worried about convincing the receptionist that her choice of radio content may offend customers. If the boss tells you to turn it off, you turn it off.

                  You’d think that this would be obvious.

                5. Meg Murry*

                  If that was the only thing, I probably wouldn’t immediately stop going to that business. But it would definitely be a negative point in my book, and a business only gets so many negative points before I move on. So political talk radio or Christian radio or heck, overly loud music that I otherwise like it my doctor’s office would be enough to annoy me. Make me wait more than 15 minutes past my appointment start time, or screw up my billing or have the doctor, dentist or reception staff treat me rudely? Another mental point. It’s usually not just one thing that pushes me over the edge to “find another place to take my business, immediately” – it’s a series of little things that add up. For instance, I put up with a series of annoyances at a low cost dental chain because they were the only place that took my cheap insurance that year – but I immediately signed up for the better dental insurance plan during the next open enrollment even though it cost me more per month because I didn’t want to have to patronize that chain anymore (I tried going to a different location of the same chain and it had different but pretty much equally annoying crappy customer service from the receptionists to the poor bedside manner of the hygienists and dentists to the billing screwups – it was definitely an example of an overall terribly run business, and I decided I would rather give my money to independent offices than crappy chains.)

                  And honestly, I don’t care what it is the receptionist is listening to when I walk up to her – if she doesn’t turn it down so I can hear her immediately that would go on the “this place doesn’t care about customer service” list. Politically charged talk radio + not turning it down would be doubly bad.

              3. Natalie*

                Just curious, have you ever listened to Rush Limbaugh? He’s a demagogue, not a bog-standard news program that just has a conservative slant or something. He reminds me of Father Coughlin.

                1. collegeemployee*

                  This is actually a good analogy. And yes, I would walk out of a business that was playing him.

              4. Observer*

                In any case, I really don’t think this would be a strong argument for the OP, unless there have actually been numerous customer complaints. “Some of our patrons might be offended” may not carry a lot of writing if there is no indication that they did in fact lose custom.

                Really? A manager has to PROVE to a receptionist that her behavior presents a problem with clients, in order to have standing? And, the only way to prove that is “numerous complaints”?

                Real life doesn’t work that way. The reality is that a lot of people don’t complain about things like this. It doesn’t mean that it is not a significant problem. People who work with customer retention will tell you that for every complaint you get there are generally numerous people who feel similarly, but don’t say anything. They will also tell very often people’s decisions about a business or practice is not based on ONE factor. Nor are people always completely aware of why they have an issue, they just know they don’t like a place. And sometimes, the issue is not something they will leave over, directly, but it raises the bar for them. This is all stuff that a competent manager should understand and act on.

                1. april ludgate*

                  And not only will some people just not complain, there’s a good chance that at least some won’t complain because they’re worried about being on the receiving end of a political rant that they don’t agree with. I wouldn’t feel comfortable confronting a stranger who’s listening to Limbaugh, because in my experience people who listen to those shows rarely show sympathy to anyone with a dissenting opinion and that’s not something I’m going to open myself to dealing with when I can just take my business elsewhere.

              5. A Cita*

                …I just doubt there are many who would even complain.

                In this age of twitter and social media? Some may not complain directly to the receptionist/company, but you bet they would tweet it at the company. And you can imagine how it would go from there…..

              6. LD*

                It seems to me that the insubordination is enough. The receptionist has been told to keep the sound low and has continued to turn it up to where it is audible to customers and to coworkers. Coworkers have complained. It is okay for her boss or the business owner to dictate what distractions are appropriate and what are not.

                1. Texas HR Pro*

                  Exactly this. From the management standpoint, she could be doing something totally neutral like eating, or checking a text message on her phone. But if the bosses say, “You can’t do that at the front desk/in reception” the conversation is closed.

                2. collegeemployee*

                  And since she is more than happy to commit insubordination over a radio show, what is to stop her from committing insubordination over more important issues.

          9. Ms. Anne Thrope*

            Years ago I had a terrible stomach flu and was waiting in the hospital for a blood draw. They had the View on the tv, screeching and blaring. I wanted to die. It was like nails on a chalkboard. If it had been politics, I probably would have had my hubby yank the power cord.

            It’s bad enough to suffer thru soap operas in the waiting room (god forbid I should be able to read a book) but politics? No way.

            I don’t know why this OP doesn’t just remove the radio. Problem solved. If the employee starts listening on the computer, remove the speakers. I don’t have speakers on my computer at work. It’s headphones or nothing.

            1. eplawyer*

              exactly. the political nature of this particular show is not the problem. If it were a left wing show that was on so loud, well, right wingers probably come to the office too.

              The issue is no political shows should be audible in the public reception area. Just like the public area is not the place for swearing. There are acceptable business norms that should be followed.

              What I don’t get is the fear that if they actually impose business norms on the receptionist, they might get pushback. Umm, really? You tell her it’s part of being a professional. If she doesn’t like it, well, I am sure in this economy you can find another receptionist.

              1. sam*

                I was going to point out the same thing. Even if the receptionist was playing something that I, personally, agreed with, it’s inappropriate for the reception area of an office where members of the public/customers are greeted. Part of her job as a receptionist is to “receive” and welcome customers/guests, who could be of any political leaning (or just not interested in listening to that junk). *Any* talk radio of any political persuasion is not something that should get blasted into a reception area.

                If Air America was still around (remember Air America?), that would be just as inappropriate.

                Heck, my dad plays MSNBC constantly, and while I’m definitely on *that* end of the political spectrum, I still end up screaming at the TV when I go to visit him and have to leave the room. I can’t stand any of the “sabbath gasbags” (tm calvin trillin).

            2. Collarbone High*

              Agreed. I don’t like yelling, in general. So the list of things I don’t want to hear in a waiting room includes bombastic talk radio or news programs of any kind (yep, as someone upthread mentioned, sports talk radio too) as well as any show that thrives on confrontation and yelling. Dr. Phil, The View, Montel Williams, Outnumbered … I don’t want to hear any of it. As others have said, why get your customers all riled up before they even start to interact with you?

          10. blackcat*

            I, in fact, have changed doctors because of precisely this issue. It was a doc I loved, but often ran late. I talked to her and said, “I’m not willing to sit and listen to this for 45 minutes each time I come in. Either the radio goes or so do I. And I bet other patients have made the same choice.” The radio stayed, and I left. The doc was apologetic but didn’t want to “upset” the receptionist. So I asked for a copy of my records and found a new doctor.

            I’m really not willing to sit and listen to someone say offensive things about me (a woman) or people I love (LGBTQ folks, muslims, etc). If it were *just* politics (eg “Obama’s policy is stupid because X”), that would be annoying but ok. It’s the hate speech that gets me.

            And, for what it’s worth, I’d be just as offended listening to a radio bit by Bill Maher if he got on the topic of muslims. He may be a liberal, but he says some really hateful stuff.

          11. Anxa*

            I had to drive my friend home after bringing her to a follow up visit following a miscarriage and they were playing conservative talk radio in the lobby. She was bawling but we found her a new doctor for her next follow up.

          12. Kate M*

            Would I change doctors because they’re playing Rush Limbaugh in reception? Um, that would be the easiest decision I ever made. It would indicate to me that this doctor agrees with Rush. Which means that the doctor would probably not allow me/help me to make my own medical decisions. I’m certainly not going to go to a doctor who 1) doesn’t believe in my right to dictate my own sex life and birth control, 2) would probably be skeptical of rape victims, and 3) would not help or would actually hinder me getting an abortion if I ever needed one. These are indisputably parts of being a doctor, and if I thought my doctor shared Limbaugh’s views, I would be out of there.

          13. LBK*

            I actually go out of my way to go to a doctor that caters to LGBT people. Receiving healthcare is often a sensitive or stressful activity and I want to be as comfortable as possible while doing it, even if it’s just for 2 minutes in the waiting room (and let’s be honest, has anyone ever only sat in the waiting room for 2 minutes!?). I think I’d actually be more likely to change doctors than, say, grocery stores, because I care more about what the environment I’m in says about the people who will be taking care of me. I’m not all that concerned about trusting my bagger at Shaws.

            However, I’ll be honest that I don’t know if just hearing Rush Limbaugh or someone else whose ideology I disagreed with being played would be enough to get me to change assuming he didn’t actually say anything offensive while I was there. But if I did happen to show up during the middle of a rant about women’s healthcare or LGBT rights, yeah, I’d definitely think twice about going back to that office.

            1. Myrin*

              (and let’s be honest, has anyone ever only sat in the waiting room for 2 minutes!?
              Oh my, total tangent but I have! (Last Wednesday, to be precise.) I only needed a refreshment vaccine so they managed to sneak me in after I’d barely sat down in the waiting room. It was awesome. And probably the first and last time something like this happened to me.

          14. Observer*

            Actually, quite possibly. This is especially true if, as in many doctor’s offices, I had to spend a lot of time in the receptionist’s office. And, if I had kids, that would have an even greater effect.

            This is not just about political opinion, and it’s not just right wing stuff, either. A significant percentage of political talk radio is expletive laden, filled with hate speech and / or just flat out ugly and extreme.

            1. The IT Manager*

              Yes. TBH the local talk radio station is just as terrible to me when they do their sports shows. People are so up in arms, angry, and vehement about their POV about the local teams that I can barely stand it.

              No talk radio, no religious radio stations, probably best to find instrumental jazz or at the pop hits of the 80s, 90s, and today. But I would prefer nothing. The receptionist should be working and a significant part of her job is listening to clients who walk in and answer the phone so she probably should not have any radio playing at her desk.

          15. HRish Dude*

            Here’s the other part about it – what if it doesn’t necessarily sound like radio? What if you walk into a doctor’s office and all you hear is yelling? I’ve never actually heard Rush, I couldn’t tell you what it sounded like, but if I walked into a place a people were yelling at each other, I sure wouldn’t want them touching my body.

          16. Emily K*

            I would and I have. I switched dentists after being subjected to offensive political ranting while held captive in the chair.

          17. JB (not in Houston)*

            Yep, I would, in a heartbeat. If they play music I’m not particularly fond of, no. If they play Rush Limbaugh? Yes, absolutely.

          18. Lynn Whitehat*

            If it was just a genre of music that is not my taste, I wouldn’t change or even think twice about it. But right-wing frothing? Buh-BYE. I wouldn’t trust a doctor that agreed with that stuff to give me and my family appropriate medical care. I admit, to some extent I am lucky to be able to do that. If I needed a really obscure specialist or something, I suppose I might be stuck. But if I have any choice at all, I will just NOPE on out of there.

          19. LQ*

            Would I continue to go to a doctor who thought that I didn’t deserve basic health care (that is absolutely what playing Rush in the waiting area would say to me)? No. I would absolutely not.
            I would get up and leave. (I would also leave, and have, when the dr has “Doctor Oz” on.)

          20. LD*

            People leave businesses all the time…most of them don’t say why; they just disappear, never to return again and the business doesn’t know why they left. A momentary annoyance that disrespects anyone’s deeply held beliefs (regardless of the belief) is not momentary.

          21. Texas HR Pro*

            Yes, because I live in a large enough city that I have plentiful choices of who to support with my custom, and have enough of a stubborn bent that I have held grudges/refused to patronize certain businesses for *years* based on how I’ve been treated previously.

            One time a male hardware store employee made an inappropriate (mild sexual harassment) comment to me, and I instantly refused to go there again. My personal, bull-headed boycott has lasted about 20 years and is still going strong! Plus, if I’m irritated enough, I’m the type of person to write a letter to the business/company to let them know what pissed me off. [I’m practicing to be a cranky old lady.] :)

            1. Shannon*

              I went with my husband to a Radio Shack once. Between the two of us, I am the more technical minded and I knew exactly what I wanted. The sales associate proceeded to talk directly to my husband the entire time, to the point of ignoring me. My husband barely knows a router from a mouse. I’m not sure if it was sexism at play or if they were hoping to exploit my husband’s ignorance for their financial gain, but, I have never set foot in that shop again. When that location went out of business, I cheered.

          22. Ankh-Morpork*

            I would find it deeply unprofessional for a Dr. to air political messages to the captive audience they have trapped in their waiting room. It would make me question what other unprofessional practices they have going on. It would also be a lot worse coming from a Dr. as many right-wing views seek to take choices away from women about their bodies. I would never go to a Dr. that flaunted the fact that they were super right-wing. I wouldn’t trust them to do the best thing for me.

          23. Shannon*

            No customers should be lost due to something so preventable. I don’t care if she’s listening to Rush or NPR. That’s taking money and just flushing it right down the toilet.

            There is a list of companies about as long as my arm that I do not do business with because I do not like their politics, and I’m fairly moderate. I vote with my money. Unless a company is selling a political product or service, I should have no idea what their politics are.

          24. mander*

            Heck, I avoid some businesses because I don’t like the *music* they play, so I’d definitely avoid places that openly display support for causes I find offensive. I’m not going to demand they stop supporting them, because it’s their right to so so, but if there are alternatives I’ll take them.

      3. neverjaunty*

        Nobody used the phrase “horrible injustice”. And this isn’t a contest about who’s the most politically open-minded with what media they consume on their own time, Playing highly political talk radio (regardless of what “wing” it’s from) where clients have no choice but to listen to it isn’t appropriate in most businesses, and this receptionist’s reaction to being asked to turn it down – not off, btw – is to play it louder? Yeah, no.

          1. neverjaunty*

            Hey, I’ll cop to inexact language here, but chiding others for not wanting to listen to polarizing, political talk radio while stuck in a waiting room, and a boss not wanting to subject customers to that, isn’t about how fabulously open-minded you are and everyone else isn’t.

              1. neverjaunty*

                That was actually the point I was trying to make. When people say that they don’t appreciate being forced to listen to aggressive political noise, and your response is ‘Actually I make it point now and then to tune into or read things that I might not agree with. It’s more interesting and it forces me to think’, what you’re telling them is that you’re way more open minded than they are and they need to get over it. Which is rude and a personal insult.

        1. Ani*

          Well actually the thread reads very much like a contest here who is most politically open-minded. Which is marked in itself in its agressiveness and does reflects on the politics of this and who is and is not welcome here All of which underscores why it might be especially inappropriate (and uncomfortable for customers) when political views are unexpectedly imposed on them in what should be a neutral business setting.

          1. J.B.*

            Not wanting to listen to ranting has nothing to do with politics. If I’m listening to music at work it will be Handel or something instrumental. Although I love Christmas music I’m also preparing to be nauseated by various pop-inspired butcherings of the hymns.

            1. Florida*

              Agree. I don’t care if it’s a left-wing or a right-wing talk show, I don’t want to hear it. These shows are DESIGNED to alienate half of the population. Pissing people off is not a side effect of the shows – it is the reason the shows exist! There is no place for that in a business. Listen to it in your own home or car.

            2. maggiethecat*

              Classics only, I’m with you. Jessica Simpson can get OFF my Christmas Pandora station, lol.

              1. Kate M*

                As long as we can agree that by this point Mariah Carey’s “All I Want for Christmas is You” is a classic by this point.

          2. neverjaunty*

            If you’re feeling unwelcome because of “aggressive” comments, may I recommend you tell those commenters ‘hey, that seems harsh’ or email AAM privately about it?

          3. Elizabeth*

            Well actually the thread reads very much like a contest here who is most politically open-minded.
            I’ve probably read this half a dozen time this morning, and it still confuses the hell out of me. A bunch of comments saying that “hey, this would cause us to stop using this business” is a “contest here who is most politically open-minded”?

            Boycotts are a time-honored method of applying political pressure. There are commentators & talk show hosts from almost every political stripe who are no longer on the air because listeners/consumers boycotted their advertisers.

            1. Not me*

              Oh, I thought I was the only one that didn’t get that. I’m also wondering how refusing to listen to something = a competitive show of open-mindedness.

      4. Politically Charged Anon*

        A bit of anecdata: earlier this year, my dad walked into a car dealership that was playing a similar politically charged program. The presenter had recently been in the news for some remarks disparaging Hispanic immigrants. Dad, who pretty obviously falls into that category, thought he wouldn’t get a fair deal there and walked out the door to another dealership. (For what it’s worth, he’s a naturalized citizen and an engineer with what I’m 99% sure is an attractive credit history.)

        I’m all for people challenging themselves politically on their own time. I have sites ranging from National Review Online to The Atlantic in my regular news rotation, and I think that some of the recent offense-taking is downright silly. Car dealerships are an extreme case in that they’re selling relatively big-ticket items with lots of obvious room for negotiation (and conscious or unconscious bias) in pricing. But if potential customers might reasonably conclude that they’re less welcome based on the impression they get in the lobby, that’s a business problem.

        1. Katie the Fed*

          “I’m all for people challenging themselves politically on their own time.”

          Agreed. My husband insists on watching the Sunday morning talk shows, but they make me ragey and I get all “Old man yells at cloud,” but I try to stomach a little.

          1. Erin*

            Ugh, same boat, different waters. My husband listens to Sean Hannity and similar programs when we’re in his car and I try to open my mind and take it in but generally I want to shoot myself. The other option with him, though, is country music.

        2. neverjaunty*

          It’s also interesting to me how narrowly people tend to define “challenging themselves politically”. Rarely do I hear that from someone who chooses to read or listen to things that genuinely dent their comfort zone; usually what they mean is that they listen to intellectual nattering from pundits of various mainstream political stripes, where everything is an intellectual debate and nothing actually affects them where they live.

          1. JB (not in Houston)*

            Yes! I don’t think I agree with you exactly, but I do agree that sometimes what people mean by “challenging themselves politically” isn’t what I would think of. It’s good for me to read reasoned, research articles and papers from people with different views than mine (that’s more or less how I went from being conservative to very not conservative). But listening to right-wing radio or The Yellers (what my family calls the Sunday morning talk shows) isn’t going to actually do me any good–that’s just political posturing.

            1. Oryx*

              Agreed. As a librarian, my default setting is to keep myself well read and well versed on a variety of topics — including, and perhaps especially, those I don’t agree with. But radio is a totally different thing I don’t feel it necessary to subject myself to.

          2. Father Ribs*

            I think in all honesty it is difficult to “challenge oneself politically” via media consumption, since only the extremes identify themselves; I think more people would be open minded if they listened to people who leaned in opposing directions, but were more centrist, or posed rational arguments and stayed away from grandstanding and one size fits all political identity.

      5. Mike C.*

        You’re treating Limbaugh as though he was interested in having an intellectually honest political debate. He’s not, and neither are many of his compatriots.

        There are plenty of places to get viewpoints that are different from your own while retaining a certain level of decorum and respect for factual evidence.

      6. Artemesia*

        I don’t have to listen to racist drivel. I don’t go to businesses that blast it at customers. There was a restaurant in Nashville when we lived there that did this. We stopped going there; so did lots of other people. If the business owner is only good with having racist customers that will work. I am not sensing that is the case for the OP.

        I would not direct this insubordinate receptionist to ‘only play music’ or whatever. I would let her know that only X or Y station may be played and that at a low level. And if there was any attempt to push that line again, I’d fire her.

      7. Allison*

        No one’s saying that someone is having an injustice inflicted upon them by having to listen to political radio they don’t agree with, but it seems like most of us feel it’s inappropriate and unprofessional to have certain kinds of radio programs playing where clients can hear them, this applies to any political radio as it can be divisive, as well as evangelical radio because it can alienate non-Christians, or music that’s loaded with sexual or violent messages or bad language. But of course you can get into an argument over what counts as “safe” music and what counts as “bad” programs (slippery slope and whatnot) so it’s probably safest to not have anything playing.

        On a more personal note, if I was in a waiting room where the receptionist was playing a radio show where people were saying gross, hateful things about women, I probably wouldn’t want to go there again.

      8. MashaKasha*

        There’s a time and a place for everything. As awesome as helping people develop an open mind by exposing them to different opinions sounds, forcing them to listen to said different opinions when they cannot change the channel, turn down the volume, or leave, isn’t probably the best way to go about this.

        Plus, it’s Rush Limbaugh. Pretty much every place I’ve been to had TV or radio set to things that wouldn’t be my first choice, because I admit that I’m a bit of a snob in that capacity. Like you said, most of the time it’s no big deal. But there’s “not my first choice” and there’s “offensive”, including potentially hugely offensive to some of those clients personally. Just like I wouldn’t recommend playing a, I don’t know, Bill Maher podcast in a reception area where a religious client might come in and be forced to listen to it – even though personally I would enjoy it myself. It’s frankly not my responsibility to open the religious customer’s mind by exposing them to Bill Maher or Richard Dawkins or whatever. I’d be more inclined to say it is my responsibility to respect them if they’re my client.

      9. Green*

        I don’t patronize businesses that have talk radio or TV shows on that include racist, sexist, anti-LGBT, anti-immigrant, etc. material. I get to pick where I spend my money, and those things are NOT workplace safe. If it wouldn’t be appropriate for an employee to discuss it with another employee (i.e., could create an offensive or hostile workplace), then it’s not appropriate for it to be playing. I don’t care if they listen to it in their car or at home or on their headphones, but subjecting employees or customers to it is poor judgment.

        1. irritable vowel*

          You’ve hit the nail on the head–while whoever the receptionist’s supervisor is might not care if visitors to the office are offended, HR will definitely care if the letter writer asserts that being forced to hear Rush Limbaugh’s rhetoric creates a hostile work environment (which I believe it does).

        2. JB (not in Houston)*

          Yes, this exactly. Even when I was pretty conservative, I didn’t like Rush Limbaugh or other similar right-wing talk show hosts because they are so awful and did not represent me or my beliefs, and I would have though any business playing that kind of radio program was unprofessional.

    6. Purple Dragon*

      I must admit I couldn’t figure out the OP’s relationship to the receptionist – co-worker , manager, supervisor ? I think that makes a difference to what you can do. But the manager/supervisor definitely needs to step up and put a stop to the behaviour.

      I assume Rush Limbaugh is similar to Australia’s Allan Jones. If I had to listen to him for more than 2 minutes my head would explode !

      1. FiveByFive*

        True, I read it several times and the OP isn’t clear on her position. She does speak to reprimanding the receptionist, so by that I guess we can assume she has authority over her (or thinks she does!)

        1. Purple Dragon*

          Seriously? Worse ?
          My dad follows Alan Jones like he’s a cult leader – Dad hasn’t had an original thought in years. He used to at least think about other points of view and be pretty open minded, but not anymore. So maybe I just have a reaction to AJ from that. I can’t even begin to imagine how Dad would be if it was someone more extreme.

          1. Mallory Janis Ian*

            I don’t know Alan Jones, but I think that Rush Limbaugh has been particularly divisive in American politics. His rhetoric and tactics spearheaded the ideological move of many Americans from moderately conservative to far right wing. I think he had a big hand in pushing more moderate republican politicians to the edges of the party and centering an all or nothing brand of black and white right wing rhetoric. I wouldn’t listen to him for a minute.

          2. Aussie Ruth*

            Google Rush Limbaugh and Sandra Fluke and you’ll see. At least AJ *kind of* pretends not to be a complete misogynist.

    7. Lily in NYC*

      Me too. We fired the receptionist in our president’s office because she had evangelical sermons streaming constantly on her computer. She still did it after being told not to and they fired her after a couple of warnings (she used to preach on the subway during her commute to the office and I saw her all the time on the train and it was so awkward!). She tried to give me a bible once at work and got mad because I wouldn’t take it.

      1. Katie the Fed*

        Given your user name and comment, I just remembered something:

        My dad ripped the muzak machine out of his office in the 80s. They refused to stop playing it and it made him crazy so he just pulled it out of the wall :) They didn’t try to put it back in.

        1. Father Ribs*

          My GF worked in a bank that used it; there are a selection of channels now, right up to classic rock.

          The think I like about muzak in an office is that is doesn’t force you to pay attention; when I am in a waiting room reading a book, jarring TV commercials and loud announcers keep breaking my concentration.

    8. irritable vowel*

      This seems like it would be a non-issue if the letter writer is the manager of the receptionist. But the fact that it was written as “we” makes me think that the LW is not in a position to tell the receptionist what to do, and the management might be oblivious, uninterested in the issue, or even possibly supportive of the receptionist’s radio choices. If this is true, that the LW doesn’t have the managing authority to tell the receptionist to change the station or turn it off, then I think he/she is going to have to make it an issue with the receptionist’s manager or even higher up. (If it turns out that the CEO is a huge Rush Limbaugh fan and is fine with the radio choice, then I guess the LW is going to have to decide whether he/she wants to stay working in that environment…)

      1. Captain Obvious Lee*

        I remember two men getting mad about what each other was listening to and the guy who owned the radio came in one day to find ALL of the wires – even the power plug – had been cut. Keep in mind this had two people arguing well over a year and they almost came to blows with closed fists on company property.The manager didn’t care and the guy who had his radio destroyed left.

        That kind of thing tends to happen a lot in the South. People become passive-aggressive then things either disappear or are broken beyond repair which is ridiculous. It escalated too since the guy who was suspected of destroying the radio had all four tires slashed. My friend left that company soon after and was fed up with the lack of management. He came in and found out that his boss was having an affair with a receptionist and was then threatened to be fired if he told the guy’s wife (also the company VP). I tell you soap operas could take lessons from some companies!

  4. Almond Milk Latte*

    OP3, my sympathies. I don’t celebrate with my family, and I’m not real pleased about it. If I get sucked too far into a conversation about it, I’ll end up bursting into tears and blurting out “My family’s all dead, so I’ll be Netflixing with the cats, thanks.” Not a good move professionally, socially, or for my own mental health, really.

    I always redirect, “Having a quiet holiday, but there will be pie, teehee! How about you?” Everybody believes in pie, and there’s a pie for all seasons. Forget blood, forget water, pie is thickest of all. No matter what the occasion it totally works.

    1. Wakeen's Teapots, Ltd.*

      Or, you could say “fruitcake” instead and deflect the entire conversation into fruitcake and no one will remember the original topic.

      I like fruitcake.

      1. OP3*

        I’ve never had a fruitcake, but I do plan to bake a Bûche de Noël this year. I’ll just talk about that!

        1. Wakeen's Teapots, Ltd.*

          I had to google that. OMG I WANT THIS. Please send. (Entire conversation diverted.)

          1. OP3*

            I really like the cute ones with patterns in the cake, or ones shaped like actual logs, but since this is my first time baking one, I’m going to try to keep it simple!

          2. Elizabeth*

            Swiss Colony has one that is dark chocolate & vanilla cake roll with dark chocolate frosting sculpted to look like a log, with a little family of raccoons peering out of the end.

        2. StudentPilot*

          I just googled that – a yule log! So yummy. A friend of mine makes one every year for our drunken festivus celebration.

          1. Charlotte Lucas*

            I made a pumpkin roll this weekend. I was thinking about another one, but now I might dig out my old recipes and do a buche de noel.

        3. overeducated and underemployed*

          Yes!!! This is a perfect redirect. And if the nosiness about family continues I think it would be ok to jokingly say “that is not nearly as exciting as the food! I’m hoping this will be a new tradition, what are your traditional christmas foods?” or something. but you have to act really excited :)

      2. Mockingjay*

        My sister-in-law is British. She had a true English fruitcake for her wedding with my brother.

        It was sublime and bore no relation to the mass-produced bricks found in Big Mart stores.

        1. Charlotte Lucas*

          My grandmother made old-fashioned fruitcake (and many other Pennsylvania Dutch-country foods). It was excellent. (Apricot brandy was her trick.)

      3. Windchime*

        I like fruitcake, too. I would venture to say that I even love it. I know we are in the minority, but I really like it.

      4. JB (not in Houston)*

        I knew you had a flaw somewhere. I love cake with dried fruit and nuts, and bonus points for cake with copious amounts of alcohol soaked into it. I love cake-like foods with dates and figs in it (figgy pudding, yum). I do *not* like the leadened abomination with candied fruit in it that is commonly sold and served (but rarely eaten) in the US.

        1. Wakeen's Teapots Ltd.*

          I love monk made fruit cake. In the early years of the internet 2000s, I found a monastery that sold their fruitcake online, and I ordered from them every year. (I forget which one, I think it was Assumption Abbey but I’m might be remembering wrong.)

          But nobody else would eat the $35 fruit cake so eventually I stopped.

          I’m ordering another one this year, dammit. (Wait, should I be cursing about a monk made fruitcake…)

          1. JB (not in Houston)*

            Convents and monasteries make great food. I used to order caramels from a convent (google “monastery candy”), and they were fantastic.

        2. Charlotte Lucas*

          Have you ever had Christmas Lizzies? They are the cookie designed for those who love all these things.

          1. JB (not in Houston)*

            Oh, man, I thought I was familiar with most of the holiday treats from around the world, but I’d never heard of these. Adding these to my Christmas baking list!

        3. mander*

          The town next to my hometown in the US hosts an annual fruitcake toss. The aim is to throw your fruitcake as far as possible, so those horrible brick things are an advantage.

          I always thought I hated the stuff until I had a decent one in the UK.

    2. OP3*

      Brilliant. I hope you have a very pie-ful holiday. I am inspired to bake many pies now. (And for what it’s worth, my condolences.)

      1. Almond Milk Latte*

        Thanks. See how well pie redirects conversations? You’ve got half the comment section googling pies. It works!

    3. Anon Adult Child of Divorce*

      Yeah, I am staying here for Christmas this year – short weekend because of when it falls and limited leave are contributing factors. I am dogsitting that week too so making some money in the process. I leave on the night of the 29th and will be gone through the 4th visiting friends and family at their warm sunny beach location, which I am excited about.

      People seem to think I need pity. My parents divorced several years ago, after I was an adult and out of the house. After a train wreck of a holiday season last year thanks to my mother, I just opted out this year. I will probably go to my best friend’s parents’ annual Christmas Eve party and drink too much red wine, then lay in bed with the dogs the next day and watch Netflix and make a freezer pizza. But people seem to think this is really sad. Also: I am not religious at all?

      1. Anon Adult Child of Divorce*

        Basically: I get you. This isn’t my thing. I usually deflect to, “I’m leaving for (sunny place) on the 29th!” when I want to say, “none of your damn business”

        1. MashaKasha*

          FWIW, I’m jealous. Friends! wine! dogs! AND a sunny beach location! Sounds kind of awesome.

      2. fposte*

        Obviously you’re dealing with different people than I am, but I usually do a day with friends or a day at home/away/wherever for Christmas, and in my experience what people say upthread is true: if you’re happy with it, the people you talk to are fine with it. “I’m hitting the beach! I’ve got a big party before that, but I’m revving up for the beach vacation.” Or “I’m using the day for quiet before a crazy vacation–I’m looking forward to cozy slippers time!”

        As Katie the Fed notes, this is just a standard social question, like “How are you?” Sometimes when my health stuff isn’t great, I have to remember that “How are you?” isn’t an interrogation into my physical state but just a social noise. “What are you doing for the holidays?” is the same.

        1. Katie the Fed*

          On the health stuff though – I just had a friend ask me what the doctor said about something I’m dealing with. Um, he said it’s none of your business :)

          1. fposte*

            Right, more specific inquiries are definitely rude! But I think circumstances can cause us to find innocuous social pleasantries like “How are you?” and “What are you doing for the holiday?” more personal than they really are.

        2. MashaKasha*

          I totally get that “What are you doing for the holidays?” or “Are you all done with your Christmas shopping?” are standard social questions. But then people freak out when you say something like “we’re not really doing Christmas this year” or “I don’t really have any” (for the last several years, my Christmas shopping has consisted of going to the ATM to get my kids their favorite gifts of cash. This year I signed up for two Secret Santas just to make things more interesting.) I didn’t grow up celebrating Christmas; we did it when we were a religious family and when the kids were young and excited about the holiday. But now, with the kids grown and everyone in the family an atheist, doing a huge Christmas celebration would just feel forced… I don’t even bother to decorate anymore. But try telling people you’re not doing anything that day and they stare at you like you told them you’ve just run over their family dog.

          Our first few years in the country, my family didn’t do anything on Thanksgiving. None of us liked turkey and the kids were too young to handle a sit-down dinner. A casual friend asked me what we were doing on Thanksgiving and I said “nothing really”. She got hugely offended and told me, “Well, given the history of the holiday, you and your family really shouldn’t be celebrating it!” and then, as I stared with my mouth open, “You DO know the history of the holiday, do you?” To this day, I’m not 100% sure wth she meant; but she came up to me to apologize the next week, so it must’ve been something offensive.

          I wish people just felt sad and sorry for me; but they are acting like they’re actually hurt because I’m not doing a big Christmas thing. I find it super puzzling! I’m feeling inclined to stretch the reality a bit and tell everyone I’ll be celebrating with my family (by watching Netflix and playing with my son’s new kittens… which totally counts, right? New kittens are family, aren’t they?)

          1. fposte*

            Okay, your casual friend sounds kind of horrible, but I also think you’re getting asked a subtextual question that you’re answering literally. “What are you doing for Christmas?” isn’t a request for an itinerary, it’s a wish that you’re going to have a good time. Since your answer is basically “No, I’m not,” I think that’s why they end up confused and uneasy. It’s like if you answered “How are you?” with “Geez, the Crohn’s is really kicking up today.” That’s not really the question, so does the answer mean you’re really in trouble and that they need to do something?

            I don’t know this for sure, of course. But it could be interesting to try answering, “Percival and I love being able to spend the time together” or “I’m excited for the first snow” or something that isn’t a literal answer to the question either, but it isn’t a shutdown of the subtextual question, and to see what responses you get.

            1. MashaKasha*

              Makes sense. In that case, how about “we’re going to have something small and quiet with just the close family”, which is technically true? Will that work? I don’t want to make things up completely, because then I’ll have to remember what I told my coworkers when they ask me, “so what did you do for Christmas?”

              1. fposte*

                That sounds perfect! And if they get weird even about that, they are incorrigible and you are free to disdain them.

          2. Merry and Bright*

            I’m totally fine with a coworker asking me what l’m doing at Christmas. It’s when I tell them I’m doing X and they ask why I’m not doing Y or Z that I take a deep breath and smile through. You do Y and Z, I’m happy doing X.

            1. fposte*

              Yup, that’s crossing the frontier into Obnoxiousland. Fortunately, people like that usually identify themselves early on by commenting on your food choices and offering medical opinions. It is, IME, rare to meet the Holiday-Only invasive species.

      3. Mallory Janis Ian*

        On first read-through, I thought the phrase ‘lay in bed with the dogs ‘ was some sort of euphemism for having a red-wine hangover. If that were the case, I’ve spent many days ‘laying in bed with the dogs’.

    4. LabTech*

      Everybody believes in pie, and there’s a pie for all seasons. Forget blood, forget water, pie is thickest of all.

      I baked a pie this Thanksgiving for this very reason. For some reason, “I baked a pie!” is a perfectly satisfying answer – I daresay nearly as satisfying as pie itself – whereas any other baked good or solitary activity raises more questions.

    5. Honeybee*

      Pie is the best thing about holidays. If I had my druthers, I’d spend every holiday at home with my husband and my dog baking a pie.

      I learned to bake because I wanted to make cupcakes all the time, but I fell in love with pie instead.

  5. Graciosa*

    Regarding #2, I also believe in having the conversation and asking why she’s doing this, but the language about the OP not wanting to aggravate the situation or create a problem for themselves by reprimanding the receptionist puzzled me. The employee seems to be pretty deliberately defying her boss’ direction. I don’t know any way to view that other than as insubordination.

    The reaction to insubordination should *not* be “What can we do to avoid upsetting the insubordinate employee?”

    Yes, the boss needs to hear the individual out (maybe she thinks the volume is low but suffers from increasing hearing loss?) but the managers here need to manage.

    That means that if this doesn’t get resolved in one more conversation, the radio may have to be removed (which could be kind of a shame if other people wanted to hear quiet music in the entrance area). This solution is treating the receptionist like a petulant child (“If you can’t use it properly, I’m going to have to take away your toy!”) but she’s kind of behaving like one and it does address the problem.

    Alternatively, if the employee does not fix her behavior and the business is not willing to give up the radio, the receptionist may need to leave and find an environment better suited to her need for audible entertainment.

    1. MK*

      I think it’s not clear that the OP is the receptionist’s boss, or if the boss has actually talked to her about it. It’s possible the receptionist doesn’t feel she has to obey random coworkers who are annoyed with her choices; she may even be reacting this way because she thinks they are trying to boss her without having the authority.

      1. nofelix*

        Yeah that was my feeling as well.

        If this is the case, the OP should either talk to the boss about how Conservative talk radio will displease visitors to reception, or make a case for sharing control of the radio amongst colleagues.

      2. Myrin*

        That’s my problem with coming up with an adequate answer to that letter. The OP only talks about a kinda ominous “we” taking all the action and that really could be anyone: a bunch of coworkers, two people supervising the receptionist, the receptionist’s manager together with other managers, the big bosses, etc. The use of “reprimand” makes me think the OP and the other “we”-people actually have some kind of supervisory power over the receptionist but then again, they sound awfully insecure about what to do and afraid of enforcing rules – which could mean someone who’s new and/or not very good (yet) at managing or someone who doesn’t have the power to do anything by herself after all.

      3. Manager George Knox*

        “It’s possible the receptionist doesn’t feel she has to obey random coworkers who are annoyed with her choices; she may even be reacting this way because she thinks they are trying to boss her without having the authority.”

        It can be very, very easy for professionals in the office to lose sight of the fact that they don’t actually have control over the receptionist. If OP is not in such a capacity and is phrasing these requests as questions, the receptionist might be taking them as such, and feeling as though it is still her decision.

    2. KC*

      I see a lot of comments about what she’s listening to. In my opinion this is irrelevant. I’m also surprised no one has mentioned headphones. I feel like sometimes people forget this is an option. Now if you are thinking, hmm a receptionist using headphones at work doesn’t seem very professional, then listening to a radio (regardless of what someone is listening to) should be considered unprofessional as well. This is different than the company choosing to play some kind of music in the reception area, or put a tv there for people waiting. This audio exists for the receptionist and no one else, so it really doesn’t matter what is playing as long as the reason for what is playing remains the same.

  6. CMT*

    It’s been a few years since I was working in food service, but I think if I had asked to take a day or two to get back to an offer it would have been looked at very weirdly.

    1. CrazyCatLady*

      It’s been a while since I worked in retail and I agree. There are usually so many qualified people and such high turnover that they don’t need to wait a day to get someone in there. They can hire the next person on their list..

    2. Anon the Great and Powerful*

      Yeah, if you ask for a day to think it over, somebody else will get the job.

    3. Bowserkitty*

      Agreed. I was told on the spot I had the job and it was assumed I would be accepting – I don’t think I was even asked “do you want this job today?” I think it got as informal as a handshake for my acceptance.

      Like CMT, I haven’t worked food service in a few years so it could be different now but somehow I doubt it.

      1. Silver Radicand*

        I hire in the service industry and it is unusual when an applicant asks for a day to think about it. In my case it doesn’t knock them out of the running, but it does concern me a little that a person isn’t immediately sure they want what I already expect to be a short-term job.
        On the other hand, some of my best employees asked for a day to think about it, so there is that.

  7. Blurgle*

    Re #2: audible talk (or music) radio playing in your reception area makes your office less accessible to the hearing impaired. If I were you I’d ditch the radio entirely, no matter which station your receptionist prefers.

    1. Blurgle*

      PS this is from personal experience – and it goes doubly in a confidential environment such as a doctor’s or lawyer’s office. If you want music playing in the waiting area put the speakers as far away from the receptionist as you can. Even non-hearing-impaired people don’t want to have to compete with the dulcet tones of Rush Limbaugh (or anyone else) when discussing their diarrhea.

      1. Knitting Cat Lady*


        I’m very good at directed listening, i.e. ignoring unimportant stuff and concentrating on the stuff I need to hear. I’m a highly trained amateur musician with 20+ years of experience. It comes with the territory.

        It’s very exhausting, though. And too much of it gives me a headache.

        So, background noise where listening is important (e.g. a reception area) should be kept to the absolute minimum.

    2. The Artist Formally Known As UKAnon*

      Please this! I have no idea on the politics so I don’t know if this is appropriate radio or not, but any kind of background radio in a reception area and I really struggle (I’m not hearing impaired – I only ever catch about two thirds of what somebody says, so I often struggle in conversations) For most people, I think, a loud radio is going to affect their conversation with the receptionist, and having to shout at somebody several times isn’t going to give you a good start with the business.

      1. nofelix*

        My understanding of Limburgh’s talk shows is that it’s like someone yelling Sun headlines on repeat.

        1. Knitting Cat Lady*

          That would be like someone reading the ‘BILD’ out loud. This is one of Germany’s alleged ‘news’ papers.

        2. The Artist Formally Known As UKAnon*

          Oh dear. Not even the number of words from the Daily Mail?

          Yeah, I can see how that might be NSFW…

        3. One of the Sarahs*

          My impression is the Sun is left wing propaganda that’s all about espousing community cohesion, compared to Limburgh’s talk show.

            1. Aunt Vixen*

              Yes. And compared to Rush Limbaugh, it’s left wing propaganda. Is how far to the right Limbaugh is.

    3. Lore*

      I’m not even hearing impaired and the fact that my doctor’s office always has generic Good Morning America type shows on bright and loud makes my brain hurt with cheer when I’m waiting and sick and only want to be sleeping. I can only imagine if it was louder and more strident tones that it would be like a buzz saw to the skull.

          1. Ms. Anne Thrope*

            Srsly! I specifically choose a seat away from the tv but they have the sound piped in thru the speaker right over my head. I can’t even see the tv–by choice!! Why would you think I want to listen to it?!?

            1. Lore*

              I had outpatient surgery a few months ago and I had to be there at 5 am. There was one other person there and still CNN or NY1 on top volume on a giant screen. Someone obviously thinks tv is better than no tv but I don’t know who!

          2. Mike C.*

            I just pop my headphones in, stream for the particular place I’m at, and go birdwatching. :)

          3. Meg Murry*

            And the hospital waiting room! When I’m waiting to hear how my loved one did in surgery, I really don’t want to hear TV that makes me cringe for 6 straight hours. I get that some people like to watch TV as a distraction, but I really don’t want to watch anything politically charged for all that time. At least at the hospital I had to wait in, we had a pager for the most important updates so we could wander off to the cafeteria if we wanted to, but we would have missed the more casual informal updates the nurses were giving us because they were able to pop out and we were right there.

          4. Jubilance*

            OMG I hate the tvs in the airport, and they’re always on CNN, which is a really horrible news station now. It drives me crazy and I’m always hunting for my earbuds as soon as I sit down in the gate area.

        1. Andrea*

          Yes, THIS. Who is watching those morning shows? I can’t stand them—they’re inane and annoying. Are there people who actually like them? WHY?

          1. Windchime*

            Until a couple of years ago, I used to watch (or rather, listen to) Good Morning America while I was getting ready for work. I started realizing that it was frenetic and full of fluff and so fast-paced with the topics changing frantically every 2 minutes — it was making me anxious before the day even got started. I know read AAM in peace while drinking tea, and then I listen to TED talks while I’m getting ready. Much, much better.

            1. Chickaletta*

              ^^ This. I can’t stand morning shows either, or anything daytime (well, except Ellen, I do love Ellen). However, CBS has an actual news show, the one with Charlie Rose. It’s not bad, they actually report news and stay on topic for more than two minutes.

  8. A Dispatcher*

    #4 Back in the day I applied to various jobs like this while in school, one of which was for a hotel front desk. It wasn’t my first choice (and I seem to remember having read somewhere it “looks good” to ask for time, as if you have other offers or are really considering if the fit is right) and so when they made an offer on the spot I asked for a few days to think it over. After a few days with no bites elsewhere I called back to accept. The hiring manager was busy, and so I left my name and number. After a few days of calling back with no messages returned I gave up.

    Bullet dodged of course (they could’ve at least let me know they decided not to hire me after all), but I get the feeling the time to think it over thing is just *not done* for certain jobs.

  9. super anon*

    #3 – i live on the other side of the country from my family so I usually just say that I’m not going home due to the high cost of flying cross-country at that time of year and I’ve never had anyone probe further. usually it sparks a convo on the high cost of travel here and we lose sight of the holiday topic completely. this may not work for you depending on location, but it’s an easy out if available.

  10. AuroraRose16*

    #4 When I was 19, I applied for a retail job. After the personality/scenario tests and all the interviews with the personnel manager, an assistant manager, and the store manger, the personnel manager just sent me off for a drug test then told me when orientation was. I kept waiting for the “You’re hired!” moment from TV. So I asked my family/friends, “If they’re having me go to orientation, then that means I got the job, right?” I was pretty confused, and I didn’t have any other job offers lined up. Then again, I was 19.

  11. Ruth (UK)*

    4. I have worked several retail jobs within the last decade. I left my most recent fast food job just under two years ago.

    I definitely agree you need to accept on the spot, at least in the ones I experienced. Because there is no possible movement on things like salary or benefit and because the job role is a lot of clear and more set in stone and because people don’t apply for those jobs unless they need the money, the assumption is that you would not apply unless you definitely wanted that job and would take it.

    People applying for min wage jobs are usually doing it alongside other min wage jobs which also are offer and accept on the spot so you rarely get people considering different offers in the same way as more professional jobs, and you never get counter offer problems.

    In my last store, I was training for management though not a manager and didn’t hire. But yes very definitely, if someone was offered the job and didn’t take it immediately, it left people wondering why on earth they even applied.

    (however it’s also not outside the norm for people to accept and then never turn up or come to their first shift and then never come back, without letting anyone know. Or completely bail on the interview with no contact… But yeah my stores would not have held the job while you thought about it. If you didn’t accept right off, they’d contact the next person.

    1. Manager George Knox*

      I think Ruth has hit the nail on the head here with her explanation. These jobs, the most important things for a lot of applicants are salary, benefits if applicable, and hours (and unlike with professional positions, they won’t be playing coy about any of these items – you’re likely to know all of this before the first interview or hear it during).

      I worked overnights at WalMart for six months. During that time, at least 3 new hires left during their first shift for their lunch break and never returned.

      1. Ruth (UK)*

        Ah yes we also had a lot of people disappearing during their break on their first shift, never to return. It was typically teen workers (ie. People who wanted the part time job but didn’t NEED the money to support a family or themselves independently). Though they knew the details of the job and what it involved in theory, they often found the reality harder (partly because they didn’t account foe pranking, bullying and harassment which was unfortunately common in my store). I did a lot of training and found that if I took my break with the new person, and talked about positive things within the job, I could almost always prevent disappearances after first shifts. However, a lot of people still quit within a week or so and I couldn’t find any way to personally impact that…

    2. a*

      Yeah, at my first job there wasn’t even an interview. I got a call from the manager asking me to come in for what I assumed was an interview, but when I called her back it turned out that she had decided to hire me without ever speaking to me, and she was asking me to come in and fill out the hiring paperwork. I don’t think that’s the usual procedure, but I think most minimum wage jobs assume that if you’re applying, you’ll work there if you can.

    3. Anthony*

      I am a manager in a retail environment and all of this rings true. We do phone screenings to match for basic information (availability, pay rate, etc) so they already have information about whether they would be happy with the schedule and pay before they even come to an interview. There isn’t any negotiation for positions lower than management so there really isn’t much reason to think about it. If someone asked me to think about it, I would not be able to continue to hold the position while they thought about it, I would have to keep interviewing (especially if the person wasn’t an especially strong candidate).

  12. Merry and Bright*

    #3 I’d say do your own thing for the holidays and have a great time.

    This is my first Christmas in my current workplace. But I’ve learnt over the years that there always seems to be a coworker tucked away who will ask why you aren’t doing something else. So I just have a few responses ready for the persistent ones.

  13. Fred*

    #2: Call her to your office, close the door and tell her that this is a problem, and she is to turn the volume down, or the radio will be removed.

    #3: Tell them “I have other plans”.

    1. Artemesia*

      There is no win in ‘lower the volume’ — with a passive aggressive receptionist it will creep back up and if she can hear it, so can the clients. This is a play ‘classics 91’ or ‘jazz 80’ and if that remains a problem, remove the radio.

      1. fposte*

        Does anybody *want* the radio aside from the receptionist? Because if the answer is no, I think this can fall under “We tried it and it didn’t work” and go straight to removal. I get exhausted by the notion of policing the station and the volume.

        1. Sarahnova*

          YES! Just pull the radio. There is no need for it. There are plenty of cons and the only pro is “removing it will annoy receptionist”. She can deal.

      2. Adam V*

        Eh, you can win with “lower the volume” if you really want to try that option. Make her set it to something quiet (in front of you, so you see exactly where she sets it), tell her explicitly not to change it again, and if you ever go back and it’s been turned back up, you can tell her “I told you this was a problem, you changed it anyway, you’re fired for ignoring a direct instruction”.

        (I personally agree with you that it should be changed or removed altogether; I’m just saying that if the OP is dead-set against forcing that, you can still manage her out fairly easily.)

        1. Blurgle*

          But I think that in this case with a history of telling her and letting her flout direct orders without consequences, the OP has to say “you are not to turn the radio volume up again for any reason. Doing so will be grounds for immediate dismissal.”

          I still think, though, that the best solution is to a) take the radio away and b) tell her that she is not to bring in another radio (or stream radio through her computer), and that the new policy is to have background silence – no radio of any kind – in the reception area. It really is a serious accessibility issue, and I’m surprised more people don’t realize that.

  14. Katie the Fed*

    I rarely travel for the actual holidays, for two reasons: 1) it’s pain in the butt and expensive and 2) I prefer to work so my team can take the time off if they want it, since we have to have some coverage. I like working the friday after Thanksgiving – it’s my annual inbox and desktop cleanup day :)

    I usually just say I’m looking forward to a quiet Christmas at home with my husband, and that’s that.

    1. ExceptionToTheRule*

      Christmas Day is my annual cleaning of the desk/office day to get everything filed away and ready for the new year.

  15. Blurgle*

    #3: I just point out that my family doesn’t celebrate Christmas. The fact that they don’t do it because they’re all dead is both beside the point and too personal for me to get into.

  16. Xarcady*

    #4. I’m currently working a part-time retail job after getting laid off. The application was online, then there was a 4 month wait, then I got an email asking me to schedule an interview, which was also done online. The job offer was made at the interview, and it was clear I needed to accept or decline immediately. Training, vie endless videos, started the same day (I could have delayed that a day or two). Actually working took over a week, as they had to find room in the schedule.

    But the thing is, if you end up hating the job, people leave all the time. There’ve been people in my department who worked two shifts and quit. One who went through all the training and never showed up for work. (Oh, wait, that was the seasonal holiday hire who bullied someone into getting her the store credit card, needed for the employee discount, immediately. Then she did a lot of shopping. Then she quit. One way to cut your gift-giving costs.)

  17. Xarcady*

    #3. Learning to deflect questions like this is a useful skill all year long, not just at the holidays. There will be other times you don’t want to share too much information.

    a) Making a joke about it is always good. People laugh, you seem cheerful about the issued, all is good.
    b) Share a bit about what you’ll be doing, without getting into details about family and other issues. The pie comment above is a good example. “Pie! There’ll be pie! and maybe ice cream!”
    c) Vagueness. “I’m still contemplating my options.”
    d) Deflect. “Not sure yet, what are you doing?”
    e) Become a Pastafarian. They don’t celebrate Christmas, but a more generic “Holiday.” Seriously. Google it.

    1. sam*

      Also, even without faux religions, not everyone is Christian.

      I “celebrate” christmas in the traditional manner of jews everywhere – by eating boatloads of chinese food and going to see multiple movies. Which has gotten much harder now that all of the non-jews have decided that spending time with family is overrated and boring and they all leave their homes by lunchtime to go to the movies too! Stop infringing on our sacred traditions!

    2. Mickey Q*

      Be very careful about telling someone you don’t have plans. They might invite you over to their house for the holiday. The only thing worse than having to spend the holiday with your family is having to spend it with someone else’s family. If you tell them you don’t celebrate Christmas then you are setting yourself up for a religious lecture. It’s best to have other plans.

  18. Mike C.*

    Re: #2

    The (cheeky) answer here is to set the radio (or stream) BBC World Service. It’s delightfully dry and easy to tune out but on the other hand you’ll learn something and piss off the employee at the same time.

    /Misses “Europe Today”, thanks Cameron :(

    1. Chickaletta*

      Bwahaha. I did something like this to a coworker who kept the tv on all day set to morning shows and sitcoms with annoying laugh tracks. One day I got in before her, turned on CSPAN, and that was the end of tv.

        1. Mike C.*

          For those who don’t know why you should watch one, remember that scene in House of Cards when Frank Underwood has a bunch of Senators arrested? Well, that can and has happened in real life.

          1. Blurgle*

            Mike, see if you can get CPAC on your satellite. CPAC is the Canadian equivalent of CSPAN; if a woman will sit through the ringing of the bells to call Canadian senators to vote on a proposal they have no say in, she’ll sit through anything.

  19. Erin*

    #2 – My sympathies. Our receptionist plays Christian radio all day, and I have to sit at her desk covering her lunch hour. It gets very repetitive. I’ve heard “Jesus is cooommiiiiing sooooon” a few too many times. To be fair, I’ve never heard of clients complaining.

    1. BRR*

      Can you change it while you cover?

      Also just because nobody complained doesn’t mean everybody is happy with it.

      1. Cambridge Comma*

        Exactly — I wouldn’t complain if I heard that radio station in a place of business, I would just not go back.

    2. Temperance*

      I wouldn’t complain, but I would take my business elsewhere. I wouldn’t trust the company to treat me well, as an atheist.

      1. fposte*

        Though if it’s in a religious part of the country, more people might like it than not. That’s how it would be around here.

        1. Temperance*

          That makes me sad, and incredibly grateful to live in a more secular/liberal area. I can’t imagine how difficult it must be to be non-Christian in an area like that.

          1. Ashley the Paralegal*

            I currently live in a fairly religious area and am an atheist and it is indeed difficult at times. A lot of places here tout themselves as “Christian” business and I do indeed avoid these places. In my opinion if they took the time to label themselves this way, it says to me that they only want Christian clients. I think the same applies to business that push political views.

            1. ancolie*

              I avoid overtly Christian businesses for a different reason: If you really embody the good qualities (being “Christian”, being “honest”, etc), you don’t need to say so; it’ll be obvious in how you do business.

              Trying to convince me that you’re (insert good quality here) makes me believe that you’re ACTUALLY the exact opposite.

          2. Captain Obvious Lee*

            When the religious get rude I walk away. The way they treat people in the area I live is insane but if it was someone of a different set of beliefs they’d be howling like mad that something be done. I troll them frequently and only in a way that keeps me entertained that leaves them without recourse.

            Coworker: “What are you doing this *CHRISTmas?”

            Me: “I’m not celebrating that pagan nonsense you call a holiday if that’s what you’re asking Gina. As a REAL *CHRISTian I’m not throwing my money away on material items but praying for your greedy consumerist soul when my family goes to church…” *throws withering look at her then walks off quoting scripture*. Note they can’t ask if I’m going – they must assume. Ironically no one in my family goes to church and a few friends have taken this up. One guy wants to film his coworker’s reaction since he’s pestered to hurry up and get married all the time. The reactions are hilarious.

            *For those not in the know they love to half yell/shriek “Christ” and then add the ignorant suffix or remark to accompany it. They whine a lot about the “war on Christmas” where I live and demand that no other holidays be celebrated which is just stupid. As an atheist who knows far more about holidays and their origins than so-called avid CHRISTians do it’s too much fun to pass up anymore. I have never gotten in trouble for pretending to be more religious than the pious office ass. If you’re going to try this make sure you aren’t going to be endlessly pestered to join another person’s cult or told who you need to date. There’s a great religious way to cut them off for that too.

            Most people will view this oneupmanship as a no-go zone and won’t ask you next year. It works for me since religious people hate guilt. I also hold a position that has zero competition, few people can comprehend what I do, and I am a low key person. No one at work knows I’m an atheist and I keep my work and personal life separate after being stalked by a Christian coworker. I also lie about relatives’ names, family plans, etc. One guy completely faked having a family and marriage and was promoted because of it.

            My friends ask why I appear to be so “good” when I’m an evil little heathen. (Yes they’re joking) I just tell them the only reason I appear that way is because my horns hold up my halo.

            1. Father Ribs*

              If you think religious people hate guilt, you have never met a Catholic. ;)

              I’m always saddened to hear about negative interactions with Christians. They’re people too. Some folks are just jerks and whatever membership cards they have in their wallet are just window dressing.

        2. Windchime*

          I used to live in a really conservative part of the state (Washington), and the Wendy’s restaurant there played Christian “praise” music. All day, every day. It was strange. Yes, I still went there because I wasn’t offended by it–whatever rocks your boat. But if it had been political ranting? Yeah, I’m not going to pay to listen to that.

      2. Katie the Fed*

        I would’t think they wouldn’t treat me well, but I’d probably roll my eyes a bit. I find super devout Christians generally harmless but I don’t want anything shoved down my throat.

        1. fposte*

          Yeah, there’s kind of a spectrum around here. There’s the roofer that told prospective customers how much better they were because they were a Christian roofer: no. There’s every craft business in town that advertises specifically to the craft cash cows that are Vacation Bible School: sure, fine.

          1. Blurgle*

            I’ll admit that my view is probably defective, because around here “what church do you go to?” is up there with “what sex positions do you like?” as an intrusive question. But every time I’ve known a contractor or member of the trades bring up their religion in a business setting, they’ve been a con artist preying on the elderly and disabled and flaunting their religion to make them sound more moral than they really are. Every single time.

        2. Captain Obvious Lee*

          I would be more careful. After working with/for companies that are run by devout/fundamentalist Christians they tend to force other people to pay for their mistakes and fund their beliefs. One company would do work for free for their own church that had a $10 MILLION endowment but they would charge the cost of that work to people getting married, graduation announcements, banners, etc.

          If they got the sense you weren’t very religious or did not go to their church you’d be over charged and they would purposely screw up their projects for you. They tend to be a very passive-aggressive group of criminals and would cook their books on a regular basis. For some reason the Christians I meet all think the IRS is not a real entity and must be destroyed. It may just be a nutty southern state thing too but I have never had a good experience with Christians, in particular the devout ones.

          1. fposte*

            YMMV–that’s not how it seems to work in my area, and I’ve lived here for close to twenty years.

          2. Port of Indecision*

            I worked for a pretty prominent service review site for several years. I will not ever use a service company with “Christian” in the name, they were always the shadiest, regardless of location.

    3. Izzy*

      Was that the Resurrection Band song? I haven’t heard it (or them) since the late Seventies. I used to like that song, but yes it could get old fast. Also I listened to them because I liked them, not because it was someone else’s preference in radio.

  20. One of the Sarahs*

    #3 I opted out of Xmas with my family at age 17 (I’d been promising to since I was about 12 because WOW the family arguments and divorced parents drama) and have stuck to my guns. When people ask what I do, I get an enormous grin and talk about how my partner and I will get up late, go for a walk, cook a crazy amount of food, and sit around watching Xmas tv drinking cava. In general it just makes co-workers horribly jealous. If anyone questions it, I say that between us, my partner and I have 4 sets of parents, around the country & in Spain, so trying to travel to all of them is impossible, so we don’t. As someone said upthread, saying all this with a happy smile, and then moving straight away to “so what do you like best about the season?” works really well for me.

    1. Andrea*

      My husband and I spend Xmas day together like that. Sleep late, bake something yummy for breakfast, take the dog for a long walk in the cold, go see a movie, and then go out to a fancy earlyish dinner and leave the server a ridiculously large cash tip in a greeting card, then put pajamas on and sit on the couch and relax. We love everything about this day. People used to invite us over, thinking we had nothing to do, and so finally we just started telling people what we do. I think some of our friends are jealous.

      1. Honeybee*

        I want this for Christmas SO BADLY. I feel like I spend every Christmas stressed and running around and booking holiday travel. My MIL has standards for Christmas – we have to wake up at a certain time, be dressed, and she loves taking staged family photos – ugh. And we always have to do something “as a family” in the days surrounding the holiday, too.

        I just want to stay at home and chill; we don’t even have to go out. I’d love to cook a nice Christmas dinner for just me and the hubs and watch a movie and play with our dog. And bake a pie.

        If we absolutely have to spend Christmas with extended family I’d rather spend it with my cousins than either set of parents. And I’m not just being selfish; even my husband has said that. I get to watch her kids wake up and tear into their gifts, give us kisses and then CHILL. I think that’s the key point – I just want to relax on the holidays, a break from work. I don’t want to get all fancy and do stuff!

    1. KC*

      if only that person in the blog knew how effective bose in ear noise cancelling headphones are… i’ve used a few different in ear and over the ear noise cancelling headphones over the years and these still amaze me.

  21. TL17*

    #2 – this is making me remember that when I was a kid and our school bus driver played Rush Limbaugh on the bus radio. He also wore dirty yellow sweatpants every day and told my little brother (who was about 9 at the time) how he “wouldn’t be saved.” This is a public school, mind you. My even-tempered brother finally had enough of the Rush and the comments, and let loose a verbal tirade that got him suspended from the bus. Our parents were mad about the suspension but secretly proud that he stood up for himself. The creepy sweatpants bus driver sort of disappeared after that.

    Point being – not everybody shares the same political views – even 4th graders. Probably best to stick to music or nothing at all.

  22. The Cosmic Avenger*

    OP #5, it sounds like you have the perfect opening to bring this up with the boss (although I’m unclear on whether that’s the doctor or an office manager): ” In fact, if I had not looked at our patient schedule, I would never have known I was scheduled to work some days.”

    Just bring up to one of them that you almost didn’t realize you were scheduled to work that Saturday because you’ve always been closed the first Saturday of the month, and while you’ll be sure to look more closely from now on, you can suggest a special notice for the staff (maybe as little as a brightly colored post-it note) on the days that are scheduled differently than before.

    Once you get them in the habit of thinking about how this is a disruption of the usual schedule, there’s a decent chance they’ll be a bit more mindful of it in the future. Or maybe not, but unless this is something you’d quit over, this is probably your best chance.

  23. Workfromhome*

    I agree that a simple vauge answer like “no going to work out that way or I have other plans” is best. If there are nosy people who continue to push why not try:

    “Unfortunate there was an incident with contraband discovered in someone’s cell so now all my family’s visitation privileges and yard time are suspended until after the new Year. “

  24. Dawn*

    #2: Jumping on the bandwagon here, I get squicked out at references to politics/religion at any business I go to if it’s anything more obtrusive than a Jesus fish on the menu or a shrine in the corner or whatever. Political stickers (particularly for president/congress) would get an “Aw hell no” from me regardless of who they were for and religious music would definitely turn me off of ever returning.

    My OBGYN has a very non-obtrusive daily Bible verse up in the waiting room and says “Have a blessed day!” at the end of the phone greeting and that was enough to make me consider long and hard if I wanted to continue going to that office. Political talk show on the radio at the receptionist desk would make me run screaming for the hills!

    1. blackcat*

      Yeah, that would make me nervous with an OBGYN much more so than another doc. I do not care of my dentist makes religious displays at the office, because I fail to see how all but a very few types of religious beliefs could affect how she cares for my teeth (now, if the dentist or hygienist said anything while I was in the chair, that would be different).

      I have had friends who have been shamed at conservative OBGYNs. I use a method of BC that extreme pro-life folks want to ban. It’s deeply important to me to have an OBGYN who is pro choice, because I view abortion as OBGYN care. If I ever found myself in a situation where an abortion was something I was considering, I’d want to be able to talk to my regular doc about it (particularly given that, at this point in my life, any consideration of an abortion would be centered around health concerns). I don’t want an OBGYN who’d put the life of a fetus before my health. The very thought of that terrifies me.

      1. irritable vowel*

        Although my initial instinct is to agree, I think it would probably be a good idea to actually question the doctor about the nature of his/her religious convictions and how they might apply to my care. There are plenty of open-minded Christians who are pro-choice and pro-woman, and I think it would be a mistake to assume that someone who took the time to insert their beliefs into the workplace would also be applying them to my care in a manner I disagreed with. And I’d also be really interested to hear what the doctor had to say, such as if he/she had even thought it through in terms of what the Bible verse and phone message were saying about the practice. While normally I would never dream about asking someone something so personal in a professional setting, you are right that in the context of OBGYN care it’s relevant.

        1. Mike B.*


          You can often learn a lot about a doctor’s views by searching online. I can’t speak to the OBGYN situation, obviously, but I had a bad experience with a relatively new specialist who refused to allow me to try a treatment (proven for my condition, but not well known even among doctors) I’d done a lot of research on. I’d stupidly prepaid for about five visits, so I continued to see him until he stopped taking my insurance, at which point I found a new doctor. You’d better believe that I did my homework before choosing the new guy, who had no problem putting me on the treatment (which was effective, naturally).

      2. Meg Murry*

        Yes, this made me nervous when I had an OBGYN who’s office was at a Catholic hospital. I never got a clear answer from him on whether being at a Catholic hospital could affect my care options, regarding both abortions and life support/end of life care. I really liked and respected the doctor, and the hospital was only minutes from my house, whereas I did not like the doctors at the next nearest hospital that wasn’t religiously affiliated, and it was significantly further to drive when pregnant. There is also another OBGYN in the area (although affliated with the non-religious hospital, not the Catholic one) who will not prescribe birth control, but will instead refer patients to his nurse practitioner for that. I’ve heard good things about him in general, but I’m not willing to go to a doctor that doesn’t believe in birth control.

        1. Chinook*

          “I never got a clear answer from him on whether being at a Catholic hospital could affect my care options, regarding both abortions and life support/end of life care. ”

          I know how it works here is that the Catholic hospital would not provide abortion services but would be willing to do any aftercare if there were complications (because the mother’s life is also valuable and worth saving). Depending on the regulations, they may or may not have to refer you elsewhere (there is currently discussion on whether or not that constitutes culpability in abortion).

          As for end of life care, Catholic hospitals are big believers in palliative care and ensuring a death with minimal suffering. DNRs are allowed as that is passively letting nature take its course. Increasing pain medication to allow you to reduce the pain enough to be lucid even if that increases the likelihood of death is also encouraged (as in death can’t be the purpose of the medication but it is allowed if it is a known side effect – did that make sense?) The line is drawn around actively helping some to die by giving them medication or means to kill them. And if the only thing keeping you alive is the machines, then that is considered extraordinary measures and they can be turned off (with patient/next-of-kin permission, of course). When it comes to death, Catholic teaching says it is okay to let the body slide down the hill to certain death, we just aren’t allowed to kick the body over the cliff to help it along its way.

      3. Observer*

        I totally get it. the problem is that you are painting with a broad brush that doesn’t necessarily get you the results that you want. There are two pieces to this. Firstly, not all religious people have the same attitude towards abortion. And, the way those beliefs and attitudes play out as a practitioner is very varied, as well.

        Also, it’s not just religious people (including doctors) who act on belief rather than science / evidence and respect for the patient. The fact these beliefs are often un-examined makes it even worse. The craziest situation I personally experienced was an OB GYN who refused to prescribe BC for me when I really, really needed it because he didn’t approve of my religious limitations on the methods, and claimed (falsely) that this was the ONLY medically appropriate way to handle the situation. (It took my Orthodox Jewish Family Practice doctor to set me up with a perfectly appropriate form of BC.)

        Which is to say that regardless of whether your OG GYN has overtly religious beliefs or not, you definitely want to know where he stands on stuff.

        1. blackcat*

          There’s a reason why I used the term “nervous” not “would definitely switch.” Nervous enough to ask questions and carefully gauge responses, and definitely in a way that would be super different from a dentist.

          I also see a big difference between having a deeply religious doctor and having one who has religious messages in the office. Having religious messages in the office says to me “Faith impacts this business.” In my experience, I only see that in places where the owner has pretty conservative views.

          One midwife who gave me OBGYN care was deeply religious (I drove my grandma to church and discovered they new each other!), but very pro-choice (I regularly saw her with “Trust Women” pins) regarding all things in reproductive health.

          I also need doctors who are all for evidence-based medicine and don’t respond negatively if I bring in a journal article. I may not be a doctor, but I’m a scientist and I want to see evidence. I need a doctor who respects that. This is part of why I seek out teaching hospitals/care centers affiliated with teaching hospitals. I love having inquisitive med students at appointments!

          1. Observer*

            Nervous enough to ask questions and carefully gauge responses, and definitely in a way that would be super different from a dentist.

            The thing is, you should be doing that anyway – regardless of religious belief, and regardless of the religious symbols, or lack thereof, in your doctor’s office.

            I also need doctors who are all for evidence-based medicine and don’t respond negatively if I bring in a journal article. I may not be a doctor, but I’m a scientist and I want to see evidence. I need a doctor who respects that.

            I’m with you 100%. I’m not a scientist, but I’m not stupid or uneducated. I can even read medical journal articles and actually understand them. Interestingly, one of the doctors who was the best about this was an Italian Catholic (although he clearly grew up in the US) who came across as having an ego the size of a house. But, he had no problems with all the questions I asked him, and gave me a bunch of articles to read in a very straightforward way. (No snide comments or assumptions about my likelihood of reading them in evidence.)

  25. KR*

    #4, Most of the times in retail, if you’re hired it’s looked at in the frame of “Well of course they’ll say yes because they want to work here.” I’ve never really had people hire me in the context of they’re giving me an offer and I can take it or not, but rather “Good news! We’re hiring you at $X/hour!”

  26. CADMonkey007*

    It’s a pet peeve of mine for talk radio to be on when I enter a business establishment. It totally kills the professionalism of the place, and I feel like I’m walking into the break room intruding on coworker bantering. This shouldn’t be a big deal to just take away the radio, because it’s completely justified and there’s really nothing for her to be offended about – that is, unless she sees blaring right-wing talk radio as some sort of evangelistic endeavor (that’s the sense I get from the letter). If that’s the case, you need to just ride out any “offense” she takes about having her radio taken away. There’s no real discrimination going on here so any negative response she gives will just reflect poorly on her.

    1. Jane*

      I just realized I subconsciously use this to screen doctors/pediatricians/dentists/hair stylists – if an office has a TV or talk radio playing, I don’t go back. I really didn’t realize that I did this until this comment thread – I just thought I didn’t like the atmosphere of the offices with noise/screens going.

      1. Honeybee*

        Yeah, I do this too. I don’t like my service providers to have the television blaring. Not only do I just not like TV as background noise, I also think it’s distracting from them providing me a service. I’ve been serviced by hair stylists who were too busy watching TV or chatting on the phone to provide good or timely service so if I visit a provider who does this I don’t come back.

  27. Izzy*

    I think those retail/fast food minimum wage jobs assume you accepted when you applied. Barbara Ehrenreich talks about this in Nickel and Dimed, where she went straight from application to orientation at the Big Box with no offer or chance to make a choice. It’s annoying for employers to treat you as if you don’t have one.

    I applied for a fast food job, a long time ago, which I turned down at the interview because the hours they needed were not ones I wanted to work, and I planned to keep on looking. (It was the first on my list of applications to put in.) A week or two later, the assistant manager called me to let me know I was on the schedule that week starting the next day! What part of “No”…? Unfortunately, I hadn’t found anything else so I went and worked there for a while anyway.

    1. Wakeen's Teapots Ltd.*

      This is straight out of a plot for an undone Seinfeld. George would do that. You can hear him delivering this line, can’t you?

      “Unfortunately, I hadn’t found anything else so I went and worked there for a while anyway.”

  28. GOG11*

    Super random question that has nothing to do with these five questions (so please feel free to delete), but has your logo changed, Alison? As in, is she wearing a scarf and hat but doesn’t normally? I can’t decide if it’s always been that way or if you update the logo with the seasons and this is the first time I’ve noticed…

      1. The IT Manager*

        I had noticed that Alison’s winter avatar had showed up today! I guess she appeared with the first big snow storm of the winter in the US. Although I was near where Alison lives last week and I wore scarves and sweaters much of the time. Brrrr!

        1. VivaL*

          I thought something had changed! But I couldn’t put my finger on it. Relieved to know Im not crazy… ;-)

  29. Not a Holiday Orphan, Thanks*

    LW#3, I feel you! I became estranged from my family at 18, and in the first 1-2 years after college, I was completely unprepared for how much this would affect office chitchat from November through early January.

    Much like the advice others have given above:
    -If you work in a more impersonal office, try something vague, redirection, and set clear boundaries. Sometimes older coworkers are (consciously and unconsciously) trying to take you in the for the holidays, the way they would do for a friend of their kids.
    -If you work in a younger office where you and others tend to share a lot about themselves, lighten up your response if you can. Redirection is the most important part of this.

    -“I am so excited for a staycation and catch up on my sleep. Where are you headed?”
    -“Partner and I have a lovely tradition of making a nice dinner and watching the snow fall. What are you planning on?”
    -“This is my favorite time of year to catch up on old movies/ binge watch a new TV show/ start a new hobby. Any ideas?”
    -“Still figuring out my plans, where are you spending the holidays?”
    -“Oh, double pay + overtime, definitely working here for the holidays!” (retail/other 24/7)

    If people push you, it’s might best to escape the conversation:
    “But where does your family live? Why won’t you being seeing them? When’s the last time you saw your parents?”
    “You know, I’d prefer not to say. Oh, got to run to x meeting/ coffee time/ my cubicle/ the bathroom right now.”

    If you get a particular repeat offender:
    “Lucinda, I know you mean well, but I’d rather not discuss my family at work. Thanks for your concern.”
    (Your mileage may vary as this coworker is probably nosy in other ways).

    Practice your 5-10 second spiel with question redirections so it flows naturally. Good luck and happy winter staycation to us :)

    1. GOG11*

      These are fantastic! Thank you for posting them. I staycation each year and have some difficulty with well-meaning coworkers trying to convince me that traveling is the best (and it would be lovely – if I had the time and money – they make more than I do and get quite a lot more time off than I do). I struggle to come up with good responses/redirections on the spot and these are super helpful.

    2. Temperance*

      I love your level-headed responses. I’m trying to be more positive, but I can’t stand people who think that because they have a happy family, everyone else does, too, and that anyone who has any other experience is either at fault or lying.

      I will sometimes just tell the truth about my BPD mother when people push me too much, but I can be a jerk.

    3. OP3*

      This is helpful, thank you! Your comment about coworkers trying to take you in rings true… later in the day, my boss mentioned in a team meeting that everyone was welcome to come to his house for Thanksgiving if we didn’t have any other plans. Which was very kind of him, but I did have plans. Quiet plans involving staying home and eating a ton of potatoes.

      1. Not a Holiday Orphan, Thanks*

        Oh yes, also the phrase “tradition” has this magical, seasonal-specific effect on people!

        “My favorite holiday tradition is…”
        -“… frying everything in the house/making mashed potatoes 3 ways/ comparing all the kinds of frozen sweet potato fries ever made” + redirect
        -“…shutting off my phone and living more simply for a week.”
        -“…ignoring my mother’s desperate, narcissistic pleas for attention.” (jk, but srsly tho)

        It’s definitely pain to make your life seem “fun”, but it’s okay to look out for yourself (privately and emotionally) first. Answering the intent rather than content of your coworkers’ questions provides just enough authenticity and social grease to keep your professional persona on track.

  30. HRLady*

    OP4: My previous job was as HR at a big box retailer. I definitely preferred if people accepted on the spot (often I was doing a large amount of interviews that day and needed to know who I was slotting where.) With that being said, it wasn’t unusual for someone to tell me they needed to think and would get back with me. The sooner the better though! More than 48 hours and I’m already working on the next candidate since I needed people hired ASAP to fill the schedule.

  31. Three Thousand*

    Any place I’ve ever worked that had audible music playing only ever allowed innocuous stations like soft adult contemporary or generic-sounding jazz. People got in trouble for trying to play club music, much less wingnut talk radio.

    For what it’s worth, I probably wouldn’t want someone like Sam Seder playing in the background of my business either, even though left-wing talk radio tends to be much more civil and less deliberately divisive. I don’t want to lose business to make a point or get into unnecessary conversations with strangers about anything, much less politics.

  32. Temperance*

    OP#3: I have been in your shoes. I’ve tried the deflection, which does not work on people who have happy, nice families or who are like, totes BFF with their mom! (sorry, I hate those people for not realizing that their good fortune is rare).

    I don’t mind making people who ask rude, probing questions uncomfortable. I won’t go there at first, I’ll talk about my husband, nieces and nephew, and I’ll ask about your plans. I’ll talk about my plans. But if you keep poking the bear, and ask about my family, I’ll tell you that my parents are very conservative evangelical Christians and we aren’t close. If that doesn’t shut you up, I’ll tell you that my mother is mentally ill and spending time with her is difficult for me. If you keep going, which some people do for some reason, I will tell you that I was abused by her and my father, and that I don’t like spending time with them, nor do I feel like I owe them that. If we get to that point, it’s because you pushed me too far.

    It very rarely gets to the last stage, and almost never at work, thankfully.

    1. OP3*

      I was wondering if you were my sister up until the “evangelical Christians” bit! Sorry you have to experience this too. It’s very rare indeed that anyone pushes me too far – I’ve made a point to avoid people who are super nosy and it’s worked out pretty well. All I want is to leave the past in the past.

    2. Izzy*

      I wonder if some of the rude pushy people really don’t have such happy families. Maybe they’re hostile because they’d secretly like to skip the annual Family Circus but don’t have the nerve. (Or maybe they’re the difficult one that makes those gatherings tedious.) “I suffer through it, so should you,” may be their thinking. Unless you have actually met their families, it’s like comparing your life to someone else’s Facebook posts. IME, people from truly happy, healthy families respect other people’s boundaries and do not press nosy questions or tell others how to live their lives.

      1. Temperance*

        In my experience, it’s the people who spend lots of time with their families who are like this. They just can’t imagine a holiday without grandma! They’ll excuse crap behavior because they honestly can’t imagine someone being in our situation.

  33. Mimmy*

    #2 – I don’t mind having a radio on at a low volume at an office. I love my dentist’s office because they have the adult contemporary station in the background. I probably wouldn’t mind talk radio if it’s low – easier to tune out. But yeah, I can see how that can be a real issue for some people if it’s loud enough. I was in a taxi recently and the driver had some sort of political talk show on, and with my head by the speaker, I could hear it, making me feel a bit uncomfortable. But I didn’t feel right in saying anything.

    #4 – Not in retail or food service, but years ago when I applied for entry-level office jobs (data entry, reception), I remember feeling like I had to give an answer on the spot. This was 15+ years ago so I don’t know if the norms are the same now.

  34. Terra*

    #4- Generally speaking in the US you’d need to accept on the spot or risk not getting the job. It’s not ideal but most of these places have a high rate or turnover and for budgeting/legal reasons they can’t hire anyone until the spot is vacant so every day it takes to hire someone is potentially costing them money in overtime for other employees and annoying everyone else whose schedule is getting messed with. Also, I hate to say this but if this is a job to supplement your retirement you’ll already be fighting the perception that you’re less flexible/more expensive than younger workers and asking for some time to consider the offer won’t help that.

  35. HRish Dude*

    I’ve never heard Rush, but if it’s anything like sports talk radio, it has to be sort of hard for clients to talk over – especially when they’re sick. Even when I have no dog in the hunt on some of those sports shows when they’re yelling at each other, it tends to stress me out.

    1. Kyrielle*

      He has a web site if anyone wants to go and read it – I think there are transcripts on there somewhere. But yes, there’s yelling and over-emphasis and really really…extreme…political and social viewpoints.

  36. Captain Obvious Lee*

    #2. She can be using the radio as a passive-aggressive infantile way of trying to force her beliefs on others. Quite frankly I’d just take it away and state her failure to comply with the requests of clients and coworkers for maintaining a pleasant work environment was the reason to do so. Be prepared for someone that passive-aggressive and childish to claim they have a “religious right” to make other people miserable because of their own beliefs. I’ve seen it happen at two companies and one employee was fired on the spot for that statement. Demanding that your belief be treated as more important/superior to another’s is a nuclear option – you can’t take it back. She has been creating a hostile work environment and it appears that the work performance of coworkers has suffered because of it. This one could be trouble and they may need to be cut off by stating that the employee can’t bring in her own radio and can’t use a streaming radio service on their cell phone or work station to cover all bases.

    #3. There can be nothing wrong with stating that it’s simply not their business to know the OP’s holiday plans. I do not celebrate any holidays and am not a christian in any way. However, if you state you aren’t religious (or not christian) where I live be prepared to have your job eliminated or take a severe pay cut in some way. While I realize this is illegal and unethical it’s also because ‘Murica! You just can’t fix or fight stupid in some cases but only move on and warn others on your journey.

    It’s absurd but sometimes acting really offended can also shut people down. I’ve also gone the guilt trip route and told people a sad story so they’ll avoid me. Since I’m a sick person with weird hobbies and sense of humor it works for me. Messing with people (or trolling) is a hobby of mine. It’s free and fun to me and that’s the only thing that counts. When I get annoyed my responses will vary but not break any work or etiquette rules. You can get a message across without giving emotional vampires and busy bodies any satisfaction at all while entertaining yourself if you are good at it. I recommend practicing in order to get it perfect. ;-P

    1. hmm*

      Trolling generally nice or well-meaning people doesn’t sound like a very nice hobby. Some people generally ask out of politeness and a simple “I prefer not to talk about it” or “Nothing too big planned” seems a much better response than being cruel or mean.

  37. knitchic79*

    #4 I’m in retail now and yes it would be very strange to ask for time to consider. Most really do think you wouldn’t fill out the application if you didn’t want to work there. How they think you figure that out without talking to them I still haven’t worked out.

  38. Anon Accountant*

    I have to share this story regarding the right wing political radio talk show. My old boss loved to listen to Rush Limbaugh. One afternoon I heard what sounded like a terrible argument and I was worried it was going to become violent. Quietly tiptoeing down the hall my boss had a political radio program turned up high and that’s what the commotion was about.

    He suddenly became amused by something they said and broke out in hysterical laughter and pounded his fist on the desk, laughing the whole time. It was so loud it sounded like 2 people were in the office arguing and it was escalating. I wasn’t amused.

  39. Former Retail Manager*

    OP#3…..I’m sorry, and in the minority, but I don’t think that these questions about family plans/family in general need to be so top secret. Nor do I think that most people would judge you for the existence of “family drama.” I don’t know anyone that has what I refer to as “greeting card holidays,” wherein everyone is smiling and happy. EVERYONE has some level of drama in their family, your co-workers and boss included. You are not confessing that your father is incarcerated for being a serial killer. You’re just saying you’d rather spend your time elsewhere and with presumably good reason.

    In my opinion, if you want to stop the curious boss and co-workers, answer their question, diplomatically but with enough detail that they get the picture. If someone told me “my family doesn’t do well at the holidays” I’d quickly get the picture, make a mental note to not ask about family ever again, and change the subject. I think that most competent people would do the same. I also wouldn’t think much of it, nor would anyone else I know, and it certainly wouldn’t impact how you’re viewed professionally (at least not in any place I’ve ever worked). Everyone has nutty families/family members. I don’t see the need for such secrecy. And for the commenters who would say something to the effect of “none of your business,” I think that would be rude, frankly, and much more detrimental to you professionally than just being honest.

    1. Anon for this one*

      I actually do have a coworker whose sibling is in jail for murdering his girlfriend, so yeah, sometimes people have every right to not want to talk about their families and/or family drama and it’s not really our place to judge.

      “Not doing well during the holidays” may well mean that there were some very very serious issues like domestic violence, a death of some sort, etc. If OP doesn’t want to discuss any of it at all, that’s fine. Plenty of people would not merely take a hint and probe further and I can see wanting to avoid the chance of that happening altogether.

    2. Temperance*

      You are in the minority here. As someone with a toxic family situation, it is absolutely not the norm, and your statement that family doesn’t do well at the holidays wouldn’t fly.

    3. TL -*

      Yeah, I’d really rather not get into the whole reason I don’t like thanksgiving – there’s mom and aunt always end up yelling about politics and grandma says something mean occasionally and then there’s we have to call ambulances and police, abuse of whatever type, spending time with my family makes me a wreck for the next month and I don’t want to talk or think about it.

    4. Shannon*

      Stating that your family doesn’t do well over the holidays seems to bring out the train wreck watcher in everyone. Suddenly they’re either curious or judgey. Or both.

      After my mother threatened to murder me, I ceased spending time with her. I tried to avoid being in the same county as her, actually. When asked about my family plans for the holidays, I tried the “my family and I aren’t close” line and it did not work out. Many people felt entitled to ask why that was and then proceeded to pry the entire story out of me, because I was young and didn’t really know how to deflect or artfully lie. Even though my mother threatened to kill me, many strangers would still encourage me to spend the holidays with her. (“She’s your moooooooother. She didn’t mean it.” No, she meant it.) You are in the extreme minority in that you would let the situation lie.

  40. UCF Mom*

    I started out as a receptionist after graduation with my Bachelor’s and having a small desk radio was my only luxury. I was overworked, paid a hair above minimum wage and and buried in tasks from literally everyone in the office. As an adult I had to ask permission to use the restroom and wait for someone to begrudgingly come cover the front desk so I could pee. I listened to a local “soft rock” type station that played popular non-offensive music that would be appropriate in most venues. Rather than removing the radio all-together I would first recommend the receptionist’s direct supervisor having a conversation with her and let her know that the CONTENT is not conducive to a neutral and welcoming office environment. If it’s acceptable let her know that contemporary stations are fine at a reasonable volume. I spent hours isolated in the lobby between the occasional visitor and someone coming in to give me more tasks and the silence would have driven me up a wall.

  41. Guava*

    The receptionist radio letter got me thinking. I used to work in an open-plan office where I was the only woman. The owner (a middle-aged guy) would blare the Tom Leykis show on the radio every day and he and all the other guys would laugh at the gags, like the one where Leykis would ask every woman caller how big her rack was, among other things. It would make me cringe at my desk. One of the female designers who worked downstairs asked them to change the station, and then I got to listen to all the boys upstairs making fun of her for being ‘a prude’ and mocking her accent. It was a small company and the owner was encouraging this behavior, so obviously my only recourse was to leave, but I’ve often wondered if this behavior constituted some sort of harassment. It was a pretty awful workplace.

  42. esuohllod*

    #4, you will definitely be expected to accept on the spot. People applying for minimum wage jobs aren’t expected to be weighing a lot of options, ya know? And since it’s unskilled labor, that manager probably has a pretty hefty pile of just as ‘qualified’ applicants ready to call.

  43. Suzanne*

    I do wish offices would think more about the music they play. My dentist for a time played Contemporary Christian music in all the rooms. I don’t care for it, but it was more the notion of how odd it felt to have the hygienist scraping crud off my teeth with a metal pick while some crooner went on and on about how much he or she loved Jesus. Thankfully,mother now play soft rock.
    My doctor also plays soft rock, which offered an odd moment the time I was in waiting in the exam room, gowned up and ready to roll, with “Rock n Roll Hootchi Coo” blaring over the intercom.

  44. The Owlish Ms*

    Regarding number 4., I interviewed for, and accepted, a minimum-wage retail position, all within twenty minutes. Unless it’s a more specialized position such as hospitality work, most minimum wage jobs will expect you to accept or decline pretty much immediately. I think this is because they typically have several applicants with low thresholds of acceptable skills.

    If you can, I would actually reccommend looking for a part-time or temporary job in your usual field. Retired or semi-retired people have a wealth of experience and understanding that is more valuable than what’s required in a typical minimum-wage job.

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