my team is super into tarot cards, the Secret, and sharing our personal “visions”

A reader writes:

I joined a new company last month and I’m pretty bemused at the company/team culture. The company is big on “culture” in general, which is great, but my individual team (~20 people) is VERY spiritual and believes strongly in the power of positive thinking and that Law of Attraction/The Secret thing that was so trendy a few of years ago.

For example, we have a weekly Law of Attraction tarot card ritual, where someone goes around and makes us draw two cards from a couple of Law of Attraction decks at random. Then we have to read the statements on them aloud to the person who is distributing the cards, and then display them at our desks so people know what we’re working on a personal level for the week.

There are also “unofficial” team-building activities every month where we all go to someone’s house, silently meditate for half an hour, and then discuss our personal “visions.” These events are not strictly mandatory, but it’s heavily implied that not participating = not being a team player.

As far as I know, these things are just on my team and aren’t officially sanctioned by upper management…but that’s probably because upper management is largely unaware (these meetings are arranged through private Facebook events / Slack messages).

I’m trying to be open-minded and take part in these activities in good spirit, because my coworkers really are one of the friendliest and most welcoming groups of people I’ve ever worked with, and I can put up with an odd ritual or two in the interest of team-building. But I definitely fall on the skeptical/critical side of things so it doesn’t feel genuine. I just can’t bring myself to get so touchy-feely. Am I right to feel icky about this? Is there a way I can push back on or skip participating in the offsite meditation events that won’t jeopardize my inclusion within the team?

What?!  Yes, you are right to feel icky about this. You’ve never been more right.

First, ugh, the Secret. For people who don’t know, it was a 2006 self-help bestseller that preached that your thoughts are magnetic and you can have whatever you want in life if you attract it to yourself — think positive thoughts hard enough and you’ll attract money, success, health, and love. Think negative thoughts and you’ll attract sickness and other troubles.

If someone wants to follow this philosophy in their own life, nothing’s stopping them … but bringing it into work — even if it’s just the “attract good things to yourself” part of it — is so, so messed up. For starters, it’s likely to violate plenty of people’s religious beliefs. But even beyond that, plenty of people will simply hate it or be uncomfortable with it and possibly not feel comfortable speaking up. (In fact, things that are presented with the pressure of “this is just what we do here” can lead to an Emperor’s New Clothes situation, where hardly anyone is into it, but no one feels that they can say anything.)

But really, even if only one person is uncomfortable, it’s a problem. Even if they let that person opt out, it’s still a problem, because they’re structuring significant team rituals around something that’s spiritual-ish in nature. And everyone else will be getting major team bonding time that someone else isn’t getting, which can have real effects at work, like who gets included in what conversations, who gets what assignments, and generally who feels like part of a cohesive team and who doesn’t.

In fact, even if no one on the team is uncomfortable with it right now, it’s still a bad idea. Eventually they’re going to hire someone who doesn’t like this at all, and that person will have to either be silently uncomfortable, or they’ll have to speak up and be the person who put a stop to everyone else’s fun. It’s not fair to put that burden on someone when this isn’t an activity that’s appropriate for work in the first place. (It’s sort of like why it’s a bad idea to have really ribald, sexually-based humor at work even if no one objects. Eventually someone will come along who does, and it’s not right to make them either suffer in silence or be seen as the stick in the mud who puts an end to it.)

What’s more, it doesn’t sound like the rest of the company knows your team is doing this, and that’s a problem too. I would Not Be Pleased if I found out that a manager I oversaw was pushing this on employees. Lots of people find The Secret either ridiculous or downright offensive (particularly the part about blaming people for attracting cancer or poverty into their lives), but I also wouldn’t be pleased if I found out they were injecting Christianity or Hinduism or atheism or 70s-style encounter groups into how they functioned. This kind of thing just doesn’t belong at work.

If you weren’t so new, I would say to speak up, loudly and immediately. But when you’re new, it’s a more complicated calculus. You’re likely to end up being the new person who’s disrupting all the fun. You might be okay with that, but if you’re not, an alternative may be to discreetly talk to someone else in the company, stressing that you want them to “discover” this on their own and not invoke your name when they do — but again, as a new person it’s risky because you don’t yet know who can be trusted to handle this well. “Risky” doesn’t mean “don’t do it,” but you’d want to be okay with possible fall-out, which sucks.

At a minimum, though, you can certainly pull back on or skip the off-site meditation events. It turns out that you have just joined a book club/running group/sewing class/kickball team that happens to meet at the same time as the meditation violations events (or you are babysitting a friend’s kid, or volunteering at an animal shelter, or visualizing the tacos you want to attract into your life, or whatever excuse you like). Can you do it without jeopardizing your overall inclusion within your team? Maybe, maybe not. But if you start feeling that’s happening, it might give you potentially easier grounds for talking to your boss about the whole situation.

Or, maybe the next time you’re pressured to going to someone’s house and meditating and then sharing your personal “vision,” you can say that you had a vision about your boss’s boss finding out about this and freaking out on her or about an impending religious discrimination lawsuit.

{ 528 comments… read them below }

  1. Mustache Cat

    My face right now is a map of horror. This is appalling, and tbh I would be personally offended by the affront to my religious beliefs.

      1. Christopher Tracy

        Hear, hear.

        If people could just think their way into positive things, we’d all be millionaires and wouldn’t have to work in the first place.

      2. Mike C.

        Yeah, after watching a close family member succumb to cancer because he choose acupuncture and mushroom tea and “chinese herbs” over actual medicine I have no tolerance for pseudoscientific bullshit. I don’t care if it’s “fun” or “just a personal belief”, that crap leads to all sorts of bad results.

        1. Blue Anne

          You know, when I was a teenager we lost my dad to cancer despite having access to the best medical care in the world.

          A friend of his fought cancer at the same time, with tea and woo, and lived. Somehow.

          I’m so angry about that whole thing on so many levels. (Not all of which are very nice, I realize.) Tarot cards okay, but if someone tried pushing some bullcrap positivity is the cure crap I just… errgghhhh…. I can’t even express myself about this. And at work?! Holy crap.

        1. Clever Name

          I know! I enjoy a lot of that spiritual stuff in my personal life, but at work? Just no. I really prefer work to be about work.

            1. Vicki

              Well, obviously, you did not believe _magnetically enough!_.

              Hrmph.

              I’d be happy to put a Tarot card on my desk for a week; I like Tarot cards But the rest? No no no.

        2. SilverBee

          It sounds like they aren’t using actual tarot cards, though I’m not sure if that makes it better or worse.

        3. Jadelyn

          I’m with you…you can pry my cards from my cold dead Pagan hands, but you don’t do that stuff AT WORK! What is wrong with people?

        4. JessaB

          This. I am too, and I’m appalled. It’s absolutely against everything I believe in to A: trivialise practises that are religious to some people, B: force any religious practise on anyone, etc. You never read for someone who doesn’t specifically ask you to. No, no nopity, nope. This is just gross. And Alison is right, the Secret is particularly icky due to the whole “you can bring medical problems on yourself, etc.” and a lot of religions are very against that kind of card reading stuff. This just has religious discrimination written all over it.

          1. Loose Seal

            I don’t know much about Tarot cards but I had a stillborn baby about the time The Secret came out. At least fifty of my acquaintances, coworkers, and yes — friends told me that it was because I hadn’t been positive enough (mostly because I declined their hosting a baby shower for me prior to the birth; I said I would prefer to wait until after the child was born). Many of them also said it was God’s punishment on me for being an atheist. No one said a word about “fault” to my then-husband. I was close to zombified for several months after the death and hearing that a lot of people though I was at fault did a number on my mental state. What is wrong with people???

            1. FelineFine

              That is horrid! I am so sorry for your loss.

              If those people truly believed what they said about you, I wonder what they can expect to come back to them as a result?

            2. Ben

              I am so sorry. My partner and i lost a wanted pregnancy, everyone was supportive and loving, and it was STILL painful and hard. I cannot inagine hearing that level of crap when we were so fragile. I feel for you: it is so wrong for people to comfort themselves like that at the expense of the person who really is hurting.

            3. Polka Dot Diana

              I am appalled at this behavior. It is not your fault for losing the baby.

              Interestingly enough, miscarriages are unfortunately common in my family and my grandmother considered “pre-birth” baby showers to be bad luck!

              I wish you the best moving forward. Lots of love.

      1. OpheliaInWaders

        +1 to this. I’d be offended *because* I’m not religious, and my religious freedom includes being free from this sort of crap.

        1. Observer

          That’s a religious belief, too. And, it should be respected at work. You shouldn’t have to take part in any religious rituals at work or as part of work, outside of a religious institution.

          1. Daphne

            No, lack of religious belief is not religious belief. Like how our Constitution guarantees freedom FROM religion as well as freedom OF religion.

            1. Oryx

              It might not be a religious belief in the traditional sense but it’s definitely still protected under the same laws that protects those who do have traditional religious beliefs.

            2. Ask a Manager Post author

              The more precise way to say it is probably just that the law protects religious beliefs and lack of religious beliefs, but I think that’s what Observer meant.

    1. K.

      I read the title and groaned “Oh God” out loud. I dumped a guy in part because he was very into the Law of Attraction and I … was not. He “studied” it and tried to get me to see that “it really is how the world works.” There’s no WAY I’d want this in my workplace.

      1. JennyFair

        I’m picturing a fistfight between your negative energy repulsing him and his positive energy trying to draw you to him. Go, go, negative K!

      2. Stranger than fiction

        Same here. Well, this guy had a lot of issues besides believing in manifest destiny.

      3. LizEnFrance

        One of my business school classmates was SUPER into this crap. Things came to a head when we went out for a group dinner when the whole cohort was in Paris for a job fair. I have celiac disease and have to be very, very careful when eating food prepared by others, and France is not great at the whole gluten-free thing. After I asked the waiter whether certain menu items had gluten in them, this classmate told me that if I did accidentally eat gluten and got sick, it would be because I was expecting to become sick due to my negative thoughts. She was not interested in hearing that that’s not how autoimmune diseases work. I hadn’t thought it was possible for me to hate “The Secret” more than I already did, but boom, there it was.

        1. Jess

          Good. Grief. I also have celiac disease and would probably freak out if someone told me this. I am so sorry you had to deal with that. Navigating restaurant menus is hard enough as it is without rude co workers interjecting their (ridiculous, unfounded) beliefs. Ugh.

        2. Jonikat

          Uggh, as a fellow celiac, I’m so so sorry you had to deal with that. Eating out in restaurants is stressful enough without having unwanted opinions pushed onto you. I’ve had enough times to learn that none of the most positive thinking in the world will help you if the food preparation team forgets to clean the counter or change water in a pot after cooking noodles in it.

    2. Artemesia

      I am a freethinker and I am offended so it pretty much covers it across the board. I would have trouble keeping a straight face around people who believe this claptrap. But imposing it on others at work — appalling.

    3. Faith

      I would easily refuse. As a devout Catholic, such things are of the devil and in no way could I (or would I even want to) participate. Of course, I might skip mentioning the devil so as not to offend, but I wouldn’t hesitate mentioning that the Church frowns on it. I would think any devout Christian would be able to skip those such things easily.

  2. Amber T

    “…visualizing the tacos you want to attract into your life…”

    Yes.

    But in all seriousness, yes this is weird. And even if you’re just amused/bemused, I think you should say something. I’d start out with the group of coworkers themselves, saying “thank you for the invite, I appreciate being included, but this goes against my beliefs” or something similar. Your beliefs could be religious or spiritual of your own, or your beliefs could be “I don’t believe in any of this.” This is definitely not work appropriate.

        1. Mel Mel

          I’m staring out my office window at the taco truck across the street. I still have a couple of hours before I can visualize them in a much more meaningful way, though. :-(

    1. Allison

      Visualizing tacos just makes me wanna go get my own tacos. I don’t have time to wait for them!

        1. Anon for obvious reasons

          Yeah, my macaroni & cheese didn’t become a taco, either. (crestfallen face)

    2. Chinook

      “And even if you’re just amused/bemused, I think you should say something. I’d start out with the group of coworkers themselves, saying “thank you for the invite, I appreciate being included, but this goes against my beliefs” or something similar.”

      If they pushed and said that they aren’t practicing anything religious, just spiritual, and that they are open to all religions, how would you recommend I respond? I have seen some people think that “spiritual” is very open and non-judgmental and don’t know how to tactfully explain that what they are discussing/practicing is against my religious beliefs without having them feel like I am attacking them.

      1. Anna No Mouse

        I think OP would be safe in responding that she doesn’t like discussing her personal beliefs, but suffice to say these events don’t jive with them. If she does this with a solemn enough attitude, perhaps her colleagues will just let it drop respectfully.

        1. AMG

          Speaking as someone who does believe in positive thought (followed by action though!), prayer and meditation, I would be very uncomfortable with sharing my personal spiritual path with others except one or two very close friends/family members. I certainly would not put my personal development goals on my desk for my coworkers to read.

          I would also never, never want to impose my beliefs on another person or make them uncomfortable by making them feel obligated to participate!

            1. Artemesia

              This. I lived through the T group era and find nothing more odious in the workplace than pressure to ‘share your spiritual journey’ or ‘honestly express your feelings about others’ etc.
              None of anyone’s damn business.

          1. Adonday Veeah

            Another vote for positive thought, etc. — but not for imposing it on others. (Also, positive thought is NOT the same as magical thinking.)

            1. A Non

              There’s actual psychological research showing that an internal locus of control and choosing to focus on positive messages is correlated with mental health. (Not sure if they’ve shown causation.) Magical thinking, not so much.

          2. Mallory Janis Ian

            “I certainly would not put my personal development goals on my desk for my coworkers to read.”

            Me, either, but these aren’t even OP’s/ team’s own personal development goals; they are just two randomly selected cards. I guess the power of positive thinking attracted the cards to them and those are therefore the correct cards for them at that given time.

            I remember a long time ago at a former workplace, there was mix of people working the front desk who were all into this type of spirituality, but they were also all full of ego and their work environment was toxic as hell. They each thought that they were too important for the menial tasks and that their other, more lowly, coworkers should do those. They fought with each other all the time and the customer service suffered for it. Then they decided that the workplace was full of negative vibes that needed to be cleansed, so they decided to all meet on Saturday when the store was closed and burn sage and do a cleansing ritual. Which I don’t have anything against burning sage and having a ritual, and I attend the seasonal rituals that my Pagan friends coordinate and host, but come on! *They* were their own worst problem, not some mysterious negative energy.

            1. Snork Maiden

              This is hilarious. I wonder how they decided who would clean up after the sage ritual?

            2. Serin

              “It’s a strange thing, but everywhere I’ve ever worked has been just full of negative energy!”

          3. eplawyer

            Exactly, personal is personal, work is work. You should not be working on your personal development (you all know what I mean here) at work.

            Now if they made this all work related, maybe. If they got rid of all the touchy-feely, spiritual stuff. But then, my development goal each week would be “be less sarcastic to co-workers” and I just don’t think I want that publicized either.

            1. OhNo

              Seriously, even if it was a work-related goal, I’d hate having to share it the way people here are. Plus I don’t think my coworkers really want to know that judging them less is my goal for the next decade – that sounds like asking for hurt feelings.

      2. Countess Boochie Flagrante

        My followup (since some of the practices the OP mentions would go against my beliefs) would be something along the lines of “I’m really happy that these things are meaningful to you, and I hope they do help you a lot, but I’m afraid that some of these practices are just really not in line with my faith, so I’ll have to bow out. But why don’t we do [insert inoffensive activity here] sometime?”

        It’s the combination of making sure to get it out that you’re not judging them for failing to follow the tenets of your faith (which, sadly, is kind of a thing for a lot of people out there) and also proposing an alternative activity so that you’re also not communicating that you just don’t want to do anything with them at all.

        1. SophieChotek

          I agree. It would go against my religious inclinations, but its important for them not to feel judged…with kindness and firmness–and I agree, an alternative plan…I’m surprised no one else has objected before now. Any sense how long this has been going on?

          1. AMG

            This is important. There is a lot of judgment from society in not only NOT following more mainstream spiritual practices, but also judgment in what they ARE doing (as you can see from these comments). Try to leave both versions out.

      3. EddieSherbert

        I’d probably just respond that I appreciate them being open to all religions, but I’m still not comfortable bringing my spiritual beliefs into the workplace.

        And then I’d politely throw out any random conversation ending statement (“I’d rather not discuss it at work,” “thanks for explaining, but I’m uncomfortable having this conversation at work,” etc)… because being forced to further “validate” my spiritual beliefs (which don’t agree with theirs) would only lead to an argument!

      4. Mike C.

        I hate this so, so much. The truth of the matter is that this stuff is bullshit and has no role in the workplace. Yet we can’t actually come out and say this because humans are petty and treat outgroup members like garbage so here we are.

        “Spiritual” and “religious” are synonymous in this context, so they’re making a distinction without a difference.

      5. Alton

        Ironically, I think the type of attitude you describe (“It’s spiritual, not religious!”) can contribute to people not taking religions that incorporate some of these beliefs seriously. Tarot cards and meditation can be totally secular, but some faith traditions employ practices like meditation and divination, and that can get lost in the shuffle when those practices are just treated like generic spiritual a la cart offerings.

        1. Jadelyn

          Right! Like, I’m thrilled that it’s “spiritual, not religious” to you*, but it is explicitly religious to me, so I view this the same way as someone holding Bible readings as a team-building event. And I feel like there’s an element of devaluing non-mainstream religions to the de-religion-ing of non-mainstream faith practices like this.

          *generic “you”

      6. Kiryn

        This goes against my personal beliefs that spirituality is creepy and a waste of my very valuable personal time. If they’re so open and non-judgmental they’ll be okay with that.

      7. MayravB

        I don’t have an answer, but I know what you mean. I think it’s based on an idea that there is such a thing as generic spiritualism that underlies all religions–that there is a non-specific truth-with-a-capital-T accessed by spirituality that all people fundamentally agree on and therefore should be willing to participate in. But yeah, it drives me crazy. I’ve never found that there’s time, in the moment, to explain why I don’t want to hold hands and say a grace to a generic supreme being (or Mother Earth, or the universe) without sounding either rude or annoyed, so I just give a polite “Oh, no thanks!” like you would if someone offered to pass you food you didn’t want.

      8. echosparks

        “I prefer to express my spirituality within the confines of the religion I practice.”

        “My religion keeps me pretty busy with all the spiritual practice I can handle!”

        “I’m still developing my spiritual practice within my religion and am not looking to add anything outside it right now!”

        I would avoid saying anything like, my religion strongly frowns on anything connected to paganism, and just decline cheerfully.

        1. Jadelyn

          “I would avoid saying anything like, my religion strongly frowns on anything connected to paganism” – yes, do avoid that, because some of your coworkers may well *be* pagan, and their religious beliefs are just as protected from workplace hostility as anyone else’s.

          1. Rana

            Heck, the OP may even be pagan themselves and find this version of spiritual co-option off-putting. Expressing discomfort without specifics should be sufficient. (Though I know it often is not.)

      9. Shishimai

        Hm. Maybe a polite phrasing of “yours is inclusive of mine, but mine does not permit yours?”

        I used to have a friend who would ask to divine for me (I did not want to be divined for) and we had a really good discussion of, while his beliefs permitted him to do it, mine did not permit me to request or participate in it. Nobody got offended and we’re still friends.

        (In fact, my beliefs changed in the intervening time, and while I’d enjoy his divination now, we haven’t found time to do it. C’est la vie.)

        1. Shishimai

          Oh, forgot to mention: a conversation between friends is of course different from trying this at work.

          That’s still gross, no matter who’s being pressured into it and what their beliefs are or aren’t.

    3. Not a Real Giraffe

      I pretty much visualize the tacos I want to attract into my life nonstop. It’s Tex-Mex day in our office cafeteria, so I guess this works!

      [checks calendar, sees that it’s Wednesday.]

      1. Shark Lady

        I also get tacos for lunch today in the office cafeteria. Look, visualizing tacos worked!

        1. Mallory Janis Ian

          I’m visualizing that I want tacos, but the negative thought that I brought a perfectly serviceable sandwich, and that I can’t blow my budget on daily eating out, intrudes. Bah!

        1. anonderella

          I thought they meant they get Tex-Mex on Weds. Which is weird, because at our house it’s Tues : )

          1. Mallory Janis Ian

            Yeah, I was reading it as checking the Wednesday cafeteria schedule, not as a comment on WTF Wednesday.

    4. Graciosa

      Every time I think I have reached the point of no longer being surprised by anything in the work place, I read something like this.

      Who comes up with these ideas?

      And don’t they have anything better to do?

      Umm – strike that last question; I think it answered itself.

    5. A Non

      I have the fixings for tacos in my fridge. I know what I’m doing for lunch now! Alison, thanks for helping me attract tacos into my life.

    6. Shannon

      As a gnostic, I hate saying something is against my religious beliefs. Because then someone wants to know what my religious beliefs are. Every time, without fail, I get back, “Oh? What religion are you?”

      1. Laura

        And you can reply with “It’s none of your business” or “I prefer not to discuss that at work.”

    7. HistoryChick

      I’ve visualized tacos and now I’m going to get in my car and get some for lunch! Look it works.

    8. Wendy Darling

      If visualizing tacos actually attracted them into my life I would have so many more tacos than I do.

      Mm. Tacos.

      1. OP

        This…is perhaps the best variation of “nope” that I’ve seen on the internet yet. And I’ve been around for a while. Definitely folding this into my repertoire :)

          1. OP

            OMG, how did I not know about this! Maybe I can suggest this instead of the meditation events…we do have a board & card games club. >:)

            1. Amber T

              OP, if your job ends up having a board and card games club, I’m 100% joining.

              (PS – Exploding Kittens is one of the best/worst/most horrible/funniest games ever.)

              (PPS – Highly recommend “We didn’t playtest this at all” if you’re looking for games along the same general path of silliness. Even more recommended with good friends and several adult beverages.)

              1. Hlyssande

                Yes to ‘we didn’t playtest this at all’! My only complaint is that the expac I got has different sized cards. Fast, silly, and fun.

          2. Lead, Follow or Get Outta the Way!

            I LOVE THIS! I chuckled out loud at my desk on this one!

            1. Happy Lurker

              Just checked Amazon. The games that come up with the search for Exploding Kittens look fun! I desperately need to update my Monty Python games cabinet.

          3. DMented Kitty

            However, you can “nope” a “nope”. Which is funny when someone tries to negate your nope and he tries to negate yours then it all falls down to who gets nope-d in the end.

      2. Prismatic Professional

        My brain immediately went, “The Rats of NOPE” which changed into ooooh sparkly (a la Jeremy the Crow)!

        Thanks for the brain rest bit!

      3. Shark Lady

        I’m going to ride the Nopetopus (courtesy of Captain Awkward) right on out of this situation.

        1. Amber T

          It still takes me several tries to read that correctly. Nope-te-mus, not No-pet-o-mus. Which, given what it’s describing, is obvious. Except to my brain.

          1. Amber T

            I realize I went all fake-Latin on myself. Nope-to-pus. Not No-pet-o-pus.

            *pours fifth cup of coffee, crawls under desk*

  3. afiendishthingy

    I want to attract so many tacos innto my life. I mean, tbh I do spend a lot of time thinking about tacos and subsequently eating tacos… IT WORKS

    1. INTP

      Hmm. I haven’t had tacos in awhile. I wonder if the reason I’m not eating tacos right now is my toxic negative thinking?

    2. Anonathon

      I was wondering how all those tacos ended up in my kitchen. It was a mystery … UNTIL NOW.

  4. Sami

    Mmm… tacos. I’m visualizing tacos for lunch right now. :)

    Seriously though, OP, you are absolutely right that this is icky and a waste of time- especially at work. And you’re also right to pushback as best you can. Good luck!

  5. LQ

    This is so absurd. But even if the victim blaming of the secret wasn’t an issue, even if tarot and visions were perfectly normal. This is expecting a whole bunch of mashing personal and work. Not lets go out for hotdogs on Friday at lunch because there are food trucks. But share things you are working on in your personal life for this week.

    NO! I’m not going to share that. I don’t even share that with my close friends. Nope!

    1. TheAssistant

      That were randomly selected for you, even! Not even your own personal things of your own choosing! I am so aghast at all of this.

  6. Jessie

    I would just be firm and direct (but non-judgmental) about turning down participation in these sorts of things. “Ah, thanks, but sorry, I don’t believe in Tarot cards/The Secret”. Then maybe try organizing an outing that doesn’t involve it, such as going out for drinks/food after work (at a noisy bar where sitting and meditating would be impossible.) If there are others who feel the same as you they’re likely to jump at a chance to socialize in a different setting.

      1. Meg Murry

        Me too! Alison, can you add it to the cafe press site? I would so buy this. Or a mug with this phrase on it.

              1. Aella

                …I probably shouldn’t buy my mother one of the chocolate teapot mugs as a joke. And yet…

                (Whenever I say ‘as useful as a chocolate teapot’ she interjects ‘they make good, if chocolatey, tea’)

              2. eplawyer

                Oh no, you need t-shirts with your nuggests of wisdom on them. Like “Don’t give gifts to someone who is giving you the finger” or even your basic “No this not okay.”

                My shop has “Child Support Happens” because I say that often in my job.

              3. Purple Dragon

                The lunch bags should have a lock on them *lol*

                I completely forgot about cafepress !

          1. Kyrielle

            I would actually love to see stickers or pins. A lot of the funniest phrases (like the black magic one!) or the most awesome in-jokes (all the teapot stuff) are great fun – but I’d never put them on display in my office space (so mouse pads are out, and given I already have far more office-inappropriate t-shirts than I can reasonably wear, so are t-shirts), and I have enough mugs for at least six people already. But stickers or pins, something small that I could have around or put somewhere that they’d remind me and provide a giggle – those could be fun. Or maybe postcards or greeting cards. That would be hilarious in the right circumstances!

          2. (Not an IRS) Auditor

            I think it’s tough, because on one hand I love the mugs and such, but on the other I don’t want to lose my pseudo-anonymity by advertising that I post here to my coworkers.

  7. Retail HR Guy

    To expand on Allison’s point that this can violate people’s religious beliefs, it can also violate peoples irreligious beliefs. Atheists/agnostics are also protected from discrimination and are also allowed reasonable accommodation. So if you don’t believe in any of that spiritual nonsense, you do have the legal right to decline to participate without fear of retaliation.

    1. Chinook

      Retail HR Guy, I never thought of it from that perspective but I think the OP’s workplace has found the one thing that Catholics, agnostics and atheists would be drawn together over. Talk about strange bed fellows!

    2. animaniactoo

      I continually make this point. The reason there is separation of church and state (theoretically of course) is because you do not just have freedom OF religion guaranteed by the constitution, you have freedom FROM religion and are free to *not* believe in a religion at all with (theoretically) no negative consequences.

    3. Temperance

      Thank you for saying this! I’m an open and proud atheist, and my beliefs are just as deeply held and important as someone who is religious.

    4. Aurion

      Cosigned. But socially (maybe not legally), it doesn’t always gel that “protection of religious beliefs” should be expanded to “protection of all beliefs, whether pro or anti, on the topic of religion.” As a staunch atheist, I wish it wasn’t that way.

      1. Temperance

        Chiming in to say that legally speaking, atheism is as valid and protected as Christianity.

    5. Anonish

      I had to have an awkward conversation with my HR person recently trying to explain why I was uncomfortable with the office-wide mandatory training program they’re implementing which has a very strong faith-based element. (It’s an extremely well known program and you have heard of it, but it is rooted in a particular religion.) She tried to make the case that “spiritual” could mean any type of spirituality and had a very hard time understanding my point that I have a right not to have spirituality in any form enforced on me at work.

      1. Retail HR Guy

        A weird irony of atheism in that it is one of the simplest beliefs about religion there could be, but yet one of the hardest for the religious-minded to wrap their heads around.

        1. Anonish

          The funny thing is that she latched onto the fact that I’m Jewish as if that was the source of my objection and told a story about a time she had conducted the same training at a synagogue and no one apparently had any problem with it. I was like, if you can’t think of any reasons why generic “spirituality” might be regarded differently in a place of worship vs. a workplace, I’m not sure there’s any point continuing this conversation.

  8. Anna

    Or, maybe the next time you’re pressured to going to someone’s house and meditating and then sharing your personal “vision,” you can say that you had a vision about your boss’s boss finding out about this and freaking out on her or about an impending religious discrimination lawsuit.

    I love this so much.

    This is so absurd and violates so many boundaries. When group-think things like this happen, I always wonder who the instigator was and how it became so pervasive. And if they’re being sneaky about it, they already know on some level that it’s not okay. This would be the perfect thing to call in to the employee hotline about.

    1. OP

      The vast majority of my colleagues on this team all come from the same previous company, so there’s a lot of history there and they are all personal friends on top of being work friends (in fact, I think I’m one of maybe 2 people on the team who didn’t come from that prior company). So that might explain why this thinking is so pervasive; it’s just a continuation of their personal relationships and what they were allowed to get away with at their prior employer.

      Also, I’m hesitant to bring this up to HR because the company culture in general here is very rah-rah, this job is your life, love what you do, etc. It’s baked into our company culture to blur boundaries.

      1. animaniactoo

        You’re going to want to push back at that as much as you can. You are happy to be there, happy to work there, happy to socialize. But YOU get to choose the manner of socialization and what events you do and don’t attend.

        It’s never comfortable being the person who does that pushing back. But it’s a great help for everybody else who thinks they’re alone in that struggle.

        fwiw, I spent 5 miserable years on the outside of the inner circle in my very small department. I was professional, professional, professional while I excluded myself because including myself would have made me into somebody I didn’t like and didn’t respect. I chose me over that. Eventually somebody new joined, took my view/side of the inner circle hijinks, and the pendulum swung. We now have a happy medium. I’m included at the level that I am comfortable participating in and they are calm about leaving me out of what I will not participate in.

        1. animaniactoo

          I apologize – rereading that, I realize that I came off pretty forceful about this, and you should do what you feel comfortable with for yourself. Just supporting that while pushing back on this kind of mentality can be all kinds of awkward no matter how warm and professional and easygoing you are about it, there is value in it.

      2. DMC

        I’m with you on this. Not work related, but I was hosting a Halloween party at my house and someone wanted to come and bring a ouiji board and tarot cards. Those weren’t activities I really wanted in my home, at my party. I tried to be polite about it and said I will have lots of people and some may have religious beliefs that could offend, so I’d rather not. The person opted not to come. She was a casual friend, but I felt I kind of burned a bridge there. So, I get your hesitancy (though I’d do it all the same way again if in that situation). Maybe a simple, “that’s not my style” or “I’m not really into that, but if you’re doing other activities some time, I’d love to join you!” kind of conversation might work?

  9. Caledonia

    Are you working in a spiritual shop or with shamen or something?

    If the answer is no to any of the above, this is very odd and you’re quite right to be weirded out by it.

    1. ggg

      I really want to know what kind of business this is. Is it some kind of curiosity shop? A law firm with vampires?

    1. OP

      Funny thing is, I don’t think I’ve ever really worked somewhere with a normal team. Maybe I’m just not attracting normal enough people! I need to work on that ;)

      1. Doy

        1) Speaking as someone who traded an office for the back of an ambulance, I don’t think there is such a thing as a normal team- the best we can do is pick our own kinda crazy.

        2) And who was attracting the negative thoughts that inflicted cancer on my 18-month old patient- that little sweetheart himself, or his loving mother who said hopefully “well, we didn’t get home for his first birthday, but maybe by Christmas…”?

        3) A post with visualizing tacos, Pope of Nope and Blair Crimmins and the Hookers- bonus!

        1. No Longer Passing By

          “The best we can do is pick our own kinda crazy.” Truer words never spoken….

      2. Snork Maiden

        Now I’m picturing “normal” people flying in through the windows and sticking onto your office surfaces, like filings on a magnet.

  10. Allison

    I’d be too timid to say I didn’t believe in that stuff, I’d worry they’d take it personally even if it wasn’t meant that way. I’d probably say I’m just not into that kind of thing, and if pushed, then I’d say I don’t personally believe in it.

    1. TootsNYC

      “I’m just not into that kind of thing,”

      I think there’s such power in saying, “It’s just not my thing” over and over and over again. Never deviate, never change the wording.

      And don’t explain. “Why isn’t it your thing? Don’t you want good things in your life?” And you reply, with a slight shrug, “It’s just not my thing.”

      1. Allison

        Maybe I’m just wicked naive because I accept that reason all the time, without question, but I also know that some people really want to know why I don’t like stuff. I’m a swing dancer and people often ask me if I do east coast swing, or west coast swing, or if I like electro-swing, or 90’s swing, or bands like Caravan Palace or Postmodern Jukebox, and I always say that it’s just not my thing. Not that they’re “bad,” I just don’t like them. I mean, I don’t hold any of the aforementioned things in high opinion, but I keep those comments in my pocket. But then they get all sad about it anyway. Sorry y’all, I like old stuff, and I’m just not generally into modern versions of old stuff. Except Blair Crimmins and the Hookers, they rock.

        1. JuniorDev

          This is key, I think. “Not that they’re bad.” Trying to argue that the spiritual stuff is nonsense will start a conflict you don’t need, and come off as insulting. Saying “it’s not for me” is a lot harder to argue with, and it makes the arguer look like kind of a jerk. Not that no one will try to convince you, but they’ll look a lot worse doing so if they’re basically trying to argue you out of a personal preference.

          I’m reminded of the Mandatory Corporate Yoga letter to Captain Awkward. The OP had traumatic memories associated with yoga and never wanted to do it ever. The Captain advised being a broken record on “I’m afraid I can’t participate in that” and not getting sucked into an argument on how great yoga is.

          I love yoga personally but it seems to have taken on a similar cultural boundary crossing attribute where instead of “it’s not religious, it’s spiritual!” people will assume it’s a safe form of exercise for everyone. (There is no such thing as a safe form of exercise for everyone.)

          1. MayravB

            Thank you, thank you, thank you for your last sentence. I’ve got health problems that preclude yoga which is somehow unbelievable to so many people!

            1. JuniorDev

              You’re welcome! I’m doing better now but earlier this year I had some health issues and soooo many people were full of “helpful” advice on things I “should” be doing that I knew would leave me totally unable to function. It really opened my eyes to how frustrating those sorts of comments can be, regardless of how good the intention may be.

          2. A Non

            (There is no such thing as a safe form of exercise for everyone.)

            True that. Many people who push yoga and meditation and the like seem to think that it’s a very powerful force for change, and simultaneously think that it’s harmless. That doesn’t make any sense to me. Where there’s power, there’s capacity for harm. Yoga can do great things for many types of bodies. It can also mess with your joints and connective tissue if you have bad training or certain types of medical issues.

        2. Elizabeth West

          Yeah, that works for me too. I like most kinds of music except rap, hip-hop, country, and anything gospel or churchy. Can’t stand them. If I say I don’t like it, people want to know why. “It’s not my thing” is really tough to argue with, plus it’s not as aggressive as “Dear God, that sucks.”

  11. Mike C.

    Why does it seem like there’s a positive correlation between how crazy the practice is and the amount of effort they put in making sure everyone else has to suffer through it?

    1. esra

      I feel like there’s another chart where you try to explain that if the practice were better, it’d be easier to sell, and the resistance you get from said explanation.

      1. Anna

        LOL! That’s probably true. The quiet crazy ones are annoyed with the loudmouths, too. They ruin it for EVERYONE!

    2. Rana

      It’s probably stemming from the same sort of dynamic where the people who get most offended by people doing their own thing (be it drinking/not drinking, eating/not eating various types of food, parenting one way and not another, using one type of OS and not the other, etc. etc.) are those who are the most insecure about their own choices. Requiring everyone to participate makes it easier for the insecure to convince themselves that they’ve made the best choice.

  12. Rat Racer

    I’m just curious: did you know this about the company when you joined? Were there any indications that this was the team culture, or was this just dropped on you on Day 1.

    (Note: ridiculous even if OP was given plenty of fair warning, I’m just wondering if the hiring manager was upfront about the team culture during the interview process)

    1. Laura

      OP noted that the company is large but has a strong culture. I highly doubt the hiring manager was even aware of this stuff– it goes so far beyond the norm! And I’m sure OP wouldn’t have wanted to come on board if he/she had been aware of the weirdness.

      1. TootsNYC

        it happens at desk side every day–how can the hiring manager not be aware of it? Maybe one level up isn’t, but…

        1. Laura

          In many workplaces, hiring managers work more closely with/in HR, and only interact with management on a regular basis. They don’t always know the ins and outs of every team, especially in large companies where it’s impossible to know everyone.

            1. Laura

              Whoops, you’re right! I was thinking in terms of an internal recruiter. Thank you!

    2. OP

      When I was brought on board, they did mention that there was a “strong” company culture that people were very protective of, but didn’t go into specifics. I figured that a little rah-rah-ness would be bearable since the position I was moving into was a great opportunity for me (and it has been – I love my job! just not the groupthink…).

      I’ve previously worked at companies that described having a strong company culture, and never had a major problem with it. I just underestimated how pervasive it would be here.

      1. Rat Racer

        Yeah, I hear “strong company culture” and think annual picnics, maybe a softball team. I don’t think anyone could have guessed that “strong company culture meant Tarot Cards and Vision Quests.

  13. Jubilance

    Full disclosure: I’m a believer in the Law of Attraction. For me, changing my focus from negatives to positives has led to meaningful positive changes in my life. HOWEVER, I’d NEVER bring this to work or force it on other people in my workplace. And even as a person who believes in the Law of Attraction, I wouldn’t want to meditate with my team, or have my manifestations on display at work. All of this is completely inappropriate and I’d be pissed to be “encouraged” to participate in this too.

    1. Allison

      And I’m pretty sure my boss at my first internship was into spiritual stuff like the Law of Attraction, but as far as I can remember she never pushed it on me.

    2. AMG

      I am with you! I said something similar above. I am disappointed to see all the comments about ‘bullshit’, ‘crazy’ and ‘stupid’ with regards to what they are doing at the office. I would never say that about someone else’s spiritual beliefs.

      That also doesn’t mean put all of my spiritual beliefs on display at work either! Those are, for me, private. Not everyone feels the same and that’s fine too, but I keep mine close to the vest.

      1. Mike C.

        Here’s a thought – if you don’t like it, directly respond to the people who are making such comments. You’re doing the online version of talking about someone while they’re standing right there. I can read this. Come on.

        1. Ask a Manager Post author

          Hey, that seems pretty aggressive. Commenting here is pretty informal; people can post their thoughts where it makes most sense to hem.

          1. Mike C.

            Complaining about other people’s posts without bothering to talk to them is incredibly rude. I don’t sit here and complain about the things you write elsewhere, I directly respond to you as I am right now. The same goes for anyone else who posts here.

            I’ll be more than happy to take down the tone but if people are going to quote or paraphrase things someone else has said then they should actually respond to someone who has actually expressed such ideas. Otherwise it’s no different than standing in front of someone and talking about them without including them in the conversation.

            1. Ask a Manager Post author

              No one here is under any obligation to talk to anyone else, and AMG’s comment doesn’t appear to be specifically about any one particular person. Regardless, I’d like us to leave this here and move on (and assume there is a standing “take down the tone” request in effect whenever anything is making anyone feel heated). Thank you.

        2. AMG

          This was not an attempt to make passive-aggressive comments to or about you. It was a general comment on the judgments on the office’s religious beliefs posted here. I can assure you if I want to say something directly to you, I will have that discussion.

          Mike C., you obviously have some strong opinions on the subject and if I saw a close family member die because they rejected Western medicine in favor of mushroom tea, I suppose I would be angry too. However, your beliefs do not invalidate mine, and while I am tolerant of others’ opinions, I don’t want to be attacked. Thanks.

        3. Quoth the Raven

          …aaaaand you’ve been around this site long enough to know better than to bash people’s religious/spiritual beliefs.

            1. Ask a Manager Post author

              I’m going to ask that we leave this here. That’s not directed at either of you in particular, but more the general direction this is going in, which will start derailing from the post. Thanks.

      2. Anna

        I think there’s a difference between changing your perspective (which I get) and the idea that just by thinking good things will happen, it will make them happen. That is magical thinking. And there is a danger in people taking it too far and ignoring sound scientific or medical advice because of the belief in positive thinking being some sort of cure. Cancer is not caused by negative thoughts; it’s a disease. As is depression. You can think positively about attracting a promotion, but if you’re not also doing the hard work associated with getting it, all the thinking in the world isn’t going to get you that promotion. The danger is that the people who write the books don’t tend to mention the part where you still have to Do Something. And when other people start saying you can cure yourself of disease based on the ideas in Magical Thinking X, the writers also don’t tend to stamp out that dangerous thinking.

    3. OP

      I totally believe that there is power in positive thinking. I think what feels gross to me is that the approach taken by my team is so pervasive and pushy.

      1. (Not an IRS) Auditor

        Yeah. I think the key for me with these concepts, is that there’s a bright line between the proven benefits of having a positive attitude (insert link to any interview advice), which could be appropriate in an office in some limited ways, and saying your bad attitude caused your cancer, or is making your cancer worse. It’s the latter that causes such a visceral reaction in so many of us.

    4. LBK

      Yeah, I’m also a big believer in positive thought, but I wouldn’t dream of pushing it on people like this.

      1. SH

        Seconded on all accounts, AMG.

        OP – Since you’re feeling very uncomfortable here, I would take Alison’s advice and maybe add in a little “I don’t really believe in this stuff but wanted to be open-minded. After checking it out, I’d rather participate in non-spiritual activities with the team.”

        1. Emmy

          I’d be careful of saying “I don’t believe in this stuff” for that leaves room for argument or persuasion. For surely if you only really understood… I think it’s safer to say, “Thanks, but I won’t be participating in this.” and just keep repeating, “No, thanks.” (preferably with a smile as long as you can) The sharing your personal-assigned-to-you-by-what-seems-like-chance goals to be held accountable one would assume by your co-workers is so far down the steps of intimacy to be so wildly out of place at work it’s kind of mind-boggling. I will share with someone I love and trust, “You know, I’m really working on ” but certainly not with a group of co-workers.
          Try to avoid the JADE (Justify, Argue, Defend, Explain).

    5. Marvel

      I’m not personally a Law of Attraction believer, but thank you for having the courage to say that you are in the face of people saying it’s stupid! I AM a long-time tarot reader (both on a hobby basis and occasionally for compensation), and I’m often frustrated by people who misunderstand and kneejerk in response to that, especially when they don’t know me (I’m one of the most skeptical and cynical people I know).

      1. Marvel

        To clarify: that said, dear god this poor LW. That would make me MAJORLY uncomfortable too.

      2. Artemesia

        I find this woo woo stuff silly BUT I also believe in the ‘power of positive thinking’ in that when people are open and positive they are more likely to behave in ways that maximize their outcomes. If I am optimistic in a job search I am more likely to aggressively follow up leads and prepare well then if I think all is grim and I am doomed and no one will ever hire me. It doesn’t have anything to do with some mystical ‘law of attraction’ but to do with how attitudes influence behavior and behavior influences outcomes. I don’t have to denigrate the woo woo, but can confidently say ‘that isn’t my think’ and leave it there. And I can embrace the idea that the ‘spiritual belief’ in question is arguably just a variation of my rather commonplace point of view about ‘positive thinking.’

    6. Bob

      My philosophy is being positive dramatically increases the chances of positive things coming back to me. I’ve always considered it old-fashioned common sense and not a new concept that require a formal belief system.

      1. Wendy Darling

        I’m a defensive pessimist. Sometimes I can seem a bit gloomy because I tend to consider the worst-case scenario, but I’m FABULOUS in a crisis because… I’ve considered the worst-case scenario. I also spend a lot of my life going, “Huh, this is better than I anticipated. SWEET!”

          1. Wendy Darling

            It’s totally a real thing! Google it! I love that it’s a real thing, it makes me feel so justified.

        1. Kelly L.

          I think of it as making Murphy work for me. ;)

          For example, it seemed for a while like every time I had a planned lunch date during the work day, it would get cancelled, and I’d be left trying to figure out lunch on short notice. So I started bringing lunch even when I had a lunch date. Because best case scenario I had an extra lunch there for the next day, and worst case scenario I had that day’s lunch.

        2. Rusty Shackelford

          Always expect the worst, and you’ll never be disappointed. That’s my motto.

        3. One of the Sarahs

          I pretty much live by “hope for the best but prepare for the worst” for exactly this reason.

        4. Tavaril

          “The nice thing about being a pessimist is you’re always either being proven right, or pleasantly surprised.” I can’t remember where I read that, but it’s a motto I use a lot. Plan for the worst, and anything better than that is gravy.

        5. Dot Warner

          +1. I tend to catastrophize things, but that’s actually kind of a blessing – since I’ve already imagined the worst, what actually happened seems so much better in comparison.

      2. Retail HR Guy

        The Secret and its ilk go far beyond touting the psychological benefits of positive thinking; it’s more like ascribing magical powers of positive thinking to things well outside of psychology. For example, positive thinking can cure cancer or help you to win the lottery.

        1. HRChick

          Exactly. And that’s why it often crosses the line of blaming people’s personal tragedies on a lack of positive thought and that can be extremely dangerous.

  14. Anna No Mouse

    I used to work in a government office for elected officials of a party that was was not my own. In fact, I’m undeclared, but I have definite leanings in the opposite direction of my former bosses. They knew this when they hired me, and asked if I could still do my job for them. Because I respected their work as elected officials (and still do). I really didn’t have a problem doing my job, which was paid for by the state government and was not a political appointment whatsoever.

    Well, when election time came around, I was expected to volunteer my time to campaign for them. I said I was uncomfortable doing that because I was not a member of that party, and I didn’t like attending political events in general, and I didn’t feel like I would do a good job at hiding my feelings when a member of the public (and potential voter) would come up to me and begin spouting the kinds of things that made my skin crawl.

    I was threatened, cajoled, bullied, etc, but eventually they conceded the fact that despite working for elected officials, I was under no obligation to do political work. Needless to say, my remaining time in the office was increasingly uncomfortable. I think they thought they might convert me.

    1. LQ

      Oh that’s bad.
      I like strong dividers between political work and government work for this reason. (I’ve worked near and with some people of parties I DID NOT agree with and had it work out pretty well because they knew we were both trying to do the thing at work and didn’t talk about the political part, even when it got super divisive all were quite good about it, so it is possible.)

    2. Allison

      That’s good on you to be able to work with a party you don’t agree with. As much as I want to work in public policy somehow, I can’t imagine working for a party I didn’t like, unless the work itself was extremely fulfilling somehow.

      1. Murphy

        It’s something I screen for pretty heavily when I interview new people to government. Often my personal beliefs don’t mesh with the direction of government, but that’s not my job. My job is to give the best advice I can, representing all viewpoints and then implement whatever the political direction/decision is. I work for the people and they votes in whatever party is in power.

        It can be really, really hard for some people and I’ve had to tell more than a couple that they need to find careers in other fields because they couldn’t get over it. It’s good to know where you land on this.

    3. A Government Drone

      Our state has prohibitions on government workers not appearing to be representatives of their position while campaigning. I assume other states have similar ethics policies. This sounds like a really rough position to have been in, especially if they were pressuring you despite a policy being in place. Good on you for holding firm!

  15. Episkey

    I am quietly cracking up over some of these comments!

    I think I’d be OK with tarot cards…they can be fun even if I don’t really believe. But I’m really an eye-roller at The Secret type stuff and don’t think I’d be able to hide my distaste for it. Also, if I want to meditate (which I fail miserably at), I can do so on my own time, thanks.

    1. Gandalf the Nude

      Even as an atheist, I find value in tarot cards, but as a self-reflection guide, not as a spiritual tool of some kind. But that’s for me and my friends in our off-hours, not during the work day and certainly not with coworkers.

      1. A Cita

        Same. Atheist. Enjoy Tarot (very good tool for self reflection). Meditate almost daily. Acupuncture has been a life saver for chronic pain when nothing else worked. Think positive thinking is just good mental hygiene (as long as it’s paired with action and separated from denial). I have a real problem with the victim blaming in Law of Attraction. I’ve seen first hand the ugliness it can produce.

        However, would never bring that into the work place. Or talk about it with people who aren’t super close friends (and only those who are interested in it). None of these things should be in the workplace.

      2. Mallory Janis Ian

        Yes. I’m not an atheist, just Unitarian/agnostic, I guess. But I have always liked to use Tarot cards as a tool for self-reflection. Using the cards can sometimes produce the same effect as having one of those vivid dreams from which I wake up knowing exactly how to solve my problem.

    2. SilverBee

      From the OP’s post, it sounds like they aren’t even using actual tarot cards, just a deck of those Law of Attraction cards. If I was the OP I’d start insisting on actual tarot, and “somehow” manage to draw Death and the Tower every single week.

      1. JuniorDev

        They could really go all out! Start making increasingly dramatic prophesies. “On Wednesday our manager will be carried off by a rampaging horde of elephants. On Thursday a plague of locusts will descend upon the break room.”

        1. Tia

          Or pull a Harry Potter – predict increasingly unlikely methods of your impending death.

      2. Jennifer

        Hahahah, I draw the Tower all the time just by virtue of being me.

        Speaking as a hippie sort, I concur this is not appropriate at work.

      3. A Cita

        I would Jedi the coworker. Wave my hand across her face and point to the deck in her hand:

        “You are holding a kitten. You are going to take the kitten and return to your office to snuggle it.”

  16. Amber Rose

    Oh boy. You know, I actually love tarot cards and meditation, and this kinda thing still creeps me out. The idea of doing this stuff in groups feels orgy-like to me. Fine for some, waaaaay out of my comfort zone.

    Husband had to do a team building exercise the other day with a mindfulness expert where they had to describe what a raisin sounded like. I suggested squeezing it slightly and asking “am I supposed to hear screaming? I think I killed the Who Village!”

    But I’m too much of a smart ass for my own good sometimes.

    1. AnonInSC

      Please tell me someone said the raisin was singing “I heard it through the grapevine.”

    2. Us, Too

      “describe what a raisin sounded like”….

      Anyone on my team who gave an answer other than “raisins in and of themselves emit no sounds audible to humans” would be asked to go home and not return without a medical evaluation indicating that they were fit to work and not hallucinating. I guess I’d tolerate other responses including: “Are you effing kidding me?” and “This is a joke, right?” and eye-rolling. I’ll also give bonus points to anyone who asks if it’s a California raisin and then uses AnonInSC’s joke below. :)

      1. Kyrielle

        How about: *drops the raisin* “Hmm. A small – would you describe that as a tap? Very small noise as it hit the desk. I suspect it would be a very small squelch if I chewed it up, but I’m not in the mood for a raisin right now.”

    3. OP

      My employer did something similar before I joined. They had a team of “ambassadors” get in a room and confirm what abstract concepts like innovation or learning tasted and sounded and smelled like.
      I think they decided that innovation tasted like a taco bowl because it was a lot of layers all mixed up but it tasted good a the end, or something…

      1. Tomato Frog

        I just discovered that I have strong opinions on why innovation does NOT taste like a taco bowl, which is not something I wanted to know about myself.

      2. Marzipan

        As a synaesthete, I can tell you that for me ‘innovation’ tastes like chilli-infused dark chocolate along with slices of a crisp, very tart apple. Probably not what they were looking for…

        1. Snazzy Hat

          I assure you I am not making light of synaesthesia. I would love to see the meeting come to a grinding halt thanks to a synaesthete on the team immediately giving a highly detailed answer such as the one you gave. “No, I don’t think you understand, this is not up for debate. It tastes like chili-infused dark chocolate along with slices of a crisp, very tart apple. Write that down. End of story. What’s the next word on the list? Give me a challenging one!”

          1. A Cita

            I love this! I can just picture hearing this in my head so clearly. Along with Marzipan listing the tastes of her finger and then pointing to the listener’s notepad, with a nod: “Write that down.”

        2. No Longer Passing By

          This is so fascinating. I may have missed this but what is that like? Kanye West says that he sees music as colorful waves and I’ve always wondered about how that would affect my world view. It seems like a more multi-dimensional way of viewing the world.

        3. Serin

          Your innovation sounds delicious.

          From now on, I revise my position on corporate buzzwords: I WILL accept them, but only the ones that are delicious.

    4. Karo

      I think this is a great analogy. It’s fine to do with people who have opted in, ideally ones who aren’t your co-workers. It’s not fine to do with people who have not opted in, and it’s probably not the best thing to do with co-workers. Definitely not something you should do at work (see: Duck Club).

    5. Marvel

      I am in the same boat as you! I’m a long-time tarot reader, have done it for money, and still do not think I could deal with something like this at work. I’d be eye-rolling too hard.

  17. WhichSister

    Why do I picture Professor Harold Hill singing about Trouble Right Here in River City and the Think Method with “The Law of Attraction.” “Think Boys Think!”

      1. The Alias Gloria Has Been Living Under, A.A., B.S.

        Ha, I Googled EST b/c of that show. Apparently went out of business.

    1. Artemesia

      How sad that you missed encounter groups, T-groups, EST and best of all you missed the nude body painting. These experiences (the nude body painting was by far the least intrusive and actually oddly kind of fun) have made me an utter cynic whenever the next new hot idea to transform the workplace came along. And live long enough and everything comes around and around again.

      1. Mallory Janis Ian

        Ha. I was at a women’s wisdom circle at the local Goddess Festival recently. A group of women sat in a circle of chairs, and there were several items on the floor at the center of the circle. One of the items was a hand mirror, and as god is my witness, I wondered if we were going to look at our vaginas. I kept thinking about the old line, “If there’s a gun on the wall in act one . . . ” and wondering when that mirror was going to come into play. I’ve seen “Fried Green Tomatoes”, after all. I told my daughter my concerns (and I only one-quarter-believed that they might be real) and she said, “Well, I haven’t done any shaving or maintenance down there, and I’m not going to whip out an unkempt vagina in public.”

        In case you’re wondering, there was no vagina-looking involved. It was a false alarm; we just looked at our faces.

      2. Pam Adams

        “Always be out going to the bathroom during an empowerment session.” (may not be exact- brain wants tacos)

        Connie Willis, Bellwether

    2. Almond Milk Latte

      I thought it was a sly reference to key parties and came to the comments for clues. Could not possibly be more wrong.

  18. JMegan

    I’d be okay with the tarot cards if they were specifically opt-in (rather than opt-out, as seems to be the case here) and private (which is clearly not the case). But to be unofficially required to participate, and then to display them on my desk so everyone can see what I’m supposed to be “working on” that week? Big nope on that one! I’m working on my WORK, tyvm, and anything personal outside of that is strictly on a need-to-know basis.

    I think tarot cards are interesting in a “there might be something in them, but I don’t take them too seriously” kind of way. So I probably wouldn’t attach a whole lot of meaning to showing any particular card at a given moment. But this is clearly the kind of group where people do believe. So even if I don’t personally care one way or another, I’d be wary of *other* people walking by and drawing conclusions about me based on whatever card is pinned to my bulletin board that day.

    1. TyphoidMary

      Exactly; I can think of a million ways to use a deck of archetypes to help brainstorm/improve focus/whatever. But it would have to be done in a context that was absolutely focused on behaviors and practices, not spirituality, and it would have to be VERY clear that nobody is expected to take it as a literal tool of divination.

      1. TootsNYC

        or a tool that says, “this is a trigger and tool for you to explore what’s happening in your life.” kind of like dreams are less about telling the future and more about indicating what you’re thinking, feeling, or observing, or what you’re mentally and emotionally working out right now.
        Like a Rorschach blot–it’s more about what you reveal about yourself.

        (and of course, sometimes it’s just silly)

      2. Elizabeth West

        The presenter at a work-related conference I recently attended had something similar, and she handed them out as swag. (Whenever we spoke up, she would give us stuff–I ended up with two decks of those cards, a phone cleaner, a tiny beach chair for my phone-woo hoo!–and candy.)

        I can see doing this as a team only if it stayed at the office, were VOLUNTARY, and were entirely work-related. With emphasis on the voluntary and in-office parts especially.

    2. Marzipan

      I tend to draw death the first time I handle a new tarot deck; which bothers me not in the slightest but I can’t help but think might be a bit offputting for unsuspecting visitors to the office who weren’t in on the meaning being ascribed to the whole ritual within the office, if I had it pinned up at my desk. Especially if I told them that’s what I was working on this week!

      1. A Cita

        That’s actually one of my favorite cards. (I don’t read reverse cards.) The Fool is my absolute favorite.

        1. SilverBee

          The High Priestess is my favourite, and almost always the first card I draw when I get a new deck.

          1. A Cita

            I always draw the Magician. Without fail.

            Which sort aligns with my love the Death and Fool cards.

              1. Serin

                It’s funny that so many of us have this experience. The Star seems to particularly like me.

  19. TyphoidMary

    Adding my voice to the people who actually do practice tarot and still think this is skeezy. Engaging in any spiritual practice requires a vulnerability that isn’t appropriate to require of your employees.

    1. Girasol

      This! My Christian church practices a sort of positive thinking that resembles the “Secret” and that was my first thought: what’s wonderful in a spiritual setting or as a private practice seems like it would be truly icky at work. I couldn’t place quite why until you mentioned the vulnerability needed in spiritual practice. That’s it! The posting of the Law of Attraction cards so that others could see might be affirming but I’d be afraid it would end up competitive as work activities so often do.

  20. MBA

    Yea….I can think of at least one religion for which Terot card use would be a pretty big affront. Mixing religion (or anything stemming from religion) and work is such a bad idea.

  21. the gold digger

    Depending on your religion (and if you want to), you may also use religion as an excuse. My family is Catholic and I am pretty sure tarot cards are a no-no in the Catholic church. We couldn’t even have a ouija board when I was a kid – Not Done For Catholics.

    1. Countess Boochie Flagrante

      Yep, a lot of faiths — not just Christians! — frown on things like divination or contacting the dead.

    2. Emily, admin extraordinaire

      Yeah, we Mormons look askance at those, too. And for many years, we avoided regular playing cards too (because so many of the games were associated with gambling, which is also frowned upon). I remember playing War with Rook cards with little J’s, Q’s, and K’s written on them more than once. The first pack of real playing cards I remember owning was bought on a trip to Disneyland when I was twelve, where I got strep and was stuck in the hotel room and needed something to do, so my mom bought a pack from the hotel gift shop and taught me solitaire.

      1. A Cita

        And you can also read regularly playing cards like Tarot–just the minor arcana with no queens. Though a lot of utility as a tool for reflection (as opposed to believing it to be divination) is ruined since you don’t have complex imagery, aspects of which you notice and connect to things on your mind.

    3. Kate M

      I feel like ouija boards are not done much in the South too (YMMV), being the Bible belt and all.

      Me, on the other hand, being a religious-but-not-particularly-spiritual agnostic, won’t have them in my house because there is no way in hell I am inviting in any spirits. I am perfectly fine with a strong delineation between us and whatever else might be out there, thank you very much.

      (This belief might have come from watching too many horror movies, but I’m on the better safe than sorry side.)

    4. Aella

      I wasn’t allowed to, on the grounds that the last member of the family to practice tarot was a really awful person, though no one seemed sure if that was related to the tarot or not. Either way, my father thought it best not to take the risk.

      (Also, I was ten.)

  22. Cube Diva

    I have a tarot card app on my phone, and will share it if it applies with a particularly tough situation at work. BUT my boss and I have a great relationship, and I’ve established over the past three years that I’m the “office hippie.” I’m the one who brings the quirk into the situation, and people dismiss it where they see fit. Our overall team also shares inspirational messages on a shared white-board wall, but they are NEVER overtly pushy and/or sponsored by the company.

    I’m about as hippie-dippy as they come (I do believe in the Law of Attraction, that the Universe conspires to help you get what you want, I have a Himalayan salt lamp at my desk to combat negative ions, and have feng shui’d my desk many a time, etc.)…

    …and even I think this is a bit nuts.

    1. Maxwell Edison

      Cube Diva: What is the tarot card app like? I occasionally read the tarot cards for fun (I have a great “Tarot of the Cat People” deck I bought back in college).

      1. Cube Diva

        OMG TAROT OF THE CAT PEOPLE?!? That sounds amazing.

        The one I have is called “OshaZen Tarot” and it picks a card for you every day, and you can read about it at the same time. You can also do other readings yourself in different arrangements. It may have cost a few bucks in the App store.

      2. TeaCozy

        I don’t know which app Cube Diva uses, but I really like Galaxy Tarot! It’s got loads of information on the cards and individual symbols, and when you do spreads in-app it’ll note patterns in the symbols and suggest possible interpretations.

      3. Mallory Janis Ian

        There is an online questionnaire to help select a tarot deck. (http://www.selectsmart.com/FREE/select.php?client=tarot). I have the Enchanted Tarot (by Amy Zerner and Monty Farber) right now, but I’m interested in branching out to see if there might be another deck out there for me, as well. The tarot apps usually only cost about $3.99 each. I like the app for convenience, but I like the real cards for the beauty of them.

      1. anonderella

        I’m embarrassed to say that they taste good, too. I’m gross, I know. Also, it wasn’t my lamp; I was a temp. I could. not. help myself.

        1. Cube Diva

          They’re made of salt!! You can even buy chunks to use in cooking. So really not THAT weird… except it’s still a little strange to lick someone else’s lamp in an office. LOL

        2. Snork Maiden

          I vote for Friday open thread, a harmless office actions confessional because the visual of someone furtively licking a salt lamp at their desk is hilarious.

  23. Brett

    “These meetings are arranged through private Facebook events / Slack messages”

    Would be so tempting to deploy a Slackbot spouting random positive thinking messages and channel announcing meetings….

    1. Us, Too

      Bonus points for this suggestion! Love it. LOL.

      Extra bonus points for passive aggressive ones. :)

      1. Underemployed Erin

        Every time someone mentions “The Secret,” slackbot could reply “Do you mean KFC’s 11 secret herbs and spices?”

  24. Tex

    I would not make excuses. I would simply say, “Yeah, thanks, but it’s not really my thing.” Non-committal, non-judgemental but direct.

    But I would then make an effort to get to know people by other means, for example by inviting a couple coworkers at a time out to lunch, etc, to make a personal connection.

    1. Down the road

      This would be my approach too. Making excuses not to be there begins a web of lies you may have to keep up. Find the most honest thing you can say that doesn’t offend others. For me it would be: “I think it’s great that you all enjoy doing this together, but I am not comfortable sharing my spiritual thoughts in a work setting. It’s a personal thing.”

  25. Kate M

    OP, it seems so weird to me that only your group of 20 people in this big organization is so overtly spiritual in the same exact way (not that I don’t believe you, I do, but it’s still weird). Like it seems to make more sense if you live in a largely Catholic area and most of your office is Catholic, or if a family business has similar beliefs (being from the same family). But for 20 people to have the same type of spirituality that’s based on a trendy book from 10+ years ago and tarot cards? (Which I know plenty of people use, but that still seems like an over-representation).

    Is there something about your team that attracts these people? Or is it one person who is “converting” (for lack of a better word) others? Do others feel the same way you do, and are just playing along? This just seems so bizarre to me that something else must be going on.

    Sidenote: this would be my personal version of hell.

    1. OP

      I posted this in a comment above, but I’m guessing the pervasiveness of this groupthink has a lot to do with the fact that the majority of my team all come from the same prior employer (they referred each other during a hiring blitz last year), so they have an established personal and work history with each other. I will note that none of these people were instrumental in my particular hiring process, so I really had no idea that there was this much shared history until my first week on the team.

      1. Meg Murry

        Can you go find the people that aren’t from that other employer and hang out with them? I’ve worked other places where there was a big surge of people from another workplace or another location, and after a little while it all smoothed out except for a few holdouts, who then seemed clique-ish and the odd ones out instead of the other way around.

        Personally, if you can I’d try to lay low on this stuff (decline the invite to meditation sessions, either don’t participate in the tarot cards or just take a card and then hightail it to the restroom after a minute) and see if it doesn’t die down as the group fills out – or if it doesn’t, look for a transfer to a different group after a year or so.

    2. LBK

      I thought the same thing – what a bizarre coincidence, unless this is a kind of work that attracts that type of person? But I can’t imagine it would remain secluded to one department in the company in that case. I wonder if it started with just a small group and every time someone new got hired they got brought into it kind of against their will, and no one ever said anything so now there’s 20 of them with 17 wishing it would end.

  26. Us, Too

    I am surprised at how difficult it was for me to respond to OP in a reasonably professional manner. Here’s my best attempt…. :)

    I find some aspects of The Secret EXTREMELY offensive. I would go so far as to use the word “monstrous” to explain how horrifying I find its implications. It is absolutely incompatible with my own moral values.

    Cases in point:
    1. Babies with terrible diseases did not get those diseases because they thought negative thoughts.
    2. Positive thinking doesn’t change bullet trajectories. Members of the armed forces are dying not because of a lack of positive/right thinking but because a**holes are shooting them and bombing them to death.
    3. Preventing automobile accidents is best improved by practicing defensive driving skills, not thinking positive thoughts about a generally safe journey.
    4. By 11 am I can’t stop thinking about lunch, so I’m guessing that anyone in a famine region probably thinks a lot more than me about food, yet I’m going to enjoy my more-than-adequate lunch here in a few minutes while kids around the world are going to die of starvation tonight.
    5. There is a reason that pepper spray appears on a list of self defense items compiled by experts but “positive thoughts” doesn’t.

    Yes, there is value to positive thinking and somewhere there is someone who has changed their behavioral positively because of it. Good for them! But “The Secret” isn’t saying just that – it says that, basically, “right” thinking is a panacea, shifting the blame for all manner of monstrosities from perpetrators and the failings of society to victims.

    So to get constructive: If this happened in my workplace, I’d absolutely never attend. Not only that, I’d be looking for a new job or an assignment to a team that is focused on BEHAVIORS that can lead to demonstrable OUTCOMES in the WORKPLACE. I’m not actually sure I could leave this kind of thing behind me, mentally, though. I may just have to move on because any company that tolerated this would be out of my circle of trust for a LONG time. :(

    1. Kyrielle

      +1

      Yeah, the only way I could feel better about the company would be if the larger company somehow didn’t know.

      I do think positive thinking has some good uses, as you note – changing our behavior and approach to the world. But the blaming parts, the opposite piece that all bad must come from negative thinking? Ugh, so much ugh.

    2. AMG

      I may have to read the book again–it’s been a long time and I don’t remember these cases in the book. That’s not what I took away from it.

      1. Ask a Manager Post author

        The author has made statements in interviews that people who are sick have brought it on themselves, and that “illness cannot exist in a body that has harmonious thoughts.”

        1. Rbit

          In some ways, I think this is true – stress is known to cause illness and a person has complete control over how they react to situations. I’m not saying that I believe positive thoughts alone can cure cancer, but laughter has shown to improve people’s health that medicine alone couldn’t do.

          1. LQ

            It is true that if I have a horrible illness I cause it because reactions have nothing to do with your genetics, brain structure, history, or anything else and therefore I’m completely responsible? Because that feels really… AWESOME! Oh look now I’m cured.

            1. Rbit

              I said in some ways it’s true – like stress – not that horrible diseases or genetic illnesses can be cured with positive thoughts alone. And I think you’re also missing that I said I DON’T believe in the above statement….

              1. Oryx

                Well, that’s not really what you said. You said that positive thoughts “alone can’t cure cancer,” but that does seem to indicate that perhaps you do believe that positive thoughts can contribute to curing cancer and then used laughter in conjunction with actual medicine.

                1. Elizabeth West

                  These things can improve your overall health, because stress can and does contribute to illness. But positive thoughts and laughter in no way will affect an actual disease process.

                2. Rbit

                  Who is to say that it can’t? Just because it’s not FDA approved doesn’t mean it’s not helpful. I don’t see any scientific studies that say it’s worthless or has absolutely no effect at all on the patient’s health. There have been a few older studies that indicate it can help in conjunction to modern medicine in the healing process, but no follow ups have been attempted as far as I can tell (maybe because laughter is free and can’t be sold it isn’t studied…which is sad if true). And beliefs sometimes have the same effect as “actual” medicine – the placebo effect – which is a positive belief you’ve been cured. The effect isn’t universal for everyone and I’m not saying laughter/positivity is a magic bullet or a super-food, but where’s the proof that it doesn’t help at all?

                3. One of the Sarahs

                  Rbit – the things that will *actually help* people’s stress levels aren’t “positive thinking”, but dealing with practical issues like the fact cancer treatment is incredibly expensive in the USA, and any issues people are already dealing with, such as debt, working for a terrible company that won’t give them paid leave etc etc

                4. Observer

                  Actually, although I TOTALLY agree with dealing with the practical issues, it’s pretty clear that other types of stress and stress relief matter.

                  Having said that, that’s soooo far from what Alison quoted that saying that it is “somewhat” or “in some ways” true based on these facts is egregiously inaccurate.

          2. AMG

            I can see that, Rbit. I am so stressed right now about my sick husband that I am actually having to make my own medical appointments. Oh, the irony of the two of us telling the other to take better care of himself/herself.

            1. animaniactoo

              Just commiserating – my husband’s in the hospital (advanced double pneumonia, for some reason it wasn’t audible in listening to his lungs so it didn’t get caught until he was really really sick), we expect him to be fine eventually but he’s pretty sick right now, and meanwhile I’ve got a cough I can’t shake and he’s jumping up and down on my head to go to the doctor (I made an appt for tomorrow).

              Hope you guys both feel better soon.

              1. AMG

                Thank you. He has CTE–concussion syndrome so we are digging for solutions. They are out there but it takes time.

                1. Elizabeth West

                  I hope both your husbands are better soon. Good vibes ~~~~~~~~~~~~~~

                  Yeah that was ironic, but it means I’m thinking of you and hoping, not that I think the vibes will cure anything!

                2. animaniactoo

                  @ AMG, ouch, that’s tough.

                  @ EW – It’s quite alright, I’ll take all the good vibes/thoughts/wishes I can get. 8•)

          3. the gold digger

            positive thoughts alone can cure cancer

            Not. Even. Close.

            It makes me furious every time I see something about how someone survived cancer because she was “a fighter! She really wanted to live!”

            No. You survive cancer if you are lucky.

            That’s it.

            Luck.

            My dad wanted to live. My dad was a happy, positive, upbeat person. But no amount of positive thinking can overcome Agent-Orange-caused cancer.

            1. AMG

              That’s terrible. I’m sorry all of you had to go through that. Completely agree–sometimes it just happens no matter what you do and how much you have to live for.

            2. Rbit

              You took what I said out of context. I said “I’m not saying that I believe positive thoughts alone can cure cancer”.

              I am truly sorry for your loss.

              1. neverjaunty

                You said more than that, and it’s really not fair to attack somebody for reading your comment as a whole (especially as there was a very clear ‘but’ after the part of your sentence you re-quoted).

                Please consider how your comment sounds to someone who has lost a loved one, or who is suffering from disease themselves. There is such a difference between recognizing the long term effects of stress on the human body, and saying that positive/negative thinking is 100% in a person’s control and helps determine their outcomes.

                1. Rbit

                  This was never meant as an attack, it was just a clarification of what I had said. I apologize if there was confusion or if it sounded mean. There was no statement that I believed positive/negative thoughts are sole indicators of what happens to people or that people deserve bad things. I don’t believe that and I didn’t say I did. I just didn’t want people to dismiss being positive just because the author had a radical belief.

            3. Elizabeth West

              *hug*
              You are so, so right. Barbara Ehrenreich wrote about it being so pervasive and infantilizing in breast cancer circles that it just appalled her. (She did have the disease.)

              1. Katie the Fed

                If you’re up for another book, When Breath Becomes Air by Paul Kalanithi is stunning.

          4. neverjaunty

            The only reason to believe this is true is because, like all victim-blaming, it gives us the illusion of control over our own lives.

            If I pretend I have ‘complete control’ over how I react to situations – and therefore to my level of stress – then I can convince myself that I’m safe from disease, because all I have to do is keep a positive attitude. And if somehow I do get sick, maybe my positive attitude can give me control over my prognosis.

          5. Ask a Manager Post author

            But laughter being shown to improve people’s health is miles away from “people who are sick have brought it on themselves” and “illness cannot exist in a body that has harmonious thoughts.” The second two are incredibly victim-blaming and horrible.

          6. A Cita

            Well that’s different. Yes evidence has shown that stress and excessive negativity affect health. However these are contributing factors, not determinant factors, as claimed by The Secret.

          7. TootsNYC

            I think the “stress is known to cause illness” is one of the most dangerous things to hit the health world.

            I have personally known people who overlooked serious medical issues because, “Oh, it’s stress.”
            I’ve had people urge me to NOT go to the doctor, because they thought my symptoms were stress (they were not).

            It scares me sometimes, how quickly people go that direction.

            And I ALSO don’t think people have complete control over how they react to situations. I think it’s a lot more complicated than that.

            It is true that stress and unhappiness can have negative effects on the body, and happiness, etc., can have positive ones. But that’s not as powerful as people seem to think, and there has been way too big a reliance on it, instead of seeking out qualified medical diagnoses.

            1. Katie the Fed

              This happens to women a lot. Our medical concerns are brushed aside because we’re “just stressed!.” That’s how it took years for my thyroid to get properly treated.

              1. One of the Sarahs

                When I was first diagnosed with my thyroid autoimmune disease, I went to a support group that was jam-packed with women who were fobbed off for years with “you’re a student”/”you’ve just had a baby”/”you’re depressed”/”you’re near the menopause” etc etc. My dad only got his diagnosed when I was telling him my symptoms, and we put two and two together… he was told “oh, men don’t get thyroid disorders” as the excuse…

              2. esra

                A family friend passed away last year from leukemia. Most of her symptoms had been written off as stress or menopause.

                For me, that’s the damage in the fluffy “Why can’t we just believe smiles fix us??” philosophies. If it was just a complement to actual treatment, sure whatever, but too often it’s used to blame sick people, avoid treatment, or push aside people’s concerns about their health.

              3. Felicia

                That’s exactly the same reason my thyroid issues have JUST been diagnosed and it’s been a solid 5 years of trying to get someone to take me seriously.

              4. many bells down

                I went to an endocrinologist because suddenly there was a giant lump in my neck. He tested my thyroid levels and they were fine, but I was like … “this is a very big lump.” I had a biopsy, it didn’t find anything. But it was REALLY big and it was bothering me. I finally convinced the doctors that I wanted it out, so eventually they grudgingly agreed to surgery.

                It was hella cancerous.

                So I had to go back and have a second surgery to remove the rest of my thyroid. Apparently there’s a common variant of thyroid cancer that fine-needle biopsies don’t catch – and that’s what I had.

                1. Observer

                  You are lucky that you had that lump. My first endocrinologist would never have treated me if not for that lump. There was no way he could attribute that to “stress”, being “over emotional” or “typical female complaining about stuff that really isn’t a problem.”

              5. an anon

                Women’s health issues are dismissed as psychosomatic much, much more often than men’s are. For sooooooooome reason.

          8. Katniss

            As someone with a mental illness, no, one cannot always control how one reacts to situations. And positive thoughts do not cure anything except perhaps negativity.

            1. Oryx

              And positive thoughts can’t always be magically produced from beneath the deep dark cloud of depression.

          9. Murphy

            and a person has complete control over how they react to situations.

            I’m sorry, I don’t want to get sidetracked, but this statement is patently untrue. People cannot perfectly control their reactions to situations anymore than they can control what other drivers do on the road. This is doubly true if someone suffers from an anxiety disorder.

            Please do not think that people can just “not be stressed.” It’s offensive and dangerous and can keep people from seeking the real help they may need.

            1. Jadelyn

              +1000 – you can (mostly) control your actions in response, but the reaction itself is not a thing you can control, ESPECIALLY if you have any kind of mental illness. That’s like telling someone with depression to think positive…my brain literally does not work the way it’s supposed to in that regard, I actually am incapable of ~thinking~ my way out of certain emotional states and reactions.

            2. A Non

              Was coming here to say this. Thank you.

              It’s actually basic neuroscience that emotions precede conscious thought. Literally no-one can control their emotional reactions. We can control our actions, and can usually (if healthy!) redirect thoughts and feelings to something more productive, but in no way is it effortless.

          10. One of the Sarahs

            I used to work with children’s hospice charities, and can assure you that this kind of thinking is incredibly damaging – there’s research that proves it.

            Here’s the other thing. While stress has an impact on illnesses, stress isn’t something most people can choose. It’s hard enough for a wealthy person with all the resources in the world and a supportive network not to feel negative about their cancer – but to suggest eg a single mum isn’t helping her recovery because she’s not “positive thinking”, when she’s terrified about what might happen to her kids, or whatever, is the logical conclusion of what you’re suggesting.

            I’ve seen this play out 100 times in work and home life (and I’ve got to say, no amount of positive thinking, or lack of stress would have stopped my genetic autoimmune condition kicking in as a teenager) and it is really nasty.

          11. Temperance

            No. I almost died from an infection in February. Only medicine, and not laughter, killed the bacteria.

          12. Observer

            I’m trying to respond in a non-offensive manner to something I find utterly offensive.

            People do NOT have complete control over how they react to all situations. This is a factually incorrect statement. Furthermore, although stress may cause or exacerbate SOME illnesses, the idea that (stress = illness and illness = stress) + all stress is under the control of individuals is, at best ridiculous.

            Aside from the moral implications of such a stance (and others in the comments have dealt with those pretty well), there is a HUGE practical problem, to the point of quite literally endangering people’s lives. If health is all about your positive thoughts and controlling stress it absolutely DOES keep you from getting the practical medical help you need when you need it. Of course, what tends to happen is that the positive thinker gets stops being so positive when they are the one who is sick but (until that happens at least), batters OTHERS with “How could you THINK that way! You need to be positive! Going to the doctor will MAKE YOU SICK!” blah, blah, blah.

            I’ve seen this dynamic play out, not just with The Secret.

        2. AMG

          Thanks for the clarification. That is a shame, and I don’t support that. I once had a friend die of liver disease and while it was happening, his family rejected him for bringing this on himself for being spiritually unfit. It broke my heart. For the record, I find that kind of thing hateful and absolutely do not condone it.

        3. HRChick

          I have a severe anxiety disorder that is controlled by medications.

          I would love just to be able to think positive thoughts and feel better. :-\ I guess according to the beliefs of this teaching, I’m pretty hopeless already! lol

        4. Serin

          That is so obnoxious.

          It’s a huge [il]logical leap to go from “Stress and negativity can sometimes make illness worse” (which is obviously, demonstrably true) to “Inner harmony always makes illness impossible” (which is victim-blaming nonsense).

      2. Us, Too

        If you are reading it critically, you won’t have to read far to find something that is morally objectionable and can be used for victim-blaming. A few examples I just found on the internet:

        “Remember that your thoughts are the primary cause of everything.” – absolutely not true. The vast majority of things that happen in the world have absolutely nothing to do with my thoughts.

        “If you are feeling good , it is because you are thinking good thoughts .” – not always. I can take heroin and feel FANTASTIC for a few hours. I can feel good when I am thinking bad thoughts, too. And I can feel bad when I am thinking good thoughts (e.g. childbirth).

        “Ask once, believe you have received, and all you have to do to receive is feel good.” – think about this in the context of someone wanting/begging/hoping to be cancer free.

        “Everything else you see and experience in this world is effect, and that includes your feelings. The cause is always your thoughts.” – The cause of everything you see and experience is caused by your thoughts. Cancer? Your thoughts. Bullet through your child’s head? your thoughts. etc. I guess you could argue that you could just “think” yourself out of recognizing these realities, but we call that a mental disorder.

        “Food cannot cause you to put on weight, unless you think it can.” – You’re fat because you recognize medical science and thermodynamics? NO.

      3. RandomThoughts

        Just putting in my 2 cents, but believing in the Secret or LOA doesn’t mean you believe people deserve what they get. LOA is about loving yourself and others. Believing that people deserve diseases is incredibly negative and the opposite of what the Secret or LOA is about and what I took from it too. That’s like saying people that believe in Mother Earth as a deity all think people that die in natural disasters deserved it because of what we’re doing to the environment. There are many Christian denominations because they don’t all believe in the same thing, just because the Secret author wrote certain things they believe doesn’t mean the whole practice is stupid or doesn’t work for some people.

        No one deserves to be sick. I get sick and I don’t think that I deserve it just because I practice LOA. I seriously doubt the author intended to be victim shaming and saying they deserved it, because again that’s negative and the opposite of the LOA – but maybe I’m just trying to see the best in people. And positive beliefs can heal people, as seen with the placebo effect. Just because it doesn’t align with your beliefs or you think modern, Western, or “actual” medicine is what heals the sick doesn’t mean the underlying principle of love and being positive is wrong or unhelpful. For many people, it has worked, and for some it doesn’t. Just like some modern medication. That doesn’t mean either are useless because it doesn’t work for everyone.

        That’s just my 2 cents and all I’ll say about this.

    3. The Alias Gloria Has Been Living Under, A.A., B.S.

      This reminds me of an episode of The Drew Carey Show, Drew misses his carpool with the Optimist Club and they all die in a horrible accident, because they were so confident they could beat that train.

    4. Rbit

      While I agree that this isn’t appropriate at work, I feel like there is a wrong stigma around Law of Attraction (LOA) and the Secret. To me, it is not religious – it talks about the “Universal Being” made of energy (which we are all made out of) not “God” or a specific “God” but I can see how some people make think it’s in conflict with some religions.

      Second, what The Secret fails to mention (at least in the movie) that’s critical of LOA is taking action. It’s NOT just wishful thinking and expecting something to just happen. It’s a combination of positive thinking and taking action. This means the cases aren’t really valid because it’s thinking positively about driving and taking that defensive driving class, thinking positively about other people’s intentions and being prepared so you feel safe.

      Again, I think this absolutely doesn’t belong at work as team building events – cause that would make me feel eww too. However, the OP’s situation is not normal and tarot cards are not part of LOA. This is mixing a bunch of different things and twisting it into something else.

      1. neverjaunty

        The fact that a particular package of beliefs doesn’t talk about a specific named individual deity doesn’t magically bleach all the religion out of it. And some people “think” it’s in conflict with religious beliefs because it is.

        Pretending that spiritual or religious beliefs aren’t is a prime way that people run roughshod over the spiritual or religious beliefs of others. (See, e.g., Holy Hanukkah Balls.) Whether OP’s co-worker believes in a Universal Being made of energy is her own business, but let’s not pretend that it’s “not religious” and therefore any different than trying to force your co-workers to show up for a prayer circle.

        1. Marvel

          Thank you for this. I can’t fathom how you would argue for the “Universal Being” NOT being a religious belief.

        2. Adonday Veeah

          Thank you! Wasn’t quite sure what was bothering me about Rbit’s comment, but you nailed it.

        3. Chinook

          Another person agreeing with you. Just because someone says an idea is only “spiritual” doesn’t automatically mean it is inclusive and it isn’t religious. There are still moral and ethical judgments attached to that spiritual belief (see AAM’s comments about “illness cannot exist in a body that has harmonious thoughts.”) and these will contradict other religious beliefs. It is acknowledging a “higher power” without recognizing what/who that higher power is (which, in my religion, is dangerous. I am taught that, by recognizing “one true god” that you are implying that there are beliefs in other “false gods” and sometimes those other powers like to trick us into thinking they are really the good guy in the same way a talent con artist tells you they really do care about you and not the money or power they are really looking for).

          Add to that the fact that some people don’t want to talk about/acknowledge spirituality in life in general or at work specifically, and you are making a whole lot of people uncomfortable by bringing it into the workplace and pressuring people to join in.

          1. Case of the Mondays

            I’ve gone to some non-denominational services before and I thought the “higher power” reference was you insert your particular higher power which in your instance would be your one true God. I agree that OP’s workplace is bananas but as a recovering Catholic I didn’t totally understand all of the angst against other religion’s references to God since I thought it could be the same God.

            1. MayravB

              I can’t speak to your experience, but when I’ve been asked to participate in “non-denominational” religious events, they have been derived from Christian norms around religion. I’ve found that it’s often a church-y service or prayer with more generic spiritual words. As a Jew, that’s really uncomfortable; my religion isn’t Christianity-minus-Jesus; I can’t “sub-in” my deity and have it be a Jewish event, because it’s just not.

              1. Observer

                This has been exactly my experience.

                LOA sounds a LOT like paganism to me, which might help explain the mixing of Tarot into the mix at this particular workplace.

                Maybe I’m wrong. But in this type of context it makes no difference. As long as people are entitled to their religious beliefs, they are entitled to define how those beliefs are defined and what crosses their religious lines.

        4. MayravB

          THANK YOU! A universal being made of energy that we all share is absolutely a religious belief. It might not be held by a specific religious institution, but to believe that it’s somehow “neutral” shows an ignorance of what other people believe. It is absolutely in conflict with the Jewish conception of God and nature of divinity. And, as far as I know, the Muslim, Hindu, and Christian one.

        5. Rbit

          I’m not sure I understand, what about energy is religious? Energy isn’t a belief that you get to decide exist or doesn’t. I will agree that putting a name to it like Universal Being makes it seem like a religious entity, but that wasn’t how it was meant (at least in my interpretation of LOA) – rather it was just a way to say we’re all part of an energy existence a.k.a “being” (another synonym of existence).

          1. Aurion

            Well, how exactly are you defining energy here? Because for me, I believe I’m a happy accident of evolution, and through a mishmash of mechanisms I and others around me have developed self-awareness, thought processes, and the like. But I don’t believe there’s a secret well of spirituality, energy, or whatever that unites every living thing on this planet from animal to vegetable to mineral. Obviously each of our actions affects those around us, but I don’t think that’s what you’re talking about since you say we’re “a part of an energy existence”.

            We are alive, yes, but that doesn’t exactly “unite” us. Trying to pin some sort of extra meaning onto the fact that we coexist and are alive at the same time can be a thing, but it certainly isn’t my thing, and certainly smacks of religious undertones.

          2. Murphy

            Thank you! I’m not made out of the energy of some “Universal Being”. I’m bone and flesh and muscle and organs. I’m science, not energy.

            That’s like saying “Intelligent Design” isn’t a religious because it doesn’t name big G God. Of course it’s religious.

            1. Rbit

              Thanks for everyone that commented. I feel a little more educated on how this can be interpreted as religious and even though I wasn’t implying that we’re all connected on anything other than being made up of energy, I realize it can be a sensitive topic that hits too close for some people.

              1. neverjaunty

                Rbit, part of the reason it is a sensitive topic for people is the frankly unsustainable argument that it “can be interpreted” as religious, as if the real issue here is oversensitivity and misunderstanding. When you’re referring to “a Universal Being” and talking generally about “energy” as a force that can be controlled by positive thinking, you are not talking about science or natural forces like electricity; you are talking about spiritual concepts. And when you then turn around and say that’s not at all religious because ‘being’ just means a state of existence…. well, frankly, it comes across like Intelligent Design, i.e. trying to disguise a religious belief as something other than it is, so as to deflect any uncomfortable questions.

                Particularly for people who have been on the receiving end of religious coercion and overbearing, being told that they are ‘interpreting’ something as religious when it supposedly isn’t, can come across very strongly as being clueless or even disingenuous.

                1. Rbit

                  For me, it was more scientific (quantum physics realm) than religious – maybe it’s just because I don’t see myself as religious – but I accepted that it can be in the spiritual realm. For example, yoga to me is just a healthy exercise routine, but for some it’s a deeply spiritual activity. Just because I associated it with something different doesn’t mean I’m clueless or insensitive, or that I can’t see the other person’s perspective – but that doesn’t mean I have to agree with their views. Like I said, I feel more educated for having this discussion and getting other perspectives. It was more attacking than I thought it would be, but message received.

            2. Einstein

              Matter and energy are really the same thing, so you really are made up of energy!

              …just not the type of energy Rbit is talking about.

          3. Wendy Darling

            I mean… how is it not religious? I don’t particularly believe we’re all part of an “energy existence” unless you’re talking about, like, physics, in which case yes, I agree that energy does exist but not that it means anything.

            When you start ascribing meaning to it, it’s religious/spiritual.

      2. Rat in the Sugar

        I can’t speak for anyone else’s religion, but this kind of thing is absolutely forbidden by the Catholic Church, and it’s not because it’s viewed as a conflicting religious practice. You’re believing that your thoughts and actions affect the larger universe around you–that’s magical thinking, which the Church views as mortals using power that’s not meant for us. Same reason that talismans, luck objects, fortune-telling etc. etc. are all forbidden.

        1. Chinook

          I think part of the reason the Catholic Church takes issue with talismans, luck objects, Ouija boards, etc., is also because, if they do harness power, there is no way to verify whose power you are harnessing. Could be the power of God (who is answering prayers) or it could be someone less kind/more evil who is lulling you into false security so that you fall away from God and follow him instead. Our belief is that, if evil looked bad and felt corrupt, humans wouldn’t fall for it, so evil often sweeps in with kind words and short term good deeds.

      3. Mustache Cat

        mmmm, not really. If you believe that your God or “Universal Being” is in charge of the universe according to Their own plan, then also believing that you can actually change Their will with just the power of your thoughts actually goes against the text of your religion. It’s really as simple as that.

        And of course, if you do not have a religion at all, it obviously conflicts with your (non)religious beliefs.

        1. Lili

          Exactly. And some religions (I’m thinking of my own Reformed branch of Christianity) believes in predestination–so no amount of positive thinking is going to change anything! And on the flip side, even if it WERE to change something, it would merely be seen as the means through which the already-planned event played out.

      4. bearing

        Most Christians don’t believe that God is made of energy. Ergo, a “‘Universal Being’ made of energy” is in conflict with their beliefs.

        “My beliefs really don’t conflict with yours!” is something you can’t say until you’ve learned something about what the other person believes. It’s useful sometimes to say, “Let’s learn about each others’ beliefs and find out what we have in common.” It’s not useful to announce upfront that there’s no conflict before you know.

      5. Us, Too

        See my quotes above – several of which state that thinking alone is enough. I’ll note that even if these quotes are out of context, there are many scenarios when thinking AND acting are insufficient. So this recognition is what makes people like myself particular susceptible to finding The Secret especially offensive. We know that people can meditate, think, pray, whatever AND DO ABSOLUTELY EVERYTHING right and still be screwed.

        Look, I get that positive thinking can be a positive thing. Even in terrible situations thinking positively might make you FEEL better at the very least. But there is a lot of stuff in this world that we are largely powerless to change and to be told that if you just thought harder about it you’d be better…. MONSTROUS.

      6. Alix

        I can tell you right now that any talk of a singular Universal Being absolutely is in conflict with my religion. I’m a polytheist.

        And no, someone who doesn’t understand my religion coming in and telling me that [insert god name they remember here] can be seen as a Universal Being, or telling me just to pick one, doesn’t help. In fact, it just takes it from cluelessness to actual offense.

    5. I'm a Little Teapot

      Yeah, my reaction to the “law of attraction” stuff was similar horror. I doubt I’d be able to avoid launching into a furious tirade about blaming people for their own illness and poverty and how it actively perpetuates societal injustices and to a lesser extent how “positive thinking” encourages people to make stupid decisions (like huge purchases they can’t afford or foolish risks). I’d probably make a lot of enemies. (Though I suggest going to management before this route.)

    6. Catherine from Canada

      “Babies with terrible diseases did not get those diseases because they thought negative thoughts.”

      Nor do lovely young women have a bipolar meltdown because “she wasn’t trying hard enough.” No, she had a manic episode and eventually had to quit her job because the pharmacy messed up her meds (gave her fast acting instead of slow release lithium, if you can believe it), and then her boss refused to believe that she was really sick because the doctor’s note was from the hospital instead of a G.P.

      Exercise, good diet, following a schedule, practicing methods to deflect negative thoughts, good sleep hygiene and as much laughter as she can manage will help modulate my daughter’s symptoms, but they will never CURE her.

      1. AMG

        That sounds tough. I’m sorry she has to go through that and I hope things go well for her.

        1. Catherine from Canada

          Thank you. It’s hard not to worry.
          She may be an adult, but she’s still my kid and I get enraged when someone/the world suggests that all this is her (or my!) “fault”.
          Someone beside me on the upright bikes at the gym a few weeks ago tried to turn a chat into a plug for his motivational/positive thinking/life skills consultancy. I pointed out to him that his spiel came dangerously close to blaming mental illness on people like my daughter. Ever seen someone back-pedal on an upright bike? It was quite amusing…

          1. Wendy Darling

            My only sibling died in a way that could have been avoided if he’d made different decisions.

            A few people have edged perilously close to blaming him for choosing to walk home alone at night. They didn’t get all the way there because before they did I exploded into a massive ball of incandescent rage and informed them at a possibly inappropriate volume that DEATH is not an appropriate punishment for deciding to do something a bit unwise. (On the occasions that this has happened I have each time been slightly surprised afterwards that nothing actually burst into flames.)

            My personal view is that people like that kind of… thing… because it makes them feel like they have agency. THEY are going to do everything right, so those bad things won’t happen to THEM. If everything bad that happens to someone is in some way their own fault, then they can prevent it.

            Personally I think sometimes bad shit just happens despite your best intentions.

            (And anyway, exactly whose fault is it my brother died? Did he die because I was thinking too many negative thoughts, so tragedy was visited upon me? Or was it my parents? Or him? Or was it… perhaps the unidentified person who actually assaulted him? Because personally I’m going with blaming that person.)

            1. fposte

              Totally agreed. We have, historically speaking, such an astonishing amount of control over much of our lives today that it can be really hard for people to absorb the fact that you can’t control everything, and that a bad thing happening doesn’t even mean it was somebody’s fault (obviously not in the case of your brother, but in the falling-tree kind of situation).

              1. Catherine from Canada

                A lot of parents fall into this trap too, thinking that if they do everything right; eat organic, homeschool, avoid vaccines, screen the friends, ban the TV, pray everyday, never raise their voice – whatever – then their children will grow up perfect and nothing bad will ever happen to them.
                *head explodes*
                what about free will? what about learning from your mistakes? what about they’re not going to be two forever?
                and what about you can’t control everything, you can’t even control as much as you think you can.

                1. Murphy

                  That’s the thing, bad stuff has to happen in life, it’s how you learn resiliency and coping skills.

            2. A Non

              “My personal view is that people like that kind of… thing… because it makes them feel like they have agency. THEY are going to do everything right, so those bad things won’t happen to THEM. If everything bad that happens to someone is in some way their own fault, then they can prevent it.”

              Exactly. The Just World fallacy is incredibly comforting… for everyone except those currently experiencing the bad thing.

            3. neverjaunty

              I’m going to go with the person who actually assaulted him, too. I’m sorry for your loss.

            4. Kay

              Yeah, I had a small rage explosion on a co-worker who said he would train his children in self-defense so they wouldn’t be victims. He said this in response to learning two of my 12-year-old students were kidnapped and murdered late at night. One of the children had been studying karate from a young age. It didn’t help him. People like to tell themselves they’ll be safe if they do XYZ, but life offer no guarantees.

              1. Observer

                Yech.

                I remember taking a self defense class many, many years ago. One of the things the teacher told us was to understand the limits of what your skills can do. She was talking in the context of making good choices, but it’s also a good general philosophy in life. Sometimes even a useful skill is not enough. Period.

                Are you and this co-worker on talking terms?

                1. Kay

                  Right. There’s only so much you can to against anyone who is out to do you harm, especially kids. It’s just victim blaming to act like self-defense classes will guarantee your safety.

                  As for me and co-worker, I am good at compartmentalizing, and we had to work together frequently at after school events, so we managed “civil” until I left the job. I wouldn’t answer a call or message from him anytime soon, that’s for sure.

            5. Cath in Canada

              “My personal view is that people like that kind of… thing… because it makes them feel like they have agency.”

              Absolutely. I work in cancer research and see this all the time. There are endless variations on the theme of “So-and-so got cancer, but she eats meat and I’m a vegetarian, so I’ll be fine”. It’s a way of feeling in control that has the extremely toxic side-effect of blaming people for getting cancer.

              1. Kera

                It’s a similar thing in pretty much all illnesses – I occasionally need to walk with a cane, and (particularly in America – is it related to the uncertainty of the insurance system?), I’ll get the third degree over why I need it – what did I do, so they can reassure themselves that they’ll never make the bad decision to be born with a connective tissue disorder and be in a car crash. And if they don’t immunise their kids, they won’t be autistic, and a raw-palaeo diet means they won’t get cancer and see, they can control the scary universe!

    7. Artemesia

      Nothing much more offensive than the suggestion that people with cancer or with kids with birth defects are responsible for that because of their negative thoughts. This aspect of these beliefs is offensive to people of all sorts of religious beliefs.

      1. I'm a Little Teapot

        “Everyone poor is poor because they didn’t think positively enough” is also really offensive, and the kind of crap that’s used to advocate policies that harm a lot of people.

    8. Feo Takahari

      It gets worse. If someone around you gets cancer, you’re supposed to stop interacting with them so they don’t spread their sickness to you. That’s some 14th century bullshit.

  27. animaniactoo

    I would flip my lid over being pressured – even subtly – into doing this.

    I think my response as a new employee would be something along the lines of “I gave it a try, but I really feel this isn’t for me. Thank you for introducing this to me, but I’m going to opt out of future participation.” and any hammering I got would be met with “This makes me uncomfortable, I don’t want to continue.” and “I am feeling extremely pressured, I understood this was not a mandatory thing?” and then resigning myself to being the office pariah for awhile. While smiling and saying “enjoy!” when they go off to pick that week’s tarot cards.

  28. Colorado

    Wow, just wow! The tarot cards I could almost deal with as a quirky thing but with major eye roll (but it would get old, quick). The displaying them on my desk to show what I’m personally working on, No. Mediation with co-workers, Hell No.
    No is a complete sentence, no thank you works too. I don’t think there is a need to provide an explanation about your religious beliefs or make up an excuse not to participate. I would also try to find a discreet way to alert upper management to these activities. Good luck! Give us an update.

  29. AnotherHRPro

    None of this is OK at work. The OP definitely needs to establish a long term scheduling conflict for the monthly “team-building activities”.

    The weekly card exercise is more difficult to avoid as I assume that is at work. Since you are so new, I would recommend causally going a long with it. Longer term as you develop relationships with others in the company (yes, do this! you need to find out if this really is normal at your organization) I would make sure to mention what is going on in your department. Not in a nasty, reporting kind of way, but in an innocent “my team has group exercises on the Law Attraction, does yours?” and “it is normal for my team to have regular visioning and meditation activities, is that normal here?”

  30. Oryx

    A haiku:
    No No No No No
    No No No No No No No
    No No No No No

    But seriously. Nope. If AAM allowed gifs, this is the time I’d pull out the Homer Simpson slowly backing up into the shrub one.

  31. JennyFair

    While attending a Catholic college, I was required to attend a presentation by a religious group that was in opposition to my own beliefs, but also to the Catholic Church’s doctrine (I am not Catholic), confusingly enough, and it was a requirement during my work hours there (work study). I cannot imagine it was in any way legal, or even reasonable, and yet my supervisors thought it was. I’m not sure what goes on in people’s heads!

    1. Florida

      Actually, if it was a Catholic College, it probably was legal. I think that if you work for a religious organization, they can require you to participate in their services. I’m not suggesting that it’s reasonable. I think most religious organizations just expect their employees to respect their religion. (i.e. you can’t make anti-catholic comments at work).
      I’m not 100% positive on the legality thing, so someone correct me if I’m wrong.

      1. JennyFair

        Except this religious service was not at all Catholic. I can’t actually recall any Catholic services or ceremonies of any sort happening there. It was a very strange place.

        1. Florida

          Hmmm … it sounds like either the college didn’t know what the presentation was about beforehand, or the presenters misrepresented what the presentation would be about. Or maybe someone how likes controversy it would liven up the place to have an anti-Catholic presentation at a Catholic school!
          Sometimes it hard to figure out on earth other people are thinking.

    2. Chinook

      “to attend a presentation by a religious group that was in opposition to my own beliefs, but also to the Catholic Church’s doctrine (I am not Catholic), confusingly enough, and it was a requirement during my work hours there (work study).”

      Probably because the supervisors a) were human and made a mistake and did not realize what the details of the presentation was about, b) didn’t have a good grasp of Catholic doctrine (which is surprisingly common among Catholics, or c) they didn’t agree with that part of the doctrine.

  32. Temperance

    I’m a Secret-hating atheist. All that woo-woo mystical crap would make me so, so uncomfortable. I don’t even like the sanitized version of meditation/”mindfullness”. I can’t respect people who actually believe in “The Secret”, because it’s so amazingly ridiculous and hateful.

    My FIL is SUPER into “The Secret”. He begged my husband and his brother to watch the video, and I think we made it 10 minutes before some quack onscreen yelled “it’s just like electricity – WE DON’T KNOW HOW IT WORKS, BUT IT DOES!” At that point, I made the executive decision that my husband’s dad can never, ever, ever have any influence on us. (Also, I’d like to point out that it doesn’t work; FIL didn’t get a single thing on his stupid vision board.)

    1. nonegiven

      My BIL sent us a check to pay for tickets to The Passion of the Christ and we sent it back.

      1. Temperance

        LOL. I’m kind of a jerk – I would have bought tickets to something I actually wanted to see, and then mailed him a thank you with the stubs.

    2. Alix

      I feel compelled to point out that meditation and mindfulness practices predate The Secret by a long time, and that meditation in particular covers a wide range of introspective practices. Not saying you need to like it any more, but it’s not some sanitized version of The Secret rebranded for the masses.

      Sorry. It’s just, like someone mentioned above, a lot of this “claptrap” comes from religious contexts, is then stripped of said context, and pushed as something vaguely spiritual to the point that people don’t recognize them as legitimate religious practices anymore. It gets to me.

      1. Temperance

        I’m an atheist, so all religious or spiritual practices are equally hokum to me.

  33. ElectricTeapots

    Yeah, I think this is kind of a tricky one to approach, especially because this approach to spirituality falls into kind of a middle ground. If you want to opt out because it clashes with your religious beliefs, you could be seen as oppressive or overly-conservative. If you want to opt out because you’re a skeptic, you could be seen as insensitive or intolerant of others’ beliefs. (Neither is true, of course, but I’m thinking of past non-workplace encounters with tarot and such and how people react when you decline.)

    But unfortunately, the ultimate problem is not with the tarot cards, but with this workplace culture– there needs to be a baseline boundary for what is and is not work appropriate, and it sounds like even if the tarot thing goes away, people might not see a problem with, say, inviting you to their MLM parties or trying to rope everyone into a group diet or something. I think the best you can do is draw boundaries for yourself, but to avoid having to constantly redefine those boundaries, the company culture as a whole might need to change.

    1. MeridaAnn

      “If you want to opt out because it clashes with your religious beliefs, you could be seen as oppressive or overly-conservative. If you want to opt out because you’re a skeptic, you could be seen as insensitive or intolerant of others’ beliefs.”

      Hang on, what? Unless I’m misunderstanding what you here, it sounds like you’re saying that if I don’t agree with someone, that alone looks like I’m either oppressing them or intolerant of them? If so, that line of thought is at least as worrisome to me as what’s going on in the letter itself.

      I can choose not to do something that I believe is wrong or false without that having any impact on how I feel about and treat people who *are* doing it. I can even believe that someone else is doing something wrong and still not be “oppressing” them just for feeling that way. If I try to stop them from doing that same thing (in their own time), or if I demean or insult them for having a belief that’s different from mine, then, yes, then I have crossed a line. But voicing that “No, I’m not comfortable with that,” or “No, I don’t believe in doing that.” is not remotely the same thing as “I think you are evil and awful and I’m never helping you with anything ever.”

      Example: I do not use curse words, as part of my faith. A while ago, I had a passing conversation wherein someone ask me to repeat what he was saying, and his words included a curse word. I told him I wasn’t going to say it. He was surprised, and asked if it was for religious reasons. I said yes. He accepted my answer, and didn’t push any further. We continued our conversation cordially.

      I didn’t oppress him by not cursing, or by saying that I don’t believe it’s right according to what I believe. Now, if I had asked him not to curse around me, that becomes a different issue, but I did not. I didn’t think any less of him for choosing to use curse words – I fully understand that his beliefs are different than mine. I did not ask him to stop cursing around me – I’d prefer it if he didn’t, but I do not expect my beliefs to control his actions. Just like his beliefs (that cursing is okay) shouldn’t control mine.

      But the idea that someone might think of me as oppressive or intolerant just because I stated that I personally don’t believe in using curse words (which is what your statement sounded like – but I could be reading it wrong) is a very problematic concept to me.

      1. Aurion

        Well, ElectricTeapots states neither of those views are true in their perspective, so it’s not really their statement. :) But I’ve ran into the general sentiment before, and disagree with it strongly.

      2. anonderella

        I read it as a commentary on how conflict works. I don’t think Electric Teapots was condoning that response to conflict as much as commenting that it’s a Thing That Happens. Certainly not to everyone everywhere, but I guess I’ve seen it enough in my experience to think I know what Electric Teapots is talking about.
        I feel like what you’re (MeridaAnn) talking about is only the ideal; even when people make it known that they are “just sayin'”, or otherwise making an argument that has no win for anyone, once they have voiced that they disagree, they can be seen as disagreeable, and that reputation can outlive itself.
        I disagree that it Should Be So, but I accept that It Happens Sometimes because people are flawed, moody, impressionable, stubborn, and curious (etc).

        1. MeridaAnn

          Yeah, the more I think about it, I realize that I do see this attitude reflected a lot in our society, just usually not spelled out in such plain terms. And I also realize that ElectricTeapots wasn’t endorsing this approach, just stating that it exists – sorry for any confusion there.

          Still, I’m not going to be afraid to express my personal beliefs and act accordingly (and tell the truth about my reasons) just because it might be misinterpreted. If I could go back to the example I mentioned, I wouldn’t change my wording to “it’s just not my thing” and deny that there was a faith-based motivation behind it when asked, just to avoid someone deciding that my personal belief for how I should act somehow looks intolerant towards others.

      3. Observer

        But the idea that someone might think of me as oppressive or intolerant just because I stated that I personally don’t believe in using curse words (which is what your statement sounded like – but I could be reading it wrong) is a very problematic concept to me.

        It IS a very problematic concept. Unfortunately, it doesn’t mean that many people don’t think that way. It sounds to me that @ElectricTeapots is saying that in her experience it’s a common concept in certain circles.

    2. Alix

      If you want to opt out because it clashes with your religious beliefs, you could be seen as oppressive or overly-conservative. If you want to opt out because you’re a skeptic, you could be seen as insensitive or intolerant of others’ beliefs.

      The hilarious thing about this, to me, is that if this were my workplace I’d be opting out because they’re making a mockery of my religious beliefs. (At least in the flippant way they’re treating this stuff.)

      I think the best option is usually to just plain opt out. No opt out because [x]. Just opt out. Also, and I realize this isn’t necessarily ideal, but don’t necessarily try to shut them down, as long as they’re not harassing people or interfering with work – the common thread you highlight with your dilemma is that the group’s worried you’re going to harm them. So … don’t.

  34. Marzipan

    This all sounds vaguely like the time my workplace hired in an external motivational speaker who talked to us all about how some people are ‘vampires’ sucking all the positivity and energy out of everyone, and the way to combat this was to picture your celebrity crush and think about them while at work. And who then proceeded to demand that various of the staff members present share who that celebrity crush was, over the microphone – apparently blissfully unaware that it’s the sort of question not everyone might be comfortable answering in the workplace…

    Which is my way of saying, yes, I think this is highly inappropriate. I wonder whether there might be any mileage in redirecting their interest in another direction, towards resources without the spiritual implications? Like, I know not everyone appreciates Myers-Briggs and team types and all that stuff, but they can be interesting and useful resources to prompt discussion about strengths and weaknesses and team dynamics and so forth, so maybe it’s worth trying?*

    (Says I, who once scored zero for ‘team worker’ in one such test. I was very proud.)

    1. OP

      Ha! We did something similar at my last employer and I consistently got the “best dang worker you’ll have on your team, but super reserved” archetype. So people knew that I would put out good work, but not to be overly social or touchy-feely with me because that wasn’t how I worked best. Honestly, it was very helpful to get that out in the open! ;)

    2. Cucumberzucchini

      Sounds like the Energy Bus book. A pretty vapid book in my opinion. It mentions Energy Vampires. I had a coworker who was obsessed with it and made her underlings read it. I read the Amazon Synopsis and went “nope”.

    3. Gandalf the Nude

      I’m not sure how thinking about Natalie Dormer will ward off energy vampires, but who am I to ignore tacit permission to live in that fantasy during work hours? ;)

  35. DeeCal

    I want to think good taco thoughts and summon them to me. :D

    Yeah. This is all KINDS of ridiculous horse crap.

    1. OP

      Now I’m imagining tacos flying through the air and up to my desk on the top floor. Like a taco-specific Accio charm, or Jedi powers.

  36. Meg Murry

    Is the manager of the group one of the ringleaders of this effort, a participant but not a cheerleader for it, or is s/he not involved at all? If the manager is one of the main cheerleaders for this, that is going to be a lot harder to push back on than if s/he is just going along with it in a passive way. Is there anyone else in the group that doesn’t participate? Or that half-a$$es it, like takes the tarot card but then puts in somewhere that isn’t obvious (under their phone or tacked to the bulletin board but then other papers get tacked on top of it, etc)?

    I’d find the people that aren’t participating and say something like “hey, this meditation and Tarot stuff really isn’t my thing, and I notice you don’t participate either. Do you get any flack for that?” Once a few people don’t participate, you may find others joining you on the “thanks but no thanks” side.

    Also, are the meditation sessions always at the same couple of people’s houses, or would you be expected to host too? Because, nope, nope, nope – my house is barely clean enough for me to be not completely embarrassed when my very best friends in the world or my sister see it, because it really is not in any way neat or tidy – I wouldn’t feel comfortable having my coworkers there.

    1. OP

      No, the manager of this group has opted out of the tarot card thing, and I’m pretty sure they were never invited to the meditation events. The meditation events were for mid-level (non-managers) only.
      I’m guessing the sessions would be held at the same couple of people’s houses. The whole thing is being led by one “ringleader” and so far, she’s seemed more than willing to host them herself.

      1. AMG

        So then it’s socially acceptable to opt out if the manager has already set the precedent, I assume.

      2. animaniactoo

        Ah, if you haven’t been to one of the meditation events, it’s a lot easier to opt out right at the start. “Thanks for the invite, but I don’t think that’s something I’m up for. Have fun!”

        Treat it exactly like any other out of work gettogether – somebody’s bbq, drinks after work, etc. No explanation needed, just a “No, thanks!” and go on about your business.

      3. animaniactoo

        Q: If the manager has opted out of even the tarot cards, is it worth talking with them to ask why they allow it to be so prevalent in the office? And noting your own discomfort with feeling that you have to participate or you will be the odd person out and that it will work against you professionally?

      4. neverjaunty

        Yeah, there’s your problem. You should definitely talk to the manager about this. At best, the ‘ringleader’ has no idea how inappropriate this is, and at worst, she’s bullying people into participating in her spiritual circle.

      5. Ask a Manager Post author

        Oh! If the manager has opted out, that makes a real difference. I’d talked to her — she may not know the extent of what’s going on.

        1. OP

          Would you have any suggested wording for bringing this up? My manager (who is also the manager of the entire group) is aware of it, but is usually away from their desk when the drawings happen, and the drawings themselves don’t take up a lot of work time so I don’t know if I can approach it from the angle of disrupting work.

          1. Ask a Manager Post author

            I might try to do it the context of a larger conversation about how things are going, in which hopefully you can talk about some things that are going well. Then I’d say this: “Hey, can I ask you something? I’ve noticed there are a lot of spiritual rituals on this team — tarot cards, gathering at people’s houses to meditate, sharing personal visions, and all the Law of Attraction stuff people do. While no one has told me these things are mandatory, I’ve definitely gotten the sense that people would frown on it f I didn’t participate. But some of this stuff violates some religious beliefs, and overall just feels a bit iffy to me. I didn’t know if you were aware of the extent of it, or if you have thoughts on how I can opt out without it being an issue with others.”

  37. Not a Bible-Thumping Christian

    As a born-again Christian, I find this EXTREMELY offensive, and there is no way I would take part at work in what amounts to witchcraft. No, I’m not an-overzealous bible-thumper, either. It’s offensive in the same way that many commenters in the AAM blog are offended by a Christian using a bible verse in their invoices or signature file, or saying “have a blessed day” or whatever…
    WOW.

    1. Alix

      +1. I am a witch, and I find this so skeevy (and offensive from a different angle!), especially because it’s forcing people to be involved with your own rituals. Completely freely chosen and off company time is one thing, fostering an atmosphere of “participate or you’re not a team member” is unethical.

      To me, it’s akin to people at work pressuring you to broadcast your sex life and participate in sex games. It’s violating a major personal boundary, and any amount of cultural pressure is a problem.

  38. Gene

    As an ordained minister in the United Church of Bacon, I feel I should probably begin pushing the Wonders of Our Lard on all my coworkers and stage regular bacon feeds. Ever had a taco with woven bacon shell replacing the tortilla? Visualize that!

    1. Adonday Veeah

      I am a vegan. In the dark of night, in the privacy of my own home, with doors locked and shades drawn, I have been known to light a candle to your deity. Shhhh, lest upon my demise I be denied entrance to the One True Holy Famer’s Market In The Sky.

      1. None

        There’s also the Church of the Flying Spaghetti Monster, with followers called the Pastafarians.

    2. Carpe Librarium

      Don’t forget the Church of Bloggessianism.

      Now if you’ll excuse me, I have to go hug a sloth because it’s against my religion not to.

  39. SecretIdentity

    I thought we were doing away with a certain Wednesday theme which shall not be named…

    1. Marvel

      Oh, come on. I thought mentioning it obliquely like this is one of the things we were burying for good.

        1. Marvel

          Then they’ll start calling it the theme that must not be named on the day that must not be named.

          (I’ll stop now, I promise. This just really bugs me.)

  40. Nethwen

    When I read the title, I immediately started imagining my “vision.” Gonna force me into something like this? Then be prepared for a ridiculous story.

    Beyond my puerile reaction, I have religious objections to tarot and that conversation would make the workplace uncomfortable for everyone who thinks tarot is fine.

    I think this is the first post title after years of reading that had me exclaim aloud at work, “Wha-a-a-t?!”

    1. Amelia

      Haha! My husband would totally do this and he’s very good at coming up with nonsense on the fly.

  41. Nico M

    Try to find the same pack of cards and then change your pair to whatever you feel like whenever you want. Say it is positive thinking.

  42. I'm a Little Teapot

    At least nobody’s claiming to be a Mayan shaman! (Who believes in chakras. And is a US-born white dude.)

    (Definitely on my list of Best Weird AAM Posts Ever, along with black magic curses and the Duck Club.)

      1. Wendy Darling

        I swear the belief in WTF Wednesday persists because actually there’s so much WTF in the world that we have WTF Most Of The Days and we can therefore confirmation bias ourselves silly.

        Have you considered an annual ‘Letter That Made Jaws Drop Furthest’ award? Because… yeah.

      2. JMegan

        Oh my gosh, I always forget that the Mayan Shaman Boss and the Magic Curses Coworker are two different people! There certainly is plenty of weirdness to go around in this world, isn’t there.

  43. Jayn

    The Secret/Law of Attraction stuff gets my shoulders up. Aside from the inherent issues of something “spiritual” being part of the workplace culture, it can unfortunately get turned around to blame people when good stuff doesn’t happen (or worse, when bad stuff happens) as being their fault for not being positive enough. It can also be used as a silencing tactic by preventing people from talking about negative things. Nothing wrong with trying to have a positive attitude, but taken too far that frame of mind can have some very negative affects.

    1. Canadian Dot

      I’ve had the same thing happen to me with some Christians. (I’m definitely not saying all. I’ve known some fantastic Christians who were practical and kind, etc etc.) Growing up having had some really bad things happen to me, and suffering from serious depression and anxiety since I was a child, it was really difficult to hear that I just needed to pray harder, I just needed to have more faith. God would heal me if I’d just believe enough. I’d go under the power of the holy spirit. God would take away my depression if only I would *really* give it all to him.

      Many, many years later, I finally got into therapy and on meds. I still battle depression and anxiety, but I’m never again going to let someone tell me it’s because I’m not praying hard enough.

    2. Alix

      The most dysfunctional place I’ve worked so far (knock on wood) was a pagan shop. And, for the record, I am myself pagan, so I know damn well not all pagans are like this. But – let me put it this way, these people (the two owners and their longtime friend/worker) always looked to spiritual/magical explanations before practical ones, despite hypocritically sneering at others who did the same thing.

      Found broken glass out back? Obviously it’s a curse, done by those ~evil Christians~, and that’s why the shop isn’t doing so hot. Never mind that the dudes from the pho shop next door drink out back some nights after work and occasionally smash a bottle.

      Someone walks in and you get a bad vibe? Obviously you’re free to mock them out of the store, because it’s not like your intuition could be wrong or something.

      I left when I was basically told that the reason they couldn’t pay me was that I hadn’t manifested enough prosperity.

      Honestly, the only sane people there were the Tarot readers.

  44. Cecily

    Okay, I read tarot, and ewwwwwwwwwwwwwwwwwwwww. (but also the tarot circles i’m in think the secret/such things is ULTRA bullshit)

  45. I'm not a lawyer, but ...

    As a new supervisor I was the lucky “killjoy” who told my staff that it was unprofessional (and perhaps subject to discipline) to hide in cubicles as couples to holler and moan like they were having sex together. And my boss (who was not quite as new) refused to back me up because it was just harmless fun. AND threw me under the bus. Tread lightly, my friend, but someone has to be sane. If it’s the next hire, you’ll be thrown out with the other crazies. I’m enjoying my promotion away from the fruit cakes. (BTW the youngest idiot was 50. 50!!)

    1. stevenz

      Tell me you made that up. You did, right? Or do I have to end my day with an even lower opinion of humanity than usual? I won’t hold it against you, it’s a good story. But not if it’s true.

  46. Nina

    Ugh, I used to work in a place like this.

    It was a department within a university and the faculty & staff in this particular program were super into this new age bullcrap (which was ironic, because the university as a whole was actually pretty conservative). Crystals, healing stones, visualization, Tarot, astrology, etc. People would walk into my office and say, with a knowing smile, things like, “It’s been a rough week for our team, but, you know, Mercury IS in retrograde.” What.

    Some of the faculty, grad students, and staff would get together off-site for meditation, Tarot, and who knows what else. Fortunately it was never anything mandatory or team-building-based but the whole culture still made me feel uncomfortable. I bit my tongue for a few years, then got out of there.

  47. Feo Takahari

    So they’re saying that your diseases are the result of your bad thoughts. I have Crohn’s Disease, which is considered a disability for some purposes (it varies depending on which rules you’re going by.) Is it possible to argue that they’re creating an environment that illegally discriminates against disabled workers? I’m not sure of the exact laws here.

  48. stevenz

    I tried The Secret once. I worked at it really hard, day after day for over a year. So far… no yacht with helicopter and submarine, no house in the Seychelles, no Cessna Citation X, no Paris apartment in the 7th, no McLaren P1, no lunch with the President, no Leica M9, no Isabella Rossellini. But I’m sure it will work eventually!

    (Full disclosure: I’ve never heard of anything so stupid in my life and if there was stuff like that going on at work I’d make myself very unpopular very fast with a few very choice words. I think Alison’s answer is great.)

  49. Patrick

    I have a friend who interviewed for a fairly high up position at a very well-known company in the yoga business, part of the reason (probably the biggest reason, honestly) that he didn’t end up taking the job was that their company culture was very focused around The Secret and similar philosophies. Interestingly enough they also seem to have adopted some EST philosophies, although no one would openly call it that – the culture valued “openness” as a keystone, and from talking to people at this company it sounds like that translated to constant criticism and disagreement.

    This kind of stuff seems pretty common in the yoga/fitness industry just because most of these companies were started by entrepreneurs and their personal philosophies get wrapped up pretty tightly with the business. For anyone who’s wondering about the company I was talking about, they’re actually pretty open about all of this to the public/press just wasn’t sure if I should come out and say it (it’s pretty obvious IMO.)

  50. Batshua

    As a tarot-reading pagan Jew who thinks The Secret is BS and that beliefs should stay the heck out of work, I desperately want an update to this.

  51. Mr. T

    My big beefs with the Secret is that a), it defines success as getting a lot of money and b) it isn’t focused on the hard work that it takes to be successful, however you define it. I absolutely believe that having a positive mindset will make it more likely you will achieve your goals, but only because it gives you the perseverance to not give up and a more open approach to life which helps make connections.

    And none of this is appropriate for work.

  52. CanadianKat

    Even if someone believed in the Secret, why would they want to share their deepest desires with a group of coworkers? Maybe that’s me being a very private person, but some (many) things should be left to close friends only. Examples: wanting to resolve a personal health issue, wishing a sexual fantasy fufilled, wanting a better job, or hoping for something involving a controversial social/political issue.

  53. marc sobel

    I always say, when people start talking about astrology that I’m a Taurus and Taurans don’t believe in astrology. That usually shuts them up.

    Alternatively I tell them that Deuteronomy 13 tells me not to follow a prophet or one who foretells by dreams, appears among you and announces to you a sign or wonder.

    If asked if I am saved, I say no, I am chosen.

  54. Daniel

    This could be a good thing! I wasn’t sleeping at my desk I was meditating. Really? The report isn’t done? I’ve been willing it to be done all week. How strange?

  55. S.G.

    I was forming my own strong opinion as I was reading this, but you, Alison hit the nail on the head when you wrote, “but I also wouldn’t be pleased if I found out they were injecting Christianity or Hinduism or atheism or 70s-style encounter groups into how they functioned. This kind of thing just doesn’t belong at work.” You’re right. I am extremely uncomfortable working for an employer that has signs at every turn in the building urging me to be saved Jesus and follow the 10 Commandments. I shake my head and think about Mathew 6:6. (Jesus said go pray in your closet)

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