political talk at work is making my life unbearable

A very timely reader writes:

TLDR: Small group of intense coworkers from the opposite end of the political spectrum take over the break room from about 10:30-1:30 every day, play political cable news, and are impossible/ obnoxious to divert the politics from the room. I think they fundamentally don’t understand that it makes the shared room feel hostile to those who are trapped in the space with them (along with soooo many other things). I need to eat often, can’t eat in my office (I work with historic materials), and moving elsewhere on campus for my pregnant food is a serious time-suck. Director is crap, and HR here is worse. Advice on creating a neutral space without having to continually bend backwards around these assholes?

Long form: I work at a small, private college as an archivist. I can’t eat in my office (historic materials preservation issue), so I need to go to either the staff room or elsewhere on campus for my frequent pregnant-lady snacks and meals. There is a TV in the break room, and a small group of people whose breaks overlap throughout the day are in the break room consistently from about 10:30-1:30. They are all politically inclined on the opposite spectrum to myself. One of them very aggressively supports this candidate (she has been wearing their pin for nearly a year, and has put a sticker for the candidate on the mailbox of a colleague who is within a profile whom her candidate denigrates). Every day during the time they are in the break room, they put on the cable news channel of their side of the political spectrum.

In my personal life, I am a pretty political person. However, in general I don’t bring any of that to work. I come here, I do my job, and my politics (along with most of my personality and personal life) don’t enter campus with me.

The people who overtake the break room are the type to rabbit-hole you into an un-winnable, stressful conversation if any dissent or differing opinion is voiced. (e.g., you can’t argue with crazy, and you can’t logic with crazy).

So, here is the thing: I’m feeling a little trapped, and trying to decide what to do. My director is seriously conflict-averse, and in my experience fundamentally incapable of handling anonymous or delicate situations. So, talking to her is out of the question. HR here is also … pretty deplorable. There was a staff member taking naked photos of one of my student workers, and their reaction was to do nothing because “if the student felt uncomfortable, we’d hope she would have spoken to you directly about it.”

Going elsewhere on campus to eat throughout the day is a serious time-suck (and much harder now that the students are back). Going to my office (the go-to for pretty much everyone else) is off the table as well. And diverting the channel, turning off the TV, etc. have all been fruitless (save for brief moments of respite). The weather is still nice, and I’ve been going outside often for my lunch. But the extra 5-10 minutes of walking from my department to the break room to get my food, traveling down the elevator, walking to an outdoor space, etc. is starting to add a lot of time to my eating schedule which I really don’t want to sacrifice in preparing my project to survive without me during my maternity leave.

Headphones have not been successful in the past, and I have tried politely stating that I don’t discuss politics at work. This has lead to being asked point blank where I stand on issues or if I agree by one of the people, and any assertion of “I don’t discuss politics at work” or “I personally disagree with you, but I don’t believe in discussing politics at work, however you are entitled to your own opinion” has in the past lead to being “talked at” until I left the room.

Ooooh, this letter has made me angry.

They want to talk politics in the break room? Fine. (I’d argue they should be thoughtful about the environment they’re creating for others if they’re doing it every single day, but so be it.) They want to put on a politically inclined cable-news channel? Eh, annoying, but again, so be it. But they refuse to let you opt out of political conversations and harass you until you leave the room? Not okay, not by any stretch. Putting a candidate sticker on the mailbox of a colleague who is in a demographic whom that candidate denigrates? Not okay, and overtly hateful, and potentially a legal issue for your company since it veers into harassment.

In a normal office, you’d have some recourse. You could point out that the break room has been taken over by people who are aggressively pushing their politics on others and not accepting “I don’t want to discuss politics” as an answer. But you’ve got a director who’s no help and an HR department that seems negligent to the point of committing malpractice in the incident you described. You could still try approaching HR — who knows? Maybe they’d be responsive to this in a way that would surprise you, and there’s probably no downside to trying, particularly if you use the words “I’m concerned we’re running afoul of hostile workplace laws.” (Note that “hostile workplace” doesn’t just mean “people are being hostile”; as a legal concept, it means that the hostility is based on sex, race, religion, disability, or another protected characteristic. Depending on the remarks you’re hearing, this might or might not qualify.)

In any case, assuming that you’re right that neither your boss nor HR will be any practical help, I think you have a few options:

• Address the issue with this group directly. I hear you that they can’t be reasoned with, but I wonder what would happen if you said, “I cannot eat in my office because of historic-materials-preservation issues. I don’t have time to walk somewhere else to eat. This is my only option. It’s incredibly unpleasant to be forced to discuss a topic I don’t want to discuss while I’m trying to destress. I need you to respect my right not to discuss it. Please stop trying to push me into political talk at work. It’s unwelcome and bordering on hostile.” They may be irked at being deprived of a debate partner, but I think it’s reasonably likely that they’ll stop trying to talk politics with you.

• Wear headphones and be more assertive about it: Say that you’re listening to something for work and cannot talk. If that doesn’t get through, follow it up with “I really need to finish this for work so I’m turning up the volume and won’t be able to respond further.” Or if you want to be more upfront: “I need to decompress while I eat, so I’m listening to headphones because I need the break from talking. Sorry — not negotiable. I’m turning up the volume and won’t be able to hear if you talk to me.”

• Outnumber them. Any chance you can show up with a bunch of colleagues, take over the break room yourselves, and drown out their political talk with sports talk or TV talk or Kardashian talk? They’re winning right now because they outnumber you, so changing the math could help. This may be more work than you want to do though; it’s certainly more work than you should have to do.

• Borrow an office. Do you have a coworker who regularly leaves her office for a period of time midday and who would let you eat in there for the remaining four weeks until the election, if you explained the situation to her? Or a coworker with an office who’d be up for having you join her there for snacks and lunch?

But, yeah, your coworkers are jerks. I’m sorry.

I originally answered this letter at New York Magazine.

{ 343 comments… read them below }

    1. Pari*

      I don’t understand how it’s the Director’s or HR’s job to shut down political conversations in the lunchroom. They’re not there to shut down every conversation you don’t like, especially in the lunchroom

      Is it an option to take your lunch earlier, before these armchair pundits control the tv channel?

      1. Charlie*

        It’s absolutely their job to ensure that the workplace isn’t hostile or toxic, which nonstop, intrusive, passionate political grilling absolutely is.

        1. fposte*

          It’s usually their job to ensure a workplace abides by the law, but this isn’t a hostile workplace in the legal sense, because political affiliation is not a protected category (at least federally–maybe it is in DC :-)).

          Whether it’s their job to deal with a workplace where people are annoying a co-worker for reasons not prohibited by law depends on the employer arrangement (it wouldn’t be their job at my workplace) and the situation in question. Here I’d say it falls under “worth a try.”

          1. focusfriday*

            But race and religion are protected categories, and if that’s what led these employees to put a sticker on another employees mailbox, that sounds like harassment based on a protected category and something HR or the legal department should care about.

          2. INTP*

            I assumed that the “profile that the candidate denigrates” involved race or religion in this case, and that profile played a role in the employee’s decision to leave a sticker on that person’s mailbox, which would make it hostile. It would be difficult to prove objectively that it was harassment and not just obnoxious political evangelism, but technically it would be.

            Though of course, it could be that someone is putting Clinton stickers on the mailboxes of self-identified “deplorables” and as far as I know, that is not a protected category.

            1. Ruffingit*

              Though of course, it could be that someone is putting Clinton stickers on the mailboxes of self-identified “deplorables” and as far as I know, that is not a protected category.

              LMAO!!! This is awesome. Thanks :)

          3. Jadelyn*

            It depends – in California, hostile workplace/harassment laws have recently been expanded to cover bullying, and there haven’t been a lot of test cases to help define where that line is yet, so as an HR person in California we would definitely want to step in and stop behavior that could be classed as bullying, which repeated aggressive political harangues may well fall into.

            Besides which, even if it’s not legally required that HR intervene in the hostile workplace sense, any halfway decent HR is going to WANT to intervene to prevent that kind of toxic environment, if only because turnover is expensive and refusing to shut down jerks is a stupid reason to have to replace good employees.

          4. Ron Skurat*

            At my workplace any hostile or harassing situation is against company policy, regardless of the law. In fact it’s been that way at all but one of the places I’ve worked in 30 years. I’d be surprised if any university other than University of Chicago ;) didn’t have an identical policy.

      2. SarcasticFringehead*

        The LW said these people are in the lunchroom from 10:30 – 1:30 every day, so she can’t really go earlier or later; her problem isn’t that they’re having conversations she doesn’t like, but that they won’t leave her alone when she asks them to.

        1. Lynn Whitehat*

          Are there a whole bunch of them? Surely people can’t be hanging out in the lunch room for 3 hours every day?

          1. Kikishua*

            That’s an awfully long lunch break. Isn’t the boss worried about how little work they’re doing?

            1. LawBee*

              I assumed it was an evolving group – I can’t imagine a place where a three-hour lunch would be acceptable. (If that’s the case, then the company has a bigger problem than LW indicated.)

              1. KellyK*

                That’s what the letter sounded like to me. Bob and Joe have lunch from 10:30 to 11:30, Cindy joins them at 10:45, Sally at 11:00, etc. The whole group isn’t there the whole three hours, but a couple of them are the whole time.

      3. TMosby*

        I would have agreed with you two years ago, but this comment seems almost willfully ignorant given the state of our country. Political discourse has become increasingly Islamophobic, racist, and sexually explicit this election cycle.

      4. SadieMae70*

        It’s not that the coworkers are having a discussion OP doesn’t like. It’s that they refuse to honor her request not to participate in the conversation. She just wants to sit and eat lunch quietly and try to ignore them, and they keep badgering her and demanding she answer their political questions. That’s harassment.

  1. LawBee*

    Oh, this is INFURIATING. LW, I feel for you. I hate HATE HATE arguments for argument’s sake. And if they’re that obnoxious about it, I bet they’re saying things that would fall within a hostile work environment, from groupthink if nothing else. This is a terrible situation.

    Honestly, I’d be wanting to cut the tv cord. At least there’d be less noise in the room. You have all my sympathies. And your HR department sucks.

    1. BWooster*

      Prior to the Brexit referendum, my boss took the tv remote away. Some complained that it made them feel like children but they were the ones who couldn’t or wouldn’t drop a subject no matter how many times they were asked.

      1. Finman*

        Our CFO once had to take the controller for the air conditioner after he set it to a temperature that he wanted because there was some battling on whether it should be 72 or 76. I felt so embarrassed for my entire department because of these 2 “adults”

        1. nonegiven*

          In DH’s office they keep the temp low enough for the computers but the women in the office who get cold kept turning it up. The CEO authorized a locking thermostat.

      1. JustaTech*

        Does ThinkGeek still sell the tiny TV remote that will change the channel/volume/on-off of any TV? I know they used to , mostly for use in airports. But they might have been illegal.

        1. Vicki*

          Look up TV-B-Gone. Available at its own site (tvbgone.com), at Amazon, etc.
          There are also similar remotes available as cell phone apps.

          Oops! The TV keeps turning off or changing stations!

    2. MoinMoin*

      Or you can put a headphone jack in the TV’s audio input. Shuts off the noise and usually easy to overlook if anyone tries to figure out why.

  2. Kittymommy*

    Holy crap on a cracker! I work in politics/government and my environment isn’t this toxic! I don’t really have any advice except you have my sympathy because you’re probably right, an hr department that doesn’t deal with someone taking nude photos of a student (WTF??!!), likely isn’t going to do squat about this.

    1. BPT*

      I work in politics too, and honestly I feel like those that work in politics are often better at being civil to opposite sides of the aisle. In DC, you have to work in a bipartisan manner to get anything done, and you’re going to work with people who have been employed in previous administrations for the past 30+ years. It’s a much more practical work environment, I’ve found. Not that people aren’t still passionate about their side, but most I’ve worked with are good with stating their opinion without openly fighting.

      1. Umvue*

        Plus on the (US) executive branch side, there’s the Hatch Act, which enforces a baseline level of civility by imposing a cost for appearing to campaign in the office.

      2. TMosby*

        Used to work in politics and this is so true! You can’t really work in politics and go around saying you hate all democrats/republicans.

        That being said, even most republican politicians admit to hating Trump, as most educated people do.

    2. tink*

      I kinda need to know the name of this college so that I make sure my nieces know not to apply there, because that was so disturbing to read.

    3. Vicki*

      Speaking of the “hr department that doesn’t deal with someone taking nude photos of a student (WTF??!!)”,

      OP- have you reported this? There must be a state sexual harassment phone number!

  3. Gadfly*

    When pleading the 5th doesn’t work, give in and plead the belly? ‘I can’t talk about it. It gets me so stressed out that it isn’t good for the baby…’

    Not that I would recommend this with reasonable people, but sometimes all you can do is fight crazy with crazy.

    1. Ask a Manager* Post author

      I went back and forth with myself on whether to somehow use the pregnancy to appeal to them to shut up, but ultimately felt too weird about doing it. But I bet it would be effective.

      1. Gandalf the Nude*

        It also won’t necessarily help once the baby’s born. I wouldn’t be confident the the talk would die down after the election.

          1. sam*

            The night of the first debate, on my way out of the office, I ran into a (politically sympathetic) co-worker on the elevator. He asked me what I was up to. My response?

            “Trying to decide whether to go home and watch the debate or just drink a glass of cyanide”.

            Everyone on the elevator laughed. No one really needed to know our political persuasions for that joke to work. I think most people are ready to be done with this process.

            1. WorkingMom*

              Oh that’s a good one. I might have to use that at some point. This particular election is so inflammatory, by both sides. It’s pure insanity, and very hard for people on both sides, who are so extremely passionate about their cases, to be diplomatic in discussions. I don’t know that it would help OP, as I think this example is too far gone; but I think a “no politics at work” rule is reasonable. Want to gab about your candidate? Do it after work, or take your lunch hour outside of the office and gab elsewhere!

      2. Temperance*

        I do have a friend who keeps saying that her baby hates Donald Trump, and talk of Donald Trump makes him kick her, but I doubt this would work.

      3. neverjaunty*

        Desperate times call for desperate measures. “Guys, my doctor has given me strict orders not to get involved in political discussions because the stress is putting my baby at risk.”

    2. DeskBird*

      I can’t say it’s the most PC approach – but I would do this. *Both* sides find this election very stressful – so you could say that politics & the election are stressing you out without picking a side. And tell them the dr. wants you to avoid stress as much as possible right now. So go head you guys – I’m just gonna listen to some relaxing music.

      1. Hotel GM Guy*

        I don’t think the PC approach is what these folks would respond to. Being direct would be more effective.

  4. orchidsandtea*

    …can you steal the power cable?
    Or barring that, keep a small universal remote in your purse, and surreptitiously change the channel or turn off the TV repeatedly til they declare “dang it’s broken”?
    Ooh, or just hang an “out of order” sign on the television.

    None of this helps with your commentariat coworkers, but it may help a little when you remove the sensory overload of the TV. Noise-canceling headphones with a particularly lovely audiobook may also help, if you can place a little sign that says “listening to urgent conference materials — sorry” next to you on the table.

    I’m sorry you’re going through this. They are clearly unreasonable.

    1. Zahra*

      Yes to audiobooks or podcasts if you want the auditory stimulation. If you want to listen to history-related subjects, may I suggest “Stuff You Missed in History Class”?

      1. One of the Sarahs*

        I really like the Bowery Boys New York City History series – podcasts about the history of New York City buildings and areas, and the culture/history/people around them.

        1. sam*

          The memory palace is by far my favorite ‘hidden history’ podcast. it makes me cry (in a good way) on a regular basis.

      1. straws*

        We used to do this in middle school when they would force us to watch a special teen-focused news show (channel one!) When our teacher noticed that it was the coax, we started half-unplugging the power cable. We got out of about a month of watching that show with various, similar tactics :)

        1. Mona Lisa*

          Awww, I loved Channel One! I like seeing the former anchors on TV still and knowing they’ve been successful. (Anderson Cooper, Lisa Ling, Maria Menounos… all former Channel One hosts!)

          1. SimontheGreyWarden*

            I liked it best the semester I had second hour gym (it was swimming class), because it meant 15 extra minutes to shower (male gym teacher, couldn’t come in the girls’ shower and tell us to hurry up because we were missing it).

        2. Artemesia*

          My son nearly got suspended for refusing to watch C 1. He read or worked on calculus. The vp for discipline spotted him and tried to force him to watch. He said ‘no one can force me to watch commercials’ — the vp was ‘we can because they pay for this.’ My son stood his ground and they gave up.

          1. Kelly L.*

            They were all for Clearasil and Mt. Dew, if I remember correctly. “Teenagers! You all have zits and need caffeine!” LOL!

            But I liked it too. There was a little bit of forced trendiness to it, but it ate up 15 minutes of class!

        3. chicken_flavored_deodorant*

          Remove cord from outlet, take a pair of side cutters to one of the prongs, replace plug in outlet. It’ll be hours before they figure it out.

      2. LavaLamp*

        I wonder if you could enable the parental control settings (most newer TV’s have some sort of lock out) and just make the TV unable to tune into those channels, or turn off after a set amount of time. If that doesn’t work, I would not be above making the power cord, remote, or HDMI/AV cables disappear. But I am not a nice human and would not be coping well if subjected to that environment, especially while attempting to eat after reasonable polite objections have failed.

        1. Master Bean Counter*

          This just might work! Lock out every news channel and don’t tell anybody the code! I’d come in after hours just to do this.

        2. SusanIvanova*

          That’s how I kept my mom and stepdad from watching one particular highly-polarizing channel! I took it out of the list of things the Tivo shows, and said I just didn’t get it. It did lead to an unwanted discussion of “you should go complain to the cable company!1!”, but that still beat actually watching it.

            1. Turtle Candle*

              I must tell you, I actually howled with laughter when I saw this.

              (Ivanova would TOTALLY do that, too.)

        3. AK*

          I used the parental controls to block a certain politically polarizing TV channel, because I didn’t want to even catch a glimpse while flipping channels.

          My father discovered it and he still laughs about it.

    2. Mike C.*

      Disabling the tv isn’t going to solve any of the OP’s problems and makes the person doing this look like a weird control freak.

      1. KR*

        And possibly really annoy your IT department when the employees complain about the TV not working and they discover it’s unplugged/the cords are stolen.

    3. DeskBird*

      When I was a teenager my dad got a mini van that had a second radio controller in the backseat – right behind the drivers chair. He had no idea it was there – and went a looong time thinking his radio was broken in a way that it would randomly tune into pop music. He also thought that the grandfather clock in the house was broken because I hated the loud ticking noise and would go stop it whenever I was home alone. I was not a very nice teenager. But your coworkers are not being very nice to you – so there is that.

      1. KG, Ph.D.*

        Ford Windstar, late 90’s? We had the same one….it drove my parents CRAZY that they couldn’t turn off the rear controls. Thankfully those controls were limited, IIRC — you couldn’t turn the radio on if it was off, nor could you turn the volume above what it had been set to in the front. But we still managed to annoy the crap out of my parents. Heh.

        1. DeskBird*

          Nice – I am not alone! Even at the time I was astonished that anyone at Ford thought it was a good idea. The only use any of those controls ever got was from kids trying to take back the radio. When I first discovered it all I could think was “noooo wayy.. cars are made by adults. Adults aren’t this dumb”

  5. chocolate lover*

    I dislike this on so many levels. Dominating the office conversation with politics is bad enough, but actually putting materials/stickers onto someone else’s mailbox at work? That takes nerve!

    And as an educator, the idea of ignoring someone taking naked pictures of a student workers is setting off every alarm bell there is!!! Good grief.

  6. Fortitude Jones (formerly Christopher Tracy)*

    There was a staff member taking naked photos of one of my student workers, and their reaction was to do nothing because “if the student felt uncomfortable, we’d hope she would have spoken to you directly about it.”

    I think my head just exploded.

    1. Midge*

      While my brief Googling didn’t turn up anything useful (I’m assuming these photos weren’t being distributed, so they might not count as revenge porn), this has to be illegal right? Right??? Can someone who knows more about the law chime in? Someone should be going to the police about this guy.

      And your HR person should be completely ashamed of herself.

      1. Midge*

        Hmm, upon re-reading this it sounds like the student was willingly photographed naked. This whole thing still sounds incredibly inappropriate.

        1. INTP*

          I assume (and deeply, deeply hope) that the student was not photographed despite vocal objections, but it still begs the question of whether a student can even truly consent to being photographed by a superior in a university. When you’ve got young people who are not used to navigating the world of sexual predators, in an environment where they are fearful for their futures and feel like a bad reference or a bad grade will ruin their lives, just because someone allowed a picture to be taken doesn’t mean that they WANTED it to be taken. And for the OP to know about them, they had to be distributed, and it’s likely that the student didn’t consent to that.

          Not arguing with you, I’m just expanding and adding to the pile-on about how screwed up the OP’s workplace is. No matter the circumstances of the pictures being taken, the situation should have been taken very seriously.

          1. Dynamic Beige*

            I went to an art college. One of the ladies who worked in Admin was one of our nude figure drawing models, as was a slightly older male student who worked in the photography equipment borrowing area. I ran into some of the other models in the area I lived at the time, learning that two of them were married and had a bunch of daughters because I saw them in the grocery store.

            So my question would be: did this student respond to an ad to be a figure model? It used to pay pretty well, I doubt that’s changed. Because there’s a big difference between applying for a job/paid for it, being told/coerced to model nude or having nude photos taken of yourself without your knowledge or consent through hidden cameras.

          2. OP*

            OP here!
            The student was photographed willingly, but, it doesn’t makeup for the MAJOR ethical issues. The photos were on the staff member’s photography website (as well as a couple others that I found with a search), which I discovered when he sent me his site asking if I wanted to pose for a maternity shoot.

            This college is fucked.

      2. MegaMoose, Esq*

        We just don’t have enough information here to say. The age of the student, whether the photographs were taken with the knowledge and consent of the student, and whether the person taking the pictures was in a management role being the key missing facts, I would think.

        1. Observer*

          It makes no real difference. There is no scenario where an “established” staff person taking nude photos of a student worker is appropriate.

    2. MentalEngineer*

      (Doctoral student with an interest in Title IX administration here)

      Given that this involved a student, OP is/was almost certainly required to report this to the college’s Title IX coordinator. (I’m assuming they have one despite being a private college because if you take any federal funding Title IX still applies to you.) Even if HR somehow failed to understand the magnitude of destruction the Feds can drop on a school over a violation like this, the Title IX person should know better.

      Failing that, OP should seriously consider the press if there’s a way to do it anonymously. Most places aren’t Florida State or Baylor and can’t just weather the financial penalties that attach to ignoring the Department of Education. If nobody at the school will do anything, going public will probably force movement.

      1. dear liza dear liza*

        Yes! As soon as I saw “student worker” I started yelling Title IX at my computer.

    3. Barney Barnaby*

      It’s completely beside the point of the politics discussion, but the OP should seriously consider both escalating this issue beyond HR (which there must be a way to do), and, to protect herself, documenting the conversation and lack of result with HR. If the student worker ever files a claim or complaint for a hostile work environment, the OP, as her supervisor who knew about this, will get caught in the crossfire.

      1. neverjaunty*

        Wow, definitely. OP, please strongly consider talking to an employment lawyer – usually you can get a consultation for free. This is beyond crummy HR and well into “they are going to get sued someday, and you are going to get caught up in it because you work there”.

        1. Barney Barnaby*

          I don’t want the OP to one day have to tell the university’s legal counsel the following things:
          *She knew this happened;
          *She had exactly one conversation with HR about it;
          *She has no documentation whatsoever (or only minimal documentation) about the contents and results of that conversation; and
          *She did nothing whatsoever to escalate or bring this to the attention of another entity (department head, Title IX office, President’s office, whatever group handles sexual harassment complaints, etc.).

    4. Turtle Candle*

      Yeah, yikes. Obviously how bad this is depends on the situation (although if it was an adult student worker enthusiastically consenting to having nudes taken for private use or something, it makes me wonder how it came to the LW’s attention? I suppose they could have been gallery shots or something…) but on the face of it I would want to at LEAST get a second opinion from wherever I could–compliance officer, ethics hotline, Title IX office, lawyer, something.

      I say this not to criticize you, LW, but because I’m concerned for you in this environment.

  7. Charlotte, not NC*

    If the photo is of the actual coworkers, have the fashion police cart them away. Problem solved.

  8. Sarah*

    Oh, I’m so sorry! That’s awful! Can you play the pregnant lady card and say that political talk really stresses you out and causes indigestion or is bad for the baby or something? Ask if there can be some “calm time” in the break room for those who need to decompress and have a little break? That way the focus isn’t on the topic of conversation, but just the general type of atmosphere in the break room. I agree with all of Allison’s suggestions though. I had a VERY conflict avoidant boss as well, and it took a lot to get him to address anything. The requests for help had to become more of a conflict than dealing with the actual conflict would be – if that makes sense – in order to get him to act. He responded much more to emotion and distress than he did to logic, so perhaps playing up the distress side of it vs the “this is obviously a problem” side would help?

    1. Mike C.*

      Political talk is bad for the baby? Come on now.

      I don’t think making things up when there are clear concrete reasons to do something is the right way to go here.

      1. Pregnant Lady*

        It’s not that far from the truth. Stress is not good for the baby, and most political talk is stressful, at least for me.

        1. Mike C.*

          It comes off as insulting to the intelligence of the person you’re speaking to and completing disregards every other form of stress in the workplace.

          1. Pregnant Lady*

            Not really, but OK. Just because I have a stress related to pregnancy hormones doesn’t diminish other peoples’ also legitimate stressors.

          2. Kyrielle*

            How does it disregard any other form of stress in the workplace, let alone every other?

            Life ALWAYS has stress.

            The more stress, the higher the risk of impact on the baby’s health, and the worse the probable impact.

            Therefore, unnecessary stress should be kept to a minimum.

            I don’t see where politics, in the setting described here, is anything but an unnecessary stress. (If you’re a pregnant political lobbyist, however…well, that IS the job….)

            1. Mike C.*

              I’m objecting specifically to Sarah’s suggestion that issues related to the pregnancy be invented to address the least of the issues the OP writes about.

          3. LawBee*

            Significant stress is bad for the unborn baby. It sounds like this combative atmosphere is causing the LW stress – which is her determination, not yours. And as the pregnant person, she has infinitely more knowledge than you do about how stress impacts her body. It is 100% reasonable to address this, and to address it as “making things up” is ignorant at best, and mansplaining at worst. (Yes, mansplaining, as you [presumably a man based on your username] are telling a pregnant woman that the situation that she is in [and you are not] isn’t impacting her pregnancy [which you have no way of knowing] and that the impacts of stress on the unborn baby are “made up” [which they are not]).

            You know nothing, Jon Snow.

            1. Mike C.*

              I really don’t appreciate this sort of tone. I chose my words very carefully, and I find it insulting that you overgeneralize what I’ve written in an effort to score points over having an actual discussion.

              Sarah suggests the following:
              Can you play the pregnant lady card and say that political talk really stresses you out and causes indigestion or is bad for the baby or something?

              Sarah is suggesting using the pregnancy/indigestion as an excuse when these problem for the OP. I’ve pointed out in several other posts that there are serious issues that need to be addressed but what I’m addressing here is this specific suggestion. I’m not saying that stress isn’t an issue in general, I’m saying making up patronizing lies about the least of the problems isn’t a winning strategy to a better workplace.

              1. Zahra*

                I agree that making up excuses is not a good idea, especially when the excuse is temporary (such as pregnancy). However, stress is legitimately bad for pregnant people and the unborn child. The mother could, without lying, say that she realized that stress is bad for pregnancy and that she’d like the stressful political talk to tone down a bit. I’d go for the low-hanging fruit: don’t involve me in those discussions, change the channels on the TV.

                Here are a few links on the subject (I went with some more reliable sources than forums, of course):

              2. LawBee*

                And I’m saying that you don’t know if stress is impacting her pregnancy because you are not her. Stress IS bad for pregnant women, and just because Sarah upstream called it “playing the pregnant lady card” does not make it any less true or a concern. And it is certainly not the least of the problems.

                You do not get to decide on your own that this is a lie, or patronizing. You are not, and will never be, a pregnant woman. Step off.

      2. neverjaunty*

        You’re wrong. These are obnoxious jerks. If the OP wants to use the baby to get them to stop acting like the tools they are, why not?

  9. Gene*

    I own one of these. Haven’t needed to use it recently, so I’m not sure where I put it. I found it useful when my wife was having surgery and another person in the waiting room wouldn’t allow anyone to change the channel on the TV without getting up and changing it right back.


    1. SheLooksFamiliar*

      I have one of these, and it works great. Well, except maybe for airports; O’Hare has protective casings on TVs in common areas.

      Otherwise, whenever I’m in a shared space with a TV and something obnoxious is blaring on it, this item gives me peace – and a little entertainment.

    2. Blue Anne*

      Yes! I used to have one of these on my keychain and used it on annoying waiting room TVs all the time. I need to get another one.

    3. OlympiasEpiriot*

      On occasion, I have found that these work through a shop window!

      Not that I needed to run that test, but, I did and it worked.

    4. LawBee*

      waaaaaant. I am that person who turns off the television at tire dealerships and laundromats. (And never once has anyone complained.)

        1. LawBee*

          I don’t care about being unprofessional when I’m at the laundromat. I don’t work at the laundromat.

  10. FD*

    This is all bad, but the most awful to me is this part:

    There was a staff member taking naked photos of one of my student workers, and their reaction was to do nothing because “if the student felt uncomfortable, we’d hope she would have spoken to you directly about it.

    That kind of thing is how you end up with coaches, teachers, and other authority figures getting away with abusing others for years, even decades at a time. People report it, but it’s ignored, or put down, or hidden. And the people who are victims feel they can’t report it, because no one ever does anything.

    Now, we don’t know–it’s possible that the student worker was 100% consenting, and would have been thrilled to do it even if there was no power differential in play (I’m assuming all parties were legal adults because this is at a college). But if you have any sense that s/he wasn’t…I would seriously think about looking for another job and blowing the whistle on this one.

      1. Princess Consuela Banana Hammock*

        Yes—Title IX (assuming this was non-consensual or violated university policy).

  11. Lillian Styx*

    I’m imagining a sign reading “not interested” glued to a popsicle stick that you brandish every time someone tries to engage you in the discourse. Bonus accessories include headphones and a “can’t-you-see-I-am-pregnant-and-so-very-exhausted” withering glare.

    1. JustaTech*

      Not just headphones – GIANT headphones. So there is no way on earth that someone could not notice that you are wearing them. (Sadly noise-canceling headphones don’t cancel the range of the human voice.) Or ear-protection like what the people who direct airplanes into the Jetway wear. Can’t hear anything in those.

      1. SimontheGreyWarden*

        My husband has some of those noise canceling ones with a built in radio, and they do a pretty decent job of muting most conversation.

  12. AW*

    HR here is also … pretty deplorable.

    Which means you could probably get away with telling them to go eff themselves…but don’t. The way these things go, someone will suddenly be willing to act on a complaint once it’s about you. But I’m going to have fun imagining OP cussing these people out and them being met with a wall of indifference when they try to complain.

    Also, I know this isn’t why you wrote in, but is the student worker OK?

  13. YRH*

    -Unplug the TV and see if they notice.
    -If you don’t feel like buying noise canceling headphones, here’s a blog post on how to make your own: http://affordanything.com/2016/10/08/tools-use-quest-peak-productivity/
    -Give the student information about filing a Title IX complaint if she found out about the pictures within the past 180 days or if HR was “dealing” with the issue within the past 180 days http://www2.ed.gov/about/offices/list/ocr/complaintintro.html
    -I hate your co-workers on your behalf and hope things get better.

    1. Venus Supreme*

      I agree. I also like the idea of using a co-worker friend’s office for meal breaks. I hate OP’s coworkers too!

  14. kcat*

    If this is a publicly funded institution, your coworkers are on thin ice. I work at a state university, and we are reminded frequently that any campaigning during office hours is against the law. They don’t define it, but I’m pretty sure bullying someone into your political point of view could count. I’m not sure what the recourse is if the institution is not publicly funded, but even there, if any portion of salaries come from grants or other public money, it’s probably an issue.

    That doesn’t help when your HR dept won’t take up the issue though – so infuriating. I’m really glad our break room does not have a TV.

    1. fposte*

      Here are a couple of interesting links about the shades of acceptable politics at institutions with public funds:



      It doesn’t sound like what her colleagues are doing would count as campaigning, but a wise manager would curb it before it does.

    2. aebhel*

      Yeah… I’m in a public library, and while it’s not technically illegal for me to express my political views to the public, it is strongly discouraged (which I’m fine with, since I don’t particularly want to argue politics with my patrons).

      As this is happening amongst staff, though, I’m not sure it would qualify.

  15. Charlie*

    I think repetition is the key here. But you can’t actually make any statement of agreement, disagreement, or whatever.

    “I don’t discuss politics at work.”
    “Do you agree with me on [issue], though?”
    “Like I said, I don’t discuss politics at work, so I’m really not going to get into it.”
    “Where do you stand on [other issue]? Come on, this is important, we as a society need to have a discussion about this!”
    “Okay, I’m concerned that you’re not really listening to me. I’m not going to discuss any political topic at work. It’s my personal policy, I’m sticking to it. Please don’t bring it up again.”
    “But you have to-”

    Maybe not that last bit.

    1. AMD*

      I am hearing Stanley from the office for that last line there. ^_^

      I definitely agree that it needs to be issue-neutral, repeated objections.

        1. Newby*

          Be loud about the fact that you do not want to discuss it.

          “I don’t discuss politics at work” then “Please stop trying to make me discuss politics. It is making me uncomfortable.” and finally “Why do you keep harassing me about politics? I have already told you that I will not discuss it and asked you to stop!”

          When it is made clear to surrounding people that someone is repeatedly crossing a clearly defined line, most people back off.

          1. Trillian*

            Football whistle. Once you’ve run out of civil appeals, pull it out and blow it in response to every question.

          2. KR*

            “Why do you care so much?” “I guess you’ll find out the popular opinion on election day!” “Can you hear me correctly? I clearly just said I didn’t want to discuss it.” “I think you should consult an ENT specialist – you don’t seem to be understanding me when I say I don’t want to talk about this.”

          3. TootsNYC*

            this works as well–if you’re going to allow any substantive conversation, YOU can change the topic from politics to their disregard for your stated wishes and their harrassment.

    2. Turtle Candle*

      Yeah. If nothing else works, you could try making it really, really boring for them to talk at you. Repeating the same thing (in a monotone with a blank/bored expression) often works, especially if you broken record at them every single time they pause for breath.

      I would try Alison’s headphones tactic first, but I am often surprised by how many problems can be solved by just being INTENSELY dull. I have found that most people tolerate even insults better than they tolerate being consistently bored/boring.

    3. motherofdragons*

      I’m fond of Captain Awkward’s approach of bland repetition/broken record. Bore them into leaving you alone.

      “I don’t discuss politics at work.” (monotone, neutral facial expression)
      “Do you agree with me on [issue], though?”
      “I don’t discuss politics at work.”
      “Where do you stand on [other issue]? Come on, this is important, we as a society need to have a discussion about this!”
      “I don’t discuss politics at work.”
      “But you have to-”
      “I don’t discuss politics at work.” and/or the original last line, I thought that worked beautifully!

    4. TootsNYC*

      maybe even more powerful:

      Never change your wording. Cut-and-paste.
      No matter where they take it.

      Them: Don’t you just love this candidate?
      You: I don’t talk politics at work, it’s my policy.
      Them: Don’t you care about our country?
      You: I don’t talk politics at work, it’s my policy.
      Them: You probably support Divisive Issue!
      You: I don’t talk politics at work, it’s my policy.
      Them: What does your mother think about your hate for your country?
      You: I don’t talk politics at work, it’s my policy.

      Don’t EVER go anywhere but that. No other words, no other rabbit hole.
      You can vary your tone of voice, getting every more “patient” as you explain the exact same thing every time.
      Or getting a little testy.

      I’ve used this technique and had it work. But you can’t vary the wording at all, or they will take it as you “engaging,” even if the substance is essentially the same.

  16. Jessie*

    Can you explain why headphones didn’t work in the past? Because if you wear noise canceling headphones, let the Obnoxious Crew know that you will be wearing them so that you can de-stress during your break, and then put them on right away, I am struggling to see how that wouldn’t work. Do not respond to them after you put the headphones on – which should be easier, since noise-canceling headphones seriously do a great job. They can only engage you if they actually resort to yelling and/or pulling your headphones off, which is a line most people would not cross. If they stand in front of you talking and waving their hands in an effort to get your attention, ignore them. Have a book and read it while you eat.

    I suspect you may be running into trouble because you are concerned about being polite. Try to remind yourself that you only need be civil but firm when you first enter the room. After that, they are rude if they try to corner you and you are not under any obligation to interact with them.

    If that does not work, then go to HR. You can let them know you did in fact let the Obnoxious Crew know that you didn’t want to discuss, so unlike the naked student picture lawsuit waiting to happen, HR can’t claim that you weren’t direct with the source of the problem.

    1. svb*

      This is what I was thinking.

      If it were me, I’d simply point to my headphones and give them a bewildered look, maybe a slight shake of my head or shrug of my shoulders, and go back to reading/eating my food without looking up again.

      But I’m of the mind that the more you explain yourself the more others believe you need to explain further.

    2. Sunshine on a cloudy day*

      What I’ve found to be incredibly effective in getting people to leave me alone (when I want to be left alone):
      1.) Get a pair of large over the ear head phones (stinks that you might need to invest in something, but the more the obvious the better, though this also works with earbuds, but in my experience people tend to be more pushy when its ear buds rather than larger headphones)
      2.) Have something to focus on – your phone, magazine, book, papers
      3.) Put the headphones on focus on your materials with intense concentration. DO NOT LOOK UP even if you notice someone approaching or speaking to you. Even if these are not noise-cancelling headphones, pretend that they are!
      4.) Only if they get obnoxious (touching you or waving their hands in btwn your face and your materials) do you look up. Look startled and taken aback.
      5.) Lift one ear (DO NOT TAKE THE HEADPHONES FULLY OFF), and half heartedly apologize/explain “excuse me? I’m reviewing materials for this later meeting (or whatever)”. They will bait you into a political convo.
      6.) Give your brush off and immediately segue into your excuse “Oh I don’t discuss politics at work. I need to get back to reviewing these materials” and immediately put your headphone back on and focus on your materials. Do not make eye contact and do this as quickly as possible. Even if they try to say something else, you’ve done the polite/civil thing. If they continue to bother you you have every right to point to your headphones/materials with a shrug of the shoulders or lift one ear and say “I’ve already explained, I need to review these materials” and immediately put the ear back down.

      The key is to be neutral/polite and confident/firm.

      1. aebhel*

        Yeah, all of this.

        It’s sad that OP should have to use the ‘avoid creeps on public transit’ approach to her coworkers in her own break room, but it looks to me like that’s the way to go.

        I wouldn’t even use the ‘reviewing materials’ line, though. I’d just say that I’m listening to something, then put the headphones back on.

      2. motherofdragons*

        Big headphones don’t have to be super expensive! I got a pair on Amazon for around $20. They come in all kinds of colors, too.

    3. pugsnbourbon*

      This might not be true for the OP, but I can’t have earbuds in/headphones on while I’m eating. The sound of my own chewing reverberates back and seriously bothers me. But if the situation at my workplace were this bad, I’d spend the $$ on a pair that didn’t do that.

    4. Turtle Candle*

      Oh, yes, this is a good point. If you are like me, probably you have a hard time just ignoring someone trying to talk to you when you have headphones in–it feels rude! But in this case, embrace it. Keep them on. Turn up the volume if you must. Don’t even look at them. Enjoy your Elvis or your Beyoncé or your This American Life or your Welcome to Nightvale or whatever and ignore them totally. If they pull the classic asshole move of waving a hand in front of your face, don’t even take the headphones off or look at them, just keep on keeping on, maybe with an uninterested head shake.

      If you have been trained to politeness, as most of us have, this is DIFFICULT. Also awkward. But in this case… just embrace the awkward.

      1. Drew*

        Night Vale FTW. “Unless we’re going to discuss the dog park, I’m not interested AND YOU SHOULDN’T BE EITHER.”

  17. Dee*

    This sounds deeply miserable. I live in fear of someone trying to have a political discussion with me right now, because I don’t see any way it could end well.

    Hopefully it will at least be over in a month? Or mostly over?

    1. Charlie*

      I’m so sick of hearing it that even I agree with the position, the discussion itself will make me hostile.

      1. sam*

        Seriously. I have a very small number of colleagues that I discuss politics with largely when breaking news happens because, well, breaking news…but as we get closer to the election I’ve actually tried to make a point of NOT talking about politics at work as much as possible.

        I will wear my [insert political candidate] button on my coat lapel, which I take off when I get to work – I feel like that’s the sort of thing that’s fine for outside the office, but a bit too much for people I have to work with and have relationships with day in and day out. I’m not going to pretend I’m undecided, or NOT tell someone who I support if they ask, but I’m not going to ‘campaign’ or cause confrontations in the office either. I came to this realization one day when I was in someone’s office who had a TV tuned to one of the financial news stations, and I accidentally blurted something fairly pointed out because [candidate I don’t agree with] was on screen, and co-worker looked at me and I realized that they didn’t agree with me. I quickly backed off, but it kind of hung in the air.

        I generally avoid ALL cable news – even the channels that are ostensibly on “my” side. I find it all so vacuous and uninformative. My whole family is on the same side politically as me, and my dad obsessively watches the channel that lines up with “our” side of things, and I force him to turn it off when I go over to their apartment, because even though I agree with a lot of their (in the words of Calvin Trillin) “sabbath gasbags”, they’re all still worthless. I generally stick to the radio/internet/newspapers.

      2. Honeybee*

        This is where I am right now. This election season/campaigning has been going on for nearly two years now, and it is exhausting. I can’t take it anymore, and I’m very interested in politics and social issues. I just politely bow out of every conversation I can now.

      3. One of the Sarahs*

        I was like this over Brexit – before, the conversation would make me anxious; after, depressed. Hanging with like-minded friends just made it all worse.

      4. Princess Consuela Banana Hammock*

        The only thing keeping me going, right now, are John Oliver’s epithets for the election:

        “The electoral equivalent of seeing someone puking and then someone else is puking and pretty soon everyone is puking 2016.”
        “What did I do to deserve this? I always tried to be a good person is this because I stole candy once in 4th grade please stop punishing us 2016.”
        “Oh I get it: we all died, and this is hell, and Satan has cursed us to live out this nightmare for all eternity 2016.”
        “Clowntown F***-the-World S***show 2016”
        “Uncle Sam’s Rock-Bottom Yankee Doodle Suicide Pact 2016”
        “3D Imax S***-Fit Dumpster Fire 2016.”

    2. DeskBird*

      Whenever my in-laws try to bring up politics with me I will just blatantly bean dip – and start talking about puppies until they stop. “You can’t possible be voting for ___ are you?” “Oh my god I saw this puppy at the dog park the other day – I’m pretty sure it was Irish Wolfhound – but they had it shaved… etc etc etc” Just a giant rant about puppies until they give up on me and walk away. You can’t always start with this – but once you’ve made it clear that you don’t want to talk about politics just derail until they give up on you. Engaging them just encourages them.

        1. TootsNYC*

          Bonus because if it’s a cute puppy you actually saw, you can relive the happy memory of having seen it the first time.

  18. KR*

    Our breakroom at Retail Job isn’t quite so intense, but when I don’t want to go to my car but still want to decompress I like to go to another department that’s affiliated with our department. There aren’t many customers milling around and I like the people working there. As long as I sit out of the way and don’t distract them when they’re busy they like me visiting them with my snack, phone, and coffee. So I second the suggestion to find a work friend who wouldn’t mind you sitting in their office for a few minutes.

  19. Interviewer*

    I agree with temporarily ruining the TV in some non-obvious way that can be fixed later. Much, much later. But if the idea of destroying equipment at work makes you nervous, option 2 is to demand that they take their lunchtime debates on out of the office entirely. We get politics in our news, our newsfeeds, our family gatherings, even at church and school. Heck, I get references to it in my daily work, too. Please, please, please let our lunch hours be a place of quiet sanctuary in the breakroom! If your obnoxious co-workers are going to get loud and ruin the entire room for everyone, they’re the ones who need to go elsewhere – not you.

    In the meantime, can you eat 2 shorter lunches – one at 10, one at 2?

    1. Harriet M. Welsch*

      I’m guessing she cannot wait that long (4 hours) between meals. I am pregnant and currently making it two hours, tops, between snacks / meals. Oh man, do I feel bad for her and this situation.

      1. Murphy*

        Fellow pregnant lady here. Same. It would suck if I had to relocate myself every time I had to eat.

  20. Akcipitrokulo*

    Can you record a short audio file saying “I don’t discuss politics at work” and just tap play on it every time?

    1. TootsNYC*

      Remember those “That was easy” buttons from Staples? I wanted them to make them so you could record a short phrase on it yourself, that would play when you push the button.

      I would buy about 6 of them, if they did that.

  21. Charlie*

    Also, can I just ask how do jokers spend four HOURS in the break room daily watching the news and yelling at each other about politics? 10:30 to 1:30 is half the workday! I’ve done summary firings for less slacking than that!

    1. Dot Warner*

      Yeah, that jumped out at me too. Don’t these people have any actual work to do?? OP, your director sounds like a wuss, but maybe if you bring up the amount of time these folks are spending away from their jobs (without actually mentioning what they’re doing), she’ll grow up and do hers.

    2. Nerf*

      It sounded like there were overlapping lunches, so it’s not that the whole group is there for four hours, but that enough people are there overlapping each other that there’s always a group.

    3. Temperance*

      I’m guessing that they are in a union, and the people in charge are too lazy to file a grievance.

      1. Elsajeni*

        Wow, that seems like a really out-of-nowhere assumption. She says it’s people whose breaks overlap; I assume that means the individual people involved move in and out, but there are always enough people in there to keep a discussion going.

    4. Moonsaults*

      I’m imaginging there are say multiple individuals involved. They are all swapping out, so there are constantly a few people in there but they come and go, all bickering and pecking at each other like the hen house of hell.

      I’ve seen this happen with shift work, since it’s a University, they have schedules that don’t necessarily go with the structured 8-5 jobs.

  22. Akcipitrokulo*

    It does also occur that arguing the pregnancy side might not be how you’d like to approach the offenders… but it may be a very useful argument if you’re appealing to a conflict-averse manager?

  23. dear liza dear liza*

    It sounds like you work on a campus, possibly a library. If so:
    1. Title IX for anything related to student worker impropriety.
    2. If you have a governance/committee structure, see if you can use it to change break room policies.
    3. What year is it? Do these people have computers at their desks? If so, they can watch their beloved cable channel (with headphones) at their desks via that Internet thing.

      1. Teapot Unionist*

        She said their breaks are staggered so there is a stream of (presumably different) people, all with the same political bent, moving through the break room from 10:30-1:30 daily.

    1. Trout 'Waver*

      Based on how I read it, I think it’s a rotating crew with staggered lunch times that totals 3 hours, not that each member is there for three hours.

    2. Nerf*

      It sounds like the lunches overlap. Persons A and B take lunch from 10:30 – 11:30, Persons C and D 11:00-12:00, E and F 11:30-12:30, G and H 12:00-1:00 and I and J 12:30-1:30.

    3. fposte*

      I don’t think so–I think it’s that staggered break and lunch times means there’s always a few people in there, not that the same people park for hours.

      1. Dang*

        Ah okay, that makes a lot more sense. Although maybe even less because it really shows how many people are involved in this nonsense!!

  24. Lora*

    Oh no. You have my sympathies – I have worked at a couple of big companies where the teevee channel was set on some sort of corporate + network news channel (we had corporate commercials and “what’s new in your benefits” type blurbs in between news segments) selected by the Powers That Be. Except, the Powers That Be were headquartered in an area with the opposite political leanings from the locations where I worked. The Head Honchos would also get miffed that our locations didn’t donate to the chosen political candidates they sent out emails to support. It really only cemented the belief of R&D that the MBA guys running the company were all dribbling idiots and more tax money was needed for NIH/NSF so we could all quit our jobs and become soft-money academics…

    Managers who refuse to manage this stuff will reap the whirlwind. OP is a nice person who just wants to have a quiet lunchtime; someday you’ll get someone just as confrontational as OP’s co-workers and then you’ll be writing in to complain that your employees are getting into brawls and refusing to speak to each other and setting fire to each other’s pants or something. Here is what the manager should say:
    “I’m not saying you can’t discuss politics, but keep it respectful, keep it down to a dull roar, and realize not everyone cares about it half as much as you do. If I am forced to babysit you to make sure you keep it professional and keep it down to a dull roar and don’t make pests of yourselves, I will remember it at your review. ” And then don’t take any sass about it. If anyone whined, my first reaction would be, “And you think sassing me/whining will change my opinion?”

  25. Charlie*

    Also, it’s so very apropos that I’m reading this thread right now, because I just heard one of my clients saying to another that they think we shouldn’t stop at deporting the illegal immigrants, but also everyone on green cards. I’m tying this now so I don’t falcon-punch him in the throat on behalf of my immigrant wife, who’s a permanent resident, and I suspect that if I can sandbag myself a little longer, the urge will pass.

    But it’ll be a fun discussion with his boss.

    1. OlympiasEpiriot*

      Anytime anyone says this to me directly, I have (with a broad smile on my face and friendly demeanor) said, “Well, I think everyone who is identified on the census as of non-indigenous ancestry or whose ancestors came here voluntarily should be repatriated to their countries of origin. Personally, I think if enough Sicilian-Americans were returned to Sicily, we could really do some good there related to the recent trouble with the current incarnation of the Mafia and irrigation control.”

      Due to my body language and tone, it takes a few heartbeats for them to get what I’m saying. Then they never bring it up to me again.

  26. Faith*

    This has lead to being asked point blank where I stand on issues or if I agree

    I’m a Catholic whore, currently enjoying congress out of wedlock with my black Jewish boyfriend who works at a military abortion clinic. Hail Satan, and have a lovely afternoon madam.

    1. Charlie*

      You forgot to mention how you’re an undocumented immigrant who’s on welfare and you’ve got to go buy lobster and ribeye with your food stamps.

      But if you try it, bring a rain jacket and some wellies, because their heads will explode.

    2. Anonymous 40*

      I LOVE that movie. It probably says something about me that I laughed until my stomach hurt at the rest of that scene.

    3. I GOTS TO KNOW!*

      Delivered in one’s best Colin Firth impression, since his voice/accent make it all the better

    4. babblemouth aka One Of The Greatest Minds Of The 21st Century*

      ALL the internet point to you for referencing one of my favorite movies.

  27. Trout 'Waver*

    “You could still try approaching HR — who knows? Maybe they’d be responsive to this in a way that would surprise you, and there’s probably no downside to trying”

    I’m going to push back on this. If you’ve already identified HR as being negligent and unprofessional, you shouldn’t go to them. There definitely is a potential downside. You could be labeled a complainer or gossiped about or worse. I’ve worked in a place with unprofessional HR people and the only way to win with them was to not play.

  28. Temperance*

    LW, you work with assholes and hatemongers. Sorry, but your coworker wearing that pin every day, and slapping a CANDIDATE sticker on someone’s mailbox, knowing that the candidate hates people like the person … is bullying at best. I’m a lot more … in your face than you are, so I would challenge these hatemongers, but I understand just wanting peace and quiet.

    I’m very liberal. Most of my coworkers are also incredibly liberal. I promote volunteer opportunities through my job, and I decline to promote any partisan opportunities unless someone *asks*, even though I clearly support and most of us clearly support one group. (My org has a commitment to diversity and a 100% rating from the Human Rights Campaign. You can probably guess who we don’t support.)

    1. Blue Anne*

      Yeah, my brain is exploding over the mailbox thing. I’m picturing this jerk sticking a Trump sticker on a Mexican colleague’s mailbox, and I’m freaking the hell out. Arrrrrgggghhhh

      1. Temperance*

        I figured the coworker was either Muslim or part of the LGBT community, but I guess it really could hurt anyone. Ugh. What an ass that person is.

      2. Lemon*

        That was the image in my head as well. Or a Muslim coworker’s mailbox. Because, as hard as the LW tried to disguise exactly which candidate they were talking about, it’s pretty clear. Unless HRC regularly “denigrates” whole swaths of people and I just haven’t heard about it.

        1. INTP*

          Perhaps someone is putting Clinton stickers on the mailboxes of self-identified racists and deplorables.

          1. Other Side of the Coin*

            Or on those belonging to law-abiding citizens who don’t break national security.

    2. Anon1*

      The pin is annoying but chalks up to personal expression, so to my mind the sticker on the colleague’s mailbox is the real problem here. Since the colleague in question is apparently of a group denigrated by the candidate endorsed by said sticker, that could be considered at best bullying and at worst an actual threat. Whether you think it’s funny or whatever, it boils down to “I hope when so-and-so’s in charge you’ll get yours”. That’s hostile work environment, right there.

    3. Mephyle*

      I was going to say that we should all imagine how we would answer if our political inclination puts us on either side; the side of the tv-watching lunch-room hoggers, or the side of beleaguered OP – because a fair, unbiased answer should work either way. But actually the sticker thing identifies it. So we can’t really be impartial in that sense.

  29. Morning Glory*

    Wow. I get annoyed just by my Facebook feed, I can’t imagine having to deal with this every day at work.

    These people are already adversarial with you and anyone else trying to use the break room (or anyone else existing as an ethnic or religious minority it sounds like). Assuming these people are not close team members or a supervisor, are you allowed to be adversarial back? Such as setting up a tape recorder at lunch time and saying if you hear anything that could create a legal hostile work environment, you plan to take it to a lawyer? If they are supporting that particular candidate, odds are good they may be saying negative things about certain genders, religions, or races.
    Actually going to a lawyer may seem overly dramatic, but this place (naked photos of a student worker with no consequences???) sounds like a lawsuit waiting to happen regardless.

    1. fposte*

      I really wouldn’t recommend that. People who feel strongly about politics are not automatically going to be discriminatory, and even if it’s a legal move, it’s more likely to get the OP into trouble than it is to get her a peaceful lunch.

      1. sam*

        yeah – people are entitled to hold opposing political viewpoints and even express those viewpoints to others.

        What they can’t do is force those other people to listen, force other people to engage in a political conversation, and badger/harass other people.

        (or, obviously, discriminate against other people based on their membership in a protected class)

  30. AnotherAlison*

    I always wondered what my obnoxious (former) FB friends were like at work, and how they could keep their jobs with such extreme views. Now I know.

  31. Mike C.*

    I think there’s a serious conflation of issues going on here in the discussion.

    The fact that these folks are sitting in a group discussing politics isn’t, in and of itself, a huge issue. Taking over the whole room, being loud, forcing others to engage, the stickers and so on are big deals. So I think we should stick to dealing with the big deals rather than coming up with excuses to police otherwise tolerable conversations within a group of people.

    After all, if the situation were just about a group of people who talk about news/politics during the day at a single table without being rude to others, it wouldn’t be a problem. So let’s set aside the taboo of speaking about politics in a public place and focus on the clear crossing of boundaries, gross behavior, discriminatory comments and so on.

    1. Morning Glory*

      I wouldn’t tell anyone to stop talking, but I do think it is unprofessional to discuss politics in the workplace, unless that is the specific field they are in.
      I dislike when my colleague brings up the election to me even though we have similar views, because we work in an open space and I don’t want to unwittingly offend any of my colleagues. Politics are contentious and controversial – people who overhear you may never butt into your conversation to debate you, they may never even indicate they heard anything, but they could still be offended or else lose respect for you based on what you say.

      1. Mike C.*

        Look, I think it’s perfectly fine not to want to participate, to inform people and expect them to respect your preferences. What the OP is going through is completely uncalled for. At the same time there are ways to keep these sorts of discussions low key without being rude or involving people who don’t want to participate.

        but they could still be offended or else lose respect for you based on what you say.
        I don’t think this is a useful metric because there are so many different things that could fall under this category which are otherwise perfectly fine to discuss in the workplace. Not having children. Not having enough children. Buying a (or buying the wrong/too expensive) car or a house. Getting married. Getting a divorce, and so on. Churches! People are judgemental as a matter of course, they will find something.

        1. Alton*

          I think it’s good to exercise some constraint with anything that’s really personal, though. It’s not that talking about it is automatically offensive, but that it can start to look like you’re taking for granted that other people are on the same page as you, or it can look like you don’t have a great sense of where to draw the line.

          I have several coworkers who are religious and Christian. One of them actually attended theology school, I think. But this only comes up here and there. The guy who went to theology school mentions it in his website profile because his education is obviously relevant.

          But another coworker frequently talks about being blessed, mentions God, and wishes blessings on other people, and it’s conspicuous.

          Someone mentioning their kids sometimes is unlikely to be weird, but someone who talks about them constantly might give the impression that their whole identity is built around bring a parent.

          With politics, frequent sharing can appear tone deaf because there can be an implicit assumption that others share the same opinions or, conversely, are happy to debate.

            1. HRish Dude*

              I haven’t figured out a tactful way to tiptoe out of it. Usually I just abruptly and unsubtly change the subject. You would think that would be the end of it, but no.

          1. aebhel*

            This. I don’t actually want to argue politics at work, but I’m also not comfortable letting certain types of statements go unchallenged. It’s way less awkward for everyone involved if people default to the assumption that (a) not everyone agrees with them and (b) not everyone wants to discuss it, regardless of their personal opinions.

          2. SimontheGreyWarden*

            For a moment I thought you might be talking about me (except you said the theology student was a guy). My MA is in Theology, and it essentially never comes up at work (a college). My coworkers know only because I had to take an additional certification class in the field I teach in, since that is not religious studies, and the question of why I had to take the class when I have the MA came up. It has come up twice in discussions with students; the first time was because the student was taking an ethics class and wanted to know how I knew the information already about the books they were reading. The second time a student directly asked if I was religious because she was writing a paper that concerned her conversion to religion and did not want to be laughed at for it (I believe it spoke more to experiences in her life outside of school than to experiences at the college since this tends to be a religious part of the country). Otherwise, I would never lie about what my degree is in, but I believe it was a personal journey and I chose to leave that field, so I don’t go throwing it in everyone’s faces.

        2. LawBee*

          yeah but the question isnot how can the people talk about a divisive topic without being obnoxious – it’s what can the OP do right now to get them to leave her out of it.

      2. PK*

        I agree. Politics shouldn’t be in the workplace unless it’s somehow related to actual work or the business in question.

    2. aebhel*

      The thing is, there’s a reason that politics are taboo in a lot of professional settings, and that reason is that it’s easy for tempers to get high and the discussion get out of control very quickly–as is clearly happening here. OP’s coworkers are a walking illustration of why that taboo exists.

      Do I think they should be banned from discussing it among themselves? No, but I do think it’s *rude* to do so, particularly if they’re doing it loudly, in a public space that other people want to use. And trying to force uninterested bystanders to engage is well beyond the pale.

  32. MsMaryMary*

    OP, is it possible that you could use the room set aside for nursing mothers for your snack breaks? Some people might not be cool with the idea of you eating in that space, or it may be occupied at the same time you’d like to use it, but it’s worth a try. At OldJob those rooms were called Mothers’ Rooms, and no one batted an eye if a pregnant woman used one to grab a quick nap or get her stomach settled.

  33. Jady*

    I’d raise it with *somebody* first (with documentation, via email or something), just in case. CYA always.

    After that, if everyone is clearly not willing to help I’d say either sabotage the television and/or I’d start using some very strong (and personally inappropriate) sentences forcefully. The key factor is don’t tolerate their behavior.

    (Maybe try to befriend an IT person and get them to block the channels? haha)

    To start with things like
    “Please leave me out of these discussions.”
    “I’m done asking you nicely. Leave. Me. Alone.”
    “My political opinions are not up for discussion and none of your business, stop nagging me.”
    “Do you talk to your mother like this?” (may be a regional phrase!)
    “If you continue I’m going to file a formal complaint of harassment.” (empty threat or not)

    If still pushed, MY words would be start becoming more adult.
    “None of your ……. business, leave me alone.”
    “Shut … …. up and go away/stop blabbering at me.”
    “I am not interested in your continued word vomit.”

    (Yes, this will get you fired at some jobs (thus CYA and know your workplace!)). It’s just my personality, I physically can’t tolerate it after a point. People that don’t respect you don’t require your respect, as you see fit.

    If it still continues god forbid, bring headphones and right out ignore them like you would a tantrum wailing toddler. If they still come talk to/at you, turn up the volume and pretend they aren’t there. Bring a book if you need something to look at.

    I can’t imagine after all that, they would still continue. What else can they do – Are they going to rip your headphones off your head? I can’t even imagine how I’d react to that. It wouldn’t be pretty.

  34. Tax anon*

    Last election season I was working at a small business where I was the only one in the office with the two owners. The owners hounded me for MONTHS, I am not exaggerating, trying to draw me into political discussions. It was absurd. They had this burning need to know who I was voting for and would not freaking leave it alone. It culminated on election day when they asked point blank, “You voted for X, didn’t you?”

    It was awful. So glad I work elsewhere now.

  35. madge*

    Does your workplace have a nearby nursing room for new moms that you could use for your snacks? If your employer is covered, “The space provided by the employer cannot be a bathroom, and it must be shielded from view and free from intrusion by coworkers or the public.” I know a few women who began expressing milk while they were still pregnant. They had to pump to avoid painful infections. I’m not saying you should lie about that, but…actually, yes, I am. In your scenario, you are out of good options.

    Of course, if your HR fails to see what’s wrong with taking nudies of student workers, they might not be willing to follow the law at all.

    1. KR*

      This is a great idea! It would be inconvienent anyway for the nursing room to be too far from your office, so if OP plans on nursing anyway she could mention to HR/whoever manages the nursing room calendar that she needs frequent snacks because of her pregnancy and the breakroom is often too loud and politically charged so could she use the space for her snack breaks.

  36. GigglyPuff*

    OP, this royally blows, but you already know that. I’m in the same field, work with historical documents, so a couple of suggestions. Most archives are in the library, and while I know it takes time to grab stuff from the fridge and then walk outside, is there maybe somewhere in the library you could eat that would be closer? a chair or table on a random floor that students don’t need? (if your library allows, eating inside, but most do now).
    Also, I’ll admit, probably not as careful as I should be, since I’m not typically around historical materials 24/7, but you probably have a computer correct? Is there anyway you can just clear off your computer desk, or another space to make room? I have two desks, and usually put the materials (back in the boxes first) on the second desk before eating or drinking.
    You may have a blanket policy against eating in the same room as the materials, but honestly, this is such a horrible situation and it sounds like you’ll be on maternity leave soon, this may be the simplest outcome. And if you boss turns into a douche about eating around the materials, you can explain the situation, and then give them a death stare when you ask them to help deal with the people in the break room. If they’re conflict adverse, they might leave you alone.
    Good luck.

  37. Student Worker*

    really concerned that an (i assume grown ass adult with workplace seniority/authority) staff member took naked pictures of an (i assume 18-22 yr old) student worker… even if the student worker was a willing participant that is… not okay. Like even if it weren’t a title IX violation it would be just… ethically abhorrent and I wish it had been more directly addressed or addressed at all in AMA’s response.

    1. MegaMoose, Esq*

      Yeah, I think it should have been edited out of the letter because it’s way too incendiary for something we have almost no information about and is really tangential from the point of the letter.

      1. KR*

        I think it’s a good example of how inept the HR department is and it gets the point across. If she hadn’t, I feel like people wouldn’t believe her that HR is really that bad.

      2. LawBee*

        I don’t think Alison edits letters as a rule. WYSIWYG, and it ensures we have all the information she does.

        1. Ask a Manager* Post author

          I do sometimes edit letters for length and clarity (and I always edit for grammar, punctuation, and so forth).

          I agree that detail ended up being a big derailment from the question the OP wanted to ask (although not an unimportant one), but I wouldn’t have taken it out since it really made her point about having a terrible HR department.

  38. Anonymous 40*

    I worked in an office somewhat like this during the 2008 election. Most of the office leaned one way and a very few of us were known to lean the other. We didn’t have the break room problem or the badgering but the political comments were constant. They were tossed casually into any and every conversation that occurred in the office and those of us in the minority took a lot of “teasing.” It was a miserable experience and one of a dozen reasons I left. Since then I’ve followed the OP’s policy – flat refuse to discuss politics at work or with coworkers outside the office. When other people start talking about it, I go dead silent until the topic changes. Fortunately I haven’t had anyone press the issue the way OP’s awful coworkers do.

    OP, I’m guessing there aren’t a ton of openings most places for archivists working with historic documents, but is there anywhere else you might find a job? That definitely shouldn’t be the answer to every work-related problem but with openly hostile coworkers and both a director and HR department who won’t intervene, it’s really hard to see how anything will change at your current job. Especially if your coworkers’ preferred candidate doesn’t win.

    1. Kyrielle*

      Normally I’d agree re the ‘find another job’…but in this case OP is pregnant. Assuming size and etc., OP is likely covered by FMLA; since it takes 12 months of employment, moving to a new job (besides being complicated by being clearly pregnant!) would lose that coverage.

      That said, OP, I’d remember from here on out how HR handled the student worker, how your coworkers’ political jabber goes, and any additional fallout from this. When you *do* decide to get out (whether that’s now, and take the risks, or after you’ve come back from the leave), don’t be afraid to remind yourself of the negative aspects of all this if you’re prone to guilt and “but I owe them”. Right now, they owe you…basic decency and a chance to eat, and to work at a place that doesn’t think a staff member taking nudie photos of a student worker is a-ok if the student worker doesn’t *speak up* to object! O.o

  39. Jessica*

    I’m so sorry, this sounds miserable. I really like Alison’s idea of borrowing another co-worker’s office. In the same vein, can you plop a chair right outside of your office and have a snack there? Or any other small nooks if your department that you can think of where you can put a chair? Probably difficult to eat a full meal this way, but easy enough for a sleeve of crackers, some salami or other kinds of sliced meat, hummus and carrots, hard-boiled eggs, string cheese, etc. Pack it in a small cooler with an ice pack and you could probably keep in under your desk. Are you able to drink in your office? If so, maybe one of your snacks can be protein smoothie or shake.

    1. Meg Murry*

      Yes, this was going to be my suggestion as well. Is there somewhere you can put a cooler or bag of pre-wrapped snacks so you don’t have to go to the break room? Is there a hallway, stairwell or somewhere else you can eat a non-messy, non-smelly snack and then go wash your hands in the bathroom and go back to the “no food” area? It seems to me that if you put a PB&J or similar in a ziploc bag (or perhaps in foil and then in a ziploc) and put that in your purse/bag, if would be ok to bring near your work area as long as you took the whole bag back out of the work area before opening up the food. Basically, just pretend the break room doesn’t exist and plan your lunches and snacks around that. Still annoying to have to go elsewhere (and it will start to get cold soon if you have to go outside, I’m guessing), but it at least cuts the breakroom out of the “office->breakroom->place to eat->breakroom->office” loop.

      If right now it’s really most terrible from 10:30-1:30, could OP try having a light meal/heavy snack at 10:00 and 2:00 in the break room, and just a medium snack at 12:00 (that could be of the pre-wrapped, kept in the purse type)?

    2. ScarletInTheLibrary*

      If it’s like my archive, using other’s offices and keeping a cooler under one’s desk are out of the question due to the preservation issues OP mentioned. Of the museums and archives (and libraries to a lesser extent) I have worked/interned/volunteered at, only three (two of which were libraries) allowed food in meeting/conference rooms. Most are picky about drinks as well. One did not allow any drinks, one only allowed water (due to the possiblity of staining items due to spills), and everywhere else were picky about the container used. And TBH, the other one really shouldn’t have been so liberal with allowing food with as many information literacy sessions they did with archival materials in there. That’s why I disagree with Allison about the possiblity of using someone else’s office. Very rarely do you have someone never working with archival or other cultural heritage objects. If an archive allowed employees to eat at their desks, I would think less of that institution.

      If food is allowed in meeting/conference rooms, then the OP might get lucky on most days. One does run the risk of that room being used for meetings. . . .

  40. animaniactoo*

    Hold up a hand and say loudly “STOP!”

    When they all look startled, you say “I have just declined to force my political views on you beyond telling you that I don’t share yours. I am asking you for the same respect and to leave me in peace to eat my food. Do you think that you can do that? I don’t care how urgent you believe your point of view to be, I am telling you that I am NOT going to be swayed by being forced to listen to it when all I want to do is take a break and have a bite to eat. Okay?”

    If they start again, you say again – a bit loudly. “NO. I said *NO*. This is not a necessary subject of conversation at work and I am not going to be forced to listen to it from you or discuss it with you. I am willing to discuss something else with you, but NOT THAT. Do you understand?”

    They start again, you interrupt “So how about them Yankees, you think they’ll make the playoffs?” with a very pointed look. And feel free to keep talking the Yankees or something – anything else at them, talking over them if necessary. It will be a war of talking over, but it will put across the point that you are not going to flee and you are not going to sit there either while they do it.

    1. animaniactoo*

      P.S. This is only towards them talking *at* you. Anything else I would leave alone unless it is explicitly derogatory (would fall under “hostile workplace” violation).

  41. overcaffeinatedandqueer*

    Can I take sides here?

    I really feel that in this election, any open Trump supporters who discuss it often, and play Fox News daily, create a work environment where I, as a lesbian, and a lot of minority workers too, would likely feel legitimately unsafe.

    Luckily, as I’m a lawyer in a blue state, most colleagues either agree with me or don’t discuss politics. Seems all the super-conservative people practice in small towns or for conservative orgs.

    Law tends to be a politically segregated and polarized field.

    1. A.*

      Yeah, this isn’t a normal election where we can chalk these things up to reasonable differences. One of the candidates openly supports white supremacy and the suspension of civil liberties.

      1. fposte*

        In my lifetime, every normal election *has* been between people who make some on the other side feel threatened and unsafe.

        1. Artemesia*

          I am old –older than the candidates who are too dang old to be running– and this election IS different. This is an existential choice.

          1. overcaffeinatedandqueer*

            Agreed! All this stuff makes me actually glad my field sort of leans liberal and self-selects to politically similar workplaces.

            A Trump supporting coworker got kicked off my current project. For what?

            Loudly talking. To me. about how LGBT advocates are trampling on religious and personal rights, and “no one should support this…problem!”

            Then, after some good coworkers complained for me, he was told not to talk to me and to not discuss politics; after a few days of silence, he then did the same sort of talk, with others. While making sure I was in earshot. And called being LGBT a “disgusting illness.”

            When he was told to leave the project, he was so mad that I went and hid in the ladies’ room a while. Because I was afraid.

            1. Let's Not Go There*

              Let’s not take the OP’s issue and create the same issue here. Assigning blanket assumptions to anyone supporting a particular candidate is unfair across the board. If you support either candidate, I don’t assume that you worship that individual and live and die by every word they say. This election is generally about the “lesser of two evils.” Whichever evil you find to be lesser, so be it. But let’s not start bashing each other’s candidates here too. Because that just re-creates OP’s exact issue here, in the thread to help OP overcome the situation.

        2. A.*

          Nope, false equivalency.

          Only one candidate has talked about barring certain religious groups from entering the country, believes in the “punishment” of women for undergoing a constitutionally protected, supports unconstitutional racial profiling against American POCs, and now has bragged about his sexual assaults on women. God, there’s probably even more that I’m forgetting because he’s THAT bad. There is real fear for loss of civil liberties, ethical decency and spiraling economic meltdown in a way that has never been felt before.

          This is unprecedented.

          1. SystemsLady*

            In the real world, he would’ve been fired on the spot, in many cases only for the one thing (not the sum total of his behavior).

            One I have a personal analogue to is him screaming about a woman’s “temperament”, while said woman is sitting there smiling and waiting for him to calm down so she can explain the thing without getting interrupted. Yup, he was fired.

          2. fposte*

            If you think it’s unprecedented to talk about punishing women for legal actions and support unconstitutional racial profiling, you are very young indeed.

      2. Anon1*

        In every election I have witnessed since I was able to vote, one side has consistently opined that “people like me” (in various contexts of that statement) should 1) Not be allowed to be citizens, regardless of being born in this country; 2) Allowed personal autonomy.

        This is a normal election, it’s just being covered more thoroughly.

    2. Charlie*

      I’m not a minority, but as the friend, spouse, and ally of people of minorities, I think that’s totally valid. My wife – who’s a Latina immigrant – is completely freaked out by the man.

      1. overcaffeinatedandqueer*

        Right! He scares me too! Trump is more openly racist than homophobic, but he still said he would undo same sex marriage, and has made some anti gay and many anti-women remarks.

        This election makes me glad I don’t have kids yet. I can’t imagine having to tell them “this man wants to hurt your moms because they love each other, rather than hiding it and marrying guys.”

        1. Ask a Manager* Post author

          Y’all, let’s try to avoid getting into specific stuff about candidates beyond what’s really necessary to the OP’s letter. (I know it’s a grey area with this one.) Thanks.

          1. overcaffeinatedandqueer*

            I apologize. But, you (general you) have the luxury of not having your family politicized and their rights endangered in this way; those specific remarks are instrumental to my views on this work issue, since I can ignore most Republicans, but not open homophobia on the actual campaign trail and TV; so, his hostility makes me more anti-TV and politics at work for this letter.

            But, I won’t go into more specifics on actual quotes and stances, and I agree that this election is different than others. I can’t really stay out of politics in my personal life any more, not when the current campaign is causing an increase in violence and hate crimes against people in my community

            1. Ask a Manager* Post author

              I am a woman. My husband and his whole family are Latino. It impacts me personally.

              But this isn’t a political blog so this isn’t the place for it.

    3. OlympiasEpiriot*

      Ah. A lawyer…I can tell you my new nickname for one of our looooooovely candidates!


      Because, obviously, Necessity Knows No Law.

    4. bemo12*

      See now, I think you are being closed minded. I am a gay male with an advanced degree and I support Trump, I just don’t talk about it at work.

      I really think you are crossing a line by saying you feel unsafe around a large portion of the country.

      1. DCS*

        People who feel unsafe with people who are literally threatening them are not allowed to say so?

        You have some mighty screwed up lines there!

      2. Mookie*

        A large portion of the US electorate is threatening a “revolution” if the election is “stolen” from their candidate by blah people, and so are now planning to form armed mobs to “monitor” (read: intimidate) the voting patterns of said blahs.

  42. Master Bean Counter*

    Oh how I sympathize with the OP. Short of having a do not disturb sign to put out I really don’t have a solution that would be work friendly. Me, personally, would just hold out my hand to stop them every time they tried to engage me. But really I’d look at using the parental lock on the TV to lock out the channel. I’m not above guerrilla tactics when it comes to having peace on my breaks.

  43. LCL*

    You shouldn’t have to do this, but here is a temporary solution. Ask those workers who are close to your office, and who you know eat at their desks, if you can come in and have your snacks in their office. Because your pregnancy requires you to eat frequently, and it is getting harder for you to walk to the break room, and you can’t eat anything in your office, not even a granola bar or almonds because of your specific archival work. I guarantee that if you are working with people in an office setting, and your job involves physical tasks, the office workers won’t understand the implications of doing the physical work until you explain it to them.

    I would totally vacate my office a few times a day for a pregnant woman to eat in peace. I would want a day’s notice though, so I could clean my office of the tools and prints and other detritus and make a clear space for you to set your food down. I would even stock your favorite snacks so you had an excuse to come by.

    This is avoidance instead of solving the weak management problem, but that is really bigger than you to solve and you have other things to worry about right now. I wouldn’t be surprised if the breakroom situation implodes because the political gang antagonizes the wrong person. One complaint of feeling intimidated by the politically charged atmosphere could do it…

    1. fposte*

      Oh, that’s a clever idea, and sometimes there is an office tucked around archives. I would bet it wouldn’t matter the politics of the person, either; a pregnant woman in need in a one-on-one is a whole ‘nother situation.

    2. Joan Callamezzo*

      I don’t have enough time in the workday to vacate my office repeatedly, but my office is good-sized and has a couple of comfortable visitor chairs, and is quiet. If I knew about a coworker having this issue I would absolutely offer them refuge a few times a day for snack and lunch breaks if needed. Definitely might be worth asking colleagues.

  44. Cynical Lackey*

    Throw a few facts at them. facts to a Trump-Humper is like garlic to a vampire. it works every time.

    Also, be glad it is a break room and not a locker room. You should here how they talk in there.

    1. Theguvnah*

      Really? Facts don’t seem to matter to the trump voters I see. Literally they think all facts that conflict with trumps ‘s words are made up by the media.

      It’s a pretty convenient scam they have going on.

  45. Erin*

    My advice is to politely ask to change the channel to the weather channel. “I need to see if it’s going to rain tonight I have outdoor plans.” Or ESPN get a sudden interest in the World Series. Or local news, “so and so said my nephew was going to be on the 12 news because of a project at school.”

  46. LisaD*

    If you’re truly desperate, you could try “I promise to give my vote to your candidate if I don’t hear about them again from you for the rest of the election cycle.”

    Of course, you don’t have to keep that promise.

  47. Tiny_Tiger*

    This is beyond infuriating. Thankfully, my office has largely steered clear from political talk and the only person who has ever brought it up only did so once. I think they got the message when everyone sitting at the same table went deathly quiet. But honestly, if they keep badgering you and won’t take no for an answer, it might be time to get a little nasty with them. I don’t take kindly to people who force me to get into unneeded conversations at work, so after repeated no’s I would tell them flat-out, “This entire election is an insult to the American people’s intelligence and the toxic atmosphere it’s created is a hazard to health and sanity alike. I have no desire to discuss this any further.”

  48. Collie*

    For specific instances of coworkers trying to convince OP to vote for a particular candidate or even support an issue one way or another (in perhaps a veiled attempt to show support for one candidate over another/others), is it possible for OP to respond that she did early voting so there’s literally nothing for them to gain by trying to convince/debating her?

  49. Hotel GM Guy*

    I’m surprised that you’re surprised that academics are political.

    Of course, I’m assuming they’re pro-Trump, so I am surprised that there are pro-Trump academics.

    1. Anonymous 40*

      I read “small, private college” as “insular conservative ‘Christian’ college,” but that’s probably because I went to one.

      1. Argh!*

        Probably not the most PC suggestion, but as you’re pregnant, I think you may get away with it.

        Sit down, pretend to eat for a moment, and then as voices raise, stand up and shout at the top of your lungs, SHUT UP SHUT UP SHUT UP SHUT UP I CAN’T TAKE IT ANYMORE CAN’T I HAVE ONE MOMENT OF PEACE IN THIS PLACE WHAT WILL IT TAKE TO GET YOU PEOPLE TO ACT LIKE ADULTS IN THIS EFFING PLACE? SHUT UP!!!!

        …then dramatically shove all your food off the table and run out of the room.

        You can blame it on hormones, but at least you may get a break from them.

        Alternatively, you could tell your boss that your doctor wants you to eat regular snacks, and if you can’t get peace and quiet you’ll have to take worker’s comp or demand temporary reassignment under ADA. With a boss that’s conflict-averse, presenting a choice of conflicts sometimes does the trick.

        (I really want you to try #1 first though! I got a food nazi to shut up about food by blowing up at her. Only had to do it once and it fixed the problem permanently)

  50. RVA Cat*

    Funny how the folks who want to build a wall have such a fierce objection to normal social boundaries…

      1. Hotel GM Guy*

        Russians… Actually, speaking of Russians, that is the one issue I’m voting on. I don’t think anything in Syria is worth provoking a war with Russia.

        Trump is a giant a-hole, and I’m a moderate independent who does *not* like him, but it’s worth it if he’ll keep us from going to war with Russia (which is what a no-fly zone would accomplish).

        1. Student*

          You do understand that the federal government has said, repeatedly, that Russia is actively meddling in the current US election? That this is something unanimously agreed-upon by both sides of the US political aisle, except one specific guy that Russia is trying to get elected? That this is a thing Russia has done elsewhere successfully, including in their own country?

          That’s not even beginning to cover the myriad number of terrible things the current Russian regime has done counter to US interests, or to basic human interests. If you want to be friends with Russia, by all means, emigrate to one of the countries they are “friendly” with. If you want freedom of religion, freedom of the press, freedom of assembly, freedom of speech, and elections that mean something, then stick with the US and allies.

        2. babblemouth aka One Of The Greatest Minds Of The 21st Century*

          See? What you’re doing here is specifically what OP is complaining about. Alison has very often made it clear that this isn’t the place for political discussions. The commenters who might disagree with you have now two choices: disrespect Alison by answering you and continuing this political discussion, and letting it drop and giving you the feeling you have the last word, since no one seems to disagree with you.

          You have an opinion, but in a space that has clearly been designated as neutral, you’re metaphorically preventing people from eating their lunch in peace.

          1. sam*

            this. I actually have very strong political views, and if you go to my own website or twitter feed, you’ll see me posting regularly on the subject. But since I’m cognizant and respectful of Alison’s rules, I’m doing everything I can to be as ‘generic’ as possible when commenting (particularly on this post, given the topic at hand).

  51. overcaffeinatedandqueer*

    I think this political climate is also upping transphobia as well. There was a huge uproar at my gym recently, because a trans woman wanted to use the women’s locker room. And shower. Comfort issues aside, not showering right after a workout can cause major skin issues! And there are curtained shower cubes.

    Anyway, the critics said that “X and Y politicians said trans people in the locker rooms are not safe for us women!”

    In fighting that view, I told gym management that if the issue was of women’s safety and not being creeped on, that they had better ban me from the locker room too, since I am a woman who LIKES women.

    1. Hotel GM Guy*

      Ugh, gym locker rooms are gross. Right up there with dorm bathrooms. I always head right home and shower off (of course, I live a mile from my gym)

    2. an anon*

      That’s largely unrelated to the US presidential election, as most of that rhetoric has come out of state legislatures and local/municipal governments.

  52. HRish Dude*

    This is why you put parental locks on the work TVs to keep them from going to anything except HGTV, Food Network, and Travel Channel.

        1. KG, Ph.D.*

          LOL! Also, some major national issues have come up in the sports world recently, and plenty of ESPN shows have been devoting time to discussing some fairly controversial current events.

  53. Maureen P.*

    It seems like the best solution is to find an undetectable, reversible way to disable the TV. But, this requires the potential to be alone with the TV for a few minutes – is that possible by arriving early, or leaving late?

    If you Google “how to disable a TV”, there are lots of ideas ranging from hiding the remote control, setting the contrast all the way down so the screen looks black even when on, loosening the power cord where it attaches to the TV so it still looks plugged in, but is not actually connected, taping over the transmit/receive spots on the remote/TV, taping over the TV screen with a piece of shiny paper that looks like a blank screen, tripping the breaker, setting the max volume on the TV to mute, etc. etc. etc. It’s amazing how many people have faced this issue. Basically, I think you want to encourage this group of boors to relocate.

    You might need an accomplice! I am always down for non-destructive revenge schemes, so hopefully you work with some similarly-minded individuals!

    1. Office Plant*

      If these people are as passionate about this stuff as they sound, one of them would probably bring in a replacement tv.

      Personally, I’ve never worked in a place that had a tv in the break room. It sounds like a bad idea for a lot of reasons.

  54. fly on the wall*

    The problem here, it seems is that the majority of OP’s co-workers lean one way and she is in the minority. Thus, they are not likely to just stop talking politics because she asks them to. Additionally, she mentions that management & HR a lean the same way, so they are not helpful.

    In this case, OP, I say you just have to suck it up and ignore them. Or find someplace else to have some quiet time.

    I do wonder if you would feel the same way if your co-workers agreed with you politically, though.

    1. fposte*

      She probably wouldn’t, but I don’t think it matters. If you’re a Cardinals fan you may not want to hear about the wonders of the Cubs every time you step into the breakroom either; it’s not unreasonable to want a break from that kind of breakroom. She’s not sending them to jail, she just wants some time away from the topic. I’d be sympathetic to an employee who felt that regardless of who they were voting for.

    2. KG, Ph.D.*

      I can’t speak for the OP, but I would feel exactly the same way even if everyone agreed with me. For example, my dad is That Guy who posts incessantly about politics on Facebook. I have his updates hidden from my feed, despite the fact that he and I agree on 95% of topics. My shoulders go up around my ears when I hear people bring up politics in professional situations, even if I agree with them 100% (and I usually do, due to my geographical location and profession). Most people who want to discuss politics at work, regardless of their beliefs, are unwilling or unable to do so in a nuanced, empathetic way. That’s just not my jam. I prefer to have small group or one-on-one discussions with people I can trust to speak and listen from a place of honesty, love, and openness. The political is personal, and all that.

      1. Emac*

        I agree. I work in an office where we’re pretty much all on the same side of politics. I rarely eat lunch in the lunch room any more because the conversations are so often heated discussions about politics. Even though they’re all agreeing with each other and I also agree with them, it just stresses me out too much to listen to when I’m trying to eat & relax.

  55. Kate*

    I’ve wondered about this (in reverse) because I work at a very liberal academic institution (a school of public health…we tend to self-select). Our IT guy jokes about being the only republican on our floor. There is a fair amount of political watercooler talk and there is tolerance for different beliefs (which seem to range from moderately liberal to extremely liberal), but I’ve often wondered if there are any closet conservatives who feel uncomfortable in the environment.

  56. Argh!*

    Probably not the most PC suggestion, but as you’re pregnant, I think you may get away with it.

    Sit down, pretend to eat for a moment, and then as voices raise, stand up and shout at the top of your lungs, SHUT UP SHUT UP SHUT UP SHUT UP I CAN’T TAKE IT ANYMORE CAN’T I HAVE ONE MOMENT OF PEACE IN THIS PLACE WHAT WILL IT TAKE TO GET YOU PEOPLE TO ACT LIKE ADULTS IN THIS EFFING PLACE? SHUT UP!!!!

    …then dramatically shove all your food off the table and run out of the room.

    You can blame it on hormones, but at least you may get a break from them.

    Alternatively, you could tell your boss that your doctor wants you to eat regular snacks, and if you can’t get peace and quiet you’ll have to take worker’s comp or demand temporary reassignment under ADA. With a boss that’s conflict-averse, presenting a choice of conflicts sometimes does the trick.

    (I really want you to try #1 first though! I got a food nazi to shut up about food by blowing up at her. Only had to do it once and it fixed the problem permanently)

  57. ScarletInTheLibrary*

    I just want to mention (again since I replied to a post about this issue) that if the OP and her coworkers cannot eat at their desks, then storing food there is a no-go as well. Also there may not be a coworker that can eat in his or her office (as in they never have cultural heritage materials in their office. . . even managers do at my archive for outreach and/or planning purposes).

    My guess is that if there is an ally that has an office where OP can go to eat in piece, it would likely eat up part of OP’s lunch time to get to said office. It bites that that the time lost walking somewhere else may be worth it to avoid added frustration.

  58. Jade*

    OP, your coworkers know your political beliefs are different and by inundating you and others with TV selections and the unyielding chatter, they are hoping to annoy you and/or change your political views. Like the old adage “don’t negotiate with terrorists,” you need to be very firm and unyielding in return. Headphones in, volume up, ignore all contact. DO NOT engage them. Even saying “I disagree with you, but you’re entitled to your opinion” gives them incentive to harass you. They likely won’t take the hint, but with your headphones drowning them out, who cares. I like the idea of surrounding yourself in the breakroom with supportive coworkers, too. These don’t even necessarily have to be people who share your political views, but people who feel that a coworker shouldn’t be subjected to harassment while trying to eat. It would definitely make a difference if you and, say, three other people told them to leave you alone than if you alone asked them to.

    Now if you really wanted to fight them at their level, you could try these tactics: an old coworker of mine used to listen to our boss’ political ramblings, but instead of disagreeing with her he’d pretend to agree with her, all while making very subtle insults in his phrasing that she never quite picked up on. It gave him such satisfaction. My approach to this problem was to stare blankly at people and not say a word. People *hate* awkward silence and will likely avoid it if they know it’s coming every time. Bonus points if you make piercing eye contact while staring.

  59. JessaB*

    Is there anyone else who has an office that has lunch when you do and wouldn’t mind you sharing? Is it possible to get a small table in your office that is away from the things you work on and sit there and eat? Or a drop cloth that you can put over your work?

  60. Not a Pigeon*

    A friend once lent me a lab she wasn’t using (she was a chemistry professor) for an extended period of time when I was working on a project that required a lot of concentration, and my office situation wasn’t… shall we say… conducive to that kind of work. She gave me the key, and when things got too noisy and ridiculous I’d say something like, “Oh, wow, I TOTALLY forgot about that Campus Morale Committee meeting I’m supposed to be in!” and disappear for an hour or two with my laptop to work on the project in peace among the nitrogen tanks and Bunsen burners.

    I first tried headphones, but 1) my co-workers kept trying to involve me in the conversation anyway, even coming in and asking me to remove my headphones just because they felt personally insulted that I was wearing them; and 2) I was so annoyed at having to wear headphones just to get my freakin’ work done that I couldn’t focus. My brain kept yelling “THIS ISN’T FAIR WHY DO THEY GET TO CHAT ABOUT THEIR KIDS’ FOOTBALL GAMES FOR AN HOUR WHILE I AM TRYING TO WORK WHY WON’T OUR BOSS DO ANYTHING ABOUT THIS I AM SO MISERABLE” etc. etc. As it was, having to relocate still set off that brain reaction, but it went away within a few minutes once I got back to work.

    OP, if you can find a sympathetic friend to lend you some office space, I highly recommend it. (Although probably not a long-unused chemistry lab, since you’re pregnant.) Also: No matter who wins the election, this situation is not likely to improve afterward. Your co-workers will still be obnoxious jerks who don’t respect your privacy or your wishes. While you’re on maternity leave and away from these people for a while, try to spend some time evaluating your options. It can be hard to find time to think immediately postpartum, but babies do nap A LOT… and they have a way of making you think about the future in a very clear way.

  61. Faith2014*

    There is a significant portion of the country who cannot stand either major candidate. There are 2 people I work with who know my personal political opinions, and several who probably think they do since I am very neutral when I speak openly.

    I would suggest to you that you openly take the ‘a pox on both their houses’ stance and repeat it a couple of times. Use the ‘in a country of 300+ million people, I can’t believe that we came up with two such flawed, unpopular people’ a couple of times. Then, put on your headphones. A few times of doing that and they will stop expecting you to talk.

    The chances are that they have heard that opinion before, repeatedly, even by those who basically agree with them. If you come across as bored/disgruntled by the whole thing, then they will stop asking your opinion.

    I do this. As a consultant on a team, my team changes as my clients change. Please realize that BOTH sides do this. On my current team, they lean D. On other teams I’ve been on, people have leaned R. I use the same approach with both sides.

  62. TootsNYC*

    This is a situation in which I think, since other approaches have not worked, it’s now time to get pissed off and angry–to go on the attack. Not viciously or out of control, but authoritatively.

    This is offensive, and it’s time to act offended. Stop being polite and trying to deflect.
    Be blunt and go on the offensive. (ha ha, I didn’t mean that pun, but there you are)

  63. chumpwithadegree*

    When I was pregnant, I puked the entire 9+ months. Bad smells would cause some of it. Can you arrange to have morning sickness when someone brings up any politics? While it is generally in bad form to vomit where people are eating, it may have the desired result.

  64. SadieMae70*

    Ugh, this stinks. I worked with a guy like this. He would come into my office every day and talk for literally 30-45 minutes, at least, about how his party was the only one that could save the country, and how the other party was full of “traitors” who should be “locked up.” When he found out (by looking up my Facebook profile) that I was a member of the opposing party, he started to come in and literally laugh at me, telling me I “must be stupid” and going on long rants about conspiracies he’d heard about on his favorite cable news channel. He would challenge me to explain my positions or say, “I know Senator X personally, I’m sure I could introduce you at his next meet-and-greet and HE could explain why his policies are best. Surely you’d listen to a senator?!?”

    I told him I didn’t want to discuss politics; he persisted. I went to our boss (no HR dept. – it was a tiny company) and complained, but the boss shared this fellow’s political opinions and just said, “People are allowed to disagree. This is America.”

    Finally I brought earphones to work and would put them on, without comment, whenever he came into the room. Just completely ignored him. He tried to wave and get my attention; I stayed focused on my computer screen. I thought he might try to take the earphones off or otherwise physically get my attention, but he didn’t, thank goodness. But it was SO tense. After a few days, he left me in peace and went off to harass other colleagues. I left the company soon after for unrelated reasons, so I don’t know what happened after that!

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