company is taking us to a musical mocking religion, custodian might be taking my food, and more

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

1. Company wants to take us to a musical disparaging religion

My company has bought us tickets to go see The Book of Mormon as a company bonding experience. Several coworkers have expressed to HR and upper management that they are really uncomfortable that the company is sponsoring a play that disparages their beliefs. While I was really excited at first and am an atheist, after hearing their point of view, I’m also really uncomfortable with the company sponsoring anything in the realm of religion or anti-religion. We’re obviously fine if people at the company go to see the play on their own time or even talk about it in the vein of normal workplace chatter (e.g., “What did you do this weekend” stuff), but we think it’s going too far for the company to pay for this.

For context, we are a fairly small company (~100 people) that loves nerdy, geeky fun. People have impromptu Nerf battles in the hallways, and the company has previously taken all of us out to see Star Wars.

Given this context, do you think that The Book of Mormon is too far, or are we just making a fuss? HR has indicated that they would not be willing to cancel the outing but may be willing to offer an alternative. Is that an acceptable outcome, or should we push for full cancellation (given that it’s unlikely the alternative is something that can fully balance out the anti-religious tones of The Book of Mormon)? Moreover, how can we address the fact that, when my coworkers expressed their displeasure, senior management insisted that we have a lot of religious diversity in the company and the company cannot please everyone?

Yeah, that’s really inappropriate and insensitive — and it’s bizarre that they didn’t figure it out as soon as someone raised it. Not everything that people are interested in seeing is appropriate to do as a company bonding experience (see also: strip clubs). And a musical that’s widely understood to mock a particular religion is not okay as a work event. You’re not overreacting. Your company is being weird.

I’d point out them that offering an alternative for people who want it isn’t acceptable, since they’re still putting their formal stamp of approval on something that’s insulting to people with different beliefs. And it’s particularly silly to do this in the name of bonding, since it’s going to have the opposite effect — it’s going to upset and alienate people instead. As for their statements that “we can’t please everybody,” you might respond with “yes, but we can avoid actively insulting and offending them.”

2. I think our custodian is taking my food

I have a private office at work, which I lock when I leave at night. There is a break room with a refrigerator, but like many offices, it’s often overstuffed and gross. I have a mini fridge in my office because I take my lunch every day and often bring supplies for a few days at a time — a tub of hummus, a block of cheese and bread for sandwiches, etc.

A few months ago, our custodian (who is relatively new but has always seemed nice) asked if she could store her dinner in my fridge when she arrives in the evenings. I was happy to share — I’m almost always gone by the time she arrives, and I never used all of the space.

Recently, food has gone missing. It’s never a whole meal, but more like a few slices of bread, or a quarter of a block of cheese, or half a tomato. It’s also relatively obvious (whoever is doing it is slicing the cheese off with a fork, for example, and when a whole tomato becomes a half, it’s hard to miss.)

Do I approach the custodian? She’s the only one who would be in there, and it started recently. Should I just let this go, because while she’s paid a living wage, it’s a lot less than I make and I don’t know her situation — she might be food insecure?

It’s reasonable to say something. Don’t accuse her, of course, since you don’t know it’s her, but you could say, “Hey, have you noticed any of your food that you’ve put in my fridge going missing? I’ve been finding food gone recently — not whole meals but things like a slice of bread or a half tomato, but still things I intended to eat — and I wondered if the same thing is happening to your stuff.” Who knows, maybe it is. And if she is the culprit, this alerts her both that you’ve noticed and that it’s a problem for you (since she might have thought you wouldn’t care), while still letting her save some face.

It’s really kind of you to worry about food scarcity being in play, but it’s still okay for you to ask about this. But if you wouldn’t mind her taking some of your food if she needs it, you could always add, “But by the way, while we’re on the topic, if you ever need the occasional slice of bread or slice of tomato and you see there’s plenty in there, please go ahead.”

3. I don’t want to manage my organization’s social media

I was hoping you could help me with a situation that keeps coming up in my professional life (and the lives of other young professionals I know). I’m a millennial, and in EVERY SINGLE POSITION I’ve had, my non-millennial managers have asked me to run our organization’s social media accounts when it wasn’t part of the job description or remotely related to my responsibilities.

I get it — millennials are supposed to be technology masterminds. But I hate social media (I deleted my personal Facebook account about a month ago), am pretty terrible with it, and not interested in making it part of my professional career. When I express this to my managers, their response boils down to “but all millennials love social media!” and then act surprised a month later when our social media stats haven’t drastically improved (despite my honest best effort). Is this just something I’m going to have to suffer through, or is there a constructive way to respond?

How clear are you being when you say no? If you’re just saying “I don’t like social media and don’t know much about how to do this,” it’s still silly that they’re not listening to you. But you might get better results if you’re much more explicit: “I don’t use social media and am frankly a luddite when it comes to Facebook. I’ve been asked to manage social media in previous jobs, and I want to be up-front with you that I learned through that experience that this not a skill I have. I would not be a good choice for this.”

(To be clear, there are jobs where this might not be optional. But if it’s truly unrelated to your work, it’s reasonable to say “this isn’t a good idea for either of us.”)

4. Scheduling surgery when I’m waiting to hear back about an interview

I have had two rounds of phone interviews for a position I was referred to. I’m a perfect match for the qualifications (the internal recruiter even told me she saw my resume and I was her “dream candidate”) and it’s a position I really want. The company is based on the West coast (I’m on the East) and they told me if I move forward, they’ll likely want to fly me out to meet with some of the executives. I was also told there are only two other candidates in the running.

It has been three weeks and I’ve heard nothing but “I’ll give you an update after I’ve touched base with the hiring manager.” Which is fine — I understand how these things go. However, I need to have surgery on my foot soon. It is elective and can be delayed, but I’m currently uncomfortable and in some pain until it can be performed. The recovery will be short but will require me to wear sneakers (and definitely no high heels) for several weeks. Obviously not a good professional look. I don’t want to put it off any longer if they’re not planning to interview me, but I also don’t want to be stuck with big bandages on my foot for a high level interview.

Don’t put it off. Go ahead and schedule it, since this interview might never materialize and they’re not making any sounds indicating that it’s imminent, and meanwhile you’re in pain. If you do get invited to interview while you’re still in bandages and footwear, just explain the situation. People interview with foot injuries (and the accompanying injury-appropriate footwear) all the time. It’s very much not a big deal.

Read an update to this letter here.

{ 586 comments… read them below }

  1. Emily Spinach*

    I feel bad but I wouldn’t have thought about that problem with the Book of Mormon at all! I’d also feel pretty bad and maybe annoyed that a group activity that I’d been excited about and that probably cost a lot had engendered bad feelings, but I do hope in that situation I’d listen and be gracious about changing the plan.

    1. Princess Consuela Banana Hammock*

      Yeah, OP#1’s response and changed position are exactly what the company higher-ups should have adopted when OP’s coworkers flagged the issue. I can’t tell if they’re retrenching because they sank money into a bad idea, or if they really think that “religious diversity” within the company somehow makes it ok to endorse activities that are hostile to a faith group. I also just get squicked out when folks pick events that not only disparage religious people, but disparage specific faiths (and within that, minority faiths).

      OP#1, you’re doing the right thing. I wish HR would, too.

      1. neverjaunty*

        I’d be tempted to tell HR “you know who’s really going to be pleased about this? An employment lawyer.”

      2. DeskBird*

        I’m mostly surprised they chose it just because of the swearing. I mean – I love Book of Mormon – I have seen it twice and laughed until my ribs hurt. But I am super careful to never listen to the soundtrack in the car when my windows are down. Super careful. I would never consider playing it at work – and would be mortified if it played accidentally. I feel like that alone proves that it would not be good work outing.

        1. Anon today...and tomorrow*

          RIGHT? I listen to Broadway cast albums almost exclusively. I listen to them while my kids are in the car. I normally hit shuffle so that we’re getting a variety. “Book of Mormon” and “Avenue Q” songs are immediately skipped. I just can’t…even though I know my kids would get it and find the humor in it…I just can’t listen to them with my kids. (They’re in middle school so old enough to get the humor but too young for me to be comfortable with it).

          1. Wendy Darling*

            Ahh yes, the suspension of disbelief phase: When they know the swears and you know they know the swears but both sides are more comfortable pretending the other side doesn’t know. I remember that from the kid end.

            1. GreenDoor*

              I’m 40 and I’m STILL in the suspension of disbelief stage with my parents. Moreso when it’s a sex scene. I must never admit to my parents that I know about sex stuff. Never! (Even though I’m married with kids…)

              I really don’t understand how going to a play will promote bonding. It’s like going to the movies on a blind date – you’re sitting in the dark for at least an hour staring ahead. No opportunity to get to know one another or discover shared interests/experiences. This is just a dumb idea, the offensive nature of this particular play notwithstanding.

        2. Allison*

          Absolutely! The show isn’t actually anti-religion, but it’s super inappropriate for a work outing. Maaaaybe my boyfriend’s small, close-knit team of engineers wouldn’t feel weird seeing it together, but in general, it’s an HR nightmare. It’s like playing Cards Against Humanity with your coworkers.

          1. CarolynM*

            Playing Cards Against Humanity with my coworkers … I read that about 10 minutes ago and had to scroll back up and comment because I keep giggling every few minutes thinking about it! You made my day AND gave me my next smartass suggestion for a team-building activity! :)

            1. JHunz*

              I’ve actually done it, but it takes a pretty particular set of co-workers for it to not be horrible.

          2. Specialk9*

            Yeah. I played Cards Against Humanity with my in-laws, once. Once. (Shudders) The only saving grace was that I had written down vocab many people don’t know, so I didn’t actually have to explain to my sheltered in-law what “smegma” means, out loud.

            Co-workers? Eek.

            1. JustaTech*

              I’ve also played Cards Against Humanity with my in-laws (at Thanksgiving) and it was not quite as miserable as I feared, but I would never do it again. And my in-laws’ company is tangential to the adult industry (so at least I didn’t have to explain anything!).

              A coworker, who had never played CAH, suggested it as a good game for our holiday party. Then the trick was finding an example card that was offensive enough to show why we couldn’t play it without being so offensive that anyone got in trouble.

              Just no.

            2. Grad student*

              That smegma card! I have somehow been left with the task of explaining that out loud at too many CAH games (granted, with friends and not family or coworkers, but still).

            3. JulieBulie*

              In order to play the game with the family, including kids, my BIL tried to remove the really offensive cards. Alas, he missed the one about Pac-Man, and it ended up in my hand. I wanted to burn it!

                1. JulieBulie*

                  I think I did ask that at one point. I’m not sure if he knew about Apples to Apples.

                  I would describe most of the cards as snarky and/or tasteless, but there weren’t really a lot of cards that actually had to be removed.

            4. DeskBird*

              I have also played Cards against Humanity with the Inlaws and it was awful. I would refuse to play it with coworkers – such a bad idea. Honestly I would love for this game to go away – it feels like people are always suggesting to play it like they are being outrageous and shocking and hip – and I would just… rather play apples to apples? I feel like you can make any card super funny with apples to apples if you are clever enough about it – but with Cards Against Humanity there are just certain cards that always win because they are already funny, or the most outrageous.

              1. Indoor Cat*

                I also wish the game would kinda die. I mean, the fad seems to have passed for at least one of my friend groups, but, eh.

                And I really hate to play it when I don’t know every single person at a party, so I usually just opt out. You just don’t know everyone’s history, and I genuinely don’t want to unintentionally hurt anyone’s feelings or mock something that’s a struggle for someone else that I may not know about.

                Honestly, there are so many fun large group party games nowadays, there are just so many better options.

          3. LBK*

            Ehhhhh, I wouldn’t say it’s especially critical of the religion but it certainly does poke fun at it. I can see people in the religion being put off by it, especially songs like I Believe that call out some of the more unusual beliefs.

          4. Connie-Lynne*

            OMG, I love Book of Mormon but the vulgarity alone makes it 100% work inappropriate!

            I stage manage drag shows, and I always warn people that the shows are vulgar and have sexual humor when I drop ticket links into work Slack.

        3. Anony*

          I love musicals and listen to Book of Mormon, Pippen, Avenue Q and others on my ipod a lot. But I would not be comfortable seeing those with my coworkers. There are so many options that don’t include “adult content” that they could see instead.

            1. Aerin*

              When I was a college freshman, I saw someone with a cast T shirt for their high school production of Chicago. I was boggled. My high school censored “Father-Son Talk” from Once Upon a Mattress and added a pantomime that Sir Harry and Lady Larken had gotten secretly married before he knocked her up. I *wish* I’d gone to a high school that would have been cool with doing Chicago.

                1. JustaTech*

                  When my all-girls middle school did Once Upon a Mattress we completely dropped the “Father-Son Talk” and changed the direction on the king’s wench chasing. Honestly half of us didn’t get any of the sub-text at all.

                2. fposte*

                  One of the reasons “Father-Son Talk” is funny is because how the hell do you figure out sex from that?

                3. Aerin*

                  I spent a week walking around yelling “It’s literally boy flower girl flower! And the finale of the whole damn show is the reprise of this song, so now it makes no bloody sense!” Thirteen years later and I’m still bitter.

              1. Renamis*

                We did Chicago! Did require some edits, but our High School did Chicago. It’s really not HORRIBLE for high school. We had more issues with “A Funny thing happened on the way to the forum” and “Smile.” The naked pictures caused a whole mess of issues.

              2. Liz 2*

                A lot of places have different versions. I saw a kid version of Thoroughly Modern Millie and it was Thoroughly Censored down.

            2. mirinotginger*

              I saw an ad at my work for a local middle school’s performance of “Avenue Q – Jr Edition”. Is there even a play left at that point?

              1. adam807*

                It has a completely rewritten version of “The Internet Is For Porn” (I forget what the internet is for now) and cuts the sex scene. The rest is…fine?

            3. Lowercase Holly*

              Mine did too but it also did dangerous liaisons. Arts school! I did not fully understand pippin at 14.

            4. SarcasticFringehead*

              Did you go to my high school? Because we did Pippin my sophomore year (our artistic director was leaving, so she didn’t mind burning some bridges). Up until that point, we’d always had a matinee for the area’s fifth-graders (which my younger brother attended) the week before the show opened; after that, we did not.

              1. HS Musical Nerd*

                Hahaha. I don’t think so, because our director did not leave following that. In fact, I remember zero complaints about show. It was chosen because our building was being renovated and we didn’t have a stage that year, so they wanted something out of the box.

                There were lots of fishnets and black eyeliner involved.

          1. Theater Junkie*

            Not necessarily. If it’s a touring production at the big theater, the options are limited to what the theater is presenting. If this is the one that’s hitting at Christmastime, say, then someone at the company probably went, “Oh! Musical! Fun company outing!” and purchased the tickets without thinking it through.

            Which is also probably why they’re being weird about canceling. Tickets are usually nonrefundable.

            I’m very lucky to live near two metropolitan areas with a lot of theaters that have full touring seasons. If I hate what my city’s theater is bringing in, I can see what the other theaters an hour away have. OP#1 might not be that lucky.

        4. Janelle*

          They are adults. Swearing isn’t really the issue in my opinion. Someone once told me they were offended I cursed in front of their 20 year old child when I sliced half my finger wide open. I rolled my eyes. 20!! Finger on floor. Good grief.

          1. Drew*

            I clearly have D&D on the brain after Stranger Things, because “I rolled my eyes. 20!!” had me going “Critical success!” before my mind reoriented to what you were actually saying.

        5. Aerin*

          Yeah, that was my thought as well. Like, the show ends up being supportive of religion (one of the characters admits that he might not actually believe any of the lore anymore but still thinks it can help the community), but it’s also pretty raunchy and one of the big numbers in the first act translates to “F— You God”. That’s not a great choice for a mandatory work outing even if it’s not against your beliefs.

          One time I was watching a Hamilton mashup video at work and my headphones weren’t all the way plugged in. So everyone heard the really loud opening sting (DUN DUNNANA DUN DUN DUN), but thankfully I was able to pause it and get them plugged in before it started in on “How does the bastard orphan son of a whore…” That was separate from when I decided to listen to the show the entire way through for only the second time ever while I was at work (weekends can be really slow) and I was reduced to a sobbing mess at my desk. Broadway responsibly, kids.

          1. Calico*

            Your story reminds me of the time I worked at an ice rink, very family oriented with lots of small children during the day. We were supposed to only use the company iPod with approved music, but sometimes the skate instructors would switch it out with their own.

            On one such occasion, I was chatting with my fellow cashier at the front desk, sort of half listening to the music. A few seconds into a new song, it dawned on me that it was the popular new (at the time) song by Ceelo Green.

            I looked up to see the skate instructor flying towards me, waving her arms madly, with a horrified look on her face. I literally dove across the desk, grabbed the iPod and hit ‘next’, sparing by mere seconds a building full of small children from hearing “f**** you” at full volume over the loudspeaker.

        6. bookish*

          I feel like sometimes people just think “it must be family friendly, it’s a musical on Broadway! It’s art!” Idk.

          1. chnellociraptor*

            I honestly feel like that’s probably what happened here. Someone in charge of organizing this thing thinks appropriate work outing = popular musical, and right now popular musical touring major North American cities = Book of Mormon. So many people associate musical theatre with harmless, family-friendly entertainment that someone probably booked it without thinking, “Hey, IS this something everyone would want to experience with their co-workers?”

          2. tigerlily*

            I went to a burlesque version of a popular movie earlier this year, and we saw a family come in with their two children – both of whom were clearly under the age of ten. It was so clear the family had no idea what burlesque meant. You could see the dad’s face sinking lower and lower into his hands the longer the show went on. It was pretty hilarious.

        7. Huntington*

          We walked out of Book of Mormon at the intermission because of the racism. I know it’s supposed to be satire — but it’s a very fine line sometimes between mocking something and basically putting on a minstrel show. There was one African minor/side character in particular who was presented in such a shocking way for 2016 (when we saw it), and they kept coming back to it like it was a refrain/punchline.

          1. Leenie*

            I also found it way more disparaging of Africans than of Mormons. Would definitely not recommend for a work group in any event.

          2. Laura*

            I thoroughly agree, Huntingdon. Didn’t walk out but felt the same. Africa has more cellphones per capita than the US! Also, the way AIDS was used at the end felt pretty homophobic.

            1. Aerin*

              I remember listening to the cast album and Nabalungi keeps talking about texting, so I figured they meant that the village had cell phones (which I understand is fairly common even in remote villages). Then I see the show and she’s using a typewriter and thinks that’s what everyone means by texting? Okay…

              Honestly, it’s only been a few years, but I think it hasn’t aged very well. If it debuted today the response would probably be a bit more tepid. Same with Avenue Q, really.

          3. Emily*

            Glad I’m not the only one who was bothered by that! I was so excited when it came to my town because so many people (including my mom) had told me how funny it was, but spent much of my first viewing feeling uneasy and uncomfortable. I feel like the “satire” did more to reinforce rather than subvert racist stereotypes. :/

          4. CM*

            I haven’t seen the show, but nearly all of my friends who are fellow brown people also said they were disturbed by the racism.

            I think if somebody says they’re going to be offended, whether you think that’s valid or not, you at least do your best to find an alternative without making the person feel like they have to defend themselves. In this case, it seems like it shouldn’t be that hard to buy tickets to another show around the same time, or to have some other activity for people who don’t want to see the show.

            The OP is also saying that it’s inappropriate for the company to spend its money on this. That, I think, is a more subjective issue — I could see that going either way. HR could say, “Most people are fine with this, and we hear your objection and have decided for Reasons that we are going to go forward, but provide an alternate activity,” or “We take your objection seriously and will find a different activity.” Just saying, “We’re doing it anyway, too bad for you” seems tone-deaf.

        8. Someone else*

          That was my first thought too. My Mormon Broadway loving friends are not remotely offended by the show, so it probably wouldn’t have occurred to me on an “insulting to Mormons” front (not that I’m saying it’s unreasonable some might find it so, of course it’s divided). However, definitely for many other reasons, that show is not appropriate for work unless where you work is a theater and that’s the show you’re doing right now. It’s a bad choice for an office outing for dozens of reasons before you even factor in whether the satire is mocking Mormons. I would not watch Deadwood with my coworkers either.
          That said, this show is still super expensive, even the tour. So the reluctance of the office to change track now that it’s been brought to their attention how bad idea this was is probably because they’ve already purchased the tickets, and they’re non-refundable. Either the thoughtlessness of the company that led to the purchase extends to the idea that a lawsuit might be more expensive than those tickets were, or they’ve done the math themselves and decided from a monetary standpoint that they’re willing to risk it and keep the tickets. That’s the only way it makes any sense that once someone told them it was a bad idea, they have not yet backed down. Which means the company sucks.

          1. Backroads*

            I’m Mormon and have never seen the musical (I’m not really up on the musical scene, being the uncultured hick that I am.) I am aware of very Mormony Mormons who love the show. I’m also aware of Mormons who are uncomfortable with it, and those who are offended by it. One can’t speak for everyone, but in regards to the original situation, it’s a terribly ill-advised company activity.

    2. Ramona Flowers*

      But you know it’s mocking Mormons, right? And that nothing based on South Park, however satirical or funny, is the right choice for a work outing?

      I’m curious as to what it is that’s surprising about this. You wouldn’t expect a work trip to see a musical called Haha Judaism Sucks or Everybody Hates Muslims, right?

      1. Emily Spinach*

        I guess I really hadn’t thought about the plot of the musical very much, too be honest. When it came through my city it seemed like everyone was desperate to get tickets, so in my mind I was thinking, “oh people would be thrilled to get to go.” To be clear I haven’t done this! I was just admitting that I can understand not thinking of it at least initially. Like I said, I hope I’d be much more gracious than the letter writer’s company is being.

          1. Emily Spinach*

            Gah just noticed that typo in my answer!
            Anyway yeah my city gets relatively few “big name” shows so I can imagine just being excited it was one that people have heard of. But I think and hope I’d have considered it in greater depth after a few minutes and before getting all the way through the order process.

            1. Simone R*

              Agreed-I used to sell tickets and people used to beg me for Book of Mormon ones but I never had them because it was so popular. But HR should definitely be more sensitive to this issue once it was brought up.

              1. Anon anon anon*

                Yeah. And it’s fair to let the Mormons and people with ties to that religion decide if it mocks them. It isn’t fair for someone with no personal connection to the religion to make that call.

      2. Amy*

        I actually didn’t really know that. I knew from the title that it was about mormons, but the title doesn’t actually tell me how mormons are portrayed, and I never read a synopsis or thought much about what the plot might be. I would hope that the planner would do the due diligence of at least reading a synopsis before selecting it as the company outing, but I also know that sometimes that kind of step gets skipped, especially if people are in a rush. The original plan could genuinely be an oversight.

        But at the very least, once the issue was raised, the planners should have responded and changed the outing. Making a mistake is one thing; doubling down on it when it’s pointed out is another.

        1. Anony*

          The company may have assumed it was not offensive because of the church’s response. They leaned into it and used it as a tool to get people’s attention. They even advertised in the playbills.

          It is making fun of Mormons and most Mormons refuse to see it, but sometimes people think that if someone is not crying out for blood then they must be ok with it. However, while I can see how the company initially thought this could be a fun outing, once people voiced objections to it they should have quickly backtracked instead of digging in their heels.

          1. Anion*

            FWIW, my husband and I are friends with a (devout) Mormon who thought BoM was hilarious. But he’s a bit irreverent, and I would never assume his reaction is typical.

            I’m stunned by a company that dismisses the legitimate concerns of its employees like that. I’d be wondering what other issues they have, honestly. As Ramona Flowers said, would they be so willing to send everyone to a musical called Everybody Hates Muslims and sniff, “You can’t please everybody,” when people brought up how offensive that could be to Muslim employees?

        2. Janelle*

          I’d mainly be offended I had to see a musical or play. I find them sooo painful to sit through. Totally agree way bad idea on the topic however.

        3. Genny*

          I know nothing about Book of Mormon, but I know enough about Broadway to know that religions, especially Christian denominations, are rarely ever portrayed in a friendly or even-handed way. That alone would have me reading the synopsis to make sure the show wouldn’t be offensive.

      3. Geoffrey B*

        And the mockery of Mormons isn’t the only reason why it’s a bad choice for a work event. Not even the biggest reason, IMHO.

        1. NotoriousMCG*

          That was my bought. It’s pretty critical of all religion, not just Mormonism. And I’m a huge fan of the show. I mean, one of the top songs is called ‘F*** You, God’

          1. Anita*

            I thought the message of the show was that all religions seem absurd when you say the details aloud, but that they are in fact specific to a time and place and that when developed from an earnest, well-intentioned place that religion is uniquely capable of helping people. I can see how atheists would come to these conclusions about the show, but most people who are religious immediately grasp that it’s an atheist’s love letter TO religion. There are many Mormons who love the show: if you don’t regularly experience prejudice because of your religion, it’s easy to like.

            Other misconceptions: It’s not based on South Park, and Parker and Stone actually love Mormons. South Park episodes about Mormons are equally positive.

            1. JS*

              +1 The show has a lot of parody and potty humor but at the end of the day it is not anti-god or religion at all. It only points out hypocrisies. But seeing how everyone is morman and happy in the end I would not call it anti-religious.

            2. Aerin*

              One Mormon I went to high school with was actually in the Broadway cast for a while. He took his actual mission to Nigeria so he was really excited about it.

            3. Kj*

              That is the message I got from it to. But I assume that the cursing and initial shock of the subject matter keeps a great # of people from seeing it through to realize that. I don’t really think they need to see it and it is pretty offensive at points (although a lot of the things are explained better at the end), so it isn’t work-appropriate, but I do wish that people could have slightly less knee-jerk reactions to it. I’ve had friends basically get mad at me for saying I saw it and liked it. You’d think I’d said a million curse words in front of them….

            4. Geoffrey B*

              As an atheist, I took it the same way. I got the impression that Trey and Matt still felt fondly about Mormons, and intended it as friendly ribbing rather than hostility. (My impression is coloured by knowing a fair bit of their previous work.)

              But intent isn’t everything, especially for audiences who aren’t familiar with the creators. While I enjoyed the show, it’s hugely inappropriate for a work event.

        2. taco_emoji*

          Yeah, definitely. Part of the reason it blew up so big (IMO) is because of how unashamedly offensive it is — like part of the fun is how it feels kind of ~naughty~ to watch these extremely talented performers belting out some ridiculously dark, profane lyrics in the trappings of full-blown, serious Broadway production.

          It’s like it’s scientifically designed to trigger a “they can’t say that! how dare they!” reaction in the audience at every turn.

              1. LBK*

                Ah, that’s the one I was blanking on. I knew there was a particularly dirty one that had run for a long time but couldn’t think of the name.

      4. Ali*

        Exactly what Emily spinach said, and I have personally had Mormon friends thrilled to go and enjoyed it themselves so having not thought much about the plot I’d have a similar non-issue reaction at first!

      5. MK*

        Just because something is famous and everyone knows what it is, you can’t assume everyone also knows what it’s about. There are many films/books/etc that I know exist because they are an ingrained part of culture, while also having a very vague idea about their topic and how they are handling it.

        1. Gadfly*

          I will confess to still not having read Moby Dick–Anything beyond there being a boat, a kid, a captain and a big white whale? Not a clue.

          1. Foreign Octopus*

            Did I hear someone say they don’t like Star Trek?

            I didn’t realise such people existed in the wild :)

            But you’re right. It’s Moby Dick in space without the chapter on whaling, which is appreciated.

            I also wouldn’t have considered the Book of Mormons a problem only because I wouldn’t have thought about it. It’s a popular show and I would have been excited to score a free ticket but HR definitely shouldn’t be making light of this. When the first person approached them, they should have rethought their platform.

            1. SarahKay*

              I think I now need to read Moby Dick (or maybe just a good synopsis) just so I can see how it maps to Wrath of Khan. *Is fascinated*

          2. GiantPanda*

            Star Trek: The Wrath of Khan may be Moby Dick, but Star Trek: The Voyage Home has actual whales.
            Just to confuse the issue.

          3. Countess Boochie Flagrante*

            Agreed. I’ve read it a few times, starting as a challenge when I was nine, and I like coming back to it every few years.

          4. SarahTheEntwife*

            Yeah, I *love* Moby Dick because Ishmael is such a ridiculous geek. It’s perfect as an audiobook — if you get distracted and miss a few paragraphs, he’s still going on about whale taxonomy and there won’t be actual plot for another half an hour, so you can just tune in again whenever you’re ready. It’s like listening to a really weird documentary.

          5. Jesca*

            OMG Moby Dick is the only book I have never finished, and I am a huge lit fan! Though the whaling part was interesting, I just couldn’t do it anymore.
            What was interesting about the whale descriptions was how inaccurate they were. This is because while humans were traversing the oceans, they still knew very very little about what was actually in the ocean! I found the historic significance very interesting, which did lead me into a few days worth of research on early whaling practices.

            One day I may finish it … maybe.

        2. JamieS*

          True but unless OP lives in an area where people have never heard of Mormonism so wouldn’t know it’s a religious group, I think when the title itself names a religious group it’s hard to make the argument you didn’t know it involved religion in some way. Personally, I had no idea it satirized Mormons but I’ll argue it’s inappropriate for companies to sponsor any work outing with religious undertones excepting employers that are affiliated with religion in some way.

      6. PainScientist*

        I only realized what it was about last year when I first heard one of its songs on my showtunes Pandora and I didn’t realize at first what play it was.

        I was actually more familiar with the 2003 movie Book of Mormon, which is a biblical epic (unless I’m hugely mistaken there as well, but very quick IMDb check suggests I remember correctly) so I assumed the musical was similar.

      7. WeevilWobble*

        It’s an incredibly mainstream musical that people were crazy about. It was once what Hamilton is now. And I don’t think everyone knows it’s by the South Park dudes.

        I totally get that it’s inappropriate but I also totally get how the office wouldn’t have realized it at first.

      8. Roscoe*

        But I mean, is that true for everything? Would a work outing to The Producers be a problem? They do have an entire musical number called “Springtime for Hitler”.

        I’ve never seen Book of Mormon, so I’m not sure how much of it is actually hurtful in mocking or is satirical, so I have no real knowledge.

        1. Lady Phoenix*

          Lindsey Ellis did an excellent discussion about Mel Brook’s work if you are interested.

          And yes, it would be innappropriate because despite this being an OBVIOS ridicule of Hitler, it still be offensive to some Jewish viewers

          1. Aeryn Sun*

            Yeah, exactly. It’s obvious ridicule and satire but at the same time not everyone wants to see blatant nazi imagery at a work outing.

            1. Decima Dewey*

              I’m a bit boggled by HR being willing to offer an alternative. So the team is going to bond by going to separate activities?

              Yeah, The Book of Mormon may well be a musical that a lot of people would like to see. But it’s not appropriate as a work outing or team building experience.

            2. EvanMax*

              I’ve got to disagree with you on that one. Do you think that the Sound of Music is equally offensive? How about the first and third Indiana Jones movies?

              As a 3G I realize that I have a nuanced relationship with nazi imagery, and maybe I can stomach it a little easier just because I’ve been hearing the stories since birth, but there are enough movies and shows with evil nazis in them to support the idea that the mere existence of nazi imagery in a thing is not considered offensive by the vast majority of the public.

              And on top of that, the Producers is a masterpiece.

                1. A kid called Indy*

                  Oh, good God. Lighten up. I say that as someone who usually hates those words, but they fit here. They’re meant to be entertainment, not a cultural lesson (although they got the Republic of Hatay political situation right).

              1. LBK*

                I thought of SoM as well. The whole second act is pretty much just about Captain Von Trapp dealing with his homeland being taken over.

              2. Lady Phoenix*

                It is not that I find these films offensive. I am just stating that when the film and musical came into being, some Jewish people DID find it offensive because it portrayed Nazis in such a funny manner — when they killed their people.

                Just cause Brooks INTENDED to depower Nazis by ridiculing them and their absurbtities (and he is Jewish btw), does mean OTHERS will see it that way.

                See Lindsey Ellis’s dissection

      9. Falling Diphthong*

        Nothing based on South Park is the right choice for a work outing.

        …. and another AAM throw pillow is born.

      10. Lily in NYC*

        Surprisingly, Mormons don’t seem to be offended by the play (in general) and many make a point to see it when they visit New York and end up loving it. And I think a lot of people who are maligning it have never even seen it and are making assumptions.

        1. Tableau Wizard*

          This is a pretty big generalization that is not accurate from my experience as a Mormon with a large network of Mormons.

          1. Lily in NYC*

            Gee, it’s almost like you didn’t see where I wrote I was generalizing. Did you know the Mormon Church bought advertising space in the play’s Playbill?

            1. fposte*

              I think you’re looking from the NYC perspective of how many Mormons do see and enjoy the play–you’re not seeing all the Mormons who refuse to go in the first place. (And, as noted elsewhere, the church’s response is a “Make lemonade” one, not an endorsement.)

              1. Huntington*

                Right? Lily is criticizing people who didn’t see the play, yet writing about the ad in a way that makes clear she doesn’t know what that ad was about.

          2. Tara*

            As another Mormon, I would agree that the generalization is a bit off-target. It may be true for the poster’s area of the country, but there are a lot of others who are quite bothered by the show. I haven’t seen the show, but have heard the music. Admittedly it’s very catchy – it’s also pretty offensive.

        2. New hiring manager*

          Yeah, I live in an area with a high Mormon population, and I have heard countless comments about how offensive it was to the people who saw it.

      11. Aeryn Sun*

        Additionally (while this isn’t a universal opinion) a lot of people have issues with the racial politics of the show and find it to be pretty racist. Even if you disagree, it’s enough that it might be more contended than seeing another Broadway show.

      12. Jan*

        The South Park guys are odd in how they approach things. I mean, yes, it clearly mocks a lot of the basic foundations of the Mormon religion but then at the end I feel that it also has a message that “yes, some aspects of all religions are ridiculous and hard to understand from the outside but if it helps people understand how to treat each other and be nice to each other, why should we judge?” – that’s kind of the final message that I get from the show – taken mainly from the song about Ewoks and licking frogs to cure AIDS. These things sound ridiculous but it’s no more ridiculous than anything else in any other religion when you don’t look at the history – and if the meaning behind the message sticks – go with it.

        But aside from that – yes, it is HIGHLY inappropriate for a work outing.

    3. nonegiven*

      I’m surprised. This whole time, I thought it was a genealogy book. My mom showed me we were listed in a Mormon book because of her father’s relative. I could have sworn that was the name of it.

      1. Kendra*

        That might have been or one of its predecessors. That’s the genealogy website, but you don’t have to be Mormon to use it or be on it.

        1. nonegiven*

          This was an actual book, a thick one. An ancestor went to Utah and joined the Mormon church, right after the civil war, so this book listed him and all his descendants. I don’t think we had internet back then, maybe BBS. Maybe the book had a different name but it was a genealogy.

          1. nonegiven*

            OK, I found out, the name was The Book of [name] and it was a pre- internet genealogy book in 3 volumes, everyone descended from [name.] It starts around mid 18th century Virginia. It was researched and written by a Mormon genealogist.

      2. Turtlewings*

        The *actual* Book of Mormon is a book of scripture used by the LDS Church (the Mormons). The *play* “Book of Mormon” is a musical making fun of Mormons. (Some Mormons have seen it and enjoyed it, in a self-deprecating way, but that’s by no means the universal reaction.)

      3. Huntington*

        Well, I mean, entire books of both the Old Testament and New Testament are basically genealogies, literally listing each generation in the family trees of Adam, Abraham, Jesus….

    4. Humble Schoolmarm*

      I would be delighted to get free tickets to Book of Mormon, but I agree that it isn’t a good choice At All for a work outing. First, and most important, they’re offending their LDS employees but I also think it’s worth considering that while some people love satire, others don’t (whatever the target) and that a trip to Book of Mormon would be uncomfortable or unpleasant for them too.

      True confession, though: Once at a training sessions I was asked to spend five minutes with a partner repeating the question “What do you believe?” Because the presenter thought it would lead to us revealing our truest, innermost beliefs instead of eventually digging down to “I believe I’ll have another coffee and wait until this is over”. Anyway, I was sorely tempted to start quoting the lyrics to “I Believe” (a song from BOM) and might actually have if my partner was a musical geek like me (and, yes, that would have been awful and insensitive of me).

      1. Anon today...and tomorrow*

        I am constantly quoting theater lyrics. There was a video made a year or so ago about “Hamilaria” spoofing people who quote Hamilton lyrics all the time. (Guilty!) It’s worth the watch if you like the show. I don’t know that I would have been able to stop myself from singing/quoting the lyrics to “I Believe”. Your restraint is admirable

      2. Waiting on the World to change*

        Correct answer. I would also have accepted Kevin Costner’s piece from Bull Durham and the soccer chant “I believe that we will win!”

      3. L*

        “I believe I can fly.”
        “No, what do you really believe?”
        “I believe I can touch the sky. I think about it every night and day…”

  2. MissGirl*

    OP1, thank you for hearing other people’s points of view and reshaping your opinion to be more considerate and respectful of other beliefs. Hopefully your company will follow suit.

  3. Adam807*

    For what it’s worth, Book of Mormon ends up (spoiler alert) being pretty pro-religion. Or at least pro-faith. It’s ultimately about the things we believe in and the stories we tell that get us through a sometimes terrible world. Of course, it’s pretty crass along the way, in ways that would certainly offend some people, but it might be worth a shot?

    1. Ramona Flowers*

      I haven’t seen it, but I’ve seen South Park and how it portrays the Mormon religion. I don’t think this is the right choice for work.

      Even if it’s pro-faith, that’s just as inappropriate!

      1. paul*

        If it’s based on anything South Park I have a hard time imagining it being work appropriate in general. I don’t know the play itself at all, but South Park has pretty much made it’s popularity on being offensive to pretty much every group at some point or another.

        1. adam807*

          Oh yeah, completely weird choice for a mandatory work outing! I wasn’t disagreeing. If you’re offended by certain language or sexual content then this is not for you. I just meant it was worth looking past the title (especially for the OP) to make a more complete decision, especially if the trip is optional. Broadway/national tour tickets are expensive! If work is offering but not forcing, people who think they won’t like it might want to give it a shot. :)

      2. zsuzsanna*

        OK, Ramona – I can see not having this be a work-sponsored activity just because people might find it offensive. But really, you haven’t seen it and decide in advance it must be awfully offensive because it’s “based” on South Park? It’s not “based” on it; it’s just written by the creators of South Park. I thought the show was amazing (and not anti-Mormon, ultimately). And I would hate to be dragged to an :action” movie or anything with guns and lasers. I have the same reaction to violence as entertainment as someone else might have to talking about religious practices. Again – if people complained, that to me is enough of a reason to drop it and pick another one. But at least know what you are complaining about.

        1. Anita*

          I also don’t understand how Ramona Flowers watched the South Park episode about Mormons and concluded that the show’s creators were making fun of the religion.

          1. Liz T*

            The whole story of that episode is, “Mormon scripture is completely and obviously ridiculous and fake. Some Mormons are good people, though, so don’t be a dick about how silly and fake their religious beliefs are.”

            1. Liz T*

              Part of my job that I really love is coming up with monthly fun facts for the wall in our very nice office kitchen/cafe–I do “This Month in History” and post about 9 events anywhere from 10 10 1000 years ago. There have been three times I checked with my supervisor about appropriateness, and the only one he rejected entirely was one about Joseph Smith receiving the gold plates–they were actual dates attached to that, which I found interesting. But there was no succinct way to word it that didn’t either cast doubt on someone’s religion (“…according to Smith”) or endorse a particular religion (just acting like it definitely happened). So even though I meant it in the sense of, “if this happened, it happened today 190 years ago today, isn’t that mildly interesting while you’re getting more coffee?” I found something else to replace it.

            2. JulieBulie*

              That’s how I remember it. They did mock a lot of things about the religion and its traditions, but they also pointed out the good effect that it had on the family.

              1. Liz T*

                Yeah but “your religion is ridiculous nonsense” is offensive to someone who believes in the teachings of that religion, even if you add a “but it’s nice that your family plays board games together” at the end.

                I like that episode but I don’t expect devout Mormons to like it.

                1. Green*

                  Right? My belief is that everyone’s religion is ridiculous nonsense, but that lots of religious people are nice people. I don’t share that particular sentiment at work because the second part of my belief doesn’t really make up for the insult caused by the first part.

        2. Allison*


          Ramona, just listen to the last song of the show. The show does poke fun at some Mormon stereotypes but it comes to the conclusion that religion does help bring people together and gets them through tough times. It’s also about how religion evolves based on how people understand and interpret things, and the needs of the people looking to practice it.

          1. Falling Diphthong*

            Everything in this paragraph is an argument for why this is a terrible bonding activity to ask of your employees. Unless you are a Philosophy of Religion Department or some such.

          2. Green*

            It ends with something heartwarming and feel good, as many Broadway shows do, that resolves much of the tension in the play. The fact that it is a good story (and HILARIOUS, IMO musical) does not make it a work-appropriate one.

            I went to Avenue Q for a work-related event, and I LOVE Avenue Q but that was just #awkward. I was thinking the whole time “Is this a test? If I laugh, do I get in trouble? If I don’t laugh, do I get in trouble?” It was actually distracting from the show.

          3. Genny*

            Yes! I’m a devout Christian, and I would not find it all okay to go to a musical that disparages the Trinity, virgin birth, sacrificial atonement accomplished through Christ’s death, his resurrection, or any other core doctrine, but then ends with a bland message of well, at religion has some positive community-building aspects to it. That may be a side-affect of my faith, but that is not what my faith is about, my faith is about all the things you just mocked.

          1. zsuzsanna*

            Well, no, it’s not an EEOC issue. But it does raise the basic issue here: that there’s something in almost every movie or show that could offend someone. Wasn’t there a post some years ago about a manager who thought he was being a great boss by offering to take all of the female employees to see “5 Shades f Gray?” That would send me to HR immediately. BoM is a Tony-award winning show, not some fringe festival offering. Though I agree that it’s not something a company should offer as team-building, I so not find it any more offensive than movies/shows that glorify gun violence (especially after Las Vegas and Texas). Also, as a person who is not a member of an organized religion, I get a little tired of bowing told that anything that questions anyone’s religion is offensive – but that I’m supposed to listen to stuff holding up religion, or religious practice, as somehow better or more moral.
            Yeah, I know – I’m getting off the basic point here, which is choosing team building events that are so non-controversial no one will be offended (and I think that’s the right thing to do, btw). I get why you don’t want to see BoM. But it’s also unfair to characterize it as some assault on Mormonism – especially if you haven;’t seen it.

    2. Emily, admin extraordinaire*

      It’s true it ends on a positive note (I haven’t seen it, but friends who have have given me a thorough synopsis) but in the meantime, it takes some of the most sacred beliefs of the LDS church and mocks and ridicules them in the most vulgar and crass ways. It’s not an appropriate show for a work activity, especially if they have LDS employees.

      1. Princess Consuela Banana Hammock*

        Yeah; I’m disturbed by the number of comments suggesting that the coworkers’ concerns are invalid, or that the company should still organize going to the show as an official event, because of individual perceptions of the Book of Mormon.

          1. hbc*

            That’s an interesting perspective. My junior year religion teacher in Catholic school had a Jesus Christ Superstar viewing.

            I think details matter, and I have a couple of LDS friends who love the musical, but the specifics of Book of Mormon make it a bad choice.

              1. Sled dog mama*

                This! Something mocking religion can be used as a starting point for a discussion. This is appropriate for school not work.

                1. Countess Boochie Flagrante*


                  It would be similar, in my view, to… hm. Maybe a workplace book circle reading A Canticle for Leibowitz? In the end it’s pro-faith, but it’s also satirical, and that’s just not a conversation to be having with coworkers.

                  (Not to mention the abortion allegory near the end; that discussion nearly started fistfights in my literary religion class in college!)

              2. hbc*

                I guess my point is that having a religion/religious object in a title is not enough of a hint that something will be offensive, and probably not the best way to judge. I know Catholics who find JCS offensive, but my group/school was fine with it.

                Book of Mormon is a bad choice based on content, and if anyone missed that, they should have listened to the complaints immediately. But I don’t think it’s a forgone conclusion that Joseph and the Amazing Technicolor Dreamcoat, for example, is out of the question.

            1. Temperance*

              Sure, but that was a religion teacher in a Catholic school. So not quite even a little the same here.

            2. Humble Schoolmarm*

              JCS also isn’t really intended to mock, which makes a difference too. Even so, I wouldn’t do it as a work trip either because some are offended by it (although Gesthemane is my favourite dark night of the soul song ever).

              1. tigerlily*

                Not intended to mock, but can be super offensive to some Christians due to Judas’ sympathetic portrayal.

        1. Q*

          Seconded. The employees in question find it offensive; that’s what matters here, I think.

          (and even a love letter to religion would be awkward at work, I think)

          1. Dawbs*

            But even if the employees were ok with it, and there were no LDS employees, it might be a bad idea.

            “Here, NewHireWakeem, take a look at the awesome team building we did. We took all the employees to a play that mocks your religion, but, it was ok, because we happened not to employee anyone of your faith, so it was ok to mock it

      2. Doe-Eyed*

        I mean even to non-LDS folks, one of the main songs “F*** You God” would be grossly offensive to a lot of religious people.

      3. DG*

        Also, who’s to say that there aren’t any Mormons in the company? Does HR have files on every employee’s religious practices? If the company decides that the activity is appropriate because nobody in the company is Mormon, then does somebody have to proclaim to the company that yeah, actually, they are one, in order to get out of the activity? I know I try to keep my religion to myself at work, and I imagine I would be doubly keen to do so if it were an unpopular one (like, say, being a Mormon in a company which thinks that The Book of Mormon is a good team bonding activity).

    3. Fake Eleanor*

      “We’re going to savagely make fun of your religion … before acknowledging that religion in general may have some value” is going to be an unpleasant time for a lot of people.
      And I’m an atheist who enjoyed The Book of Mormon.

      1. PollyQ*

        Yes I’m also an atheist who loved the Book of Mormon, but it’s really not appropriate for a work outing, and I certainly wouldn’t blame LDS people who were offended by it.

      2. Geoffrey B*

        At least the Mormon bits are factual, and drawing on Trey and Matt’s own background.

        The Ugandan bits – well, for starters, they made up ooga-booga fake language rather than bothering to get a few words of actual Luganda.

        1. KHB*

          Yeah, I thought the racist portrayal of the Ugandan characters was far more problematic than any of the lampooning of Mormons/Mormonism (which was overall pretty gentle, I thought).

          But I’m a white atheist, so I don’t have a horse in this race.

        2. Leenie*

          Yes. I thought the portrayal of Mormons was condescendingly affectionate, if that’s a thing. The portrayal of Ugandans was really awful. I guess we’re supposed to think that was so one dimensional that we’re not supposed to take it seriously. That wasn’t enough for me to get remotely comfortable with it. Not a good choice for work.

    4. Nobody Here By That Name*

      I love BoM and agree that it ultimately is the best love letter to religion a couple of atheists could ever write but oh Heavenly Father is it NOT WORK APPROPRIATE. This isn’t even a “South Park isn’t work appropriate” type thing it’s more like how the South Park movie was not work appropriate. We are talking beyond swearing here. Even if you took the religious parts entirely out of it BoM would not be appropriate as a work outing unless the place where you worked was, in fact, BoM.

      Nope, nope, noooooooooooooooooooooooooooooooooope. Bad idea. Bad idea jeans. Great show, love it, recommend it for everyone (of the appropriate age group) in their private time, never ever EVER as a work outing.

      1. Umvue*

        Yeah, I came into the comments to say pretty much this same thing.
        I actually did go with a friend and his boss! I think his boss was pretty uncomfortable the whole time!

        On a side note I have to say I’m super impressed with the church’s response — they’ve taken this weird spotlight in stride and have used the musical as a marketing opportunity. I saw missionaries outside the theater when it came to $LargishNearbyCity and there was a full page LDS ad in the playbill when it came to $CollegeTown.

        1. Jesca*

          Yeah, I think that’s the whole thing too. I mean why would you want to go with coworkers? I couldn’t imagine sitting beside my boss and laughing at hugely inappropriate jokes no matter how funny it is. And if I had to sit beside a Mormon coworker! O-M-G no!

          So its funny when I laugh about Judaism with my Jewish friends, and it is funny when my more agnostic friends and I laugh at the conventions of religion to control societal expectations and roles, but that would not be funny with who take their religion very seriously.

        2. Nancie*

          Yes! I was surprised and a little amused when I saw the LDS ad in the Playbill.

          The ad was even a clever riff on “You’ve see the play, now read the book.”

    5. JamieS*

      It might be worth a shot on your own time but regardless of whether it’s pro or anti-religion outings with religious undertones aren’t appropriate for work sponsored outings.

    6. Myrin*

      What I don’t understand is: Why even take the risk when there are dozens of other, not-controversial musicals to go to and hundreds of other bonding activities in general to choose from?

      I am yet again reminded of the letter writer who didn’t get hired at a company because her ex’s new partner worked there and had apparently voiced concerns about working with the OP. Of course the hiring manager could have taken a chance and hired her, hoping it wouldn’t cause any problems, but why even take that risk in the first place when you could just as well not even start to invite it?

      And it’s even more clear-cut here: the organisers didn’t just in their heads think “This might be controversial. Oh well, let’s see how it goes!”, people have actively already voiced concerns about. I really see no need to go through with this and the fact that they want to do so regardless reeks of a foot-stompy “BUT I WANT TO!” attitude to me.

        1. Ms. Annie*

          Oh, Please, No. Just no. I have 3 girls. You can make all of the horrible, nasty fun of my faith all you want. Just *don’t* make me watch one more second of My Little Pony.

      1. Countess Boochie Flagrante*

        Yeah, the risk-reward here is way out of whack. What is the value of choosing BoM over other musicals? What is the risk? The reward would have to be pretty significant to balance the upset employees and possible EEOC complaints.

        1. Jennifer*

          If it’s for work, you shouldn’t see anything dirtier than The Sound of Music. It should be so clean it squeaks. It should be something you can take a 3-year-old to.

          1. Jennifer*

            Hah, and I just remembered reading that Lin-Manuel Miranda just took his 3-year-old to see the first half of Hamilton. HAHAHAHAHAHAHAHAH.

          2. Countess Boochie Flagrante*

            I look at it the same as the doorbell that played Dixie in a previous letter. Whether or not it’s actually offensive is a matter for debate (although I firmly come down on the side of YES IT IS for both) but at the end of the day there’s absolutely no benefit to the business for having it.

      2. Arya Snark*

        As an atheist, I loved BoM. I went with a bunch of friends, some of whom were current or former co-workers, and we all enjoyed it but we all have very similar outlooks on comedy and religion – some were even disappointed they didn’t criticize Mormonism enough.

        I used to be the ticket person at my Old Job and used company discounts to buy group tickets for all sorts of plays, musicals, pro sports, etc. BoM or anything even slightly controversial would not have been considered for that and there is no way we would’ve let any group in the company do it as a company sanctioned event.

    7. nnn*

      Thank you, people in this thread, for a detailed answer to the question I came to ask about whether Book of Mormon actually mocks the Mormon faith or whether it just looks that way on the poster.

    8. Marillenbaum*

      Not really. It’s still a remarkably patronizing portrayal–not just of Mormonism, but of the Ugandans to whom the missionaries preach. Two self-aggrandizing white dudes who have decided they Get Things about a world they really, truly do not get.

    9. blackcat*

      The movie Dogma ends up being really pro-faith, too.

      It is also wildly offensive to christians, catholics in particular, and is a pretty typical Kevin Smith film.

      I wouldn’t host a work showing of that, either.

    10. an infinite number of monkeys*

      This is so interesting. I’ve never seen Book of Mormon, or had any idea what it was or who the writers were (I’m not up on musicals), but from the comments here it sounds a lot like Leonard Bernstein’s Mass – which I grew up with and loved, but which does a number (so to speak) on Roman Catholicism.

      Mass ends with redemption in a way I think is supposed to parallel the Christ story, but I’ve always assumed that one of the reasons it never seems to get performed is that it was too wildly offensive across a broad spectrum of beliefs. (Also that it would require about half the population of NYC just for the cast.)

    11. JS*

      Exactly! Everyone is jumping to conclusions here because its made by Matt and Trey Parker. South Park has nothing to do with it.

    12. theletter*

      So my mother saw BOM . . . and a few months later was baptised in the LDS church. So there is that . . .. but there are a lot of things beyond the jokes about religion that make BOM more of a ‘friends’ activity, and I could see someone who is sensitive about their religion still having a hard time with it.

      The humor really is in the ‘South Park’ range, and that’s an acquired taste. BOM, I think, is a very special musical . . . special in that like Avenue Q, it’s rated R material. Also, it seriously drags in the middle.

      There’s a lot of crowd-pleasing shows on the circuit right now – I saw Wicked is coming around my area again – I saw that with my grandma and I remember it being funny but tame enough.

    13. moosetracks*

      But portraying religion essentially as a coping mechanism is not really that sensitive either. Most religious people do not view religion as a story we tell to make us feel nice. That’s actually a really condescending view for the show to take.

      There’s virtually no statement a show could make about religion that would be work appropriate.

  4. Fafaflunkie*

    #1: I hear you 100%. While I personally wouldn’t be offended by The Book of Mormon (heck, I’ve watched enough of the work of the creators to know they pull no punches and have no sacred cows) I would also respect the fact not everyone has the same beliefs I do and would be offended by this if the company they worked for compels them into watching it. This may even result in some legal ramifications — Human Rights Acts do make employers not discriminate against religion. Maybe that’s how you should approach your employer if they’re making this outing mandatory.

  5. The Voice of Reason*

    Book of Mormon is not offensive to LDS. This is people looking to be offended. The company should tell them that if they cancel BoM they will also cancel Star Wars because that is offensive to people profess to believe in The Force.

    1. Ask a Manager* Post author

      Many, many LDS people find it offensive and even blasphemous toward their faith. This isn’t the place to debate that, but if you google for more info on this, you’ll find plenty of explanations of why.

      1. neverjaunty*

        Thank you for this. So very tired of people who whine that it should be OK to insult other people without any pushback.

          1. Burns*

            It often becomes a pile on of organized religion I’ve noticed. Which is never ending and often not even akin to the question being asked… Thanks Alison.

      2. another librarian*

        Book of Mormon is offensive. It just is. For multiple reasons. Read any review. Many things can still be offensive and be creative and funny and entertaining. That doesn’t make them appropriate for a work activity. Period. I am truly surprised that once the admin was alerted to the offensiveness (not in dispute) an alternative whole group activity wasn’t planned.

        1. Serin*

          It doesn’t even have to be offensive to be inappropriate as a work outing — it only has to be making people uncomfortable, which we know it is.

      3. JS*

        The church itself endorsed the play by taking out ads in the Playbill. That doesn’t mean its members have to like it as taking offense is personal choice especially when it comes to religion, but its important to note its not recognized by the LDS church as anti-mormon and actually viewed it as publicity.

        1. Anonymous Poster*

          Just because LDS took out ads in the playbill doesn’t mean that it isn’t offensive to not only LDS but other faiths and denominations, not that the LDS somehow endorses the musical.

          It’s making lemonade out of lemons, not “Every real believing LDS member should go see this.”

          1. JS*

            If they really hated it they wouldnt have done it. As someone who actually works in advertising and has seen clients pull ads for a variety of reasons surrounding negative publicity I can tell you if they were 100% offended and against it there would be no advertisements in the playbill at all.

            1. Observer*

              Well, that’s not what the LDS people say.

              As someone who works in advertising, you should be familiar with the Streisand Effect.

          1. JS*

            I work in advertising, there really isn’t. They are changing the conversation to benefit them but if they werent endorsing they wouldnt have advertised in the Playbill

        2. Legal Beagle*

          I’ve seen the show, and the ads, and that is a very strange interpretation. The ads are in no way an endorsement of the play. They encourage people to get the “real” story by reading the actual Book of Mormon and visiting the Church’s website. (For example, one ad says “The book is always better.”) As other posters said, they’re trying to get what benefit they can out of bad publicity.

          1. JS*

            So have I, many times and I live in NYC and work in advertising. If they hated it they wouldnt have advertised in the playbill. Plain and simple. Theres no “making lemons out of lemonade” in advertising if you are 100% against the message. You have to completely disengage from it lest your message be confused/intertwined. Never in my 8 years in the industry have I seen any different.

            1. Indoor Cat*

              But you literally have. You saw “something different” when you saw the ads in the Playbill from the LDS church.

              There are plenty of religious and political groups that pull association away from anything insulting towards their beliefs or ideology, but the LDS church isn’t one of those groups. I’m pretty sure the LDS church leaders figured that most theatregoers were wise enough not to confuse the message of the musical with the message of their original holy text, and wanted to provide them with an opportunity to check out their actual (quite different) beliefs.

              Not all religious groups think the same way, with the same strategies regarding PR and evangelism, especially when confronted with a popular spectacle that portrays their religion negatively.

        3. Observer*

          That’s actually not true. The LDS leadership is quite honest about this – they do NOT like the show, but they have made the decision that trying to fight it is going to cause more trouble that it’s worth. Instead they are trying to get what they can out of the show, since they can’t stop it.

          I don’t know if I would have chosen that route, but I do understand it. In any case, taking out an ad is not an endorsement – in fact they actually say the opposite in their ad.

    2. Engineer Girl*

      Except the OP specifically stated that it did offend some of her LDS coworkers. So you can’t claim it isn’t offensive.
      The difference between Book of Mormon and Star Wars is the religion factor. Religion is protected in the US, Star Wars is not.

          1. nonegiven*

            Religion is protected in the US.

            My religion is what I say it is and what I practice, even if its the church of the FSM.

            1. Admin of sys*

              The law is a bit more nuanced than that, and does, iirc, require a sincere belief. (though that is, of course, impossible to prove.) But since Church of All Worlds was legally recognized, I don’t see why Jedi won’t be, eventually.

      1. Roscoe*

        Here is what I wonder, and I’m not arguing either way. Are they offended because they have actually seen it, or just that they have heard about it? Because as I black man, there were things I would have thought would be horrible offensive or racist, but once I gave it a chance, I found it funny and satirical. RDJ in Tropic Thunder comes to mind. So I guess I’m curious if people being offended at an idea is enough without actually seeing the product?

        1. Countess Boochie Flagrante*

          So I guess I’m curious if people being offended at an idea is enough without actually seeing the product?

          Enough for what?

          1. Indoor Cat*

            Probably enough to lodge a formal hostile workplace complaint. But, possibly only enough to cancel the outing.

        2. Falling Diphthong*

          That’s largely the purpose of reviews–formal and informal? To let people decide whether something is likely to land on the funny or unfunny, thoughtful or bludgeoning, side of the humor line?

          Based on reviews, I thought I would like Borat. I didn’t crack a smile once. I thought the satire rebounded on the creators and showed a bunch of patient, mostly decent dupees trying to be polite to the large angry yelling person and hoping he’d go away soon if they didn’t provoke him. But at least I was seeing that movie voluntarily, and not because my work had effectively insisted that I’d better go and I’d better like it.

          Anything that can be characterized as a crass and vulgar satire mocking some groups and making people uncomfortable is probably a bad choice for a work outing. Unless you’re a satire magazine.

            1. KHB*

              Me too. I actually had similar reactions to Borat and The Book of Mormon. Sacha Baron Cohen is at his best, IMO, when he’s duping terrible people into showing their true colors, like gleefully singing along with him to “Throw the Jew Down the Well.” But setting up good scenes like that is hard (I guess), so most of the time he defaults to being wildly, aggressively inappropriate to people who have done nothing to deserve it, which just seems lazy and not at all funny to me.

              Similarly, I thought TBoM had some good moments when it was poking fun of American exceptionalism and the sheltered white boys’ expectation that all of Africa was just like The Lion King. But then the rest of the show is padded out with telling the same jokes over and over and expecting the audience to think that swear words, bodily functions, private parts, and non-Western cultures are somehow inherently funny.

          1. Geoffrey B*

            Not to mention the bit near the end of Borat where he attempts to kidnap Pamela Anderson. I don’t understand how anybody with a trace of empathy could think it was funny or acceptable to do that to somebody who wasn’t in on the “joke”.

        3. Q*

          I don’t think it’s fair to ask people to watch everything people have told them will be wildly offensive and hurtful to them, just in case they personally don’t think it is.

          Especially not at work.

        4. Serin*

          Well, if you were going to wrestle with something that you thought you might find offensive or hurtful, would you want to do it in a big work outing amongst a crowd of your co-workers?

          Saying, “This is inappropriate for a work outing” is not the same thing as saying, “This has been tried and convicted of being objectively bigoted.” It’s just saying, “This is a thing that some people have told us they’d rather not experience with their co-workers.”

        5. fposte*

          I think “Are they really offended/is it really offensive?” is a different question from “Should a workplace send their people there to enhance cohesion?” For the latter question, it doesn’t matter to me if they should be offended or not–if they’re upset at having to go, it’s not a pleasure that’ll bring the team together.

          1. Anonymous Poster*

            Yes, I totally agree.

            I think at this point, looking at the long conversations that have been spawned by this one, it’s reasonable to conclude that this is a musical to steer clear of simply because of all the debate involved. The musical is also deemed offensive by a variety of other denominations because of some of the content. For a workplace, it’s simply not worth it.

        6. Sue Wilson*

          Okay, but you realize that, as a black man, your personal experiences that led you to be okay with RDJ’s blackface is unlikely to be so general that people need to see if they’re actually offended before their principals (no blackface ever, for instance) are valid?

        7. Leenie*

          I saw it. I’m a white woman, if that matters. I personally found it racist in a particularly yucky paternalistic way.

          1. Leenie*

            Incidentally, I really expected to like it, having enjoyed South Park and not being religious. But I found it cheap, reductive, and not a very good musical. The thing is, I’ve done lots of events for work that weren’t my speed or that I didn’t enjoy. That’s no big deal. But I would feel so terrible about my diverse work group being forced to watch something that directly targets some of them. That’s so different than this, “Anyone could be offended by anything.” argument that keeps popping up.

        8. Tara*

          I have not seen the musical but I have listened to the soundtrack. I found that parts were genuinely funny or touching… and parts were genuinely offensive. I would be really uncomfortable if my company were to sponsor a trip to see this musical.

      2. Specialk9*

        As an aside, many conservative religious people I knew lost their freaking minds in the 80s/90s over Star Wars, found it deeply offensive on a religious basis. Same thing with Enya and the New Age movement. So assuming that Star Wars is inherently inoffensive would also be a dangerous assumption.

        1. JulieBulie*

          I was really surprised a few years ago when I reconnected with an old friend from high school, asked if she had seen the “new” (at the time) Star Wars movie (Episode 1), and she indignantly said no because it was mocking the Virgin Mary and setting up Anakin to be Jesus. (That’s right, Darth Vader=Jesus.)

          So yes, it’s actually not outside the realm of possibility that even Star Wars could be a problem if you are talking about taking the entire company to see a movie.

          Maybe you could take them to see Benji. Maybe.

          1. Sue Wilson*

            …I mean, they were clearly getting Star Wars principals from Christianity, like is that really at question? It’s more of a subversion of that trope, but that’s clearly the inspiration.

          2. Countess Boochie Flagrante*

            Well, to be fair, the whole virgin birth deal was a really bizarre inclusion. I was (and am) kind of uncomfortable with it, though I look at it more as bad taste than deliberate provocation.

            1. JulieBulie*

              I look at it as bizarre, tasteless, and really lazy. I think Lucas was trying to AVOID opening a can of worms as to who Anakin’s father was. But instead of “there was no father,” a better response from Shmi would have been “that man was no father to my boy.” Which was actually how I interpreted her response when I first saw the movie, because virgin birth whaaaaat?.

              I’m sure no mockery was intended, but it was a dumb place to go. So yeah, Star Wars could also be considered a bad choice for people who are offended by lazy storytelling.

              1. Countess Boochie Flagrante*

                “Bizarre, tasteless, and really lazy” sums up a lot of the prequels, honestly.

          3. nonegiven*

            What did she think about The Terminator? A guy with the initials JC is born, if he has a real birth certificate the only name she can put for a father is a guy who hasn’t been born, yet. He saves humanity from extinction by building an army.

            1. JulieBulie*

              We did not discuss any other fine films, alas. By the time we got to this topic, we had already had enough of one another. :-(

              And that’s another reason why it’s a terrible idea to take employees to a show they’re probably not all going to approve of. A debate about whether or not something is blasphemous can bring both parties to the BEC stage really quickly. You don’t want to do that to your own team.

    3. Imaginary Number*

      There’s a difference between “I’m offended by this because of my religion” and “This musical is deliberately offensive towards my religion.”

      As an example, say the team was going to see Wicked and a Christian employee complains that it’s offensive to them because of witches. I think that would be a much better example of “can’t please everyone.”

      But the whole point of Book of Mormon is to make fun of a particular religion (don’t get me wrong I’m a huge fan.) That’s not even remotely unavoidable. You actually can please everyone by picking a show whose premise literally isn’t making fun of a particular race or religion.

      1. Ramona Flowers*

        Another example would be Harry Potter. Some people think that’s blasphemous because it contains witchcraft.

        Book of Mormon isn’t the same.

      2. Trout 'Waver*

        If you watched the show and came to the conclusion that the whole point of Book of Mormon is to make fun of Mormons, then I have no idea what show you watched.

        I love the show and agree that it’s definitely not work appropriate, though.

        1. Flowey*

          Despite it probably not being work-appropriate (depending on how casual your workplace is, I suppose) I’m amazed by how many people feel the need to comment on its appropriateness without having seen it at all. Or if they did, as you said, they completely missed the point.

          1. Ask a Manager* Post author

            Eh, you don’t need to have seen everything to know if it’s work-appropriate or not. You can know it’s not appropriate to play Cards of Humanity without ever having played, or to read 50 Shades of Grey in your company book club without ever having read it. There’s enough information around about BoM to know that it includes lots of stuff about anal sex, songs about hating God, etc. to judge that it’s not work-appropriate without having seen it firsthand.

            1. Liz T*

              Yeah, if I say, “Actually when you get down to it 50 Shades is *anti* kink, because of how it ends etc” that wouldn’t make it more appropriate for work. A play that is–surprise!–pro-religion in the end still isn’t appropriate for most office outings.

            2. The Supreme Troll*

              You’re right, Alison. With a lot of these things, even if you don’t really know what they’re about, but have simply heard a lot of hype or curiosity surrounding them, somebody can just simply do a Google search and read a couple of different reviews on them. And that should make the subject matter and how it’s presented pretty clear.

      3. Indoor Cat*

        I actually feel like, as G-rated as ‘Wicked’ is, if there are people in a workplace who cannot see a given show because it is taboo / forbidden by their church leaders, it also shouldn’t be chosen for a work outing. Don’t get me wrong; I ultimately left the church denomination of my upbringing in no small part because of the teaching that everything you read / watch / listen to is like food for your mind, and just as certain foods are “junk” or “poison” and will harm your body, certain media will sully your mind and lead to impure thoughts (impure didn’t necessarily mean sexual, it could literally be blasphemous, atheistic, satanic, w/e). I don’t think that teaching is a good or okay teaching; it makes people rely almost entirely on church leaders for information and fear exploring information on their own.

        BUT it is an issue that the workplace shouldn’t try to push unless they have to in order to get work done. It’s a messed up kind of thing, in my opinion, but it’s also a thing a person needs to figure out for themselves. Criticism from secular people and people of other religions feeds into the church’s narrative that “we are the only pure / true church, and we are being persecuted for our righteousness.” The criticism only makes the person cling more strongly to the church culture, because they feel mocked by mainstream / secular culture.

        Just…have a picnic or something. Play laser tag. Dinner and karaoke.

        (FTR, I have thought a lot about, “was my former church a cult?” and have read up on cult survivors checklists and information; I feel that, based on those sites, my former church didn’t meet most cult criteria. There was no ritual humiliation, for instance, or other cult traits. However, censure of information outside of what is church-sanctioned is definitely a cult trait, regardless of how many members my denomination had. It’s definitely one that you’ve heard of, and I think it’s a widespread enough tenet in denominations that workplaces should be extremely cautious when suggesting any kind of media-type entertainment. YMMV, of course).

    4. Mike C.*

      Besides the fact that members of the LDS faith are often treated like garbage by those who share their wider Christian beliefs and might want a break from all that, one must also consider that pretty much no one goes through life actively looking to be offended just for the sake of being offended.

      /Not Mormon, but Mormon-adjacent

      1. Gadfly*

        Although the fact that they punch down as good as they get whenever they are in a position to do so makes it really hard for a lot of us to feel too sorry for that part of things when we’ve been part of who they’ve been punching. And a lot of the time… well, the not looking to be offended part could be called into question because it justifies for many of them (according to them, this comes from members including bishops and higher) the punches they are throwing. (Utah born and bred–it’s a special experience different from LDS people anywhere else.)

        But it shouldn’t be about if they are victims or perpetrators. That’s beside the point. Even if they had never been mocked anywhere else ever before, it still is NSFW. Something about the child sex abuse scandals in the Catholic (or the Mormon) church would also be a problem. Pretty much anything making any statement about any religion in particular, no matter how mainstream or out there, no matter its reputation, is NSFW.

        1. JustaTech*

          Would a good comparison be “Would you take a work group to see the movie Dogma”? That movie is very clear that it is actively poking fun at the Catholic faith and their, well, dogma. I’ve watched it, I think it’s funny, but it’s never my go-to suggestion for a funny movie in a group of people I don’t know well (or people I’m 99% sure wouldn’t find it funny).

          In some ways work is like Thanksgiving; there are topics you avoid to keep the peace, and religion is one of them.

      2. Phoenix Programmer*

        Yeah I have always been police to Mormons just as I am too other religions but it is not lost on me how I am viewed as a childless woman whose husband stays at home while I make the bread in finance.

        1. Falling Diphthong*

          Usually that close friends, family members are in Group X. So it’s not some abstract group you technically know exists in another state, but don’t personally interact with in any depth.

        2. Mike C.*

          Growing up in the PNW means that I have members of my family and friends who are LDS but I’m not LDS myself. So I can’t speak for them, but I I have a lot of experience in that area.

    5. Amy*

      When people are hurt by something, it’s generally not useful or kind to tell them that they shouldn’t be hurt by it. You can decide you don’t care that it hurts them if you want, I guess, or that you don’t have a better option, but that doesn’t change the fact that it’s hurting them. Their feelings on the matter are still valid and real, and telling them to stop having those feelings generally only makes matters worse.

    6. Agatha_31*

      … Yeah, I’m going to go ahead and assume that your username gives us all the info we need to know to conclude how much time to invest considering your opinion about other people’s opinions that don’t line up with yours.

    7. Alton*

      The thing is, religion can be very personal, and it’s better not to get into stuff like this in a work context. Even if the play was less controversial, not everyone is going to feel comfortable seeing plays based on religion, or religious humor.

      I don’t think something like Star Wars is a good example, because very few people (if any) sincerely believe in the Force as it’s portrayed in Star Wars. It’s not a religious series–it’s a series where some of the characters have beliefs that are similar but not exact to things that some people believe in real-life.

    8. DeskBird*

      Speaking as someone who *loves* Book of Mormon – you don’t have to be Mormon to find the song Hasa Diga Eebowai offensive. I feel like quite a lot of religions would be shocked and upset by that song. I’m sure there would be quite a few non-religious or mildly religious people who would be offended too.

      1. Flowey*

        I agree – Book of Mormon is certainly not appropriate for most workplaces, but not because it disparages/is hateful towards Mormons, because it really isn’t.

    9. Health Insurance Nerd*

      This absolutely not “people looking to be offended”. I saw the Book of Mormon and laughed my butt off, but I also physically cringed at some of the dialogue. There are instances where people look for things to be offended by, but this is not one of them.

    10. JS*

      People can choose to be offended by anything. So I wouldn’t argue no one can take offense. What you can argue is it isn’t anti-Mormon or anti-religious. Some people can’t take a joke about their faith for whatever reason, and thats just them and their right. However they can’t argue it’s anti-religious just because they are offended.

      At the end of the day Book of Morman is pro-faith and pro-religion but if someone doesn’t like to joke around with their religion or cant find humor in it, it’s their right to be offended. I’d hate ANY work outing to be mandatory, let alone a play I’d be trapped at for hours. They shouldn’t change the play but they shouldn’t force anyone to go either.

    11. Grad student*

      Generally, the statement “X is not offensive” is impossible to back up fairly and probably best avoided.

      Different people react differently to different things, and offensiveness is rarely black and white (to whom? Why? How badly? What are the other considerations and context?).

  6. OperaArt*

    I can’t quite articulate why, but I feel OP1’s workplace is wandering into Geek Social Fallacies territory.

    1. Alton*

      Yeah, I get the vibe that this might be one of those “young,” “fun” offices where having a good time and being hip can sometimes override things like professionalism and inclusivity if people aren’t careful.

  7. anon today*

    I saw The Book of Mormon years ago and it’s actually pretty pro-religion. It took the aspect of religious belief pretty seriously. I know the Mormon church uses the popularity of the show to try and teach people about their religion. I remember being surprised by how many Mormon ads there were in the playbill.

    BOM is waaaaay more racist than anti-religious.

    But OP1, it’s nice of you to think of your coworkers and I totally understand why someone would be offended and not want to see the show. I hope you find an alternative!

    1. Princess Consuela Banana Hammock*

      There’s a lot of folks—Mormon and non—who find The Book of Mormon to be offensive. But even if it were pro-religion, I don’t think it’s appropriate as a work-sponsored event. For example, there are folks who like and who find Jesus Christ, Superstar offensive, and I don’t think that would be an appropriate work-endorsed show, either.

      1. anon today*

        Yeah, I meant to include that while I know some Mormons like it, others find it offensive, but it’s late and I’m tired and forgot to write that. :(

        I agree that it’s not an appropriate work event, though. I’m an atheist and while I do enjoy JSC (the songs are catchy….and the musical pretty much taught me about the basics of Christianity), I’d be against it as a mandated work event.

        1. Princess Consuela Banana Hammock*

          Ah, thanks for clarifying! I misunderstood your post as endorsing the event, which is not at all what you’re saying.

      2. The Cosmic Avenger*

        I’m an atheist and a musical theater geek who has loved the soundtrack to JSC, and I’d find it highly inappropriate for work.

        On that note, I think it’s incumbent upon non-Mormons to object to what is essentially a forced outing to BOM. I certainly would speak up about it being inappropriate for a work outing. Work is the place where you have to tolerate being in close social proximity to people with whom you might not otherwise choose to spend time, so you don’t share a lot of your personal life (unless you really become friends with a coworker outside of the workplace) and don’t worry too much about theirs. Part of that tolerance is keeping work-sponsored activities very general and non-controversial. And we should support that, because in many situations (now in certain places, and even more so anywhere just a few decades ago) it would be we atheists that would find ourselves subject to things we find objectionable.

      3. The _artist_formerly_known_as_Anon-2*

        Yes, some found Superstar to be blasphemous – and others – particularly on the college campus where I was living (a Catholic, Jesuit institution, and no, I am not Catholic but I do get offended at any anti-Catholic things, my mother is Catholic)…. a group of us had a discussion of it over a few beers after seeing it… and agreed, it actually didn’t make fun of Christianity but AMPLIFIED it. Beautifully.

        Haven’t seen Book but it appears that some LDS people like the publicity about it, and it’s fine for them to take advantage of it.

        Now – that Christmas is approaching – we’re going to see some postings about Christmas being offensive… just say “Bah Humbug!” and move on…

    2. Tomato Frog*

      BOM is waaaaay more racist than anti-religious.

      Yep. When I saw it I was like, wow, everyone is really burying the lede here.

      1. anon today*

        I’m honestly surprised the race aspect rarely got talked about when the show was the New Big Thing. I didn’t see the show by choice, but everyone who talked it up to me beforehand clearly just overlooked all the racism. It was shocking how many more racist jokes there were compared to religious jokes, and the degrading nature of them.

    3. Emily, admin extraordinaire*

      The LDS church didn’t make a big deal about the BoM because, frankly, we’re used to being the butt of jokes and our beliefs being mocked and ridiculed. It’s par for the course. When was the last time you saw a Mormon character in a TV show or movie? If you can remember one, was he or she portrayed positively, or were they a) painfully naive, b) secretly evil/hypocritical, c) fanatically close-minded or d) completely deluded? Or a polygamist? The LDS Church made what use we could of the musical’s popularity, but don’t think for a moment that we aren’t sad and disappointed at how our most sacred beliefs are being portrayed, and how misinformation is being perpetuated.

      1. Specialk9*

        That stinks. I don’t personally find LDS beliefs compelling, but have certainly noticed that the Mormons in my life have trended markedly kinder than other groups. I’m bummed any people have to deal with that in 2017, but especially nice people I’ve known.

      2. A Mormon*

        The LDS church also seems to understand the Streisand Effect really well (trying to hide, remove, censor or stop something brings it more attention than it would have gotten had you done nothing) which I think is another reason why the LDS church didn’t make a big deal out of it.

        But yeah, there is very little positive media portrayal of Mormons. I love Chicago’s Cell Block Tango, but even that gets a side-eye from me about the Mormon-polygamist crack.

      3. Indoor Cat*

        The only Mormons I can think of on TV are the Sister Wives :( I know most Mormons aren’t like that, but until you mentioned it, I didn’t realize there were so few portrayed.

    4. NotVeryActiveHere*

      Yeah, in my country, the LDS (= the Mormon church) has two full-page ads in the programme (saying basically that their book is better) and stand outside handing out free books.

    5. Amy*

      I found BOM to be very pro-Mormon, ultimately a celebration of the ideals of the missionaries themselves. It was also racist, blasphemous in general and incredibly vulgar. There are songs about violent sexual assaults against children (this is an uplifting dance number) and cursing God. While you squirm listening to it, they say (I’m paraphrasing) “If you don’t like hearing about it, try living it daily” (referring to the AIDS crisis)
      So even if you don’t have any LDS members in your office, there are a lot of reasons not to make this a work event. Despite the problematic pieces, I really loved the show, as did my LDS family members and friends. The church had a full page ad in our playbill as well. I just wouldn’t bring employees, grandparents or kids.

  8. tink*

    I personally enjoy BoM but would not think it appropriate for an all-office group because of the subject matter. Surely there were other options to choose from, and if not then they should’ve chosen to do something else.

  9. Bea*

    All I know about The Book of Mormon is that it’s a hugely popular production, so I can see how HR would initially set it up as a group event without thinking. They should however be more understanding and willing to bend when they realize that a group of team members are upset! I appreciate that you care about their POV and can change yours when faced with this kind of thing.

    1. Tuesday Next*

      Surely the name is an indication that there may be some religious content? I mean, “Mormon”? In any case if you’re an HR department booking work entertainment you’re more or obliged to read further than the name.

    2. Phoenix Programmer*

      A lot of hr departments I have experienced are extremely rigid and bent on the idea that they are never wrong. To the point that they will give lectures to all staff “we never said x we would never say x” despite the thousand or so employees present distinctly remembering otherwise.

      1. Bea*

        This is too true. I’m having just this problem personally with HR/CEO never saying things they sure the heck did. Ick.

    3. Falling Diphthong*

      Yeah, I could see someone figuring this was the new “Joseph and the Amazing Technicolor Dreamcoat.” Though I’d give equal odds to someone reasoning “As a rational person, I know that ideas aren’t offensive, it’s people who are offended. Ergo anything I like is a good idea for a work outing, and rational people will enjoy it.”

    4. Doe-Eyed*

      Our HR folks give out a monthly prize where people get to go see a musical for being employee of the month. They just bought a season pass and whatever month you win is whatever you happen to get. One of the most pious, churchgoing, non-swearing, straight laced women won the month that the Book of Mormon was here. I stepped in and bought the tickets off her after showing her the song list.

      The next person got Hedwig and the Angry Inch. I’m not sure why they still use this system.

  10. Princess Consuela Banana Hammock*

    OP#2, are there by any chance contractors that work at night in your office space?

    I don’t mean to discount the obvious, which is that your custodian may be taking some of your food. I’m only raising the possibility of third parties because I went through a similar situation a few jobs ago. All of a sudden, money and pens disappeared from drawers, facial hair shavings showed up in private bathrooms, food disappeared, etc. But the only people we knew of who were around after hours were the custodians. It turned out that building management had hired contractors to rewire our telecomms. No one notified us that there would be people in the building after hours, and it turned out that they were the ones filching stuff.

    I’m glad we checked, though, because someone suggested bringing up the issue with the custodians’ boss, which would almost certainly have led to someone being (unjustly) fired.

    1. OP #2*

      It’s unlikely, but not impossible, and I will definitely check. It also occurs to me that even if it’s a member of the custodial staff, it’s not necessarily the one assigned to our area. Thanks, PCBH!

      1. SusanIvanova*

        You might also have security guards making nightly rounds. Yes, you’d expect security to be the last ones doing petty theft, but we had food disappearing from a snack stash table that was in an office, so obviously it was not part of the company-provided snacks (the company had gone on an extreme health kick. Think suet cakes and bone-dry rice cakes). We put up a webcam and caught one of the security guys helping himself.

    2. Teapot Tester*

      My dad was a facilities manager for years, and he always swore that cleaning staff is very rarely the culprit when stuff goes missing because they are always the first ones accused.

      1. OP #2*

        Yeah, that makes sense. Security staff is a possibility. The office is locked during the day, so has to be at night, but cleaning staff is not the only option.

  11. Ramona Flowers*

    Okay so all the comments so far are pro the musical.

    I haven’t seen it. I have seen South Park and how it portrayed the LDS and there is no way in hell I think it’s work appropriate even if it’s different in the musical.

    This isn’t people looking to be offended. Having people go on a work trip to see a funny musical about your religion is a thing people are allowed to be upset about, and it is not the same as Star Wars because that isn’t about something people generally profess as being their religion in an actual serious manner. That’s a really unkind comparison to make.

    So apparently it’s pro-faith. Is that better? Is it better to go on a work trip to see a South Park musical that’s mocking a religion or in favour of religion? Are either of those appropriate for work? No!

      1. Bette*

        Yes, please stop spreading misinformation about a show you haven’t seen. You’re all over this thread like you’re some kind of expert, but you haven’t seen the darn thing?!

          1. fposte*

            But claims about it mocking Mormonism and being based on South Park are really misleading from somebody who hasn’t actually seen the thing. I think it’s fine to say it’s not appropriate for work because of the perceptions, but I think it’s a step too far to to state those as true without knowing the show.

    1. Sam*

      You seem to think everyone knows who wrote the musical and therefore should realize it’s inappropriate. That’s really not a realistic assumption. For the record, I detest everything about South Park and am surprised HR didn’t do due diligence about anything that even hints of being about religion (which this obviously does), but I think it’s unfair to be upset that people are ignoring a piece of info a lot of folks flat out wouldn’t know.

      1. MuseumChick*

        This is a good point. Dose management know that BOM is by the same people who do South Park? I think its extremely bad judgement for them not to take the concerns that have been brought to them seriously but this cause be a case a simply not knowing instead of malicious “let all go make fun of Mormons!”

        I saw BOM a few years ago and through a very strange set of circumstance ended up bringing my very nice, very nerdy, very Catholic friend with me. I warned her before I asked if she wanted to go that it was by the South Park guys and probably was not going to be very kind to religion. She got some laughs out of the pop culture references. I was surprised that it ended on such a pro-religious note and that 70 -80% of the humor comes from a character who they state very clearly has never read the book of Mormon.

        I digress, the bottom line is, it’s not work appropriate. This may be a case where you need to speak to management as a group.

      2. Bekx*

        I saw BoM very recently when it was in my city on tour and there were many, MANY, people who were commenting at intermission that they had no idea this was going to be so offensive. Many people left at intermission. They had no idea it was going to be satire.

        These comments overwhelmingly came from the older audience members near us who are season ticket holders. They had no idea.

        1. adam807*

          Yes, this is what I was reacting to in the OP’s coworkers’ response — a tendency for audiences to either attend something with no research and then be mad about it, or to decide something is offensive without really knowing anything about it. But to be clear I agree 100% that this is inappropriate for a mandatory work outing. Make it available? Sure. Require it? No.

          Years ago when I was temping, I frequently worked with a group that would take theatre outings (friendly, not mandatory!), and the boss would ask my opinion about what they should see because I work in the industry. Before I got there they had seen and loved “The Goat,” an Edward Albee play about a man who, uh, has an extra-marital affair with a goat. I recommended the musical “Urinetown,” and she was like, “Ugh, that title!” But you loved “The Goat,” you’re clearly not easily offended! “I just can’t get past the title.” YOU LOVED THE PLAY ABOUT GOAT-F***ING! I stopped making recommendations…

      3. zapateria la bailarina*

        it doesn’t matter whether they knew who wrote it. they KNOW that many of their employees find it offensive. that is what matters.

    2. Mustache Cat*

      No? I get that you seem to have strong feelings about this, but most of the comments are pro-musical in of itself, anti-musical as a work outing.

    3. Flowey*

      Yes well, one of the two south park creators was also in Despicable Me 3, better warn the children and keep them from seeing that movie too!

  12. Tomato Frog*

    And for those who wouldn’t be offended by its portrayal of religion, don’t forget Book of Mormon’s condescending, mocking portrayal of Ugandan villagers and graphic jokes about veneral disease and anal rape! Something for the whole office.

    1. Agatha_31*

      … Wow. I heard of it but I never really got into South Park so it’s mostly stayed off my radar except for the name popping back up once in a while. Wow.

      1. Mpls*

        +1. I mean, that’s the reason I don’t want to see it, ever. Listened to the whole soundtrack and…it was fun for the first 70% of the show, and then just got old. My mom had actually suggested getting tickets to go as a family and my brothers and I all (separately) asked if she had listened to the soundtrack all the way thru. We didn’t end up going.

        Tl;Dr – I didn’t want to see this with family, much less work people.

    2. Half-Caf Latte*

      Yeah, this. I knew about the religious mockery, and have never found South Park funny, but spouse wanted to see it and an LdS acquaintance thought it was hilarious.

      I wasn’t aware of the racism, and found the whole experience uncomfortable and unfunny.

  13. Mike C.*

    Glengarry Glen Ross is a much more appropriate show to serve as a workplace bonding experience.

    OP 3: Yeah, I can’t tell you how much it irritates me off that folks hand me all sorts of random computer assignments because “I’m young and good with computers” when the task is completely orthogonal to my skill set or the direction the company is taking or they want me to compile some report with lots of numbers in it because “I’m good with statistics” (no statistics used here). Sure, I can get them done, but it’s a giant waste of time trying to get up to speed and it takes me away from the stuff I do really well and are actually part of my real job.

    1. Ramona Flowers*

      And it also devalues the fact that social media, or working with stats, require specific skills.

      OP, the people who should be doing this are comms/ marketing/ PR people. Not whoever looks young.

      Sidenote: Orthogonal is an excellent word.

    2. Agatha_31*

      If it helps I don’t think it’s as much generational as it is non computer users just equating *any* modern technology with “computers”. I’m 40 and decent with computers. Soooo much of my life has involved friends and relatives trying to *debate* me when I answer their request of “hey you’re good with computers, teach me how to use my camera/hook up my entertainment system/use my iPhone/use Facebook/Twitter/other social media flavor of the month” with “no because that thing you just mentioned is not a computer.”

      Maybe it won’t make you feel better, considering I just confirmed that it basically never stops happening…

          1. The Cosmic Avenger*

            Did you see this week’s Mr. Robot? Maybe you’re Edie Hughes! I immediately loved that character, I found myself wishing they gave her a recurring role!

            VERY MINOR SPOILER ALERT: Elliot targeted her to try to bluff his way onto her computer, claiming it was compromised, because she was an older female, but she reeled off the serious security measures she implemented on her computer.

          2. Engineer Girl*

            I am a 60 year old woman and have faced this kind of discrimination- mostly from men and new hires.
            I took great pleasure looking them square in the eye and telling them that I did know about that topic – I invented it.

        1. Agatha_31*

          Which is clearly not what I meant in the context I described. But then, I knew *someone* was going to feel the need to get caught up in semantics.

    3. Lynxa*

      And I just got told an organization didn’t want me to volunteer to handle their social media any more (after handling it very successfully for the past year) because they want an “18 or 19 year old” to handle it going forward. The “older” volunteer can handle press releases.

      Okay, if you can find an 18-19 year old to coordinate your social media across Facebook, Twitter, and Instagram go for it. -__-

      1. Inky Stitches*

        I’m always amazed that people think just because the communication is happening electronically, only young people can suddenly understand it. I can guarantee you that my boss who’s nearing retirement age and has been working in PR and communications all her life can out-predict and strategize human behaviour any day of the week over a new grad – doesn’t matter the medium. Social media is about human behaviour and communication, and the older you get, the more wisdom you tend to wrack up on that front.

        (Not always true, I get that. There are lots of people who refuse to adapt and change. But if you’re open-minded, and have some understanding of human nature, social media isn’t all that ‘foreign’ and mysterious even to “old fuddy-duddies.”)

      2. Agatha_31*

        Wow. That’s both super rude and also a handy way to tell that whoever’s in charge is completely ignorant about how professional social media management works.

    4. OP3*

      Hi! Sorry I’m late to the party!
      So in reading the comments, I realized that part of the problem is probably that I’m quite handy with learning other forms of technology, like statistical software and design programs. I’m wondering if “good with learning stuff on the computer” is getting conflated with “social media expertise.” Thinking back on it, I do remember one of my previous bosses mentioning something about being a computer whisperer when he gave me the social media task.
      I’ll also note that I currently work in a small department at a large university. The social media presence I’m managing is for our specific department, which (imo) doesn’t need any presence beyond the website, much less a Twitter, Facebook, and Instagram.
      Allison’s advice on handling this more specifically is great. My current tactic is tracking how much time I’m spending on managing social media that could be devoted to other projects, but the scripts here will be helpful when I go in for the “please don’t make me do this anymore” conversation. Thanks everyone! :)

      1. InkyPinky*

        Wow, that’s just nuts! Are you the only one with a computer? I mean, we do everything on computers these days so do they also think only you can write emails, place online orders and generally do work that involves typing onto a screen?

        Sorry, I just find this to be so incredibly out-of-touch. My dad was a computer programmer but just try asking him to figure out the privacy settings on Facebook. And never mind the horribly stiff emails he’s been known to send out. But yep, hey, can figure out software, therefore a master at online communications.

  14. Engineer Girl*

    There’s a huge difference between promoting your own beliefs Vs ridiculing another’s beliefs. Any HR person that thinks it’s OK to have a diversity activity that ridicules anything is clueless.

  15. phedre*

    I liked the Book of Mormon, but it’s definitely not even remotely work appropriate. And most importantly, if employees have said they find it offensive why in the world would management dig their heels in on this?

      1. Agatha_31*

        “Hey expense department, we want to take the company to see Book of Mormon but a few if us should see it first to see if it’s work appropriate. Ticket money, please!”

        … I wonder if my employer would fall for this.

    1. mimsie*

      This. Religious mocking aside there is so much more content that makes this production inappropriate for a work event! It’s super super crass and I’d be uncomfortable watching this with a colleague (and I enjoyed watching it!)

    2. Bye Academia*

      My guess is that they already bought all the tickets. If so, they’re non-refundable. They probably figure they might as well send whoever wants to go instead of setting all that money on fire.

          1. Oblomov*

            Mere showing of Book of Mormon =! hostile work environment and will not be sufficient to prove such.

            1. Observer*

              Sure. But it’s kind of stupid to invite a frivolous lawsuit over something like this. I get that you can’t run your business always worrying about a lawsuit that MIGHT happen, but why invite it by doing something stupid and unnecessary.

              Also, this is the kind of thing that is used to bolster a case. So, if someone wants to claim that they were treated negatively because of religious or racial animus, this move helps make the case that the company doesn’t like Mormon / religion / atheists / blacks / whoever else gets mocked.

  16. Free Meerkats*

    Interviewing with an injury/recovering from surgery isn’t a problem unless the people you are interviewing with are loons you don’t want to work with/for.

    Personal anecdote: I interviewed for a field work position from a wheelchair after motorcycle crash. I wasn’t even able to wear sneakers, my left foot was in a fuzzy shearling slipper. I got the job offer.

    Get the surgery, end the pain.

    1. Simone R*

      Yes! I did a bunch of important interviews in crutches/sneakers and everyone was very understanding/sympathetic. When I was in the sneakers without a clear explanation like the crutches gave me I would just apologize and explain up front and it was never an issue.

    2. ExceptionToTheRule*

      I did a phone interview from my hospital bed following major surgery once. That and having me drive an hour both ways for an in person interview within a week of being released raised a few red flags for me about their work/life balance.

    3. Falling Diphthong*

      Yup. OP should explain it once–or once per interviewer met–with a quick “Excuse the sneakers, I just had foot surgery.” It’s something unusual about her appearance that’s out of place with business norms, so giving the background alerts them that she isn’t just oblivious to social cues about workplace norms.

      Same for an old question about wrist supports–rings and chains on the hands–that looked like jewelry. Or for the case where you know you would normally stand, but there are physical reasons this is problematic.

    4. Janelle*

      Agree. I cannot fathom anyone having a problem. Things happen. Heck she could’ve slipped and fell and broke her foot and been on crutches. Life happens. If anything i found people way more helpful and accommodating my six months on crutches. Talk about never carrying anything or opening a door, which in fairness is difficult.

    5. Specialk9*

      One of my best hires was a woman who came in a foot cast. It so very much wasn’t a problem. If anything it was a tiny bonus – you’d likely prefer to be sitting with your foot up, but you came here for this job.

  17. Ask a Manager* Post author

    Hey, y’all, there’s been an increase in very off-topic comments this week (yesterday I had to delete a long off-topic thread about eating squirrels). I just deleted some from this post, will continue to do that as needed, and want to ask everyone to please stay on topic. Comment threads here tend to get quite long as it is. Thanks.

    1. Weekday Warrior*

      Eating squirrels!! Well, that can now be the call out to stay on point, as in “stop eating squirrels y’all (and stay focussed)”. I may use this in a few situations. Thanks for your light but firm moderating, Alison.

      1. Lead, Follow or Get Out of the Way!*

        Hilarious! I have a feeling this will become one of those AAM’s inside jokes along with Hanukkah Balls, Duck Club and more…

    2. K.*

      OK, I had my first laugh of the morning at “yesterday I had to delete a long off-topic thread about eating squirrels.” That just sounds really, really funny (that sentence itself, not the off-topic thread) to me!

  18. Chocolate Teapot*

    4. From experience with enthusiastic would-be employers, the delay in arranging an interview is always longer than expected. It may very well be that the OP has had the surgery and is almost recovered by the time the appointment is set up.

  19. I Didn’t Kill Kenny*

    LW#1 I’ve seen the show, I like South
    Park, and I have a pretty wicked sense of humor.
    I witnessed people get up and walk out of the show. The song F*** God had me gobsmacked. My mouth was literally hanging open.

    The title alone should have made the organizer do a google search. What kind of HR person thinks this is ok? I’d seriously question senior management’s judgement in NOT getting that this is a bad idea.

    Shaking my head over this one.

  20. lurker bee*

    #4, I hope you take Alison’s advice to heart and schedule your foot surgery. Years ago, I ended up on crutches because of an injury a few days before a longhaul flight to a final interview. The travel was wearying, and I initially felt a little awkward, but I got the job.

    1. Antilles*

      Yeah. This is one of those things that seems like a really really big deal…but isn’t.
      If the interview happens, you just casually and simply explain the situation and leave it at that. No need for extensive details, no need to say it was elective, just a simple “Sorry if I’m hobbling a little, I recently had foot surgery” and leave it at that.
      No reasonable person/company is going to think twice about it.

    2. Anony*

      I interviewed less than a month ago with a broken foot in a boot. I had to wear non-dress shoes on my other foot to avoid falling over. Other than asking if I still wanted a tour and small talk along the lines of “I hope you heal quickly” no one cared. I got the job.

  21. Piano Girl*

    I am a member of the LDS Church (aka Mormon). My co-workers were well aware of this (I’m from Utah, met my husband at BYU, etc) and were always respectful. In fact, one of the VPs had a signed poster from the original run, and decided not to put it up in her office after talking to me, as she didn’t want me to feel uncomfortable. I was quite touched by her kindness.
    OP #1, thank you for thinking of others.

  22. Penny*

    I *love* Book of Mormon. Love it to pieces, even with all its issues. And if my workplace proposed it as an official work outing, I would be raising all the flags, because holy cow is it Not Safe For Work– even leaving aside the issue of mocking a specific religion! I mean yeah, Hasa Diga Eebowai is an insanely catchy song, but one look at the lyrics tells you hey, maybe we should all go see something else instead. So maybe if the religious angle isn’t getting any traction with management, you could try that route instead.

    1. Tableau Wizard*

      But if the religious angle isn’t getting traction with management, that’s a huge problem.

  23. sap*

    OP#1, in case one of the reasons that your incredibly bad bosses don’t want to change the activity is because they’ve already bought the tickets and don’t want to lose money, you might check Craigslist/other resale sites in your area and, if true (which it probably is) point out that the tickets can probably be resold with little to no financial loss to the company.

    Not that it’s okay to double down on offending your employees because otherwise you’ll lose money, but I’ve learned that a good chunk of people are sensitive about others’ feelings… Unless it might cost them money.

  24. Jimbo*

    To OP #3 one suggestion that might work is to point out to your manager that social media, in recent years, has evolved into a position that requires specialized skills and many organizations use trained staff (usually from Marketing and Communications) to handle social media. Because these folks **know what they are doing** and aren’t just someone randomly chosen without regard to their skillset and experience. Maybe Google resumes and job descriptions for “social media specialist” or “digital communications specialist,” print out a few, and show them your boss. Lastly you can talk to them about the perils of doing social media wrong for an organization. How an untrained person who is ill-suited for the job can do a lot of damage to a company’s reputation if put in charge of social media, which is a very public, customer-facing role whether the management realizes it or not.

    1. Agent Diane*

      Maybe also look up a few times when a company got its reputation mauled for an inappropriate or ill-timed tweet. *That’s* why it’s a specialism. If they want it to be truly social, it’s also a full time job, so what do they want you to stop doing?

    2. Daria Grace*

      I use a bunch of social networks personally, have read a bit about social media strategy and done some social media work in past jobs. Even with that background I would be very concerned about taking a on a company’s social media without a detailed briefing on the company’s communication style, branding, means of dealing with customer complaints and other policies. It’s easy to accidentally post something that seems okay but actually clashes with the company’s other marketing or to respond to customer complaints in a way that doesn’t actually help. You might not realise what’s offensive or nonsensical to customers who are in a different field to you.

      Some fields also have important legal restrictions that an impact on your social media posting. For example, if you are a health food company you might have regulatory requirements about what you can claim your product cures or if you’re in finance you may have to post disclaimers with anything that resembles financial advice. Even if there is no intent to deceive on your part, you can still get your company in huge trouble.

      1. MissDissplaced*

        Yes yes yes! This is me, but I’m a communications person with PR training. However, they may still ask or expect OP to “contribute” to their social as part of their job duties (such as 2x tweets per week). But that’s a different thing from “running” the social.

      2. Countess Boochie Flagrante*


        I’m in investing, and our social media rules are hardcore. It pretty much boils down to “unless you need to build your own book of business, please just don’t talk Wall Street online.”

        1. Countess Boochie Flagrante*

          To clarify, that’s for our personal social media. For the company itself? It’s very exacting.

          And to make it more interesting, there’s stuff the official company social media can post that we can’t, even as shares/reblogs/etc, and of course vice versa. Too easy to tip from ‘posting’ to ‘advertising.’

      3. Kathleen Adams*

        Oh, I do feel for you, OP#3! It is true that many, many companies do assume that “young” = “social media expert,” which is ridiculous, frankly. (It’s also true, BTW, that quite a few younger workers believe themselves to be “social media experts” just on the basis of their age, and that’s not true either. Extensive personal use is only somewhat helpful when figuring out how to manage a company’s or organization’s social media presence, so thank you very much, OP, for your honest self-appraisal. :-) )

        Any company that assigns social media responsibilities this carelessly is just demonstrating how clueless they are about social media. I mean, that’s pretty much what everybody *used* to do, like, 10 years ago. I myself (not a millennial, not an expert) started my organization’s Facebook page. And that was fine because everybody was still trying to figure out how these things work, and anyway the consequences weren’t as significant.

        But now? It’s time to grow up, folks. If you want to effectively manage your social media, you need to hire someone with social media expertise or else give an existing employee opportunities to acquire that expertise.

        1. Nanani*


          Use social media personally != expert in professional use

          Can use a web browser != able to program an app
          Can speak more than one language != can translate any and all documents
          Have or have had a pet != Veterinarian
          etc etc forever

      4. Ghost Town*

        Just another enthusiastic comment in support of this. There’s a reason why social media is now the entire job for a person or department/unit for businesses. It’s like any other advertising medium and requires skill, planning, etc. Don’t just throw your youngest team member at it and hope for the best…

    3. Lora*

      YES. This.

      I will happily build you a gaming rig, server rack, minor robotics projects and automation of your choice. I will set up the Linux with a Windows emulator, install all the software, tune the loops on the automation, set the alarm levels and validate it for you. I am good with technology.

      Social media? OH HECK NO. That’s Public Relations and Marketing. I will screw it up somehow. I will miss a new quirky setting that was only rolled out five minutes ago to people who watch their social media like hawks and sense its flows through some mysterious evolved powers, and automagically all the company’s private information will be spewed out across the internet. Someone will get into an argument with me about something I feel strongly about which is within my field (e.g. everybody who is medically able to get a flu shot should have one, needle exchanges for addicts, appropriate sex ed for children in public schools) and it’ll just all go to heck from there. I’m the last person who should be put in charge of such things.

      But hey, despite my handicap of being an Old, I’m great at technology.

      1. Manders*

        Not only is it marketing, it’s a highly specialized kind of marketing, and the things you can do to see results with it vary from industry to industry. I work in digital marketing and I know just enough about social media marketing to know I’m really, really bad at it.

        Plus, a lot of owners of small companies will say they want “social media” without actually being clear on what specifically they mean. Do they want someone who can just set up and maintain a few profiles? Do they want someone with a distinctive voice who can try to get people to follow their profiles because they’re enjoyable? Do they want to buy ads, and if so, what kind? Do they want to work with influencers? Do they even have their systems set up correctly to track whether their efforts on social media are getting potential customers to the right spot at the right time? It’s a bigger and more complicated field than it looks like from the outside.

        1. Daria Grace*

          Yup. There’s so many different ways to use social it’s about as broad and unhelpful as saying they want printed advertising when that could mean everything from letterbox dropped flyers to their own glossy specialised industry magazine to an ad in a major newspaper

  25. Jimbo*

    To OP#3, try Googling “social media gone wrong” or “social media fails” for examples of how social media went horribly wrong for companies. Gather a few links and perhaps use these to support the argument that people in charge of social media should be ones who know what they are doing — because this is what happens when social media is done badly

  26. Katie M.*

    #1 That really is a rather…risky choice as far as mega musicals go. Not only the religious aspect but just how very crude the content is. Not everyone appreciates that brand of humour.

    (My favourite musical is Jeaus Christ Superstar, and I wouldn’t even mention it at work if I was going to watch it because of concerns over religious sensitivities. Certainly wouldn’t suggest it as a work outing!)

    1. Bookworm*

      Honestly, musicals, in general, can be kind of a controversial “fun” pick. I love them (and really enjoyed BoM) but some people really loathe musicals. I get that’s true of a lot of outings, of course, but unlike a company softball game, for example, musicals don’t offer the option of sitting to the side and enjoying lemonade with other ‘lite’ participants.

      1. fposte*

        I don’t know; I think you can sit in a chair and be inattentive at a musical just as well, and it’s over quicker.

  27. Myrin*

    OP #2, you sounds like a very kind and awesome person!

    I’m a bit of an “Occam’s razor” kind of person but at the same time, I like thought experiments and just thinking through different possibilities. Of course the fact that you have your own private and lockable office drastically reduces the amount of people who could be responsible for the half tomato but I’m wondering if it could be other custodial staff as well? Could the new custodian have shared the news of being allowed to use your fridge with her coworkers who then promptly decided to help themselves to your food?

    Of course, the most likely or at least obvious solution here is the custodian herself. But in any case and regardless of what you’re personally thinking, a talk with her is surely in order. Maybe her immediate reaction will be “Oh no, it must have been Horace who is known for immediately raiding fridges whenever he learns of their existence!” or something similar. If it is indeed her, she is now “warned” that you saw the halved tomato and wondered about it and might stop, or she’ll confess and admit to food scarcity or similar. In any case, I really love Alison’s wording because who knows – maybe there is indeed a Horace situation going on and she as well has been wondering about her halved apples!

    1. SarahKay*

      I was wondering if it was a new custodian, or one who’d just discovered the fridge was there. OP writes that it’s only recently that food has begun to vanish, so it sounds like something’s changed.
      Which of course, could be that current custodian has run into difficulties, but makes me think someone else with keys has discovered the fridge.
      Again, either way, I think Alison’s wording is excellent.

      1. WellRed*

        Well, what’s changed is the OP is now allowing the custodian to keep her dinner in the fridge, so maybe the custodian thinks its OK. Frankly, while it nice of OP, I might have said no, just for this very reason. Although if it turns out the custodian is suffering food scarcity, I’d want to help.

        1. OP #2*

          Yeah, I thought about that after things were disappearing — that maybe sharing the fridge made it seem more like communal food?

          For what it’s worth, the “main” fridge on the floor is a lot more shared than in some other places — ex. the department buys creamer for the whole team to share and we contribute monthly. Could really be just a misunderstanding.

          1. SarahKay*

            Sorry, OP#2, I read your original email as you let the custodian share the fridge, and then some time (weeks/months) later found your food started going missing. If both started at about the same time, then yes, it looks a whole lot more suspicious.
            Your letter (and update above) was very thoughtful of why it might be happening; I hope you can get a good resolution.

      2. Trig*

        Could be OP’s custodian put her food in there, then mentioned she did to another custodian and offered to share HER food, but the other person mistakenly thought all the food in their was hers? Who knows.

    2. Kitty*

      Food scarcity could truly be the issue for the food disappearance. So, while it is an inconvenience and an expense to you, please temper any response that you make with mercy. There are a lot of jerks out there that will take what is not theirs without thinking twice (Seriously! The box of tissue on my desk that is clearly labeled with my name sent me into a rage – I had a cold.), but when it comes to food, it could be an inability to pay the rent/gas/utilities/daycare and have enough left over to eat. As to which case this is – hunger or being a jerk, I would err on the side of mercy. We are all a few events away from that situation (job loss, major health issue, mental health of child, car engine failure, poor investment decision, house burning). Stepping off of soapbox.

  28. Myrin*

    OP #3, I’m unimpressed by your managers. When you say “I don’t like social media”, it’s not reasonable to answer that with “but all millenials love social media”. Because no, you literally just said that you don’t. I can’t stand generalisations like that, especially not in the face of just being presented with the opposite (I mean, do they think they know better than you what you like and don’t like and or good at and not? Yikes.). I agree with Alison, a frank talk is in order. (If you’ve already done that, though, well… maybe it would indeed be good to present them with the articles people talked about above, about how a badly-done social media presence can do a lot of harm.)

    1. Engineer Woman*

      Yes, this is horrible stereotyping. There is no “All (fill-in-the-category of) people like or dislike or do something”. Maybe that could be the reason you were asked to manage social media in the first place, but to use it as a reply after being presented with evidence to the contrary is so much worse.

    2. RVA Cat*

      Yes. This is massively stereotyping, on the level with, say, expecting an Indian employee to fix everyone’s computers when it’s not any part of his job or skill set.

    3. Purplesaurus*

      Yes yes yes! And it makes me think they might also treat her differently in other ways just because she’s young. Reverse ageism. I’ve experienced it.

    4. Kathleen Adams*

      It is indeed stereotyping – and also so, so, so clueless. I’ve brushing my teeth since I was a toddler, but that doesn’t make me qualified to be a dental hygienist.

      Companies that do this – and it is pretty common – are simply demonstrating how little they know about social media, and also, frankly, how little importance they assign to it.

      1. LizB*

        “I’ve been brushing my teeth since I was a toddler, but that doesn’t make me qualified to be a dental hygienist” is officially my new favorite response to “But you’re a millenial, all millenials love X!”

  29. CoffeeLover*

    #1 I think your company is in the painful transition from small company that can get away with this stuff to somewhat bigger company that needs to be more culturally/politically sensitive. I’m not saying respecting people’s beliefs (among other things) is a bad thing. But I imagine when your company was smaller, there was a very concentrated and particilar type of culture and employee – the kind of people you described (nerdy star wars types) tend to be more atheistic/agnostic or non-practicing. The bigger you get the more diverse you get and your practices need to change. I’ve seen some company’s push against this because they don’t want to be a “boring” place. Maybe it is boring to some people to always pick the safe option, but that’s what needs to happen when you no longer know everything about each and every co-worker.

    1. Jobs*

      “Maybe it is boring to some people to always pick the safe option, but that’s what needs to happen when you no longer know everything about each and every co-worker”

      Lemme guess, you’re an “HR professional”?

  30. nep*

    Re: #3 — Just wanted to comment on use of the word ‘Luddite’. I’ve never been on Facebook and I don’t consider myself a Luddite. I think the word is generally taken to mean opposed to or fearing technology / technological change. Not liking and not wanting to participate in Facebook does not automatically mean technophobe or anti-technology.
    Not that I take offense here — I just wanted to make that point, because I don’t think OP is a Luddite either.

    1. Lady Phoenix*

      Yup. I use my facebook every now and then and honestly, I probably would leave this platform behind had I not actually made a facebook.

    2. Ask a Manager* Post author

      I’m not saying she’s actually a luddite; I’m giving her wording to use that’s likely to be effective with her manager. (And it specifically says “luddite when it comes to Facebook,” not more generally.)

      1. Czhorat*

        Veering slightly off-topic, but I really dislike the way the word “Luddite” has come to mean “anti-technology” – the Luddites had real concerns about displaced labor, unfair labor practices, and the social harm caused by the manner in which automation was being adopted. They weren’t anti-technology as a matter of general principle and their ideals honestly deserve better.

        1. nep*

          Agreed. Its usage/meaning certainly has strayed from what it originally stood for. I hear it used today as anti-technology and/or technophobic. It’s not even really accurate but it’s how it gets used unfortunately.

  31. MissDissplaced*

    When I bring on interns, I do ask them to run the social media program, however, it’s NOT because of their age.
    As the communications manager for the company, I typically run this but it’s something I always just need help on as you need constant content.
    I am always very clear about this though up front, and generally any marketing or comm internship will likely include some aspect of social as part of the duties. I’m also finding at some companies, they’re trying to involve sales and other job functions in their social (so it’s not just us comm people posting) so it’s possible you might be expected to contribute even if it’s not your function. But there is a big difference between being asked to contribute verses “running” the strategy and calendar.

    1. Kathleen Adams*

      My organization has had very mixed success in using interns this way. Translating a personal familiarity with social media into actual, workable expertise is…pretty hard, really. It takes training, just like anything else. The interns who have done the best are the ones who are most aware of this – who realize that “Oh, I’ve been doing this most of my life for fun” isn’t really the best qualification for helping a business or organization do it effectively.

  32. Lady Phoenix*

    Good shows for businesses: Phantom of the Opea, Wicked, Disney, Anastatia, Fiddler on the Roof

    Bad fot Businesses: Book or Mormon, Avenue Q

    1. KHB*

      So if someone objected to a workplace outing to see Phantom of the Opera on the grounds that she’d been a victim of stalking and found it triggering, would that be enough to move it out of the “business appropriate” column, or would it be a case of You Can’t Please Everyone, Especially Not Spoilsports Who Are Looking For Things To Get Mad About?

      (I had a very scary boyfriend back in the 90s who decided that the Phantom was a romantic role model. I haven’t thought much about him or the musical in a long time. But looking at the themes of the musical in light of the current conversation on workplace sexual harassment, I think the question of whether it still qualifies as appropriate Mandatory Fun is a lot more complicated now.)

      1. Purplesaurus*

        Absolutely not a spoilsport looking for things to get mad about. At the same time, Phantom wasn’t created to be offensive and generally not considered such (but maybe I’m wrong?). But I don’t think you can impose this kind of mandatory fun on people anyway, even if the content isn’t offensive or triggering.

        1. KHB*

          It wasn’t created to be offensive, but it was created more than 30 years ago (and the story is a lot older than that), and attitudes toward things like abuse, stalking, and harassment have been shifting since then. There are plenty of other pieces of art and literature that portray outdated ideas on social issues, simply because they were created in a different time and place. It’s not their fault, but it does mean they’re (rightly) regarded differently now.

          And isn’t the point of this conversation that it doesn’t matter how a work was intended or how it’s generally regarded? The Book of Mormon is generally regarded as hilarious (going by the ratio of positive to negative reviews out there, at least), and Parker and Stone have talked a lot about how they didn’t intend to offend Mormons as a group. Still, individual Mormons (and others) find it offensive, and the intent of the creators doesn’t make their feelings wrong.

          1. Lady Phoenix*

            Art and Comedy are things that don’t age well.

            What was funny in the 20’s, 30’s, and before are likely to be seen as horrifying unfunny or offensive now.

            And intent versus the actual result are vastily different. Just like “The Producers” bit was meant to mock And depower Hitler by making him a hilarious buffoon, some Jewish audiences made huge complaints about the original show as well.

            Not to mention satire is subtle, so people can either affirm the jokes or accept them as truth.

            None of these things I

          2. Purplesaurus*

            I’m not sure what your argument is? You asked a question, and I think most people would agree that your feelings about the play are not invalidated by the fact that most other people don’t consider it offensive (and again I question this). We don’t disagree here, unless I’m not understanding you correctly. Frankly, I think there are a lot of outdated ideas in Fiddler that are pretty awful, but it’s not a fundamentally offensive play.

          3. Countess Boochie Flagrante*

            What was interesting to me was going back to read the book; it’s hardly high literature, but for something published in 1910 (ish?) it was a pretty solid take on harassment and stalking. I’m really sad that some elements didn’t make it into the musical, such as Christine flat-out telling Raoul that he didn’t get to make decisions for her just because he wanted to protect her.

      2. Lady Phoenix*

        I am so sorry. I do have mybissues with Phantom (more with the sequeal and the fandumb that overomanticize the stalking, but still).

        I also didn’t list Rent as not appropriate because I subjectively hate it for the “slutty bisexual” stereotype, the “black gay guy dies to save straight woman” cliche, the story focusing more on priviledged artists over a narrative of the AIDS epidemic in the 80’s…

        I guess I listed examples that are more or less OBJECTIVELY offensive versus subjectively (shows purposefully MEANT to be offensive versus shows that are not).

        But to be perfectly honest, it doesn’t matter if the shows are appropriate or not — objectively or subjectively — forced outtings are NOT good team building. Being able to opt out because of personal issues (whether they be personal triggers or just not interested) SHOULD be an option.

      3. Lissa*

        Well, I think that this then veers into “there’s nothing that is going to be Objectively Fine” and no matter what you pick, someone may have a problem with it. Sound of Music? Nazi imagery? That type of thing. I think sometimes people assume that those who make this point are trying to be mocking (oh haha some people could be offended by Scooby Doo) but it’s actually true. There’s nothing that will necessarily be “safe.” I do think there are things that fall into more obviously offensive though.

        As for the solution to this? I have no idea. I also really don’t like Phantom for similar reasons (though wouldn’t be emotionally distraught by it, just hate that type of storyline) and feel like there’s SO much potential yikes in a lot of media, especially anything older (which is a problem because a lot of people tend to think classics=safe!)

      4. Observer*

        I think context and broader perception make a difference here. But FOR SURE, anyone who pulls the “People looking for things to get mad about” line would be waaaay out of line.

    2. Jennifer Thneed*

      Fiddler on the Roof is also religious-based entertainment, and it ends with the villagers forced out of their shtetl by the Czar’s troops. (Remember the wedding scene when the soldiers come thru and wreck everything?)

      But hey, The Sound of Music has Nazi’s in it!

      And no, I’m not sure what my point here is.

  33. Nox*

    I don’t get how sitting in a theater in silence is “bonding”? Like that’s why I don’t consider movies to be dates because I’m not doing anything but watching something.

    1. Lady Phoenix*

      I could consider it a date if dinner got involved afterwards, or if we went home afterwards to do other stuff. Just a film alone is not a date.

      1. Kimberlee, Esq.*

        Yeah, I think the intent for this would be to create a shared experience that people could then talk about afterward. Since ppl in an office will see each other again anyway, there’s not really a need to have a dinner or anything afterward, it’s just to create something that people do together and then share as a common reference.

  34. Turn it Off*

    I’m beginning to think that no one here has actually seen Book of Mormon, and the OP only has a passing knowledge of it. While it’s 100% not Work Appropriate in any way, shape, or form (seriously. I’m not defending the decision to go to this as a work activity. No sane person could) it’s about not changing your unwavering beliefs. It’s about finding God in the now. It’s about learning to love where you are, and make a better world today. It doesn’t mock religion, it mocks those that hold religion to be the highest form of everything above all else. It’s the stuffy Mormon who thinks his only mission is to something easy is his calling who learns to loosen up, while the screwup Mormon learns he needs to not lie to people.

    Also, you do realize that Trey Parker and Matt Stone love Mormons, right? They frequently do things about them to show that they’re nice people, even while being mocked, and the joke is frequently that the people making fun of them have no idea what they’re doing.

    1. Lady Phoenix*

      I don’t think whether they do actually mock mormons or not matters. A group of people are unconfortable and HR is still gun-ho about it.

      Even if the show was Avenue Q, I would still object because I don’t want to watch a raunchy show with my boss. I would love to see it on my own time, but not with my coworkers.

    2. a different Vicki*

      That doesn’t make it a better choice for a work outing; it just adds to the people who might be made uncomfortable. Mocking a particular religion, and celebrating some aspects of that religion or of religion in general, are both the company taking a position on religion. “We don’t care what religion you have, as long as you have one” isn’t a neutral and inclusive attitude or policy, just as prioritizing “faith-based” charities over ones that have no religious component or affiliation isn’t neutral even when “faith-based” doesn’t turn out to mean “any church as long as it’s Christian,” or “all monotheist religions welcome” but won’t fund a project run by a Hindu or Buddhist temple, or by neo-pagans or animists.

    3. Countess Boochie Flagrante*

      That’s a pretty nasty way to voice your disagreement. “You regard this differently than I do, therefore you must have no idea what you’re talking about.” Come on, plenty of people above have stated that they have seen the musical and are well aware of the content.

    4. Anon today...and tomorrow*

      I agree. I think the fact that it’s called “Book of Mormon” is what’s sticking out to the OP and co-workers and they’ve become focused on the fact this show is named after a religious document. I liked this show but it’s wildly offensive…and the elements of religion are only a tiny reason as to why this show is not appropriate for a work sanctioned outing.

    5. Bekx*

      Uhhhh…it kinda does mock Mormons. There’s a line that says “Don’t worry, in 19xx the mormon church changed it’s stance and decided black people were people too!”. (I’m paraphrasing). While that may be truth, that line is absolutely poking fun at the religion.

      1. Alice*

        It is true – in 1978 the policy changed and black men become allowed to hold the priesthood, and it was 2013 when they reversed the view that black skin is a mark of a biblical curse.
        Doesn’t necessarily make LDS worse than other religions or than society in general, when it comes to racism, but the joke is sadly accurate.

        Of course there’s a larger discussion about whether it mocks the religion (my take is, if some people feel mocked then you take their word for it).

    6. neverjaunty*

      You’re coming across like the people in OP #3’s letter who insisted she was wrong about her own preferences because all millenials love social media.

    7. SarahTheEntwife*

      “Also, you do realize that Trey Parker and Matt Stone love Mormons, right? They frequently do things about them to show that they’re nice people, even while being mocked, and the joke is frequently that the people making fun of them have no idea what they’re doing.”

      No, I know little to nothing about the makers of the musical. I’m going to judge whether something is work-appropriate based on the content, not on who made it.

    8. Sue Wilson*

      I don’t see how “you have critical thinking problems but I still think you’re great” is a compliment.

  35. memyselfandi*

    The target of ‘The Book of Mormon’ is American Exceptionalism. Mormonism is the vehicle used to convey that, but any number of religions or other pieces of American activity could have been used. Mormonism happens to have some beliefs that adapted well to the theater. But, I agree with many that it isn’t that good a piece of theater and if I were an employee of this company I wouldn’t have wanted to go because I don’t particularly enjoy Broadway style performance.

    1. Tableau Wizard*

      To be honest, I also think that LDS people are generally a good sport and are an easy target for mockery because they (admittedly, we) aren’t going to put up too big of a fight. I don’t think this musical would’ve had the success if it were mocking the Catholic church, the Baptist church, Judaism, or Islam, etc.

      1. Anon today...and tomorrow*

        100% agree. The only show I know that deals with Judaism is “Fiddler on the Roof” and that is not light or fluffy at all.

        1. Tableau Wizard*

          Same here, and my understanding is that “Fiddler on the Roof” isn’t considered offensive or disparaging towards Judaism, but admittedly, I’ve never seen it all. Am I wrong here?

          1. SarahTheEntwife*

            Yeah, Fiddler on the Roof has some gentle in-group jokes, but it’s based on the works of a Yiddish writer writing about his own culture and religion. It’s in part about Russian pogroms, and I could see someone not wanting to watch it for that reason, but I wouldn’t expect most people to be offended by it.

          2. Bryce*

            It’s not considered offensive or disparaging because it’s not. It’s from the perspective of a Jewish community steeped in tradition that has to deal with those traditions shifting due to changing modern ideas, up to and including the dissolution of the village itself due to pogroms. The humor comes from inside and isn’t critical of Judaism at all. To me it speaks so strongly because it’s the modern Jewish experience in a couple of hours.

            There’s been so much antisemitism that hides behind jokes or “I’m just being critical” (and it hides in the middle of actual jokes/criticism, it’s not a 100% thing) that something in the vein of Book of Mormon wouldn’t fly at all.

  36. Murphy*

    #1: It just doesn’t work a bonding experience if it offends some of your workers. It doesn’t work as a bonding experience if you have to offer an alternative activity. Isn’t the point to bring people together?

    1. K.*

      Exactly! I’m reminded of the person who wrote in a few weeks ago and said that her happy hour bonding activities were only attended by one person. In that case, you need another activity. (Happy hour wouldn’t work for my team either; one person has a REALLY long commute on public transportation so he needs to leave at the same time every day; another has child care obligations.)

      If people are saying straight up “No, I will not do this thing” and the point is to bring together as many people as possible, then the activity needs to change.

  37. Hiring Mgr*

    On #2, the only way you can truly identify the food thief is to conduct a Caine Mutiny strawberry style investigation.

  38. Anon today...and tomorrow*

    OP # 1 – I am a HUUUUUUUGE fan of Musical Theater (and theater in general, for that matter) but I’d be very, very uncomfortable watching “The Book of Mormon” with my co-workers. I’ve seen the show. I liked the show but it’s the only show I’ve ever seen where I knew I wouldn’t be able to watch it with my mom or my kids….that’s how inappropriate some of the jokes are. Your HR department is completely clueless to what this show is about or else they never would have agreed to this as a company outing. Honestly… the religion bashing aside – there’s a song that the tribe of natives sing in the show that has to deal with how they avoid / cure AIDS in their village and it’s an active part of the plotline. It’s horrible and wildly offensive and is probably going to shock those co-workers who are going and may result in a few complaints after the show. Some of the songs are on youtube. It might be worth it to have HR view some of those songs PRIOR to this event to see if they change their thinking.

    1. Anon today...and tomorrow*

      Actually…just remembered. Avenue Q is another show that is not something I’d watch with my kids…though I think my mom would think it was funny.

      1. mrs__peel*

        My dad bought tickets for me and my sister to see it (because he thought it was hilarious), but opted not to watch it with us.

  39. Nephron*

    For LW1, I have seen The Book of Mormon and not sure if this is every city but my program had a full page ad from the Mormon Church (LDS) announcing that if we liked the musical we should read the book it is based on. Not saying the employees are wrong to think it is offensive, just supplying an explanation as to why the management might be confused about the musical being considered offensive to Mormons.

    1. Tableau Wizard*

      Yeah, the LDS Church has tried to take the “any publicity is good publicity” approach, but just because they are using the exposure to change the narrative, doesn’t mean that the LDS Church is supporting the play.

      But I do get your point and understand how this could be confusing to some who don’t really understand what the musical is about and how it affects LDS people. Though, the HR folks who bought the tickets SHOULD’VE educated themselves about what the play really is.

    2. MuseumChick*

      This is a good point. One of the biggest laughs I had when I went to see the play was opening up the playbill and seeing an ad for the LDS church with big, bold lettering say “The book was better”. I just about died because I am someone who always says that about movies!

      Perhaps the OP should point out that there is a song in play where most of the singing is “F*** You God”

    3. Observer*

      Well, if that’s the case, then their marketing department stinks. This ad by the LDS is a case study (I’m serious) about how to handle adverse publicity and mockery. The LDS apparently had a fairly intense discussion at higher levels about how to deal with it and decided that trying to fight this would not be any good, at best. But they felt that they couldn’t let it go, so this is the route they chose.

      It’s actually pretty brilliant. It gained them points with a lot of people, and it may have even gotten a few to look at Mormonism. And it made it impossible for people to use a negative reaction as “proof” that the mockery is justified.

  40. MuseumChick*

    OP1, maybe try pointing out all the groups BOM could be a problem for.

    1) Mormons (the most obvious), this play will be hugely problematic for many of them.
    2) People of many other faiths will take issue with what can be seen as the disparaging of religion in general even with the play ending on pro-religious note.
    3) Non-religious people/atheists. With the play ending with an explicit pro-religion message those who do not believe in any religion could be offended.
    4) Anyone who does not like/is offend by toilet humor, sexual humor, swearing etc.
    5) The many, many, issues with race in the musical

    I am a huge fan of the musical and actually think it has some really good messages, a lot of interesting points for discussion, and while it has all the crassness the creators are know for it is very smart. I would never, ever, ever watch it with anyone for my job. You could not pay me enough.

  41. Lady Phoenix*

    I wonder if the reason they are doubling down is because the tickets are not refundable/transferable.

    Still doesn’t excuse them, nor is it the team’s problem that HR would so carelessly pick a show without consorting the team on some titles.

  42. AB*

    Wondering if the letterwriter is from the UK. We’re no where near as religious as in the US and I can definately see most london base ‘techy’ companies booking to see BOM on the West End without considering if it’s appropriate. Mormonism isn’t such a big thing here. I’ve met one Mormon my whole life and he was from America (and the loveliest person).

    I still don’t think it’s the right thing to do. But I see it a lot at techy companies where they really push what is appropriate and anyone who disagrees or tries to point out sexism/racism when it rears it’s ugly head is seen as a killjoy. Or they get some white dude being ‘The voice of reason’ telling them that it’s their choice to be offended.

    For the record, i’ve seen Book of Mormon twice and I love it, but it’s not appropriate for a work outing!

    1. neverjaunty*

      I have a running joke with my friends at a lot of techy companies that what I call “a referral to an employment lawyer” they call “Tuesday”. It’s like a geek social fallacy version of ‘we’re just like a work family here!’

    2. OP #1*

      I have in fact gotten the “it’s their choice to be offended” response when talking to senior management. Do you have any advice for how to address that?

      1. Ask a Manager* Post author

        “Wow, that really flies in the face of any intentions we might have had to be a diverse and welcoming workplace for people of all faith backgrounds.”

        1. SarahKay*

          Alison’s advice is undoubtedly ideal for then and there, but I’d suggest, if an option, looking for somewhere else to work.
          Is it going to be my choice to be offended when a manager continually refers to me as a girl and suggests I leave the ‘real work’ to the men? Is it going to be my choice to be offended when I complain about a co-worker continually making sexist comments? Your senior management sound, at best, thoughtless and entitled.

  43. I'd rather be blue*

    Regarding OP#1’s question and some of the comments I’m seeing here…

    I think it’s a good rule of thumb to not involve religion in work/work outings PERIOD. It’s just a recipe for making everyone uncomfortable. I’m also going to suggest that it might be better to choose an activity where you can actually talk to your coworkers rather than staring at a screen or stage.

    Look, I really enjoyed Book of Mormon, but it had a lot of offensive and problematic elements. It’s definitely not work appropriate and HR should’ve known better. Same goes for Jesus Christ Superstar, Joseph and the Amazing Technicolor Dreamcoat, Godspell, etc. Also, to those suggesting Fiddler…please no. I’ve had this exact experience and it did not go well. I was the only Jewish employee, so reactions ranged from constant questions about my religion/culture to shouts of L’chaim and Tevye dancing when I entered a room. Just…no.

    1. Bryce*

      Oof, the spotlight effect. One of the reasons I get grouchy during Hanukkah (and despise the dreidel song, imagine if the only Christmas song people knew was Jingle Bells and ignored any evidence that wasn’t what the holiday was about). I’m fine talking to folks about Judaism but that “stand up and share with the class what makes you different from all of them” issue isn’t the same thing.

  44. an infinite number of monkeys*

    OP#3, I hope you’re able to use Alison’s script successfully! The assumptions about young people and social media can be deeply ingrained.
    We have something of a reverse situation here. We have a Facebook page managed very successfully for some years by a coworker in his 50s. Engagement is high, posts are frequent and relevant, interactions are almost entirely positive, and the number of followers has steadily increased. Then a new employee in his 20s (in a different area, with different duties) expressed interest in handling social media, and duties were shuffled around in order to give it to him.
    There’s no reason to think he won’t do a great job with it, but there doesn’t seem to have been any real reason to make the change other than that he’s younger; and the guy who’d been handling it is pretty demoralized over the whole thing.

  45. anony*

    OP#1. Explain to HR that this is a play where the line “I have maggots in my scrotum” is sung over and over. That alone should disqualify it as a work activity in this day and age, unless you work on Pennsylvania Ave in D.C.

  46. TheaterGeek*

    NO NO NO and NO… this is a horrible idea for a company bonding thing! I am an avid theater geek and a lapsed Catholic, and even I cringe in some of the songs. There’s a song where they sing something to the effect of F Jesus – you could google the lyrics- and this is in no way appropriate for a work event! My office often watches movies together and if we’re watching them at work (it’s a Friday tradition during the slow season), any movie has to be PG or PG13. A good rule to follow for any mixed groups of people who might feel they don’t have a choice in going to this type of work event. Sell the tickets, or let people bring spouses to use the seats of people who don’t want to go. This is completely 100% inappropriate and I can only think of the havoc – emotionally and possibly litigious – this will bring to your office.

  47. HisGirlFriday*

    OP #3, I feel you. I am the youngest person in my office by about 15 years, and I’m solidly a Millennial (although I’m on the upper end of the age range), and my boss absolutely believes that I can ‘just do the social media stuff’ as part of my job.

    Do I have the skills to do social media? Yeah, to some extent, but not a lot. Is it an integral part of my job? No, it’s not, and in order to do it properly, I would need to take time away from my actual job.

    But, according to my boss, ‘It’s only a few minutes once a day to do all that Facebook and Twitter stuff.’ And then she wonders why our engagement is terrible.

  48. Hlyssande*

    #4 – Get that surgery! There’s no reason to continue to suffer if it can be fixed, and it’s very easy to explain. Nobody in their right mind would want you to delay.

    My cousin had brain surgery last year to remove a tumor and had a major interview shortly afterward, while she was still kind of terrifying to look at. She got the job.

    I’mma quote Shia here: Just doooo it!

  49. MoodyMoody*

    My husband’s company is taking us to the Wizard of Oz play tonight. I think that’s a much better choice than OP#1’s company made.

    1. Amber Rose*

      I’ve actually seen a decent amount of plays, come to think of it. I’m trying to imagine a single one I’d feel OK seeing with coworkers and failing. The worst one was probably Dracula. I mean, maybe not all productions play it that sexually intense, but I remember wanting to hide under my seat out of sheer awkwardness (I was with family). Phantom of the Opera, maybe, but again it depends on the direction.

      I think that’s why businesses pick Wizard of Oz so often. :D

      1. Beancounter Eric*

        Cain Mutiny Court Martial or A Few Good Men come to mind as possibilities for a work event.

        Then again, it’s been well established that I am well outside the mainstream.

  50. Undine*

    Could one of the reasons HR is doubling down on the Book of Mormon be that the money is already spent? Or at least a substantial deposit? Block-booking a hundred seats for a musical has got to be done well in advance, & takes a lot of planning. I once had to skip a company outing I wanted to go on because by the time they got everything signed and released and were ready to announce it, it was too late for me to reschedule a conflicting appointment.

    This does not excuse HR’s response, but they may now be in the spot where they’ve spent their budget on the musical, and financially, it’s this or nothing.

    1. Jerry Vandesic*

      My guess is they already spent the money.

      If they are worried about cancelling and taking a loss, they might want to sell the tickets to employees (possibly at a discount) and let people go on their own. Anything left over could be given to a charity.

  51. Hiring Mgr*

    For #1, what might be helpful is prior to the group going to see the show, perhaps you can all attend a Mormon church service together. This way everyone will have more familiarity with the subject matter and will make for a more informed discussion on the topic.

    1. Some sort of Management Consultant*

      Oh gosh, no! More religion at work is not the answer, not seeing the show is!
      (In one’s private life that might be the answer, but not at work!)

    2. Ask a Manager* Post author

      Hey, I’ve asked you over and over to cut this out or clearly indicate you’re joking, because it derails the conversation. I’m not sure why you’ve chosen to ignore me, but I’m now putting you on moderation so I can block these comments (which is too bad because they’re funny).

      1. Hiring Mgr*

        I sincerely apologize…not my intention to derail–I get it though and will cease, so hopefull you can take me off moderation

        1. JulieBulie*

          Yes, please just use some kind of disclaimer, if that means you can keep joking. (Call yourself Fake Hiring Mgr?)

          Because I was thinking kind of the same thing – the geniuses who bought the tickets and are digging their heels are in sore need of some sensitivity training. Of course they shouldn’t attend a Mormon church service (it is not a Broadway play!), but it really might benefit those HR people to spend some face time with the people whose feelings they’re disregarding.

          I was also struck that HR claimed that having religious diversity in the company means that the company cannot please everyone. Um, okay HR, sorry that religious diversity is so inconvenient for you, but would it have been so hard to pick out an activity that did not mention a religion?

          (And now thanks to Amber Rose’s comment, I’m curious about Mormon weddings.)

  52. Some sort of Management Consultant*

    I saw Book of Mormon and I felt that was…eh, awkward (and neither me nor my mom are particularly prudish) so I’m horrified just imagining seeing it with colleagues!

    1. OP #2*

      That feels too… aggressive (?) to me. Part of this is that I’ve been sitting on this question for a while — it took me a good bit to decide if I wanted to do anything at all. If she (or another coworker) had asked, I’d be happy to share — it’s not that much food overall, and I’m lucky enough to be able to afford it. It’s really just the experience of thinking “hey no need to grocery shop this week yay” and then coming in Thursday and realizing I don’t have food for Friday that’s frustrating.

      I also don’t think my workplace would love that plan if I ever had to explain it.

      1. oranges & lemons*

        For me, it would be the hygiene issue that would bug me, if someone is potentially getting their hands all over my groceries to cut a slice of cheese or whatever. I would consider creating an area where you leave stuff that’s explicitly for sharing–but I’d also talk to the custodian first or this would come off a bit passive-aggressive.

      2. MicroManagered*

        I kinda wonder if she thinks she has permission to do this because you told her she could use the fridge? Is there a cultural issue here? Or is that just how she grew up and doesn’t realize it’s a thing to take a slice of bread?

        Honestly, if it bugs you that much (that she might need the food), I would just let it go. Like if it made you angry, I’d support the decision to address it. But it sounds like you’re on the fence or maybe leaning toward letting it go, so you could just let it go.

  53. Anon for This*

    #1 – Personally, I’d love to see the BOM, but I don’t know that it’s a good work outing. However, I also know people who are offended at things like Star Wars and other science fiction movies, etc. I hope at some point that HR department takes a close look at the type of activities that they are offering.

    #4 – Don’t let yourself remain in discomfort for an interview that may or may not materialize. And if it does, then all you need to do is to tell the company that you’ve recently had surgery and that as a result you have some restrictions (being on crutches, wearing sneakers, etc.). Decent employers won’t have any sort of issue with that sort of thing.

  54. Amber Rose*

    Religion and politics: two things that are not terribly compatible with most workplaces. I would also feel uncomfortable with a work outing to Jesus Christ Superstar, or anything else religious-y, just because it’s such a fraught topic. So I do think this is worth pushing back on, particularly since the response to “we’re diverse and we can’t please everyone” is something like “yes, but you can avoid actually offending them.”

    I mean, if the work thing was a horror movie night, for example, I wouldn’t go because to me that sounds awful. But it’s not like i’d be offended that everyone else was going. Whereas if I were the type of Mormons I’m used to being around, the everyone going to Book of Mormon thing might make me feel like everyone was making fun of me. That’s not cool.

  55. Beancounter Eric*

    Blech….work bonding events.

    Putting aside whether this particular event is appropriate, and I haven’t seen it so beats me, I don’t understand the idea of “let’s leave the office for the afternnon/evening/whatever, and go to X event/open field/park/wherever and watch/throw things/climb rocks/shoot paintballs at each other and have a “good time”.

    First, for many of us, “have a good time” does not accompany watching sports, climbing rocks, or throwing things – It didn’t do so when I was younger, and it sure doesn’t now that I’m middle aged. Second, we spend a great deal of time with co-workers as-is. Adding more in the guise of “Team-building” isn’t going to make many of us happy.

    1. Lady Phoenix*

      You can apply that to company parties.

      I think hosting occassional team buildings can be fun (like 4 times a year), especially if the events are more local — but too much of those things sound tiring.

    2. Amber Rose*

      That’s very workplace specific. At our company for example, almost everyone goes to the weekend events because almost everyone is pretty close friends with everyone else. They hang out after work anyway.

      Besides, as long as it isn’t mandatory, who cares? If you don’t want to go, then don’t, and let the ones who do have fun.

      1. Beancounter Eric*

        Ah, but far too often, they are mandatory, “you will attend and have fun, whether you like it or not” events.

        Voluntary – go have fun. Get together on weekends because you are all friends – have at it. Company wants to pay for it – as the accountant, I’ll probably pose questions regarding the business purpose and depending on my relationship with higher may ask “are you really sure this is a good use of resources?” but it ultimately is leadership’s call.

        But for many of us, thank you, no, we’ll be elsewhere living life away from work.

      2. JulieBulie*

        Weeeeeell… we’ve read countless times on AAM about people who got dinged for not attending “optional” work events. At some places, you’re secretly required to attend at least some of the optional events, even if all of them are eye-poking contests and you hate eye-poking. Sometimes people don’t figure this out until it’s too late.

    3. DG*

      What bothers me about these events is that they’re taking time away from real work. I nominally work 9-5, but I often work late on projects because I want them, and the company, to be successful. I’m not compensated for those extra hours except in the sense that my contract says “sometimes other hours as appropriate” and my salary is pretty good. And I don’t mind that! But if the company sends us all to go rock climbing for the day, then obviously our work isn’t so urgent after all. If we’ll survive with a whole day of productivity lost, we’ll survive if I go home at 5pm every day.

  56. Lady Phoenix*

    Allison, I think we need to make letter 1 its own section again. The comments are more towards 1 than any others.

  57. Amber Rose*

    #3, I was in this position earlier. I sympathize so much. I had to start posting once a day on Twitter, and I had never used Twitter before in my life. I ended up sitting down and explaining that to my boss, and mentioning that there are companies who can handle that kind of thing for you, and far more effectively, if they really want to get the most out of their social media.

  58. a girl has no name*

    I loved Book of Mormon, but it is so obviously inappropriate for the workplace. You also shouldn’t go to the movie theater to watch 50 Shades of Gray as a work team outing. It’s not that difficult to avoid subject matters that could be considered highly offensive to some people. Go with your friends, not coworkers-this should be commons sense. Find a neutral outing if you must have one-baseball game, bowling, trivia etc…I don’t really understand why everyone is debating Book of Mormon in the comments. It’s inappropriate for work-the end.

  59. Laura*

    LW!: I’m Mormon and I went to the Book of Mormon. It doesn’t mock the religion or even religion in general. I thought it was more insulting towards Ugandans, if you want to know the truth. It was hilarious and all in fun. Some of the people in the audience didn’t appreciate it but I don’t think it was exactly the subject matter that was the problem (there was liberal use of the “f” word and some rather off-color jokes). I’m not sure I’d buy tickets if I were the boss of a company, because of the off-color jokes and all, but it’s not the religious aspect that I’d worry about.

  60. BlueWolf*

    Rule of thumb for HR people: if the company-sponsored work event idea mentions religion in any way, shape, or form then it probably isn’t a good choice for a work-sponsored event. Either it is offensive towards the religion in question, or it is pro-religion and non-religious folks will feel uncomfortable. You’re just likely to offend someone either way.

    I will admit I have not seen Book of Mormon, but as others have mentioned it is also NSFW in other ways. It could qualify as harassment not only on the basis of religion, but also sexual harassment if it contains a number of crude sexual jokes or innuendo (which from what I’ve heard, it does). If you couldn’t say those jokes in the actual workplace, then the company should not be sponsoring the event for its employees.

    However, those employees are perfectly welcome to see it on their own time!

  61. Nanc*

    As far as musicals go, Kinky Boots is the logical choice as the movie and subsequent musical are based on the true story of a UK shoe manufacturing plant where the employees pulled together to change direction when it became obvious manufacturing Oxfords wasn’t going to keep the doors open. Talk about teamwork!

    OP–thanks for supporting your co-workers–that’s team bonding in action!

  62. Collingswood*

    I had a boss at a small law firm take all of his staff to see Santaland Diaries. I like David Sedaris and thought it was pretty funny, but it was in no way work appropriate. Things can be fun or popular without being something that you should do as part of a work event.

  63. SallyForth*

    3. The age-ism around social media hit me the opposite way. I took a bunch of social media marketing courses in my 50s & love the challenge of increasing engagement. My coworker who is my age is the same. We both do a lot of social media manager volunteer work, too.

    When the not-for-profit we worked for decided to formally allocate the social media work, we were nixed in favour of someone younger. She had no idea about analytics or posting times or following up. Taking selfies for your Instagram account isn’t the same as constructing a campaign. Our manager couldn’t see that.

    1. Manders*

      Ugh, that’s really frustrating. You really have to be on top of analytics if you’re using social media for marketing. Unfortunately, people outside the field don’t know what the work actually looks like, so they can’t assess whether someone’s doing it well.

      Oddly, the most accurate depiction of someone using social media for work I’ve ever seen was in a Black Mirror episode. Sure, it was a goofy over-the-top futuristic story, but the episode did show characters spending time on things like paying attention to metrics, forming relationships with influencers, etc.

  64. kayakwriter*

    I used to work in the Marketing Department of a large retailer. Just before the Winter Holiday some years back, a group of the graphic designers and photographers circulated their “Holiday Card” company-wide on our intranet. They’d taken a medieval painting of the Birth Of Christ and adapted it, with photoshopped-in faces of employees as the characters (including Christ) and offerings from our Teapot lines as the gifts of the Wise Men.
    It was technically brilliant – well executed, with lots of clever in-jokes about our people and our products. It was also wildly inappropriate, even in here in Canada, where levels of religiosity are far lower than in the States. Even as a non-believer, I released that in our organization of thousands, there were bound to be many for whom Christianity was a core part of their identity. So I called out this out on the Holiday Card thread, more in sorrow than in anger. They apologized and deleted the card. I later got a thank you from the head of HR, who was happy we’d done self-policing by peers rather than her having to lower the boom.
    I loves me a good satire – “Life Of Brian” is one of my favourite films. But the rules are different at work than in your private life. None of your co-workers should have to be a captive audience to mockery of their religion in particular or of religion in general.

    1. I'd rather be blue*

      We had something similar here with photoshopping staff members faces onto dancing Hasidic Jews last year for a holiday card for me…I’m the only Jewish employee and when I brought up the fact that it was offensive, I got shut down. Glad to hear that your place of work is more sensible about this.

      1. Observer*

        You have to love how perverse this is – They may YOU a card, but YOUR opinion is not relevant to the card the is supposed to be FOR YOUR BENEFIT.

  65. OP #1*

    Thank you everyone for the very thoughtful comments! (In particular, I had not realized the racial aspect of the Book of Mormon and will bring that up with management.) I wanted to clarify a few contextual points:
    1) This is NOT a mandatory company outing. As management described it, it is intended as a reward, as tickets for The Book of Mormon are usually expensive and sell out quickly. Those who are not going will be given a gift card instead. That being said, I do feel that any company outing that is as divisive as this (as evidenced by the comments!) is probably not an appropriate reward.
    2) In terms of vulgarity, management curses regularly even in meetings (as do other employees, including myself).
    3) While it’s likely that HR originally did not consider the plot of the play and only considered that it is a well-known, popular play (which is what I had initially thought as well), senior management joked that it would be “worse than Sausage Party” (which the company had accidentally taken people to, without realizing what it was) at the meeting where it was announced that we would be going to see the Book of Mormon. (Phew, that was quite a long sentence!)
    4) Senior management has also said that paying for us to go see the Book of Mormon is in no way a sponsorship of the play itself. It is meant to be something fun, and they do not want to bend to the will of a minority because then we would never be able to do anything fun.
    Does this change any of your opinions or advice?

    1. HRish Dude*

      I love this musical, but the vulgarity in it is way, way, way more than just “cursing”.

      For starters, there’s a whole scene with dildos. And another with Hitler having sex with the Elder Price’s dad…

      1. Lady Phoenix*

        Your company sounds awful and it just raised a big ol’ red flag. Senior management sounds tyrannical and irresponsible (Sausage Party, REALLY?!), and this can lead to different people being marginalized and abused if they rightfully don’t align to the senior team’s belief.

      2. Kate 2*

        Tyranny of the minority isn’t any better though. No is being forced to go, and no one is being punished for not going. The musical in question isn’t considered offensive by all Mormons, so it isn’t as though the company is offering tickets to “Springtime for Hitler” (a super offensive musical from the movie “The Producers” 2005 version). With the added info I don’t see any problem with it.

        1. Lady Phoenix*

          Optional oe not is not the point, the point is that the office is ran by jerks who seem to care less on “minority” opinions. So if they do something that could be sexist, homophobic, or racist… they could possibly ignore it because “minority”.

          And thise issues could be a sexual harassment case, a pay issue between people of different races, or subtly insulting people based on their race or eeligion.

        2. Observer*

          What tyranny of the minority? No one is telling anyone what to do in their own time. But the management is explicitly telling people that they are expected to bond over this. That’s ridiculous.

    2. I'd rather be blue*

      Nope, this doesn’t change my opinion.

      “…they do not want to bend to the will of a minority because then we would never be able to do anything fun.”

      Yikes! That’s a really scary, messed-up statement. Your company should be supportive of diversity in the workplace. If the “fun” activity is hurtful to others, particularly when it deals with matters of religion and/or race, your company should step up to make it right. That means cancelling this reward and coming up with something else. There are lots of fun things to do that don’t offend people and make them feel unsafe and unwelcome at their place of work.

      Also, Sausage Party? Seriously? I mean, I liked that movie, but it’s totally not workplace appropriate. Even a cursory google search, viewing any of the marketing, or even the name of the movie could’ve easily tipped off HR that it wasn’t appropriate. The fact that they’ve pulled stuff like this makes it even worse this time. Sounds like they value their “edgy, non-pc” culture more than they value people. You can still enjoy a casual, fun workplace culture without going out of your way to piss people off or make them uncomfortable.

      1. JulieBulie*

        Double-yikes… I swear I didn’t read this before I wrote and posted a comment with the very same quote followed by a “yikes!”

      2. Lady Phoenix*

        In other words, this sounds like a “Bro Culture”/”Frat Culture”

        Like we need any of that in work. No thank you!

    3. Agent Diane*

      So if someone had pointed out a planned outing was racist, would they have also said “we’re not bending to the will of a minority”? What about if someone had pointed out a planned company treat was homophobic? If their answer any of these is “it’s the minority’s problem” then they have waaaaaaay bigger culture problems than they realise.

      1. KHB*

        Well, the OP is about to point out to them that this planned outing IS racist, so they’re about to find out what happens next.

    4. JulieBulie*

      They didn’t know what “Book of Mormon” was about, but the fact that it had the name of a religion in its title didn’t give them pause. Okay.

      But that was AFTER they had been through something similar with a film called “Sausage Party.” Seriously? It didn’t occur to them that a movie with that name might be problematic? They learned nothing from that experience?

      “They do not want to bend to the will of a minority because then we would never be able to do anything fun.”

      Yike. In the original letter, they said they couldn’t please everyone because they had so much religious diversity (sounds like they consider it a huge inconvenience).

      I agree that pleasing everyone is a tall order. But now they’re saying they have to offend people in order to have fun. In fact, it sounds like they think it isn’t even worth trying to find a way to have fun that doesn’t offend the minority.

      My opinion is not changed; HR seems really clueless and profoundly insensitive. I wish I had some advice for you. The best I can muster is a cynical reminder to keep copies of anything that might be useful as evidence when the company inevitably gets hit with an EEOC complaint because someone who was having fun didn’t want to bend to the will of a minority.

    5. SarahKay*

      Can’t please everybody =/= doesn’t matter if we offend some people.
      There’s a huge difference between saying “This week’s free snack is peanuts. We know not everyone likes peanuts, so next week it’ll be free humus” and “This week’s free snack is peanuts and those of you who are deathly allergic should just stop complaining and stay out of the kitchen areas (all of them) all week. Anyway, you’re getting free humus next week, what’s your problem?”

    6. OP #1*

      To be as fair as possible, Sausage Party was planned by someone in middle management at the time. I have no idea how involved HR was, and the person who planned it was incredibly mortified when he realized what he had chosen and apologized to everyone afterward.

      Something that has been difficult is convincing management that something that is anti-Christian (anti-Mormon, anti-faith, etc etc) is as bad as something that is racist or homophobic. (I have not yet tried pointing out the racism as of this post, but will update once I do.) From previous statements, it sounds like senior management is pretty aware of issues related to racism and sexism. Does anyone have any advice for showing that discrimination is just as important when it happens to majority (at least in this country) groups? (I’m not sure I phrased that quite right, but hopefully it is still understandable.)

      I would rather not just give up because there are many aspects of this company that ARE good and make me enjoy working here!

      1. Falling Diphthong*

        I think that anything that involves religion should stay way, way, the heck away from the workplace. Pro, anti, majority, minority, two-hours-of-denigration-but-at-the-end-they-say-Zoroastrians-are-nice: just say no. The religious monkeys are in a completely separate circus, and your workplace should not be commenting on them, with praise or mockery.

        For majority v minority, I actually do think there is a strong distinction between satire that punches up vs punches down. But I think that debate doesn’t belong at the office, whatever is being satirized. A holiday movie that ruthlessly mocks white middle-aged managers is probably not the right office bonding experience, either. Heck, I want to see Three Billboards with my family, but I’m not sure it would be a good movie for a wide-ranging group who all have to get along with each other through the upcoming fourth quarter audit. I’d want to have an excellent read of the office and have seen the movie before I tried that one.

      2. I'd rather be blue*

        The “punching up vs. punching down” point from Falling Diphthong here is a really important distinction. I wouldn’t frame this as minority vs. majority protections issue and I definitely wouldn’t try to start comparing forms of discrimination. That’s really unhelpful and not at all the point anyway. Keep focussed on the goal, which is to get them to call this off and provide a better solution that doesn’t offend or hurt your coworkers.

        I think this might be a good “safety in numbers” sort of thing. People who might not otherwise feel comfortable speaking up alone might do so if they felt like they were supported by the group. Hearing the same thing from enough people has a better chance of sticking, especially when people approach management together.

      3. HannahS*

        Talk about how the management endorsing things that make fun of people’s beliefs creates an environment that is condones making fun of people’s beliefs. What’s going to happen when they come back from the play and quote songs to each other or directly to the Mormon employees? What about when they sing the song that is sung in some offensive parody of an African language? That’s what they’re endorsing. Talk about how those people won’t want to work there anymore, and you, personally, as a non-member of those groups, are uncomfortable with the environment that they’re creating. I’d actually stay away from trying to convince them that it’s just as bad, or just as important as racism or sexism, because that’ll lead you down an argument of “whose oppression is worse” and you can’t win that one, because the LDS church has not been violently and institutionally disenfranchised and deprived of opportunity and safety the way (for example) Black people have. That’s not the point. The point is that by taking their employees to an event that makes fun of some of their other employees, they are sending the message that it’s ok to be a jerk to their other employees, and it’s not acceptable, even if they’ve already paid for the tickets.

        1. FirstTimeCommenter*

          HannahS, you say “the LDS church has not been violently and institutionally disenfranchised and deprived of opportunity and safety”…but that’s actually not true. And I think that’s important context for this discussion.

          It wasn’t on the same scale of the Atlantic slave trade. But Mormons were literally driven out of the United States. Local and state governments openly persecuted them, mobs drove them from their homes over and over. They were killed or tarred and feathered. They were ostracized. They were robbed. They were declared enemies and traitors. And once Utah was a territory of the US, the federal government made a concerted effort to stamp the LDS church out.

          My family tree has people who were literally driven out of their country or didn’t survive long enough to make it to what became Utah. Many people in the LDS church have people like that in our background. And frankly, we have personal bad experiences. I’ve lost friends because of my religion. I have family members who were harassed at work over it. I have friends who had their families turn on them because they converted. This matters, and I only see one other person (Renna) talking about it in this whole comment thread.

          Maybe people just don’t know the history, but it bothers me when people pretend that this never happened. It’s not OK to harm or offend someone for their race, gender, orientation or religion, and there is a history of that happening to Mormons.

      4. Observer*

        1. Mormons are not a majority anywhere, except for Utah.

        2. If they want to see the results of disrespecting faith, tell them to look at the White House and it’s current occupant. I don’t really want to get too political here, but there is no doubt that Trump benefited greatly from the contempt that a great deal of the left-wing side of the Democratic Party exhibited.

        3. Diversity of viewpoint and experience is important as any other type of diversity. You don’t get diversity by treating people with contempt. It’s not just that you don’t get the particular group that you treat with contempt – you don’t get others with more “acceptable” views, because they have reason to distrust you.

        4. If you look at most anti-faith or anti-specific faith movies, they tend to be offensive in ways that go well beyond that particular faith in question. As people have pointed out, this particular movie is going to offend a lot more people that just Mormons – there are the racial aspects as well as a level of general grossness that a lot of people are just not going to find funny.

    7. Falling Diphthong*

      (4) is really problematic, especially in light of their comment upthread about “people who choose to be offended.” It reminds me of the Really Fun Office who went on Friday beer runs, leaving the boring older employee who’d been foisted on them to hang out and do all the actual work–can’t bow to the will of the minority, donchaknow, and she’s just CHOOSING to be offended about being left out–she doesn’t have to react that way. (That manager and a bunch of their subordinates got fired.)

      I… suppose you could accidentally wind up at Sausage Party because it’s a cartoon, and someone figured the R rating was due to the use of a couple of vulgar words and didn’t bother to read any further? But that is exactly the sort of movie that is NOT a good office bonding experience, because what if I want to discuss the religious parallels while the guy next to me wants to reenact the final mass orgy scene? This is not the sort of problem that comes up if your company goes to see Star Wars, or Murder on the Orient Express, or any number of aimed-at-the-family-mass-market films. Sometimes–like when you’re looking for an activity for a diverse group to do together–safe and appropriate for everyone is the way to go. It’s not an insult for every member of the group failing to be edgy enough.

      I think Sausage Party illustrates an important distinction between vulgar and raunchy. (For example, two female characters, and they wind up putting on a lesbian sex show while the guys stand around and watch?) Things that are considered fun because they are raunchy, offensive, etc, are not good choices for your office outings.

    8. Humble Schoolmarm*

      To reply in the style of BOM

      I believe…that your managers are quite jerky!
      I believe… that 4 especially is messed up
      And I believe… That a boss who blames any kind of minority for being party poopers is someone to avoid!
      I am an AAM commentor,
      An AAM commentor who just be-lieves!

    9. Observer*

      It makes it even worse. It really says that “diversity” is not really what they are interested in. You simply cannot portray something as a “reward” that promotes “team bonding” without that being seen as an endorsement of that thing. Trying to claim otherwise is simply disingenuous.

      I don’t believe that you cannot do anything “fun” without deeply offending people and their core beliefs. The fact that leadership sees it otherwise shows that they simply don’t see those people as people with experiences and values to respect. The fact that they place “fun” above deeply offending people and their core beliefs says that they don’t care about or respect people who don’t share their beliefs.

      And, I say this as someone who has zero interest in Mormonism. I am dead certain that they would have no problem subjecting many, many other groups to this kind of mockery and blatant contempt.

    10. Sam Yao*

      4) tells me that your management doesn’t actually care about respecting the views and objections of the people on their staff if it means they can’t do something that is their personal idea of “fun” regardless of whose idea of “fun” it isn’t, which means they are not interested in including everyone. It sounds like a sulky child’s argument, and it’s going to cause a lot more trouble for them down the line. It also tells me that your managers are jerks.

  66. Andi*

    Setting aside the issue of religion entirely, I cannot imagine a universe in which seeing a musical that includes the lyric “F*ck you God in the ass mouth and c*nt-a” would be work appropriate at all.

    1. Lady Phoenix*

      The sme company that thought “Sausage Party” was a-ok and force everyone who attended to sit through it

  67. Renna*

    I’m Mormon and have been mocked for it my entire life. Including by teachers in middle, elementary l, and high school. My sister had a music teacher lower h r grade from A to C after she found out she was LDS (yes really, my sis is a genius) and refuse to use her for any volunteer work despite her being a great pianist, organist, and conductor. My other sister got shunned by my mom’s family when she had a temple wedding and they were not allowed in, no one even came to te reception and she was willing to do a civil ceremony they could go to but they wouldn’t Mom herself was nearly disowned when she converted. I have no patience now for anything that makes a crap ton of money for mocking my faith and I can’t believe anyone was dumb enough to think this is a good idea. And then doubled down when they were told why it wasn’t. The show is also extremely profane and, I think racist just based onhe read. Nothing about This is ok.

    1. Renna*

      I promise I can spell. I was just trying to make a comment on my phone and it wouldn’t let me see the text field -__-

    2. The Supreme Troll*

      I know this going a little off-topic. But, Renna, I hope that your parents were able to take legal action against your sister’s music teacher. I hope that the school board was alerted to what she did. It was wrong on many levels, and I understand how you would feel about the play.

  68. Huddled over tea*

    Hilariously, my company took us all to see Book of Mormon for our Christmas do last year – we were all very excited and enjoyed it a lot! It never even occurred to me that it would be inappropriate. I grew up with a lot of missionaries, and came out thinking that they’d think it was funny.

    1. Observer*

      This helps explain the company’s behavior. But it does nothing to advance the idea that it’s ok. And, it’s even less ok given the fact that people have already expressed discomfort.

  69. Definitely anon*

    Story time. I once saw a play with a group of co-workers that turned out to be very different from what we expected. One of my new co-workers (She had been there about 2 months at the time) was a lead in this small play and invited everyone to come see it. She even hung up posters all over the office promoting it. She said that it was about corporate espionage but that was really all the information she gave us. About 15 people came from work to see this play. It turns out that while there was indeed corporate espionage, there was also full frontal nudity. We were all very surprised when she took off all of her clothes on stage. I looked over at my other coworkers when this happened and every single person was either wide-eyed in shock or was covering their eyes with their hands. It was a little awkward seeing her around the office after that. She left a couple of months later for a job related to her degree.

    1. Elizabeth H.*

      I don’t know, if the nudity made sense artistically in the context of the play I can see not mentioning it or not wanting it to be a big deal – because it’s not. There’s nudity in films, in visual art, etc. which you might view with coworkers if you invited them to your art show or something. I’m not being deliberately obtuse – personally, I would PROBABLY not invite coworkers to a play in which I appeared nude – but I think that nudity in this context could and should be treated differently than like if she stripped down next to the sinks in the women’s bathroom at work in order to change into gym clothes.

  70. DCBA*

    OP4 – One other thing to consider is whether you’d be cleared by your surgeon to fly cross-country after having surgery. Flying always increases the risk of blood clots, and your risk of clots is also higher after surgery. I’d just advise getting all the information about post-surgery care before making a decision.

  71. Itsa Me*

    I just want to thank OP #1 for being open-minded and willing to stand up for their coworkers. I think that the argument about it being inappropriate and disrespectful is stronger coming from someone who isn’t Mormon. Bravo for doing the right thing even if your company can’t see it!

  72. FeralCatt*

    Saw it and loved it (and it actually caused me to get interested in what Mormons are really like since there aren’t many around here and the play was ridiculous to the point that it was easy to see as a caricature), but that’s beside the point. I’m not big on mandatory fun to begin with, but for subversive comedy to work the individual has to decide for themselves if they’re willing to have their buttons pushed or opt out. With this being a work outing, there’s already a pressure to go, which means many are going to be compelled to put themselves in a position where they are going to have buttons pushed that they’re not okay with and would never have considered pushing. That’s going to provoke resentment.

    So no, I think this was a well-intended but misguided idea, and the OP has done their best to protect the company’s interest by bringing it up. It’s a shame that they’re doubling down instead of saying, “ya know, maybe this wasn’t a good idea.”

    1. Falling Diphthong*

      For subversive comedy to work the individual has to decide for themselves if they’re willing to have their buttons pushed.

      This is a really good distinction. The point of things that are coarse, vulgar, raunchy, subversive, graphic, blasphemous, etc, is that they make people uncomfortable. Occasionally being uncomfortable is okay–but not as part of a fun bonding activity for a large, diverse group of people. The office entertainment shouldn’t lead to discussions of “I thought that was racist in a really funny, clever way that poked fun at racism” vs “I thought that was racist in a crude, gross way that reinforced racism rather than undermining it.”

      I think it parallels the argument for trigger warnings on, say, a graphic depiction of child molestation. Some people shrug that off, some are bothered by it, some people are unsettled for days, and some get PTSD flashbacks. So you don’t throw that at people as a surprise, assuming that they will all be cool with the awesome artistic merit and shrug it off. And you don’t invoke “Well what about cows, huh? What if someone is triggered by COWS? Don’t we have to put a warning on everything about every sentence, just in case?” The point of shocking material is that it will shock people.

  73. The Supreme Troll*

    For OP#2, does your office workplace already have security cameras in the public areas (such as near the reception desk, cross-connecting hallways, etc.) monitored by security officers or a facility engineer? If they already have some security cameras set up in these areas, it wouldn’t be difficult to add another camera by the employee kitchenette area. And it wouldn’t be something that would affect office privacy.

  74. Caitlin*

    I saw The Book of Mormon twice – once by myself and once with my aunt and cousins. Loved it both times. The second time, I bought a plush frog and a Book of Mormon tank top. (When I was being rung out I noticed the “I Have Maggots in my Scrotum” boxer shorts were sold out. I marveled at how popular they were, and the lady at the counter said that she remembers a whole family buying a pair, and they told her they were planning to wear them for a Christmas card photo!) Back to the question, as much as I loved it, I could see how the idea of a work outing being connected to a show like that could make people uncomfortable. Hindsight is 20/20, but it would have been a better idea (and would have gotten more employees involved) to vote on which show they want to see.

  75. Cari*

    Re: 4
    Mom was applying for a principal position around when she had foot surgery (forget exactly for what was it was a decade + ago). At 2nd interview she was in boot & cane. She said that her comment that “I promise, I normally do wear shoes that match” was a good ice breaker – and she got the job. If you’re a top candidate and can easily explain this is medical, not disregard for interview norms I think you’re fine.

  76. Say what, now?*

    OP #1, thank you for being so sensitive to your coworkers and backing them even when it doesn’t directly affect you. It makes so much more of an impact when there are people of different backgrounds coming together to point out how tone-deaf a company is being. For you as an atheist to say it’s not ok to mock religion is such an impactful thing for your company to hear (although they apparently didn’t hear it or refused to understand the argument in light of the money they’d already spent on the tickets). It says not only is it not ok for the people who hold these beliefs but it’s not ok for the people who care about them. You’re an amazing and empathetic coworker. I’d love to hear an update when you get one.

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