my new company is all about the Law of Attraction and other pseudoscience

A reader writes:

I recently joined a smaller company and everything seemed pretty good until my boss brought up a new hire training for me and a couple of other people who recently started too. They had us listen to a TED Talk by a well-known CEO, which was fine, and then told us they’d be setting up a meeting for us with their business coach to discuss this TED Talk and to train us on their vision for the company’s culture as a whole.

I was a little wary, but tried my best to keep an open mind.

Well, it ended up being a whole-day discussion on the Law of Attraction and Thoughts Have Energy and Four Agreements and a lot of pseudosciency woo that I am 100% not into, and actually am a little embarrassed that this would even be a Mandated Thing at a company. This seems to be such an integral part of the company culture, and everyone else seemed to have bought into it pretty hard, that I’m not sure how to approach this or think about it. It appears that we will have further meetings with this coach, and it doesn’t seem to be something we can opt out of. While my boss seems receptive to feedback, I’m not sure how receptive they would be to negative feedback about something they’ve been working on for a few years.

I would greatly appreciate any advice that you have. I am at a complete loss for what to do. I did read your previous answer about a similar situation, but I’m just not sure how to approach something that’s the company’s mandate.


Do you know how woven into the company’s culture this is? Like, is it two weird company meetings a year but otherwise it doesn’t really come up, or is it getting referenced all the time and you’re going to be told to manifest a working printer with your thoughts and so forth?

Obviously neither is ideal, but if it’s the former, it at least gives you more time to decide how you want to proceed. If it’s the latter, though, then I think This Company Is Not For You and you’d want to work on a quick exit plan.

If you’re not ready to just quit immediately, either for financial reasons or because you’re not sure yet that’s what you want to do, one option meanwhile is to say this to your boss: “I hadn’t realized until my meeting with Jane (we’re calling the coach Jane) that the company was so into the Law of Attraction and (fill in other details here). I want to be honest that that’s not my cup of tea. I’m excited about the work you’ve brought me on to do, but I’d prefer not to continue to meet with Jane on those topics.”

Also, if you happen to find this stuff objectionable on religious or spiritual grounds, that makes this even more clear cut, since you could frame it as religious accommodations that you’re entitled to by law. In that case, the language would be more like: “Those teachings conflict with my own religious beliefs, so I need to opt out on religious grounds. Do you need me to submit a formal request for accommodation under the law, or is this notification enough?” (Title VII of the Civil Rights Act requires employers to accommodate their employees’ religious beliefs and practices, unless doing so would pose an undue hardship. This will not qualify as an undue hardship, unless your actual job is something like coaching people on the beliefs in question, which it is not.)

But if you’re not framing it as a religious accommodation and your boss tells you it’s not optional … well, there’s your answer. That would make this even more messed up than it already is, because telling someone who doesn’t want to do this that it’s mandatory in order to keep their job is absurd, and would give you a ton of insight into the level of problems in this company. But at least you’ll know what you’re working with.

Read an update to this letter here.

{ 507 comments… read them below }

  1. Just Employed Here*

    OMG, I first read the headline as Alison announcing a new company of hers… And was then relieved to realize it was a question from a reader.

        1. Seeking Second Childhood*

          Or a games-book publisher called “Pseudo-ku Science”?
          (On second thought, I think my brain is still iced over from the weekend’s storm.)

            1. Susana*

              You just made me feel better, because I was going to type the same thing, then worried no one would get it!

              1. Troutwaxer*

                The sad thing for me is that anyone who got the joke in “Sudo Science” probably wouldn’t need the service.

          1. boo bot*

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              1. boo bot*

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        2. LeahS*

          I’m thinking a company that produces televised Japanese wrestling matches called “Sumo-Science”…

      1. SheLooksFamiliar*

        I would totally buy your branded material, Alison. Books, T-shirts, mugs, inspirational posters a la…how can we help launch this? ;)

        1. Hey Karma, Over here.*

          You would need the business plan to include for its own obsolescence. If you teach people how to “to manifest a working printer with [their] thoughts” they won’t need you after awhile.

      2. Will "scifantasy" Frank*

        Gus: You named your fake detective agency “Psych”? As in “got you”? Why didn’t you just call it “Hey, we’re fooling you and the police department; hope we don’t make a mistake and somebody dies because of it”?

        Shawn: First of all, Gus, that name is entirely too long; it would never fit on the window. And secondly, the best way you convince people you’re not lying to them is to tell them you are!

  2. Amber Rose*

    My husband works for the government, and had to sit through this kind of pseudo-stuff. They had to listen to raisins and tell everyone what the raisin was saying, for example. Super silly.

    Aside from wasting his time for a few hours every now and then, it has no bearing on his job and he gets along just fine with his coworkers. Keep in mind that there’s probably at least one person (more probably) pretending to be into it for the sake of getting along.

    1. Catleesi*

      They had to listen to raisins?? I honestly can’t imagine how I would respond to being asked to do something like that.

        1. Liane*

          HBucket: “It’s easy… mine sing…. Heard it Through the Grapevine!”
          Raisin-whisperer Coach: Oooooooh…so…colorfully visionary. Now tell, me–what did you hear the Raisins singing? Was it “You will attract wealth to The Company” or “The Secret is strong in this one”?

      1. Rusty Shackelford*

        “Hmmm… it seems to be singing… I Heard It Through The Grapevine…

        (You’ve gotta be old enough to get that reference.)

          1. TardyTardis*

            When I was in Jaycees, we got 50 to do the dance at National Convention one year. And yes, there was alcohol involved. :)

        1. Kelsi*

          I am having flashbacks to the year my BFF dressed as one of the California raisins. The costume was honestly kind of terrifying. We were maybe seven at the time? He thought he was the coolest thing around though.

        2. Raisin Listener*

          I refuse to be Of a Certain Age.

          Y’all, that song just came on the radio in vanpool, and I can’t stop laughing and now everyone is laughing about listening to raisins.

      2. Catleesi*

        Update: If I did manage to communicate with a raisin I’m 99% sure it would say cover me in chocolate and eat me. Which would probably not endear me to whoever was putting on the meeting/workshop.

        1. Narise*

          I am picturing myself reaching over and eating a few of the raisins and someone else screaming because I curt off their conversation. One more reason why you shouldn’t talk to food.

          1. RUKidding*

            My son, at about age eight gave names to lobsters in the tank at a restaurant. I had a hard time ordering “Charlie” for dinner. I did it, it was just hard. I made a rule: “no giving names to my dinner.”

            1. TardyTardis*

              What, and nobody called him Speaker to Seafood? (obscure SF convention joke. And yes, it was Larry Niven who did it after the third glass of wine).

      3. Danger: GUMPTION AHEAD*

        I’m eating raisins today. I’m not sure I want to know what they think about the situation

    2. PB*

      At first, I was assuming that “raisins” was autocorrect mangling “reasons,” and then I realized that no, they really were listening to dried grapes.

      1. Amber Rose*

        Sadly yes. Actual dried grapes. I would honestly love to participate in something like this. I’d get paid to sit around and have something to laugh at for years to come. Every time I feel sad, I imagine poor husband holding a raisin to his ear in a group of people doing the same thing. I can’t help but smile.

        1. Artemesia*

          I’m immediately seeing a doctor with tweezers taking a raisin our of someone’s ear and saying ‘You are 43! How did this happen?’

          1. LENENE*

            “I slipped in the shower!”

            Okay, backstory for that joke. A friend of a friend was an ER nurse, and after a few drinks I couldn’t resist asking what the weirdest thing she had ever seen stuck in someone’s butt was. She said a bottle of cholula (hot sauce). The patient said they slipped in the shower and landed on it. Let that sink in (no pun intended).

            Now whenever someone says “how did that happen?” I say/think, “I slipped in the shower!”

            1. mananana*

              I just snerked out loud at my desk — thank goodness I have an office that may have muffled the noise…..

            2. Daria Grace*

              I have a friend who is a nurse and tells almost the exact same story, just with a different kind of sauce

      2. Kyrielle*

        I initially managed to read it as ‘rabbis’ because my mind could not conceive of talking to *raisins*.

      3. Gyratory Circus*

        I’ve heard of the raisin thing before. My company (one of the huge ones everyone has heard of) includes it in a course you have to take if you’re trying to qualify for reduced health care premiums. Basically if you earn a certain amount and take a bunch of classes on stress reduction and financial planning, you can get a higher tier of health insurance for a lower tier premium. Why they make people jump through paternalistic and ridiculous hoops (because clearly the implication is if you don’t earn much money you must not be good with money?) is beyond me, and pisses me off.

        1. Natalie*

          There’s a mindfulness exercise that involves observing a raisin with all five senses. But you’re definitely not supposed to hear the raisin saying something to you.

    3. I Work on a Hellmouth*

      Listen… to… raisins.
      I’m guessing we’re not talking about the musical stylings of the California Raisins?

      I’m going to spend a good chunk of my day trying to figure out the why and the how on this one…

      1. Amber Rose*

        Poor husband. I laughed at him for so long.
        I don’t remember the why, I think it had something to do with tapping into your inner self or whatever pseudo-sciencey BS.

        1. Seeking Second Childhood*

          Is anyone else flashing on “A Chorus Line” with this?
          Specifically the song “Nothing”, where one actress had a crazy acting class where they had to visualize… “Second week, more advanced/ we had to be a table/ Be a sports car / Ice cream cone.”

      2. Canadian Public Servant*

        Had to google and I assume it was part of this “mindfulness” approach? (page link in my name for full terrible post)

        …Lee tries to demonstrate the attention required to be mindful by handing us each a raisin. “Now be aware of your thoughts”, he instructs us. And so this happens:

        “Observe the raisin” he commands, “How does the raisin feel in your hand?”

        “Roll it between your fingers, what sensations does it give you?”

        “Smell the raisin”

        “Put the raisin to your ear, do you hear anything?”

        “Now put it in your mouth” Ah, finally! “How does it taste?”

        Sure, it’s just a raisin, but if we can’t just learn to appreciate the tiny things from time-to-time, how can we expect to appreciate the sunsets?

        Someone in the room points out that was the best tasting raisin he’s ever had, Lee calls it the ‘raisin experience’ and I smile, as ridiculous as it felt to listen to a raisin, there’s definitely something in this Mindfulness lark! What’s more, Mindfulness is scientifically proven and an asset to working life. It’s backed up by research which shows that it can improve productivity, concentration and resilience to stress.

          1. Liza*

            I actually use this exercise in a mindfulness class designed to aid mental health, but our script most definitely does NOT include “listening to the raison” because that’s just… not remotely sensible. I do personally find the exercise rather cringey out of context, but mindfulness in general is considered pretty beneficial to wellbeing in a lot of ways, and scientific research backs this up.

            1. Amber Rose*

              Mindfulness is great. I just don’t think listening to your food and talking about how that makes you feel is the best learning method.

              Especially because raisins are gross.

          2. Close Bracket*

            I’ve done that mindfulness exercise minus the listening part. We smelled it and spent a lot of time on tasting it before the teacher finally told us to swallow it. One person later referred to it as The Never Ending Raisin.

        1. sfigato*

          I’m just gonna say that I’m a practicing Buddhist and I think forcing people do to “mindfulness” at work is just wrong. I’m skeptical about the benefits of mindfulness divorced from the larger spiritual practice of Buddhism, but if it works for people fine. However, I think it is wrong to force people to undertake what is essentially a religious practice at work. I dunno, maybe there is a way to do it so that it isn’t as icky, but it does not sit well with me to make people be mindful.

          1. IndoorCat*

            Same. I didn’t “get” mindfulness until I read The Tao Te Ching. Understanding *why* it’s okay to let go of judement– understanding the nature of the cosmos as being beyond morality, among other things, and understanding the principles of balance on an intuitive level– that was the breakthrough.

            If I still believed in Yahweh (meaning, I still believed that the greatest force in the universe is a moral God who passes judgement against evil) mindfulness wouldn’t have helped me. It wouldn’t have made any sense. It is the belief that I was always failing to meet a moral standard that caused my anxiety and kept me from trying to improve (since failure is a sin). It wasn’t until I realized the universe is sublime, but a-moral, that I was able to let go of all the ‘shoulds’ in my life. Letting those go means that at any given moment, I’m free to observe my body, my environment, and my community as it is, without a desire for a better self or community getting in the way of observing the truth.

            Once I was able to see things as they are as best I can, I am free to make a choice based on what outcomes might be best, or to abide the Taoist principles of humility, compassion, and simplicity.

            Ironically, letting go of a belief in “sin” led me to “sinning” a lot less. Since I was empowered to improve a little at a time, based on what I felt was most important rather than having to conform to an “objective” moral standard, I was able to get slower to anger, less fearful, more generous, own fewer things, and let go of resentments in my realtionshops.

            I’m a better, more mentally well person thanks to mindfulness and Taoism. But it is 100 percent a religious practice, one incompatible with the belief in a God who judges on a moral standard and a cosmology wherein God is a person rather than a place we can learn to live in harmony with. God doesn’t love me or hate me, for the same reason a forest or the ocean doesn’t love or hate. Love is a wonderful thing! It’s a good thing! But it’s also a human thing.

            Maybe mindfulness works for some people who also believe in God being a loving person who is all powerful. But, it seems contradictory to me. Although, knowing me, I’ll write this and then later I’ll change my mind again. Who know.

            Tl;Dr, mindfulness is religious even when practiced by secular people, and it really shouldn’t happen at work.

            1. Former Employee*

              Whether it’s a religious practice or just a practice to improve one’s own life, it’s still a practice, which means it is part of one’s personal life.

              1. IndoorCat*

                Yes, maybe I phrased that poorly. Or…I don’t know. I have to admit, I may just be ignorant of what “secular mindfulness” genuinely is. I guess if someone is non-religious, and they practice mindfulness just to improve their own life, then it isn’t religious. Still seems odd at work, though.

            2. Liza*

              This is a really interesting point. I’ve known so many people swear by mindfulness, but none of them were fully practising Buddhists. Rightly or wrongly, my experience as a person working in mental health suggests that the secular variant of mindfulness that has been adopted by the profession is being taught as a standalone, with no links to any religious or spiritual practises of any kind. Nonetheless, it does seem to be effective. With regards to compatibility with monotheistic religions, I guess this must depend heavily upon the personal and spiritual beliefs of the individual, which can vary greatly in specifics and intensity. It could make for a really interesting study to see if religious belief can indeed factor into the effectiveness of mindfulness!

              Mindfulness really has become “the next big thing” with regards to wellbeing right now, so this raises an interesting question. With workplace wellbeing becoming such a huge thing, I can imagine employers just viewing mindfulness as just another thing they can introduce their employees to (our own “Wellbeing At Work” board features both mindfulness and yoga). I’m not overly fond of mindfulness myself, and I do find that some of these practices are often applied in ways that lose a great deal of context and nuance, boiled down to a cooperate gimmick and taught by people who don’t really ‘get it’ (I’m including myself in the latter). I don’t think there’s much harm in providing a basic introduction to a generally proven affective concept and saying “here’s a thing people find helpful, go check it out if it’s your bag!” But to present something as an objective and universal truth and to expect employees to subscribe to it or at least not feel comfortable in expressing disinterest or disagreement – that’s the part that sounds dodgy to me.

              1. IndoorCat*

                I also think it’d be an interesting study! Internal beliefs seem to be a big component of mental health all around; like, the placebo effect can evoke genuine relief from pain, even if the pain is caused by an injury, because the belief that the sugar pill will help alters brain chemistry. So it makes sense to me that something as deep as one’s spiritual beliefs will alter how effective any kind of mental health treatment is, but a study could show us in what way, and how significant the difference is.

          2. WS*

            Yeah, mindfulness is a part of Buddhist practice (great) and also an evidence-backed therapeutic technique (also great). But people should not be using it as a compulsory workplace tool – it can cause harm to people with mental illness when not done correctly and in an appropriate setting.

        2. Busy*

          Actually, mindfulness is a way to treat people with anxiety disorders and trauma. It is a key part of dialectical behavioral therapy and is very very common. It is to center people in the present moment and not have your thoughts wonder. It i meant to teach yourself to calm down when your body and mind are racing a mile minute. They use interacting with food or environment or controlled diaphragm breathing. But the goal is to learn to “turn the mind off” and lower blood pressure.

          It has nothing to do with the ideas of manifesting the future you want through your mind. That is actually a part of “chaos magic” and is what is known as “magical thinking”. Totally different premise.

          1. Zennish*

            I’ve always found the “secular mindfulness” thing kind of curious too. My own impression is that the mindfulness presented as a secular practice isn’t the same thing that Buddhists of various stripes (myself included) generally think of as mindfulness.

        3. In the Academy*

          I was in a class that did just this! The coach handed us each a raisin, and before she got to the “Be aware …” part, I’d eaten it. LOL

        4. MoopySwarpet*

          Best tasting raisin ever?! Finger lingerings, boogers, and ear wax . . . a winning combination!

      3. Raisin Listener*

        I once had the misfortune to camp near a California Raisin commercial filming. I only remember the commercials as claymation, so I’m not sure what was going on exactly, just that I was annoyed by the California Raisins forever afterwards.

    4. ten-four*

      Yeah, it seems to me that the best immediate bet is to lie low and figure out the lay of the land. If this is the kind of thing that crops up in meetings a few times a year and otherwise isn’t a big driver, can you live with it? The answer may be no, of course, but I feel like Allison’s advice will force you into a quit/be fired situation right out of the gate. Continuing your job search while observing might be your best play unless you are indeed ready to walk.

    5. Princess Consuela Banana Hammock*

      OMG what kind of government does he work for!? The Ag Department? (I still think listening to raisins does not make sense, but that’s the only department I can think of other than the FDA that would have a relationship wtih raisins.)

      1. Amber Rose*

        Healthcare, actually. I dunno, they hired some weirdo to try and inspire them and boost morale or something.

        1. RUKidding*

          If they want to “inspire” people then…good pay, benefits, time off, not working 50 hours a day, etc., etc., etc. Not talking to fruit.

          1. Zennish*

            I’d absolutely tell them that this was exactly what the raisin was saying… “I’m dried fruit, I got nothin’…but have you considered reasonable pay and benefits, and maybe treating the employees like adults?”

      2. Bulbasaur*

        I don’t get how listening to raisins and ‘government’ naturally go together. Government departments in my country would run a mile before touching anything remotely resembling this. Bad press is what they fear above all. Can you imagine the headlines?

    6. Lyonite*

      I’m very glad this hasn’t happened to me, because the temptation to look up with a blank expression and say, “It wants me to kill” would be too great.

    7. OP*

      Jane is indeed a former government consultant for this kind of woo.

      I definitely started pretending to be into it just so I could get through the whole day, and it wouldn’t surprise me if there’s at least one or two more.

      1. ArtK*

        If they do it again, set yourself up with a woo bingo card. Populate it with all your favorite BS terms.

        1. Sara without an H*

          Ditto. If you can figure out a way to have some fun with it, you may be able to last longer.

        2. OP*

          This seems like it’ll be a good use for that bullet journal I got but now have no idea what to do with. Thanks!

          1. BookishMiss*

            Get a copy of Bright Sided by Barbara Ehrenreich. Even if you don’t use any of the info in the book to push back against this nonsense, it’ll help as a reality check.

            1. Gazebo Slayer*

              Heavily seconding this recommendation! That is an immensely important, deeply necessary, life-changing book.

      2. Troutwaxer*

        Find a program called the “Hour of Slack” online and play it at the office. Tell them it’s a much higher level of what they’re doing today. Manifest “Bob” in your home and workplace.

        1. Amber Rose*

          Alternatively, manifest the invisible pink unicorn. At least it’s invisible, so you can plausibly say you did it even if you didn’t.

        2. SheLooksFamiliar*

          A zillion years ago when the earth’s crust was still warm and Palm Pilots were everywhere, I loaded Drug Wars onto mine so I’d have something to do during long and/or useless meetings. Turns out I also earned points because I looked like I was taking notes. Haaa.

        3. OP*

          Thanks so much for the recommendation! I have every positive feeling that I am going to LOVE this. I’ll put that out into the universe.

      3. Amber Rose*

        It’s a balancing act. If the work itself and the people are otherwise pretty great, and this kind of thing only happens a couple times a year, it may be worth it to develop your acting skills. If the people or management suck, and/or you’re sitting through these meetings every week, maybe make an exit plan.

        1. Dr. Pepper*

          Those are my feelings. I’ve been dragged into several different types of woo by well meaning people, and the best thing to do if you’re not into it is just sit there in neutral silence and contribute only the blandest and most generic of input if you’re forced to do so. Don’t get emotionally involved, and just watch. Most of the time, people’s interest in such things either fizzles out quickly or is intermittent enough that it doesn’t really take up much of your time. We’ve all sat through time wasting meetings, one or two more isn’t that big a deal.

        2. OP*

          This is where I’m at right now.
          The office is much, much closer to my house than my last job, the pay is better, and the work is more what I want to do long-term. The office woo culture, probably not a great long-term thing. The people are generally nice, but I’m still getting to know them and we have yet to hit the major stress time.

          We’ll see how my manager turns out. There are a couple of other issues besides the woo, but he seems open to feedback. I’m just not too sure how open to feedback on a three-year long program he will be. Since I did play along at the two meetings, I think I may have missed the boat on “I’d rather not meet with Jane again.”

          1. Ask a Manager* Post author

            You haven’t missed the boat. That actually puts you in a good position to say, “I’ve heard her out but I’m really uncomfortable with it.”

            1. OP*

              Do you think it would be more prudent to wait until shortly before our next session? Since it’s been a few weeks since our last session, I’m worried it might be too out of the blue to start talking about it now. Thanks so much!

      4. Artemesia*

        Well Terry Pratchet is dead so there is room for a new novelist who satirizes the woo of corporate life.

      5. RUKidding*

        I hope you have options. I could see me noping out of the whole job about five minutes into this.

    8. Future Homesteader*

      There’s a well-known mindfulness activity that usually involves raisins, but….not *listening* to the raisin. Just looking at it and eating it mindfully and meditating on it (okay, now that I type it, it does sound out there). But despite being a dedicated meditator who is happy to discuss the benefits of mindfulness in the appropriate setting, it is NOT a thing I’d want to do at work. I wouldn’t want to touch anything along those lines with a ten-foot pole at work. With my therapist or as part of a yoga retreat, sure, but NEVER at work, holy cow.

      1. Amber Rose*

        It makes me a little sad to know that this is actually a thing. I sort of get mindfully tasting a thing as an exercise but 1) a raisin doesn’t sound like anything and 2) I hate raisins, so eating one would just be awful.

      2. Rhymes with Mitochondria*

        I was at a conference once where the person leading the group substituted M&Ms because “I want good evals on my presentation and I thought chocolate would work better than raisins for that.”

        1. The New Wanderer*

          YES. Raisins are poison, the only known thing that can ruin the perfection of a cinnamon bun.

          I would pretend to be into mindfulness for a handful of M&Ms.

        2. Observer*

          Hey, mindfulness at work! :)

          She’s thinking about what she REALLY wants to accomplish along with the official goal, and she’s taking reasonable steps to make it happen.

          All kidding aside, mindfulness minus the religious piece can be a useful tactic. And there is some evidence for it. But getting stupid doesn’t get you anywhere. It’s a bit like the “if a little bit of medicine is good, a LOT must be better.” If concentrating on the details of the feel, smell and taste of a food is a good exercise is good, adding listening must be better, no? No.

        3. Alex the Alchemist*

          Yeah we did it with Dove chocolates once in a group counseling session and we were encouraged to take more chocolate home to practice with. 10/10 recommend eating chocolate instead of raisins to make you less stressed.

      3. TardyTardis*

        You should see the kind of woo that shows up at educational seminars (aka ‘teacher detention’).

      1. Snickerdoodle*

        Actually, I’m definitely the kind of person who would either 1.) eat the raisins before they even got to the “don’t eat them because we’re using them for this exercise” part and/or 2.) immediately guffaw and have to leave the room in disgrace, never mind snarking.

        Seriously considering changing my user name to Raisin Listener.

        1. Slartibartfast*

          I wonder if a snickerdoodle with raisins us another kind of cookie altogether?

          I strongly dislike raisins and all I’d be ‘mindful’ of is how long its little carcass remains lodged in my molars.

    9. Scarletb*

      “It seems to be saying ‘eat me’.” *flat stare*
      (okay, I’d never actually say that to someone at work, but the idea is satisfying!)

    10. LondonBridges*

      Raisin, raisin, raisin… after all these comments it doesn’t feel like a real word anymore!

    11. Helena*

      I would be so tempted to put in an anonymous tip to the Waste, Fraud, and Abuse Hotline. Or possibly an anonymous e-mail to one of those senators who keeps the lists of wasteful government spending.

    1. Marthooh*

      Not for management, it isn’t. They now have two ways to screw their workers here. If there’s a complaint about, say, a mean screaming boss, then either you shouldn’t take it personally, per the Four Agreements, because the screaming says more about the boss than it does about you, and you just need to accept that, as you agreed to do in that one seminar, remember? Or it’s the Law of Attraction in action, and you must be doing something to attract the bullying, and the way to make it stop is to act as if the boss really isn’t a mean screamer. So either there’s nothng you can do about the situation, or you are completely responsible for the situation.

      If you try to argue with one style of crazy, they can just hit you with the other. Managers don’t even have to be manipulative villains to do this kind of thing; all they have to do is buy into the bullshit and notice how much easier their jobs are when they stop having to think all the time.

  3. ExcelJedi*

    This is such a hard NOPE for me, I’d be looking for a new job ASAP – before I was fired for my ‘attitude.’ Because there’s no way I could keep a lid on that amount of eye rolling and snark every time it came up.

    1. The Original K.*

      Yeah, I was seeing a guy briefly before he brought up this stuff & the bloom fell off the rose pretty quickly after that. I had a hard time taking him seriously.

    2. JustaTech*

      My college had someone in to talk to all the freshmen about … communication maybe? He wasn’t very good, so I don’t remember much of what he said, but he was talking about fear, and how fear of other people can lead you to be angry at them and then hate them. good message, but he said it “fear leads to anger and anger leads to hate” [dramatic pause] “And that is the path to the Dark Side!” shouted at least 5 people. (Star Wars line. It’s all about knowing your audience.)

      We got lectured by the college for being disrespectful to the outside speakers for that, so the next couple of these talks we were quieter (and generally the talks weren’t as terrible).

      1. Karyn*

        The college should have talked to the speakers about being disrespectful to their audience by cribbing lines from popular culture.

        What did they think was going to happen?

      2. Rhymes with Mitochondria*

        I would think the presenter meant for that to happen, not that people were being disrespectful!

        1. LovecraftInDC*

          Yeah, that’s pretty odd. It seems like a humorous way to wrap up an otherwise serious lecture.

        2. Someone Else*

          Yeah, that definitely reads like an intentional call and response, unless it was like…he was clearly in the middle of the sentence and about to finish it himself so they came across as interrupting? But otherwise…I got nuthin.

      1. Artemesia*

        ‘healthcare’ is supposed to be science so yeah this kind of woo is insulting. We had a fair share of awful motivational speakers where I worked but at least ‘magic’ was not taken seriously.

      2. OP*

        I’m in an industry where our busy time of year starts soon and ends in mid-April, so this was completely out of left field for me.

        1. Sara without an H*

          Oh, no! OP, are you expected to figure out the new tax rules with positive visualization???

          1. OP*

            I’m honestly hoping I can manifest more happy clients that didn’t underwithhold, so we’ll see how this goes. I’m also going to do my best to not take the complicated 199A regulations personally…

            1. Just Employed Here*

              See, only two sessions and you’re visualising already — it’s working!

              Now I’ve got to go find some raisins to listen to…

            2. TardyTardis*

              I wish someone would manifest fewer screaming children in our tax office this year–I don’t mind the children, but the running and screaming gets old. Oh, well, at least none of them have thrown up on me the way one did last year…

    3. Snickerdoodle*

      Agreed. I have no poker face; people respond just to my thoughts all the time. I don’t have to even say a word to snark. That’s not a gift when it comes to pointless crap like listening to raisins, which is luckily something I’ve escaped in my current position. (My last job was not quite as ridiculous as all that, but close.)

        1. Raisin Listener*

          My currant position is that they are tasty in pudding and ants on a log. My current position is a normal cube farm with chill coworkers I dread losing.

    4. weclzach*

      My company doesn’t do this, but they do several things that are common to tech startups such as having their own lingo, talking about how this is a once in a lifetime opportunity, & talking about how important it is to build friendships with your co-workers, etc.

      Basically, startups move really fast (they have to in order to survive) & they need people who are willing to put in the effort & the hours in exchange for the hope of a payoff (stock options) later. I get that, I understand, but I’m not interested in becoming lifelong friends with my co-workers & the corporate chants & cheers & company-specific lingo is just silly to me. However, I get that for some people, this may be really meaningful & necessary to stay motivated, so I keep my mouth shut, participate just enough so I don’t get side eye from anyone.

  4. Snarkus Aurelius*

    I looked up the Four Agreements and one of them was never to take anything personally because “each person sees the world in a unique way, the way that others treat us says as much about them as it does about us.”

    I guess that’s comforting to those of us who have been on the receiving end of workplace harassment, bullying, and/or discrimination.

    This also explains why my boss only hears praise and never criticism about his actions and behavior. When someone tells him to not violate federal law, he’ll deny it, say he didn’t know, and then compliment himself for creating an environment that allows employees to tell him stuff like that.

    I hate everything about this nonsense!

      1. boo bot*

        “When I asked you to perform lewd acts on me, that said more about me than it did about you.”
        “When I set that fire, it said more about me than it did about the copy room.”
        “When I moved all that money into offshore accounts, it said more about me than it did about the people I stole it from.”

        I mean… technically, that is correct? I’m not sure how it affects any of the situations, but yes, imaginary terrible person, you have accurately attributed the blame for your terrible behavior.

      2. WMM*

        Yea, but . . . it really is about the asshole. The victim of sexual harassment will often feel shame and start second guessing and policing their actions. However, it really wasn’t about them, it was about the asshole. Don’t feel bad about yourself because someone harassed you. Take your confidence that you didn’t deserve that shit all the way to HR or your lawyer’s office.

    1. Asenath*

      I found “Nothing others do is because of you”. Right, so you can’t be responsible if, say, the new trainee isn’t performing well after you trained them. Or walks out, offended at something you did or said? I’d come across the Law of Attraction, but not the Four Agreements. I suppose OP could lie low for a while in case this is something that doesn’t actually affect daily work, but I think I’d be sending out my resume pretty quickly.

      If they asked me to listen to a raisin (as in the comments), I don’t think I’d be able to keep a straight face.

      All these touchy-feely pseudo spiritual things that sometimes show up in workshops are simply hilarious – which isn’t good if you want to keep your job, because they want you to take them seriously.

      1. LeahS*

        Yeah, I’m not sure encouraging your employees to have a completely external locus of control is the best way to build a team of high performers…

      2. JSPA*

        Maybe just mentally dial back the hyperbole into “obvious platitude” territory. In this case, “sometimes difficult people are just being themselves, not sending a message.” The difference between “doing X” and “doing X at you” is a useful thing to keep in mind when everyone is stressed. (Though it probably means that they tolerate an incredible amount of BS, melt downs and temper tantrums from upper level admin and also from clients during crunch time… and this is your warning that you will be expected to ignore / tolerate that BS.)

      3. Decima Dewey*

        Raisin: “You aren’t going to put me into oatmeal cookies, are you? I want to be with all my friends, in a raisin pie!”

    2. pope suburban*

      Yeah, this is exactly why I can’t brook this kind of nonsense. While I understand and am perfectly willing to accept that some people find lenses like this helpful to them in their personal lives, I am very wary of using them institutionally because of the tendency of less-scrupulous people to abuse them. Which can happen in any workplace, sure, but which I have found to be more damaging and pernicious when baked into the company’s mission or, in a case like this, its culture (Its culture that employees are encouraged to adopt as their own kind of quasi-religion, even). I’d be very worried about how this organization handles conflict, and the kinds of behaviors it finds acceptable in the workplace. More anecdotally, I haven’t known anyone in my life who is an avowed practitioner (So maybe there are some folks flying beneath my radar) of this kind of thing who isn’t also prone to victim-blaming and an inability to accept people’s boundaries or limitations (Oh, you’re just sick because you’re not thinking happy thoughts; if you perk up, that pesky autoimmune condition will vanish! So you can of course do the thing you just told me you can’t do!). I’d be very, very nervous in OP’s position.

      1. Asenath*

        It’s the dark side of the high value current modern secular culture puts on personal autonomy. It’s very easy to slide from the idea that one is entirely autonomous to these sorts of ideas. You notice that maybe your life isn’t as good as someone else’s. Why is that? It can’t be because you, like everyone else, is an imperfect human instead of being entirely in control of your life. No, you’ve read lots of bunkum about how everyone is perfect and in touch with the powers of the universe, and how you can tap into them. Maybe something goes well for you – it works!! And if it doesn’t, you just put more effort into positive thinking or whatever. Anything to avoid realizing that you aren’t master of your destiny. Once you’re really committed to this sort of process, you want to explain to everyone else how they and their lives are perfect, or would be, if they followed the approved methods for bringing themselves in line with whatever you think the universe is. And you’ve reached the point where you tell sick people they can get better by positive thinking.

      2. Parenthetically*

        All forms of woo, including positive-thinkiness and bootstrapitude, send me into a haze of irritation, even on an individual level because I genuinely think they cause harm to vulnerable people, like, intersectionally (I’m currently hazed at Girl, Wash Your Face for this reason). But at an institutional level? Flames.

        1. pope suburban*

          I agree. I try very hard to live and let live with these kinds of things, but as mentioned, I have a very hard time with The Secret because of how frequently I have known it to impact, say, people with chronic illnesses or victims of abuse. I know that people mean well with this (Most of the time, anyway; of course there are not-great people in the world), but it’s not a realistic or healthy way to look at a lot of things. Telling yourself that you’re a good employee and thinking happy thoughts before submitting an application? Fine, harmless, maybe even a good boost for your mood. Telling yourself that you just need to smile more to banish an illness? Not fine, and liable to make you feel a lot worse about what is really just random chance. There are some things we can’t control or wish away, and that’s not a failing in ourselves, that’s how the world works.

          1. Book Badger*

            I had a friend in middle school whose parents were all about The Secret. I remember we watched the original “documentary” about it when I was at her house, and one example they used was a gay guy who would always get harassed and physically beaten by this gang after work every day. And every day he would worry about being beaten up, so it kept happening. Finally one day he thought, “I won’t get beaten up,” and like and behold, he was not!

            Thirteen-year-old me didn’t know she was queer yet, but did know that example was almost certainly made up, and that the entire idea that it was somehow his fault for being scared of something that had definitely happened to him in the past that he did not deserve was completely and utterly bananapants.

            1. pope suburban*

              Oh my gosh, that is horrible. I’m glad you didn’t take it seriously. Knowing that there are kids and adults who do, at great personal cost, is just…do the Germans have a word for something that is simultaneously depressing and enraging? I feel like if anyone does, it’d be them.

            2. Jennifer Juniper*

              Thirteen-year-old you was very wise and more intelligent than most adults.

              A lot of thirteen-year-olds would have internalized the concept and gone on a never-ending guilt trip until they committed suicide to get rid of the endless shame.

          2. Anon Anon Anon*

            Right. Victim blaming isn’t positive thinking. Positive thinking is meant to be applied only to yourself, and in contexts where it actually is helpful. For example, if you’re in a good mood and thinking optimistically when you write a cover letter, you probably will write better and come across as more confident. There is evidence to support that. But someone else didn’t do well because they weren’t thinking positively enough? Nooooo. That is not how life works. External circumstances are real. Positive thinking is just one way to deal with things and do the best that you can with what life gives you.

          3. Jennifer Juniper*

            I actually tried saying how grateful I was for everything, from having a job to breathing air to being able-bodied. All I got was a ton of side-eye and all my friends worrying I was depressed. (Spoiler: they were correct. I was depressed, but didn’t know it, because I was still functional.)

            I am actually better off stating how I really feel, because my body language gives me away every time.

        2. Humble Schoolmarm*

          Yup, I’m still glaring in my boss’ general direction for sending out a ‘weekly thought’ about choosing to think positively…the week my grandmother died. Sorry, my dude, no amount of choosing to be happy in the world was going to make me feel better that week.

      3. Busy*

        See: Billy McFarland (both Netflix and Hulu have great docs right now on this). This dude believed he could do anything. They don’t come out and say it, and maybe he never had it defined to him, but this dude thought he could literally just robbing peter to pay paul out of what? What? Because he thought he could just manifest anything. You can see it in his actions the whole way. You could see it in the way he failed in his other businesses. Over and over again. Because he never thought he could fail. Ever. That is the dark side of this mentality.

        But it does work for people who have suffered trauma to process a lot of things, so I don’t knock it. I mean people who have been through a great deal of trauma do actually make themselves sick. They can misread situations and react with fear a lot. Science proves that. They need to hear this. It helps them. But it can be misconstrued in soooo many ways. There are so many people out there trying to market their “plans” who are frauds who use this concept. It is awful. This concept is only meant to help people process trauma to live a more stable and happier life. It is not meant for Entrepreneurs to adopt in business models.

    3. Dr. Pepper*

      These sorts of ideas work fine in personal life with peers, but not so much in the workplace where there are power dynamics and one’s livelihood on the line. Generally speaking, how people treat others is more of a reflection on them than the other person. Like, if you’re spiteful and judgemental, that says a lot more about you than it does those you’re judging and making spiteful comments about. But this is pretty basic stuff and there’s no need for a trademarked Named System to figure it out. And, of course, the people who pick up the very worst elements from these types of self help books are the kind of people who hear what they want to hear no matter what. If they didn’t have the Four Reasons or whatever, they’d find something else to tell them what they want to hear. Cherry-picking information to support one’s preconceived notions and/or to make oneself feel better isn’t confined to woo.

      1. Snarkus Aurelius*

        Thank you! You described my boss in my original post perfectly.

        Everything he spews never takes into account power dynamics or race or gender or any other reason why it’s not so easy to just speak up. Yeah HE gets to impose this ridiculous advice because he’s in charge. I am not. So I can’t “hire people with a unique vision” because I don’t have unilateral hiring power.

        1. Jennifer Juniper*

          What is the unique vision? Mass executions of poor performers at quarterly all-hands meetings?

    4. Lady J*

      As a former DV worker that is what bothers me about all of these things. I recall we basically had to do a class for our clients to debunk a lot of that because a lot of them believed they had attracted that to them. Further the 4 agreements really bothered me because abusers say similar.

    5. Quinalla*

      I actually really like the Four Agreements and it is framework that works well for me, but there are definitely elements when taken even slightly out of context can be easily abused in the workplace (or elsewhere) and as much as I like it, I would be very weirded out by mandatory work sessions involving it. To me it is a highly personal framework, not something I would adopt with a whole group of people, especially coworkers! Maybe with a spouse or partner or really close friend if they were also interested, but I see it is a very personal thing and yes it is absolutely spiritual and could easily run afoul of folks’ religions.

      Law of Attraction I think is even worse! I get where folks are coming from on it, that positive thinking can help you because we all notice/pay attention more to what we focus on, but usually it is taken way, way beyond that to the point where you basically are blaming individuals for not overcoming systematic problems because they aren’t thinking positively enough, etc. which is ridiculous. I feel like Law of Attraction is appealing to folks who are already very privileged as they usually have so many opportunities flying by them all the time, if they focus a little more on catching those, they probably will get results. Folks without that privilege will just not have those types of opportunities, they aren’t missing anything.

      Just wanted to add a bit to the discussion as someone who is a bit woo and would still be very weirded out by this at work!

    6. OP*

      Prior to this I had heard about the Law of Attraction/The Secret, but never the Four Agreements. We were sitting in her “office” (literally a room in her house) and when I saw TWO copies of The Secret on her bookshelf as we sat down it took all I had in me to not scream “NOOOOOOOOOOO!” out loud. Cue internal screaming for 8 hours.
      The Four Agreements made me roll my eyes, but I have always been very irritated at the Law of Attraction’s “you need to think positive! All bad thoughts just make you unhappy.” Yeah, lemme tell that to my genetically inherited clinical depression. Thanks.

      1. Elizabeth West*

        The whole cult of positivity thing makes me want to shove Barbara Ehrenreich’s book Bright-sided: How the Relentless Promotion of Positive Thinking Has Undermined America at them.

        1. knitcrazybooknut*

          +1 as a recommendation. SO GOOD. It really explained a lot about why I felt a lot of the job searching advice I was getting was completely ridiculous.

        2. BookishMiss*

          This is such a useful book, especially when you’re stuck in woo-heavy workplaces. I definitely second this recommendation.

        3. Jennifer Juniper*

          Watch a lot of Daria as well. That also helps to deprogram people who have been subjected to that bullshit.

    7. Lobsterman*

      So far as I can tell, woo is a system for enabling abuse – it shuts down critical thinking and lionizes enabling as the highest form of human behavior.

    8. BookishMiss*

      My mother had this book weaponized when I was a teenager. “I’m not taking this personally,” “are you doing your best?” Or my fav, “*deep sigh* I’m going to be impeccable with my word…”

      The tolerance level I have for this stuff is less than zero. If it shows up at work, I’ll immediately have Something To Say.

  5. HBucket*

    This letter is in response to the earlier one from the LW who is at a big firm and got rejected by a start-up… pretend this letter was written by you in 6 months if you had been hired at Start-Up! LOL

    Fortunately where i work, crap like this is usually just a flash in the pan.

  6. gecko*

    Maybe this advice says a lot about me–but definitely don’t broadcast how ridiculous you think it is. I’ve definitely found myself in situations where I’m pretty loud about my reaction to something and realize…no…everyone else believes this thing that I just said was a total crock.

    You may or may not have allies among your coworkers and my first instinct would be to try & find them; but being very open indeed about your discontent may be at odds with Alison’s advice.

    On the other hand, maybe all you think you need is a work friend to grouse with. Which, fair enough, especially if you’re just trying to get through a year!

    1. Sloan Kittering*

      It’s hard to thread the needle right on this one. If this is the company culture and most staff buy into it, OP isn’t going to make friends by loudly disparaging it (although honestly, some people wouldn’t be able to keep themselves from speaking up). Probably better to quietly say nothing and try to get out fast. However, if this is one kooky CEO’s thing that they want to project onto their skeptical workforce, OP may find lots of allies in the rolling-their-eyes-department.

      1. gecko*

        I agree that it’s a real needle-threader. Or maybe that’s still me projecting. It’s deeeeefinitely my first instinct though is to roll my eyes and scope out who else is doing it, and I still have to actively remind myself that being too overt about it isn’t always the best move.

    2. ursula*

      Yeah, this is my experience too. It doesn’t feel realistic to me that saying “Your business philosophy, which you clearly believe in enough to spend a BUNCH of money on a coach, doesn’t make sense to me and I would like to be excused from it in general” will have anything but a negative effect, but that could be very much my own limited experience talking.

      Also I think people who are into this kind of thing know that lots of people dismiss it as bunk and they tend to be pretty sensitive about that, so I’m not sure you will avoid them hearing that you think it’s loopy bullshit, even if you use the (very reasonable) script Alison offers here.

      1. gecko*

        Yep. Tbh I think the only options are leaving or quietly toughing it out with a like-minded coworker. But those are the safer goodwill-preserving options and maybe some of the more direct ones would be fine if more difficult.

      2. Coffeelover*

        Ya I also think asking to be excused or so “boldly” saying it’s not your thing isn’t a good idea. If this is a big part of the company culture, then you’ll be announcing “I’m not a good fit”. Which can have all sorts of bad outcomes like being excluded and phased out. It’s especially a bad idea since you’re so new…. maybe you can opt out in a year when you’ve established yourself there (if you want to stay).

        Also – a perspective change might help you in the meantime. Yes, there’s a lot of “out there” stuff in those teachings, but can you take out what’s valuable and relevant to you? Example: positive thought alone can’t cure cancer (as these things actually claim), but that doesn’t mean we shouldn’t try to think more positively. Try to ignore the “crazy” stuff and learn what you can from it and from the discussions you have with your co-workers.

        1. Wintermute*

          That’s why you make it clear it’s not compatible with your religion. It buys you some protection against retaliation because there’s EEOC implications. Now does that stop every employer? no no it doesn’t, and does everyone care to fight that battle? no, most people let a lot of illegal stuff slide just because fighting it all would be exhausting. And do people always win? depends, with the current political administration all those agencies have been hamstrung, hell right now some are shut down as a result of a lack of federal funding.

          But I’m the sort of ornery bugger that will fight. I like your suggestions for minimizing if you’re not the combative sort, but they shouldn’t feel obliged to be so kind.

    3. LQ*

      Yeah, responding with the broad assumption that this is just a joke and everyone else is about to laugh…well Poe’s got a lot of explaining to do. I tend to make snide snarky comments and gravitate toward the people who agree with me on them.

      (Ok, I actually will push back hard occasionally and bring up how there is no science behind something and we might as well do the Harry Potter houses because they are exactly as valid. To which people facilitating usually give in and agree I’m right but keep going which is…weird.)

      Fellow people who don’t buy into bs woo please find me and be my friend!

      1. Birch*

        I was actually thinking OP could insert all their personality test results into the conversation! Oh, my tarot card this week is the knight of cups? How interesting! I happen to be a Hufflepuff and you know how we Puffs like our food and drink! AND my Patronus is a dolphin and last night a Buzzfeed quiz told me that based on my left eyebrow I was a peanut butter lava cake in a past life. I think this means the universe is telling me to manifest a beach vacation!

        1. LQ*

          That would be awesome! If it’s a one day a year and there are snacks then it’s like whatever, have some fun with it, sit next to me and we can come up with the most outrageous thing. Much more than that and it’s harder to have fun. (Also if the people around you aren’t amused by your being amused at it. But I have to admit, I will absolutely try to do this next time some of these personality things come up as they inevitably do every few years.)

      2. Tau*

        I would pay good money to see a company do one of these events based on Harry Potter houses.

        “It’s very important to understand this for the sake of harmony in the workplace! Jane, you’re a Gryffindor, so you value being direct and honest in communication…”

        1. LQ*

          That would be so much better. At least we are all starting from a place of knowing it’s all made up!

          I’ve said this enough around here that people will occasionally reference it. I feel like I need a new thing. Maybe which disney princess are you?

    4. Dr. Pepper*

      I agree, don’t broadcast your disdain for this, even though I guarantee you’re not the only one who finds it ridiculous. Your colleagues likely run the gamut from “true believers” to “bored disinterest” to “active ridicule”. If you cannot safely locate a fellow “active ridicule” person, try to fall into “bored disinterest”. I’ve run into situations like this before, and sitting in silence and only saying the most bland, boring, and generic things when forced to do so tends to work just fine. Figure out what the people in charge want to hear and give them that. If you don’t get emotionally invested, it’s much easier. Of course, it’s up to you to figure out if this is a deal breaker or not, but if it’s just some motivational posters and a couple meetings a year, this wouldn’t be a huge thing for me. People buy into this stuff because everyone wants Answers, and when someone is offering Answers tied up with a pretty bow and some fancy (usually branded) language, people lap it up. Try to see it from the outside, if possible, and stockpile some phrases to trot out when you’re required to participate in this nonsense.

      1. Sloan Kittering*

        I do worry that if all the leadership is really bought into this, OP might not be able to advance very far without being a “true believer.” But they may already be poised to move on quickly given what they know now, so this may not be an issue.

  7. ElspethGC*

    I wonder if “conflicting with my religious beliefs” can be used if your beliefs are atheistic or secular? I don’t know where American law stands on this, but I know that the UK laws on religious discrimination mean that discrimination for a lack of belief is treated the same as discrimination based on a belief.

    (From the Citizen’s Advice Bureau: “It’s against the law to refuse to provide training opportunities to you because of your religion or belief, *or to provide them in a way which puts you at a disadvantage to other people because of your religion or belief*.” Seems like it would be relevant if OP was in the UK. Again, uncertain on US laws.)

      1. LawBee*

        Well, there’s caselaw supporting the view that forcing an atheist to attend mandatory company devotionals is a violation of Title VII. The question there wasn’t whether or not atheist beliefs are legally a religion, it was whether the person was having someone else’s religious beliefs forced upon him as part of his employment.

        (this caught my interest, and I did a VERY shallow dive into Westlaw)

    1. Jules the 3rd*

      I’m an atheist and would at least try ‘conflict with my religious beliefs’ as a start. They don’t have to know the details of my religious beliefs, bcs there’s a bunch of groups that would find this unacceptable. 7th Day Adventists, Christian Scientists, & Satanists, if I understand the woo correctly. I’m more up on organized religion’s beliefs than I am on the current woo.

      1. mayfly*

        It’s definitely against mainline Protestant beliefs. It smacks of prosperity gospel BS (i.e., “name it and claim it”).

        1. Jules the 3rd*

          Just looked into the woo a little, _Four Agreements_ claims to be part of a Native American shamanic tradition, by Don Miguel Ruiz, in the Carlos Castenada tradition.

          The agreements alone seem not too bad, but if you have to buy into the philosophical basis, that’s got some serious conflicts with many Christian belief groups.

          “The book advocates personal freedom from beliefs and agreements that we have made with ourselves and others that are creating limitation and unhappiness in our lives.”

          1. Troutwaxer*

            “The book advocates personal freedom from beliefs and agreements that we have made with ourselves and others that are creating limitation and unhappiness in our lives.”

            So contracts and agreements do not have to be kept?

          2. wittyrepartee*

            Oh good, so we can add some out-of-context cultural appropriation in there too then?

            I mean, I’m not up on my Native American shamanic traditions, but I know that Native Americans were not a religious monolith, and that it’s probably hard to understand their feelings on religion without a lot of study into the specifics of their culture?

            1. Miss Pantalones en Fuego*

              Isn’t Castaneda widely thought to have invented the whole story of his shamanic apprenticeship?

          3. Jennifer Juniper*

            Oooo! OP can point out the cultural appropriation of Native American traditions! That may gain traction if the company likes to see itself as woke and progressive.

      2. Anton LaVey*

        As someone who had been a Satanist for decades now, there is nothing in modern Satanism that would conflict with this woo. The opposite actually, as per the third Satanic Rule of the Earth: “When in another’s lair, show them respect or else do not go there.”

        And to be clear, I can’t think of a single workplace conflict or any letter to Alison that would be helped by claiming to be a Satanist. I lived through the Satanic Panic in the 80’s and 90’s. People honestly believe that we sexually abuse, murder, and eat children. Suggesting that someone use Satanism to file an Title VII complaint is … not a good plan, and definitely not one that I recommend.

        1. Ananas*

          Perhaps they were thinking of the Satanic Temple? They self-identify as Satanists so as to challenge people who don’t understand that separation of church and state means that where you allow one religion (for example, in afterschool faith-based classes) you must allow *all* religions. Including those religions that you have a knee-jerk opposition too, based on name alone.

    2. gecko*

      Law aside, I think that argument would come off pretty oddly in the US. Especially since these things aren’t actually considered religious–they’re pseudoscience.

      1. gecko*

        To elaborate, I think the proponents of these pseudoscientific things do feel a spiritual connection to them but are also persuaded by the scientific trappings. To say, “my atheism/secularism conflicts with BS” would very possibly get the response, “well it’s not BS.” Or, “it’s a TED talk and a study, it’s scientific.”

        Maybe it’d work, and certainly you could spin being vague about your religious conflicts with it. But I’m in a really progressive and fairly secular area of the US and I do think it would not be a persuasive argument to the boss without a LOT of spin.

        1. wittyrepartee*

          I live in NYC, in a very progressive office, and I think I could opt out by being vague. I also work with a lot of scientists, and we’re extremely diverse, so… that might be helping me here.

          But generally, I’d say lay low and see how this develops.

      2. LCH*

        A description of the four agreeements calls it Toltec spiritualism and neoshamanistic so religious beliefs could work.

        1. Jules the 3rd*

          Yes, be vague. Just ‘conflicts with my spiritual beliefs’ is all you should need. “My spiritual beliefs is that all mystical belief systems are woo” is not required.

        2. Asenath*

          … and the Toltecs apparently didn’t leave a record of their beliefs, so that claim is a little dubious. (not saying you made the claim, LCH, but I saw a similar summary).

          1. Jules the 3rd*

            The author uses the word ‘Toltec’ “to signify a long tradition of indigenous beliefs in Mexico”. He’s up front about that part.

            1. Asenath*

              I saw that. As Humpty Dumpty said (and the author implied) “When I use a word it means just what I choose it to mean—neither more nor less.”

              Personally, I choose “Toltec” to mean ” a member of/associated with a certain ancient Mesoamerican culture “.

        3. gecko*

          Yeah, maybe. What I’m thinking of here is, on AAM every year there’s a huge discussion where folks argue that Christmas is secular. This pseudoscience stuff does still appear kinda secular, with very much less of a spiritual base than Christmas has. Which is to say, I think many people really do perceive it as secular.

          I think it’ll come off like, “my secular beliefs conflict with your secular beliefs” and not be very effective.

          That said, being vague about your religion certainly could possibly prevent that argument.

      3. Muriel Heslop*

        I’m a Sunday School teacher and this kind of things offends my thinking sensibilities and rational thought, not my religious beliefs. I’d be intellectually offended if I was asked to indulge in this crock at work.

        1. mayfly*

          I mean, it should offend both? It’s empirically false and contrary to core Christian beliefs.
          It’s just that no one can legally “opt out” of work events and training because they find them intellectually offensive or irrational. Maybe one day . . . ;)

          1. Muriel Heslop*

            It isn’t in line with Christian beliefs, but it doesn’t offend me personally (which is what I should have stated.) I’d be personally offended if someone expected me to get in line with something so silly. I teach middle school and my students hold a wide variety of personal religious and moral beliefs and that’s something I respect but if one of them denies the Holocaust (happened) or thinks dinosaurs aren’t real (happened) or thinks being Native American is a “scam” (happened) then we have a hard discussion about facts, knowledge, and rational thought.

            1. wittyrepartee*

              I’m not religious, but thank you so much for being a rational person of faith. It’s so wonderful to hear from religious people who aren’t at the fringes. <3

            2. Michaela Westen*

              Thinking dinosaurs aren’t real is a Christian fundamentalist thing because they want to believe God created the earth for them and humans were created in the Garden of Eden, etc.

    3. rldk*

      It might be tricky, given that this sort of pseudoscience isn’t technically a religion. If a non-religion-affiliated workplace required staff to attend church services as a condition of employment, then yes, atheists/seculars as well as other religions could invoke religious discrimination in the US.

    4. Princess Consuela Banana Hammock*

      It could be a “conflicting religious belief” that falls within the ambit of Title VII’s anti-discrimination provisions. Some states have additional protections (and some have fewer), but I think an atheist could invoke Alison’s script.

    5. De-Archivist*

      IANAL, but I am an atheist, and Title VII does apply.

      This definitely would violate my sincerely held religious belief that all of that is bunk. OP’s mileage might vary, of course.

      1. Wendy Darling*

        Yeah I was like, as an atheist this conflicts with my sincerely-held religious belief that THIS IS BULLSHIT.

        I dunno if that would get me anywhere legally but that is definitely my position.

        1. Jules the 3rd*

          Hopefully, OP won’t have to get anywhere legally, she can just use the ‘conflicts with my beliefs’ script to opt out until she decides if she can do the job happily or needs to get out.

        2. pope suburban*

          That was me too. I’d like to think that I’d be more diplomatic than to say that, even minus the swear words, but depending on how pervasive and common these exercises are in company culture, I can’t honestly say I know I would be. If someone, say, asked me to talk to a raisin, I’d be tempted to make it into a snack and then get back to work.

    6. Raisin Listener*

      I’m an atheist and absolutely have used the “it’s against my religious beliefs” line before. “Beliefs” include “or lack thereof” as far as I’m concerned. They don’t need to know what my beliefs are(n’t), only that I’m not doing anything that goes against them.

    7. Lilysparrow*

      I don’t know about legally, but generally speaking, “religious beliefs” refer to beliefs about the nature of reality, the universe, and about God and the afterlife.

      Believing that there is no God, there is no afterlife, and/or that the observable universe is the whole of reality, are certainly religious beliefs.

    8. Vicky Austin*

      I don’t know, but I do know that several denominations of Christianity have denounced The Law of Attraction as being against their religious beliefs.

  8. DaniCalifornia*

    At first I was confused by the part about it conflicting with one’s religious beliefs because I’ve never heard about Law of Attraction. After googling it…okay yeah I can see why some people would find it objectionable.

    Hopefully OP they will be reasonable if you object to it and hopefully it’s not an everyday type of talking where everyone has bought into it.

  9. Putting out the positive*

    Maybe I’m missing something but The Law of Attraction is not a religion nor does it have anything to do with religion.

      1. Falling Diphthong*

        Or that all suffering, like cancer, is because you manifested those things with your thoughts.

    1. DaniCalifornia*

      But it’s based on New Thought which conflicts with some religions in what they say about God. That’s where I’d have the problem and would not participate.
      From Wikipedia entry on New Thought “New Thought holds that Infinite Intelligence, or God, is everywhere, spirit is the totality of real things, true human selfhood is divine, divine thought is a force for good, sickness originates in the mind, and “right thinking” has a healing effect”

      1. Jules the 3rd*

        mmm – That sounds like Christian Scientists, I take back my comment on them as a conflict above.

        1. Countess Boochie Flagrante*

          Nah, as a Christian Scientist, that stuff is actually pretty explicitly not our bag — although I will grant that it is for reasons that may sound rather nitpicky to outsiders, but are highly significant for us.

        1. Wendy Darling*

          You shouldn’t have manifested that illness, yo, now you better either manifest a miracle cure or manifest some PTO. This is all on you.

          1. irene adler*

            “We don’t offer health care benefits, rather we offer the “Law of Attraction” to take care of all your healthcare needs. There’s no premium to pay, or co-pays to cover. Nor is there an annual deductible. We think it’s better than some silly health insurance folks are paying through the nose for. And best of all, it’s free to use! “

            1. Oh So Very Anon*

              I actually worked for someone who did not offer sick benefits for this very reason. She felt it encouraged them to attract sickness to themselves. In my mind, it punished them for it. But there was no reasoning with her on this.

              1. pope suburban*

                This seems like a great way to encourage employees to leave ASAP, trailing stunning Glassdoor reviews in their wake, but maybe that’s just me.

                1. Evan Þ.*

                  And then ask the ex-employer why they started attracting to themselves poor Glassdoor reviews and lawsuits

    2. Magenta*

      I know that Wikipedia isn’t the best source ever but it says:

      “The New Thought concept of the Law of Attraction is rooted in ideas that come from various philosophical and religious traditions. In particular, it has been inspired by Hermeticism, New England transcendentalism, specific verses from the Bible, and Hinduism,”

      “The belief is based on the idea that people and their thoughts are both made from pure energy, and that through the process of like energy attracting like energy a person can improve their own health, wealth, and personal relationships. ”

      Sounds pretty religious to me!

      1. Jaid*

        New England and transcendentalism makes me think of a fisherman claiming to be one with the universe in a strong Boston accent.

        1. Sacred Ground*

          And that for some reason reminds me of a joke: What did the Buddhist say to the hot dog vendor? “Make me one with everything.”

    3. kittymommy*

      I believe, though not 100% positive, it’s closely tied to new age movement/transcendentalism, which while maybe not a religion in the traditional sense, does go against some religious teachings.

      1. Asenath*

        It’s probably in the very wide “spiritual but not religious” camp, but I can see how it would conflict with many better-known religions. It’s the sort of thing that starts with some catchy statements that no one could argue with – “Be impeccable with your word” but the more you go into it the weirder it gets, and the more contrary to most religious, scientific and philosophical views on things like human nature and the existence/nature of god(s).

    4. Jules the 3rd*

      “The belief that positive or negative thoughts bring positive or negative experiences into a person’s life” conflicts pretty hard with ‘God’s will controls your life’, which is core to several fundamentalist sects here in the US.

      It interacts weirdly with ‘praying’, because the company probably isn’t allowed to say ‘Praying is a positive thought’ because that would be advocating *for* religion.

      In the US, there’s people fighting against yoga (including elected officials) because emptying out your mind leaves the door open for Satan. Anything touching on belief systems is really tricky here, and a good employer won’t get into them. Any of them.

      1. Sandman*

        Not just fundamentalist sects; the doctrine of God’s sovereignty is expressed differently in the various traditions but it’s a core component of historically orthodox Christian belief across the board.

      2. Becky*

        …I’ve never heard of that particular objection to yoga. That’s…fascinating. The objections to yoga that I have heard actually seem to come from the other end: that practicing it in a “secular” manner as exercise or flexibility training and not a spiritual practice is cultural appropriation.

        1. Mallory Janis Ian*

          The objection that I’ve heard from fundamentalist Christians is that doing yoga is [going through the motions of] practicing eastern religions, which conflicts with their Christian religion.

          1. Cat wrangler*

            The yoga class I periodically go to is held in a church hall. I have heard of some churches refusing to hire rooms out for yoga or meditation practice though.

        2. Parenthetically*

          The president of a large and very influential religious institution in my city released a series of articles, episodes of his radio show, interviews, etc., several years ago in which he insisted that it was unacceptable for ANY Christian to perform even a single yoga pose, much less to practice yoga, because the poses and movements were, as part of a demonic religious practice, themselves demonic.

          1. Becky*

            So my friend’s 7 moth old who is not quite crawling but is often seen putting herself into quite a good cobra pose is actually doing a demonic religious practice. Good to know.

            1. Parenthetically*

              Well at least now you know, and can take appropriate action when you see it happening! ;)

        3. Jennifer Juniper*

          I’ve heard that one. Also, some forms of yoga may not be suitable for some people, especially Bikram (hot yoga) or something called Ashtanga in my case, since I have the coordination of a drunken platypus and spent the whole class trying not to fall over.

    5. Seeking Second Childhood*

      I think it’s the other way around — not that TLofA is a religion, but that some RELIGIONS might find it objectionable. Considering that some religions find yoga and Harry Potter objectionable, I think it’s at least possible. *IF* the new employee is in one of those religions.

      1. Jules the 3rd*

        I don’t think the employee has to have formal disavowing of this from their religion of choice. I think if it conflicts with their own personal belief system, that’s enough ‘religion’ that they can just use the term. If I understand it correctly, that’s the basis for extending these protections to atheists.

        1. Countess Boochie Flagrante*

          Right. The standard used in the US isn’t whether your church authority has said it’s no good, but rather whether your genuine beliefs say so. That allows for people who don’t subscribe to a formal belief system, people whose religious organizations don’t generally take stances against anything and everything out there, the general diversity of religious opinion even within a single religious group, etc.

    6. Sara without an H*

      I believe it’s mixed up with what some groups call “The Prosperity Gospel,” i.e. God wants you to be rich and, if you’re not, send the pastor more money.

      1. LeighTX*

        As a pastor’s wife, I kind of want everyone to follow this “gospel” . . . those private planes don’t buy themselves!

      2. Gazebo Slayer*

        Bahahaha, that is a fantastic summary! (I’d add “Also, buy tons of stuff you can’t afford, especially expensive real estate with giant mortgages, because God will provide!”)

    7. Seventh Day Slumber*

      As a Christian, I can confirm it conflicts directly with a number of core beliefs. Furthermore, if the company is interested in pushing crap like this, I’d also be a little wary about what other things they may be into.

      As other people have stated, it conflicts with the notion of God’s sovereignty and essentially treats the universe itself as a deity (kinda breaking Rule #1 right off the bat there). Then you have the fact that it emphasises the self and that every little desire we have can come true if we want it hard enough (selfishness; and not everything we want is actually good for us).

      Speaking also from this perspective, I’d be cautious about what other practices the boss/company may employ. Spiritually speaking, stuff like this tends to have other bad stuff associated.

  10. Countess Boochie Flagrante*

    Uf da, what an unpleasant surprise at a new job!

    OP, if/when you do talk to your boss about this, be prepared for him to give you a lot of “but thinking good thoughts/staying positive/etc is just a good thing to do, how can you object to that?” kind of pushback. One of the things I’ve found with people who are really into this stuff is that they’ll often move the goalposts of what exactly you’re being asked to do as you express concerns.

    For example, The Law of Attraction is something that’s religiously problematic for me, and boy do the TLoA people I’ve met love to try and litigate that instead of accepting my “hey, my religion frowns on this kind of thing, you do you but I can’t go here,” as a hard no.

    The thing to keep in mind is that you don’t have to play along with that! If your boss starts trying to push you on why you consider this stuff pseudoscience, how can thinking positive be bad, it really isn’t religious/spiritual it’s just about living your better life, etc etc, remember that you don’t need to convince him that it actually is not good/useful/helpful. All you need to do is take your stance that it isn’t for you, and (if applicable) that it is not in line with your beliefs. “I’m sure it’s helpful for you, [boss], but this really is not something that I can take part in with a clear conscience.”

    1. Jules the 3rd*

      +1 You do not have to litigate / give details at all, just hold to ‘it conflicts with my beliefs, so I will not be meeting with Jane. Do you need formal notice of that?’

  11. Charging Ahead to the Worst Conclusion*

    Am I the only one who snorted at “manifest a working printer with your thoughts”?

    On the other hand – the ICK is strong here. It sounds more like a cult than a workplace, with lots of potential creepy overreach. In every job I’ve had, there has been training on the mission/vision/guiding principles for the organization, but it has never been this bizarre.

    I hope the boss is receptive to Allison’s script, because the issue I see here is getting labeled a negative person in this sacred space of positive thought.

  12. Mike C.*

    Wait, is the Law of Attraction the thing where cancer patients deserve everything they get because they “attracted” their own illness?

      1. Relly*

        Yeah, I can’t imagine sitting through that without telling someone off, on behalf of loved ones with cancer. And considering how prevalent cancer is, I’m amazed that doesn’t happen more often.

    1. Valegro*

      I was wondering if it was like The Secret. A friend of mine was scolded for not having a really high paying job by his parents because he wasn’t visualizing it enough.

      1. krissy*

        The Secret is just the law of attraction with clever branding, it’s the exact same thing. The core belief is that you can “manifest” anything you want with mind tricks and positive thinking.

        As you’ve seen it can really do a number on some people’s mental health, because essentially it means anything bad that happens to you is your own fault. I’m all for personal responsibility, but sometimes shit just happens!

        1. Troutwaxer*

          I would say that personal and spiritual maturity means being able to tell the difference between “shit just happened” and “this is my fault.”

        2. Hellanon*

          I had a student propose to do a research project on this whole thing. She wanted to talk about how awesome it is & how it can get you all things you ever wanted in like, like instagram followers & designer handbags. I kept saying, no, this doesn’t actually exist as a physical phenomenon, however you *may* write a paper on why people are vulnerable to being persuaded it does, how its marketing works, who’s money off it, etc. Guess what I got? Yep, quantum woo, instagram followers, designer handbags, backed up by a references list consisting of press releases and blog posts. Inst-fail, in the end…

          1. ScienceTeacher*

            I had a similar issue with an anti-vaxxer in my biology class. I tried to advise her on good sources and gently push back, try to get her to question her beliefs (because “you’re wrong and this is why” is emotionally satisfying but ineffective). The only results of that conversation were the removal of Jim Carrey’s perspective from what should have been a research paper *facepalm*

          2. MarsJenkar*

            I’d have been tempted to add the following in red pen:

            “If you were attempting to visualize a failing grade, well, you succeeded. If not…no amount of ‘positive thinking’ would have worked with this subject matter.”

            There’s probably a good reason I’m not a teacher.

          3. The New Wanderer*

            I had an argument with someone once where I provided multiple peer-reviewed journal articles on the science and he sent me … a blog post. Sure, it was an alarmist blog post! With many strongly stated opinions! But yeah, that’s really not the same. We had to agree to disagree.

      2. Rikki Tikki Tarantula*

        I lost whatever minimal respect I had for Oprah Winfrey when she jumped on The Secret bandwagon.

        1. bolistoli*

          And her support of Dr. Phil, Dr. Oz, … She seems like a kind person, but I was dismayed at all the people who wanted her to run for president. These beliefs and people are so harmful. I’m glad she’s not down for that.

          1. Miss Pantalones en Fuego*

            Yes, this. She’s great in many ways but has played a large role in making pseudoscience and woo so popular and giving it a veneer of truth.

      3. Move Over Thrawn - Florian Munteanu is BIGGER than you!*

        I visualize winning a big lottery prize HARDCORE, y’all. And it still hasn’t manifested.

        1. Doodle*

          You are not visualizing properly. You don’t REALLY want it or REALLY believe it. It’s all your fault that you have not won the lottery.
          Also, you have to buy a lottery ticket first (smirk)

    2. fposte*

      Pretty much. I hope its proponents attract a palletful of Barbara Ehrenreich’s Bright-Sided onto their heads.

    3. AnonEmu*

      Apparently, yes. And same for people with chronic disabilities – it’s just as dick a move as saying people get sick/are disabled because they didn’t pray enough or to test their faith. It’s insensitive at best and often crosses into blaming people for things they had no control over.

      1. Miss Fisher*

        Its kind of like scientology. It places blame on everything bad on the person. Oh your sick, oh things are crap in your life, its because you aren’t applying or teaching/technology correctly. It is a way to pretty much never place blame on that certain religion or self help teaching.

    4. LQ*

      YUP! You’re not a Negative Nelly because you have cancer. You have cancer because you’re a Negative Nelly. Just stop being so negative and you’ll attract health. All people who are poor, unhealthy, or you know, assaulted by another human being…DESERVE IT. Because they weren’t thinking happy thoughts. Victim blaming. The ultra advanced version.

      There isn’t enough rage or middle fingers in the world for how I feel about this.

      1. fposte*

        That otherwise, life is not controllable and they may be unable to prevent terrible things from happening. I think that’s all they need.

        1. EH*

          Also, it completely absolves them of giving a shit about other people’s suffering.
          It’s a great escape route for people who can’t tolerate unpleasant emotions (their own or others’) or cope with the vulnerability of being a human in the world.

      2. Jules the 3rd*

        Vibes. The universe runs on vibes.

        More seriously, the US has a historical strain of ‘wealth = morally good’, and it’s morphed into multiple parts of life, including marriage and health. There’s a phrase for it that I can’t bring to mind right now, but it’s been around since the pilgrims at least. It’s built into our constitution (eg, suffrage only for landowners), etc.

        It’s not unique to the US, but it’s pretty highly developed here. Causes all kinds of cognitive dissonance when you add in ‘rich man -> heaven / camel -> needle’s eye’.

        1. Parenthetically*

          Yep. It’s an “affirming the consequent” fallacy, too, which is something the US is great at, particularly when it comes to conversations about wealth and poverty.

        2. ElspethGC*

          The Puritan work ethic?

          That’s “There are a certain number of people pre-ordained to get into Heaven (ranging from a few hundred to a few thousand depending on who you talk to) and you have absolutely no way of knowing if it’s you or not, so you need to look for evidence that God is favouring you in life and being wealthy and successful is that evidence, and you also need to prove to others around you that you’re worthy of being one of the predestined so you need to work incredibly hard all the time and not show any sign of sloth, and a failure to do either means you can’t be predestined and are therefore going to Hell.”

          Somewhere along the line, it turned into “Wealth proves that you’re morally good and favoured by God, and hard work to get your wealth proves you deserve it, but hard work that isn’t rewarded by wealth is just proof that you need to work harder.”

      3. FD*

        I would argue that it comes down to being an extremely effective marketing ploy that can work on both people who are having trouble and on people who are already successful.

        So, let’s say you’re having a tough time. There’s a certain appeal in believing that if you want something hard enough–a new job, a financial windfall, etc. that it will actually happen. And generally speaking, if you believe in a pattern, it’s self-reinforcing. So if you convince yourself that things are more likely to happen if you try to ‘attract’ them, then you’re more likely to notice the times when you get something, and ignore the times you didn’t. (Confirmation bias.)

        On the converse, let’s say you’re already successful. There’s a good chance you did want that success very much. And moreover, most people who are very successful did have some degree of luck (as well as privilege) that helped them get there. But it feels better to attribute that luck to something you did instead of random, unearned happenstance. So it’s appealing to believe that you caused that luck via ‘attraction’. (Self-serving bias.)

      4. Jennifer Juniper*

        They have no justification. They’re just spoiled brats pretending to be decent people.

    5. Akcipitrokulo*

      Ibprefer Marcus Cole’s take on it…

      “You know, I used to think it was awful that life was so unfair. Then I thought, wouldn’t it be much worse if life were fair, and all the terrible things that happen to us come because we actually deserve them? So, now I take great comfort in the general hostility and unfairness of the universe.”

    6. Jennifer Juniper*

      Yep. Some evil piece of newage (rhymes with sewage) named Byron Katie actually blamed the victims of the Holocaust for being too attached to their babies, causing their deaths.



      “If Someone (God, ‘what is’), pulls my baby from me – if that’s what it takes, I’m there. Take the baby. Tear my baby from me. Throw it in the fire….My discomfort is my war with God. […]

      You see, there are NO choices. What is, is. […]

      But when we get to the baby thing, we’re getting down to our sacred little concepts now….You take my baby from me, you’re messing with the illusion of I’m the mommy, this is the baby, there’s the daddy…

      But tearing the baby away- that’s the higher. That’s the higher, because it snatches your story from you and makes it apparent in your face – nothing’s real short of reality….

      That’s it. That’s what is. That’s love. That’s absolutely Un-describable love. That you, God, would even give me that.

      Can you know that Hitler didn’t bring more people to realization than Jesus? On your knees – God. God! God! But our stories of reality keep us from the awareness of God is Everything. And God is Good. […]

      There has never been evil and there never will be. Evil is simply a story about what’s not…

      But I have trashed the baby when I have trashed the Nazi…

      I am the baby going into the pit. I am the one throwing the baby in the pit…

      Byron Katie just keeps going on and on from there.

      So according to Byron Katie, Nazi’s mass murdering Jewish women’s babies by burning them to death alive while the mothers watch, is the loving work of God. ”

      from the link

  13. Namey McNameface*

    How can I create more energy with my thoughts? I want to wish more energetic bad karma on people who park badly.

    1. Liane*

      Instead of screaming profanities or overworking my middle fingers, I wish bad/rude/raging drivers to become Expensive Ticket Magnets.

    2. Falling Diphthong*

      If this worked, the exit to my grocery store would long ago have stopped manifesting people trying to go left from the right lane.

    3. Cat wrangler*

      No, no, you can’t wish it as then you’re admitting that you don’t have it and the universe won’t send it to you as you’ve got negative energy. You have to act as though you already have it, then it [whatever you want] will appear. Presumably anyone who has had illness, family issues, been caught up in war, lost their job or whatever secretly wanted those things to happen.

      1. Oh So Very Anon*

        And don’t forget the boomerang clause: if you wish bad for others, it will swing back around and smack you in the back of the head when you’re not looking.

        No, it’s a thing. Look it up.

    4. Jennifer Juniper*

      How about wishing for all cars to be self-parking? That would take care of the problem and make it easier for you to park as well. No more parallel parking!

  14. Troutwaxer*

    Just remember, you should pull the wool over your own eyes. And you’ll pay to know what you really think!*

    * These are important ideas from my own religion. ;)

    1. ElspethGC*

      Inventing the concept of the Four Agreements, apparently. He claims to be a shamanistic teacher in the Toltec tradition, followed by admitting that no-one knows anything about Toltec beliefs and he’s using it as short-hand for Mayan-esque shamanism.

      (I really want this guy to be the same guy as the Mayan shaman boss, but I don’t think the timelines match up.)

  15. Laurelma01*

    I have no idea what these are, but reading the comments I’m gaining a bit of insight. Another fad. I swear people come up with these crazy ideas to make a quick buck. Reminds me of some cults thinking processes.

    It would be such a turn off to find this out about an employer after I started working for them. It would be one thing if this was 1 – 2 meetings a year that wasted your time, but if it was part of the work environment and they wanted you to drink the cool aid I would go crazy.

    1. Troutwaxer*

      I use my many-fists on a non-working printer (to change the toner cartridges, clear any paper jams, add paper, and in the worst-case scenario, turn it off and on again.)

    2. YouGottaThrowtheWholeJobAway*

      I am snort-chuckling thinking about someone trying to make a fax machine appear when they need one.

  16. Jimming*

    I used to work as a counselor and my boss was really into the Four Agreements. I hated it. We had to use it in our groups sometimes. There were some things in there that people could apply without it being total BS – like “always do your best.” Still, I moved away from it best I could (ha, see what I did there?).

    Even Myers-Briggs isn’t scientifically accurate but workplaces love that stuff. I like Alison’s advice to find out how much of the culture it is. If you can ignore it and get back to work it might not be too bad. There’s usually some big “thing” that companies discover and share with their employees before they get bored and move on.

      1. Miss Fisher*

        Those are definitely 2 things my company has adopted and are implementing. I don’t know much about Agile as it doesn’t really have to do with me work. But there are for sure some people around here that I could not imagine sharing a desk with, like the people that cannot respect personal space even with cubicles. My other main issue is just the lack of personality you can have on your desk etc.

  17. Sara without an H*

    How in the name of Planet Vulcan did this NOT come up in the interview? OP, looking back, was there anything said during the interview stage that might have tipped you off? Or did they downplay this stuff until you were actually on the payroll? You describe the company as “smallish” — if the founder/owner is still there, this may reflect that person’s own obsessions. And it will be very difficult to work around it.

    You can try Alison’s script, but even if you can successfully push back on religious/philosophical grounds, I don’t see a long-term prospect for you at this company if this is a really entrenched feature of their culture. The fact that they have a “business coach” whose job it is to get new recruits onboard with this stuff is alarming. Revise your resume and cover letter, and start working your network.

    1. artemis*

      This is exactly what I was thinking. If it’s so ingrained in the culture they should’ve brought it up at the interview.

    2. Armchair Analyst*

      Companies start New Initiatives like this all the time. December will be nothing but then January! Whoo-hoo! Has a THEME and ACTIVITIES and GUEST SPEAKERS! And let’s forget about it until MARCH when we do a follow-up meeting! And in June we’ll give out awards for the program! And then forget about until next November when OH SHOOT WE FORGOT TO DO SOMETHING! Let’s try a NEW Program for NEXT YEAR!
      This sounds like one of those programs. Good luck.

  18. Sloan Kittering*

    I sympathize with this letter since our CEO is really into different types of personality tests – always having full day meetings to discuss everybody’s results etc. It’s also mostly pseudoscience as far as I can tell and clearly he really buys into it. I can’t tell if I’m the only one who thinks they’re kind of bunk or if everybody is quietly rolling their eyes but saying nothing, since it’s really a passion of our boss. The good news is that it doesn’t really affect the rest of our work, so I always just kind of skirt the conversations about what kind of shape/color/animal I am and enjoy the free snacks on Team Building Day(s).

    1. Rikki Tikki Tarantula*

      I once had a manager who put a bit too much stock into astrology. She wouldn’t believe me when I told her I was a Leo – as if I didn’t know when my birthday was. I should have told her I’m a Virgo trapped in a Leo’s birthday (I fit the Virgo personality type much more than a Leo).

      1. LawBee*

        I never got into the astrology thing, but I do remember getting a little miffed when they redid the signs to account for the movement of the stars and now suddenly I’m a Gemini? Excuse me?

        1. Qwerty*

          Your sign didn’t change! Zodiac is based on the stars that you are born under, not where they went after that. There were changes to Earth’s axis post-Y2K due to glacier melting, natural disasters, etc, so odds are you are old enough that your sign was calculated correctly.

          Or you could just manifest whatever sign you want to be, apparently.

        2. Bryce*

          The sidereal zodiac is defined by the fixed stars and so has drifted with the seasons over the centuries since it lined up with tropical, it’s star-based. The tropical zodiac stays fixed, but uses the constellation names to define regions, it’s… planet-based? Just Earth-Moon-Sun? I don’t know. Newspaper astrology uses the tropical zodiac, so people saying it’s “wrong” are usually people who have no idea the tropical zodiac doesn’t care where the constellations actually are (because really there’s no reason to assume that).

          Personally I follow the sidereal zodiac because I’m a twin and I think it’s cute to be a Gemini. Not like it’s any less accurate.

      2. Jules the 3rd*

        My kid discovered astrology one weekend. He’s about the non-scorpio-est Scorpio I’ve ever met, but he spent the weekend pretending to be one. I spent the weekend going ‘because it’s bullsh*’ in the fruitiest southern accent I could, and trying him to say it with me.

    2. Sam.*

      This is how it was with my old director. I will say that it was useful in so much as 75-80% of the staff were introverts and he (and his right-hand person) were extreme extroverts. They frequently wanted to do things that were 1) unnecessary and 2) torturous to most introverts, and we could be like, “Remember how X test you had us take said that introverts work better when Y?” It was hard for him to argue with that since he was the one so excited about the tests! But it rarely came up other than those occasional team building days.

      1. Sloan Kittering*

        Yes I think our CEO loves it because he’s a huge extrovert and loves to talk about himself, and he finds it crazy that other people could possibly be any different than him.

  19. Birch*

    As an actual scientist, I don’t know whether I should be more irritated that this kind of BS is considered pseudoscience (come on, they aren’t even TRYING to sound scientific) or grateful because it’s easier to see through than actual pseudoscience that steals the language of science to make nonsensical word salad.

    Either way, I’m sending out the motivational energy to everyone who has to deal with this to just stand up and say “You all know this is total BS right? Seriously? Can we not spend company time and money on something that makes us look like suckers?”

    1. irene adler*

      How about imparting some actual skill sets to the employees? Something that has actual value to the company and the employee.

      Please, don’t anyone tell me that Law of Attraction is a skill set.

    2. OP*

      You would’ve really loved Jane’s little speech on “this has actual basis in quantum physics!!!”

      1. irene adler*

        Course, I’d be the rat bastard who would then start asking her questions about quantum physics. Just to see what she actually knows (which I know is nothing).

      2. The New Wanderer*

        “Well no, quantum physics is how you make a functional ansible, but it still doesn’t magically give you stuff by thinking about it.”

  20. Peter*

    It’s not quite the same thing but I do find it very irritating when companies make a big thing of corporate values and beliefs that are often ridiculous and shallow – and it clearly never occurs to them that this will be anything other than attractive, especially to job candidates. I pursued a career change successfully two years ago and the most off putting thing about my new career was the number of recruitment days in which I heard vapid values nonsense presented as wonderful manna from heaven, and vital to the company’s day to day operations. In practice, I was reassured by friends that this stuff was often a concern only for HR departments and once I started the job I’d never really hear about this stuff again. Thankfully, they were right.

    1. The New Wanderer*

      Oh man, I had to go through my company’s orientation again, almost 13 years after the first time. They have a new set of “Company Values” and the facilitator mentioned they were new as of the last year or two. She then asked the attendees who were returning employees (about 1/4 of the room) how this set differed from the set we learned about last decade. I assumed it was a rhetorical question, because my best guess would have been “Different… words?”

      It’s not woo, but empty corporate buzzwords are just as meaningless to me.

  21. Bend & Snap*

    I had to look this stuff up and am 100% sure I couldn’t swallow that much woo in the workplace.

  22. Mr M*

    Worked for a company that upper management made ‘7 Habits’ mandatory. As in half- day seminars every week for months. They made a big deal about the author being a PhD but no where did the book or material mention that it was a PhD in theology from Brigham Young University. The aphorisms we’re non-sensical like ‘big rocks vs little rocks’ and ‘ sharpening the saw’ and the book had full page large-type quotes from people so obscure I had to look up on Wikipedia or the author himself(!) It was the kind of business-speak nonsense that ‘The Office’ mocked decades ago, but that everyone took dead serious.

    1. Detective Amy Santiago*

      Ooh I worked for a company that had 7 Habits trainings too! I got to travel to the corporate office for a week to go to one. I didn’t really learn anything useful, but it was fun to get a paid trip.

    2. Parenthetically*

      7 Habits is so weird. On a surface level, it’s all stuff I’d tell my 7th graders in a 15 minute “study skills/responsible studenting” conversation, but it’s this massive phenomenon that people build their entire careers around and then pester their employees to death with. I don’t get it at all.

    3. ThursdaysGeek*

      Yeah, so did I. But in my case, it was a company owned by the LDS church, so it wasn’t that surprising. And I got a day (days?) where I didn’t have to do real work but still got paid.

    4. Lucille2*

      After reading the letter, my mind immediately went to the ‘7 Habits’ training I attended. I hated it. It could’ve been summed up in 30 minutes instead of an entire day. Spoiler alert: People achieve goals by spending purposeful time pursuing those goals – ‘7 Habits’ calls these Big Rocks. Fit in all the other busy work where you can and be realistic about what you can you accomplish (Small Rocks). Establish goals that align with your priorities (i.e. career, family, health). It’s just a big money-making scheme and I hated participating in it.

  23. unjust world*

    Some Law of Attraction ideas can also conflict with anti-discrimination principles, especially wrt ableism, classism and racism. I have no problem with people talking about positivity, but the flip-side of that can be victim-blaming, especially if they’re big on Just World ideas as well.

    Saying that negativity attracts negative stuff is an ugly concept especially around mental illness; health issues are your fault because you aren’t trying hard enough to be positive is straight-up ableism; success is a mindset ignores the reality of company hierarchies where lower-paid workers always outnumber higher-paid vacancies; etc etc etc

    1. Jules the 3rd*

      Srsly – does this company discriminate against people in wheelchairs / with prosthetics for desk jobs? Like, say, combat wounded veterans?

      I have to admit, even if it was just ‘once in a while’, I’d nope out as soon as I felt it wouldn’t be a hit on my resume.

    2. Lumen*


      And may I recommend “Bright Sided: How the Relentless Promotion of Positive thinking Has Undermined America” by Barbara Ehrenreich? I loved it, and it seems up your alley.

  24. Clay on my apron*

    Fascinating. I’d never heard of any of this before. I guess it’s a bit like joining a new company and then getting a meeting invite for the mandatory monthly Flat Earth Forum or finding out that only raw food may be consumed on the premises, or that you have to go for an aura cleansing before your performance appraisal, or that you’re required to smoke weed before the daily standup. I mean, it’s really something you’d want to know before you accepted the job.

  25. Anon for now*

    It’s going to be a challenge if it’s deeply ingrained in the culture, especially if there is any sort of lingo/jargon that people use to communicate that is based on the Laws of Attraction.

    1. Anon for now*

      I mention this because I worked somewhere that had very close connections to a particular religion and based its management approach around concepts of the religion. Stripped of the overt connection and jargon, it was actually quite secular, but if I had not used the jargon, it would have been very difficult to navigate conversations and would have resulted in frustrating communication. I don’t know how that would fit under seeking an accommodation when seeking what would be a separate language with certain words and phrases.

  26. Vermonter*

    Do you need to be a member of an organized religion to claim objection on religious grounds in a case like this? I’m not a religious person, but things like the Law of Attraction are against my spiritual beliefs (and ethical principals).

  27. Falling Diphthong*

    I have googled “Law of Attraction” and it’s even sillier than I thought.

    And that was going to take some doing, so I guess a *high five* to The Secret?

  28. Kramerica Industries*

    My old company was like this! I went with it for a while because I thought I really needed the job. It honestly ate away at me without me realizing how bad it was until I just became so unhappy because I would come into work everyday into something that I didn’t believe in.

    My last straw was when I had a prospective customer that my VP connected me with who also loved pseudoscience. She asked me my birthday and said that she didn’t want to do business with me because my numbers weren’t a good match for her.

  29. OP*

    OP here! Thanks so much to Alison for answering my question – this was definitely a new situation for me. I’ll make my way through the comments and answer what I can.
    So far it’s only been two meetings, but we are rapidly approaching the time of year where we won’t have much time to do anything but work. (Thank God!) Jane does have some okay things to say mixed in with the weird, and it’s not completely bled into our work life apart from references in weekly meetings and the large value statement sign that I now have to look at every day. I do keep hearing mention of a retreat, which does not give me the warm fuzzy feelings that I should perhaps be putting out into the universe. I’m not religious but there are a couple of conservative Christians in the office. My boss mentioned in the first meeting with Jane that they were not thrilled about this but “eventually came around.”
    I think my boss has attached our company to this because he wants to be a better manager and better company. I do appreciate his efforts in that area… But WHY did he have to pick THIS?
    Bottom line, I don’t think this is an instant dealbreaker, more of a “proceed with caution” situation. I’m on the fence about long-term.

    1. Jules the 3rd*

      “My boss mentioned in the first meeting with Jane that they were not thrilled about this but “eventually came around.” ”

      Oh no, that’s a HUGE red flag. That would be an instant deal breaker for me.

      Because you’re going to have to either appear to accept the cool aid or be badgered about it. That takes it into harassment / indoctrination / cult, and nope nope nope nope nope nope nope. That is a house of Evil Bees.

      See some of Alison’s posts about how working for bad companies can warp your sense of normal, and how it can affect you long after you’ve left. Link to her 2014 US News & World Report article in my name.

      1. mayfly*

        I’m hoping “eventually came around” is code for “gathering evidence for an EEOC complaint”.
        I’d get out, OP.

      2. Akcipitrokulo*

        Yes yes yes. What he means is “but we eventually bullied them out of their beliefs/threatened their livelihoods enough to make them shut up”.

        This is a bad place.

      3. OP*

        Oh, I definitely thought “…OH MY GOD” when he said that. And no, the people who have “come around” are still around. I’m not that close to them yet so I haven’t asked how they actually feel about it. Since we’re going into our busy season, it hasn’t come up for a while in the office but I am really, REALLY not looking forward to the aftermath. In the meantime, I’ve been trying to determine where my definitive boundaries are.

        1. Venus*

          Oh, this comment raised a thought for me – it is typically easier to set boundaries if they know you better, and you have built capital, which happens when you prove yourself as a competent worker. It might work out well having the busy season soon, in that you can prove yourself as being valuable to them, and they might be more accepting of boundaries (which you have hopefully sorted out by that time).

      4. Doodle*

        In addition, the boss was indiscrete in sharing just who was having problems with it and expressed concern during their coaching session. (I know it’s not a HIPAA thing, but still — dude, confidentiality? privacy? any of that ring a bell)

    2. Jules the 3rd*

      You’re either going to have to pretend to accept the woo, or face regular ‘discussions’. That is harassment / indoctrination.

      See some of Alison’s old posts about the damage that working for a bad workplace can do – one 2014 link in my name, but she’s got more recent ones.

      House of Evil Bees.

    3. Jules the 3rd*

      Sorry for repeats, wasn’t sure if that was my bad net connection or a comment filter. Feel free to delete the spares, Alison. First one covers the other two.

    4. Parenthetically*

      they were not thrilled about this but “eventually came around.”

      Oh HELL no. This is the biggest red flag, IMO. I would absolutely have nothing to do with this on religious grounds as I find Prosperity Gospel BS like The Secret hugely offensive to my sincerely held religious beliefs, and the fact that they appear to have cajoled people who had religious objections into participating anyway is very very bad news.

    5. Lady Phoenix*

      When I hear “the eventually came around”, I think the following:
      1) they were harassed into submission
      2) they took a big gulp of the red sugary drink whose mascot has a penchant of bursting through brick walls while shouting “Oh yeah.
      3) They are “following” these practices with the amount of effs Ben Stein does while reading the phone book (not at all)

    6. The New Wanderer*

      Yeah, that whole “eventually came around thing” is BS. There is no way these employees decided that their fundamental belief system could suddenly, you know, matter less when it comes to this junk. Odds are they just stopped openly pushing back and that was considered good enough.

      Which strongly suggests that pushing back on any basis will never work and you’ll be expected to pay lip service too. It’s not wrong for you to decide you can do that, or not do that, but I think that’s a pretty clear picture of your future.

  30. seller of teapots*

    Confession: I love pseudoscience woo. I have crystals and tarot cards and a vision board and I try to meditate daily. I listen to podcasts about connecting with my intuition and chakras and I read Elkhart Tolle. You get the idea.

    And, omg, this is so inappropriate and such a hard NOPE for me as well. First of all: even as someone who believes my own version of this stuff, it’s deeply personal! I barely talk about it with my husband, never mind work colleagues!! Second of all, you can’t mandate that people attend lectures and coaching sessions based on your spiritual beliefs! Yikes, yikes, yikes.

    So I just want to affirm, even as someone into these topics, that I find this totally 100% inappropriate for the work place. (Or for any place, because no one should force their beliefs on anyone else!)

    1. Anon for this*

      I dabble in a bit of woo myself, and have found some things that are really helpful to me in my life, and some things I just like because they bring joy to my soul, like crystals. HOWEVER, it is HIGHLY personal and therefore deeply inappropriate to force other people into, especially at work. To me, it’s akin to saying “we’re a Christian company and therefore all staff must attend mandatory chapel services on Wednesday afternoons” or “we have arranged for regular meetings with our company pastor to discuss God’s plan for you and the company”. WTF? No.

    2. Ms Cappuccino*

      The Law of Attraction isn’t pseudoscience, it is derived from Hinduism except most Westerners who wrote about it have omitted to explain the Law of Karma. It’s not enough to think positively and wish for good things. Our deeds and actions matter too ( not only in this life but previous lives).
      I agree this had no place in the workplace that should remain secular and not impose their beliefs on others.

      1. seller of teapots*

        Yeah, I don’t resonate with LOA, a la The Secret. Personally, I think it’s about observing our own baggage and working through the resistance that rises up around our own worth, etc. Ultimately, I dont want to go to far off topic here, but I think this proves the point that this stuff is deeply personal and, as you say, not for the workplace!

    3. Lumen*

      So glad you mentioned that part about how deeply personal this stuff is. I mean, get 10 spiritual people in a room, and you will have 20+ vastly different interpretations of what that means and how it works.

      Yeah. I said 10 people, 20+ interpretations. Not a typo.

      1. MySherona*

        Me, too, to a point. Tarot cards help me ask different questions and see things from different perspectives. Crystals/malas give my ADHD brain a fidget/focal point for meditation. I think my actions and words contribute to the world in which I live and try to behave and speak accordingly. I try to find the good in situations I don’t love, to be happier in the moment. I think that if you answer questions about yourself a certain way, it probably says a little bit about your positive face and how people can protect that and better interact with you.

        I don’t take tarot cards to work. I don’t want to get into it with people who might think I believe I can see the future or predict anything. I do wear wrist malas, which I use when I need a two-minute meditation (usually done in a bathroom stall. Again, I don’t want to have to explain anything to anyone who might see me do it at my desk. They also come in handy for long, boring meetings where I have to stay focused.

        Ah, well. Some people are going to think I’m a weirdo, but if it helps me sort out my thoughts and be a happier person, I’m gonna stick with it. Woo!

  31. Alton Brown's Evil Twin*

    Yech. I’m an engineer. If you can’t show me the particle or field that makes the “laws of attraction” work, then I’m just going to sit there dumbfounded. And good luck trying to get me to “use” this stuff at work. Smells like woo-woo motivational training to me.

    Electrons don’t care how we feel about them. And we can’t empathize with electrons, either.
    We also can’t negotiate with electrons.

    1. Tisiphone*

      “We also can’t negotiate with electrons.”

      Especially electrons coming down from the sky to start fires.

  32. Madison Keller*

    OMG I’m having flashbacks. I was offered a job by a company and when I went in to sign paperwork there was this odd document mixed in with the standard W-9 forms, dress code, and such, stating that by signing the document you agreed to attend Scientology classes. Haha, not happening. I pulled it out and didn’t sign it, and turned in the packet with it still unsigned. They brought the packet up to me the next day when I showed up for my first shift and said I had to sign it before I could start working, saying that attending Scientology Classes was required, not optional. So I turned down the job offer and left.

    I feel bad for people who don’t actually read the paperwork.

    1. Detective Amy Santiago*

      Were they going to pay for your Scientology classes or did they expect you to pay yourself? Cause those things are expensive.

      1. Book Badger*

        Scientology doesn’t care what’s illegal, if their past and current activities are any indication.

      2. JSPA*

        Shocked, shocked, i tell you, that scientologists would bend the law well past the breaking point. (Tangentially knew several people rendered bankrupt and in some cases hounded and driven to suicide by them back in the 70’s. Hope we can agree that, philosophy and theology aside, this is not appropriate organizational behavior.)

  33. Hiring Mgr*

    I’ve never heard of Law of Attraction or the other things mentioned, but it sound just as inappropriate if a new hire training was all about God or Jesus, etc..

  34. Augusta Sugarbean*

    Alison (or anyone) how do you suss out this kind of thing while interviewing? I mean I know I can’t be *too* choosy at this point in my job hunt but I do need to make sure I’m not just making a lateral move WRT lunacy in my workplace.

    1. Jules the 3rd*

      Maybe questions about ‘management style’ and ‘company culture’? ‘Guiding philosophies’?

      But if I were a company doing this, I’d be sure to keep this questionable (and questioned!) behavior quiet.

      That might be another angle for OP to use in assessing: did she ask questions in the interview that *should* have triggered a conversation about this? Did they deliberately hide it, or did she just not go there?

      Most likely, she just didn’t go there – it’s not an area most people would be worried about. since this is so far out of the norm.

  35. Need a Beach*

    One of my colleagues is into this style of woo, saying things like “don’t put that energy out there” when people explain that a deadline will be missed because a supplier is backordered, etc. She seems to expect everyone to just wish success into being. She also talks about how her spiritual advisor is highly skilled at astral projection. Every day I don’t ram a pencil into my own eye is a victory. If HR or execs started pushing the same thing, I might just walk out into the ocean, never to be seen again.

  36. Elizabeth West*

    Okay, I’ve participated in a little woo (not the Law of Attraction), as a means to focus my attention on things I want/need. I’m not totally averse to it–hey, can’t hurt, right? And some of what people think of as woo includes actual spiritual / religious practices–smudging, meditation, etc. But even though I woo from time to time, I would not want this to be a thing at work. Especially as a mandatory activity? Hell no.

  37. Common Welsh Green*

    It’s been my experience that this kind of thing becomes “flavour of the month”. Every time your leadership moves up and onward, the next person in the chair brings his own brand of coo-coo into the mix. If you want to hang in there, eventually you may get a less batcrap crazy program you can live with. Either that, or material for a best seller.

  38. Tisiphone*

    Yikes! My company has boarded the required reading bus as well. The book we were required to read was a novella (poorly written and edited – the writer part of me cringed on every page)

    Too Stupid To Live main character – check
    Law of Attraction – check.
    Everything happens for a reason baldly stated – check.
    Prosperity Gospel for a bonus level of nope – check.

    I just hope we don’t have to sign any sort of pledge to adhere to this value system like we did the last time we were required to read a business culture book.

    1. Jules the 3rd*

      This whole post and comments section make me so much happier about my company’s annual required reading, which is basically ‘Here’s realistic business ethics situations, and we want you to comply with all laws, regulations, and be ethical. Here’s four different ways (including anon) to report unethical behavior, and we will jump up and down on anyone retaliating. Have a Quiz.’

  39. Prof. Kat*

    I’ve desperately been trying to make friends since moving across the country last summer, so I did what everyone always suggests: check out I had done this during my previous cross-country move, and found lots of great local running and hiking groups.

    Well, I knew that my new locale was different from my old one, culturally, but I was NOT expecting about 1/4 of the local Meetups to be LoA groups. That’s a hard pass. And yeah, I’m still trying to make friends. :( (There are no hiking groups her! HOW? WHY? Arrrrrgh.)

  40. Captain Vegetable (Crunch Crunch Crunch)*

    Oh man, I worked in one place where the head of the plant was obsessed with a book called Gung Ho!, that exhorted people to have the Spirit of the Squirrel, follow the Way of the Beaver, and to have the Gift of the Goose. There was also a video that was awful, but in a hilarious way. He would occasionally have us single out a coworker who we felt embodied one of those virtues in meetings, and all the upper management got a copy of the book. It was just one of those workplace quirks that you have to live with. I hope you are in the same situation, OP.

    1. Captain Vegetable (Crunch Crunch Crunch)*

      He was also the kind of guy who would say that if you don’t believe in our mission 100%, you should leave now.

      1. Pebbles*

        I have that kind of CEO now! Only we don’t have animal themes, we have “The Energy Bus”. In the book it clearly says if you can’t do this then you should get off the bus. We were forced to sign a pledge 18 months ago or leave. Sadly, I’m still here.

        1. Captain Vegetable (Crunch Crunch Crunch)*

          Yikes! When I left, I was so hoping he’d say that during my notice period and I could get up and leave. It did not happen that way, sadly.

        2. Tisiphone*

          That’s the book we’re required to read, too! I lasted only a third of the way through before I put it back on the shelf. No less than two throw-the-book-at-the-wall moments by then. The one-star Amazon reviews are hilarious.

    2. Hellanon*

      >>The Spirit of the Squirrel

      Thank you, no, I work with creatives, and we don’t need any more squirrel behaviors. Or squirrel chasing.

      1. Captain Vegetable (Crunch Crunch Crunch)*

        Sounds like you would not be interested in my sequel, “Gung Ho! 2, Gung Even Ho-ier!”, which elaborates on the Soul of the Labrador, then.

    3. The New Wanderer*

      “occasionally have us single out a coworker” –> Duck, duck, GOOSE!

      I’m assuming the video was not of the Michael Keaton movie of the same name?

      1. Captain Vegetable (Crunch Crunch Crunch)*

        No, the video was about a wise Native American Elder who teaches a wayward white boy about the joys of hard work, if I recall correctly. And if I don’t, well, paying attention isn’t covered by squirrels, beavers or geese, so clearly I can’t be expected to prioritize that.

      1. Miss Fisher*

        I just picture the Captain America promos they did for the movies on this topic. Those could be entertaining for work, but don’t really see CA falling for any of that non-sense.

  41. Lumen*

    Yikes. I mean, I have plenty of woo-woo beliefs and practices and I’m not embarrassed about sharing them with coworkers… if people organically show interest and if it’s “off the clock” chit chat. I would never, ever, ever feel okay pushing it on my coworkers, much less people who reported to me directly. I won’t even accept people I work with as tarot clients (and I have been asked. a lot.).

    Partly because it IS personal, and everyone’s practice is unique, and spiritual practice of any kind doesn’t work for everyone, it really does not belong in a workplace. Maybe if it’s a foundational, intrinsic part of the company and that’s up-front in all interviews? But even then: a copy editor should be able to work at a metaphysical publisher without necessarily being into metaphysics themselves, and that shouldn’t ever be an issue in their workplace.

    So yeah: yikes. Big yikes. I find this just as upsetting as if my employer required that I join in some kind of Protestant prayer request meeting every Friday. YIKES.

  42. SpicySpice*

    I am triple against this. It took me YEARS of therapy to get from “I am a failing failure who will always fail and BTW the universe hates me personally” to “eh, bad things happen sometimes” and I sure as heck am not going to sit through hearing about how I brought my problems upon myself. At work no less!

  43. Kella*

    I am totally against including this kind of mindset work at the work place.

    In my experience, The Four Agreements are not a woo pseudo-science thing at all, they’re a set of tools to assist personal growth. They aren’t the right tools for every context, but they are actually pretty practical. The Law of Attraction and thoughts have energy stuff is usually bullshit, but it can be used as a helpful way to interpret information in some specific contexts. My opinion is that any tool can be used as a helpful thing for yourself, or be used to distance yourself from reality, and certain tools lean one way or another. Law of attraction stuff is usually used as the latter, but it often entirely depends on who it is that’s teaching it/practicing it and what context they’re using it for. It’s not for everyone, and that’s fine, and some people use it in a harmful way, and that’s not fine.

    But despite the fact that I’ve found all this woo stuff helpful to me in my life, I would never ever approve of having managers bring it on as a training program. Mainly because most of this stuff completely loses its positive impact if someone is enforcing it on you, or giving you feedback about how you’re doing it wrong. I would never trust my boss to be an effective teacher for this kind of work, and any positive meaning it had in private work would be completely diluted by trying to translate it to the workplace.

    1. JSPA*

      Anything can be used as a focusing tool or applied as a metaphor (including multiplication tables or the phone book), though. It’s all about the act of focus, the urge to increase awareness, etc. Techniques, theories and books don’t get a free pass on the actual verbatim statements they contain (nor the problems generated by application of those statements) just because it’s possible to render them useful. The things that do get a free pass in that regard: religion, attraction, food preference (etc). Which all also share another trait: not appropriate for the workplace.

    2. Jennifer Juniper*

      Ding! If the Law of Attraction were actually true, I would have died a grisly death by age seven. As a child, I was so morbid I made Wednesday Addams look like Pollyanna.

  44. Bulbasaur*

    As an aside, it always amuses me when Alison starts her replies with “Ooooh.” Perhaps there should be a sidebar category for them.

  45. Manifestataion at Work*

    Apply their principles in your own defense. In their hiring process, they manifested you, so they must be needing to hear what you have to say.

  46. LaDeeDa*

    Corporate culture initiatives are so funny. They are often driven by people who have no idea how to initiate a change, and they hire the consulting firm who has something they think is interesting, without fully understanding the impact. Often my consulting jobs are after the company has done one of these short-sighted initiatives that they have fully committed to, and then linking them to competencies, goals, performance management, leader training— that is usually what is missing. If you are going to adopt this culture initiative you need to adopt a sustainability plan that links it to all the other processes and goals and expectations you have… but buying an out of the box culture isn’t going to do that.
    The executives aren’t bothered or mandated or held accountable, they agreed to it and bought it, but expect director level down to make it work, without a plan!

  47. TJ*

    My last company went all in on the Gallup Strengths Finder. Now, I really enjoyed it. I thought it offered some good insights and the test you take turned out to be fairly accurate for a lot of people that worked there. It definitely was not required. The part that started to grind my gears was people using their supposed “strengths” to excuse bad behavior. Oh, that person is always circumventing the rules to try and get stuff done? That’s their empathy, they just feel for their customers. Wtf? We literally had people who were rude on the phone, in emails, would try to turn in legal documents missing signatures and with info all crossed out (this is a freaking bank!) or worse WHITED OUT – and then it was excused as a condition of their strengths. Took something that could have been really beneficial and butchered it.

  48. Adrian*

    I’m surprised at how intolerant this site is. I agree that personal practices should be kept out of the office, but this group seems to take great pleasure in knocking down something that is not part of their personal world view. I have engaged in some of these practices and found them very rewarding. I dont think they belong in the workplace as such nor do a great number of other practices, but I wouldn’t denigrate someone the way this group is doing.

  49. Jennifer Juniper*

    *hands OP a parachute and Rick Ross’s contact info*
    I’m worried about you, OP. I hope they don’t blame you for malfunctioning computers and sickness by saying your negativity caused it.

  50. Big Biscuit*

    If someone gave me a c-note for every time a company I worked for rolled out a new corporate culture initiative, I would be retired! We’ve made a lot of “consultants” rich. I think you can take good things from new ideas, but when they border on the cultish, I’m out. Here’s a tip… nice, work hard, don’t gossip and have a life outside of work.

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