my office plays religious music, my new boss asks about our sex lives, and more

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

1. My office plays religious music throughout the building

I work for a very large, non-religious company in a technical role. In the building where I work, we can’t have headphones, so they play XM radio stations through speakers that are in every hallway and most rooms. The staff that controls the station switches the channel on a daily basis and we get a decent mix of rock, decades, country, top hits, etc. However, at least once a week, sometimes more, the station for the day is a religious music station. Not like Christmas music or country music with religious themes, but the sort of thing you might hear played in a modern church service where God and prayer are the central theme of every song.

I don’t have a problem with this music in general outside the workplace. There’s a local coffee shop I love that plays the same sort of stuff and it never bothers me when I go there. But for some reason it really gets to me at work. I can wear ear plugs at my desk and we often turn the music off in my office area, but everywhere else in the building I don’t have way of tuning it out. I also work in an area frequented by customers, although I’ve never heard one complain.

I want to bring it up that the super-religious themed music bothers me, but I’m really worried that if I do so they’re going to solve it by turning off the music altogether. I know everyone really likes having music to listen to and I don’t want to be the person that ruins it for everyone. Is it unreasonable to request that this kind of station not be played at work?

It’s reasonable to ask that religious music not be played at work, especially all day long when people can’t turn it off.

I’d frame it this way: “I wouldn’t expect you to please everyone with the musical choices, but we’ve been playing religious music about God and prayer. That doesn’t feel appropriate for work — or customers, for that matter. Could we stick with secular music and take the religious channel out of the rotation?”

If they respond by turning off music altogether, that would be a bizarre overreaction (unless they’ve had other complaints about other channels, in which case you’re not the one who will have caused that action anyway).

2. My new boss asked everyone how many people they’ve slept with

I recently got a new boss and things have gotten weird. To kick off her experience, she hosted a series of team bonding activities which included a lot of happy hours and lunches. During the happy hours, she would consume a lot of alcohol and make sexual jokes/comments. It didn’t really bother me and I’ll admit I found myself chuckling a few times, but after several weeks of happy hours I realized things we’re going too far.

At our last outing, she literally asked everyone there how many sexual partners they’d had, and if we shied away from answering she booed us until we acquiesced. I didn’t know what to say so I just made up a number to get out of the line of questioning. She also asked if we preferred oral or hand jobs.

I wanted to leave but I felt pressured to stay because those who attend the happy hours seem to get more perks — flexible hours, work from home days, etc. I don’t know what to do. I feel like since I originally laughed/engaged in the more surface level sexual jokes/comments, now I’m part of the problem.

WTF?!

You’re allowed to object to this even though you laughed along earlier. First, it’s really common for people to laugh/act okay with this kind of thing even when they’re not, because work dynamics can make it uncomfortable to do otherwise. (Which is one reason why people shouldn’t assume colleagues are okay with inappropriate topics just because they’re not explicitly objecting.) Second, you’re allowed to change your mind. Maybe it didn’t bother you at first but it does now. You’re allowed to feel it’s gone too far.

Please talk to your HR department. What your manager is doing is wildly inappropriate, is almost surely making people other than you uncomfortable, and is opening the company to legal liability. When you talk to them, make sure not to pull any punches — give them all the details you gave here. Make sure to include the differences you’re seeing in perks — they need to shut the whole thing down, but that one will take special attention from them. You should also let them know you’re concerned about retaliation and ask for their help in ensuring this doesn’t affect the way your boss treats you.

3. Should I use a pseudonym when I write about aliens and tentacle monsters?

I’m a relatively young and currently junior government employee, but I foresee making my career in government long-term. Outside of work, my major hobby is writing. I know I’m unlikely to ever make a living writing (part of the reason I have my main career) but I’ve had some of my writing published in a few locations, and am starting to do what all new writers in my industry/genre must do, building up a body of work and other related published writing like reviews, essays, etc.

Currently this is all done under the same name I use at work, the name everyone knows me by. But the genre I write in (mostly speculative fiction) is a little weird. Think non-sexual but odd, including aliens and tentacle monsters and other strange elements of the genre (not serious literary fiction!). I’m starting to think about whether I should write under a pseudonym, or at least a name that isn’t immediately connected to me, like my middle name. I’m early enough in my writing career that it would be possible to change some of my published works to be under a new name and start networking and publishing under the new name, but it would have some negative impacts on my work short-term (like being less able to encourage friends to read or share my writing).

How likely is writing and being published in a kind of weird genre to negatively impact my “day job” career? What would be your advice?

If your writing was highly sexual, I might give you a different answer because we’re a prudish society, but with this stuff I think you’re fine continuing to use your real name. That’s especially true because you plan to build your career in government, where people do all sorts of weird things outside of work that aren’t allowed to be considered in government hiring; the government is very big on scoring you against a specific set of qualifications and not considering anything else.

4. Family noise when working from home due to quarantine

My husband’s workplace has a pretty flexible policy around working from home. All employees are set up with a laptop and phone immediately upon hire and permitted to work from home whenever possible (any time they’re not required for facetime with clients, to do on-site repairs, etc). One of the ironclad rules, though, is that there can be no background noise on phone calls.

I’m a freelancer and stay-at-home mom caring for our rambunctious toddler and our three-month-old puppy. Background noise is basically inescapable in our small house. We live in a rural area and my husband works a late shift; there aren’t many places I can take my child to keep her out of the house during his 3 pm – 2 am shift. His job in tech support requires a lot of unplanned phone calls. Nothing about our home situation is conducive to working from home, so he doesn’t do it! He goes into the office and the problem is solved.

At least until recently, when his workplace announced that any employee who travels outside the state must submit an application to HR detailing when and where they will be traveling, and be prepared to potentially be put in quarantine upon return. Employees will be required to work from home during that time or use PTO.

We have a vacation scheduled for next month. We are using five of his ten annual PTO days for the trip, and need to save the other five for accidents and family emergencies. That means, depending on what HR decides, he may be forced to work from home upon our return. We have no idea how to make that work. I can’t wander the streets with a toddler all night; sending him to a co-working space seems to defeat the entire purpose of quarantine. Obviously the area we’re planning to go has no current confirmed cases of COVID, but that could change at any time during the trip. Do we have to cancel our vacation? What can we do?

A reasonable employer will realize that ordering people to work from home temporarily means their working environment during that time may not be as ideal as during more routine work-from-home (such as when they’re doing it regularly or at their own request). That’s usually the case when people have to work from home because of, say, a bad snow storm, and ideally employers would understand it’ll be the case during coronavirus quarantines too.

For peace of mind, your husband could explain the situation to his boss now and talk about options, but I’d go into it with the mindset that this is an emergency situation, and emergency conditions apply.

5. My manager said something odd in my performance review

I just came out of my annual performance review. While mostly positive, my manager made a troubling statement which I’m trying to understand. Some background: I’m the only person at this manufacturing plant with my position, which is lab based. In addition to me, my manager directly oversees the engineers in the plant and has an engineering background.

After going through my accomplishments for the past year, we discussed my goals for this year. Completely normal stuff. There was one goal that is carrying over from last year which I was unable to complete due to waiting for another department to schedule training, which I expressed to him and he understood but said, “There are expectations because you know you get paid more than any of the engineers.”

I of course blew it in the moment and just said “okay” while my head was racing. I have no idea what any of engineers get paid! Plus we have completely different positions and levels of experience. Most of them are 1-3 years out of college and I have 15 years of experience. Does this mean he considers me overpaid? Am I on the short list for layoffs due to my cost? I’m honestly wracking my brain about why he would say this to me thinking it would have a positive spin.

From the context, I doubt he meant that he considers you overpaid or that you’re at the top of a layoff list. I only have limited info, but it sounds like he might have been saying, “I get that another department held this up, but you’re high enough level to do more to try to push it through.”

More importantly, though, when your boss says something that throws you into a tailspin and you don’t know what he meant, ASK!

It’s fine to go back to him and say, “I keep thinking about something you said in my performance review that I wasn’t sure how to interpret. When we were talking about how I wasn’t able to complete X last year, you said there are expectations for me because I get paid more than the engineers. Did you mean I should have done more to push X through? Or something else? It’s stuck with me and I realized I wasn’t fully sure if that’s what you meant.”

{ 427 comments… read them below }

  1. Ask a Manager* Post author

    I’ve removed a bunch of off-topic comments about people’s personal playlists and whether you personally would like working with music or in silence. Please stay on topic of advice for the letter-writers.

  2. It’s just another girl*

    LW4 – there are apps that reduce background noise on calls. Most of the people at my remote-only company use Krisp for this. That might help with common household noise.

    1. LW4*

      Would it work for things like barking, crying, and baby shrieks, though? It’s my understanding that those apps usually rely on patterns.

      1. C*

        I haven’t used to app, but am considering it. From what I understand, it relies on learning to recognize your voice and cancelling all other noises out. So it should be able to work on those things.

    2. Emma*

      It’s also worth, if you can, buying a decent headset for calls. A reasonably good quality mic will pick up sounds that are happening close to it, but won’t pick up background noise unless it’s very loud.

      The company might even pay for it, under the circumstances.

      1. Dimmie*

        Yeah, my understanding is that the more mics a headset has, the better they can distinguish between your voice and ambient noise to filter background and sort of triangulate on your voice. That’s why a lot of the expensive ones have 4x mics.

        I don’t know about baby shrieks or dogs barking or other really sharp cutting sounds, but they do work well for ambient noise or crowded areas so they’d likely improve the situation at home.

  3. Thaleia*

    LW#4: in addition to Alison’s excellent advice, your husband could buy a headset designed not to pick up background noise (and, I hope, get his company to pay for it).

      1. Diahann Carroll*

        I’m looking forward to this answer as well since my company does a ton of telework and video conferencing (minus the video) – you can hear everything in the background when they’re in one of our offices using their headsets. I want to be able to send a polite email to our IT team like, “Consider replacing all 3500+ employees’ headsets with these!” Lol.

      2. JKP*

        I’ve tested a lot of different headsets, and my S.O. basically works on his phone all day while out and about. We both found the Plantronic Voyager headsets to be the most effective at noise cancelling.

        1. LW4*

          Thanks! I have to say, though, I really hope we could get his company to pay for it if they accept this solution. I’m not sure we have that kind of money in our budget.

          1. JKP*

            You can’t hear the background noise of being in a coffee shop or walking through a grocery store or road noise in the car. But you can still hear the sudden sharp noise of a dog’s bark or a child’s shriek. I don’t know that there’s any headset that can cancel those kinds of noises.

              1. CmdrShepard4ever*

                I realize it might not be feasible for you for various reasons. But would it be possible to select a room in the house that can be his office when he works from home and take some small steps to sound proof the room. That combined with a better noise canceling headset could help. I know it might seem like a lot right now to only work from home for a few days, but if the solutions ends up working out, it could maybe lead to your husband being able to work from home more often even after the quarantine is done. Just throwing it out there, I know you said you can’t be out of the house during his whole 3pm to 2 am shift, but could you leave during part of his shift from 3pm to 5/6pm.

                Your situation might not be the kind of thing where there is one single solution that will solve it, but if you take multiple steps it could all combine to a solution that works for.

                1. Mama Bear*

                  I used to work from home with a small child. For calls it was usually sufficient to have her in the next room. If you are home and she’s in another room, her noises would at least be muffled. If she shrieks and anyone comments, he can rightfully say, “We are quarantined right now.” This thread makes me think of the guy whose kids barged into his home office while on a TV interview. Most people laughed about it later. We have a home office and that reduces household noise. Good luck.

              2. Sleve McDichael*

                LW4 I know I’m late so I really hope you see this, but you can buy unidirectional microphones!

                Look up cardioid microphone. My husband uses a Blue Yeti mike (I don’t know what brand mine is) and he and I will play online games in the same room talking to the same people, but my voice is only audible through my mike and the same for his, no echoes for the rest of our team. We had to buy a unidirectional mike for the purpose, but they exist and they work. If your husband was set up with a wall behind him covered with something soft to prevent reflections then a unidirectional mike will work just fine because it’s pickup pattern physically can’t catch what’s coming from the other side.

                I’m not associated with Yeti but the Blue mike has a choice of pickup patterns, so you can also use it as a normal mike. It’s quite expensive though, get his work to pay for it.

          2. Turtle Candle*

            Yeah, IME the good ones are pretty spendy. Your company might spring for it long term, but not if they’re thinking ‘a few weeks and this will blow over.’

      3. There's probably a cat meme to describe it*

        Not sure if it’s worth looking into, but I use a Rode SmartLAV for recording audio? (It is meant to be used with a smartphone, but for recordings not for phone calls, unless you have a separate headphone jack).

        If your husband’s calls are video/through a computer it could connect via a standard jack without losing your audio. No microphone will cut out every background noise, but I’ve compared what it captures to other recordings and it does a pretty good job considering. Plus, you could do a test recording with it ahead of time to hear how much background it picks up and play with the input levels.

        Another thing you could consider is an ambient loop of “office noise” playing loudly enough on a stereo in the background to drown out the toddler/puppy noise..?

        1. There's probably a cat meme to describe it*

          FWIW in case it’s useful OP4, out of curiosity I just did some tests with various microphones.

          I played a crying toddler loop on the speaker in the next room, which coincidentally set off the dogs next door – perfect. The standard earbud/microphone headset that came with my old phone actually worked pretty well, and did a reasonable job of muffling out most of it except for the really loud screams. I also did tests with playing an ambient office noise loop on a tablet, which I placed on the desk next to me. That helped a lot with masking the noise too.

    1. AcademiaNut*

      That was my first thought too. A good headset, tuck himself somewhere with a door that closes, and mute the microphone when he’s not talking.

      I often do telecons at odd hours, with international collaborators, and it’s not expected that you totally shut down your home life because of it. Having your toddler playing with your camera during a video call is not appropriate – a burst of background noise is reasonable given the situation. I would quickly apologize to customers if the noise intrudes – a “Sorry for the noise – I’m working from home due to coronavirus issues” is sufficient.

      1. Daffy Duck*

        Yup, a headset will cut out a lot of the background noise, especially if you can shut a door between his work station and the child/puppy. It might not get every single cry but it is a great improvement, I would think during a mandatory WFH situation the company would be OK.

      2. Avasarala*

        Yes. We also do calls at various hours due to time zone differences, and it’s just unreasonable to expect absolute silence in unusual circumstances like taking a call outside business hours due to time difference, or having to work from home as a social distancing measure due to a global health crisis.

        I would do whatever reasonable things you can to minimize noise (mute mic when not talking, use headphones instead of speakerphone etc) but if anyone gave me crap I’d say exactly what you said, OP: “Unfortunately my home situation is not ideal for working from home, so I usually go into the office and the problem is solved. But these are extraordinary circumstances, so this is the best I can do.”

        1. PNW Dweller*

          If the headphones work in a coffee shop, maybe your husband can work in a coffee shop until your child goes to bed? In those later hours when the world in general is quieter, presumably your dog is sleeping too? I don’t know if travel time can be accommodated but perhaps his boss would prefer to allow that than have the background noises of life.

          1. LW4*

            As I mentioned before, I’m a little concerned that sending him to a co-working space or public area sort of defeats the purpose of quarantine, and the nearest work-friendly coffee shops are about 45 minutes away from our home. In addition, my child and I currently live on the same schedule as my husband, so other than naps, she’s awake during the time that he works.

            1. AcademiaNut*

              And coffee shops aren’t optimal for work that involves a lot of phone conversations. Either it’s quiet enough to hear what you are doing, in which case you’re annoying everyone else, or it’s noisy enough that you aren’t bothering people, in which case background noise is a problem.

              I don’t know how big your home is, but one of the simplest things to do is put as much distance and as many doors between you as possible. So, say, you and the toddler downstairs, your husband upstairs in a room with the door closed. Of course, if you live in a one bedroom apartment this becomes much harder.

              1. LW4*

                We live in a small, one floor house, and the only space set up for a wired internet connection (which he has to have) is in the main part of the house. I’ll probably have to camp out with the child and dog in a bedroom for most of the day, which I’m dreading, but we still won’t be far enough away to hide much noise.

                1. Inara*

                  Can you get a wired connection to the bedroom setup? A desk in the bedroom with a wired connection so your husband can work in there and you and the kid can use the rest of the house would be more manageable in most cases, I think. Having more space and freedom to move around for the child may be helpful in limiting the impact on them, and in minimising noise and disruption from them going about their daily life.

                  But try not to worry, OP. The company would be highly unreasonable to expect the same standards from an employee who is under quarantine and working from home as an emergency measure as they normally would from an employee who is set up to WFH regularly as a part of their normal working routine. Your husband should have a conversation about this with his boss, as Alison suggests, but you shouldn’t expect to have to do anything extraordinary here.

                2. Carlie*

                  You can also get pads for under the door of the room he’s in. They’re like draft stoppers that slide in, but made of soundproofing material. An office at work got them and it was surprising how much sound had been coming through that little gap and how effective they were.

                3. Jules the 3rd*

                  Sounds like it might be time to rearrange your space and time.
                  – Can you run a wire from the main part of the house to a bedroom, short term? It’ll be ugly, but making it so that he can close a door will be really helpful.
                  – Can you and the kid shift your schedule by a couple of hours? You say you’re on his time, so I’m assuming kid’s sleep time is 2am – 12pm. Can you shift that to 12am – 10am without messing up spouse’s sleep too badly? Start winding down for bed at 10pm, and he’s got half a shift with minimal kid sounds.

                4. inoffensive nickname*

                  Is there a place in one of the bedrooms he could set up a small workspace? If he had a long patch cable, you could run it under the door. While it might not be optimal for the long term, if you can keep the puppy and little one from chewing on the cord, might work better than cooping yourself up in the bedroom.

                5. Case of the Mondays*

                  Also, I know this isn’t what you were asking but please talk to your pediatrician about having your child on your husband’s second shift work schedule. My parents did that to me as well and I had a very hard time adjusting to the normal life schedule when it was time to go to school. My body still prefers being up until 2 am and sleeping until at least 10 am and I have struggled mightily in the regular working world because of it.

                6. Competent Commenter*

                  LW4, have you tried white noise? (Sorry if this is suggested below and I missed it, I have to stop reading and get ready for work!) My family has long used an app on a spare phone, sometimes paired with a Bluetooth speaker, or a cheap white noise machine, to make our cramped living spaces “bigger,” that is, to allow people in adjacent rooms to watch tv and sleep as though those rooms were much farther apart. When I had an infant and a teenager in a small urban apartment it was crucial. Your husband would use the white noise within a few feet of him. Good luck, this situation sounds miserable! :(

                7. Emma*

                  An ethernet extender might be a good option if you want him to be able to work in another part of the house. I was in a similar position of needing a wired connection in a room other than the one where our internet hookup was, and it worked really well.

                8. Former prof*

                  Our kid was a drummer and we turned the living room into a music studio where he recorded. The rest of us survived by hanging industrial sound curtains on all the walls. Not the sound curtains you can buy on Amazon that look like drapes – these are heavy quilted panels that have grommets for hanging against the wall. They don’t completely soundproof but they do a surprisingly good job of deadening high frequency noise – like a dog bark or squealing kid (unfortunately for us it’s tough to stop that pounding bass). You could use them in either the room that dad works in or the room the kid plays in.

                9. Avasarala*

                  I don’t think you need to do backflips and magic tricks to make this work. It would be incredibly heartless of his company to say “work from home, and also silently quarantine”.

            2. JSPA*

              Depending on the climate, ambient noise and the comfort level of whatever car you might have, is working from the car an option for the earlier part of the evening? I’m assuming the kid is more likely to be quiet for longer periods at night. Not worth running the engine (and never sit in a running car in an enclosed space). But with a decent laptop battery, or the ability to run an extension cord, maybe a wifi booster if existing wifi and/ or 4G thru the phone are inadequate…it could work.

            3. Mockingjay*

              Keep in mind, most of your husband’s coworkers will be facing the same issues. There will be kids, pets, kitchen noises, TVs on their side as well. They’ll understand.

              It’s a temporary inconvenience. Get some headphones (even if company doesn’t pay for them, is probably worth a small investment), shut the door, and apologize if needed.

              1. Arts Akimbo*

                +1

                I feel like these WFH-due-to-quarantine issues are things people understand, and I really don’t think you need to stress out over the background noises too much. It will be very, very common and everyone will make allowances for occasionally hearing each other’s background toddlers and pets. We don’t need to pretend that we’re all in a regular office, since it is known we are doing our part for public health by working from home.

      3. BRR*

        Yup muting when not talking will help a lot. Maybe a video game headset since on a lot of them you can usually flip the mic up to mute it which for me would be easier than pressing a button. But I really think people will be more sympathetic during this time.

        1. Antilles*

          +1 on the video game headsets. The microphone is right in front of your mouth so you can lower the sensitivity enough that outside noises generally don’t come through, they’re typically noise canceling so your husband doesn’t get distracted from you, and they’re designed for comfort since they’re intended to be worn for hours at a time. For what your husband needs, you can easily get a functional set for $30 or less.

      4. Quill*

        Also soft furnishings – If you can throw a sheet over the doors in echoey areas of the house you can cut down on the less piercing child noises.

  4. Diahann Carroll*

    Re: OP # 2

    I…

    There are no words. Your boss needs to go back through your company’s harassment training ASAP.

      1. Ms. Ann Thropy*

        You beat me to that response! She’s not a regular boss, she’s a “cool” boss. Yikes.

        1. CmdrShepard4ever*

          IDK about worst boss of the year, after so many AAM bad boss stories “run of the mill” sexual harassment doesn’t cause a blip on my radar. I need a boss asking for an organ donation from their employees, or a boss tossing pee in the sink.

    1. Viette*

      Yeah! Maybe they need a special harassment training just for her.

      More seriously, though, I always worry about these letters where the writers sound lost and helpless — “I don’t know what to do” — in the face of things that are just so shockingly unprofessional and wrong. If HR was present and accessible in their workplace, and there were good professional boundaries with all the other senior managers, I figure the writers would see what they should do because they’d be in an environment where it’s clear that someone will step in when inappropriate stuff is happening. So I worry a little worry in my heart that their HR sucks or bad behavior gets swept under the rug or something is going on in the company culture that they don’t feel like they have that safety net or professional avenue to address what is outrageous, farcically bad behavior.

      I really hope OP’s office does have the right resources and that act. Please go to HR ASAP, OP.

      1. Diahann Carroll*

        So I worry a little worry in my heart that their HR sucks or bad behavior gets swept under the rug or something is going on in the company culture that they don’t feel like they have that safety net or professional avenue to address what is outrageous, farcically bad behavior.

        Sadly, I think this may be the case here because I would have immediately went to her manager and then HR if her manager didn’t deal with this. But then again, I work for sane people who would never do anything like this, and my company has been pretty good (so far) at enforcing HR policies – they just don’t seem to play with this stuff.

      2. valentine*

        they don’t feel like they have that safety net or professional avenue to address what is outrageous, farcically bad behavior.
        It’s more that it’s a colossal deal to be the one to speak up and “ruin it for everyone,” just as OP1 is afraid of. There will be at least one person who thinks the escalating nastiness is worth the perks. Even if HR gave the boss, say, two weeks to cut the crap, she could do a lot of damage in that time. Given that she harassed each employee in turn until they gave a number, will she likewise interrogate them until they give up a name or until OP2 confesses?

          1. WonderingHowIGotIntoThis*

            Oh, I interpreted that as meaning HR will be watching them like a hawk for two weeks and if it happened during that probationary period they’d be fired?

            1. Beatrice*

              I think it’s more of a “if we ever get wind of anything remotely sexually inappropriate again, you’re done.”

              The company has an obligation to react to sexual harassment when they are aware it’s happening. Having an incident reported, and then having the behavior repeated by the same perpetrator is a huge liability. Limiting themselves to terming only during a probation period or only for a certain type of inappropriate sexual behavior would not be wise. (That’s another reason why it’s important to talk to HR about inappropriate stuff when you see it at work. Sometimes the person has already had a warning.)

              1. valentine*

                HR will be watching them like a hawk for two weeks and if it happened during that probationary period they’d be fired?
                More that employers who value terrible people are highly unlikely to fire them anytime soon, plus, even if she stops the sex talk, there’s the favoritism to tackle, so, two weeks is the minimum I expect OP2 will have to suffer this weirdo.

        1. Viette*

          That’s what I mean! What I mean is: I worry the work environment is like you describe: toothless HR with dumb policies that allow ongoing harassment, individual interrogations and bullying, retaliation, other employees who take advantage of favoritism and harassment, etc. I agree, that does sound like what the OP is scared of, and it makes me a bit concerned that OP’s workplace is overall a nasty/dysfunctional culture.

          I sure as heck don’t blame any of the letter writers for it; it’s not their fault if their workplace isn’t enforcing professional behavior and protecting them from harassment.

          This manager is so incredibly inappropriate and terrible that any sane workplace would not want her acting like that. If the OP had seen HR do good work to maintain appropriate workplace behaviors before, I’d hope they would just be thinking, “this is completely deranged; I’m going to HR right now and they’ll fix it.”

        2. PNW Dweller*

          Yeah. I work in HR. I would connect with that manager’s manager ASAP outline a plan and deal with it before the office closed for the day. In my opinion, this manager lacks leadership qualities. Of course it needs to be investigated, but if true, this would end in a term. Regardless of the amount of alcohol involved, the thought process of a leader asking direct reports about sexual partners and preferences shows extreme lack of judgment and obvious sexual harassment. Unless you’re on the production/creative team in the pornography or sex toy industries? I recently had to deal with my mom being in the hospital. She introduced her (male) nurse as : This is my nurse. Isn’t he good looking? I awkwardly giggled. Then felt stupid because of my profession and tried to address it by saying something like, we should probably focus on his skills rather than his appearance. After he left I explained to her about workplace harassment. She said understood and agreed, but as her health crashed (she’s fine now) she stubbornly said ‘we’ll, it’s not like I want to marry you’ and then I had to explain to him what she was talking about. All that to say your initial reaction is very human. We are trained from a young age to respect our elders and leaders; but her behavior is destructive and, left unchecked, will create a very unhealthy culture.

          1. whingedrinking*

            Unless you’re on the production/creative team in the pornography or sex toy industries?
            Even in those industries I think you’d have a complete right to keep your sexual history to yourself.

          2. MCMonkeyBean*

            Asking at all is really bad judgment, but booing at people who are uncomfortable with the question until they feel like they have to answer it should definitely be a fireable offense imo.

      3. Sssssssssssssssssssssssssssssssss*

        In my workplace, it was rumoured that it was the HR director herself that was wildly inappropriate. It was clear she already had her favourites (smoking buddies) and favourable job placements were being given to the same people. Then, at a very large event, apparently she went right off the rails. So far off the rails that she was sent home and never seen in the office again and gee, this fellow is now acting in her position. She still has not been replaced.

        I only hope the HR for OP2 is good.

        1. There’s probably a cat meme to describe it*

          This makes me think of the story where the woman got so shitfaced at the work event that she flashed her boobs from the balcony and managed to get one stuck on frozen metal handrail.

          Though technically I guess, that would be classified as firmly stuck ON the rails, not going off the rails.

      4. Shad*

        Some of that apparent helplessness might also come from sheer dumbfounded disbelief that someone could be so far beyond normal limits of behavior. It could feel like normal avenues for response are inadequate.

      5. new in academia*

        I wonder if LW works in an industry known for having more blurred boundaries on this front, like hospitality or even TV production. I was office staff at the restaurant of a famous chef (pre-#MeToo) and looking back now there was so much that went down that was just..not okay. I went out drinking with my boss on more than a handful of occasions and engaged in conversations that make me cringe now.

      6. Jojo*

        Correct. How many people have i slept with? I have not counted. One thing i do know. You where not one of them so it is none of your business.
        And this is definitely sexual harassment and quid pro qou. Talk to HR.

    2. WoodswomanWrites*

      Incredible. This person needs to be terminated pronto. Behavior like this has already crossed a line that can’t be undone. She has an alcohol abuse issue as well as no judgement about appropriate boundaries.

      OP, what is the HR set-up at your job? Is there a formal HR department you can complain to that will be your advocate here? It’s hard to imagine that you are the only person on your team who finds this behavior offensive.

    3. I Wrote This in the Bathroom*

      And she ties happy hour attendance to people’s flex time and WFH time! I don’t say this very often, but this person is in no way qualified to be a manager. Maybe there’s something else she’s good at, I don’t know. But she can.not.manage.people.

      1. Gazebo Slayer*

        She reminds me of the OP who wanted to fire the older employee whom she made babysit the office while OP and her friends went to the brewery.

        1. Librarian of SHIELD*

          Me too. It seems like she wants her job to be a a stereotypical movie representation of sorority life. There’s no way that any of this is okay.

          1. Happily self employed*

            There was a nonprofit in my area doing stuff like this. The CEO was the party girl bully, and at least one victim filed a claim with the EEOC and got a settlement.

      2. Jennifer Juniper*

        I’m guessing any jobs she’d be good at are illegal or not suited for description in the family paper.

    4. EPLawyer*

      Not go back to harassment training — demoted. They are clearly not cut out to be a manager. Overdrinking at team building happy hours (doesn’t sound like there are any other team building activities either, not even the dreaded physical activity ones), playing favorites based on who shows up after hours (these ARE after hours right?) to these drinking sessions. Then the overtly sexual comments.

      This is someone who was promoted waaaaay over her abilities to actually manage people.

    5. Threeve*

      One really important thing that people struggle with: just because you laughed at the milder jokes doesn’t mean you have to accept the escalation in inappropriateness.

      It’s a defense that people who are “joking around” like this will use, so be prepared–“nobody was offended before. This person actually laughed! Maybe they’re really upset about something else, and this is just an excuse to get me in trouble.”

      But:
      Chuckling at A doesn’t mean you have to shrug off Ax20.
      Sometimes someone shuffling vaguely towards the line won’t bother you, but it doesn’t mean you have to tolerate the actual line-crossing.

      1. Diahann Carroll*

        All of this. Not to mention that nervous laughter is A Thing. I know I do it, so just because I laughed at something doesn’t mean I think it’s funny, I could just be very uncomfortable.

        1. Allypopx*

          Particularly when there are power dynamics at play and you’re trying to save face. But also just because social situations can be hard to navigate.

      2. Artemesia*

        And if they throw that at you, you calmly say ‘well, I was shocked when Manager made these inappropriate jokes, but laughed nervously because, well she is my manager and I have seen how she plays favorites. But when the dirty jokes escalated to being interrogated about how many sex partners and what sex activities I enjoyed — well, of course that is not something we should have to live with. I had no choice at that point but to come to HR.’

        By being calm and ‘reasonable’ you help belie the defensiveness of defending your own behavior. Her behavior is clearly egregious — it cannot be waved away as ‘sense of humor’ or ‘just a joke’.

      3. emmelemm*

        Totally. There’s also the “straw that breaks the camel’s back” effect. At a job long ago, when I was young, I worked with a couple of guys who just low key harassed me constantly with comments like “She’s our little hot tamale!” Stuff like that. For a long time, I just ignored it because, what am I going to do about it really, and “it wasn’t THAT bad”. But after 1,000 comments like that, number 1,001 suddenly puts it into the “Wait, this is NOT OK” category.

      4. Cercis*

        I was actually told once that if I didn’t verbally object to a coworker rubbing my shoulders the first time it happened, I couldn’t report him. MAYBE, they said, if I objected loudly multiple times and he didn’t stop, I could report him, but just shrugging his hands off and leaving the room wasn’t enough. Which, I almost agree with but 1)he was much stronger than me and 2)he only did it when we were in the breakroom alone (ie, no one else around and not close enough to hear me tell him off unless I really and truly yelled because of the set up). So I took to leaving the breakroom when he walked in, even if I wasn’t in there alone because I just didn’t trust my coworkers not to leave me alone.

        Eventually someone did report him and we got the official word that it was our responsibility to tell him to his face to stop touching us and that we shouldn’t report him if we hadn’t talked to him first. That was literally the official line, but apparently he got the message because he didn’t touch any of us again and was never alone in the break room with us.

        1. Candi*

          If you’re in the US, that’s NOT what the EEOC site says at all. My guess is they were making up crap so they didn’t have to deal with the jerk.

          I doubt it was ignorance from what you describe. Mostly a gut feeling.

    6. Zennish*

      Actually, to me this seems like such bad judgement and boundaries that I think it’s in the “should be fired yesterday” category, although maybe it’s an industry where the overall picture is less extreme? I’m not sure harassment training would cover the wide range of underlying issues that this displays.

    7. Quill*

      Honestly given that there’s both sexual harassment and favoritism, I feel like that would be a pit stop on her way to the door.

    8. Salty Caramel*

      Some people think being deeply personal is a way of bonding.

      Some people have fetishes. This boss strikes me as either having one or looking for fantasy fodder.

      Regardless, eww.

    9. embarrassed strawberry without seeds*

      I asked my boss how many people they slept with but I needed to know that b/c we were sleeping together.

      Sorry bad joke.

    10. prismo*

      This literally sounds like a hypothetical situation from a sexual harassment training. (Not that I’m questioning the OP, just pointing out that this has all the elements.)

    11. some dude*

      A company in my industry had a #Metoo-inspired change of leadership, and the worst offender was a woman. I know men are far more likely to be harassers, but I think it is a useful reminder that women can also abuse their power.

      1. Chinookwind*

        In some industries that are male heavy but there is a push to be more female friendly, I have seen women say things that would get a guy fired and the guys she said it to did not know how to react (except for later mentioning that that comment would have gotten them fired). I have to point out to the guys that they have a right and obligation to speak up because I knew their (male) boss will take it seriously if any colleague, male or female, is creating an uncomfortable environment. Ironically, said female later filed a sexual harassment claim against the company when she was laid off which was investigated by the labour board and cleared us from blame (except to update our sexual harrassment training).

      2. Gazebo Slayer*

        Yeah, I’m thinking of the female founder of Thinx, who acted like this (plus groping and propositioning employees for threesomes).

    12. RC Rascal*

      My thought on this is that Boss is searching for some sexual partners. I also wonder if Boss is sleeping with someone else higher up at the company. Wasn’t this part of the dynamic of the famous Duck Club; there was a high level participant in the hi-jinks?

      This is baldfaced sexual harassment, and most companies would shoot this down immediately. Most people wouldn’t have to even ask as to how to get this to stop; it would be obvious where to go. ( I am referencing the thinking up-thread that the culture must be very dysfunctional for OP2 not to be sure how to address this; IMO this thinking is probably correct)

  5. Heidi*

    For LW3, I’m not sure I understand why having a pseudonym means they can’t share their writing with friends. It doesn’t have to be a secret from everyone, does it? People know what John le Carre’s real name is, after all. The pseudonym would just be to keep work separate from the writing.

    1. Diahann Carroll*

      Yup, that’s what mine is for. My friends knew what my pen name was and read some of my stuff, but I had it for plausible deniability purposes (I write really graphic pulp fiction and horror in addition to fluffy, comical YA stuff under my real name) – I worked for really conservative companies and just didn’t want to deal with people’s judgment if they stumbled upon the NSFW stuff.

      1. OP3*

        I’d be really interested in how you managed the logistics of it! When you started out writing, did you start out using your pen name from the word go? As I’ve been considering it, the part I actually find the hardest to decide over is when and how I should make the “switch over”!

        (I don’t necessarily think having a pen name means I can’t share with friends all the time, it just is a small stumbling block to name recognition etc. Not a big stumbling block, but one all the same, especially as I start to network more and more)

        1. EPLawyer*

          Terry Pratchett worked for the Central Electicity Board when he first started writing. He used his real name. Never hurt him any. He had dragons and demons from the dungeon dimensions in his first books (and well later books too).

        2. Amy Sly*

          I would suggest looking at the posts at MadGeniusClub.com tagged pen names. (Actually, I suggest every aspiring writer to read that blog.) There are plenty of reasons to use pseudonyms for writing, only one of which is to prevent feedback in your regular job. If you work in multiple genres, you can benefit from having separate names and personae, like when J.K. Rowling wanted to write something that wasn’t Harry Potter. If it’s something your family might not want to be associated with and your surname is less than common, having a pen name can help protect them. If you have a publisher, they may want you to have pen names to disassociate yourself from a flopped book. Heck, if you become wildly popular, you may want a pen name just to keep rabid fans from being able to figure out where you live!

          It’s no big deal. One of favorite authors writes hard sci-fi, urban fantasy, cozy mysteries, and historically set fantasy and horror, and until she got to the point where she could make her living off indie publishing, she used different pen names for each. (She even has two other “closed” pen names for other genres, though the whole point of it being closed is that even her fans don’t know what name she’s using for those other books.) In fact, I sometimes wonder if the reason George R.R. Martin is taking so long with the next Song of Ice and Fire is that he’s been writing under a pen name because he’s sick of Westeros.

          1. Alli525*

            OT, but I doubt Martin is publishing anything these days, even under a pseudonym – someone would have noticed the unique writing style of the Charles Dickens of Fantasy.

            I like a particular author’s werewolf books, and apparently she has a pseudonym for EACH of the genre she writes in – i.e. the name I know is only for her supernatural romances, but she also writes mysteries. detective novels, general fiction, etc. I think that might be a bit much, but I definitely see the benefit of a pseudonym because people can be such snobs about fiction.

            1. Paulina*

              I’ve heard some writers discuss their use of different pen names in different genres, and the main issue they cited was the need to separate out the expectations (both of readers and of publishers). If their work in genre A was likely to do $x in sales, and their work in genre B was likely to do $y in sales, with x very different from y with a significantly different readership, then the use of different names helped keep the expectations separate (and potentially preserving the more lucrative deal for the higher-selling pseudonym). In some cases alternate pseudonyms are very well known to be the same author (one was a recent Jeopardy clue!), so for those it’s really just about classification.

            2. Amy Sly*

              And even if it’s not “oh, I’ll never read any of author’s work because she writes in that genre” snobbery, there’s also issues of brand confusion. You buy a Stephanie Meyer book, you expect teenage vampires. If it’s a western about a wagon train, the Twilight fans will probably be disappointed and the western fans will probably never read it.

              GM has Chevrolet, Buick, GMC, and Cadillac (and used to have Pontiac, Oldsmobile, and Saturn, among others) — they’re all GMs, made with the same base materials, but each is targeted toward a specific market. Same idea applies to authors as well.

              1. TardyTardis*

                I will have a different name for my Western books than what I have for fantasy and Regency romance (though fantasy and Regency romance have mixed well at times, not yet for me). The trick is to write *really clear* book descriptions).

        3. Diahann Carroll*

          Hi OP! To answer your question, I did start with my pen name right off the bat. When I started publishing, I worked at a law firm in a very customer-facing position with banks as our clients, so I really didn’t want to risk one of the bank reps seeing my (admittedly very common) name all the time on work-related matters and then stumbling onto my darker stuff and putting two and two together (my author bio at the time gave a lot of clues about where I was based).

          Now, since I was self-publishing a lot of this material (while also going the traditional publishing route for more serious work), I didn’t want to have to also manage two websites, two Twitter book accounts, etc. – that would have taken up entirely too much time that I didn’t have at that stage in my career (I was working 60 hour weeks at the day job). So I made one author website, one Twitter account, and posted news about my books and what I was writing in the third person to make it sound like there was someone else running these things and talking about these two separate and distinct authors they helped publish. I’m sure with some snooping, interested parties could figure out that I was behind the sites and the writer personas, but again – it was more about just giving an air of plausible deniability if someone at work asked me about it. I could point to the website and say, “Nope – not me, as you can see from that third-person narrative post.” Lol.

          I’m now in a less conservative industry, and I still do the pen name thing because I’ve come to like having my two personas separated and not having my YA fans, who sometimes skew young (too young for some of the pulp and horror fiction I write IMO), stumbling upon my darker stuff in their recommended reading algorithms on various book platforms.

        4. WantonSeedStitch*

          I feel like you could switch anytime. If you have private social media (like a FB page that’s entirely friends-only), you could use that to announce your new pen name to your friends, so they’ll know how to find your new work. I have friends who are published authors who have written under multiple pen names, and because they’re open about those names on their FB page, I can find them easily.

          For the record, your stories sound delightfully Lovecraftian, and I bet I would enjoy the heck out of them!

        5. FannishPseudonym*

          I made the switch from real name to pseud when I switched the platform where I posted. If anything else goes up in the new place or elsewhere, I just change the old name when it gets reposted.

        6. Quill*

          OP: please note that not everyone’s pseudonym status is entirely their choice. Sometimes a publisher will decide your legal name isn’t distinct enough to be easily searchable (or doesn’t seem to fit genre convention in what it implies about you) or if you publish a book and it flops they may suggest that you essentially start your publication record over with a pseudonym (Or a new pseudonym…)

          Best of luck! (And if you lurk scifi and fantasy publishing twitter… see you soon under another name. :) )

          1. Amy Sly*

            I’ve joked that should try selling my fantasy writing, I should go with A.R.R. [Sly]. If it’s good enough for Martin and Tolkien, why not? And those really are my initials. :)

            1. Quill*

              I have decent first initials to go the traditional “lady writes fantasy, here have two initials and a lastname” route and a pretty unusual last name. So that’s probably what I’ll do.

      1. Chinookwind*

        Just remember that the pseudonym you thought was funny at 20 may not age well when you are 40. Just ask the band of 40 year old Bare Naked Ladies who rebranded themselves as BNL a few years back.

        1. ThatGirl*

          Barenaked Ladies have always used BNL for short – but they have never stopped being Barenaked Ladies. (they have an app called Barenaked Bytes for example)

    2. Avasarala*

      I also don’t think that genre fiction is so scandalous nowadays that you need to keep it a secret from your day job. Genre fiction is having its heyday right now. Game of Thrones, Star Trek, Star Wars, all the comic book movies, (the Expanse…), plus there are some horror/dark stories that have hit mainstream popularity as well (Get Out, Welcome to Night Vale…)

      If you don’t want to use a pen name, I don’t see any reason to.

      The only suggestion I would make is not to call them “tentacle monsters” because I definitely had the instinctive reaction of “oh no, not those tentacle monsters, please use a pen name and lock that down” and then turns out that’s not what you write. I’d call them “monsters” or “kraken” etc when you’re explaining it to people and want to evoke Lovecraft rather than gross internet.

      1. Uldi*

        “Eldritch horror” or even more popularly “Lovecraftian horror” are the terms I most often see for that particular genre.

        Also, it irks me to see writers putting down their own works because it isn’t “literary fiction”. So what? It’s not like literary fiction is innately superior in conveying meaning or themes (no matter what the literary snobs tell you).

        ~clamps down before going on a rant~

        Keep writing what you enjoy.

        1. Scarlet2*

          I often see it called “cosmic horror” these days.
          Anyway, I too don’t understand why the pen name would be a problem for LW’s friends. Just tell them your pen name, and that’s it.

          1. Quill*

            Cosmic Horror is actually my favorite type of horror.

            Partially because hey, the incomprehensible things that want me dead are much easier to separate from the real world.

            Partially because of the extra Schadenfreude rush that whenever a woman, queer person, or person of color writes it we’re spitting on Lovecraft’s grave copiously, which is always satisfying.

          1. Fikly*

            So many of the books regarded as “classics” today were looked down on when they were originally published because they were for the masses.

      2. Mookie*

        Something about “tentacle monsters” in the context of this sober, advice-seeking letter cracks me up, but it’s true that most people will assume pr0n unless, as you say, the description goes a little deeper.

        1. Corporate Goth*

          Lw3, I’m a govvie & writer but older. Consider whether you would want your future employees making fun of your writing (regardless of its quality, because I’m sure it’s awesome!). They will.

          And you may not expect to go into management now – I didn’t have the slightest inclination originally.

          Worked with a very senior SES type who LARP’d. Didn’t matter whether he was good at his job from some lower GS employees.

          (And you might switch if you ever explored a new genre anyway. Or could do “LW3 writing as Letter Writer 3.”)

          1. Red Reader the Adulting Fairy*

            Yep – Seanan McGuire got her start in urban fantasy and switches to her pen name, Mira Grant, for her post apocalyptic thrillers and eldritch horror.

            1. Musereader*

              James Oliver Rigney JR = Robert Jordan = Regan O’Neal
              Robin Hobb =Megan Lindholm
              Sally Gardener = Wray Delaney
              James Tiptree = Alice Sheldon
              Valery Leith = Tricia Sullivan
              James S A Corey = Daniel Abraham and Ty Franck
              J D Robb = Nora Roberts
              Katherine Addison = Sarah Monette
              Issac Asimov=Paul French
              JK Rowling = Robert Galbraith
              John Wyndham = Lucas Parkes
              I could go on but you get the point, pen names abound and they don’t have to be secret

              1. The Gollux, Not a Mere Device*

                Both “Robin Hobb” and “Katherine Addison” are pen names that were adopted to get around bookstore ordering algorithms, because unless someone was wildly successful, the chain stores would order fewer and fewer of each succeeding book. These aren’t exact numbers, but: If you sold 40,000 copies of book 1, they’d order 35,000 copies of book 2, and if 34,000 of those sold the software would cut the order for book 3 to 30,000.

                So it’s absolutely fine for Sarah’s friends, neighbors, and readers to know that she’s now publishing as Katherine Addison, because that information doesn’t get fed into the artificial stupidity at Barnes and Noble.

            2. draftXdiva*

              You just made my life. Seanan McGuire is my favorite urban fantasy and why I love the genre and I had no idea she had another name in other genres I love.

          2. Policy Wonk*

            + 1 I agree. My agency is rather stuffy, and people can be very judgmental. As you climb the ladder people will Google you before meeting you. If your fiction comes up it could make them take you less seriously. (And I agree with other posters that this gives you the opportunity to pick a really cool pen name!)

          3. Smithy*

            I agree with this.

            I work in nonprofits, where as generically liberal as they are – people certainly show up at work with their own preconceived notions about “culture fit”, who’s cool, who’s “different” for our work and all that. Where I am, there’s often an assumption that people who in their free time have a band, paint, write – or other creative endeavors – might rather be pursuing that as a career and would drop this job immediately if that became a possibility.

            Basically, this way LW3 is not at the mercy of a random coworker who may Google their colleagues in their downtime for fun and controls how the information is shared.

            1. Corporate Goth*

              Right. Perceptions can matter, and you don’t want to lose credibility because someone else is a jerk.

              And if it does happen, may you be the next JK Rowling.

    3. Obscure Relic*

      I agree, Heidi. It doesn’t have to be a secret. For example, Stacey Abrams has written romance novels as Selena Montgomery, and she’s open about it. It’s not because she’s embarrassed or secretive, it’s just logistical.

    4. I'm just here for the cats*

      I have a former coworker who is a writer who has her real name and her writing name. Even on her social media she uses her writing name. I was a little confused because I had seen her at work(different department) and was introduced to her at a writing workshop not related to work. K thought her pen name was her real name until someone mentioned at work and it clicked! But for people who know you already, just say your choosing a pen name, you can find me under xyz name now

  6. Elspeth Mcgillicuddy*

    #3. You should write under a pseudonym, because pen names are awesome. I will probably never write, but I’ve had my pen name picked out for YEARS.

    1. Maria Lopez*

      Yes. Stephen King had three pseudonyms, Richard Bachman, John Swithen, Beryl Evans. Bachman actually has his own Wikipedia page outlining the reasons for the pseudonyms, and King even used a photo of his literary agent instead of himself.
      Pen names are so common that I think it would be fun to use one, since it would be your own naming of yourself. Then if you get ridiculously famous you can out yourself.

    2. Hiring Mgr*

      Speaking of writers, your name reminded me of writer Elspeth Eric….which I don’t think was a pseudonym

    3. Quill*

      My highly googleable name is going, in some form, on my published work if I can manage it, largely because many of my writing accomplishments are founded in spite and there are people who I want to KNOW that I ‘made it’ despite their disparaging ideas about my gender and my genre. :)

      1. Arts Akimbo*

        I am so with you there, Quill! There was a guy in my dojo who literally laughed in my face every day after he heard I wanted to do book cover illustration. He would find some excuse to bring it up and laugh at me about it Literally. Every. Day. I relish every credit to my name, knowing that a mutual friend at that school sees them all and can tell Jerkface McBlackbelt all about them! Hey, it’s not the only reason I illustrate, but it sure is a nice perk!

  7. Maria Lopez*

    OP2- Your manager has a serious problem with alcohol. I wonder if she even remembers most of what she did and said the next day. You don’t really say how she acts at work, so I am assuming she is not wildly inappropriate. That would be important information to have when you go to HR.
    Also, I assume these happy hours are in public places. You could ask someone not associated with your work to film what is going on and send it to her. She is actually lucky someone has not already uploaded her behavior to a public site.
    In the future, if you feel you must attend these gatherings, have some one-liners to snap back. For example, if she asks how many sex partners you have had you can always say you are saving yourself for marriage (even if you’re already married), and then excuse yourself to go to the restroom.

    1. Avasarala*

      I don’t know why people always jump to “film it, that’ll show them.” And I don’t know anyone who goes to YouTube to watch strangers ask each other personal questions. OP could just go to HR without film footage and it would be just as effective and much less weird.

      1. Maria Lopez*

        If the manager doesn’t really know how she is acting (and I don’t think she remembers much of these happy hours, or remembers them accurately) it could be instructive for her to watch herself while she is sober. I wasn’t suggesting that the OP take the video to HR. It’s possible that if she sees herself while she is sober she just might change her behavior.
        There are also many sites other than Youtube that millions of people frequent, so if a poster has a large following, say on Instagram, many people will see the video without looking for it.

        1. Scarlet2*

          @Maria Lopez So you really expect someone to feel like they’ve been “instructed” by a video covertly recorded by a total stranger? If it were me, I’d be totally freaked out that some creep has been recording me and I’d be too busy calling the cops to reflect on my behaviour in the video. What a weird solution to suggest when the obvious (as well as moral and LEGAL) way to proceed is to just go to HR and complain about the boss’s behaviour…
          Also, the favouritism displayed by the boss is something that cannot be “explained away” by any drinking problem she might or might not have, so what you’re suggesting is not just inappropriate, but also quite useless (not to mention risky for the LW if anyone found out she was responsible for recording her boss).

        2. Book Badger, Attorney-at-Claw*

          “If the manager doesn’t really know how she is acting (and I don’t think she remembers much of these happy hours, or remembers them accurately) it could be instructive for her to watch herself while she is sober. I wasn’t suggesting that the OP take the video to HR. It’s possible that if she sees herself while she is sober she just might change her behavior.”

          1. It’s not OP2’s job to make her manager change her behavior; that’s on the manager, whomever she reports to, and HR.
          2. If the manager is getting black-out drunk at these events to the point that she cannot remember what happens at them, that is in itself a problem for HR, and again not one for OP2 to deal with.
          3. I doubt being drunk somehow totally changes manager’s behavior to the point that she becomes a completely different person, like Dr. Jekyll and Mr. Hyde. Given that attendance at these happy hours is tied to perks at work, that indicates at the very least that the manager doesn’t have good judgement, and it just gets worse when she’s drunk.

        3. Avasarala*

          So your suggestion is to have an associate of OP’s secretly film them while OP lures her out to capture more inappropriate comments (which requires OP sitting through them again), and then sharing the video with an influencer on Instagram in order to shame her publicly, while OP shares the video with her (or hopes that someone who knows her also follows the influencer on Instagram and shares it with her), and then the manager will snap out of it and realize she’s been inappropriate and change?

          Or instead of writing a sitcom script, OP could just go to HR, report verbally what has happened, and let them deal with it, as well as push back in the moment with their boss if they feel comfortable. No need to rope in associates and social media and the scarlet letter. Just be clear and direct and swift.

      2. valentine*

        You could ask someone not associated with your work to film what is going on and send it to her.
        No. This is a massive escalation that would make OP2 look like a weirdo.

      3. Antilles*

        Also, I’d guess that anybody who *does* go to YouTube to watch this sort of stuff would be a lot more interested in the actual answers than in blaming the slightly pushy friend. And uh oh, the kind of horrific comments that would show up if any of the people answering the “tell me your number” question were female.

    2. Scarlet2*

      I don’t think the boss’s supposed drinking problem is any of LW’s business. It’s not useful to speculate on this and I really don’t believe it’s LW’s place to mention this to HR. The issue here is that the boss’s behaviour is completely inappropriate and also that she’s treating her subordinates differently based on whether they go out drinking with her. Period.

      Besides, filming her without her consent is a violation and possibly illegal. Arranging for someone else to send her a video taken without her knowledge would just ensure LW is now in the wrong too and could possibly land them in a lot of trouble. I don’t think what you propose is appropriate at all and I’m not even sure what the point would be. Do you seriously believe she’s going to go “oh well, I guess I should stop asking personal questions to my subordinates, lesson learned, thank you stranger who filmed me without my consent!”?

    3. Gazebo Slayer*

      “Does a tentacle monster count as a partner? Or more than one partner?”

      (I just had to cross those over.)

      1. Marthooh*

        “Well, with a tentacle monster, you really can’t do oral without involving a ‘hand’ job, so…”

    4. Chinookwind*

      “you can always say you are saving yourself for marriage (even if you’re already married), and then excuse yourself to go to the restroom.”

      Umm…from personal experience, that response can backfire harder than a “no comment” or “why would you ask that.” I have found that those who ask that type of question do not think highly of those who are virgins or with very low numbers.

      1. EPLawyer*

        No comment or none of your business is the only appropriate response to that question from someone you do not choose to have that conversation with.

        If the manager has a problem with alcohol, she should not be having happy hours. Her problem or not with alcohol is not for LW to address. Her problem is the incredibly inappropriate behavior by a manager and how it affects her department. The solution is not filming and trying to get the manager to see the error of her ways, its going to HR ASAP. If the manager wishes to use an alcohol problem as her excuse, then HR can address that with the manager.

        1. Richard Hershberger*

          Me being me, I would probably go with some wildly implausibly high number, as in Wilt Chamberlain numbers. This is one way to diffuse the question. Of course I am a guy, and the rules are different.

          1. Gazebo Slayer*

            I feel like even for a woman, Wilt Chamberlain numbers would be so obviously fake that it would come across as a joke as intended.

      2. Quill*

        “None – none of your business, that is.”
        “I don’t kiss and tell.”

        Those are the only two answers I can think of that don’t involve profanity…

        (Based on that atmosphere virgin shaming and slut shaming are equally likely, so OP, remember the breakfast club: if you answer, you loose, because if you’ve had sex you’re a slut, if you haven’t, you’re a prude.)

        1. Lora*

          Definitely see Blackadder for profanity-free insult options, though the one that leaps to mind is General Melchett’s “Don’t be REVOLTING, man!” Though in real life I would probably just stare, horrified, making some sort of I’m-about-to-barf-on-your-shoes type face until the awkwardness grew painful for everyone.

          The only people I know who actually keep count are like, my ex and that one weird sex education teacher in high school health class who makes everyone pass a pre-licked unwashed Oreo around the classroom to demonstrate why you should never ever Do It (I hope they don’t still teach sex ed like this but they probably do, somewhere). But I don’t know why that’s thing you’d want to aspire to. It’s sort of advertising that you’re an insecure weirdo of some flavor.

      3. Jennifer Juniper*

        And I’m guessing that the manager would use any number higher than zero to slut-shame as well if she doesn’t like you, right?

  8. voyager1*

    LW1: Going to disagree with AAM. I could totally see the music being turned off altogether and it not being an overreaction. Back about 6-7 years ago I worked at a bank where there were TVs in the branches. The branch locations controlled the TVs. When Fox News was on people complained. When the branches changed it to CNN people complained. People complained about ESPN even. I remember suggesting they try HGTV or Weather Channel. They tried HGTV and people complained. Finally upper level management took control of the TVs away from the branches and now they air advertisements for the bank. The complaints were absolutely nonstop as they were ridiculous example “HGTV was promoting a gay lifestyle” was the complaint against that channel. ESPN got complaints about it being activists or some such.

    At some point people will just say forget it and turn the music off… it is not worth the hassle.

    1. Ask a Manager* Post author

      We don’t disagree. My point was that if they’ve had other complaints, they might just turn it off, but then that wouldn’t be about the OP’s request alone; it would be about the totality of the complaints. If there haven’t been other complaints, then turning it off solely because of a request to keep it secular would be an overreaction.

      1. voyager1*

        Oh crap, sorry, I meant to write I agree. Blame it on a moment of insomniac brain.

        I was just giving an example of how weird these kinds of situations can be with TV/radio disagreements can evolve.

      2. Clementine*

        Then the question is whether the OP would rather have music he likes 4 days a week, and the justified annoyance 1 day a week, or no music 5 days a week. It doesn’t matter whether it’s the OP’s “fault” or not.

        1. BrotherFlounder*

          If OP’s complaint is the straw the breaks the camel’s back, odds are good that someone else is also going to complain at some point.

        2. Senor Montoya*

          Playing religious music all day long is not just an annoyance, though. It’s a genuine problem in a secular office.

          1. Curmudgeon in California*

            It would drive me out of the building:
            A) I’m a member of a minority religion, and I would consider it to be hostility toward me.
            B) Even when I was Christian, I couldn’t stand that sappiness level
            C) My job is not a worship service, period.

            Seriously, I can’t stand that kind of music. I would rather listen to crappy pickup bands in any secular genre practice, complete with missed notes, than hear that all day.

    2. Sheworkshardforthemoney*

      My local branch plays nature and/or fishing shows with the volume off and subtitles on.

      1. Third or Nothing!*

        That sounds delightful. I wish my office would turn the news off and switch to something more peaceful like nature documentaries.

    3. Anonny*

      Owning a nice home is gay now. Good to know.

      Was the weather channel part of the homosexual agenda too? :P

      1. I Wrote This in the Bathroom*

        Of course it was, what with all the extreme weather and the climate changes being god’s punishment for accepting the gay lifestyle /s /s /s

        1. Hiring Mgr*

          I’m sure plenty of people are now making the same “arguments” on the origin of Corona

          1. Stormy Weather*

            Idiots abound. I have seen this from religious ‘leaders’ I wish would retire into obscurity.

      1. Richard Hershberger*

        Perhaps, but being barraged with television blather while trying to go about my business is not a nice thing. We can’t have nice things because it is assumed that we must have a TV talking at us as we wait in line for the next cashier, so the only question is what it will be playing. A nice thing would be to not have it at all. See also: medical waiting rooms.

        1. Artemesia*

          ANYthing that is spewed over the whole office all day is an atrocity. How do they expect people to work in this stew of noise? I could manage opera and classical music and electro, but there are plenty of people who would find that aggravating and I on the other hand would hate to try to work while bathed in the sound of country, hip hop or rap music — and religious music? That is just offensive in a secular environment non-stop. But most of all the constant noise in a place people are trying to work.

          1. Tidewater 4-1009*

            Yes, absolutely!
            If I worked at a place that played music all the time I would be looking to leave. It’s annoying and distracting. I’ve heard all the top 40 tunes of the last few decades 11 million times and I Don’t Want to Hear Them Again!
            Also many popular songs are sad and that can be depressing.
            LW1, I guarantee that several people in your office – maybe more than half – find the music annoying and wish it would go away. They may vary in which type of music they dislike most, but they don’t like it. If the music does go away, it won’t be only because of you.

          2. Spencer Hastings*

            Yeah. Also, I find having my own music on headphones very helpful if the office is too loud, or too quiet (weirdly, I find that total silence makes it harder for me to get into the zone)…but if it’s just generally in the office and it’s part of the background noise that people have to talk over? That seems exactly backwards to me.

      2. Never*

        “Nice things” like peace and quiet and not being forced to listen to crap?

        Allow headphones in the office, don’t drown people in stuff they likely won’t like and call it “nice things”.

        And to some people like myself that could also lead to sensory overload as well and make me unable to work in your office at all.

        Offices and workplaces don’t need a soundtrack.

    4. Falling Diphthong*

      As a person spending a lot of time in waiting areas right now, I don’t understand why they need a video and soundscape. I would much rather read an old National Geographic or Bon Appetit, if I haven’t brought my own book (short wait) or work (long wait).

      1. Artemesia*

        My life was transformed when I put the Kindle ap on my phone. I used to bring a kindle if I anticipated a long wait, like at the doctor or airport — but so often I would misjudge and be stuck. But with the kindle on the phone, I have whatever I am reading at my fingertips at all times and so any unanticipated wait isn’t wasted.

        1. Third or Nothing!*

          Good idea! I just browse the writing prompts subreddit and read whatever short stories catch my eye.

      2. Filosofickle*

        TV in waiting areas makes my head hurt. My partner and I have been watching Moving Art on Netflix — long, slow shots of nature. It would be so perfect for a waiting room! No words, no laugh track, no talking heads. Just meditative beauty. It totally calms me down.

        1. HS Teacher*

          Thanks for mentioning Moving Art. I’ve been looking for something like this to have on in my classroom when my students do independent work.

        2. Tidewater 4-1009*

          I went for a medical test where they had that along with soothing music. What a big difference!
          I don’t know why medical offices don’t understand that playing the news is NOT helpful!
          I’m going to look for it on Netflix too.

          1. Falling Diphthong*

            I don’t know why medical offices don’t understand that playing the news is NOT helpful!
            EXACTLY!!!!

            I have adequate stress levels in my life as it is.

    5. Rob aka Mediancat*

      We ended up on our lunchroom TV switching between the Weather Channel, one of the wildlife channels, and an channel showing oldtime TV shows, with sports or news put on it if and only if it’s a special occasion — it was on the winter Olympics during the last Olympics, for instance.

      1. Tidewater 4-1009*

        I stopped watching the channel with oldtime TV shows because of the animal rescue commercials. They’re extremely upsetting. You might want to make sure your channel isn’t showing these.

    6. KaciHall*

      That’s why Food Network is the best solution.

      Except it makes you hungry. And when your bank is located inside a supermarket, there’s no time to think “that’s too much prep work” or “no one else in my house will like that” so you go buy ingredients on your break. And then never actually use them, because it’s so much more work at home than watching it on TV. (Admittedly this paragraph is a bit of a niche problem and I’ve never heard anyone besides myself and my coworker complain about it… So watch Food Network! Or the Cooking Channel.)

      1. Arts Akimbo*

        Your niche problem is delightful! Thanks for the smile (from one who also often way overestimates my patience for kitchen prep!)

    7. JustaTech*

      Several years ago my husband was doing a site visit at a datacenter with his boss where the datacenter had a giant TV tuned to CNN all the time that you couldn’t turn off. (I think the sound was either off or low.)
      Generally this would be no big deal, both of them were good at ignoring the TV. Except that it was playing a re-run of an Anthony Bourdain travel show to Japan that involved some tasteful, semi-nude bondage and then some, well, tentacle prints. We had already seen the episode, but my husband felt obligated to warn his boss, “uh, hey, there’s about to be some bondage on TV, just a heads up,” which was also awkward.

  9. voyager1*

    LW3: If you are talking about writing sci-fi but from a style that gets spoofed a lot… think Captain Proton skits from Star Trek Voyager. I say use your real name. If your writing is safely G rates use your real name. Now if your writing is more in the line of that dismantling a Borg alive screen from Star Trek Picard and people think you are writing about them, then consider a pen name.

    But I don’t think sci-fi writing should be something you are embarrassed about. Good luck with your writing.

    1. There's probably a cat meme to describe it*

      Exactly. If it’s G-rated material, there’s no harm in anyone at work knowing you have unusual interests or hobbies. That’s if they even find out about your writing, and connect that you are the same Jane/John Smith.

      Just because your job is beige, it doesn’t mean you have to be. Creativity, imagination, eccentricity, individuality – provided they’re not used in a way that’s harmful to others – should be embraced and celebrated. Not hidden away.

      But also, a pen name alter-ego, just for the sake of it, would be amazing.

      1. Arts Akimbo*

        Yes, and if it’s state employment, well, I personally know a ton of state employees who are sci-fi geeks and have nerdy hobbies!

  10. spock*

    LW 4, my company is encouraging everyone to WFH right now. My manager also has a toddler and stay at home spouse, and I heard his kid during meetings a few times today. And at one point the kid sat in his lap for maybe a minute before Spouse came to collect them again, and while it’s not how I prefer meetings to go, I understand that these are unusual circumstances. Even though it’s during the day, I’m still not expecting Kid and Spouse to exile themselves for 8 hours every day. I would hope coworkers extend the same courtesy to your husband – we’re all doing our best!

    1. LW4*

      I appreciate your perspective; thank you for sharing it. When we found out about the new work policy all I could think of was the recent letter where the LW’s child could be heard on the phone, and it was pretty much unanimous that family noise on work calls was unacceptable.

      1. Sara M*

        True, but these upcoming months will be hard times. Everyone will understand why there’s occasional kid noise. Do your best to minimize it, and don’t worry beyond the basics. It’ll happen to other people working from home too.

        1. valentine*

          it was pretty much unanimous that family noise on work calls was unacceptable.
          The differences here are that hubs never works from home and doing so is now mandatory. His employer should be understanding of the temporary situation, especially if they’re not going to pay for equipment or soundproofing.

      2. Allonge*

        This is a totally different situation though! Someone who wants to WFH and has to get it approved has different levels of expectations than someone who is forced to do so. If anything, it’s inconvenient to the families (not everyone has a separate workspace set up).

        It’s kind of you to worry and not a bad idea to strategise a bit, but as Alison says, everyone reasonable will not take the two things as the same.

      3. AcademiaNut*

        If your husband had deliberately taken a remote position, then yes, it would be his responsibility to arrange for a quiet environment when talking to clients. Being asked to work from home to help prevent a global pandemic is a totally different situation – you can’t ask someone to move, or disrupt their family’s life, for a temporary measure imposed by their employer. I wouldn’t worry too much – there will be a lot of people doing their best under difficult circumstances.

        1. AvonLady Barksdale*

          Exactly this. There’s a world of difference between expected remote work and emergencies. This is an emergency.

      4. Arctic*

        Well, that person was in the healthcare field (sensitive information), worked from home full-time (so should plan better), and didn’t seem to understand the issue. Different circumstances.

        AAM comments also tend to be more sensitive to the horrors of basic nosies and interactions than the general public.

        1. SweetestCin*

          That LW (the WFH Health Insurance Case Manager who “couldn’t muzzle her toddler” and thought that her boss was in the wrong…a couple weeks back) was oblivious to the point where I felt she was in the incorrect field.

          A full time WFH arrangement is one thing, an emergency-basis WFH situation is another. I’m hopeful that a degree of reasonableness is applied by everyone in the coming months when we’re likely to see this happen.

          1. Arctic*

            Yes, I think people were really responding to how the LW just didn’t get it that this was a problem. And maybe going a tad overboard to get it through her head.

            And the nature of her job, too.

      5. Yorick*

        That was so different, because she didn’t make much effort to have the child not visit her while she was working, and was actually talking to the child herself during the call.

      6. soon to be former fed really*

        Mute the phone when you aren’t talking. That’s what I do, no problem.

    2. Amber T*

      This – if working from home isn’t the norm, I think everyone has to be more understanding that they’re going to be background noises they wouldn’t normally hear. We’re starting quarantine procedures and both my boss and I worked from home yesterday. My cat joined in on a call because he could hear someone else and that someone else wasn’t petting him. I heard his kids (who are also quarantined) wrestling/playing in the background because they’re bored out of their minds. This wouldn’t fly if our roles were WFH normally and regularly, but it’s extenuating circumstances… hopefully everyone is a little more patient and lenient.

      1. soon to be former fed really*

        Why not mute your phone as much as possible? That at least mitigates background noise leakage.

    3. Falling Diphthong*

      As a purely practical matter, self quarantine doesn’t work if it requires everyone else in the house to go to a coffee shop.

    4. Quill*

      My boss’ toddler made a drive by appearance on our weekly conference call today.

      You could hear the doppler effect as he ran past.

      1. Marion Ravenwood*

        I’m now thinking of that BBC News clip from a few years ago where the expert talking about the big serious thing was interrupted by his toddler daughter bursting in and swaggering through the back of the shot like she owned the place, closely followed by her little brother and a flustered-looking nanny. Still makes me chuckle.

  11. Short Time Lurker Komo*

    LW 4: Do ya’ll have a room somewhat off the beaten path that you can put towels under the bottom of and possibly put some very thick blankets/foam/something muffling around the door and wall that faces the house? Just something you can tack up there to help muffle him and the incoming sound until he’s no longer under quarantine.

    Another thought – is there an external building he could temporarily commandeer? If it’s too cold, again put blankets up and around the inside to help with heat and sound echoing (if it’s like a metal building). If you use it for storage now, can you very short term move the items into say a garage or something? I do understand rural, but do you have any friends that might have an external building he can borrow for this if you don’t have anything suitable?

    Headphones and mics won’t catch everything, but if you’re able to muffle the incoming sounds enough, a noise cancelling mic can likely do the rest.

    Not a great alternative, but any friends that can watch the puppy? It shouldn’t be for long, and that can be part of your adventure with the toddler, taking them to see the puppy away from the house.

    Ultimately, I think talking with his boss will put everyone at ease. Just something like ‘I don’t have a dedicated work space at home. If I end up needing to work from home, how much can the company help me with a temporary set up?’ Suggest he ask his coworkers too what their set ups are – he’s surely not the only person with a young child in his coworker group.

    Have fun on your vacation, and best of luck!

    1. LW4*

      Actually, he IS the only person in the building with a young child! For several reasons, his company is predominantly older employees; he’s one of only two team members under 50 at the moment.

      We don’t have any secluded spaces in our house or on our property, and I can’t think of anyone I know nearby with an external building wired for electricity. I’ll certainly keep an eye out for it though.

      1. JKP*

        Is it all day on the phone, or just scheduled conference calls? He could take an important call in the car, close enough to the phone to still connect to wifi.

    2. Homebody*

      If you’re on quarantine, you should not be “taking the toddler to see the puppy.” That defeats the purpose of quarantine, same as husband working in a coffee shop.

      1. Gazebo Slayer*

        Yeah, I’m not sure a lot of people understand what “quarantine” means. Which is worrisome, considering the situation.

        1. valentine*

          I’m not sure a lot of people understand what “quarantine” means.
          I get the puppy bit, but are employers expecting everyone in the household to stay home during the quarantine? If OP4 worked or the kid were in daycare, would they have to stop both?

          1. Short Time Lurker Komo*

            Yeah, I assumed the husband was being asked to stay home, even if the general area they live in didn’t have any reported cases of the disease, because the family went to a city/state with active cases. Not that the family or even town where they live were under quarantine itself. And also not that the husband was sick. Of course, if anyone is sick or recovering from sick, you need to stay home. If the general area where they live is suggesting people quarantine, then stay home. If they go someplace where there’s known active cases, stay home. The suggestion

          2. Avasarala*

            Yes, as much as possible. Only leave when you need to to acquire daily life necessities. If you are actually sick, then don’t leave at all. That is what quarantine means.

            1. Jennifer Juniper*

              I thought you couldn’t leave at all, not even to go acquire daily life necessities. The expectation is that you should have prepared ahead of time.

  12. Dragoning*

    LW 1:

    You can’t have headphones, but you can have earplugs? What on Earth! Listening to constant music–especially music I don’t choose–would drive me mad.

    1. Yvette*

      It might be the optics. They are obvious and to some people they scream “Don’t bother me!!” and appear off-putting.

    2. ThisColumnMakesMeGratefulForMyBoss*

      Yeah I picked up on that too. It makes no sense. It may be optics but ear buds are fairly invisible these days. And you’re going to have the same problem getting someone’s attention if they’re wearing ear plugs as you are if they’re wearing headphones.

    3. Leisel*

      I usually just have one earbud in, and it’s in the ear that’s facing away from the door. I can hear other people just fine with them in because I keep the volume low, but I don’t want people to THINK I can’t hear them.

      That being said, if my office mate had really good hearing, they’d probably be able to hear the music coming from the one earbud that’s not being used (if it’s a set of earbuds with cords). I think there are a lot variables in this situation.

      1. Jennifer Thneed*

        I usually tuck the unused earbud into my shirt. I do it to stop the dangling but it probably muffles the sound too.

        1. Books4Me*

          Yup, same here. Our office is dead silent, except for keyboard noises. I find that I need a little ambient noise to work through the day, but other office mates need the absolute quiet. The ear-bud-in-one-ear is a lifesaver!

  13. Sheworkshardforthemoney*

    No. 4 Can your husband use the bathroom? It’s a small space with a locking door and everyone else gets the rest of the house.

    1. Jennifer Strange*

      IMHO, bathrooms tend to have an echo associated with them that make it pretty clear you’re in a bathroom when you’re on the phone. Besides that, it sounds like the job also requires the husband to be on his computer (and I don’t know that you can comfortably do that set up in a bathroom – not to mention where would he sit?) Plus I think the bigger problem here is sounds coming in from other parts of the house (i.e. the next room or the hallway) rather than someone occupying the same space he is occupying.

      1. Diahann Carroll*

        All of this. It would be an uncomfortable location for someone doing all day tech support.

      2. Chinookwind*

        Plus there is the real issue of the toddler needing the bathroom and pounding on the door.

  14. General von Klinkerhoffen*

    Appropriately enough for #4, it’s the anniversary of the time Professor Robert Kelly’s extremely important work video call was invaded by his small children (oh and how I wish I could insert the cartoon gif).

    I agree with Alison that quarantine working constitutes an emergency where the usual rules can be relaxed, but I also wonder if you’re overthinking it. Most toddlers are silently asleep for a significant proportion of the 3p-2a shift, so this is already better than for someone working an 8a-7p. If there are noisy flashpoints around eg bathtime, maybe quarantine rules could include “bath after lunch” to reduce potential shrieking. The “witching hour” around 5pm may be the trickiest.

    I’m not clear whether LW and child will also be quarantined – if so, I have the deepest sympathy because I’ve been there (chicken pox, small apartment) and it was really hard. If you are able to buy in some new toys and keep them hidden until then, I’d recommend it.

    1. LW4*

      I should have clarified this in my post, but my child and I keep roughly the same schedule as my husband so that we have a chance to spend some waking hours with him each day. She is awake for most of his workday.

      1. allathian*

        Wow, that’s interesting. Puts a whole new spin on things. I’m betting your daughter isn’t getting much socialization with other toddlers yet? Have I understood correctly that you’re currently SAHM and your daughter is still young enough not to go to school? (I’m not in the US but in some areas kids as young as three seem to be in formal schooling, as opposed to daycare.) Are you planning to homeschool her? If not, she’s going to need a drastic schedule change at some point. I hope I’m coming across as curious about other people’s parenting choices rather than judgmental, I don’t want to be seen as one of those “my way is the only right way” parents.

        Sorry if this is OT but LW4’s post made me a bit curious, so I hope this slight derail is OK…

        1. LW4*

          We’re still deciding whether to enroll her in school when she turns five or whether to homeschool. If we opt for public school, I’ll start adjusting her schedule when we’re within a year of the start date. In the meantime, we attend a lot of afternoon activities at the community center and local library so that she can interact with other kids. It isn’t a perfect situation but it’s the option that works best for us.

          1. BrotherFlounder*

            Sounds like y’all have found a good compromise! And libraries are awesome for this sort of thing.

          2. Jules the 3rd*

            From my own experience, you only need about a month for a drastic schedule change to ‘stick’, especially if you can reinforce it with lots of early morning light, so you don’t have to start a whole year ahead unless you want to. We did better with 1 big change rather than 2 – 3 smaller ones, but everyone was 8+ when we did it, might be different with a younger kid.

            And allthian, I don’t get ‘judgemental’, exactly, but the “she’s going to need a drastic schedule change” is ‘splainy – telling something to someone who knows it as well or better than you. It is challenging to work 2nd / 3rd shift with kids, but LW4’s the expert in what she needs to fit in with her local schools, and what is working for their family.

        2. Alice*

          Kids get over jet lag on a few days or weeks. I don’t see why this transition would be any different.

          1. General von Klinkerhoffen*

            The chief difference won’t be the timing precisely, but her access to her father, if from her perspective he’s sleeping when she’s awake and vice versa. The rhythm of the day and family life. If she suddenly hardly sees him, that’s a huge adjustment for her.

            Children are very flexible, but not infinitely.

            1. LW4*

              We’re planning on him moving to a WFH setup in a few years, when it’s time for school and she’s older and more able to learn the rules for when Daddy’s working. That way she’ll still be able to spend his breaks with him and have some bonding time. But that requires not only an expensive remodel but also language processing skills my kid doesn’t have—we’ll get there, but not in a month.

      2. General von Klinkerhoffen*

        Oof, that puts a different spin on it and I can see now why it’s so significant. If he were working 8a-7p you would at least have options outside the home during that time (though I’m still not clear if you will have to shut all three of you in during the quarantine period, or if it’s just a “please don’t come to work” situation).

        I find it can be tough for children to understand “working from home” especially if they’re used to “daddy goes to work” so I would expect to have more difficulty keeping her physically out of his workspace than keeping her noises out of his ears and microphone. You said the apartment isn’t enormous but is there a door that closes and preferably locks between his workspace and the rest of the home (could you fit a lock or bolt on that door)? Can he “go to work” as if he’s leaving the building and then not appear again until his workday is done?

        1. Chinookwind*

          Most of the time I am not big on the idea of tv to babysit toddlers, but this may be a case for it. If he has a favorite show, you can use it as a reward/distraction while dad is on the work call. If you don’t usually do tv with him, this may be the time to see if you can splurge on Netflix or another streaming service for some Sesame Street or Paw Patrol. Just make sure that is a show that YOU can stand to watch with him.

  15. Yvette*

    LW1, Are you sure that the staff responsible for the music is actively switching stations or is there some sort of randomizing software involved and they are just responsible for making sure that the music is being broadcast properly and have no actual control over it?

    1. BrotherFlounder*

      Surely most randomizing software would still have options for turning certain genres or channels off.

      1. Falling Diphthong*

        I remain convinced that this is why the person with a leap year birthday only got her day off once every 4 years–the software was doing something and it was easier to adapt the policies to match than vice versa.

    2. Pay No Attention To The Man Behind The Curtain*

      If that’s the case, could the radio station have once been something like classic rock and then switched programing or ownership of the station and suddenly they’re playing Christian music? This happened to one of my favorite radio stations last year.

  16. Mannheim Steamroller*

    LW2…

    Might there be an additional problem in addition to the harassment issue? If perks are granted or denied based on happy hour attendance, does happy hour then become WORK for which non-exempt employees must be PAID (possibly at overtime rates)?

  17. PollyQ*

    I rarely disagree with Alison, but IMHO, if they respond by turning off music altogether, that is a big win all around.

      1. Mike*

        I like listening to music while working but listening to overhead music that I have no control over sounds like hell. Not being able to stop it when I need to fully concentrate or adjust the volume would have me losing my @&#( pretty quick. Plus, I change genres depending on mood quite a bit.

          1. Dragoning*

            I’m trying to explain this to one of my coworkers who insists every single one of her headphone jacks are broken (even the one on her docking station). No one wants to listen to your music!!! No one!!!

            She seems shocked when I wear mine. Yeah, because I’m trying not to be a jerk!

              1. SheLooksFamiliar*

                One of our office mates claimed headphones gave her migraines, so we were subjected to her beloved ‘Classic Country’ music all day. She couldn’t understand why we asked her to please keep the volume low. Who doesn’t love country music, right?

                After weeks of arguing with her, one of our team brought in a carefully selected playlist – mostly Andy Williams, Perry Como, lots of Lawrence Welk, and polkas. Who doesn’t love polka music, right? Suddenly, her headphones didn’t cause migraines anymore.

                1. Dragoning*

                  Frustratingly, I actually mostly agree with her taste in music, I just don’t want to hear it at work not of my own free will.

          2. TechWorker*

            The company has ruled out headphones for some reason. I also could not work in a completely silent office.

            1. Stormy Weather*

              I’ve been in an office where headphones weren’t permitted because they ‘discouraged collaboration.’ We were strongly pushed to go physically talk to each other instead of emailing or calling (there was no online chat option).

            1. JSPA*

              In case of silence, would they be Ok with Bluetooth sunglasses (maybe with blue-blocker lenses to reduce computer eyestrain) at very low volume? Looks professional, doesn’t block your ears, minimal noise leakage to others.

              1. Joielle*

                I tried out a pair of those the other day and was super impressed by them. I could not believe how good they sounded when wearing them, and how close someone else would have to get to hear anything at all. If the issue with headphones is not being able to hear the phone or a coworker talking to you or something, audio glasses could be a great option!

              2. Beaded Librarian*

                Or the bone conduction headphones without sunglasses. I personally can’t use them as the music I like has so much bass that over vibrates the skin my my ears and I don’t like the feeling but I know lots of people LOVE them.

        1. Quill*

          If you need white noise in your cube may I recommend MyNoise.net? It helps me drown out other people’s phone calls, etc, even at a low enough volume that it can’t be heard outside my cube.

        2. Rusty Shackelford*

          I like listening to music while working but listening to overhead music that I have no control over sounds like hell.

          This, 100%. The place where I get my hair done has a similar scheme, and every time I make an appointment, I want to ask if it’s going to be Country Music Day, and if so, can I switch to the next 80s Day?

        3. KoiFeeder*

          Yeah, one of my delightful autism quirks is that music that I can’t control- even if I like it! -gets to be sensory hell very quickly. I just wear headphones all the time if I need to go shopping because I would lose my mind without them.

    1. Allonge*

      Oh yes. I understand that in some workplaces (shops, cafés) music is the default, but this sounds like at least partiall an office environment. Overhead music would not make me a happy employee. Headphones for those who need music and quiet for the rest, please.

    2. Asenath*

      I always listened to my music through headphones because I wanted to be considerate of others and because my many tastes in music do not seem to overlap with those of many other people. I’d probably be just as unhappy with the other channels as (depending on what style of Christian music it is) the Christian music channel, but I suspect most employers who like piping music through the workplace are unlikely to want to turn it off, and getting in a dispute over exactly what type of music it should be would have been missing the point for me. Fortunately, my employer saved the workplace sound system for announcements of emergencies.

    3. Stormy Weather*

      I once had a temp job folding sweaters. It was a big open area, not quite a factory floor. We had a different station assigned for each day of the week. I didn’t care for all the choices, but at least there was something I liked a few days a week.

    4. MOAS*

      shudder. I’m in an open office and it gets noisy with phone calls and people talking…sometimes I have music on, sometimes I partake in conversations etc. I’m so used to background noise that utter silence would depress me.

      This reminds me of a job I had in college where I would put on regular top 40 radio and a coworker would come in and wordlessly change it to explicit rap. Which…isn’t my taste of music. If I complained, I was being racist. Sigh.

      1. bkanon*

        I’d rock out to some Skillet, myself. It’s nice to have heavy metal that isn’t all sex and drinking all the time.

    5. RussianInTexas*

      This! Music that I didn’t chose and outside of my control (not like at the party, or a place I voluntarily went to, but like neighbors) gives me literal anxiety. I can’t tune it out, my brain picks it out of all the noise, it gives me elevated heartbeat and mild to severe rage.
      Signed, misophoniac.

    6. JJ*

      Yeah music is tricky, it helps some people focus and totally distracts others. It’s really too bad OP’s workplace won’t allow headphones, that seems to be the path to the most productivity since people can customize to what works for them. Could low-volume, individual little speakers/radios be permitted for individual use, with the main music turned off?

      I had one office who played music for “hipness reasons,” but they left arguably the least hip person in charge of the radio. Everyone seemed to enjoy or at least be neutral to the indie rock station (+”hipness” points), but she insisted on the 80s/90s station, and then the second Thanksgiving was past, CHRISTMAS ALL DAY EVERY DAY. It was deeply annoying to be subjected to someone else’s tastes most of the time, plus playing Christian music in a secular workplace made me uncomfortable. In another setting, we rotated like OP’s workplace, so everyone was happy at least part of the time.

      I DO think religious (I am assuming you mean Christian in this context) people need to be reminded that their religion is not the default (even if it may be the majority in your workplace) and it’s definitely not appropriate in secular workplaces.

  18. BrotherFlounder*

    I’m just sort of boggling at LW2. This can’t be the only issue that the manager is exhibiting (and I’d be very curious as what kind of “perks” the people going to happy hours are getting).

      1. I Wrote This in the Bathroom*

        We all need more coffee, preferably a coffee IV, during this trying week.

        My mouth dropped open when reading LW2’s letter, too! I’d read the first letter, thought to myself “wow, what a weird workplace”, started reading the second, “wait, I take that back, first workplace is kind of okay!”

  19. Shramps*

    I had to work in a 10-person office that played the same I Heart Radio classic rock hits (60s,70s, and 80s) playlist every day. It’s I Heart Radio, so there was no DJ talking, just the same playlist of songs played slightly out of order. For a year and a half. I thought I was going crazy, it was surely purgatory. I never want to hear Hungry Like the Wolf or Come On Eileen or REO Speedwagon again.

    The radio is a tool that should be used sparely, or agreed upon unanimously.

    1. Allonge*

      What? Like, why? I mean, how do you even survive in this environment? I thought Xmas season for song selection was bad, but doing this intentionally?

      1. Shramps*

        No joke, there were days I wanted to cry. But I had zero seniority as a new contractor, and the radio was controlled by much older women that had worked at the company for over 25 years.

        It was really hard.

    2. Sheworkshardforthemoney*

      This is why I love my Spotify, every song is there because I want it and if I get tired of it, it gets booted. I play it at my workplace (low volume) and sometimes I get requests for certain songs that I can easily add to the playlist.

    3. Quill*

      It’s worse when you find a local radio station that has exactly 20 songs in their catalogue.

      It certainly ruined Elle King for me.

      1. Shramps*

        This station was similar. I swear they played the same 200 songs every single day in different orders.

        1. Quill*

          Two hundred would be preferable but we figured out they had, at best, 20 songs on their shuffle. One song per artist. No recognizeable theme. With a 5 minute commercial break every 25 minutes and an average song length of 3 minutes, we calculated that each song played, on average, every hour and 10 minutes.

      2. JustaTech*

        We used to play music in our lab (we don’t know because we’ve got too many people with hearing issues), and one of my coworkers went on a 6 month Adele/Amy Winehouse kick. Good music, but we were in the lab a lot and it got to be a bit much. One day I was in the lab with a different coworker and asked him if it was OK if I played an album with a modicum of swearing (partly in Spanish) and he said “As long as it’s not Adele I don’t care.”
        So we all talked about it and agreed that, when other people were in the lab, we’d switch up who’s playlist we were using.

        1. Quill*

          We couldn’t manage to get good enough wifi (manufacturing location, lab was in the center of a concrete box covered in more concrete) to stream, but god, anything but Adele indeed!

    4. James*

      YouTube/Pandora and headphones. Fortunately our offices default to deathly silence, and if we want to listen to music we’re expected to do so quietly.

      This is one thing I love when I work from home. I can set whatever music I want, play it as loud as I want (you can’t listen to Sabaton or Hammerfall quietly), and no one cares.

      1. Shramps*

        I’m the kind of person that prefers quiet and nothing in or around my ears, though. I desperately wanted a quiet office.

        I did use those for self preservation but it just wasn’t ideal for me. Luckily I am no longer in that situation.

        1. James*

          That’s the problem with this sort of thing: everyone wants something different. You prefer quiet, I prefer background noise. How do we come up with a situation that satisfies all parties?

          It’s easier to add music to a quiet environment via headphones than it is to remove music from a loud environment, so I’d default to silence, and allowing workers to wear headphones as long as productivity doesn’t drop. Or work from home and do whatever you want, because no one’s going to hear it anyway. :D

      2. KoiFeeder*

        You can listen to When The Winged Hussars Arrived quietly but then you get arrested by the music cops.

    5. PSB*

      Someone pointed out to me last night that you can sing the word COVID-19 to the tune of Come On Eileen. I don’t really have a point but your comment reminded me of that. If anyone instantly gets that stuck in their head like I did, I’m sorry. Think of it like showing someone the videotape from The Ring.

      1. KaciHall*

        George Takei shared a few verses of that version on his Twitter the other day. I actually laughed out loud, instead of just rolling lol and exhaling a little louder.

    6. jack*

      This is taking me back to my food service days – where the same Top 40 radio played every day for hours. If I was there for an 8 hour shift I could hear the more popular songs once an hour.

    7. Little Girl Blue*

      I feel you so hard on this. As I type I’m listening to a coworkers radio (on low in an all-cube room where I can tell you every song that is on). I don’t get being that inconsiderate to begin with, but whatever station she plays (and it’s the same one every day) doesn’t have a big enough playlist. I thought I liked Queen and Elton John and Journey, but having to hear it against my will every single day is poisoning them for me forever!
      (And don’t get me started about the songs that carry louder than others. ROOOOX-anne!!!!)

      1. Tidewater 4-1009*

        This is the kind of thing I was mentioning upthread. I’ve been hearing those songs *all my life*. They are inescapable. I’ve heard each of those top 40 70’s and after songs at least 11 million times. I do NOT need to hear them again. Ever.
        If I was in your spot I would have to wear headphones or earplugs. And probably be looking for a job where no music is forced on me.

        1. Mr. Shark*

          I get what you’re saying. For me, I could probably listen to that with no problem, but there are definitely times when I just want quiet and no music.
          And at one point, a co-worker was trying to be considerate in an open-office environment, and had his music on really low. But that was just as distracting, because I couldn’t quite hear the song playing, but it was buzzing in my ear. So it served no purpose except to annoy me. I finally just asked him to turn off his music. I’m sure he wasn’t happy about it.

    8. Pieismyreligion*

      I was in shield store recently and an episode of Kasey Kasem’s Top 40 was on, from like 1983. I said something to the clerk and she said it was the same show every week at the time, that she had it memorized including the chatter. Why?

  20. NewbieMD*

    Just finished a 36 hour shift and unwinding with AAM before I hit the sack. Thought one of the letters was titled, “Should I use a pseudonym when I write about aliens and testicle monsters?”

    Good night!

    1. There’s probably a cat meme to describe it*

      Amazing. Sleep tight and don’t let the testicle monsters bite!

      1. Fire Lord Azula*

        Hitting the sack is an excellent way to keep the testicle monsters from biting….

        (I have been lurking for five years and am simultaneously ashamed and proud that this is my first comment)

  21. Person from the Resume*

    LW#5: I assume your boss had a very awkward way of saying that you’re more senior than the engineers?

    We didn’t get the whole conversation. I at first assumed we pay you more because you have a unique skill set so we have to rely on external teams to train you. Then you told that your assumption of what he meant was a chastisement of some sort so then I assumed it was as an employee with 15 years experience you should be able to interface with the external team to convey the importance and elevate the issue if needed instead of not getting it done.

    You have a better idea than us because we lack all kinda of context. JUST ASK. I understand freezing in the moment, but AAM is only going to be able to speculate. Your boss knows.

    Do you catrastrophize because you’re thinking went very negative very fast. If you do it means you can’t really trust your brain’s leaps to conclusions in cases like this.

    1. LW5*

      Not sure if it helps but the training was internal based, think Lean Systems/Six Sigma belts. I certainly made sure I was on the list but do not have control over how other departments schedule. I certainly didn’t miss any opportunities or anything like that, just nothing was scheduled this past year for my remaining requirements and I was in touch with group’s manager on my needs for it.

      I guess my hiccup on it was why mention money at all? I’m paid for what my skills bring to the position and that shouldn’t have any bearing on what others do or do not. And I’m certainly not overpaid for market value!!

      1. AnotherAlison*

        Your boss phrased it oddly, and the only way to know what he meant is to ask him.

        My guess would be that he sees you as a senior person and wants you to be more proactive. A 1-3 year engineer can sit and wait for someone else to schedule something. You don’t have control over other departments scheduling training, but you can elevate it. You can bring it to that department manager’s attention and your manager’s attention before it becomes a missed annual goal. There are other external avenues to get that type of training, too.

        Separately, I’d look at how your role has evolved in the past 15 years. (Not sure if you’ve been at this company the whole time or not.) A 15-year person is worth “X”, but not if the job only requires and uses a 5-year person’s skills. A 1-3 year person doesn’t always have to deal with emergencies and stay till a problem is solved, but a 15-year person usually has that expectation placed on them. (I’m sure you’re fine, but if you are in a solo role, it’s sometimes hard to figure out your growth metrics.)

        1. LW5*

          I’ve only been with this company for just over ~2 years, so wealth of experience but not necessarily here. I think it can be tough as I am a solo island position for this site. Which I also give some slack to my manager as he is not really versed in my position.

          Both my manager and the training orgs. manager were in the loop on what was needed to be completed, neither were in the dark about what needed to be scheduled. I’d love to be able to just sign off a line item to get it done but not so much in this case. I’ll work towards elevating the urgency with it but so far that has not been successful.

          1. Mockingjay*

            And why isn’t your boss elevating the urgency? He should be advocating for his employees. You tried, now it’s his turn.

      2. KayDeeAye*

        I agree with those who think your manager just picked a pretty awkward way of implying that there are some expectations that come with the position.

        What they are, I have no idea, so I agree with everybody (including Alison) who says you just need to ask. Alison’s script is excellent. I think the chances are excellent that this conversation won’t be that awkward…once you get it started, that is!

    2. Joielle*

      I assumed it was more like “You get paid more, so it’s important that you’re trained in this thing (when the lower-paid people already are).” Which might be true, but depending on how the scheduling works, it might not be OP’s fault at all!

      In any case, yeah, I don’t think it was an indication of some serious problem, just an awkward sentence. Just ask.

  22. Shirley, You Must Be Joking*

    It seems like OP2’s letter is so totally WTF that there aren’t as many comments about it. It is crazy that a manager is being so blatantly inappropriate and no one is talking to HR or to another manager.

    This manager is putting the company at great risk of a lawsuit, so even if HR doesn’t know how to handle the behavior issue, they should be losing their minds over the legal risk. The point Alison makes of mentioning fear of retaliation is really important. The company will be compounding the problem if the OP isn’t protected from retaliation.

    The OP will be doing the company a favor by outing this really bad situation. I suppose if the fear of retaliation is too much and if the chances that HR can keep this confidential, the complaint could be done anonymously with a letter.

    I’m curious why the OP hasn’t heard other people on the team comment on the situation. People always talk about their bosses. It seems like someone would be saying something about this really weird (illegal, harassing, uncomfortable) situation.

    1. valentine*

      It seems like OP2’s letter is so totally WTF that there aren’t as many comments about it.
      Give them time for the shock to wear off.

      1. Marthooh*

        But if we don’t comment about it right away, I’m not sure we have standing to bring it up later /s

    2. Diahann Carroll*

      It seems like someone would be saying something about this really weird (illegal, harassing, uncomfortable) situation.

      Not necessarily. OP’s coworkers could feel the way she does – they laughed at her antics up until now so if they “tattle” on her, are they being a buzzkill? And, a lot of times, no one wants to be the first person to be like, “This is weird, right?” especially if they think they’ll be the only ones saying it.

      1. Stormy Weather*

        There’s the fear of retaliation too. I know every HR department says retaliation for bringing an issue to their attention is not permitted, but people can find subtle ways to make your life miserable.

        1. Diahann Carroll*

          Yup. Even if you have a good HR department, you typically don’t work for them directly day in and out. A lot of people don’t want to rock the boat with their direct manager, especially one who’s giving them flex schedules and work from home opportunities that may not be officially available from the company, and will stay silent even when they’re uncomfortable with her inappropriate behavior.

          1. Diahann Carroll*

            Hit submit too soon – the manager could take all the perks away, so I could see OP’s coworkers thinking twice about whether to report the harassment.

      2. SarahTheEntwife*

        I think this also falls into the category where something is *so* wrong that it kind of overwhelms your normal emergency protocols. They might speak up right away if the boss set unreasonable deadlines, because that’s the kind of wrong you expect a boss to be. But being interrogated about your sex life isn’t a problem you were even slightly expecting to handle, so your brain kind of slips over it and tries to pretend it isn’t happening.

    3. RVA Cat*

      Plus even if everyone involved in this sh*tshow is a hetero female – it’s still sexual harrassment. See the oil rig case for the all-male example.

  23. Not So NewReader*

    OP5. With more pay and/or longevity, more is expected from us. I have had a couple jobs that hit around the ten year mark and I started hearing this stuff. I also had a job where I had not been there that long but I was the second highest paid person there and I heard comment about high pay equals greater expectations. (Their idea of high pay was NOT a living wage… that is another topic for a different day.)

    But if the company is saying it to you they are also saying it to other long term/ higher paid people.

    You know yourself that if you hire an expensive contractor to help you fix your home, you expect more from this person than from “Bob the Handyman”. This can be more of that.

    Overpaid: A person can notice that you are receiving top pay and never even think about it being too much money.
    A place I volunteer for has a person who is very well paid, we try to keep their pay up for retention purposes AND because of all the various ways this person makes a contribution. We know that we pay on the high end for our area. We do not consider this person overpaid at all. This is where the internet is NOT handy, if we were just chatting in person, OP, I would tell you about the specific things this employee takes on that are so impressive. You’d probably end up agreeing that she is paid well but she earns that pay. We are definitely not paying her too much.

    Layoffs: People can mention that you are the top paid person and not even be thinking about layoffs or who would go first. This is almost a separate conversation by itself. For my own clarity: I would tell myself that it’s pretty normal for top paid people to be laid off first. This is for my own protection, to keep me financially secure. It’s not because I believe I will be laid off tomorrow. It’s fine to ask where you would stand IF layoffs roll around. But you know, OP, being that super cautious person myself, I never quite totally believed what ever the boss said. Again, back to my own protection.
    And on the other side of layoffs, I have been the person who was retained and ended up with double or triple work loads and crazy high stress levels. If you really think about it, layoffs are not a winning situation either way. My point here is some topics are a slippery slope- layoffs is one of those topics. There is a lot of relief to be found in allowing yourself to take the boss’ words at face value and not running into deeper meanings.

    For the most part to me it sounds like the boss recognizes you do good work and are an asset to the organization. Boss is just concerned about completing the training. I see it all around me where keeping up with training is getting to be a bigger and bigger deal in many arenas. In many cases the word is “complete the training and do it on time or lose your job/position”. Maybe the boss is thinking about something like that and he is actually protecting you from losing your job. You might inquire about what he would like you to do when the other department drags its feet and you are stuck. Perhaps there is another solution here that is not immediately apparent. I do think it is a good idea to tell the boss you understand that training is important and you want to be sure to be on top of that. I think letting the boss know this, would be a mark in your favor.

    1. LW5*

      Thanks for this, good advice!!

      Perhaps because it was such weird, out of character comment for him to make I’m just trying to read all the angles out of it. I just hate the idea of my value to the company being compared as a baker to an electrician or a doctor to a project manager.

      1. SarahTheEntwife*

        If it’s really out of character, I’d definitely vote for it just being an odd turn of phrase, possibly one of those things where you mentally switch between two sentences halfway through and come out with something that no longer quite makes sense. Hopefully he can clear up what he actually meant!

  24. Grace*

    #4 a few things that have worked for us working from home, they may not work for you but they have made our life easier.

    -find the rooms with the biggest distance in the house and work from there (our office is in the master bedroom now and we took a small bedroom)
    -take the laptop in the bathroom or closet off a bedroom with both sets of doors shut, (I have a chair and a tv table in our bathroom)
    -the things that go at the bottom of doors to keep cold air out help with the noise a little
    -white noise machine in the room with the kids and pets or between them (we have one just outside the door to the office, and another in the living room that we turn off and on when we have calls)
    – 1/2 vinegar and water in a squirt bottle to shoot at the dogs when on a call
    -nap time, our kids wouldn’t nap for the first year we did this, but one of us lays and makes them lay quiet for 20-30 minutes during the day. usually when the other is on a call we now have 1 napper and 1 can be mostly quiet.
    -for important calls where one of us has to present the other takes the kids and dogs for a walk or a ride in the car (dog seat belts was a game changer for our chihuahua)
    -if possible have lunch a little later or earlier for the kids so they can eat while the call is on (some days the kids have a few lighter meals its helped our picky eater gain some weight)

    1. yup*

      Excellent list. I’d add: (some of these other people suggested as well)
      -a headset with a directional mic
      -keep your finger on the mute button
      -I’ve definitely taken important meetings from the car if needed
      -a bucket of quiet activities/special toys (mileage with this varies according to the kids’ moods)
      -never underestimate a quick “I’m sorry about the background noise” and then continuing with the call
      -don’t set precedents with the kids. When you’re at work, you’re not available to play, talk, etc. It doesn’t cross our kids ‘minds to interrupt their dad when he’s working because we’ve never allowed it.
      -if you have the flexibility at work, block out your calendar during the times you know the kids are the most energetic. That way you can concentrate calls during nap times, etc.

  25. Special Agent Michael Scarn*

    Ugh, #2 reminds me of a recent happy hour I had. I was talking with a few co-workers in a different department who I don’t know too well. Both were on beer number 4 or 5 when they started grilling me about my love life. A literal interrogation — “Do you have a boyfriend?” “How long has it been since you’ve had a boyfriend?” “When did you last hook up with someone?” “When did you last kiss someone?” It was insanely uncomfortable as I kept trying to dodge the questions and change the topic. Who does that?!

    1. Buttons*

      That is awful. DON’T DODGE. Say directly “yikes, this is not questions I want to answer! Let’s move on. If they don’t, get up and leave.”
      Far too long have been “nice” to the point of making ourselves uncomfortable. We can say no without being rude.

      1. Special Agent Michael Scarn*

        Looking back, yeah I’d definitely say something like you suggested. At the time, the questions caught me so off-guard I didn’t know what to say!

      2. Jean*

        YES. My motto in situations like these is “Nice for what?” I don’t have to entertain your inappropriate/illegal behavior, full stop. If you want to get testy with me and threaten my job for calling you out, even better for me and my attorney.

  26. JHS*

    LW #3, I’m in a similar boat to you, in that I’m in a government job and write spec fic as well. My experience is that people find it interesting, but very much separate from your work identity. I asked my first manager about using a pseudonym, and she said that I wouldn’t need to, and she’d be someone who wouldn’t take risks with that.

    I can also tell you that I know of at least one person higher than me who has published a novel outside of work, and no one’s had any issues with that (not spec fic, admittedly). In fact, at a training session, it was introduced as an interesting fact about them, they were congratulated, and then they went on to tell us about project management.

    1. ProfessionalDiletante*

      As a govt worker, I would advise against trying to hide your writing. One, you likely are required to report all outside income. Two, if you find yourself in a clearance position, everything you publish (even personal or academic material) needs to be run by security. Also, your clearance investigator will want to know why you’re trying to hide your work. They don’t care how weird you are, but they really don’t like people trying to keep a secret because it’s possible blackmail material.

      1. Mpls*

        I dunno – i think a pen name for authors is a common enough occurrance. Would it really be considered hiding your work if you disclosed it upfront during your clearance process?

        1. SarahTheEntwife*

          Yeah, you can’t really blackmail someone who cheerfully says “oh, and I publish Lovecraftian gaslamp horror as A. S. Willoughby”.

  27. Fire Ferret*

    LW 1: I’m with you and you should absolutely point out that this will make customers uncomfortable even if they don’t say anything. I live in the bible belt and there are several gyms/doctors offices/cafes that play this type of music and as a non-religious person it drives me crazy. I don’t feel like I can push back because of the overall culture, but it is alienating and sends the message that I am not welcome there.

    1. PSB*

      Even as a regular church goer I find it off-putting. To me it’s a bad business practice for the exact reasons you gave, as well as being shamelessly pandering and using “faith” to make a buck. I mean, come on, nobody actually thinks that playing contemporary worship music in McDonald’s is reaching anyone in a spiritual sense. But sadly it seems to work, particularly in the middle class Bible Belt suburb where I live.

  28. best-worst case scenario?*

    But what if the government employee gets a book deal and is able to publish? Does that change their employability or ability to get paid for their writing? I remember some story where an author couldn’t do publicity because it overlapped with his government job in an unacceptable way, I think. Not like Comey or Bolton, who left and then wrote books about their time in the government, but a regular staff person who was writing and working at the same time…

    1. New Jack Karyn*

      I mean, if someone was writing spy novels while working for the CIA, that might be an issue, but I can’t see that here. As long as she discloses any income, she should be fine.

  29. Dust Bunny*

    Tentacles and Aliens: I’d use the pseudonym. I don’t have my real name on any of my social media because it’s a really distinctive name and Googling it would definitely get all the hits. I don’t have anything even mildly controversial on them, but it’s just simpler not to have the association and have my name all over everything.

  30. Amy*

    I have three little kids under 4 and a nanny. I work from home and I don’t have a perfectly sound-proofed office. An imperfect solution is the car. It sounds kind of pathetic but it’s quite sound-proofed compared to a house with shrieking babies.

    For an important call when the babies are feeling particularly loud, I hide out in the car with the laptop and phone. Also seconding the advice for a headset. I’ve never used the background noise cancelling apps but I have colleagues that do.

  31. Ancient Alien*

    #2
    Ah, yes, the “FUN manager”. Where would we be without these folks to constantly remind us how dumb rules are and how policies are only for….LOOOOOOSERRS? They’re just so real and authentic and they can drink the entire staff under the table so that’s pretty cool, right?

    I had one of these once, and all i can say is RUN. Mine literally had a sign over her desk that said “Sexual Harassment will not be tolerated. It will, however, be graded”. Watching her shovel as many pain pills and margaritas down her gullet as possible at the monthly “happy” hour, was truly a sight to behold.

    Work not getting done? Major project about to fail? NO PROBLEM HAVE ANOTHER MARG

  32. HailRobonia*

    Too bad there are no more Ask A Manager podcasts… those would be great to play in an office!

  33. pmia*

    Re: Pen Name

    I am an author in addition to my full time job as well, and would 100% recommend a pen name. You just never know where life takes you, and it might be prudent for potential new bosses, dates, anyone to not be able to google you before getting to know you, and make judgments. Also, people can be crazy online, and having a “layer” between you personally and your work can feel like a nice buffer for criticism and discussion of your pieces.

    1. Sheworkshardforthemoney*

      Interestingly, I write under my real name and it’s very generic; “John Smith”. I write adult fiction and thought a long time before deciding to use my name. At this point in my life I will embrace what I write and any blowback from offended friends, family, and strangers.

      1. New Job So Much Better*

        Also write under my real name. I write “sweet” (non-explicit) romance, but if I wrote a lot of hot stuff I’d be using a pen name.

        1. Richard Hershberger*

          I write obscure early baseball history. I use my own name, risking that “What a nerd!” response every day.

  34. Also a Writer*

    I find Alison’s answer about the government employee interesting considering my own (very limited experience). Maybe it’s a federal vs. local government thing, but I am a writer and interviewed for a (non-writing-related) local government job last year and was explicitly asked if any of my writing might ‘reflect badly’ or ’embarrass’ my employer if I was given the job. I was quite taken aback by that question. This was a local city government in a liberal area, and I write serious literary fiction (which I told them, when asked.) I ended up being offered the job and turning it down and this was one of the reasons– I found it REALLY alarming and offputting that they would attempt to control a writing career that was already underway. I’m just putting this out there for another data point.

  35. TooTiredToThink*

    OP3 – I actually disagree with Alison (for once) depending on what kind of gov employee you are. If you are an American Federal employee; remember a lot of your work contact information is accessible via your real name. Even if you don’t ever get famous from your writing; if you pick up a “fan”; it may be harder to distance yourself.

    But then; if you work for something like NASA or something; of course that would give your writing more cred.

  36. AuroraLight37*

    #2- There are so, so many things wrong with this. As an ace person, this is a topic I never want to discuss with anyone at my workplace. Heck, I’ve never told anyone at work, and one of my previous coworkers and I were close enough friends that we regularly vacationed together. I certainly don’t want to put up with my manager (!) telling me that I ought to get laid or demanding that I explain Ace 101 or any of the thousands of horrible questions/comments/”jokes” I can already hear coming. Nobody should be subjected to this nonsense.

    1. Quill*

      Fortunately the last time I had a workmate this nosy we were peers and in terms of experience I was slightly senior to her.

      Ended up coming out and dealing with the “OOOh, I’ve never met an Ace person before!” (Spoiler, you have, but you don’t know it because you’re like this,) rather than deal with months of her trying to figure out why I was so “mysterious” but it was a definite factor in me disliking her a bit.

    2. MeMeMe*

      As an ace person who’s not Out to my office (and doesn’t want to be), this letter had me breaking out in a cold sweat.

        1. AuroraLight37*

          Yep, I’m not embarrassed, I just don’t want to discuss my personal life on that level at work.

    3. AceInPlainSight*

      Same. Also a survivor, and single-but-looking-for-queer-platonic-life-partner… so I get to 1) decide if I want to come out 2) think about how my ‘number’ is 1 and it’s my abuser and…. 3) try and explain to straight people that I do want a relationship, just a sexless one. This is the sort of conversation that my anxiety dreams up and I tell myself it’s so beyond rude no one would actually ask that. It’s…. just so inappropriate

      1. AuroraLight37*

        *hugs* if you want them. And yes, that is a lot more than I’d ever want to talk about at work. Not because shame, but because it’s personal to me, and because 2) is something I don’t need to be reminded of, especially at work.

    4. Jennifer Juniper*

      I’d rather work for you, or any other ace, than that disgusting pervert of a manager! And I’m not ace.

  37. Arctic*

    Government employee should absolutely use a pen name. It could impact promotions and other opportunities at work.

    It’s true that government is supposed to score on set questions and qualifications only. It’s also true they very often “cheat.” A government hiring committee will absolutely google someone just like everyone else.

    But just for yourself put some distance between your two jobs. If you do get a following you don’t want them emailing you at work (which is a public email) or anything like that.

  38. mayfly*

    At my husband’s former workplace, the employees got to submit channel requests for the office XM radio and they’d cycle through one per day.
    Until Nazareth’s Hair of the Dog played on the day the nuns came to review their building design (for those unfamiliar with the song, the chorus is “now you’re messin’ with a son of a b****” x 4). Music was locked down after that. A similar even happened with 90s rap at his next office place (no nuns, though).
    I really think only classical or maybe NPR-level jazz should be played in the office. Even popular songs can be inappropriate for the workplace.

  39. Bob Dob*

    OP#3: I personally would use a pen name, in the interest of retaining more control of my identity. On a related note, make sure you don’t do any of your creative writing “on the clock”, during work hours, and don’t use your employer’s resources for your writing (i.e., don’t save those files on work computer systems and don’t use your work email to correspond about your writing). This goes for any type of employer (especially private employers that have employee agreements that capture ownership of work product). You want to make sure that you preserve and retain all your rights in your creative writing work product by keeping it separate.

  40. Jennifer*

    #1 Unfortunately, you may need to brace yourself for the music ending altogether. So, if I were you, I’d wonder which is better, working in silence, or occasionally having to hear music you dislike. If they are playing top 40 pop music the rest of the time, I’d imagine there are people who dislike that as well. It’s difficult to please everyone.

    1. James*

      The problem isn’t satisfying everyone, it’s minimizing dissatisfaction. And doing so ends with bland stuff that no one likes. Elevator music, or generic paint-by-numbers TV shows, beige color schemes, and the like. Stuff that no one enjoys, but no one can possibly object to–except that such manufactured unobjectionable content dominates public life in the USA and people are increasingly tired of it.

      I say, default to the thing that’s easier for an individual to change. If you have background music it’s hard to turn it off in just your cubicle. If you have silence, on the other hand, it’s pretty easy to plug in headphones.

      1. Jennifer*

        They can’t use headphones. It’s stated in the letter. Sometimes you just have to tune stuff out. It’s not like it’s playing all day long.

        1. James*

          You’ve never pushed back against a policy that’s disruptive to your work environment? This is potentially worse, because it could create a hostile work environment (see my comment below). A statement of that fact could help the LW’s case.

          If there’s a real reason to nix headphones (LW doesn’t say what the role entails; sometimes there is, sometimes it’s just “That’s not how things are done”, which isn’t a valid reason), the LW could at least propose limiting the extremely religious stuff. 1/5 of the music being openly religious in favor of one religion IS a potential problem. If we replaced “Christian” with “Islamic” or “Wiccan” would you be saying “Sometimes you just have to tune stuff out”? My guess is no. Christianity doesn’t get a free pass here just because it’s more popular.

          1. Jennifer*

            I honestly wouldn’t care what type of music it was because I don’t expect any music played in a public place to really be to my liking. That’s not discrimination or a hostile work environment. I’m sure Alison would have mentioned it if it were. You’re right that more people would complain if it was Islamic or Wiccan and I’d think that was equally silly.

            1. James*

              I’m not saying that in and of itself it’s a hostile work environment–though I’m obviously not a lawyer. But it could be a contributing factor. There are three people responding to your comment saying “This would make me extremely uncomfortable”, and those voices should be taken seriously, in exactly the same way that, say, we’d take it seriously if a coworker had pinup calendars at their desks and someone said “That makes me extremely uncomfortable”.

              For my part, I think you’re treating this too lightly. I think our culture is so predominantly Christian that even those who aren’t Christian (I have no idea what your religious views are, and I’m not singling you out at all here, it’s a more general observation) assume that it’s just a background annoyance we non-Christians have to deal with. And I think that’s a problem.

            2. Avasarala*

              It’s not about “I don’t like this type of music”. It’s about playing overtly religious music in a secular workplace, and it’s not appropriate no matter what the religion is. It’s not OK to broadcast to employees that their religion doesn’t matter and force them to listen to hymns from another religion.

    2. SarahTheEntwife*

      I dislike top 40 pop music, but I’m fine with it playing in an office (I mean, I’d vote for no music in my office at all, but that’s kind of a different issue). It’s just…music that’s not really my thing. Someone playing religious Christian music makes me feel *actively unwelcome*.

      1. James*

        +1

        As a pagan in the Deep South this sort of thing is a constant reminder that my religious beliefs are not welcome in many settings and that I have to keep my head down and mouth shut. It’s a sure-fire way to ensure that non-Christians don’t feel comfortable.

      2. Jennifer*

        I’d agree with you if it was blasting all day everyday but it sounds like it’s on a random rotation. I get that it’s annoying but I really don’t get why it can’t be tuned out the same way elevator music is. I’d rather not risk getting all the music taken away than tuning out a few minutes of bad music, the same way I tune out a certain news network when it’s playing in the lobby at the doctor’s office.

        1. Cercis*

          No, it’s for the full day: “The staff that controls the station switches the channel on a daily basis and we get a decent mix of rock, decades, country, top hits, etc. However, at least once a week, sometimes more, the station for the day is a religious music station.” So at least 20% of the time, it’s explicitly religious music. Which is alienating to anyone who is not christian. It’s a reminder that we don’t fit in and, actually, aren’t welcome in our space.

  41. Delta Delta*

    #1 – I worked in a couple different places where music was always on. It was often an issue (except in one retail store where I worked and if people couldn’t decide on music the default, by rule, was The Big Chill soundtrack; it worked). Everyone’s tastes are going to be a little different. Some will like christian rock, some will like top 40 country, some like jazz. One way to split it might be to have designated blocks of time. Monday 9-11 is christian, 11-2 is classical, 2-4:30 is speed metal. You know, whatever. That way everyone gets a little bit of what they like and everybody knows there’s no monopolizing. Or, pay someone’s tween kid to make several days’ worth of playlists with a wide variety of music so different things pop up at different times.

  42. Leela*

    OP #2 oh wow, I really doubt that your manager has the thoughtfulness she needs to have to approach management. To ask these questions to people at all is insane, but to BOO you at a work-related event, as your superior, until you reveal sexual information about yourself?

    It’s very hard to believe that someone who behaves herself like that is thinking about optics when she makes decisions, will be able to steer morale, or be seen as not giving favoritism to her drinking buddies. Grandboss, HR, whoever you can tell that might affect this and you feel safe telling needs to know ASAP, with all the details!

  43. ...*

    Number 2 I think you have my old boss…Including telling me about her boyfriends acid trips and absolutely over the top inappropriate things about his sexual preferences! Oh and she never got to work before noon. She’s somehow becoming a nurse now?

  44. DeeEm*

    #3 I’m going to give slightly different advice. I used to write online fiction, as well. Nothing sexual. But just hokey stuff. It was my way to unwind. I also worked in a state-funded organization that had due process rights etc. I still used a pseudonym. I’m now in the private sector, and even though I know I would never be “fired” for what I wrote, I am so glad it doesn’t come up on a Google search of my name. I enjoy that level of privacy, but I’m also a more private person. So, my perspective is: once it’s out there with your name, it’s out there forever. Using a pseudonym helps keep that out of search engines. If your situation changes, you may find you appreciate having used that pseudonym.

  45. Lady Heather*

    LW3, I think it’s super cool that you write and publish. I write and I wouldn’t let anyone I know read it because writing prose seems very personal. I’m more comfortable letting people read my poetry because poetry is kind of abstract yet straightforward about theme and meaning because it’s got a clear line between implicit and explicit. Prose is murkier and has ‘baggage’ – if I make a sewer explode in my main character’s face, I don’t want a family member trying to analyze “Why is Lady Heather thinking about sewers exploding in people’s faces? What is wrong with her to even imagine the possibility? Is this a fear of hers? Does she have low self esteem? Is it a fetish?”
    Kudos to you.

    I’m not an expert on how the theme of your story will reflect on your professional potential so I’m going to leave that to Alison and the other the readers. What I do think is that the quality of your writing might impact how others judge your work potential. If your books are poorly written, people might question your writing/communication skills or your judgement (because publishing poorly-written things, especially with your own name on them, isn’t something that inspires faith). It your writing is ‘okay’ to ‘excellent’, people probably won’t take notice of it one way or the other.
    (I think this is especially important to take notice of if you’re self-published – presumably if you work with a publishing house, they make sure it meets a certain standard.)

    1. Diahann Carroll*

      presumably if you work with a publishing house, they make sure it meets a certain standard.

      You would think, but with more and more traditional publishers outsourcing editing to save costs, that’s no longer an expectation of mine.

      I agree with the rest of your comment, though, especially the part where you mention poor writing can influence people’s opinions of your work quality overall.

      1. Quill*

        An aquaintance on writing twitter just had an epic story of outsourced editing that may have been partially done by an automated revision program.

        It ended in “STET, AND SHAME ON YOU!”

        1. General von Klinkerhoffen*

          I once had some newspaper work so badly edited that their amendment of “retch” to “wretch” made it into print. I was mortified. I would now not assume that an error was the author’s unless it was definitely entirely self-published.

  46. The Government*

    For #3: Also a government employee and side writer. I have done some professional writing for the religious organization that I’m a part of (such as the national magazine for our religious group), published in my own name. It has only ever come up once, by a kind of creepy guy who has googled me many times and then announced it awkwardly by stating some fact about me that I didn’t tell him/I know no one else at work would have. That situation obviously has a lot of other problems, but I guess what I would say is just think about how you would feel if someone did google you (even for non-creepy reasons like a member of the public trying to find your work contact phone number) and brought it up. My writing is pretty personal, and I always publish it with the knowledge that a person I work with, supervisor that I’m interviewing with, stakeholder I deal with, whoever, can find it. If I’m not okay with that, I don’t write it (or I would consider publishing it without being named, but haven’t done that to date). So I think you just have to decide, would it bother you if people found it?

    I don’t think it should impact your career though, it’s more about your feelings. As a hiring manager, as long as side-jobs/hobbies don’t impact their work, I don’t think they are any of my particular business.

  47. Annie Nymous*

    OP#4 – There is currently a joke working its way around China, in light of the quarantine.
    Apartment building. Downstairs neighbor emails upstairs neighbor: “Hey, can your kid keep it down? My kid is taking a math test online.” Upstairs neighbor replies, “Sorry, but my kid is taking his gym class online.”

  48. London Calling*

    OP2 (and apologies if someone has already posted this) – next time your boss asks about the number of your sexual partners tell her ‘More than the queen and fewer than Madonna.’

  49. Agent Diane*

    OP4. Get a pen name. I have a pen name for published work, another for fanfic and another here. I know my published name and my everyday name are pretty much linked together in public now but it’s about the mental hat I’m wearing.

    I’ve worked in the public sector and absolutely know I need to provide a couple of reassurances to work: a) I won’t be disclosing info got through my job in my writing b) I’m not writing on everyday work hours. I do not think it’s unreasonable to provide that former assurance at all.

    Personally, I’d favour “speculative horror” to “tentacles” because, like other posters, I immediately assumed you were going to finish the description with “tentacle pr0n”. YMMV.

  50. LogicalOne*

    #2. Ummmm I would consider the question your boss asked about everyone’s sexual activity to be in the realm of sexual harassment which might spell out lots of legal troubles for your boss and company and quite possibly you taking them to court if you really wanted. If I was forced to give an answer, I would pretend to be a smartass would’ve said something like, 100 people I’ve slept with. Just wind your boss up and make them look stupid in a witty way. Based on the fact they seem to be insecure and obsessed with this topic, a witty comment would not be in their crosshairs. They wouldn’t seem intelligent enough to pick up on it. That or they seem to be wanting to hold on to whatever “youth” they have and feel obligated to take things to an inappropriate level just to seem like they are still “hip” these days. I could guess this person is older, probably single/divorced, has too much time on their hands. Are they the female version of Michael Scott from The Office? If so, RUN. Just baffles me how people think that acting this way seems to be acceptable.

  51. Still trying to adult...*

    I’m going to throw in a huuge monkey wrench into the discussion of music in the workplace:

    Licensing.

    There are specific provisions for playing music at work, whether it’s from a radio station, CD’s, streaming programs, or whatever. It’s one of those things that a lot of people think Oh, it’s OK, and besides, how are they gonna know and catch me?

    Yes, businesses get caught all the time violating musicians’ copyright by playing music in the workplace or even playing music on hold into the telephone system.

    I don’t myself know very much about it, but I’ve followed the broadcast radio industry for years and this comes up every once in a while.

    I’ll just post a couple links here, and invite LW#1 and others to research it.

    https://cloudcovermusic.com/music-licensing-guide/is-it-illegal/

    http://www.howsbusiness.org/articles/playing-music-in-the-workplace/

    https://www.bmi.com/news/entry/20030509_Playing_Music_in_Workplace_Requires_Permission_From_Copyright_O#:~:text=Playing%20Music%20in%20Workplace%20Requires%20Permission%20From%20Copyright%20Owners,-Posted%20in%20News&text=Much%20as%20companies%20guard%20their,compensation%20when%20others%20use%20them.

    Playing unlicensed music at work can be a very big deal.

    1. LogicalOne*

      Most people aren’t aware of the laws of playing music in a public space. Unless you or someone you know knows about this part of the music industry, most people could care less about the laws of music as public display and that artists are legally allowed to collect royalties from this. Unless the artist/publisher can win some huge lump sum of royalties in court for this, a letter of cease and desist is really all that most likely will happen and if it happens. It’s just not worth spending money, energy, time, and resources over suing a workplace over playing music out in the open. It’s a sad part of the industry but many, many, many businesses violate this and many, many, businesses never get caught.

  52. Jennifer Juniper*

    OP2: This may be considered a hostile environment, depending on the exact nature of your boss’s comments. She is a nasty creature who is spreading her nastiness all over the place.

  53. Retired but Read Religiously*

    Earbuds –I’m deaf in one ear, so I just snip off the unused side. I don’t use mine for music, though, but for streaming video. No chance there of dialog alternating between left and right earbuds. Music might produce a different result if your earphones are stereo. (I’ve used both stereo and monaural for snipping and streaming.)

  54. His Grace*

    OP 3: Many great writers have used pseudonyms and pen names (D.H. Lawrence comes to mind, as wrote under several of them.) It’s quite common for a variety of reasons. So if you wish to do so, I see no reason to use one.

    OP 2: What. The. Actual. Hell?! This manager is way out of line. I would start documenting all your conversations and interactions with her from here on out, and then submit it to HR.

    OP1: It is perfectly fine to push back on the playing of overtly religious music (full disclosure: I am a secularist and an agnostic), especially if you have a modicum of religious diversity in your workplace.

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