coworker’s grisly Halloween decor, I don’t want to dance in my office’s TikTok videos, and more

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

1. My coworker goes overboard with grisly Halloween decorations

People in our office go bonkers over Halloween. Recently we were encouraged to decorate for Halloween. I would take that to mean a little black and orange garland, maybe a plastic pumpkin, right? Well, not hardly. People go overboard and apparently the only rule was no trip hazards in the aisle. The woman in the cubicle next to mine must have emptied out her storage area of Halloween decorations. Now there are gross bloody looking, ghoulish figures hanging from the ceiling above our desk space. There are skeletons with teeth, cobwebs strewn about, and a lifelike bloody head cut off at the neck with facial wounds and hair that appears to be matted with more blood, and a plaque with some sort of satanic looking symbol was hung up. Then she brings in a black cauldron that when plugged in emits what looks like smoke, gurgles, and has neon lighting. There is not a pumpkin in sight!

To me, it’s very dark and not the atmosphere or space that I wish to spend my day in for weeks and yet I have no choice. This is very disturbing. I complained to my manager about the dead people hanging from the ceiling and she just said they weren’t dead people! Everyone thinks this person is so cool because she has a lot of decorations and they ooh and ahhh over it all day long. What is wrong with this picture? This is a large professional corporate office — the finance office for a huge group of physicians, no less. The manager encouraged this and thinks it is just great good-spirited fun and I am looking around thinking, “What is wrong with people”? Too late now, but is this even normal?

Well, it’s pretty oblivious to the fact that not everyone is comfortable with macabre decorations, and I’m alarmed that your manager was so dismissive when she heard about your discomfort.

Do you have HR? They might be more receptive than your boss. But otherwise, next year you could try approaching your coworker ahead of time and explaining that you were creeped out by some of what she put up last time and ask if she’d be open to a different motif. If your sense is that she won’t care, you could try with your boss again, despite her lackluster response this year. I do wonder how clear you were with her; if you didn’t plainly say that you can’t comfortably work around that kind of grisly imagery, it’s worth restating it that way.

2. I don’t want to dance in my office’s TikTok videos

I work for a small medical office and three of my coworkers have really gotten into TikTok challenges and dances. They spend a lot office time practicing and filming these videos. I already don’t love it because I find it distracting and I end up picking up their slack when they are working on choreography instead of checking patients in or updating charts. They have invited me to join a few times, but I have always politely declined. Recently a few of their videos have gotten semi-popular and now my boss thinks it’s a great team-building exercise. I want nothing to with this and now I’m being treated like I am not a team player. I have several reasons I want no part in this. One, someone still has to do the work while they are off rehearsing their latest skit. Two, I dislike social media and I was not hired to be an entertainer. Three, and most importantly, I have a few toxic family members who I am no-contact with, and I have virtually no internet presence for a reason. I don’t want to do anything that might clue them in on where I work should they stumble across the videos.

When I told my boss and coworkers I would not be participating as it just wasn’t my thing, they seemed really put off. I don’t feel I should have to explain my personal family issues to my boss and I don’t think it is unreasonable to not want to dance at my non-dance-related job. Besides team-building, I know my boss also thinks it will be a good way to advertise the business so I’m not sure if I have standing to say no. They are starting to pressure me more and more and have even asked me why I hate fun. Do I have to get involved? I’ve thought about offering to be the camera person just to get them off my back, but truthfully I find the entire thing obnoxious and I would prefer to just do my job.

You’re perfectly in the right; you should not have to dance for a job where you weren’t hired to perform. It’s fine if your boss and coworkers are into it, but the pressure is unwarranted and bad management.

If you haven’t tried this yet, I’d recommend sitting down with your boss and having a serious conversation where you say something like, “I know we’ve been joking around about me not liking fun, but I’m very serious about not wanting to participate in these videos. I’ve made a point of having no internet presence for privacy reasons, and chose a job where one wasn’t required. I doubt your intent is to make me do something so uncomfortable for me if it’s intended to be fun, so can we agree that it’s okay for me not to take part and I’ll keep covering the work while the others are making videos?”

Another option is to be somewhat more explicit about those privacy reasons. You don’t need to disclose your family situation to your boss if you’d rather not, but she might be more likely to back off if you said, “Because of something that happened in my past, I have safety reasons for not having an internet presence, and putting videos of myself online could compromise the precautions I’ve taken.”

3. People don’t believe how fast I read

I have a issue/question that is super low stakes in the grand scheme of things, and honestly sounds like the setup for a humblebrag, but has been a thorn in my side for my last few jobs.

I am a fast reader. I mean, really fast. Multiple speed comprehension tests have placed me at over 1,000 words a minute (university lab-run tests that show texts at certain speeds and then ask questions to see if you really got the big picture and details). In so many ways it’s a gift — I finish multiple books a week! But there have been many times at work where I’m given papers or important documents during a meeting, told to look them over, I do … and then the other person tells me that I need to read them, not skim them. More than once, when I respond politely that I did read it, I’ve gotten skeptical looks and comments that they factored in the time to read it into the meeting.

I don’t want to sound presumptuous by saying “oh, by the way, I’m a fast reader” whenever someone hands me papers, but what’s a more professional way to navigate this kind of situation? Do I say something ahead of time? Chuckle and shrug when someone comments “oh, that was quick”? Just spend a minute in silent contemplation, pretending that I’m still reading (I’ve tried this but I never know how to gauge what an appropriate length of time would be). The last thing I want is for someone to think that I’m dismissive of what they’re giving me!

I have no doubt that it’s obnoxious to be on the receiving end of skepticism that you read something you really did read … and I have definitely handed papers to someone and seen them just skim when they needed to fully process (confirmed later by them not knowing everything that was in there), so I can see why your colleagues might worry. So you have a weird situation!

Personally, I’d just say it straight-out at the start: “You’re going to think I’m skimming, but I’m not; I’m a weirdly fast reader.” But that’s not everyone’s style and it’s also fine to just respond if asked about it — “Yep, I’m a weirdly fast reader” and if someone looks skeptical or pushes back, “I promise I processed it all and didn’t skim.” If you get pushback even after that and saying this wouldn’t be inappropriate for the relationship: “Feel free to quiz me!” On the other hand, if it’s a group meeting where everyone is reading, skip all of this and just wait an extra half-minute per page at the end.

4. Accepting a job below minimum wage

A situation came up where a remote job tried to hire me for slightly below my state’s minimum wage. Obviously I can’t accept because it would expose them to legal liability. But hypothetically speaking, if I did knowingly accept that they were paying me less than minimum wage and they could prove that I knew it was less than minimum wage, could I still sue them?

You’d generally file a wage claim with your state rather than suing, but yes. With most employment laws, workers can’t waive their legal rights by agreeing to an illegal thing (otherwise there would be a ton of pressure on employees to do that). The employer is responsible for the legal violation whether or not you knowingly accepted illegal working conditions.

5. Do married couples working for the same employer get less FMLA leave?

I thought I was pretty familiar with what FMLA was and wasn’t until HR said something curious on a call yesterday. The HR rep said that FMLA would apply to provide additional leave after the birth of a child, but if both parents work for the company, then the 12 weeks FMLA offers doesn’t apply to each person individually — it is combined. So if a couple had a child, then they could take a total of 12 weeks off vs. 12 weeks off for each of them. The same scenario would apply to care for an ailing child or parent — 12 weeks combined if both spouses work for the company. This doesn’t seem right to me, but maybe I don’t understand FMLA as well as I thought! Any insights?

Yep, that’s correct. FMLA gives you up to 12 weeks a year of protected family or medical leave … but if you and your spouse work for the same company, you get a combined 12 weeks between the two of you for the birth or adoption of a child or caring for a parent with a serious medical condition. Interestingly, you do not have to split it when the leave is to care for a child or spouse with a serious medical condition, your own medical condition, or some situations arising from having a spouse, child, or parent on active military duty. (More here.) When the law was being drafted, legislators’ concern was that employers would avoid hiring married couples if they would both be out for 12 weeks at the same time after having a kid.

{ 785 comments… read them below }

    1. tamarack and fireweed*

      At my job, someone bakes the most startling severed fingers. The first time they did almost creep me out a little bit – zombie fingers with almond nails and raspberry jam blood. Very effective!

      But they are absolutely delicious shortbread cookies. That brought me around to them.

      1. Not playing your game anymore*

        Any way you can put up your own less creepy decorations to block your view of the creep show? Big orange pumpkins, happy ghosts? Etc.

    2. Miss Pantalones En Fuego*

      I know it’s not the point of the letter and I agree with the OP that gruesome decorations have no place in the office, but as someone who has excavated hundreds of skeletons I can assure you that they usually have teeth. Often the teeth are better preserved than the rest of the bones, in fact.

      1. Nicosloanic*

        Off topic but inquiring minds have to know … do the teeth stay secured in the skeleton once everything else is gone? I would think they’d fall out and be scattered around maybe.

        1. Dr. Rebecca*

          It very much depends on…circumstances. Soil type, temperature, moisture levels, erosion, whether or not there’s been animal incursions to the burial, the direction/fitness of the tooth roots, all impact the state of preservation of the skull itself, which is usually what determines whether the teeth fall out. It’s not the gums (or at least not entirely) that hold the teeth in place.

          1. CommanderBanana*

            I learned this week that you can sprain a tooth! I too have some animal skulls lying around, and although the deer lost a tooth recently, the rest of the teeth and the horse skull are fine and have most of their teeth.

        2. Miss Pantalones En Fuego*

          What Dr Rebecca said. The roots do go into the jaw bone a bit so if everything is fairly well preserved and hasn’t been disturbed too much then most of the teeth are usually still in place.

        3. WantonSeedStitch*

          I have a deer skull that my father found in the woods, and the teeth stay in the head quite nicely!

        4. sometimeswhy*

          What Dr. Rebecca and Miss Pantalones En Fuego said and adding: at the museum where I volunteer, the large mammal skulls stored on walls and panels in the back of house research collections have little cotton bags either under them or on them to catch teeth if they fall out. Mostly they don’t fall out.

        5. Ace in the Hole*

          I don’t have much experience with human remains, but most animal skulls retain the teeth quite well. They’re embedded in bone and really don’t like to come out. I’ve even found broken/crushed pieces of old jawbones that still have all the teeth in place.

          1. bookworm*

            animal jawbones (esp donkey) are used as percussion instruments in a number of musical traditions– the attached but wiggly teeth are what makes the instrument have a rattle/rasp like sound.

      2. Sleet Feet*

        Gory decorations are typically more acceptable in healthcare fields. I’ve worked in a few clinics in a back office setting and these are some decorations we have had outside of haloweeen:

        A cake of a mid surgery patient complete with realistic guts.

        A gallbladder shaped pitcher that poured green liquids.

        A prank gift of actual gallstones during the Christmas party.

        During Halloween we have potlucks with realistic muscled meat heads, spider olive sculptures, bubbling punch with realistic looking fingers and offal.

        It’s not for eveyone but that’s part of being in healthcare at a lot of places and it seems the OPs office is one of them.

        1. PolarVortex*

          The amount of gallbladder things here! I have a gallbladder stuffed plushie thing that was a recovery gift post my own surgery.

          I think if I came across a medical office like this I’d be into it.

          1. quill*

            I bet you those organ plushies are from the same place my microbio class got our petri dish of plush plagues! The anthrax bacillus was my favorite.

        2. I think I work*

          I work with Dr’s all the time. Let’s just say Healthcare had very dark humor, so dark I fact others will be disgusted with it. It is a coping mechanism because the stuff we deal with will make most faint depending where they work. And the kicker is we can eat right after. This is probably also why we party hard as in thrown out of lots of places because it is like a soap opera of stuff that happens when the booze starts flowing.

          I think the OP just doesn’t like gore or is not a right fit for the office.

          1. Anonny*

            My mum works in mental health, and they have been banned from a few local pubs. Admittedly one time it was because she drunkenly stole a table centrepiece. She was very proud of it. [Picard facepalm]

          2. CalypsoSummer*

            A friend is a surgical nurse, and she has remarked that nurses are NOT allowed to discuss, at the dinner table, how things went at work today . . .

            1. SweetFancyPancakes*

              I had a friend who was a surgical nurse, and she would go home and poke her roommate and ask “Guess where *this* finger was today?”. It always grossed the roommate out.

        3. Worldwalker*

          Grim humor. The sickest jokes I know came from paramedics.

          I remember years ago in a class on search team leadership: Watch your team at a bad crash site. The cadet who throws up is going to be okay. The one who tells sick jokes is going to be okay. The one who doesn’t react at all is going to come apart (usually at the worst possible time), because that’s the one who has no coping mechanism.

          The spider olive structures sound cute! I hate olives (weirdly, I love olive oil) but my husband loves them, and we both like spiders. It would be cool to make a plate of those for him on Halloween. We currently have our front steps blocked off because a spiny orb weaver has put her web up there, to take advantage of the porch light. (notes spider-phobic people hiding under their desks whimpering “TMI”) Anyway, the olives sound really cute, and now I have to look up how to make them.

          1. Worldwalker*


            I can’t even blame autocorrupt; I’m on my desktop. I’ll blame insufficient caffeine.

          2. Selina Luna*

            I love spiders. I have a spider in the corner of my house every winter, to take care of the winter insects. So long as it’s not a black widow or a brown recluse, we’re good! Widows and recluses get relocated to under my shed if I can get them out safely. They will get smooshed if I have no other choice.

          3. Where’s the Orchestra?*

            The folks that I’ve seen with the biggest cases of “gallows humor” or black humor are:

            -trauma surgeons
            -accident investigators

            I honestly think it’s a coping mechanism to deal with all the horror they see in the course of their jobs. The key is keeping it among people who understand and share that sense of humor, and not forcing it on people who are uncomfortable with it.

              1. VegetarianRaccoon*

                Yes, I wasn’t sure if it counted as the same thing when it involves animals, but dark humor was absolutely a coping technique at our (overcrowded, underfunded, open-admission) shelter.

          4. Rachel in NYC*

            I don’t like spiders but someone in my neighborhood did an awesome spiderweb on the front of their brownstone. From the ground up to the second story, with the only opening for the door- and not even the entire door.

            I looked at it and laughed. I just imagined the person putting it and asking a taller SO inside- can you come and help?

            SO: in a little bit.

            SO never comes and helps.

            SO has to spend ALL of October ducking to get into their house.

          5. Random Biter*

            I am a full on arachnaphobe BUT I have a bold jumping spider that has lived in my house since he was a spiderling…his name is Charlie and the rules are he can’t touch me or be too close to me. Otherwise, we’ve shared living space for a few years now.

            1. Worldwalker*

              I absolutely love jumping spiders.

              Many years ago, I had one of those immortal flies. You know the kind: they’re immune to flyswatters, rolled up newspapers, or anything else, but the instant both your hands are full, they land on your face. I spent three days trying to rid myself of that fly. The fourth day, the fly was mercifully absent. Then I saw movement on my kitchen table. It was a jumping spider carrying away the fly, which was almost as big as the spider. I have honored all jumping spiders in his or her memory ever since.

              Did you know they’ll chase laser pointers, just like cats? (don’t wear them out!)

              And you probably won’t want to test this yourself, but when they jump, they kick so hard you can feel it. Which is fairly impressive for a creature whose weight is measured in milligrams.

              1. Random Biter*

                For some reason the jumping spiders don’t freak me out like the ginormous web spinners. I’ve actually discovered one the zebra striped guys sitting on my arm intently watching what I was doing on the computer. I just kind of encourage him to jump onto the wall. Charlie is a bold or daring jumping spider (I looked him up) I like when I discover him in my bay window hunting those immortal flies.

          6. Llama face!*

            I love that you blocked the steps for the spider’s sake. I didn’t use my home office printer (personal, not work use) for a month because a wolf spider had set up a web in the output area. I also may have occasionally fed her fungus gnats. ;)

            1. kiri*

              Dawww this is great! My husband and I had a spider who built a beautiful web on our porch, right over a spot where there’s usually a flower pot. We decided that as long as Spidey was there, we didn’t need to put a pot there (which drove my landscape architect father-in-law bananas), but she had a great setup all summer!

              My husband also teaches elementary school, and his students found a spider in their classroom and named it Charlotte. When Charlotte built a web on his ukelele case, one of his students told him very seriously that he would simply have to get a new ukelele case :)

          1. Worldwalker*

            At DragonCon, there was a blood drive. The people recruiting donors had signs up like “Visit a real vampire!”

          2. Gumby*

            I refer to blood donation appointments as “going to visit the vampires” – which is standard terminology in my family but kind of threw off my boss for a minute when I unthinkingly used it when talking to him earlier this year to explain a long lunch break.

        4. Gipsy Danger*

          I work in a cancer clinic, and we are very explicitly banned from having any death-related decorations or costumes. Everything here is super wholesome (one year the radiation department decorated like the 100 Acre Wood and everyone dressed like Pooh and his friends). Not a speck of fake blood or anything scary to be seen.

          1. Sleet Feet*

            Yeah oncology is it’s own thing. Usually it’s separated from the rest of the hospital and positivity isthe theme of all things.

        5. CalypsoSummer*

          A friend has a jello mold of a human brain, and it’s a strong person who can take a helping of that dish during a potluck because if you make the jello with milk instead of water, it’s a matte gray. Ewwwww . . .

          On the other hand, if you get some black pipecleaners, black food dye, and some googly eyes, you can make some absolutely adorable black cupcake-spiders.

        6. UKDancer*

          Healthcare fields are funny sometimes. The UK social media had a minor amusement at some midwives who did dilation pumpkins with the “mouths” increasing in size to mirror cervix dilation. I thought they were hilarious! Not sure if they’ve made it abroad or not.

      3. quill*

        Hundreds? We had to halt dig for suspicion of a skeleton.

        (Did it five times for the divinities student in my plot who couldn’t tell KFC from fingers… fun times in the archaeology hole! He got banned from bone ID for calling wolf too many times.)

      4. COBOL Dinosaur*

        Miss Pantalones… I’m curious if this excavation is part of your career? If so then I’d love to see you profiled in one of Allison’s special articles where she interviews people about their jobs.

        1. Indigo a la mode*

          Honestly, if excavating skeletons is *not* a part of her career, I’m even MORE interested if seeing her profiled.

    3. Matt*

      This reminds me of a comedy song by a popular Austrian band about the Grim Reaper. The plot of the song is that the Reaper is knocking on the singer’s door, but the singer gets him drunk with “Jagertee” (hunter’s tea, a popular apres-ski and Christmas market drink, basically tea with a lot of rum). There’s one verse that says:

      Den ersten Tee, den nimmt er ex, haut ihn sich ins Gerippe
      Er verbrennt sich nur die Zähnd, weil ihm fehlt ja die Lippe

      which translates to:

      The first tea he downs, puts it into his bones
      He only burns his teeth, ’cause he ain’t got lips

        1. Matt*

          I don’t know if it’s allowed to post youtube links, but the band is called EAV (Erste Allgemeine Verunsicherung – which translates to “First General Insecurance”) and the song “Der Tod” (“Death”). There’s one video in which some crazy guys play out the whole plot (so you don’t need to understand the German words to know what is happening), it’s the funniest version out there.

    4. MusicWithRocksIn*

      I do think it would be better if the OP focused on being distracted by the noise/lights/things hanging around or even being creeped out than by how unprofessional it all is. She seemed to have a lot of thoughts about how decorating so much was not appropriate – and of course there is a discussion to be had about how graphic or grim decorations should be – but overall the office seemed to be totally fine with going all out on Halloween, and I don’t think the professional argument is going to win it for her. The idea of what a ‘professional’ office is has become a lot wider than it was in the past, and if anything going in on big ‘fun’ activates seems more corporate these days.

      1. Rusty Shackelford*

        Good point. “I find this unprofessional” could easily be countered with “that’s just your opinion.” But “this creeps me out and makes me very uncomfortable” is about your feelings, not some undefined standards.

        1. MCMonkeyBean*

          Agreed. I think OP is coming across a bit pearl-clutchy asking things like “is this normal?” and “what is wrong with these people?” It’s not NOT normal, and there’s nothing wrong with people who enjoy these kinds of Halloween decorations!

          But at the same time, they absolutely have the right to not be made so uncomfortable at work! Coworkers can enjoy all the gory decorations they want at home. So OP definitely should push back but make sure to speak from a place of “I feel very uncomfortable in my office space, can we please tone it down a bit” rather than “you are all a bunch of freaks how can anyone enjoy this.” (not that I think that’s how they said it the first time, was just giving kind of an extreme example of what not to say)

      2. PolarVortex*

        That was my thought too. I admit mine was in part because of the “satanic symbols” comment, which lead me to believe the person is perhaps christian. I admit it’s a failing point of mine because the moment that came up, I re-attributed their discomfort to the hate of non-christian holidays. In part as a defense mechanism to “I don’t tell you how uncomfortable I am with your crucifix, please don’t tell me how uncomfortable you are with my references to multiple gods”. (Although maybe I’m mis-reading this entirely and they hate it because it’s co-opting non-christian symbols as “evil”.)

        OP: I do think you have the right to not be jump-scared in your office, as well as the right to not be nauseated by realistic gore. But different strokes for different folks, dig deep to understand what is making you unproductive vs what is just making you uncomfortable so your coworker is allowed to enjoy their holiday too.

        1. lilsheba*

          I didn’t like the “satanic symbol” comment either. Define satanic? A pentagram/pentacle? which of course is NOT satanic.

          1. Boof*

            To be fair, if it’s part of a grisly halloween setup it sort of implies the horror movie version of satanism, which as best I understand it aren’t really any actual religion or belief system any more than horror movie aliens or zombie plagues are realistic science

        2. Lily of the meadow*

          What? I am a Christian, and that never crossed my mind. I thought, like most people, that she just found it too creepy, on top of the other stuff. I REALLY wish people who are not Christian would stop making assumptions about those who are.

          1. Whimsical Gadfly*

            Your opening sentence kinda says it all.
            Like: I’m white and I don’t see a problem with requiring “professional” hairstyles. Or:
            I’m male and I don’t see any problems with the dress code.

            If you aren’t Christian you become very familiar with:
            I’m Christian and I don’t see any problems with only recognizing REAL holidays.

            It’s an assumption made because it’s a common reality.

            1. EveryWitchWay*

              My learning moment came when I found out (after a year or more of professional and pleasant service) that our housecleaners belonged to a group that is known for going door to door and leaving pamphlets. I consider myself allergic to proselytizing and momentarily wondered if I wanted them to keep working for me. Then (my Pagan self) had to ask if I would want to be discriminated against for my beliefs if someone found out about them. Uhh, no. This couple never “witnessed” to us personally, and they’d been professionally and non-judgmentally dusting our sacred display items for over a year. We happily continued our arrangement for nearly 10 years.

              1. too many too soon*

                JWs aren’t as bad as some groups. At least they don’t vote or run for office like many religious types in America, who then work to impose their beliefs on an entire nation via law.

              2. lilsheba*

                I am pleasantly surprised to hear that they left you alone and didn’t impose their beliefs on you. Very unusual. Now if the whole group could just do that it would be even better.

                1. Anonapots*

                  The people I’ve known who are JW have been very clear about delineating between their “volunteer” work and their professional work. I worked for many years with a woman who was devout in her beliefs, but the only time we discussed it was when I asked a direct question. Now, if I found her knocking on my door at 2pm on a Saturday, I would probably feel a bit differently about it, but in my experience, practicing Jehovah Witnesses are the least in your face every day of their lives than other Christians.

          2. Hex Libris*

            This is clearly labeled as speculation. And most of really wish Christians would stop making assumptions about those who aren’t. (Does that feeling insulting or overbroad when reversed? Food for thought!)

          3. Satan is a Christian anti-god*

            I REALLY wish that people who were Christian did not label everything which they do not like but is not from the bad side of the Christian religion as “Satanic”. Satan is a *Christian* anti-deity, and not even thought of in many religions which Christians claim to be “satanic”. Stay in your own lane and you will cease to be offended.

            1. PolarVortex*

              Although it has been mainstreamed a bit between Entertainment Industry and the prevalence of the christian religion’s manifest destiny/crusades type ideology.

              But yeah, only people who fall within the christian mythology or have been so strongly influence by said impact of the christian mythology, think about symbols in terms of satanic. The rest of us don’t believe in him and so wouldn’t attribute symbols to him.

          4. Erik*

            I am non-Christian, and the thought was immediate and obvious for me. “Satan” is an explicitly Christian concept – Satan is the Christian devil, and does not exist for anyone but Christians, therefore calling the decorations “Satanic” is *explicitly* making a religious complaint, and therefore making the entire complaint feel religious. Not just religious, but primarily belonging to a fairly small subset of Christian sects. This is not a proper basis for office complaints.

            Jump-scares and noisy displays absolutely have no place in the office. (I hate motion-activated anything!) But a spooky cauldron should be judged on the same standards as a deluxe Xmas tree in the aisle – is it an active problem that interferes with work, or just a seasonal display that will be gone soon?

        3. Name Required*

          I don’t agree with this logic. A Christian doesn’t have to just put up with Satantic symbols so that their coworkers can enjoy a holiday anymore than a Satanist has to put up with pictures of baby Jesus all over the office at Christmas. If it’s truly a religious symbol, a person has a right not to be subjected to it in the workplace unless that workplace is associated with the religion. If someone has a crucifix in their office, they need to take it down. If you have altars to multiple gods in your cubicle, you also need to take it down. Neither of you have to dig deep and just learn to be comfortable with other people’s religious symbolism at work.

          1. PT*

            Yes but there are not very many actual Satanic symbols, as in literal symbols of Satan. Meanwhile there are a lot of “Satanic symbols,” things Christians have labeled as Satanic because they simply don’t like or believe in them.

            1. Worldwalker*


              Could I just go and declare, say, that pumpkins are evil? Maybe because the Flying Spaghetti Monster says so? A religion gets to decide what its own symbols are and represent — not what other people’s are or represent.

              1. Former Admin Turned Project Manager*

                When I was student teaching, there was a group of parents who were very active in a particular religion that caused us to have to ban anything related to Halloween, up to and including the fact that I couldn’t have jack-0-lanterns to count on the math papers. You see, once you put a face on the pumpkin, you bring the spirit of the devil into it.

                We had a Fall Harvest party instead, and roasted pumpkin seeds (but threw away the shells of the pumpkins instead of anyone carving them).

            2. Name Required*

              I agree, but I didn’t think the comment was talking about that. Maybe I misunderstood. I was speaking more to this from the original comment: “In part as a defense mechanism to ‘I don’t tell you how uncomfortable I am with your crucifix, please don’t tell me how uncomfortable you are with my references to multiple gods'”

              I could see an unaware person hanging something that looks like the Sigil of Baphomet at Halloween without really knowing what it is, or co-opting Wiccan or Pagan symbolism. It’s far more likely that whatever the decoration is, it’s not religious at all. But if it were, no one needs to just accept religious symbolism at work so their coworker can enjoy a holiday.

              1. PolarVortex*

                You’re not in fact entirely wrong. You mention the Sigil of Baphomet as an example. If the person is truly a satanist, they have every right of that and christians shouldn’t be able to stop them from having it unless they too promise to show no cross tattoos/necklaces/what have you. I think you’re not wrong with the concept of having no religious iconography at the workplace but typically execution tends to be banning things that are non-christian and still allows the various and sundry christian symbols.

                It also makes me terribly uncomfortable because I have been physically hurt and discriminated against by people who wear these symbols.

                But personally, I am someone who understands the comfort and support religion can bring to people. I’ve seen the impact of the support of churches on my relatives. I don’t begrudge people’s christian symbols. I just object to the satanist labeling/continual promotion that anything non-christian is devil worship because it’s a non-christian symbol. Lilith as a great example of empowerment vs evil.

        4. Worldwalker*

          The odds are that the person with the gruesome cubicle is also a Christian. It’s only a smallish subset who have an issue with Halloween. And it sounds like this person doesn’t have a religious objection — more like they’re squeamish.

        5. too many too soon*

          Same with the religious aspect. I celebrate ‘halloween’ as a religious observation, underneath all the fun stuff. To me it’s a time to ponder & reconnect with ancestors and loved ones no longer alive. Lumping it in with christian concepts like ‘satanism’ is offensive, but most non-christians in America are used to religious prejudice and having christianity imposed on public spaces.

          1. Ace in the Hole*

            I’m non-religious and generally not bothered by displays of faith, but incorporating religious symbols into “spooky”/gruesome halloween décor bothers me for the reasons you describe.

            It’s offensive because it paints minority religions as creepy/evil/fake/spooky/satanic/etc. Just imagine someone using the star of david in halloween decorations because they thought it looked spooky and evil – hopefully we can all agree that would be an incredibly offensive display of prejudice. Why would it be okay to use symbols of other religions that way?

            1. too many too soon*

              Symbols of christian faith are offensive given the role the religion has played in destroying lives and cultures. A cross is the same as a swastika or confederate flag to me, in terms of representing torture and genocide. Believers might want to ponder the effects their religion has had on others.

              1. Gerry Keay*

                Look I’m a hardcore atheist and anti-imperialist so I really do get the core of what you’re saying, but maybe let’s not compare things to swastikas! Holocaust comparisons are not necessary if you’re trying to make a point that christianity has been the root cause of a lot of atrocities!!

              2. Ace in the Hole*

                That’s not relevant to OP’s situation, and is in itself a bigoted ignorant statement.

          2. Random Biter*

            I get so tired of having to explain that Halloween is NOT “Satan Night” nor does Day of the Dead have anything to do with eeeeeevul zombies….every. freakin. year.

        6. A Feast of Fools*

          Yep, I got to “satanic symbols” and lost all empathy for the OP.

          I have a black stainless steel tumbler from The Satanic Temple, an atheist organization. The logo and words on the tumbler are a really dark gray. Like, REALLY dark gray. You have to inspect it verrrrrry closely to see what it says.

          I left my tumbler next to the tea kettle at work one morning because I’d forgotten to grab a tea bag from my desk. When I came back, my tumbler was gone. Some Christian zealot had thrown it in a big, lidded trash can because it offended their very delicate beliefs. Thankfully we have security cameras and they were caught.

          Being offended by “satanic symbols” is right up there with, “My cube mate wears a Star of David pendant and my manager doesn’t seem the least bit bothered by it! Can I sue my company for religious harassment?”

          1. PolarVortex*

            I’m so sorry that happened to you! I admit I just googled The Satanic Temple, and they have – pardon the pun – one hell of an awesome logo. I’m a bit jealous of your tumbler.

            It’s mostly amusing to me because I’ve actually encountered abuse at the hands of people wearing christian symbols but I haven’t yet personally met a christian who was physically hurt by someone wearing a “satanist” one. If one of us had the right to not see religious symbols around the workplace because of the harm it causes, it’d be me. But honestly, I think we should all just respect whatever mythology we choose to believe in or the right to believe in no mythologies at all.

          2. Worldwalker*

            Argh. Having a right to your own beliefs does not give people the right to declare that others’ beliefs are wrong.

            Mug with a Flying Spaghetti Monster symbol on it: okay.
            Mug with “May the FSM touch you with His noodly appendage”: okay.
            Mug with “Those who don’t worship the FSM should be made into lasagna”: not okay.

        7. Mannequin*

          I just think of the jackholes that propagated the Satanic Panic in the 80s & 90s, which was based on nothing more than Christian extremist speculation and ruined many people’s lives. It started with harassing nerdy kids who played D&D and ended with the horrific sham of the McMartin preschool trial (anyone who is unfamiliar with this needs to Google it isn’t might be shocked at how much of this BS conspiracy theory had been recycled into Qanon beliefs.)
          Anyone talking about ordinary Halloween decorations as “satanic symbols”, when the holiday had literally & absolutely NOTHING to do with the fallen Angel of Christian mythology, instantly rings allll of my alarm bells for this kind of toxic mindset.

      3. Nea*

        I agree – “I cannot work with a noise/flashing light/the fear something will drop on my head” doesn’t leave itself open to someone trying to negotiate like “I don’t like your taste in decorations” does.

        1. Boof*

          yeah – I love me some horror movies and gory halloween flim flam, but I would not want to try to work by flashing lights, sound effects, or fog generators either.

    5. Grand Admiral Thrawn Is Blue Forevermore*

      I love Hween decorations and have brought adorable things to my cubicle, but they all fall in the cute, sparkly range. I dislike the scary and gory stuff. I would not want to work near that person as described today.

      1. Where’s the Orchestra?*

        I decorated at work for Halloween as well – mostly all flat and non-spooky hangers from the dollar store.
        But my office also said that all decorations for holidays must non-distracting and secular. For Halloween they specifically state nothing gross, gory, and if it bothers your co-workers it has to go. The closest thing anyone has to spooky is one manager has a life-sized poster of Michael Myers on the outside of their office door. The “decorations” mentioned in the letter above would be gone before they all got put up where I work (fortunately).

        1. PT*

          Secular decorations sounds like it could get to be very hair-splitting, since some people don’t believe there is a way to celebrate a secular/cultural version of a religious holiday at all.

          1. Where’s the Orchestra?*

            And my managers do try to be really fair with the hair splitting secular/religious divide. Anything blatantly religious is out (this includes all baby Jesus/nativity scenes at Christmas), if it’s borderline they will generally let it go unless there are complaints.

            They also backed me when a coworker went way, way into my cube and complained about a picture* of my child in a calendar on the inside of my wall. The problem was with the shirt you could kinda see behind the big string of fish she was holding up all proud of what she caught. The shirt, a picture of Martin Luther. It quickly turned from, I’m offended by this to why were you going through you coworkers things and changing pages on her calendar?

            *Picture was part of a collage of seven pictures and smaller than the average smartphone screen.

            1. Zephy*

              A picture of Martin Luther or Martin Luther King, Jr?

              Either one is a weird thing to get offended about but I’ve never seen, you know, Protestant Reformation merch.

      2. Cold Fish*

        I love Halloween decorations but I too go for the cute stuff (Currently looking at the dancing dog dressed as a skeleton sitting on my desk) but I have a coworker that goes all out on decorations in her office and she definitely goes for the dark stuff. Creepy pictures, Freddy Kruger candy bowl, a collection of the creepiest dolls. She comes in over the weekend to decorate; she goes all out. We’ve had visitors to the office who stop by each year just to take a peak at her office. After Halloween she takes it all down and puts up just as many Christmas decorations. It’s fun.

      3. MeleMallory*

        Yes! I love Halloween but I’m super squeamish, so I avoid the gory, bloody, really gross zombie-type decorations. My desk has a small pumpkin, a Halloween gnome and a little witch (I crocheted the last two decorations). I hate spiders IRL, but I would be ok if someone hung up some spiderwebs with fake spiders on the wall, and I’m cool with jack-o-lanterns, Frankenstein’s monsters, ghosts, etc. I wouldn’t be able to work near a severed head.

        1. Grand Admiral Thrawn Is Blue Forevermore*

          I probably bought too many things this year but it’s been so stressful, I wanted to be happy about something. I have two sparkly stickers on my fabric walls, a dressed up llama, a pumpkin nutcracker, a velvet pumpkin, a Day of the Dead kitteh, a light up pumpkin with a small well dressed skeleton with tophat and crow. Also, a cat/pumpkin candy dish.

      4. F.M.*

        I love Halloween decor, but I take care when decorating my cubicle to avoid anything that could be distressing by hitting various common points of annoyance, triggers, cultural taboos, phobias, and so forth. So: nothing that flashes, nothing that makes sounds, nothing that produces particulate matter. No spiders, no realistic depictions of the dead.

        Pumpkins, goofy skeletons, witch hats & cauldrons? Tombstones with silly captions? Cartoon bats? Yes! So many cartoon bats!

    6. BethRA*

      Well they can’t really bite very well without teeth, so yes, they’re less scary.

      Kidding. I suspect the OP is just creeped out and fixated on details.

    7. quill*

      I know, right? I got so hung up on that detail.

      Still, I think we should usually agree to leave the gore out of public displays. Nothing wrong with a few skeletons (unless they are the kind that gets bones VERY WRONG, just google skeleton spider…) but if you’ve gotta pick your battles, draw the line at blood and gore.

  1. Prefer my pets*

    Oh man, I’m right there with you #3! I have no idea why or how I read as fast as I do but I always have. Growing up, I would check out 10-15 books every week from the library and no one except my family would believe I actually read them all despite being able to point out details most people missed, like tiny inconsistencies between different hooks in a series. It was awesome in college for taking a big course load!

    In my work, I just tell people I’ve always been a freakishly fast reader and after they’ve worked with me awhile no one thinks twice about it, except to inflict the initial review of giant new policy documents on me! But I’m in government so reading insanely long documents quickly is viewed as a very positive ability for someone on a team to have!

    1. Prefer my pets*

      ….of course being able to read quickly & type a comment on a smartphone without typos are clearly two different skills! My kingdom for an edit button.

    2. Viki*

      As someone else in this club, one of the things I do, is highlight and jot any questions etc. in the side so it at least shows the person I’m looking/reading.

      It also helps me absorb the stuff, because I can do those tests and be fine but in a day, not really be able to explain what I wrote.

      1. Seven hobbits are highly effective, people*

        It feels like there are two different situations here: long-term co-workers who you just need to establish yourself with as someone who actually reads that fast, and interactions with people who you won’t be around often enough to build that reputation.

        For the first group, I’d just focus on making sure I had appropriate feedback/insights/whatever as a result of reading, and in a month or two it’ll just be one of your quirks and not a big deal anymore once everyone is used to it.

        For people who you don’t want to accidentally offend and who you don’t see often enough to build a track record, I’d lean into kind of performative “active reading” techniques a bit when you’re reading something in front of people. They may or may not actually help you comprehend the text better (which it doesn’t sound like you’re having trouble with anyway), but they’ll “show your work” for others as well as slow you down a bit. (Things like underlining key phrases, writing questions in the margins, so on – there are a ton of such strategies out there.)

        1. A Library Person*

          I agree. If the OP is comfortable sharing this with colleagues/frequent collaborators (and it sounds like they are), I think they should, and their ability to actually take in all of the information at such a rapid pace will be evident in their work.

          However, for meetings with people the OP doesn’t know, works with infrequently, or needs to impress (like big clients or the c-suite), I’d lean toward sitting with the pages a little longer by default and not mentioning it. People *should* believe OP when they say they are a fast reader, but I could see myself being skeptical if someone seemed to blow through my carefully prepared report/whatever without taking a more typical amount of time with it. Especially if there are gender or racial dynamics involved.

      2. John Smith*

        I’d also suggest verbally commenting on the content of what you’ve read to demonstrate you have read it and taken it in. “I like your idea of X but on page 22 we seem to be leaning more towards Y”. “Just to let you know, there’s a typo in paragraph 3 on page 8” or some other little details that would be missed by skimming.
        A former colleague with a photographic memory used this technique with great success, though it did lead to inevitable “testing” the same way colourblind people are subjected to “what colour do you see this as”.

        1. Pixies' Dust*

          Yeah, commenting on what’s been read is a very good idea. Reading speed “tests” are infuriating on a personal level. Professionally, I guarantee it will damage my relationship with someone, because it establishes their position of zero trust in me/my work. So I see asking to be quizzed as inviting unnecessary drama into the workplace. Preemption with comments or questions works here, because it builds trust before the question is raised.

      3. Allonge*

        Yes, this. I doubt that the meetings are there just for people to read the documents – OP, you can use the extra time to start thinking of the action points, whatever that might be in your case. Write up questions, highlight issues you think are important, make connections to other projects…

        And if you run out of these, go and make your shopping list or work on other stuff. Notepads are your friend.

      4. I need cheesecake*

        Yes, this. And then just wait.

        I read fast. I’m used to mentally killing time in these situations. It’s not worth burning capital over.

        1. Charlotte Lucas*


          I still remember the suspicious looks I would get from teachers the first time I would read a handout or take a test & turn it over when I was done (per instructions) then sit & wait for everyone else… Luckily, I also had a rich fantasy life. (The good teachers started letting me take out a book & read while everyone else finished. Which is what I wanted to do anyway!)

          1. MissBaudelaire*

            Same here!

            We used to have DEAR/BEAR time. (Drop everything and read/be excited about reading). My sixth grade homeroom teacher never, ever, ever believed that I could read as fast as I did. Even when I wrote out detailed synopsis of what I had read about. She mainly just didn’t like me as a whole, though.

            But like you said, the good teachers let me read my book after tests/after I was done with the work. Win-win.

            1. Alianne*

              Oh, same. I was chastised by multiple teachers because there was “just no way” I could have read the entire article/handout/short story and retained anything. Then they would hand me the reading comprehension quiz, I would finish THAT in five minutes and get 100%, and they’d subside into muttering. I think they were just annoyed that I rushed through the informative article and/or classic short story to get to whatever fantasy novel I was reading that day.

              1. R*

                I had pretty much the same experience. It’s only as an adult that I’ve been able to finally chuckle at how pissed off I must have made my teachers.

          2. kitryan*

            Yup. Kindergarten thru 3rd grade I was allowed to move thru the reading program at my own pace, but at a new school in 4th grade, everything was more regimented. Early in the year I’d finished the in class reading assignment and asked what I should do next. Teacher said I couldn’t have finished and to read it again. I did, I asked again, and got told to read it again.
            After that I just stopped asking and for that and later reading periods I either sat and waited once I was done or read other selections in the book (or other books, but that was frowned upon).
            We also had a reading time test in 7th grade and I asked the teacher to check my calculations on words per minute, as it was an order of magnitude higher than the example calculations (examples were all under 1000, mine was well above). She basically accused me of lying.
            For a school that billed itself as catering to gifted kids, there was a surprising amount of this sort of thing that went on.

        2. Woah*

          Yes. My third grade teacher hated me and was actively abusive, ripped up my tests if I finished early, etc. I just picked the next “smartest girl” in the class, waited till she handed things in, and handed mine in 2-4 minutes later. I spent a lot of time just sitting there moving my pencil back and forth but I stopped getting screamed at. I sometimes wonder what I could have accomplished if I’d been encouraged, nurtured, etc. I remember thinking “wait, if Lauren S. is the “next smartest” and I finish theme tests 20 minutes before her and get better grades than her, am I really weird?” But who was I going to ask?

          I now work in a field where I am constantly handed 50 page documents of intricate and specific policy and asked to comment on it almost instantaneously, so I found a niche.

      5. Xenia*

        As a fellow fast reading club member nonverbal cues are your friend. I carry a little notepad with me—maybe bring one to meetings and jot things down as you read?

        But, if you’re getting this commentary from your long-term coworkers, it might be worthwhile to make sure that you aren’t making mistakes, too. Maybe ask them if they have encountered a problem beyond the perception of you seemingly skimming

        1. PT*

          No, it’s that a lot of workplaces HATE someone who seems like they’re “better” at anything than someone else. If you are, it’s best to hide it so they don’t “burn the witch.”

      6. Harper the Other One*

        Yep, also a fast reader and this is what I do in group reading situations! Just waiting at the end of pages is weirdly aggravating to me so I’ll highlight or jot notes.

        The other thing I will sometimes do is bring a separate notepad so I can also jot down other things – people don’t usually look closely at what you’re writing so I can take the time to do other things as well.

        1. May Flowers*

          Came here to offer this same suggestion. Like OP, my reading speed is lightning fast. To “mask” it at team meetings, I bring along a notebook and pen. Depending on what we are reading as a team, sometimes I annotate the document as I read with questions, ideas, etc. Other times, when I’m finished reading, I use my notebook to jot notes about the document or about other work-related things that are on my mind. This helps so that the facilitator of the meeting doesn’t feel uneasy when I look up from the document at half the time they were expecting.

    3. Magenta Sky*

      I have a friend who does the same. He doesn’t skim, has no training in seed reading. Reads every word. Regularly reads a 300 page novel in an hour. It’s no common, but it’s not unique.

      1. Canuck in Scotland*

        In school when we had to share books in English class I used to read each page twice and then ask my partner if they were ready to move on and it usually worked out about right. So if you’re really often getting comments about this you could try doing that (variant on Alison’s “wait on each page” that’s maybe easier to do consistently).

        1. Dragon_Dreamer*

          Eh, for a lot of speed readers, especially the neurodivergent like me, that can lead to two outcomes. Getting utterly lost and/or utterly bored with re-reading the same thing multiple times.

        2. MissBaudelaire*

          Oh, I hated that. I also hated when we did reading out loud. Listening to people mumble and stumble over every word was torture for me. It wasn’t that they couldn’t read at grade level, they were all totally fine! I was the problem, not them.

          1. quill*

            Oooh, elementary school popcorn reading. Hated it. Got sent to the principal a few times for derailing it by being three chapters ahead and/or being sarcastic about it.

            Principal, not impressed with what my 4th grade social studies teacher thought was an attitude problem, would just sigh and send me back.

          2. NMFTG*


            I still find that to be torture. And if I get very engaged listening to a novel I don’t already know on audible, I’ll just have to stop and get an ebook to read at my own pace.

        1. TechWorker*

          …and that is exactly the problem :p

          Just because something is hard to understand doesn’t mean it’s impossible. I was/am a very fast reader (a short novel in an hour is definitely plausible, though I don’t tend to measure). I was lucky that my primary teacher believed me rather than punished me like some others on the thread (I remember him asking me if I took in two lines at once to which I was like, uh, I don’t know). If I try to focus on the words or sound them out in my head, then reading speed slows considerably.

          Luckily the culture in my office is that technical documents should always be sent round for review before the meeting, so group reading situations basically never happen. The only time it’s come up at work is in my performance review where my manager diligently waited for me to read through the 2-3 page document and was like ‘oh? You’re done!’ but didn’t comment otherwise.

          1. Luffy*

            I don’t find it hard to understand. Reading fast is not a difficult concept to wrap the brain around. Rather, I find some of these stories literally unbelievable. They beggar belief.

            How’s a way to phrase it that doesn’t get me flagged? I suspect that some of these stories may not be entirely accurate. It’s also interesting that so many insanely fast readers happen to congregate in one spot. But perhaps I am misreading comments or misunderstanding this issue as you say.

            1. Lenora Rose*

              This is a text heavy site with a huge commentariat. The number of commentors telling their fast reading stories may seem like a lot clustered together, but is a minuscule percentage of the total commentors.

              I’m a normal fast reader, not like these impressive/scary speedy readers and I have no real struggle believing they exist.

            2. Tali*

              I would say I read at an average speed, and definitely know people who read quite slowly or even struggle to read. So by definition there must be people who read quite quickly and even incredibly quickly, right?

    4. Matt*

      I’m a fast reader too (although probably not that fast). It began in early childhood when I didn’t “learn to read” like every other child did in elementary school – when as a small child my mother read to me I would look over her shoulder and it sort of “naturally came to me” this way. One day the kindergarten teacher asked my mom “did you know he already can read? He reads to the other children!” When we read a story from the textbook at school and the story was thrilling, I would read multiple pages ahead while some other kid was desperately swiping their index finger along the letters, and when it was my turn, I got scolded for not knowing where we were standing and being unattentive.

      However no such problems at work recently – if we have to read something, we usually do it on screen and in private.

      1. Hanani*

        I had the exact same experiences, down to keeping a finger in the textbook while we were reading aloud, reading ahead, and then getting scolded for being inattentive! Now I check in with folks about “who needs a bit more time” reading something.

        For the OP, definitely jot down notes, highlight things, engage with the document in some way. Hopefully with your long-term colleagues, once you and your work are known you won’t have to performatively engage so much, but early on or for short term relationships, that takes care of most of the problems

      2. WantonSeedStitch*

        I had the same experience, pretty much, though I skipped kindergarten mostly because I could already read well. I’m at a bit of a loss as to how I’m going to teach my son to read, since I don’t even remember learning to read, it happened when I was so young!

        1. SLP*

          Look up phonetic vs. whole word reading methods. Current phonics teaching emphasizes learning letters, then learning sounds, then blending sounds to make words. Whole word or sight word reading looks at words as discrete units. We oldies tended to get whole word reading instruction. Whole word readers look at the first and last letters and make a “guess” based on context. They tend to be much more fluent readers compared to phonic readers.

          1. Janet*

            I was taught with phonics (early 1960’s), but I know my reading speed is due to whole-word recognition.
            I think it’s just a natural progression.

          2. wanda*

            I’m going to defend phonics-based instruction here. Research has consistently shown that phonics-based instruction is much better than whole-word instruction at getting every kid to read. Lots of kids taught using whole-word instruction, especially kids not exposed to much text at home, took forever to start reading, which put them behind in literally every other subject because one of the main ways you learn about things in school is through reading.
            On a personal level, I started teaching my son to read last year when he was 4. He’s almost 6 now and reading very fluently at a 3rd grade level. I used an extremely systematic phonics-based curriculum, and those *really* helped in the beginning to help him read basic words. It was a jumpstart to get him to quickly start reading more advanced and interesting texts, which is what allowed him really get fluent in decoding. Nowadays, he mostly recognizes the words outright, but the phonics training still helps a lot when he encounters unfamiliar words such as proper names, jargon, or words of foreign origin.

      3. Ally McBeal*

        Ha! My kindergarten or first grade teacher had to call my parents because she didn’t believe I’d already read The Lion, The Witch, & The Wardrobe. New librarians always asked my dad if I was really going to read “all those books” (a totebag crammed full) in a week. My speed-reading came in VERY handy with BookIt, however – my family got so many free Pizza Hut personal pan pizzas and MLB game tickets because of me!

        My go-to in my professional life (if someone is watching, as in OP’s scenario, which is rare for me) is reading the thing quickly, then going back through and underlining stuff just to look busy.

        1. Woah*

          Yes! The year the library summer reading program did pages/books instead of hours I was GOLDEN. so many starbursts, kid pizzas and ice pops!

      4. ErinWV*

        Oh wow – I also learned to read like a switch being flipped, when I was three. I have pre-literate memories of looking at text that was like hieroglyphics. And then one day it was readable words. My college friend, who was studying elementary education, insisted that neurologically this was not possible. I appreciate your anecdotal evidence that I remembered accurately and she was probably wrong.

        I was also regularly read to, on my grandmother’s lap with the book in front of us. Take note, caregivers of small children.

        1. Matt*

          I don’t know if it was like “flipping a switch” for me, I also have no pre-literate memories. I just have no memories of learning to read either, just the same as I don’t remember learning to walk or talk. It’s a skill that seems to be there. I also don’t remember the kindergarten stories my mom told me about, but I remember not having to learn to read in elementary school because I already could do it.

          Along with the reading skill there also came an intuitive sense for spelling and grammar in my native language. I almost never made mistakes without ever memorizing rules. (I do make mistakes in English, if everyone feels the need to point some out, since I learned it as a foreign language ;-)

        2. DesertRose*

          Slight diversion, but the two best ways to raise kids who read is to read to/with them and to read for your own entertainment/pleasure where they can see you (like, don’t make a big deal out of it, more part of the daily routine like, “we’ve had supper and baths/showers, and now we’re going to do quiet things like reading a book until bedtime”).

          I have no pre-literate memories either, and my mother recently told me that I apparently figured out reading on my own, from her (and despite his other failings as a parent, my bio-father) reading to me. I was three years old when I learned to read, and (until she told me otherwise) I thought she had intentionally taught me to read; nope, she just held me on her lap and read to me and the little learning machine that I was (and all small children are) handled the rest.

    5. Allison K*

      I’ve always been a fast reader, and what seems to help is asking a couple of questions – make little ticks for places with Q’s, and when you’re finished freakishly quickly, “In clause 4, does ‘absences’ cover FMLA leave?” and so on. Even if you need to phrase it as a confirmation rather than a request for info.

    6. Dragon_Dreamer*

      I just shrug and casually tell people I’m a natural speed reader. I make it sound like there’s nothing weird about it. (Which there really isn’t!) If you make it seem normal, they’ll react in kind. They’ll also be more likely to believe it, instead of possibly assuming you’re just making an excuse. It also helps that I can tell them WHY I can read so fast, if they insist. (Though few do.)

      Most people, when they read, unconsciously sound out the words in their head. Their brain goes word -> sound -> meaning. My brain skips that middle step, going straight from word to meaning. Long practice has made it so I don’t mangle speaking new words I’ve only read. (Usually.) However, it does make it impossible for me to learn to read music. You NEED that middle step for musical scores. I learn songs by ear.

      Just don’t call your amazing ability weird or freakish, and people will follow suit. If you want to put them at ease even faster, try asking them about, or commenting on, something specific in the document. Prove your comprehension, and people will end up being glad you can read so fast. :)

      1. AutolycusinExile*

        That’s fascinating! I’m also a quite fast reader (not quite as fast as OP when reading non-fiction, but close enough) and I haven’t experienced anything like that with reading music. I read music much the same way I read words, without pausing to consciously identify the note before playing it. I wonder what caused the inverse relationship for you! I did start learn to read music about five years after I learned to read – maybe it has to do with which you do first/how ingrained the instinct is by then? Now you’ve got me really curious.

        I’ve never had any formal testing done like OP has, but my dad once tried to figure out what was going on in my head and his conclusion was that I was reading in larger, paragraph-sized chunks, rather than word by word (in addition to not vocalizing, of course). My level of interest dramatically changes my reading speed, though, and my recall memory is garbage so regurgitating facts from what I just read is a no-go no matter how slowly I go through the text. My best friend has a photographic memory as well as the fast reading speed, and I spent all of our university years eternally jealous! It’s funny how differently skills can manifest.

      2. Circuses are Coordinated*

        Another example of this site being educational beyond work matters…This explains SO MUCH for me about my speed reading and music! Natural speed reader and started playing an instrument as a child. It took until high school for a teacher to realize I couldn’t actually read the scores and was doing it all by ear. And despite working hard to do so…I never got better at it.

        1. Matt*

          Same for me, although I learned to read musical scores and play according to them. But after a few times when I knew the piece, I played by ear. And I can’t “read” scores in the form that I “hear” the song in my mind like composers do, but I have to hum, sing or play the tune.

      3. SpiderLadyCEO*

        Yes! This! I have never seen someone articulate how I read before so clearly. I go straight to meaning, and if I have only read a word, and never said it, I have no clue how it is said aloud! I also have the same issue with sight reading for music, and it never occurred to me they could be conflated.

        I also read the entire chunk of text as soon as I see it and if I don’t pay attention, it results in hilarious confusion such as me thinking my friend was going to a party in 70’s rock attire instead of 70% off rack attire.

        1. kitryan*

          The ‘error’ I get sometimes from taking in text in paragraph chunks is to mis track along the lines, if the text allows, basically taking the first half of line 8 and the second half of line 9, for example. This means sometimes I have to pause because my brain’s fed me a sort of mad libs result and I have to go thru more slowly. Doesn’t happen too often but it’s funny when it does.

        2. quill*

          This is probably why I liked learning spanish so much: everything. is. phonetic. And because of latin root words after a few years I had a pretty big vocabulary for things that weren’t slang or idioms! I read excellently as soon as we got through the verb tenses. But being able to listen to the language and understand it came frustratingly slower.

      4. KimberlyR*

        I do the same. I actually don’t read individual words-I see and grasp whole phrases and sentences. I hate writing/typing and often make mistakes or leave out a letter because its so much slower and clunkier than how I read and it feels like I write or type at a snail’s pace (I don’t-I write and type at a pretty normal speed). I don’t read nearly as fast as the LW but fast enough that people raise an eyebrow or assume I skim vs read based on how fast I do it. I am very matter-of-fact about it-“reading is my one talent in life” or “I just happen to read a bit fast” with a shrug-I don’t make a big deal of it and never try to be braggy and it seems to work out fine.

        (For the record, sometimes I wish I read slower-when I find a book or author I like, I read their books way too fast and then the story is over too soon. I love the books that are good enough for a reread for this reason.)

        1. Dragon_Dreamer*

          I’ve found audiobooks help me slow down and enjoy the story more.

          Also, growing up, we quickly found that writing was a struggle for me, if I had to do it with pen and paper. Typing (and this was the late 80s/early 90s, so early PC days) was MUCH faster and easier. As long as I could 2 finger type, since 10 finger causes my tendons to subluxe and hurt. Now I can do a multi-page paper in an hour or so and still get an A, if I know the subject well. Writing was so slow for me, that my thoughts got jumbled up. Typing let my words flow as fast as my thoughts.

          1. kitryan*

            Ditto to this too. My mom (who could really be a saint) saw the trouble I was having so when I had to do reports (early in grade school) she would basically interview me about it and write down my answers. Then I’d have to review those with her and use them to complete the report. After some of these I could take the super speed version and put it into the report format myself. But it was so frustrating to slow down and shorten everything.
            I can’t do audiobooks as much though, I tend to drift. So I mostly listen to books I’ve already read, so if I zone out, I don’t have to figure out what’s going on. I can just let it be more background and enjoy the voice talent.

        2. Cafe au Lait*

          Fast reader here as well. I’ve found that switching to dyslexic font has done wonders for my reading enjoyment. I’m forced to slow down and be immersed in the in the words. I retain a much more detailed account of what happened in the story.

          The first couple of times reading I walked away with a headache. But after that my brain adjusted to the new way and it no longer hurts to switch back between fonts like Verdana, New Times Roman and dyslexic fonts.

      5. Quinalla*

        This is very interesting and explains several musicians I know (along with famous ones I’ve heard of) that don’t really read music and mostly just learn by ear. I have a good ear, so understand how this can be done and can do it, but to me I didn’t understand how that could be easier for them, but this makes a lot of sense. I read fast, but not OP fast, I very much am hearing the sounds of words in my head while I’m reading and I also read music no problem. For me I describe it as reading entire sentences/paragraphs in one go. I’m not reading individual words for the most part, but consuming chunks at a time with my brain often guessing on some of the specific words. I have to slow down and force myself to read each word (usually I’ll subvocalize or just straight up read out loud) when I’m editing my own or others writing. I think a lot of folks are reading every word or only reading very short phrases vs. reading big chunks of text in one go.

        For OP, I recommend taking notes/highlights/writing down a key questions or two/etc. when you are done reading. Good thing to do anyway while you are waiting and will be more interesting than sitting waiting at the end of the page and good to avoid any questions in meetings with people you won’t see again. And yes, for folks you will form a long term working relationship with, I’d use one of the suggested scripts of letting them know you just read really fast like it is no big deal and I like the ideas posted of preempting skepticism by making a comment about what you read or asking a question to show you comprehended it.

      6. I exist*

        oh wow that’s how I read, too! It unfortunately makes it a huge struggle for me when there is a misspelled word or incorrect homophone in a sentence. I usually think I missed a word before I think about similar words.
        That makes sense why I struggled so much with reading music. I had to go through so many mental steps to figure out what I was supposed to play.

      7. Hillary*

        I think I’m the same – I wonder if it’s also related to that “do you have an internal monologue” thing that was going around last year. I don’t think in words unless I’m writing, it just sort of happens. I can read music, but it was hard to learn and I started in first grade with piano. I still can’t follow harmonies on sheet music, and I have to pick a line and stick to it singing, I can’t switch from soprano to alto.

        The thing that’s most interesting to me, once I know an audiobook I lose my speed on the written version because I hear the narrator in my head at their spoken speed. But I can also “listen” to my favorite audiobooks mentally.

      8. Ally McBeal*

        After reading your comment, I’m now suspicious as to whether my difficulty in learning new languages is related to how good of a speed reader I am. I don’t have too much problems with sight-reading music, although I definitely can’t speed read sheet music, but the word>sound>meaning thing trips me up when trying to learn other languages.

        1. Might Be Spam*

          This makes me think about my frustration in learning a foreign language. I could understand what I read, but I couldn’t understand when I heard it.

          I’m a fast reader also and I am probably skipping the “sound” part. I came into first grade not knowing how to read at all and by Christmas I was in the highest reading group. My teacher told me to stop sounding out the words.

      9. kitryan*

        You know, I read super fast and I’m terrible at reading music. I never thought about the two being connected before. I can use the score as a sort of map to a song I know by ear but translating the score to sounds without already having the sounds ‘in my head’ from having heard the piece before, is super tough.

        1. Gracely*

          I’m the same!

          It’s super frustrating at times, because I just need to hear the song once or twice and I can sing it–but before I do, I’m complete crap at singing it. And of course my choir director is a big fan of making soloists try out for pieces *before* we sing a given song as a whole choir, so I feel like I can never even try out for most of the solos we have.

          My spouse is the opposite, and it’s just unfathomable to me how they can be like “oh, that’s a B sharp” or pick up a score and know what it sounds like. I’m like…how. I can see that this note is higher than the other, and I can follow the lengths of notes, etc., but hoooooow does anyone just know what it sounds like by looking at it??

          1. kitryan*

            Exactly- The notes have sound values in relation to my memory of the song and to each other, the notation all makes sense with note values and rests and so on, and my pitch is good, except the names of the notes don’t match up to sounds for me, on their own. I quasi faked sight reading music all thru choir in high school, as I couldn’t really sing anything I hadn’t heard before but I was ok on the second go round and fine after that.
            I enjoyed learning drums for a bit because it actually removes this element – instead of different pitches, the note position often is representing different elements of the drum set, so the association is different and I found it easier to ‘play through’ new stuff.

      10. banoffee pie*

        Do you think so about the music reading thing? I can read music and I don’t hear a sound when I look at the note. I would have thought you’d need perfect pitch for that? I just see the note on the staves and it’s like, oh G or whatever. It’s just like reading words, there’s no translation going on. I’m not trying to argue, I’m just interested.

        1. Patty Mayonnaise*

          Yeah same, the music analogy definitely doesn’t work for me. I don’t hear a sound in my head when I look at a note and I’d agree you need perfect pitch for that which most people don’t have. I also don’t identify with word/sound/meaning thing either, but I am on the faster and more fluent side so perhaps that’s why?

      11. Dramatic Intent To Flounce*

        I never thought of it that way, usually because I’m an auditory type and so I do ‘hear’ things in my brain as I read, but that sounds familiar – the meaning and sound are simultaneous in my brain, I just think primarily as sounds. (Also have the music thing, which I likewise never linked to my speed with reading. Awesome pitch by ear, learned to read sheet music at least three times it and stuck none of those times.)

        Thank you for explaining something in a way it resonated! Always helpful when that happens.

      12. TootsNYC*

        I agree so much with the idea ofa “natural speed reader” instead of “freakishly” anything!!

      13. TootsNYC*

        I agree so much with the idea ofa “natural speed reader” instead of “freakishly” anything!!

        I am a. naturally fast typist. Early on–just a few weeks into typing class in high school–I realized I could type at 102 words per minute.
        By the time I was done with college, I could do 145wpm.

        My secret: I have a bigger memory for groups of letters. Other people see the letter, and move their finger to that letter. They type n-a-t-i-o-n. Ohter fast typists type n-a-tion by having a muscle-memory subroutine of “tion.” I type nation.

    7. Summer Day*

      I know exactly what you mean! I’ve only got in trouble for it once. I was involved in research and they thought I hadn’t read the test instructions as apparently I’d spent less than one second per screen. I humoured them and repeated the instructions spending 10 seconds on each screen Once you leave school you seldom have to share books/ papers. In meetings I find it useful as I have longer to gather my thoughts. My job requires a lot of reading so I consider it a useful superpower that I don’t want people to know about!! It reflects more positively if people think you are just incredibly hard working, well read and a great fact finder!!!

      1. Aggretsuko*

        Hahahah, I had to watch/read the sexual harassment training video this year and it told me I had to spend a MANDATORY HOUR doing the entire thing, even if I was done early.

        1. quill*

          Left it open and worked on other stuff, because it had the dreaded monotone reading the slide aloud voice.

          1. Summer Day*

            Ha ha! I’ve never really thought about my reading speed! When I have to do training courses I always assume I can do them in half the allocated time and manage my time accordingly- I thought everyone did this and it was like tramping that they always overestimate. BUT every now and again I get caught out and it will because they are video heavy or something I can’t speed up!! Now I think about it I have two kids and my youngest is a speed reader. One of my high school friends would be a speed reader and we’re both very successful in jobs that require assimilating a lot of written information.

          2. Janet*

            Oh, I hate those trainings. At work they have some where you can’t advance to the next slide until the voice finishes slowly reading it. Very slowly.
            It’s because they think people aren’t reading the information, and trying to skip to the end to pass the quiz. Maddening for fast readers.

          3. CalypsoSummer*

            We have to do a ton of mandatory training, and I guess it’s good to be regularly reminded to not blithely open attachments on e-mails from God knows who, not to shout sexually suggestive comments across the room, and not cheat on our timecards, but it sure does get tedious after a decade or two.

            I crank the sound way down, turn on the “closed caption” option, and do things on my other screen until there’s something I need to do — a question to answer or another link to click or whatever — and it sure does save annoyance.

        2. wanda*

          I’m pretty sure that is a state requirement or something. The same thing happened to me. Our online training program, though, had extra studies of real sexual harassment legal cases you could go through if you finished early. Some of those were actually interesting, and I ended up not regretting spending the full hour.

    8. bee*

      This is the story of my life (I always got fussed at for finishing reading assignments and tests fast because they assumed I rushed through them but no, I just read really fast) but in meetings like this I just sneakily peek around when I’m done and if no one else is finished, I’ll just pretend to re-read it until maybe a third of the rest of the group is done. Not the most assertive solution, maybe, but it works for me!

      1. Alexandra*

        I used to do that in school too! I’d read whatever I was supposed to, look around, read it again. Yep, everyone’s still reading so I’d go to the back of the textbook and read something there.

        When I’m told I didn’t read it properly now, I’ll give a quick synopsis of what I just read. That usually takes care of it.

    9. Jay*

      Joining the fast-reader club. I also write quickly. I’m a doc and when I was in office practice, I would go back to my desk between patients and triage whatever messages had accumulated in a few minutes (back in the paper-chart days). My colleagues never understood why I didn’t have a huge stack at the end of the day, and they also didn’t understand how I could keep up with my documentation. The regional manager once told me that she didn’t believe my productivity numbers because “you don’t look like you’re working that hard.” When I talk to people about my current job (home visits) and they ask how long documentation takes I always warn them that I am not normal.

      I’m glad I don’t have to explain/justify this to people. That would drive me bonkers. Since all our meetings are now virtual, if we have to go over a document during a meeting I can do other things while everyone else is catching up.

    10. TechGirlSupervisor*

      Joining the club here. I work in software and we have to frequently read design documentation, user manuals and other things. I always find it amusing whenever I get assigned work on a new project that I’m given 2-3 days to do a bunch of reading, but I’m pretty much always done the reading in 2-3 hours.

      Same when I was a teenager. I pretty much was a regular at the library. Wasn’t uncommon for me to read a new (to me) book at the library in two hours then load up my bookbag with 20 more books to read at home.

      1. Worldwalker*

        I remember the day when I was 8 years old and I could get my grown-up library card. That let me check out as many books as I wanted from anywhere in the library, not just 4 from the children’s section. I checked out a stack of books so tall I couldn’t see over them when I was carrying them (my mom had to take some so I could walk out to the car). The librarian didn’t believe I could read all of them in a week.

        A week? I read them in about three days! (obviously, we’re talking Danny Dunn here, not War and Peace)

        I miss having enough time to read a huge stack of books! And I pity kids today who are so scheduled into this activity and that team who would have no time to do that.

    11. Twisted Lion*

      Im also a fast reader and my husband jokingly calls me a Bookavore since I can plow through them so quickly. At work, I make myself reread things 3 times even though I know it. It just makes it less obvious to my coworkers.

      Or I make edits to the paper or jot notes. Honestly its a pain in the ass and I hated it in school so I can see how you dislike it at work. Good luck!

    12. Mockingjay*

      Also a fast reader. Haven’t had anyone comment on it at work, but as a technical writer, reading fast and well has been a career enhancer. I normally read each document thrice in the time it takes my coworkers to read once: a run through to become familiar with the topic, a second read before I edit or highlight notes, and a third read to proof changes. I’ve read every government spec and policy guide pertinent to my project; most people don’t read past the summary because it takes too long for them to read a manual in its entirety.

      The only down side is that I finish documents waaaay ahead of schedule and am always begging for work.

    13. PolarVortex*

      People don’t realize it’s so useful! Probably wouldn’t be useful now but back when Criminal Minds was a thing, I used to educate people on my reading comprehension by saying “yeah, I’m like much less smart Dr Reed”

      Other option if you don’t feel like explaining is to always carry a notebook around with you and then post reading just flip around in the reading material randomly while writing about whatever you want.

      1. hodie-hi*

        There were several typos and grammar errors in the hyperlexia article I read on disorders dot org. So irritating. :p

      2. kitryan*

        Yes, but personally, I don’t match up on most other signs/symptoms that are noted, *just* the super early reading

    14. Lav*

      Quick question! Is this something that came to you naturally, or did you take some type of course to teach you to read quickly? As a kid, I remember watching infomercials that supposedly taught you to read quickly.

      1. Dragon_Dreamer*

        Naturally, we think it has to do with the fact that my brain also races. I’m autistic. I found the explanation one day while trying to explain to my choral teacher how I could memorize the songs WEEKS before anyone else, but couldn’t sight read.

        I think what I found was an article that said most people sound out words in their head when they read, and this slows them down. It might have been a speed reading ad. I realized, I’ve NEVER done that. It also said that apparently most people have a constant inner monologue? I don’t have that either. My brain just absorbs everything around me, most of the time and it’s pretty silent in there. Even when I’m writing/talking.

        1. KoiFeeder*


          Yep, I don’t have word sounds in my head. My “inner monologue” is either pictures or text, like a typewriter. It also means that trying to read text out loud is a special torture both for me and for everyone around me.

          1. Dragon_Dreamer*

            I had some training as a storyteller as a kid/teen, but I’ve always been able to read words aloud with a rhythm. One of my elementary school teachers had us all write positive things about our classmates, that were passed to each of us at the end of the year. One of the ones written about me said I “read the story like a song.” That compliment has always made me extremely happy to remember. ^^

      2. Sova*

        I am also a natural speed reader. My mom thought I was just good at memorizing the books she read aloud at first, but then I was able to read the activities on the back of the cereal boxes without them being read to me first when I was 4. In Elementary school, a few teachers would try to make me feel bad and accuse me of not reading everything and my mom would have to tell them to quiz me and just let me read something else while everyone else was finishing. I can slow down and hear every word sound when the writing is really good and I want to savor ( like reading a really good poem out loud, but all in my head) it, but unless it’s extremely technical writing it’s almost like I just absorb the story in my head without realizing what my eyes are doing. I did have some problems skipping lines at times, which I solved by using a pen or pencil to keep my place when I was younger.

        Weirdly, it’s had the opposite effect on my work than the OP or other commenters. We don’t have many meetings where we have to read documents, but most of the job is reading and then summarizing medical records. Sometimes hundreds or thousands of pages of them. At some point, most people give up being able to read everything and resort to skimming or only reading summaries of reports. Since our management incentivizes speed more than quality, this strategy “works” most of the time. I was fine for many years being the slower, but more thorough person with a great QA rating. Then I got one of my worst supervisors (we had a lot of clashes over policy issues as well as my ‘performance’) who was under pressure to provide a new management metric in her reports and evaluations and felt that I needed to do more to speed up my processing time…and decided to troll me by sending me to a speed reading course.

        It’s possible there are speed reading courses that are worthwhile for people who do not already read fast. The one I went to was so terrible that I questioned if some sort of nepotism scam was involved in hiring the consulting firm, a husband and wife team, that provided the course. They basically regurgitated some skimming strategies, the one which is the most useless to me was to skim for ‘keywords’ and then try to answer questions and only go back and read again if you couldn’t answer the questions. This might make sense for schoolwork or a standardized test, but it’s a waste of time to me to try to slow down my reading speed to find keywords instead of just reading the thing the first time.

      3. kitryan*

        For me, I started reading around age 2- my mom read to me all the time, starting from basically birth, and did the Doman method (if you look this up, there’s a lot of mixed info-I’m specifically referring to early childhood education for non-disabled children, it kind of relates to the Suzuki method) involving showing flashcards and stuff like that. This probably combined w/natural interest and aptitude and I just started reading naturally out of that environment, which was how it’s supposed to work when things go right. After that, I just read a lot on my own, for pleasure, and was always reading at a faster speed than expected for my age.

        1. quill*

          My mom claims that she taught me to read out of self-defense. When I was barely three, my brother was born and I had already semi-memorized several picture books… six months later she could sit me down in front of my infant brother and be guaranteed fifteen minutes to shower in peace while my stutter and I made it through four or five picture books.

          I’m told I threw a fit in 4k because “everyone is so noisy when they read! They don’t have to talk to read!”

          1. kitryan*

            My mom said she’d been reading a book to me but had to go answer the phone. I was very offended so I started loudly reading the book *at* her from where she’d left off. It took a bit of time after that for her to be sure I was reading and not memorizing, but yeah, I started reading out of spite?

      4. LostinTheMountains*

        Do not pay for the courses online. Scientific consensus is that speed reading is bumpkis. No matter how fast you can read, the human brain can only comprehend so much in a short amount of time.

      5. LostinTheMountains*

        Do not pay for speed reading course. Scientific consensus is that they are bumpkis. You will sacrifice comprehension and retention for the sake of speed.

      6. TardyTardis*

        The speed depends on the material. Zoology textbook, slog slog slog. James Bond novel, zip! Some technical stuff like the immortal Publication 17 (Tax Form Instructions From Hell) somewhere in the middle.

    15. BelleMorte*

      Joining the speed reading club. I often read paragraphs at a time, my comprehension is quite high (I’ve tested that often). I also read upside down. My reading obsession also started extremely early. For example, I have a book that my pre-school teacher signed as a reward for reading 50 books in a year, most of my peers hadn’t even picked up the alphabet yet.

      When I was in grade 1 we would each get a picture book (I was already into novels). Then be told to sit quietly for an hour reading it. I was done in a minute or two and was always getting into trouble until my teacher clued in. I remember once I was reading a picture book about goats, and finished it in a minute and then my teacher came by and told me to read. I explained I was done, and this is what happened in the book. She told me to get another book, and I asked if I can get the one I have in my bag.

      I pull out the Hobbit and start at my bookmark midway through, and the teacher actually had me read it out-loud to her for a page or two and explain what was going on to satisfy that I could actually read it. She then said during reading days I should bring my own book from now on. Sadly, my grade 2 class was not as supportive.

      For work-related situations, I tend to make notes as I go to slow things down. If I’m reading websites with someone I give them the mouse to control the speed, otherwise I scroll too fast. I’m also deaf and use captions and I have discovered that watching webinars is much more tolerable when I use video speed-up add-ons and the accessibility caption toggle in chrome which allows me to watch it at 4x speed with the faster captions as well.

      1. Observer*

        , and the teacher actually had me read it out-loud to her for a page or two and explain what was going on to satisfy that I could actually read it. She then said during reading days I should bring my own book from now on.

        Sounds like a smart teacher.

        Sadly, my grade 2 class was not as supportive.

        I have never understood this kind of thing. Just SO stupid.

      2. cacwgrl*

        +1 to the fast and upside down readers club. Can’t really help my eyes wandering, but I’m good at keeping quiet.

      3. EngineerMom*

        Sounds like a great grade 1 teacher!

        The only time I ever got in trouble in grade school was related to reading. In 5th grade, I had already read our entire history text book cover-to-cover within the first 2 weeks of school, so when we would pull it out to read through a section during class, I would stick whatever novel I was working on in the book and just sort of half-pay-attention to what others in the class were reading so I could answer questions.

        One day, I had brought in a book with a really good plot, and got totally absorbed in my book, to the complete exclusion of everything else around me. I sort of “came to” when my teacher had to physically put a hand on my shoulder to get my attention (so long after the rest of the class had figured out I was NOT paying attention!). He had some standard rules in place regarding punishment for not paying attention in class, but was overall a really nice and good teacher, so he did keep me in “detention” after class to do the “punishment”. But since it was just copying a certain number of words out of one of the encyclopedias that lined the wall, it wasn’t really punishment for me – I liked practicing my handwriting, and I got to read an encyclopedia!

    16. aunt beast*

      Same here. Depending on the situation I either say something–“I read fast like a freak, pay me no mind”–or I switch gears to either working out an action plan for the discussion or writing a grocery list until it looks like other people have finished too. And then I try to have one or two things to speak directly to that you could not catch just on a quick skim.

      The only downside is that when I’m running meetings, I tend to give people a little too much time to read documents, or wait until absolutely everyone looks like they’re done, since I have actually no idea how long it should take.

    17. quill*

      I read at a rapid pace as well. It’s not very useful in my corner of the sciences though! I don’t even have papers to get through, all my stuff is making the computer behave.

      1. Dragon_Dreamer*

        You can glance at an error and know what the issue is in seconds, though! That was always a skill of mine when I did IT. I just flicked my eyes at the screen and it was in my head. Annoyed the CRUD out of some customers/management, who sometimes thought I was faking it. Until my fix worked, that is.

        1. quill*

          oh, I’m using a system where I have to open a new dropdown for… everything. (It’s less programming, more using a program to build a series of math things…)

    18. KoiFeeder*

      I have hyperlexia, which is why I read so fast. I can’t really do the “wait after each page” because that’s not how my brain is wired, so what I usually do is to do a first read and then go back in and take notes. That usually makes people happy.

    19. Nanani*

      I also read very fast but also I don’t … want.. to?
      When it coems to reading for myself (as opposed to work stuff) I like to stop and mentally yell at the charcters or whatever it might be. It is very useful to be able to read boring things quickly though.

      Nothing to help LW beyond “you’re not alone” vibes.

      1. school of hard knowcs*

        +1 I just tell people I have a book problem. Ok, most of my family has book problems. Back before my Kindle I planned my packing for trips around the number of books I would need (1 a day). I also have gotten in trouble/praised for how fast I lead a meeting/training. And got into trouble at school for a hiding a book on my lap to read because “boredom”. And I read nowhere near as fast as OP. Just go with, casual I read fast, and if you feel uncomfortable. Take a tablet and flip thru the document and make notes. I still don’t understand why they present a document at a meeting and everyone has to read it in the meeting. Wouldn’t it be more efficient hand out the documents beforehand?

    20. ModernHypatia*

      I am a fast reader who is the child of parents who met precisely because they were fast readers (and my siblings are also fast readers.)

      My strategies at work depend what the setting is. If it’s something like a legal document or some formal document, I do make myself slow down and reread (or read through quickly once and then do a second pass), but if it’s ‘read through this thing in a meeting’, I’ll stare at some useful visual reference, something else on my screen, etc. Zoom calls make this a lot easier, thankfully.

      (I was always the kid who had to signifcantly underreport how many books I read for school reading challenges, because even reporting half of them put me ahead of everyone by a margin some of the times. As an adult, I’ve turned out to be really shy of talking about how much I read or what I read, which I sometimes regret and sometimes enjoy. All the reading is miiiine to decide how I share.)

    21. JoAnna*

      Same. I also read multiple books per week and people are generally amazed when I mention that. But it’s always been something I could do.

    22. idahoblackberry*

      Another freakishly fast reader here. I rarely get comments at work, but used to go through a thing every year in school until that year’s teachers learned that yes, I really did read that fast. Freshman year, I had a teacher who started to question it and a kid in my neighborhood, who had been in classes with me since kindergarten, said “Yes, she really does read that fast.” I think he was sick of having to listen to the argument again.
      One thing I’ve found as an adult is that it’s a good “something we don’t know about you” fact for icebreaker-type things, and I always phrase it as “as in last Harry Potter in four hours fast” because that seems to give a sense of scale. It also heads off future comments.

    23. EngineerMom*

      Same here! Also a really fast reader, though not quite as fast as LW#3!

      It’s really convenient, but pretty annoying when in situations like what the LW described. I’ve also been accused of “skimming” instead of reading something. It was even more complicated when I was younger, being a woman in a male-dominated industry.

      I just say “I just read really quickly” and move on – it usually becomes rapidly clear that I did indeed read the material when we start progressing into the content of the meeting.

      It’s also one big reason why I despise CBT (computer-based training) modules that force you to stay on a page for a certain length of time, presumably to ensure you actually read the sheet. I can read more than twice as fast as someone can speak the words aloud, so forcing me to sit there and stare at a page is really annoying.

  2. Worker Bea*

    Re no. 2 from healthcare marketing/PR person: Your own personal privacy concerns should be absolutely enough to decline these activities, but there is a real risk of a HIPAA violation here should a patient or any patient health information be visible in the background of these videos. Even folders with information that isn’t legible but a viewer might squint at to determine that, is, in my opinion, poor optics for the facility’s consideration of patient privacy. I’d hope that reasoning would rightfully catch your boss’ attention.

    1. Porcubear*

      I read a story recently where someone had taken a photo inside their home and someone *zoomed in on a pill bottle sitting on the counter behind them*, figured out that it was pre-natal vitamins, and started a massive drama about them not telling anyone they were pregnant. Absolutely wild.

      1. Jackalope*

        Which is ironic because pregnancy isn’t the only thing you can take those for. I can see why the person who saw the vitamins would have jumped to that conclusion but honestly I probably wouldn’t have.

        1. Nervous Rex*

          And for a sexually active woman not using birth control, it’s often a good idea to be taking them all along instead of waiting for that positive test!

          1. Frauke*

            Yes, I’ve heard it recommended to take prenatal vitamins at least one month before getting pregnant. And since that’s impossible to predict, the logical conclusion is to take them all the time while “trying”.

        2. Marillenbaum*

          I know plenty of people who take them for stronger nails and hair (which seems increasingly tempting while I wait for my big toenail to grow back).

        3. BelleMorte*

          They are also great if you tend to get nauseated by regular multi-vitamins. For whatever reason, pre-natals don’t have the same effect.

          1. Boof*

            because they’re designed for people who are probably dealing with nausea already XP (although a lot o of the gummies skimp on iron cuz there’s no way that tastes good – the folic acid is probably the most important part of the prenatals)

        4. KoiFeeder*

          Yeah, I have an unopened thing of pre-natal vitamins because amazon mucked up and sent them to me instead of my actual vitamins, and didn’t want me to return them. I’m trying to figure out if there’s a way to donate them or something, vitamins can be pricey and all…

          1. MeleMallory*

            Try your local woman’s shelter. If they’re still completely sealed, I’m sure the shelter would love to have them. Unfortunately, pregnant people sometimes have to escape violent spouses/partners, and prenatal vitamins can be expensive. You can also ask your local hospital. Good luck!

      2. Anneke*

        A similar zooming-in reveal has contributed to the Netherlands still not having an active government, after months of negotiations. (The negotiations are part of the process, but they rarely take this long. )

        1. CoveredinBees*

          And for anyone wondering, the wheels of government legislation and government bureaucracy turn almost independently, so the rest of the country keeps operating. It can be a problem for EU government because it means the Netherlands can’t officially agree to or transposed into national law. There wasn’t an active government for a surprisingly long period of time when I lived in NL and it freaked me out a bit, since municipal and provincial governments don’t have the same impact as state governments in the US, but everything continued as normal.

          1. Ja*

            I’m still trying to figure out what you call a vote of disapprovalagainst a demissionary minister. You’d think that that would somehow make her next in line for the throne, but apparently not?

            (Cabinet resigned in disgrace, but continues doing the job – “demissionary” – until the next cabinet has been established. So someone resigned in disgrace, but continued doing the job because, and then something else happened, and there was a vote of disapproval – basically a light version of a vote of no confidence – and then they resigned again but this time they had to leave.)

      3. DataGirl*

        I feel like that was maybe an AITA post? And iirc- she wasn’t even pregnant yet, was just taking them because she was hoping to get pregnant soon.

      4. Hippo-nony-potomus*

        Do these people not know that you’re recommended to take them before getting pregnant?

        Wait, it deals with pregnancy and we’re asking people to be rational and MYOB. My bad.

    2. Ori*

      Excellent point. Also for the reminder that social media is a job and a skill, not something you randomly palm off on whoever has spare time.

    3. Elle Woods*

      Yes. This reminds me of “baby boards” at doctor’s offices. (A baby board is a bulletin board with pictures of babies born to patients of the clinic.) Under HIPAA, baby photos are a type of protected info and should not be publicly displayed, unless the parent has signed a waiver allowing the photo to be publicly displayed. A few clinics do still have them but they’re filled with stock photos.

      1. Jack Straw*

        Chiming to clarify that in the US, displaying a patient’s photo in the office (or on social media or in marketing materials) isn’t a HIPAA violation as long as 1. the practice has permission to use the photo, and/or 2. the photo doesn’t include PHI/Protected health Information (e.g. a birthmark). If there is PHI included that can then connect the photo to the patient’s information (e.g. photo of a red-haired baby wearing a pink hat displaying XYZ hospital sign in the background and a “born on Sept 30” caption attached = can identify patient), then it’s a HIPAA violation.

  3. They Don’t Make Sunday*

    OP 2, I do not go on TikTok, but if I did, I would not choose a medical practice from a TikTok video, dear god!! Good luck navigating this whole harebrained situation.

    1. learnedthehardway*

      If I were a patient, I’d be seriously questioning what on earth was going on and whether anyone was paying attention to medicine at the clinic!

      1. EPLawyer*

        The boss needs to know that it might negatively affect the view of the clinic. I would not focus on why you don’t want to participate — your reasons are private. I would point out the work impact this is having. Team building aside, as you said the work needs to be done. One person should not be stuck taking up the slack while everyone team builds through dance.

        Also it is failing at team building if it is all OP is against fun. OP is not against fun. OP is against taking work time to learn how to dance when its a medical office. Which btw, feel free to say you have no rhythm and are a terrible dancer that might get them off your back without revealing your personal life.

        1. I Herd the Cats*

          This, very much. Your privacy is one concern. The amount of time being sucked up by this is another, and one mgmt should be taking into account … you don’t want it to be a situation where they’re rising Tik Tok stars and you’re stuck doing more and more of their jobs! I’d find that infuriating.

          1. Mister Lady*

            This is what stood out to me as well. Working somewhere that prioritizes non-work and punishes the person covering all the work their leaving undone?? Madness.

      2. Where’s the Orchestra?*

        As a patient I would be looking at:
        -how involved are these videos?
        -where are they being filmed?
        -how frequent are they?

        If it looks like something they could pull together from practicing on lunch breaks and there’s nothing patient identifying in the background I’d give it a pass but monitor. But if it looks like they are taking work time from patients or being careless with backgrounds I’d be questioning whether or not I should stay a patient at that practice.
        A play on an old phrase – patients don’t leave doctors, they leave the messes the front office staff creates.

        1. DANGER: Gumption Ahead*

          I’d also feel better about it if there was some sort of health messaging (some very clever health ed going on TikTok now), rather than the standard TikTok challenge. Clever song about getting your meningitis vaccine before going to college goes over a lot different, IMO

          1. Lime green Pacer*


            I know of a couple of docs whose social media dance videos are all about medical education, and I would totally support that (ZDogg MD and Nicole Baldwin)

        2. FrenchCusser*

          I left my doctor after he told me I probably had a brain tumor, when what I had was a cyst in my eye.

          Just to counter that assertion.

      3. Worldwalker*

        No kidding.

        Not just a medical clinic, either. *Any* business where people are making TikTok videos instead of, y’know, doing business, will send me straight to their competitors. Unless, I suppose, the business is about either dance or video production.

    2. LifeBeforeCorona*

      Me too, I have a low opinion of TikTok videos and if my medical practice was actively posting them, I’d be questioning their judgment especially if they are filming in the office.

      1. Harper the Other One*

        In fairness, there are a bunch of great doctors/nurses/other medical personnel who have fun and educational TikTok presence! (Check out some of Mama Doctor Jones and Dr. Anthony Youn’s TikToks as a good example.)

        But, they also demonstrate extreme care in where and how they film. Even when Mama Doctor Jones edited together a “day in the life of an OB/GYN” you could not see any patients/patient info and she was obviously catching snippets of footage at times when she wasn’t slowing down work to do it.

        1. MCMonkeyBean*

          Yeah, I don’t use TikTok and only see videos that get uploaded to other social media sites–but it’s still clear to me that it is at this point a very common way to build an online presence even for prefessional businesses. I don’t know if they do stuff on TikTok but a girl I know from high school is always getting tagged in posts from the dentist office where she works where they are clearly trying to build a brand based on like “look at us, we are made up of real people!” I think it’s totally a reasonable thing for a doctor’s office to do, but definitely NOT reasonable to force participation on anyone.

    3. Been There*

      Definitely not one that chooses to use TikTok for dances and challenges. But if they are doing informative videos that may actually be good marketing.

    4. LKW*

      Completely agree. I’ve always been of the opinion that doctors that have to advertise are not good doctors. It means they can’t keep their current patients and their patients are not recommending the doctor when talking with friends and family.

      1. Metadata minion*

        I don’t want silly TikTok dance videos, but I wish more doctors would have more of an internet presence! If you’ve just moved to the area, or need a particular specialist, you may not have friends and family to recommend you someone. And while I appreciate when I can get personal recommendations, I shouldn’t have to go talk to everyone I know just to find a doctor rather than reading publicly available information. It’s really frustrating to try to find a new doctor and be unable to find any information other than “this doctor definitely exists at this address and maybe is accepting new patients or maybe they just haven’t updated the information on your insurance’s website”.

      2. Hiring Mgr*

        Don’t think i agree on that one.. The best hospitals in the world have massive marketing and advertising budgets through all forms of media. The OP certainly shouldn’t have to be in the video if they don’t want to of course

      3. Catnip*

        Yeah, this whole “advertising the practice” is bizarre to me, but that could be because I’m Canadian. The combination of single-payer healthcare and a serious doctor shortage means me (and everyone I know) just take whatever doctors they can get. I don’t think I’ve ever really “chosen” my own doctor, so advertising would have no impact on me.

        1. Lenora Rose*

          As a fello Canuck. after being handed a list of pediatricoans taking newborns, I definitely did at least a “rate my MD” check first, and avoided the one with reports he suggested putting kids of an age measured in single digit months on diets.

      4. Boof*

        I don’t think that’s quite true – even if you have a great product, it helps to get the word out there. I’ll agree there’s more to finding a good healthcare service/product than just advertising. And I am side-eying the fact that it sounds like patient care is getting neglected to make these videos.

    5. Falling Diphthong*

      There are a bunch of Jerusalema videos on YouTube. Some of them medical groups. Some airlines. My favorite was Ballet Lizt of Cuba. I don’t know why, but it’s a lovely song and the connection aspect is nice.

      This could land to patients et al as a mild cute hobby. Done right, everyone doesn’t dump their work on Donna while they choreograph, nor do they pressure her to dance after a couple of “no”s. And the dancing takes place in the parking lot.

    6. Not playing your game anymore*

      LW2 – why do you hate fun? JK I think this would be easier for you if you did join in just a little. Not on camera! You can make excuses like, “oh, Joe over the the witness protection office would not be pleased if I was to do that” or “I’m banned from the net. Do you remember the cat that played piano and broke YouTube? That was me. They said not to come back!” “I signed a non-compete when I left my last gig, so, sadly, no dancing for me” At the same time make really helpful suggestions like “no, don’t come in on 3 wait till 4, and then really twerk.” “wear the orange socks!” If you do it right they’ll beg you to go answer the phone. Meanwhile, have a talk with your boss and just tell them, “I need you to understand that I have my reasons for not appearing in the vids, it’s not that I’m not a team player, but it would be damaging to my mental health [or compromise my safety] or whatever.”

    7. Chauncy Gardener*

      OP2 – I couldn’t agree with you more! Besides the fact that dancing and being recorded, with boss and colleagues, is my I do not want anything about me posted online!!
      My question to my boss would be, “How is this supportive of my role here? How is this contributing to the job I was hired to do?” It’s not, so I’m not doing it.

      1. FrenchCusser*

        When I started the job I had now (16+ years ago!), I was told I had to help with the Winter Holiday Party White Elephant exchange. I said I don’t do things where I have to get up in front of people (I’m not stage shy, I just don’t enjoy it so I don’t do it). I was told I had to. I said, ‘Nope. Not gonna.’

        And I haven’t, not for all the time I’ve been here. They always manage to find people who enjoy that kind of thing to manage it.

    8. Oh No She Di'int*

      I don’t think “choose a medical practice” is what’s on the table here, at least not based on what LW has described.

      In many work places, school settings, etc. groups of employees, students, and so forth sometimes independently choose to film little dances and skits for TikTok for whatever reason. Often what you see is people dancing around in a break room or a supply closet or something. These aren’t official promotional videos or advertisements if that’s what you’re imagining.

      1. Oh No She Di'int*

        I guess I should clarify that when I see “advertise the business”, I’m not taking that in a formal sense, but more like in an informal, community-building sense, which is how businesses often use social media. But I could be wrong.

        1. lyonite*

          I kind of wonder if they’ve had a little taste of viral success and it’s gone to their heads, and now that they are looking for an excuse to spend more work time on the videos, “advertise the business” and “team building” are what has come up. I say the OP should hang in there and stick to their guns until the other side of virality hits, and the whole thing goes away.

          Failing that, this does seem like a pretty good time to be job hunting.

    9. Douglas*

      What I don’t get is why these co-workers think they even have the right to demand a reason/explanation for LW2’s refusal??? She said “no.” end of the story. She has no obligation whatever to justify, argue, defend or explain. Any pushing for her involvement after her “no” is harrassment AFAIC.

  4. Phil*

    LW3: I get it. I’m not a thousand but I am a page a minute. People don’t believe it. I do math really fast too. In my head.

    1. Let me be dark and twisty*

      I can only do basic math in my head (and slowly) so I am always in awe of anyone who can do it quickly. Used to work with a guy who could do complex calculations in his head faster than someone else could punch it into a calculator. I loved being in meetings with him.

      1. Charlotte Lucas*

        When I was a kid, there was a cashier who would race the register in adding the total ( pre-scanning days). My dad thought it was really cool. (His job as a printer often required him to do math in his head, so he appreciated seeing others do the same.)

        1. bookworm*

          My dad was like this. He used to entertain himself in traffic by playing numbers games with the license plates around him, trying to add/multiply/etc to find relationships between different cars or get the total for a plate to equal zero or something. He was SO excited to teach me algebra in elementary school when my assignment was to use the “guess and check” method (ex: 2x=10, hm, let’s try x=1, nope, too low, how about x=8….etc).

    2. Dramatic Intent To Flounce*

      Not quite that fast, and slower when I need to actively absorb a lot of info, but I’m something like 700 by default and 400 for more complicated stuff.

      Hyperlexia – fun times!

  5. RosyGlasses*

    For the FMLA OP – if you are in California- congrats! They just added a stipulation to CFRA that specifically addresses this deficiency in FMLA law and gives each parent 12 weeks.

    1. Kes*

      Yeah I get the reasoning Alison mentioned but it seems so weird to essentially penalize the couple for working at the same place, like instead of some companies maybe penalizing couples trying to work at the same place by not hiring them we’re going to make sure couples that work at the same place are penalized. Good for California for addressing that

      1. SpaceySteph*

        I suppose the response to that is that no company is required to ONLY give you FMLA leave. If they want to be more generous to spouses, they can.

  6. Mavis Mae*

    Regarding #2, a cosmetic surgeon is attracting a lot of unwanted publicity right now for amongst other things his staff doing a tiktok of themselves dancing to “Jolene”…in theatre…around an unconscious patient…on whom they are performing liposuction. I am not making this up. Maybe not the best time for medical practices to be emphasising how much fun they have dancing and singing in tiktoks and better for them to be highlighting their patient care and outcomes. Google the video, show it to your employer and maybe the whole issue will go away!

    1. Chidi-Janet & The Tarantula Squids*

      Yikes, I’ve been following that story. The cherry on top is that the news organisations blurred out the face of the patient, because the practice hadn’t bothered to.

      1. LifeBeforeCorona*

        Maybe a lawsuit with the patient singing and dancing will get their attention. It sounds very unprofessional.

        1. TiredMama*

          I wonder if they have started including a form in the package of forms you always have to sign at the doctor’s office consenting to be filmed while unconscious for Tik Tok video purposes. And really, they are doing patients a favor. The patient does not have to do any work, can just lay there, and get Tik Tok famous! /s/

        2. Observer*

          This apparently happened in Australia. What are the laws there? Can an individual sue, or does the government have to go after them?

          1. Mavis Mae*

            Australia’s tort of invasion of privacy is fairly weak, but a long time ago a rugby player won on defamation when a newspaper published a photo of him naked in the changeroom. The privacy commissioner can do own motion investigations and might well have a look at this. If the patient themselves sues this could develop a stronger tort.
            The surgeon’s medical practice has come under heavy criticism from his own profession and the public. (The video shows part of the procedure being done in time to the music, which is just sickening.) The video emerged on the national broadcaster’s investigative journalism program, which exposed a number of other issues. The medical and surgical governing bodies would be assessing whether to investigate.

      2. RabbitRabbit*

        Meanwhile in the US we can’t easily publicize the real horror of COVID wards because of HIPAA laws making filming exceedingly difficult. There are videos here and there but it’s tough to do.

        My institution also banned most employee photography in areas where patients might be present (even in halls, cafeteria) back when Pokemon Go was big, out of concerns that someone would take a VR photo of a Pokemon hanging out around patients walking in the hall.

    2. Joanna*

      And by lots of attention, we’re talking front page of Australia’s most popular news sites level of attention

      1. fposte*

        The problem with that one is the unconscious patient, though. It doesn’t sound like OP’s co-workers are doing anything that illegal. I think she’s better off sticking to why she doesn’t want to be in them, rather than why they shouldn’t be happening at all.

          1. fposte*

            The poor office furniture is not covered by HIPAA. If they put the poor patient files in the poor office furniture before filming, that takes care of the files.

        1. Observer*

          That and the fact that it’s not just staff in the room dancing, but some of staff actually doing the procedure in time to the music! The snip I just found is just horrifying!

          So, no, don’t point to that.

    3. Fake Old Converse Shoes (not in the US)*

      I remember a similar case where I live, before TikTok was a thing.
      No need to say it didn’t end well.

    4. Boof*

      Never never never make videos / any media that isn’t strictly for the electronic record or possibly education materials (with consent ideally) where patient anything is included! We have learned this by now in healthcare! Argbadfnasd;lfas!

    5. L'étrangere*

      Excellent point. The more followers they have the quicker the situation can turn ugly, when a patient’s name/condition is revealed in the background for instance as Worker Bea points out. You don’t really want to give patients the idea that TikTok is your chosen means of communicating their potential un/satisfaction with your services. Does the boss have professional damage control help available to step in when(not if) some blowback happens?

      1. CalypsoSummer*

        You mean, like a lawyer? If he doesn’t, he might want to look into getting one. Like, RIGHT NOW.

    6. Man from the North*

      I recall a story of an Alaskan dentist who had an office staff member shoot a video of him standing on one of those two-wheeled “hoverboards” (I am loath to call them that, but I concede to public opinion) while he removes the tooth of a sedated patient – he takes the tooth out, does some weird little jig and wheels out of the room. How frightening! I’d never attend his practice after seeing that video.

      I also recall he later got banged up for Medicaid fraud, but that’s another story for another day.

  7. RD*

    LW2, I would not suggest saying that you are avoiding being on the internet because of safety issues from your past. I did that, and people start speculating (as they will when not given what they consider sufficient details) about what kind of danger you’re talking about, which soon progresses to wondering if some psycho will come to the workplace looking for you. I’m not saying that I have a better idea, just that in my opinion, this is not a good one.

    1. Paperdill*

      What if they kept it a bit more vague? Like “I have personal reasons for not wanting to have an internet presence and I would like you, as my employer, to respect that”.

      1. Mongrel*

        Some people have no concept of keeping a low internet presence, the questions will still be there just slightly different ones and if the Boss is only seeing this as free ‘advertising’ that’d be pretty hard to overcome (wholly IMO)

        1. SparkleConsultant*

          Yeah I agree. An employer that’s putting this much pressure on you to do something unreasonable doesn’t have a good concept of boundaries. My current workplace has horrible boundaries and piles on tons of pressure to do mandatory fun and it’s not worth the stress during the pandemic or of being uncomfortable. I really feel for you OP! You’re allowed to say no, and it’s their problem that they aren’t listening. You don’t need to make yourself more vulnerable to coworkers and a boss who aren’t respecting you and your very sensible choices!

        2. Where’s the Orchestra?*

          Yup – the only thing that got a former employer to back off of me advertising for them on Facebook was my requesting paid work time to create an account and add all their advertising to said account.

          It completely new their mind that I didn’t have a Facebook account.

          1. Where’s the Orchestra?*

            Sorry – that should have read “it completely blew their mind.”

            This site is the closest I come to having a social media presence. I have a family and job – I don’t want to take time from those things for Facebook.

      2. anonymous73*

        I would change that to “and you NEED to respect that” I find that when you are creating boundaries with those who have none, you have to tell them what they need to do, not ask them.

        1. LaughableWalrus*

          I also find saying “thank you for respecting that” can be a firm but polite way to set expectations – it makes it seem like of course they will agree to respect your boundaries. (This might actually come from other advice of Alison’s.)

    2. JayNay*

      Yes I’m really not loving that advice. It’s fine to say you don’t want to be in the videos. You don’t need to dredge up past traumas, even in passing, to make a case for yourself. No is a complete sentence, as they say.

      1. NotAnotherManager!*


        I could have written OP#2’s letter (with the exception that my employer has not tried to coerce me into making TikTok videos rather than the work I was hired to do), and I have no desire to discuss my highly dysfunctional family with anyone at work. I also don’t care for social media generally. I’ve had to use it for kid-related things only available there, but I just generally find it tiresome and boring.

      2. MsInMS*

        I agree, it also muddies the waters and makes it sound like you might be ok w the video if it were looped on the tv in the waiting room. They could also make the argument that well if you are not tagged in it and not req’d to have an acct is it really social media?

    3. Khatul Madame*

      Agree – it’s pretty clear that LW’s coworkers do not have the best judgment, so they can out LW from curiosity, negligence, or malice.
      I think the safest course of action would be to offer to be the camera person.

      1. Cold Fish*

        LW indicates they offered to be the camera person but is still being pressured. What if LW “agreed” but be AWFUL. Mess up choreography, run into the others, massively off time, make them beg you not to participate. Eh, may be too much work but it brings a smile to my face imagining.

    4. L'étrangere*

      I agree you are better off steering clear of giving any actual reasons for staying off social media. I was forced into something like that recently when the new marketing young thing threw every single name in the company up on the new website without asking, and I had to explain about the decades ago boyfriend’s fondness for guns. But I had a very good and very discreet HR person, and a solid CEO to back her up. With the OP’s pack of howling boundary-smashing exhibitionists, you could expect any amount of outing to ensue from any specific revelations. I have visions of public videos of toxic relatives crashing into the office after being invited in for surprise ‘reconciliation’. Beware OP ! You can claim your right to privacy but don’t even begin to give any personal reasons about it, you have the right to be spared without being specific

    5. Oakenfield*

      Yep and IME the mean ones will pretend someone has come looking for you when you’re at lunch, etc. Just stick to professional reasons.

  8. Joanna*

    #2, all of Allison’s answer, plus the fact that dancing videos is not the kind of thing that would make people pick a medical practice. If anything, it might dissuade them

    1. Eden*

      This is what I was thinking! Views/likes/comments on dance videos are not valuable leads for a medical office.

      1. Nervous Rex*

        There’s a pediatric dentist office in the next town over that I know gets some 9f their patients through Tiktok. Apparently there are kids who are less reluctant to go to the dentist when they’ve seen the dentist and hygienists doing fun dances. That’s not to say the OP should be expected to join in! But for routine care offices focused on children, it might be an effective marketing approach.

        1. Where’s the Orchestra?*

          I will say that kids are a totally different demographic than adults. I can also see how showing the Drs and nurses a kid will interact with as having a personal side would also be calming to the kids in question.

    2. Ori*

      Yes. This is a demographic issue apart from anything else. 60% of TikTok’s users are 16-24. LinkedIn and Facebook would be much better platforms, and to me this just seems like your coworkers enjoying themselves and calling it marketing.

    3. Wendy*

      I would actually change one thing – Alison’s answer made it sound to me like the OP would be fine with doing everyone’s work for them while they dance around, and I strongly suspect that’s not the case :-\ If they’re practicing INSTEAD of working (versus practicing during naturally slow times, breaks, etc.) and you’re having to do their jobs for them, that’s definitely something that needs to be raised with the doctor. You can’t really insist on having time to goof off just because they are – “they’re getting away with something so I should too” doesn’t fly – but you can absolutely point out if you’re doing MORE work than you’re supposed to.

      1. OhNoYouDidn't*

        Yes. I was coming here to say the same thing. I’d probably say something like, “I have personal reasons for keeping a low internet presence. As a matter of fact, it was one of my criteria for choosing where to work. And, I was already going to talk to you about the fact that I’ve been having to pick up the slack for them since they’re spending more and more time working on the Tic Tok videos. But being pressured into violating my boundaries is something I think is really not right. I’d appreciate it if the comments about my not participating would stop.”

      2. L'étrangere*

        I think the OP might request time off on the basis of the time expanded on this by other staff. They spent 15 hours+ last week rehearsing while I covered the office, I think it’d be fair to give me Friday afternoon off in return.. That should drive it home to the boss that there’s a definite loss of real productivity here

    4. fposte*

      I think there are plenty of people who actually would like them; it’s just a very different approach than what a lot of us are used to.

      1. Coenobita*

        My dentist’s office does little social media videos etc. sometimes, and personally I think it’s cute! For example, every year around this time they post something about how certain Halloween candy is super bad for your dental work and they include some of the staff talking about their favorite treats. I kind of look forward to it, to be honest! But I’ve been going there for 10+ years and know that everyone who is participating is into it. I think OP is 100% in the right to push back, but I can see how this sort of thing would make sense for marketing.

        1. fposte*

          It wasn’t that long ago that medical advertising anywhere was Not Done, but now there are quite a few practices that have found video and print ads to be effective. Anything that tons of people use is going to be of interest. That doesn’t mean the OP’s office is necessarily doing something effective, and it for sure doesn’t mean she’s obliged to take part.

        2. Where’s the Orchestra?*

          I will say that you dentist’s office sounds like they have a focused and related to their area of expertise approach. Plus they don’t sound like anybody is passing work to others in the office, and not wanting to be on camera is respected.

  9. Purple polka dot zebra*

    All else fails LW 2 could volunteer to be the camera person. Then they don’t have to participate in the actual video or probs do practices, but coworkers will still feel like they are part of the team.

    1. Jennifer Juniper*

      Or the coworker can dance badly – so badly that nobody wants them to do the stupid TikTok video

      1. Jackalope*

        If they’re this focused on having the OP participate despite multiple attempts to bow out gracefully, they probably aren’t concerned about a little thing like dance ability.

        1. Not A Mango*

          Or they’ll find it funny and focus on her even more, or spend extra time trying to teach her the moves.

      2. Mongrel*

        Nope. Personally I’d find that just as humiliating with the added risk that someone would still be filming and my bumblefootedness would still end up online

      3. RebelwithMouseyHair*

        That was my tactic when the boss wanted me to be in a video talking about how I Loved working for his company. I scratched my nose, I made silly faces, I ummed and ahhed a lot. Boss was doing the video on the cheap so he was filming it himself and didn’t know to tell me not to scratch my nose. Of course once he handed the footage over to the agency who edited the film, I got completely edited out.
        My next step would have been to refuse to sign the waiver to let him put the video on Internet, but it turned out that scratching my nose was enough.

        1. Richard Hershberger*

          I am a big believer in strategic incompetence for stupid tasks that aren’t actually my job. This is my approach to mandatory karaoke: lots of atonal mumbling. But with dancing the danger is large that it would be considered comical and made the center of the piece.

          1. L'étrangere*

            Especially if the coworkers are already a bit miffed that you are not entirely enthusiastic about their performance projects. So right Richard, there’s way too much potential for backlash here

          2. RebelwithMouseyHair*

            Yes indeed, it only worked for me because in Europe you’re not allowed to put any photos or footage of a person without their permission.

    2. anonymous73*

      Honestly I don’t think that’s a solution either. OP doesn’t want to participate and I don’t blame her. I wouldn’t want to do it either, and it has zero to do with my social media presence.

      1. Slow Gin Lizz*

        Agreed. OP said they’d thought about volunteering to be the camera person but didn’t really want to do even that and I say they shouldn’t have to participate if they don’t want to. Also, OP, you mentioned you were covering for them when they weren’t doing *their actual job* because of these videos and I wonder what would happen if you stopped covering for them? (Alison has suggested this to LWs in the past as a way to get management to notice someone not doing their job.) Of course, since it’s a medical office you probably can’t do that, but if you haven’t mentioned to the boss that you are doing a lot more of the real work than your videographer colleagues, it might be worth adding to your discussion. Boss might (emphasis on *might*) then get a better picture as to what these videos are costing him. Stick to your guns, OP; don’t have anything to do with these videos if you don’t want to.

    3. HelenB*

      But if LW2 is the camera person, then there’s no one checking in patients. What is this boss thinking, trying to get everyone to do these instead of taking care of patients. If I were a patient and saw these, I would be unimpressed.

    4. Ann Nonymous*

      I’d like OP to NOT cover for her rehearsing, dancing colleagues. Just do your own work and literally ignore that of the others. No enabling is my motto.

      1. Jennifer Juniper*

        And if anyone aims a cell phone at her, the OP can accidentally-on-purpose bat it out of the co-worker’s hand and into the trash/on the floor.

  10. Mark Roth*

    “Yes, I am not a team player in the sense that I am not interested in being part of a TikTok team”

    1. Hornswoggler*

      I mean – I’m furious because it’s his colleagues who aren’t being team players by NOT ACTUALLY DIONG THE WORK THE TEAM IS SUPPOSED TO DO. Grrrrr. And leaving him to do their work for them. GAH.

      1. Mockingjay*

        My initial reaction was to advise LW2 not to cover Fred and Ginger’s duties at all, but patient care and charting probably aren’t things you can neglect. So my revised opinion: “Sorry boss, can’t help with the video. We’ve got a waiting room full of patients to check in and in between I’m trying to catch up some of Fred and Ginger’s charting while they work on the video.”

        1. Collarbone High*

          As a patient, I would be extremely annoyed if I had to wait 20 minutes to check in because most of the staff was making videos. I’m using PTO to be there! I do enjoy seeing some low-key team-building activities at my providers’ offices (I’m currently very invested in the results of the staff pumpkin-carving contest at my physical therapist), but this situation where the LW handles all the work is disrespectful to the LW and to the patients.

    2. A Library Person*

      I think LW#2 could potentially get some traction here by pointing to the effect on work, because they are in fact being arguably *more* of a team player by picking up the slack when their coworkers are off making these videos. I would suggest making the work impact part of the discussion with the boss; i.e., pointing out how much time is devoted to rehearsals and filming and asking “innocently” how the boss intends to ensure that the actual (but I wouldn’t use this word, OP!) work is still distributed fairly.

  11. Elizabeth West*

    #1– I would LOVE this. But I understand why the OP doesn’t. I hope the coworker will be reasonable.

    #2–My reaction would be to quote Chris Penn from Footloose and just say flatly: “I can’t dance. At all.”

    If participation is really that important to them, maybe your boss would be okay with you doing something behind the scenes for the videos. Maybe you could be the one who films them, or sets up, or helps in some other way. I know, this is dumb and it shouldn’t be a thing.

    1. Kal*

      I have some friends who really go all out for Halloween and love the chance to bring out their decorations, but also understand that not everyone is as into it as them and would be absolutely happy to tone things down at work if a coworker politely* talked to them about it. So OP1, definitely try talking to the coworker if you skipped that step before going to your manager.

      Given you seem to be possibly the only one uncomfortable with it, you should probably expect to need to get to some level of compromise and not that things go all the way down to just some garland and a plastic pumpkin. I would hope that it would be relatively easy to ask for a few of the things that are most disruptive to you working be removed or moved to a place that is less of an issue for you (like, I’d be fine with most of it myself, but would probably ask for the severed head to be removed). You might also possibly see if your manager can move you to a different workstation where you don’t have to be as close to it and see it as much, which could help for future years as well.

      And while it sounds like it is a lot for a cubicle at work, none of what you describe is particularly out of the norm for I and my peers think of for Halloween decorations, so I can understand why people might not have expected your reaction to it. but once you did express that it made you uncomfortable, some process to come to a compromise should have started.

      *I specify politely, because all of the people I know who love Halloween are also used to being yelled at for being heathens and that they’re going to hell for celebrating a heathen holiday and have had people demand they take all of their decorations down from their own spaces, which instead often makes them dig in more and sometimes even increase the decorations. We should obviously be polite with people in general, but this is a particular case where going in aggressively could lead to the opposite of the result you want where going in politely has a high chance of a positive result.

      1. Hotdog not dog*

        My Halloween decorations at home go all out, but in the office I stick with a generic “fall pumpkin” theme. I’m not client facing but my office is near enough to the reception area that clients may occasionally walk past. (and since my office has a glass wall facing the hallway I try to be mindful of what others may see when they walk by!)

        1. Coenobita*

          A generic “fall pumpkin” theme also has the benefit of staying relevant longer! You can keep that stuff up until winter if you want to.

      2. Griege*

        IDK. Halloween decorations might be fun for you, but they’re not necessary for your work. If anything is truly upsetting or disturbing to OP, it needs to go, so compromise can’t necessarily be the goal.
        OP says this is a large office, so it’s poor judgment to decorate with images of severes body parts. It’s too easy to think of scenarios where this would be triggering to someone.

        1. H2*

          I agree with this. I don’t think compromise is necessarily required here. One person’s fun shouldn’t make other people uncomfortable at work. There are plenty of decorating choices that aren’t realistic and grisly.

          1. fposte*

            Compromise is the best the OP is likely to get, though, because she doesn’t have any standing to insist.

          2. I'm just here for the cats!*

            Yes I agree. Especially if someone has had a traumatic experience (car accident, house fire that cause someone injuries, domestic violence etc,) these types of decorations can be triggers.

        2. anonanna*

          Yeah, I tend to agree with this view. I have severe OCD and anxiety and one thing that triggers it is horror movies/decorations. No joke, it would cause a major spiral if I had to work in that environment. Plus all this stuff sounds very extra- dismembered limbs, bloody heads?!

        3. Kal*

          I wouldn’t ever decorate my workspace to anywhere near that degree (I honestly barely even decorate at all, even at home). But given OP seems to be the only one objecting and the manager has already responded the way they have, deciding which things are the most important to change and aiming for a compromise is really likely the best result OP can expect. If they find other people who agree with them, they might be able to get more of it changed by asking together, but based on the information we currently have going in asking for a compromise seems likely to be the best option for it to actually improve for OP.

      3. IndustriousLabRat*

        Not everyone who is uncomfortable with the gore is going to be comfortable saying something about it. So it’s impossible to assume that LW is even possibly the only one uncomfortable.

        I had this exact same situation at my current job with a coworker’s decor (she was the receptionist as well, which adds to the questionable judgement of it all), sounds exactly like what the LW describes. And I went directly to HR to please do a walk through and see for herself. HR was flabbergasted. The receptionist was fired a few months later for cause; apparently a long string of instances of extremely poor judgement capped off by something we were not privy to. But Extreme Halloween Office Gore is IMVHO a manifestation of Extremely Poor Judgement.

        I was somewhat recently witness/first on scene to a grisly fatal car vs bicycle accident. Another coworker watched his mother murdered in front of him. Yet another immigrated to flee bloody civil unrest in her home country. No, we don’t want to have to dodge corpses and troubling memories just to retrieve our papers from the printer. Save that bloody stuff for home.

        1. EllieMae*

          I went to a animal hospital for my poor sick cat who had to be put down. In the lobby they chose to decorate for Halloween with animal skeletons (the kind you see in Halloween stores). I felt this was in such bad taste and if she hadn’t been so sick I would have left.

          1. MissMeghan*

            Same with my grandma in surgery after a bad fall. The staff had decorated with tombstones on the walls. REALLY?!! Tombstones in the waiting room at the hospital.

        2. EPLawyer*

          “But Extreme Halloween Office Gore is IMVHO a manifestation of Extremely Poor Judgement.” Not necessarily. Some people really like the scare part of Halloween.

          There is a happy medium between severed heads on the ceiling and black/orange garland and pumpkins only. That medium needs to be found. OP needs to get past her belief that it can only be something very understated and coworker needs to realize not everyone is as into the scare part of Halloween as she is. there’s room for movement on both sides.

          1. A Library Person*

            I think what IndustriousLabRat is emphasizing here is the “office” part of this, and this blog is full of examples of behavior that is fine in other circumstances but not at work. Part of this is understanding that people have experiences you know nothing about, and ILR provided several real-life examples from a single office that illustrate why these particular decorations are a bad idea. I see what you’re saying here about a happy medium, but to put a bloody severed head that includes fake blood in the matted hair(!) at work (!!) is simply inappropriate and demonstrates bad judgement and a lack of concern for people around you.

            As someone with several friends who are super into horror, it is baffling to me how someone who enjoys this stuff is NOT automatically more sensitive to how it will affect others; my aforementioned friends are always very careful to point out what could be potentially troubling about a recommended book/movie and as a result I, a scaredy-cat, have become much more receptive to horror as a genre because I understand how to filter out things that will truly upset me.

            1. IndustriousLabRat*

              “this blog is full of examples of behavior that is fine in other circumstances but not at work. Part of this is understanding that people have experiences you know nothing about”

              This is the most important part of what I’m trying to say.

            2. anonanna*

              Yep, agreed. I’ll add another example- I have OCD and anxiety and horror content can and frequently does cause massive spirals for me. I had a major depressive episode after watching Book of Eli, which isn’t even that gory. I wouldn’t be able to work in an office like this but I would also be embarrassed to say something.

          2. Librarian of SHIELD*

            Trauma survivor here. I have absolutely ZERO tolerance for anything horror related, so it’s more than just a “belief” that these decorations go too far for the workplace. They can be actively harmful to some people. And yes, I agree with IndustriousLabRat that failing to recognize that there may be people in your workplace who have serious problems with gore and horror in the office is, in fact, a huge error in judgment.

          3. RVA Cat*

            My take is that blood and gore is not office appropriate because of the violence.

            Isn’t the guideline for offices to keep things PG? The happy medium (pun intended) could be ghosts, witches, vampires, etc. because they’re not real.

    2. Nicosloanic*

      This is exactly what I was thinking – and what I’ve done before when something became “team building” but wasn’t My Thing (at all). Can you find something you’re willing to contribute – build sets, decorations, be the person behind the camera, call “action,” offer to edit (within reason) or anything so that you are in theory a “part of it”? I’d find a way to be On Set while filming so that I’m there in spirit. In my experience there’s a big difference between spending even five minutes being good humored about something the team likes, even if it’s pretend – now you are a Team Player – versus being the one grumpy holdout who tries to make everyone else feel bad about what they’re doing. Offices do lots of dumb things that have nothing to do with their business purpose and if everyone else is enjoying it I don’t want to be Fun Police unless someone is being harmed.

      1. Nicosloanic*

        But note, absolutely don’t feel obligated to be on camera when that’s not what you want. That’s a very fair boundary.

    3. Roy G. Biv*

      I love Halloween. I love to go to haunted houses, and amusement park Halloween events (think Orlando! Big deal stuff!) and I think OP has a valid point. Gruesome decorations, including a realistic-looking severed head, in the office? It is the visual equivalent of forcing your coworkers to listen to your music of choice at top volume, all day long. No. Just no. It’s too much.

    4. matcha123*

      I would love to work in #1’s office! I love Halloween. I love the people that go all out with gorey, realistic decorations. I love decorating and dressing up!
      My desk at work has a pitiful garland of cutesy ghosts. *sigh*

    5. ErinWV*

      #2 This would be me. I have no qualms about social media in general, but I do NOT want to dance and I do NOT want videos of me dancing up on the web for comment and ridicule. Call me a thief of fun or whatever, but I might quit before caving to this.

  12. Zona the Great*

    #4: I took a job at a small bed and breakfast run by the worst human being I’ve ever met— hands down for reasons way above this small bit. On my first day she told me she pays $10/hr and absolutely no OT. Then said she expects 10 hour split-shifts (work morning for 5 hours then come back in the evening for 5). I actually strategically kept the job with the idea that I could afford to live now and leverage a large payout at the end either through reason or through the DOL in my state and enjoy a lil bonus. As I expected, I did have to go through the DOL and had receipts for days. Never hid that I knew she was doing this illegally. She didn’t last long when my coworkers did the same one by one. Closed shop.

    Keep records, hypothetically!

    1. AnotherLibrarian*

      I don’t doubt what your employer did was illegal and sleazy, but I think it’s important to clarify that depending on the state 10 hour shifts don’t automatically require overtime. In a lot of states overtime is calculated based on weekly or pay-period hours. I have friends who regularly work what’s known in my state as a “slope schedule” (I think this is a local term) which means they work basically 10 to 12 hours a day for seven days and then don’t work for the next seven days. It’s an odd schedule and I wouldn’t want it, but it makes them happy.

      1. PollyQ*

        If they’re working more than 40 hours in a week, then they’re definitely due overtime, regardless of what happens in the following week.

        1. Becca*

          I think the idea is to schedule it so that half the hours fall in one “week” for payroll purposes and half in another? I don’t think that would require overtime (at least not universally, but maybe in states with better protections), but it probably *should*.

          1. doreen*

            Yes, a “pay week” can start any day or time – there’s a schedule where you work 9 hour days Mon-Thursday , an 8 hour day one Friday and have a day off the alternate Friday. It works because the payweek starts/ends around noon on Friday so 4 hours are in week 1 and 4 are in week 2. I’m sure the “slope schedule” is something similar, where the hourly rate is set so that 40 hours of straight time plus 30 hours of time and a half comes to whatever the company wants to pay for the two week period – say 40 hours at $10 hour and 30hours at $15/hour for $850 for a 70 hour work week.

          2. justabot*

            The pay period doesn’t have any impact on overtime. Overtime is calculated based on a work week. A workweek is a 7 day period that the employer establishes and it must remain consistent.

            If a pay period ends during a work week, it doesn’t impact the calculation of overtime. You continue to count your work hours through the end of the workweek to determine how much overtime you may be due. So you may not have hit 40 hours yet during the first pay period, but as the work week continues and you accumulate over 40 hours, those hours at the higher overtime pay rate are included in the next period and will show up on your next check.

            So payroll periods don’t impact overtime at all. What can impact pay is that if you are working over 40 hours in a 7 day period, but it’s not thee 7 day work week that your employer has determined. Then you are just out of luck. It needs to be hours worked in the employer’s 7 day defined work week.

            1. Becca*

              Okay, but I didn’t say pay period (pay periods are usually longer than a week anyway, though most places I have worked do have the end of their pay periods and the end of the work week coincide unless they pay twice a month), I said week for payroll purposes, which describes what you are calling a work week, because I wasn’t sure what it was actually called.
              Thanks for the correct terminology and further explanation.

        2. Ana Gram*

          Not necessarily. I’m in public safety and we start accruing OT after 84 hours in a pay period. The way our schedules work is that we end of working 48 hours one week (Sun-Sat) and 36 the next. There are often separate overtime laws for public safety, farming, etc.

      2. Observer*

        but I think it’s important to clarify that depending on the state 10 hour shifts don’t automatically require overtime

        That’s not the issue. A 5 day workweek with 10 hour days DOES unequivocally require overtime. Because that’s a 50 hour week, 10 hours over 40.

        I have friends who regularly work what’s known in my state as a “slope schedule” (I think this is a local term) which means they work basically 10 to 12 hours a day for seven days and then don’t work for the next seven days.

        For most jobs, either they are being paid overtime, they are working the seven days over a two week period (eg 3 last days of week one and first 4 days of week two), or what’s happening is illegal.

    2. Nicosloanic*

      On number 4, the only thing that seemed off to me was that it sounded like OP was discussing taking the job knowing it didn’t meet their state’s minimum wage requirements but not mentioning this to the company, and then planning to sue for back wages later. Now, you could argue it’s on the company to know, but I’d say it would be more honorable to inform them up-front, when they make the offer. Sure, maybe they’ll just retract the offer and pay someone in a different state, but it still feels more correct and straight forward to me. And selfishly I’d never want to count on an overburdened government agency to deal with my issue correctly; it’s usually quite a hassle.

      1. Olivia Mansfield*

        I mean, if OP feels like taking this on, I don’t feel sorry for the company about it. Companies paying below minimum wage *should* be worried that any employee could potentially out them for it.

        1. Nicosloanic*

          Presumably they are paying the minimum wage in their own state, and don’t realize that remote employees might have a different applicable minimum wage, which is quite foolish of them, but I still wouldn’t suggest taking the job and hoping you can sue them for back-wages later. I’d suggest turning down the job.

          1. Smartypant's Mother*

            We recently hired a Social Media/Marketing person, who could work remotely. But we advertised specifically for in-state candidates only. Our top candidate got to job offer stage, and filled out paperwork, where she revealed she lived in California (we are not in California, nor are we even in the same time zone as California). Her phone number was a “local” number because she had previously lived in our state, but she didn’t live there any longer. We rescinded the job offer, as we are not equipped to deal with the complexities of California Labor Laws. We went with the second choice, who actually did live in state.

            1. Nicosloanic*

              Yeah wow how strange of her, I suppose she thought since the job was remote it didn’t matter, but CA of all states has very specific laws distinct from all other states!

  13. Lou*

    I am so much in LW1’s corner. That would disturb me as well. I’d think you have a right to not be creeped out at work. I really hope you have a good HR.

    1. Sakuko*

      I totally get OP. My street has evolved in something of a Halloween hub for our city, which is weird, because Halloween is not as big a thing here as it’s in America.
      A lot of houses decorate very scarily even though the kids living here are still reasonably young (kindergarten to elementary school, few teens), with headless corpse dolls, bloody, mangled mannequins, ax murderer scenes, sound and light effects, even smoke machines and spooky videos played out the windows in the evening.

      I like Halloween just fine, but I prefer the none-threatening spiders, pumpkins and witches version to the bloody horror movie idea of it and my 8 year old just plain hates it all (though he would not admit he’s scared to walk our street after dark).

      1. AnotherLibrarian*

        Yeah, our neighborhood is super popular for kids to tricker-treat in. Last year, even during the pandemic, my partner and I saw tons of kids. So, we always do the yard up with light up pumpkins, a blow up dragon, hanging ghosts, all sorts of things. But I have a strict- nothing gory, nothing too creepy rule- because we get lots of little kids and I want them to have fun and not be scared. I wouldn’t want that sort of decor in my workplace at all and I can’t imagine OP1 being the only person uncomfortable.

      2. Jackalope*

        In my view there are three basic categories of Halloween decorations: cute/playful (kittens in witch hats, smiling pumpkins); creepy/death-focused (lots of skeletons and gravestones, spiders and cobwebs; and gory (bloody body parts). Obviously there can be overlap but broadly that’s been my experience. I’m fine with the first two but get squicked out by the last one.

        1. A Library Person*

          Yeah, I agree. I’d also add another “decorative gourd season” category to the front (pumpkins, non-green leaves, uncarved pumpkins) end. I’d think the first two would be fine in almost any office, you might want to tread lightly on the third but could probably get away with a lot of it, and you shouldn’t go anywhere near the fourth except for very limited circumstances where the work is directly related to the holiday. It sounds like this is a standard professional office that has gone straight to the last option.

          1. A Library Person*

            lol, lots of pumpkins in my comment up there…which is hilarious because I don’t even like them that much, decoratively or taste-wise. >.<

        2. Anonymeece*

          Yes, this. I fall firmly into the second category – lots of gravestones and ravens and creepy photos around my house this time of year – but I think OP #1 falls into the first. I also personally think the third category is probably not (ever?) okay for the office, due to these exact reasons.

          That said, I kind of felt a little side-eye when OP1 mentioned the “satanic looking symbol” and “not a pumpkin in sight”. The cauldron, for instance, may be distracting, and that’s a totally valid reason to be like, “Hey, can that maybe come down?” but it’s not gory, it’s not offensive, it’s just… a cauldron. It makes me kind of question how bad the decor really is, quite frankly (the severed head being the only thing that really made me think, “Oh, definitely not!”).

          1. Mannequin*

            Given the managers reaction over OPs characterization of the spooky figures as “dead people”, I’m envisioning the level of decorations that you can buy at Walmart, which are generally more cheap & kinda silly looking even when they *want* to be over the top spooky or gory, not necessarily the pricier, more professional looking stuff that some Halloween seasonal and/or specialty stores carry.
            I felt a lot of side eye at “not a pumpkin in sight” and my eyebrows crept into my hairline at “satanic looking symbol”. It’s such a red flag for a Satanic Panic believer (all of which was proven to be 100% BS years after it ruined people’s lives.)

            1. Anonymeece*

              Possibly! I find most of those more laughable than creepy, but hey, if it’s the concept that bothers OP, okay, that’s fair.

              But combined with the other comments – and the skeletons with teeth remark, which is just sort of weird – I just have a feeling that these decorations are possibly not as bad as OP makes them sound.

      3. Nervous Rex*

        In my old neighborhood, my neighbor to the left lost her adult son in a fatal shooting in front of their home. She was present and had to wait there for hours during evidence collection. She has PTSD, unsurprisingly.

        Six months later, October rolls around and my neighbor to the right starts putting out her usual mangled corpse decor. A few of us went over and suggested that, all things considered, it might be in poor taste.

        We were all shocked when she doubled down and ultimately slammed the door in our faces. The decorations stayed up, the neighbor to the left moved out before the month was up, and things around the neighborhood got REAL tense after that.

        1. Nervous Rex*

          I guess my point is that people can be surprisingly married to their decor, so HR might be a good route?

        2. Sleeping Late Every Day*

          What an incredibly horrible, selfish person the neighbor to the right is. Ugh, how heartless!

        3. I've Escaped Cubicle Land*

          When I was a teenager there was a older teen who committed suicide by hanging in a tree in a front yard of a busy road. It was in the fall and multiple people (including a bus full of students) though it was just a more realistic decoration. Wasn’t discovered until their family came home form work. I’ve also seen multiple stories about peoples decorations being so gruesome that someone calls the cops thinking its an actual crime seen.

          1. Sova*

            Having learned more as an adult about America’s history of lynching, I find any bodies hanging from trees decor in poor taste now. I didn’t think twice about it when I was growing up, but like many, many things, it hits real differently now to me and probably did for a lot of other people all along.

          2. Wednesdays we eat chicken*

            A friend of mine passed away this same way, in mid-October when we were 16. As a result, I admit I had my own misgivings about the neighbor’s corpse-studded yard even before this incident. On the other hand, by the time I moved into the neighborhood my trauma was under fairly good control, so I figured for me it was a preference where for my right-side neighbor it was at that point a matter of medical need.

        4. lilsheba*

          I can see your side on this, but I can also see the other person’s side, it’s their house and not their responsibility to make it happy for the neighbors. If someone asked me to tone something like that down, I MIGHT do it for that year only and after that you’re on your own.

          1. Tali*

            Woooow. Why not just do all your gruesome decor inside where you can enjoy it and it doesn’t hurt anybody?

          2. biobotb*

            “Making it happy for the neighbors” is different than “going out of one’s way to make it [horrifically] unhappy for the neighbors,” which is what it would be if you insisted on staging a gruesome fake crime scene next door to someone who witnessed their child die by gun violence. And certainly your neighbors wouldn’t have any responsibility to continue including you in their community after that choice.

      4. kicking-k*

        Your 8-year-old and my 8-year-old have fellow feeling about this. She loves dressing up; she’s very friendly and would enjoy our local variation on trick-or-treating with neighbours; but she has been so terrified in the past by scary decorations on-street that she now refuses to have anything to do with Hallowe’en and is planning to spend the night at home, watching fluffy cartoons and pretending it’s not happening. Every year, I hope the fashion will change to cutesy decorations of jolly pumpkins and fluffy black cats… not so far. It’s tough on the more tender hearted kids, even if some of their age-mates love it.

        I wouldn’t like to see gruesome decorations at work either. I’m squeamish and even quite unconvincing decorations of bones, body parts etc are often grotesque to look at.

        1. kicking-k*

          I should add that her reaction isn’t on the lines of “I don’t like this and I want to spoil everyone’s fun,” but bouts of sobbing and alarm every time Hallowe’en is mentioned, which can go on all autumn. I’m sure she will eventually grow out of it but it’s tough on her meantime.

        2. Hex Libris*

          Oh, no! I hope she gets her joy in the holiday back somehow so she can do trunk-or-treats and such.

          1. kicking-k*

            So do I. She’s otherwise quite brave, so I hope she will learn to tolerate it, as it doesn’t seem as though gory and creepy decorations are going away, and I can’t do a thing about it. (I have no objection at all to creepy decor in one’s own space, but the front walk isn’t quite your own space in the same way. I know people get a kick out of decorating and having the decorations be seen, though…)

      5. Applesauced*

        I helped my sister-in-law decorate her house and her 4-year-old kept saying “our house is so SPOOKY but it’s not scary. I don’t like scary” and you know what, same kid!

        Give me bats and pumpkins and funny skeleton tableaus, but leave the blood and gore!

    2. Bagpuss*

      Yes – I don’t think that objecting to a realistic severed head is remotely unreasonable, and I would hope that HR would recognise that.
      I’m not generally particularly squeamish but I think that in a workplace, you do need to be aware that not everyone will be comfortable with those sorts of graphic images and models.

      OP, if you do speak to HR, I would focus on the most disturbing element (on your description, that sounds like the realistic looking bloodstained severed head) I think some of the other elements , such as the cobwebs, plaque and cauldron, are much more standard halloween fare, although I think it would be totally reasonable to request that the lights and sound effects are turned off , for the majority of the time.

      1. Seeking Second Childhood*

        If your company is large enough to have a life safety officer, ask if the artificial smoke is an issue. For us, the powers that be banned all cleaning supplies that do not have a corporate safety sheet.
        (But excessive cologne is just ‘personal care’ and I’ll resist the tangent.)

        1. Worldwalker*

          If it’s the cauldron I’m thinking about, the “smoke” is just water. You know those little tabletop mist bowls that were a fad a few years ago? It’s like that, except with a plastic cauldron instead of a pretty glass bowl.

          (I never had a mist unit where the LEDs lasted more than three months, either; there’s a reason you use an ultrasonic water bath to clean jewelry)

          1. Seeking Second Childhood*

            Well that’s an improvement from the theatrical smoke I was imagining. That has been known to make me cough halfway back in an audience.

            1. Worldwalker*

              Many years ago, I volunteered in a charity haunted house in LA. The people doing the effects were a Hollywood SFX crew, with professional gear and all. Their fog machines vaporized vegetable oil. I swear, I smelled like a French fry for days.

      2. Reba*

        I might emphasize something like “I am sensitive to images of violence or implied violence” — since the Boss already shrugged with “they’re not real heads” I think it’s worth spelling out what is actually disturbing about the decorations, they are not just gross or distasteful in a fun way.

      3. Le Sigh*

        I have to agree. I enjoy Halloween and really love horror movies. But I think some people get so into it they forget that not everyone is okay with horror and that for some people, they’ve had experiences that affect how they feel about things. People shouldn’t have to navigate that their jobs just to earn a paycheck.

        And even at home, I live in a neighborhood with kids so I keep the decor lighthearted — some kids are really into the spooky stuff, but some aren’t and I want them to enjoy the season regardless!

    3. Stitch*

      This is a reminder to be sensitive to kids.

      My sis in law’s Dad died recently when he was hit by a car while out walking his dog. His 8 year old grandson was with him and saw everything (he wasn’t physically hurt). So for a kid like that, really gruesome stuff is going to be really tough. I’m sure there are plenty of adults out there who have been through the same kind of stuff.

      You don’t know what other people have gone through so try to keep the gruesome stuff to parties and stuff with other people who can choose what they see, like haunted houses.

    4. Nicosloanic*

      Yeah it’s funny how there’s a divide around decorations that way. With the Halloween fanatic letter earlier we were all enthusiastic and encouraging, but if she’d said the theme was extreme gore I also would have warned her that doesn’t fly at work. It’s subtle differences to me that take a decoration from fun to alarming. I was in an Halloween wedding, which was cute, but the wedding party warned her that anything implying the bride and groom (or guests, or bridesmaids) were dead or shortly going to die was on the line for us between fun and MORBID. She did great with pumpkins, non-specific ghosts and ghouls etc. No realistic corpses / murder scenes. But I have another friend who throws a Halloween party and the them is always slasher movies, so you know it’s more graphic going in.

      1. Observer*

        The key difference is that the other OP is not imposing haloween on anyone. They just want to be able to take off then. This is in the office, where the OP can’t get away from it.

    5. Beth*

      Oh, yes. I absolutely HATE gore and have since a traumatic incident in my childhood. That kind of stuff has no place in an office.

  14. Ori*

    LW2 – I really am tired of social media just being lumped in as an ‘any other duty’ for so many jobs. I hate it; it’s terrible for my mental health, I have ethical qualms about some of it and I don’t have any accounts personally. I’m switching fields to get away from it. And yet I’ll come across jobs that are completely unrelated to marketing, and will have ‘and run our social media pages’ in the small print. It’s infuriating.

  15. Rosacolleti*

    #2 apart from persons privacy and reputation concerns, a business’s social media strategy needs to be carefully worked out. You need to consider brand, audience, tone of voice, messaging and then have a well managed method of responding to comments
    and other types of engagement. You can dig your business a nice little hole by well intentioned, ‘fun’ but ill thought out posting.

    1. Ori*

      Yes! Social media is a skilled profession which requires marketing, customer service and ROI analysis.

      1. Alexis Rosay*

        Yes, ROI…somehow my former employer wouldn’t believe that the time employees spent prepping posts that got 5-10 likes probably wasn’t worth it.

    2. I'm just here for the cats!*

      Good point and if this is a company that already has a marketing and/or social media department or person they probably wouldn’t feel good about other people doing this with the company name.

  16. cncx*

    thank you OP3 from one fast reader to another. People are really nasty about it, one friend sent me a link that was only like 300 words and when i gave him feedback on it five minutes later he was like “i need you to really read it”
    I did read it, Chad.

    1. Nanani*

      Some people seem personally attacked by the existence of people with skills they lack.
      It’s very annoying and frankly stupid in an anti-intellectual way.

      1. JustaTech*

        I’m a pretty fast reader (not like the OP) and one time something urgent came up so after a meeting I was skimming a whole bunch of government regulations (they’re labeled, so it’s easy to skim to the right section). I found the right bit, read it, and wrote up a quick summary for the group.

        My coworker *could not* get over my skimming/reading ability. Like, she was just gushing about it to everyone, to the point it felt like mocking. “How do you do that? Did you take a class?” “I just read fast.” “No, really, how do you do it?” (Note, I never, ever commented on her reading speed.)

  17. Keymaster of Gozer (she/her)*

    OP3: my mother got called into school on several occasions to deal with me reading books ‘too fast to comprehend’ and accusations of lying etc. Every time she’d just tell the teacher to quiz me on e.g the plot and thereby prove I absolutely do read that fast (around your speed)

    A few times at work I’ve had comments like ‘there’s no way you read that’ or ‘oh do it properly’ and I fall back to mum’s response.

    (I’ve read the entire AAM archives, plus comments, at least once :p )

      1. Keymaster of Gozer (she/her)*

        One or two accused mum of ‘giving me the answers’ (somehow without speaking, I mean I’m pretty sure mum isn’t telepathic, least I hope so), a rare and much beloved teacher let me start reading more advanced books in class after powering through everything.

        English lit teacher at secondary school gradually came to accept that ‘read the next chapter silently’ time in class would result in me finishing the book and pulling out some Star Trek novels from my bag.

        1. Liz*

          I was the same way in school! I’ve always been a fast reader, and we had these reading comprehension exercises we all had to do. Based on reading level, etc. I would ALWAYS finish mine well before everyone else, and in 6th grade, my teacher would let me go to the library and pick out a book, rather than sit and be bored.

        2. Ray Gillette*

          99% of the reason why I hated school growing up was that the majority of my teachers took it as a personal insult when I would quietly read a book or work on homework for other classes after finishing whatever work they’d assigned. The difference between a teacher I liked and a teacher I disliked pretty much boiled down to, what did they expect or allow me to do when I was finished with my work?

          1. Gray Lady*

            I remember being scolded with “Don’t rush!” by teachers more times than I like to recall. I honestly believe that was about not wanting to have any kids left with “nothing to do” who might make trouble or become bored, and thereby somehow reflect badly on the teacher, combined with the assumption that nobody could be working carefully and get done that quickly. Up until late elementary school, though, all schoolwork was really easy for me, so I was just done quickly with in-class work. I’m not a super speed reader like the LW but I’m faster than most people and I do still get suspicious looks sometimes.

          2. Berkeleyfarm*

            I am realizing I got lucky with my elementary school teachers.

            My mom went to bat for me the one time I had a new teacher without much of a clue. I was cutting up in class (my cousin was in it so this was easy) and mom got a call. When she was told, her response was “well, maybe Berkeleyfarm is bored because she is finished with the assignments, have you given her something else to do?” I was already reading at well above my grade level. The teacher did and I became nice and quiet.

            Usually I was allowed to read books from the classroom shelf or the school library if I was done with whatever the class was doing.

    1. learnedthehardway*

      It boggles me that people don’t just ask a question about what the person got out of it, instead of challenging whether they read the document or not.

      1. Keymaster of Gozer (she/her)*

        Yep, a boss I am actually friends with now (after I left the firm) noticed me reading his meeting minute notes – which were upside down given he was sat opposite – in a few seconds and simply asked if he’d missed something. He had, an action point that he’d assigned to me 12 minutes ago :)

        1. GermanGirl*

          Yeah, some people just manage to accept that you read that fast and it’s great.

          I do confess I sometimes have the opposite problem. I have to consciously remind myself that others don’t read that fast and that reading long texts is a real burden on their time (vs a relaxing five minutes for me) especially when the text is in English instead of German, but longer texts in German as well. So I try to remember to give them a summary and make reading the whole thing optional unless it’s truly necessary that they read all of it.

    2. LifeBeforeCorona*

      I’m a fast reader and a teacher refused to believe that I could read a book overnight. She quizzed me on them and finally realized that I was fast, not the LW fast but I could read and comprehend what I had just read. Sadly, it seems to be slowing down a bit as I age.

      1. Loredena Frisealach*

        I’ve definitely noticed my reading speed has slowed as I aged too. Some of it I think is a focus issue (I’m not nearly as hyper focused while reading as I used to be).

        I still read faster than most though! My new employer has a slew of video based training, and one was essentially a compliance training that was a tab through reading the equivalent of slides. I finished and took the quiz (100%) and then received a message that I hadn’t spent enough time on the material! I went through it a second time, same thing, and finally just left my screen sitting on the final screen for 30 minutes. pointless

    3. EvilQueenRegina*

      My dad always used to say he felt I was reading too fast for it to be possible to be actually reading. I kind of wish I had thought of that response at the time.

      I used to have this weird childminder who used to tell me off for reading and would tell me to find something different to do, I never understood why but I wonder now if she also thought I was reading too fast and wasn’t taking it in. I’ve also had the suggestion that maybe she thought I couldn’t read and was just looking at the pictures – to this day (I stopped going to that childminder when we moved house in 1987) I still don’t understand what would have been wrong with looking at the pictures, the way I see that, at least I’d have been showing an interest in books. At least once when telling that story I’ve asked what did she want me to do instead, run around the room screaming and scribbling on the walls?

      1. BubbleTea*

        People who don’t read can be really weird about it, and see it as time wasting or even offensive to them (especially if they had people treat them poorly for reading issues themselves).

      2. kicking-k*

        Yep! I remember this. I was frequently told I couldn’t be taking it in… My parents never stopped me reading, but at school I was not allowed to take a book out with me at break time, because we were supposed to play in the fresh air. As a kid who had difficulty joining groups, this often meant
        spent the time standing around in the cold, bored.

        The only time I stop my own kids reading is if I really need them to be doing something else… and my daughter has inherited the ability to read very fast and constantly has a book (or several) on the go. But I think it’s more accepted than it was.

      3. Frauke*

        There are some people that really dislike it when other people, especially children, enjoy things they do not enjoy or understand themselves. Usually it’s (terrible) parents who want a mini-me, but it could occur in a childminder too. Maybe she just really hated books herself and disliked that you were different.

      4. Mockingjay*

        My mom once grabbed a book out of my hands and said, “I don’t believe you just read that page that fast.”
        I quoted word for word.

        In her defense, I was nearly held back in first grade because they thought I couldn’t read, then one day the teacher called my mom and said, “Mockingjay can read!” I think I was simply waiting for something more interesting than “Dick and Jane see Spot.” (Yes, we actually used those readers. Ugh.)

    4. Liseusester*

      I had a series of battles the entire way through school with librarians and teachers about how quickly I read.

      My middle school librarian was a particular pain. We had colour-coded shelves for what each year group was allowed to read, and I read my way through them all. She refused to believe that I had read them that quickly and insisted I give her a plot precis every time I returned one. Eventually she got bored of this for the correct colour-coding, but when I’d read all those and was asking permission to move to another colour she brought back the requirement. I think she got bored of seeing me in the end because she did give up on this after about a year and a half.

      Partly it’s that I’m a very quick reader, but it’s also partly that we didn’t have a television until I was 13. We spent a lot of time in the evenings sitting and reading with the radio on in the background.

      1. Liz*

        that was me as a child too! We had one tv, and I wasn’t allowed to watch anything in the evenings, except on Saturdays, and when the once a year holiday specials were on. My parents also weren’t the types to take me to the park, or were particularly athletic, but they did, esp. my dad, read. so when other kids were bugging their parents to go to the park, I was bugging mine to go to the library!

      2. Autumn*

        Color coded for grade level? I’m not a rapid reader, but this would have galled me to know end and probably would have prompted a call from my parents.

        Other than certain content issues I strongly believe children should be allowed to read what interests them!

        As far as content, I strongly dislike horror fiction, would I stop my kids from reading it? Nope. I might check in with them about it being FICTION, and not how the world works. But I wouldn’t ban it.

        1. PostalMixup*

          I could see this being helpful at the elementary level, as long as it was used as a guide, not to restrict. So the youngest kids could know that “this is a book I can probably read by myself” vs. “this is a book I bring home so my parents can read it to me,” whether they’re reading at or above or below grade level. My elementary school did something similar – there was a section of books that were kindergarten through 1st or 2nd grade level, and then the rest of the library was 2nd or 3rd grade level and above. You could check books out from any section. As a small one, I knew I wouldn’t be able to read the “big books,” and as a big kid, I knew I’d be bored by the “baby books.”

        2. Sara without an H*

          I can remember when I was about 11, the local librarian refused to let me check out a book I wanted to read because it wasn’t from the children’s section. When my mom came to pick me up, I handed her the book, she checked it out and handed it back to me — in front of the librarian.

          I’m not an especially fast reader — it really depends on circumstances and the type of text. But I was reading ahead of my grade level all through elementary school.

        3. AdequateAdmin*

          We had books that were color coded with dots for various reading levels. My third grade teacher was very strict at first about what range you could read (ex. you can read a 5th grade 4 month book, 5.4 to 5th grade 6th month, 5.6, but not outside that range). It was really annoying because it severely limited the books I could choose from because the range was so small and I read so fast. There was a book I had been dying to read when I got to a certain level, but when I did it was checked out and not returned until I had been moved on from that level. And I wasn’t allowed to check it out because it was “below my level”. One of my regrets to this day.

          Thankfully my next teacher was literally just like “go nuts” when we went to the library.

        4. matcha123*

          I think we had color-coded books in my elementary school, but the colors were a guide for difficulty level. The librarian wasn’t stopping kids from reading outside of their colors.

          1. quill*

            I’m sure we had some sort of leveling system, but eventually the deal with teachers and librarians was that I read what I wanted out of the school library.

        5. quill*

          This would have resulted in a small, angry quill campaigning to ruin that librarian’s plans. With my mom roped in.

      3. Applesauced*

        In middle school, our book reports were an informally chat with the teacher, and we had do this twice a month or soemthing.
        Precocious 14-year-old me decided to read “Gone with the Wind” at 1037 pages and tried to convince my teacher that it should count for more than one book report because other students were reading 200-page books. He disagreed, so I spite-read the shortest novellas I could find for the next month.
        I loved (and still do) reading, so I guess we can call this interaction a draw.

      4. A Library Person*

        With a few exceptions (mostly warning younger readers about content that might be upsetting for most kids at their age level), actively RESTRICTING what kids can read at school is incredibly terrible, counterproductive librarianship that ends up making kids dislike reading. /rant

        1. Mockingjay*

          The same goes for making kids write essays for misbehaving. Writing should be a skill, not a punishment.

        2. Sara without an H*

          +1000. I’ve known people who stayed out of the library until they went to university, all because of experiences with some tight-assed rules-enforcing librarian.

        3. Worldwalker*

          Fortunately, my parents were both bookworms, and our house was full of books. So I was reading Shakespeare when I was about 8.

          I live in the South (US, that is) and I go to a lot of estate sales on weekends, or at least I did in the Before Times. The estate sale companies will advertise “Lots of books!” and then have a picture of fewer books than I have in any room in my house. Including the bathroom and the hallway.

          It could be argued that we have too many books, but only because they get in the way of other books. (I don’t need a speed reading course. I need a speed-bookshelf-building course. Possibly a speed-house-extension course.)

    5. Hotdog not dog*

      I used to get in trouble at school for “not reading” because I had finished the whole thing while the rest of the class was on chapter one. A good chunk of my childhood was spent having to sneak books because either my parents and teachers thought I spent “too much time with my nose in a book” (really, there is no such thing!) or I was forbidden from reading “above my level” (another ridiculous concept).
      One of the best things about adulthood is that I can read anything I choose. Now all I need is more free time to do it.
      At work a big part of my job involves reading long, complex, and often dull documents and being able to understand and implement whichever new policy is being put forth. I find it interesting and not very difficult, so it’s given me a work reputation for being sharper than I actually am.

    6. londonedit*

      Luckily my school was decent about it, but I’m the same. I could read well by the time I went to school (I was given a copy of Alice in Wonderland for my 4th birthday and read that cover to cover – a proper version, not an abridged children’s one) and thankfully was allowed to go into the classroom for the class above mine to choose books to read. The invention of e-readers was fantastic for me as I used to take about 10 books with me for a week’s holiday! I’ve definitely been accused of not reading properly (‘How can you possibly take in the story when you read so quickly?!’) but I can! It’s also very useful for my current job as I can whizz through a page and spot any errors.

      1. Rebecca Stewart*

        Someone asked me did I like my e-reader.

        I can put my entire library in my purse and walk around with it and read whatever I’m in the mood for. No, I don’t like it, I love it.

        (And yes, sometimes I buy books both in paper and electronic format. One for the shelf and home and one to be portable.)

      2. Loredena Frisealach*

        That reminds me of when my grandparents gave me an abridged copy of the Little Women series. I had already read the non-abridged, so I started reading the abridged and calling out all the missing bits….

      3. quill*

        So I read A Wrinkle in Time at about 5… and some of the sequels by about 7… I had some odd ideas about which parts of the series were science and which parts were science fiction at the time!

    7. Paris Geller*

      I had a similar situation in the 3rd grade. I had just moved to a new school and so they put me on the starting ready level, which was longer picture books. We had a silent reading period every day, and I got in trouble for zoning out. My teacher told me to get back to reading, so I recited the book (which I had read multiple times by that point) back to her.

      I was allowed to go pick a chapter book after that.

    8. TechWorker*

      How fast you read is something that (to me anyway!) is pretty difficult to control. I feel like this causes some of the weird reactions – people who naturally read at a ‘normal’ pace cannot comprehend how *they* could read way faster and so refuse to believe someone else could. I don’t know why, clearly there are plenty of other skills that some people find trivial and others very very hard.

  18. Viki*

    LW#5 incidentally, was looking this up tonight- from Canada parental leave (as in for the parents) is split with extended and standard.

    So if I take the standard leave of up to 40 weeks, I can only take 35 of those, with my partner taking 5 of the 40.

    Extended leave is the same with 69 weeks with 61 being taken by one parent, and the other eight by the other parent.

    Of course this is all on top of maternal leave which person giving birth can take (mat + parental) and doesn’t include anything that your personal company may cover.

    The weird split in leave is very interesting IMO

        1. Bagpuss*

          Actually it’s 39 weeks paid – but it isn’t at your full rate (Unless you have a provision in your contract of employment which is more generous than the statutory provisions).
          You are entitled to 90% of your average weekly earnings for the first 6 weeks then £151.97 or 90% of your average weekly earnings (whichever is lower) for the next 33 weeks.
          So financially not huge amounts, but the fact that your job is protected and you are legally entitled to return to the same role at the end of your leave is important.

        2. Scotlibrarian*

          Yep, plus accrued annual leave, so I went back to work once my kids were 13 months and 14 months old (both were premature, so I had very little time off before the birth (one day mat leave before my first was born 6 weeks early!)

          1. kicking-k*

            My son was nearly two weeks late and with accrued annual leave I still didn’t have to return till he was 14 months. I did resent “wasting” my leave waiting for him to make his appearance, though! (I am also in the UK.)

            1. londonedit*

              My sister did the same – she started her maternity leave a month before her due date, but my nephew was two weeks late so she ended up with six weeks sitting around waiting! But he was born near the end of the year and with her accrued annual leave she was still able to take the next full year off and go back to work when he was just over a year old.

      1. AcademiaNut*

        It’s up to 15 weeks maternity leave (for the person who is pregnant/giving birth), and 40 weeks parental leave (either parent, used for adoption as well). Both are paid at UI rates (55% of normal rates up to a maximum per week cap). So a bit over a year in total. Extended basically stretches the same money over a longer time period. I think the split is in part to encourage the father to also take time off.

        That’s from the government – individual employers may top it up. My sister works for the government, and could take the first year at full pay, and up to six months more unpaid, but had to commit to coming back to the job for a certain length of time, or she’d have to pay back the top up.

        1. BelleMorte*

          I’d also add to amaze the Americans, your job is also guaranteed to be held in Canada. If your job goes away for whatever reason during parental leave they need to find you a similar or equivalent one. While yes some unscrupulous employers may penalize you unofficially for taking your leave, it’s pretty rare. The longer time period allows back-filling of your position for that year so it’s actually easier to find parental leave coverage when it’s a longer period than it would be for shorter periods.

          In fact, a lot of people get their careers started by filling in parental leave positions for a year as it gets them experience and a set of networking contacts that may end up finding another job in the same organization if they do well.

    1. GermanGirl*

      In Germany it’s split as well, kinda – you get 12 month (at 67% pay, with a cap) and 2 extra months as a couple if each partner takes at least 2 – or if you’re a single parent, you also get the extra 2 months.

      Most people misunderstand this 2 month bonus to mean that the pregnant person gets 12 months and the partner 2 month, and nothing else is possible, but it’s actually a lot more flexible than that.

      Instead of 12/2 you could do 7/7 or 2/12 or anything in between and you can also stretch the money over twice the time and work part time while doing that and you can even mix part time and full time parental leave …

      It’s actually pretty great but it’s sooo frustrating that it’s not explained properly so most couples get stuck in the traditional 12/2 split even if it doesn’t make sense for them, just because they don’t know they can do it differently – or in some cases they just don’t think they can ask their employer for it. I remember in prenatal class wanting to scream something like “It’s your legal right, use it!”

      And I did say something to that effect but I don’t think anybody listened – and so a surgeon and a mid level manager, who loved their jobs and didn’t want to take a long baby break ended up at home for 12 months while their husbands, a baker and a janitor went to work … It would also have been financially better for them to split it any other way than 12/2.

      And our politicians wonder why we still have a gender pay gap and so few women in high level positions, and so many highly qualified stay at home moms, and having children the number one risk factor for poverty … *goes to pound head at wall*

      1. Frauke*

        I’m also German and also regularly want to pound my head against the wall when this topic comes up! Nice to meet you!

        At my place of work, I know there is no misunderstanding because there have been fathers that take more than 2 months. A man on my team is actually taking 12 months to his wife’s 2 and I’m so happy about it (even though he’ll be sorely missed)! Still, the assumption is always first that the dad takes just the 2 “Vätermonate” (I do not react well to people using that word). It’s changing very, veeeeeery slowly.

        1. GermanGirl*

          Ha, I’m not alone. Thank you.

          I was the first woman at my workplace to do something other than one or two years off, but I do have two male colleagues who are doing more than the minimum 2 months so it’s slowly getting better.

          1. De (Germany)*

            People were shocked that I came back after 8 months with both of my kids. “Who’s looking after them while you work?”

            Um, Papa?

      2. De (Germany)*

        You can even convert a full time paid leave month into two months where you work and get a top of – I did that with my husband and we had two years total – 8 months one of us was off work completely, then 16 months where we both worked part time and got 67% of the difference between full and part time work on top of our part time salaries.

  19. ll!Te ,'e*

    I don’t believe LW3 needs to cringingly refer to their abilities as “weird.” I think they could just say, “I’m a speed-reader!”

    I myself am also a speed-reader and have been in this exact situation many times; it’s a very simple matter of calm, normal communication that has never led to any issues. And in the rare event that someone hasn’t believed me, I’ve simply smiled and repeated the information I’d read back to them. Never been a consistent problem.

    1. Weegie*

      I agree, and was wondering if using the terminology ‘speed reader’ rather than ‘fast reader’ would go some way towards convincing the sceptics. Speed reading is A Thing – it’s not ‘freakish’ or ‘weird’.

    2. Seeking Second Childhood*

      The problem is the term “speed reader”. There was a formal way of skimming that was taught in the 1970s, including in my elementary school. It involved reading the first line of a paragraph and deciding if a rest could be skipped as a relevant. This was admittedly useful for old school newspaper style of writing, which fowned on “burying the lead” .
      I came to resent it, honestly, because it was years before I could truly enjoy descriptive text in novels. And I’m sure I missed a lot of good punchlines.

      1. Seeking Second Childhood*

        I guess my point is for OP to say “uncommonly fast” reader not a “speed reader.”

        1. ll!Te ,'e*

          That’s also not A Thing, though, whereas speed-reading is. So my point is not concerned with phrasing so much as perceived validity. I don’t know what the formal skimming technique entailed but this is just a language processing thing, not a method.

          1. Snow Globe*

            I agree with Seeking Second Childhood – when I hear “speed reading” I think of the technique that was taught in the 70s, which was basically skimming the text. So if someone said that, it wouldn’t make me think they were really reading comprehensively. “Uncommonly fast” gets across the point that this isn’t just a technique, that the reader has an unusual ability.

            1. NotMy(Fancy)RealName*

              That’s not the technique I was taught in the 70s. Our reading teacher in Jr. High had a machine that would show the text in chunks of words. As we progressed, we got less and less time and more and more words. I was already a fast reader when I started, but afterward? Maybe not as fast as the OP, but pretty damn speedy.

          2. Seeking Second Childhood*

            Look up Evelyn Wood’s Speed Reading. There are inheritors, but that is the original. Ms wood claimed you would learn to read each word as a single block which isn’t really that much more complicated than some characters in traditional Chinese. However, when it migrated to grade schools, the skimming was definitely a thing.

    3. Let me be dark and twisty*

      I agree. Using the word “weird” is cringy and it’s unnecessary. I’ve been called out for reading things quickly but there’s nothing I can do about it and I shouldn’t have to prove I read the doc to make them comfortable with it because no one else has to prove they read it. I just say “okay” and move the conversation forward. If someone gets stuck on it and wants to test me later, sure. But let’s talk about what we came to this meeting for.

      FWIW, my parents think I developed fast reading skills because of closed captions on our TVs when I was a kid. Usually when people get stuck on my ability to read so quickly, I share that factoid and it helps them move on. (I have no idea if it’s true or not.)

      1. Dramatic Intent To Flounce*

        I have no shortage of anecdotes, but the one I usually go with is ‘I finished the last Harry Potter book about thirteen hours after its release, and I spent about half that time sleeping.’ Gets the point across quickly and as a mildly amusing story, shows I do it for things I really am invested in, and so yeah totally believable I read two less-wordy pages in a minute.

        OP3, I suspect you have an anecdote or two like that as well – see all the fellow fast readers sharing similar ones – so see if bringing one up helps for the coworkers situation. ‘My teachers didn’t believe my reading logs as a kid and used to quiz me,’ or ‘we had trouble carrying all my books home from the library’ or whatever you can come up with and don’t mind sharing. It’s not something to be ashamed of, it’s a skill you happen to be particularly good at. I suspect once you’ve told it a few times, it’ll just become ‘Oh right, OP3’s a fast reader.’ Maybe that word’ll speead when it comes up at meetings. (If not, performative active reading seems your best bet.)

  20. Pan Troglodytes*

    To the people with the natural speed reading ‘problem’… is there anything you do that slow readers like myself can emulate?

    Do you find you can naturally hyper-focus on things, including non-reading tasks?

    Also- what do you hear in your head as you read so fast? When I read fast the voice in my head sounds frantic so I have to slow down again! Or maybe you don’t ‘hear’ the words at all?

    Not sure if this topical but not directly work-related question meets commenting rules. Apologies if not.

    1. Keymaster of Gozer (she/her)*

      Full warning: my brain is not normal at all.

      I don’t hear the words in my head as I read (schizophrenic, I get enough voices), it’s more like computer code to me – it enters the brain with the meaning but no pronounciation. If anything I don’t hyper focus at all – even when reading I have to have something else to do at the same time (I paint my nails, sew, play with the cat at home) else the brain goes off into daydream tangents.

      My husband is severely dyslexic and it takes him months to get through a book that I can do in 3 hours, we often joke that between the two of us we average out as normal.

      1. Harper the Other One*

        I am a naturally fast reader and I’m the same – I don’t hear the words in my head, I just sort of process their meaning.

        I should note though that I am generally a non-visual person so I also don’t conjure up an image from written descriptions. (An advantage when someone adapts a book I like for film because casting rarely bothers me!) But I’ve wondered sometimes if that contributes to my reading speed.

        1. Cold Fish*

          That is so interesting. I have a hard time visualizing and I definitely “hear” the words as I’m reading (slow reader).

          When reading for fun, to me it is more like I absorb the meaning and get an impression of feelings. I have often have difficulties with film adaptations because the actors don’t portray the same feelings. Ex. I love the Harry Potter books, Alan Rickman was a brilliant actor, did not care for his portrayal of Snape in the movies because I didn’t get the same oily sliminess feeling as I got from the books. In that same vein, I can’t often quote back what I have read, but am often good at summarizing the big picture.

          However, when I read for business, I’ve trained myself to look for the details and have become really good at picking up those details but can then miss the big picture.

      2. Anonymous Hippo*

        Yeah, I don’t hear the words when fast reading. I’ve been training myself to read slower, as relaxation, and I do make myself hear each word, but it is still really fast (ie would sound crazy if audible was that speed). I also am not visual, like at all. I can’t picture anything in my head, it is literally all text, even when I try and imagine where stuff is in my own house, its mostly text with some spatial pointers, but never ever a picture. This makes it hard for me to recognize people outside of context as well. When I remember a dream, it’s like a script, and I often get confused if something I remember was a movie or a book because I translate movies into books to some extent. I think some people’s minds just work differently.

      3. kevcat*

        Hey, my bipolar brain does the same — there’s no voice in my head reading along, just an information dump. And your response regarding focus is spot on — there’s no focus involved. Instead, it’s more like stepping into a warm bath and splashing around a bit whilst I soak it all in.

        Side note: My brain hates being read to, and now I wonder if it’s because I’m hearing the words, instead of absorbing them, which feels like an unnecessary extra step.

    2. Weegie*

      Dragon Dreamer explains it well in a comment upthread – brain goes directly from word to meaning and skips any ‘sounding out’. I also have a vague memory (from my long-ago degree studies) that there are people who see words as shapes rather than words as a series of letters, and this also makes for faster comprehension.

      1. Bagpuss*

        I see words as shapes – I am also terrible at spelling and I think part of it is that if the word looks the right shape then it doesn’t matter if some of the letters are in the wrong order – I used to be told ‘write down both options and see which one looks right’ when I couldn’t spell a word, which was totally useless as generally, they both looked just fine to me!

        I read fast, and I don’t hear anything in my head when I do it. I’ve never timed it but I can easily read a novel in an evening, non-fiction tends to take a bit longer but I think that’s because I am =more likely to be stopping to think about the content.

        I remember one christmas my sister watching me read and asking what I was skipping, as obviously i couldn’t be reading as fast as I was turning the pages as no one could speak that fat. I was totally confused about what the speed people speak at had to do with reading, and she was totally confused that I didn’t understand the question. Before that it had never occurred to me that people actually heard books when they were reading, as if they were reading aloud.

        (I used to get very frustrated at school when we were supposed to be reading with people taking turns to read a bit aloud, as it was so slow, and we were not supposed to skip ahead. They didn’t tell me that we were not supposed to read ahead until we were quite a few chapters in, and then refused to believe that I had read the book overnight the first day we’d been given it so it was already too late by the time they told us. )

        1. GermanGirl*

          Oh yeah, my teachers would be so frustrated with me because I just couldn’t make myself follow the writing at the slow speed that my fellow students were reading it out loud. If I kept my eyes on the text, my brain would read ahead and I’d be totally lost when it was my time to read out loud. And if I let my eyes wander to the window or so to allow my brain to actually listen to my fellow student’s reading, then I’d be equally lost.

          And I’m very good at reading out loud – or so people say when I read to them – but I don’t actually take in much of what I read out loud. I have to reread without speaking for the meaning to enter my memory.

          1. Schrodinger Cat*

            I’m glad I’m not the only one who doesn’t recall anything I just read out loud and has to read it again to myself to understand it…I always figured reading out loud was to help people who process auditorally rather than visually, which was not me.

        2. Autumn*

          Any time I knew I would be obliged to read out loud I made very sure I read the passage in advance. Much to the dismay of teachers in the “don’t skip ahead” crowd I also explained this strategy to other classmates. Otherwise I would be cringing as they stumbled along trying to read out loud.

          If you want to teach your students the skill of reading smoothly and expressively have them read a very short, funny story to the class, without actually having the class read it too. The student can then pre-read the passage, making sure they understand and can pronounce all the words, understand the intended tone, and can read it fluently out loud. One hell of a lot less cringeworthy for everyone involved.

      2. Seeking Second Childhood*

        Thanks for this question–it’s helped me realize why I abhor all-caps. I do see words as shapes, but the spelling is there for me. From a distance that I cannot read in all-caps, I can pick out upper/lower letter combinations by shape.
        Here’s something else I’ve just realized– when I’m reading a book, I have to consciously slow down and think about it to actually ‘hear’ the words.
        But in Internet posts, and emails, as soon as I recognize the names, voices attach themselves. I realized that when I found Alison’s podcast & her voice didn’t match what I expected. (It does now.)
        I wish I could amuse you on a Saturday by telling you who you sound like , but it’s usually not famous people. It’s people like “my n-th cousin from the UK or “the guy from legal who cracks jokes in the lunchline.”

        1. Worldwalker*

          It’s a known fact that all-caps is harder to read. I assume that’s why they put the legal parts of user agreements, shrinkwrap, etc., in caps: they don’t *want* people to read them.

          1. Seeking Second Childhood*

            As a technical writer I can assure you that we are fighting against all caps so often. Part of the problem is that there are legal requirements for minimal size of letters, and all those rules are ambiguous if you have upper and lowercase letters.

      3. Crop Tiger*

        Yes, I see words as shapes because I’m dyslexic so I’ve memorized the shapes rather than looking at the letters individually. I can read 3-4 books a day but I never listen to audiobooks because I can’t stand having to actually listen to a book in real time.

    3. Reed*

      I am also an over-1000-words-a-minute reader and as far as I can tell the main difference between me and my ‘normal speed’ friends is, I do not sound out the words in my head. I don’t need to – I know what the word is and means somehow without that. I have noticed that when I read in my other language (I’m bilingual) I am much slower, at least for a few chapters; I assume because I live in an English-speaking country and have far fewer chances to read/speak the other and my brain gets a bit rusty in the intervals. So possibly it’s a matter of practice as much as natural inclination – but it takes a LOT of reading to be able to read a lot.

      However! I DO sound out the words when reading poetry, because the sound of the words is a big part of the point. I deliberately make myself do it. It’s sort of an effort to hold myself to it as my brain wants to tear ahead to the next meaning.

      1. Ro*

        Oh my goodness, Reed, you’ve just made me understand why I often don’t “get” modern poetry. When I read prose I don’t hear the words at all, just like you – and of course the sound of the words is really important in poetry and I don’t hear it. I’m going to go find a poem and read it out loud to myself. Thank you!

        (example of not hearing the words when I read: I read a whole book where the hero’s name was Hiro (which is pronounced hero, pretty much), and never got the pun until I was explaining the book out loud to someone else).

    4. GraceC*

      Like other people in this thread, I never learnt to read in the normal, taught sense – it went straight from “my mum reading to me and running her fingers along the words” to me just…I don’t even know. Figuring out how it works. She noticed once I started trying turn the page and saying that I was finished on new books as well as ones I knew. I was…it was some time before I started nursery, I think, so in the first couple of months after my fourth birthday? Although I might have learnt earlier than that and just not shown it – there’s video evidence of me practicing how to speak and sound out words once my parents had put me to bed and I thought they couldn’t see, so hiding the fact that I could read until I could do it well is very in character for my toddler self.

      I was never taught to sound words out in order to understand what I’m reading, so I don’t! I do when I’m writing, or if I want to really slow down and appreciate some good dialogue, but not normally. You just…see the words and know what it means and move on. Sounding it out has never been a step in the reading process for me. There is no voice in my head.

      There’s a lot of words I only know through written context that I can use correctly but have no idea how to pronounce, and it sounds like that would be an impediment to normal/slower readers? How does that work, when you see words you don’t recognise? I can just glean the context from the surrounding paragraph pretty quickly and don’t need to think about pronunciation, which was helpful for things like Clockwork Orange.

      1. Anne Kaffeekanne*

        For your last question – my brain pretty much immediately settles on what seems like a plausible pronunciation. This is very often wrong and yet v e r y hard to replace once my brain has decided and has led to me at 30 still occasionally mispronouncing words I first read more than 20 years ago.

        1. Lab Boss*

          I’ve heard that addressed as “people who read a lot end up mispronouncing words, people who watch a lot of TV end up misspelling them.” This is also what happened to the famous letter-writer here, who thought her coworker Joaquin was two people: Joaquin, who they saw written and thought was pronounced “Joe-a-quinn;” and this other guy “Wakeen” they heard people talking about.

    5. Beth*

      I don’t hear words when I read! It’s a visual activity for me, not an audio one. I read routinely in both English and Japanese, and it’s the same for me in both languages–I see the words on the page, I know what they mean, sound never comes into play.

      In fact, reading for sound is something I need to actively focus on–I can do it for reading poetry, but it’s an intentional shift from my normal reading mode. It does slow me down a fair bit to do this, so I would believe that sounding out words while reading makes it slower!

      I’m not otherwise prone to hyperfocus, but I did learn to read very young, and it’s been a favorite activity throughout my life so I’ve spent a ton of time doing it. I low-key think of written text as a separate language to auditory speech. They’re closely related, of course–but if you have to ‘translate’ between them in order to understand, that slows you down a lot. I think reading so much, especially as a kid, gave me fluency in it that boosts my speed a lot.

    6. Summer Day*

      There are speed reading courses you can do. Although this isn’t what we are talking about. Personally for me it’s like the words just go straight into my memory. I don’t have to think about the process at all. It’s probably just like some people are naturally athletic or coordinated.

    7. Helvetica*

      I tend to read “diagonally” – meaning I can look at the sentences not from left to right, reading out every word but grasping full paragraphs at once because my eyes go from the top left corner to the bottom right corner, essentially, and I see and process everything at once. I haven’t trained it, it is just how my brain works and while people tend to think this means I couldn’t possibly fully comprehend things like that – I do, just like LW#3.
      When I have tried to force myself to slow down, I tend to hyperfixate on the act of reading more than the content of what I’m reading so it is counterproductive to me as my brain stops processing the meaning.

        1. AutolycusinExile*

          I also read that way, and I never realized this before now – I totally do prefer thinner columns of text! The more you know…

        2. Helvetica*

          Actually, no! Column width doesn’t make that much of a difference to me – once a text is fully in my field of vision, I can read it like that, no matter how wide or long it is. I can also pretty easily grasp an entire page of a book, for example, using the same method.

          1. Seeking Second Childhood*

            Interesting, I hope someday a reading researcher stumbles across this page and looks into it and follows up with us.

          2. GermanGirl*

            Yeah, for me the most important thing for speed reading is that the paragraph doesn’t run over the edge of the page – so on web pages I prefer the font to be slightly smaller if it means I can always scroll to have the whole paragraph I’m reading in view, and for books I prefer that the paragraphs don’t run over page breaks.

    8. kicking-k*

      I’m a hybrid. I do think I hear the words sometimes, particularly dialogue, but I don’t sound them out – they arrive fully formed, and the process seems immediate. It doesn’t seem frantic, but is far faster than I can do out loud. Writing (especially typing) is the same but slower. I’ve been able to read since I was three and it’s always felt this way as long as I can remember. I also have no sense of scanning the page; I just see the writing and it’s in my brain. I can’t easily skim or skip at all.

      I am neuro-atypical (ASD and probable ADHD), and my early reading probably qualified as hyperlexia. I do have bouts of hyperfocus, but reading or repetitive tasks like knitting are the easiest to focus on. I haven’t really managed to deploy this at work except when I have to read a lot of legislation or policies quickly, or I have a lot of information to collate in a spreadsheet, which I can do very quickly.

    9. ll!Te ,'e*

      My best explanation of the process is that my brain takes in a chunk of text at once, rather than word by word. Like looking at a picture. I know it sounds weird but that’s the best way I can describe it!

      Rather than hyper-focusing, it’s actually somewhat annoying because I find myself occasionally have to go back and re-read things. I also work in content localization, so have to go word-by-word at work while editing and occasionally find it really hard! But I also have ADHD so that could be a complicating factor.

      I wish I could give you some advice! I can say that my partner used to be an extremely slow reader, but has spent more and more time reading for pleasure over the years and has improved their speed as a result. But YMMV.

      1. Rusty Shackelford*

        This is how I read. I am a very fast reader, although not as fast as the LW. My husband reads more slowly, and he reads a word at a time. I assume the two are related.

        1. Paris Geller*

          Same. I take in sentences or paragraphs at a time, not words. I always had trouble when we were suppose to use a finger in school to follow along, because I don’t read that way and as far as I can remember, never have. Even in school reading picture books, I would take in a page at a time. I’m not sure if it has anything to do with how I learned to read, since I don’t really remember that, though.

          1. Why the finger?*

            Part of using the finger is to train the eyes to smoothly move from left to right (reading English) and stay on the same horizontal line. It’s a learned skill. (Optometrist here who used to do a lot of vision therapy.)

      2. InsufficientlySubordinate*

        I call it “‘gestalting” which is a wholly made up thing by me when I was younger but that’s what it feels like; I look at the words and absorb them as a whole. I am terrible at Anagram games (make words from random letters); my speculation is that to me my brain a word is a word, not a bunch of letters. Shrug, who knows.

        1. TechWorker*

          I’m enjoying this thread – lots of reasons/excuses for why I’m terrible at anagrams and have never really ‘got’ reading poetry.

          1. Mannequin*

            I’m all the same- fast reader, see words as a ‘whole’, terrible at anagrams, don’t enjoy most poetry.

    10. bee*

      Interestingly, unlike the consensus here, I DO hear words in my head. I can turn it “off” if I’m really trying to get through a lot of material (textbooks) but for the most part it sounds just like my internal monologue. I am a v fast talker, when I’m not intentionally trying to slow down for an audience, and I listen to podcasts at 2.5x speed, otherwise I tend to zone out.

      I have ADHD, so yes I can hyperfocus on other things, but I don’t always have a lot of control over it. In fact, I was diagnosed late because reading and standardized tests are two things my brain loves to hyperfocus on—it wasn’t until I had to independently take care of myself and manage my own time that it became apparent.

      1. GermanGirl*

        Hm, it seems I’m somewhere in between. It’s hard to describe. I don’t “hear” the words, I “think” the words in some sort of inner voice which is a lot faster than I could ever hope to speak even if I tried – and it can also “think” a whole sentence or with easier texts a whole paragraph in one processing step.

        And I also listen to podcasts, YouTube and the like in double speed.

        1. Environmental Compliance*

          Same here – it’s not that I don’t hear the words, but it’s definitely not my spoken voice.

          Interestingly, anything I listen to I keep in normal speed for the most part. I’m much, much better at reading information than listening to information (as all my foreign language professors could tell you >.< ).

      2. Anon Y Mouse*

        Same as you, bee! Still on the waiting list for a diagnosis in my 40s. Oddly, the pandemic pushed me to seek one by taking away all the systems I had built up to game myself into managing to focus when I was supposed to.

        Cramming for exams played to my strengths – lots of focus needed for a short-term deadline. The world of work has not been like this.

    11. Alton Brown's Evil Twin*

      I generally don’t hear the words unless it’s something that I deliberately want to concentrate on having a mental voice – poetry, sometimes dialogue.

      I think I probably can focus a little better than average, but any kind of sound with words – podcast, TV, long conversations, even music lyrics – disrupts it completely.

      For non-fiction stuff, especially things where I’m trying to learn something, the best way I can describe my mental processes is that I have a wall of pegboards with hooks for hanging tools, like you’d see in a garage or a professional kitchen. And when I am reading for comprehension, all the things I’m reading get hung onto the most logical hooks. Sometimes it means making a new pegboard; sometimes it means copying the arrangement of hooks on an existing pegboard; sometimes it just means squeezing a few things into the tools that are already on the wall.

      1. Pan Troglodytes*

        Fascinating! I think I do something similar, but far more slowly and I have to actively try

    12. Liseusester*

      I don’t actually hear anything in my head when I read. Somehow I look at a paragraph of words and it just goes in to my brain. If I’m writing I speak it out to myself internally but I don’t have the same experience as I read.

      I also don’t remember , like a lot of people in this thread, learning to read. My mother read to me a lot when I was very young, and I just sort of knew how at some point. I could read well before going to school at 4, which meant that I then had years of people insisting I couldn’t possibly and it got very tedious.

      A colleague is trying to teach himself to speed-read and he’s been skimming down a paragraph really quickly, making a note of what information he’s taken in, going back and doing it a little more slowly, making another note, rinse and repeat. I have zero idea if this is how you’re supposed to do it, but he seems to be getting results!

      1. londonedit*

        Yes, same! I can’t really describe it but I don’t really read words individually across a line, they just go *whoomph* into my brain. I also don’t remember learning to read but my parents tell me I had the basics down before I was 3, and was reading confidently before I was 4.

        1. American Job Venter*

          I’m much like others in the thread, so my description of my own reading style would be superfluous, but in that context reading your paragraph here was a really interesting experience — in the middle of absorbed text/meaning I “heard” the *whoomp* sound effect very clearly.

    13. Eco-Logical*

      I’m also a fast reader, and my brain processes blocks of text not individual words. I don’t really focus on the words, I sort of look at the text and it arrives in my brain with the meaning. I can skim things too, but that’s different.

    14. Stitch*

      My mom’s actually a reading expert and she can teach speed reading. What happens is you read words or phrases at a time rather than individual words or letters.

      Speed reading is absolutely lousy for proofreading so when proofreading I actually do deliberately sound out or hear the words in my head. So if OP is being asked to proofread, I would suggest slowing down. You can’t usually recognize phrasing problems or how something “sounds” when speeding reading.

      If I need to close read a document I often do so with a highlighter or pen.

      1. Nicosloanic*

        This is how one can finish a whole book but not “know” the character’s name, as it’s just a shape meaning “character” or as others have said, not notice that letters are inverted in words. I wonder how many speed reader are bad spellers.

        1. Stitch*

          I personally only speed read books if I’ve given up on them and just want to finish. I don’t enjoy them as much if I speed read.

          I’m only speaking for myself here, though.

        2. GraceC*

          I “speed read” inasmuch as I read incredibly quickly and through recognising word/phrase shapes rather than through sounding out words, and although it’s anecdotal, I’ve always been good at spelling. Poor spelling and grammar in a text (deliberate or not – Cormac McCarthy is an incredibly painful read) takes me out of it, and prevents me from being able to read in my preferred style. When I read through just absorbing words off the page, I don’t even register chapter breaks, people speaking to me, the general passage of time – it’s hyperfocusing, really. Being jolted out of that by spelling and grammatical errors and having to go back to reading word. by. single. word. is just so exhausting.

          Of course, I avoid doing that when proofreading/editing/beta-reading, because it does cause issues when you need to pick through every word and sentence in detail looking for specific errors, but I’ve never seen any correlation between poor spelling/poor reading comprehension and people who are habitual fast readers in their day-to-day life.

        3. Elizabeth I*

          Yes! I talk about this as a word “stamp” that signifies the main character to my brain.

          Whether it’s a hard-to-pronounce, many-syllable name from a fantasy novel, or a short, common English name in a Jane Austen novel, I sometimes manage to finish an entire book and forget the main character’s name, because I was seeing the “stamp” of their name without ever pronouncing it.

          1. Anonymous Hippo*

            Lol, I 100% do this to. I read a lot of fantasy and sci-fi, so some many times I have a word I’ve just given some designation in my head so I know what’s what, but never even bother to think about pronouncing it.

    15. Rebecca Stewart*

      When I read fiction, I see it happening in my mind’s eye at the speed I’m reading.

      With non-fiction, I hear it, but I hear it at conversational pace. It doesn’t sound speeded up, but I will say that in an average non-fiction book, I skim in spots. For example, I recently got a book on the genetic advances in human origin studies. It is aimed at the science-minded layman, and so there was a page or two on “this is how chromosomes work” and I have that pretty well down, so I skimmed that bit, focusing in again when they started discussing the issues of getting usable DNA out of archaeological specimens. I do that a lot. When I read a recipe, I look more at the overall technique and procedure first…are we developing gluten, inhibiting gluten, tenderizing, etc. and then at the ingredients.

      Speedwise I can handle most Golden Age mysteries in about 40 minutes. A good popular science book in history or biological sciences will take me an hour to an hour and a half, though philosophy and equation-heavy books are longer because they require more chewing, so to speak.
      We buy books both for the e-reader and the shelf, and are careful curators of our collection.

    16. Lab Boss*

      When I was in school there was a vogue to not teach phonics, but rather just word recognition. I think you have to have some phonics knowledge if you ever want to understand words you don’t already know, but the emphasis on just “seeing the word” probably helped me learn to read faster as I don’t think through each word.

      I often end up reading dialogue slower, since I’m more likely to “hear” that in my head as a character voice. When I’m reading descriptions or non-dialogue narration I don’t really hear it in the same way. I wouldn’t describe it as “skimming” exactly, but sometimes when I’m humming along I realize I mis-read something. That’s probably because I’m so used to just recognizing what words say, that if the author says something unexpected I might read past it before realizing and have to go back and re-read.

      When I find myself bogging down or reading slowly (more of an issue with work reading than pleasure reading) one very simple way to at least maintain a certain pace is tracing my finger at a steady pace along the line I’m reading. It helps maintain my focus and prevent my eyes from wanting to skip around or my attention from drifting, as well as keep up the pace.

    17. Pan Troglodytes*

      I’ve learned so much from this thread! Your brains sound incredible!

      Two things that stand out: quite a few naturally fast readers seem to have been read aloud to a lot as kids, which might mean the ‘hearing’ bit was skipped since you heard it without having to internally ‘speak’…?

      Another is how some people are explaining how their mind processes information- grasping multiple words/concepts at the same time and then hanging them together into meaning… it’s very impressive.

      I’m not sure I will be able to emulate these things but I learned something about other people’s minds which is super interesting!

      1. Worldwalker*

        I think one common factor between a lot of people here is that we learned to read before we were crippled by phonics — by the concept that a word can only be understood as a transcription of a sound. In my case, my mother used to read to me each night, and when I was 3 or 4 I picked up on the idea that those little squiggles under the pictures told my mother what words to say. Since I knew what words went with what page (yeah, I was one of those kids who wanted the same stories over and over again, so I had them all memorized) I rather quickly related the squiggles to the pictures. I started kindergarten at 4, due to how the cutoff date worked in my school, and I could already read. (and got in trouble for saying so, until I proved it)

        Formerly, people had three levels of vocabulary — in order of complexity, their speaking, writing, and reading vocabularies. Thanks to phonics, this has been restricted to just one — the speaking vocabulary — because they can only understand words by sounding them out and hoping they’ve heard that word before. I’m glad I learned to read before I was taught that way!

        Because of some research I did, I can read some German. Mind you, I can’t *speak* German. I don’t know what sounds those letters make, and I couldn’t understand them if someone spoke them to me. But I can read them (to some extent) because I know the meanings of the strings of symbols, not of the related sounds.

        Chimp, I don’t know if you can learn to read like this — I suspect it has to be how you learn to read, not something you can pick up as an adult — but it might be worth trying. Maybe try reading in a language you don’t know — think of all the little instructional, warranty, etc. pamphlets that come with just about everything, which are frequently in multiple languages. Since you know that the different sections mean the same thing, try reading the version in, say, French, which you can’t comprehend by sounding it out because you don’t know French (if you do know French, obviously, use a different one!) so you’re forced to understand the meaning instead of the sound. No idea if this would work, but I’d try it.

      2. kicking-k*

        Hmm, I hadn’t made the connection with a lot of reading out loud. But my mother read a lot to me and my siblings (I’m an eldest child so this went on longest from my perspective) and I then took over reading duties because my sister is dyslexic and read slowly.

        I’m now a parent and still read every night to my kids. My son much prefers to hear fiction but read non-fiction. My daughter is a bookworm and fast reader. But does she get it from me, or do we both get it from being read to? Hard to say. Both kids have advanced reading ages but their routes to reading were very different (girl “just got it” fairly soon, appearing not to need to sound words out; boy laboured through sounding out and then appeared to consolidate the skill over the course of a summer. Oddly, he was a confident writer before he was a reader, although he asked us how to spell things a lot.)

    18. Loredena Frisealach*

      If I am reading quickly I don’t hear the words – hearing what I read or write is actually part of how I have slowed myself down! I was taught to read in sentences not individual words in a reading class, and that does speed it up – think of it as ignoring filler words (ie. if as and).

      I do naturally hyper-focus on many different things, not just reading though, and that’s likely part of it.

    19. TiffIf*

      My sister reads quickly–she doesn’t sub-ocalize at all–so she doesn’t hear anything in her head.

      If I can get into a groove when reading I can get to a point where I don’t subvocalize, but the moment I think about it I start subvocalizing again.

      I don’t know if there’s a way to teach people how not to subvocalize…

      1. Mannequin*

        I don’t subvocalize, the “voice” I hear when reading is entirely internal, a creation of my brain.

        1. TiffIf*

          That’s what subvocalizing is?
          from wikipedia:
          Subvocalization or silent speech, is the internal speech typically made when reading; it provides the sound of the word as it is read. This is a natural process when reading, and it helps the mind to access meanings to comprehend and remember what is read, potentially reducing cognitive load.

    20. Worldwalker*

      I don’t hear a voice in my head at all.

      For me, words are their own thing, not transcriptions of sounds, so I just read the word and understand it — I don’t have to read it, sound it out (albeit silently), and then only understand it if I know that that spoken word means.

      Interestingly, I do something similar with foreign languages, too. Words in another language aren’t translations of English words — they’re synonyms for them. “Mesa” doesn’t mean “table” — it means “flat piece of furniture with legs that you put things on” just like “table” does.

      1. Mannequin*

        What I hear is like a narrative voice that speaks the words as I read them, flowing as seamlessly as speaking out loud would be. I’m not stopping to read or sound out each individual word, I recognize them instantly too.

    21. Kes*

      I read quickly but not to the level of OP. I do hear the words in my head but in my case I think it’s faster because I love reading and have a lot of practice, and read a lot of books that I really enjoyed and wanted to get through to know what happened next. So I think you can speed up with practice.

    22. L'étrangere*

      Sounding out the words is probably the main thing that hinders your speed Pan. Words don’t have to be spoken to be perceived, they can just be seen..

    23. Nanani*

      Depends what I’m reading, and I’m not equally fast in all languages.

      I hear dialogue in my head if it’s well written, I guess? I rarely/never “hear” narration but I do picture scenes.
      For fiction, i like to stop and let it sink in, or internally argue with the charcters or compose what-if scenarios and stuff like that, so I rarely finish fun books fast. I can control my reading speed, I suppose.

      For stuff that I’m not reading for fun, I kind of “hear” the words but it doesn’t take as long as hearing things irl. I guess I hear the impression of the words.
      It’s one reason I’m not into audiobooks or video guides vs text ones – I can read a LOT faster than they can speak and if it’s not an engaging performance i really do want to go faster.

    24. Roja*

      I do tend to hyperfocus, yeah. If I’m speed-reading (I don’t read as fast as OP but I do read quite fast normally) I don’t hear much in my head–it’ll be like a delayed word here and there but not the whole passage. Like the other commenters, I see a sentence or a phrase in chunks and my mind somehow translates the whole thing at once. Unlike the other commenters, my comprehension is often not as good if I’m reading *really* fast; I can see all the words but not process them. So I do have to slow myself down a little if getting every detail is important. Obviously I’ll read word by word if I’m proofreading or editing.

      Reading background (since it seems it differs to a lot of others commenting): learned to read in kindergarten via phonics, progressed normally until my 6th birthday then suddenly took off and started reading books way over my grade level. Wasn’t read to at all past that point, although I must have been beforehand. I think there might be some kind of genetic component as my dad was also a speed-reader but much better at it than I am; he could read faster than I can but actually process and remember everything he read at that speed. Lucky duck!

    25. Kayla*

      I’m a fast reader and I don’t have a “voice” in my head when I read. My husband is a very slow reader and it’s like he thoughtfully processes every syllable. I feel like I just absorb words – if it’s just a sentence or a tweet it’s like a batch at once. If it’s a book it’s like a flow. I do picture characters and scenarios in my head sometimes – like a longer scene or a detailed character will build in my mind’s eye.

      I don’t even know if this is possible, but the only tip I can really think of is to broaden your focus. Instead of narrowing on each word individually as it comes, read more collectively and try to “absorb” the sentence. I’m interested to know if this is possible!

    26. Lunar Caustic*

      I read line by line, but very quickly, and I do hear a voiceover reading the words in my head, but it is extremely fast (and yet it doesn’t sound overly fast, if that makes any sense). I’m also a very visual thinker–I don’t have a photographic memory in the sense that I could reproduce an entire page of text, but if I remember something I read I can probably point out to you roughly where on the page it was and quote it almost word for word because I access the memory by recalling how it looked. It’s like my brain thinks in pictures and words count as pictures, so I’m really quick to process and remember them. Numbers, however, do not count as pictures and I have to put in effort to remember them.
      It’s really interesting to see people bringing up reading music and relating it to reading words. My rapid visual processing makes sightreading really easy and memorizing music (for piano at least–too many notes) really hard. When I do memorize piano pieces, I have to do it by how my hands look on the keyboard and what the key combinations look like when I press them, and that is much more effort than just reading the music.

    27. Mannequin*

      I honestly think I picked it up from being that nerdy kid who did nothing but read books all the time. We had a TV, and I sat in front of it reading books.

      I have ADHD and am not diagnosed but highly suspect I’m on the spectrum as well. I can hyper focus on reading the same way I can hyper focus on anything I find enjoyable. I have time blindness too, and I cannot tell you how many times I’ve settled in to read a book in the evening only to look up and suddenly realize it’s dawn.

      I hear a voice in my head as I read, but it’s not sounding out words, as I recognize them just by looking. It’s more like a voice in a conversational tone, reciting the words like a smoothly flowing narrative. Often it’s neutral, but sometimes it is distinctly gendered. Well written characters in books all have distinct voices.

      I’m a super duper ultra visual person that doesn’t just visualize things in my head, but sometimes can’t turn off the stream of ADHD images my brain inundates me with. I’ve a history of pretty fantastical dreams, and I can often draw something better than I can explain it.

      1. Mannequin*

        Also: my mom read to us as kids or made up stories spontaneously. I could read before I was in kindergarten, and was reading adult level books by 2nd/3rd grade.

        Someone described the voice in their head as like a “voiceover” and that’s a great description of it. I see it in my minds eye while I read it too, so it’s like my brain is making its own movie with voiceover narrative & distinct voices for each character, not sounding out each word in my head as I go. When I read, it just flows.

  21. Dennis Feinstein*

    LW2: “I already don’t love it because I find it distracting and I end up picking up their slack when they are working on choreography instead of checking patients in or updating charts.” ​
    Not only is it unfair to try to pressure LW2 into participating in these videos, but it’s EXTRA unfair that they are having to pick up the dancing co-workers’ slack AND be distracted while they’re doing it!
    Why is the boss not concerned about THIS? Seems like this is a bigger issue than LW2’s reluctance to be on social media…

      1. WFH with Cat*

        And the LW is being asked why they “hate fun.” That detail that really burned me (on top of all the previous details). That team and boss, not a “fun” group to work with, that’s for sure.

    1. Sara without an H*

      Yeah, if I were the manager at this office, that would be my first concern. It does NOT sound like a well-run organization.

    2. Neon Dreams*

      Agreed, I don’t understand why 2 is even a thing. You’re at work to work, not film silly dances on social media and slack on your actual job.

    3. Princess Flying Hedgehog*

      Yeah, I was wondering if the boss actually realized how much work these other coworkers were skipping, and how much extra work OP is taking on. I would actually sidestep the “fun” comments entirely and comment on how these video projects are affecting the work load.

    4. Tiffany Aching's imaginary friend*

      Yeah, if the co-workers love the dancing so much, maybe they can do it on their own time?

  22. LifeBeforeCorona*

    Several co-workers just spent the day putting up similar decorations complete with a screaming soundtrack and a monitor that plays non-stop horror movies. They also darkened all the office lights for extra effect. It really bothers me because even the fake blood is a reminder of past trauma and the body parts look disturbingly real. Thank goodness it all comes down in less than a week. I don’t know how people cope when it’s up for the whole month.

    1. KateM*

      Seriously? I’d think that a non-darkened office without screaming soundtrack would be a very basic working environment. I’d probably just flat-out say that I’m not able to work in dark and noisy.

      1. KateM*

        Also, are employees able to watch movies and work at the same time? If not and watching movies is an acceptable alternative to working during these days, maybe you could just watch some other movies on your own monitor all day long, complete with headphone?

      2. Worldwalker*


        I have a pretty high squick tolerance, so the fake gore would’t bother me, and I would probably prefer the darkened office, but the soundtrack would bring my productivity to a screeching halt. With two of us WFH, I depend on my noise-cancelling headphones or I can’t function effectively. (I’ve got a pond full of frogs and occasional splashes playing right now — a phone all called myNoise is a lifesaver). That screaming soundtrack would be awful.

        That said, maybe noise-cancelling headphones (I just have cheap ones from Wyze) would help? They’ve saved my sanity, or at least my productivity.

    2. Nicosloanic*

      Man, where do you work?? I would have no trouble speaking up about that and asking for “quiet hours” to, ya know, do my job. But I guess in some workplaces it would be fine depending on the tasks being performed. Such as if you work in a Halloween Funhouse ;)

    3. Jax*

      Pre-Pandemic, I worked at a manufacturing company that invited employee’s children in for Desk Trick Or Treating, followed by a little party with cupcakes and snacks in the breakroom. Wonderful idea, right? Except for:

      – Each office employee was expected to decorate their area. In management’s eyes, employees who spent all day creating insane Fun Houses = team players! Employees who worked and didn’t have time to decorate = stink eye.

      – Trick of Treating started at 4:30, but we all worked at least until 5. Ummm…how were we supposed to get our kids there? No one was allowed to leave early to get their kids, so the only attendees were children of night shift or management. Again, in management’s eyes, employees who had their children come = team players! Employees who could not coordinate transportation = stink eye.

      – It felt stressful to parade your children in front of management and have their behavior critiqued. I absolutely hated it, and didn’t want to put my children through that.

      – Female employees were expected to do the bulk of this “fun work”, including dress up in costume and escort the groups of parents/children around the buildings. Not one male was expected to decorate or help (and none of them did).

      Needless to say, I have no interest in decorating my desk for the holidays ever again! :)

    4. Cat Tree*

      Can you bring up the dimmed lights as a safety issue? Having enough light to see is a basic safety measure.

    5. I've Escaped Cubicle Land*

      Back in the days of In Office the team next to us went all out one year and convinced most of my team to join them. (not me) There was a ban on turning out lights office wide so instead they got yards and yards of this black plastic wrap. Basically they turned every ones cubicles into tents. Had orange lights, and strobe lights under them, spooky sound effects (that the call center across the hall said Absolutely Not to) The smell for the off gassing of the plastic wrap was so bad that I developed a migraine, threw up, and had to take off the rest of the day. If you had to go to someone else desk you had to wait for your eyes to adjust to the dark and the strobe lights. Annoy as heck. Halloween is my favorite holiday and that team made me loathe it that year. They did the same thing but in white for Christmas and got fake snow all over my desk trying to spray the wall in between us. That was the moment I lost my shit and channeled the Grinch at the beginning of the story. My boss had words with their boss about me having to clean their “holiday spirit” off my desk. I was so happy when that team got moved to a different building later on.

  23. Marko*

    #1 Nothing good will come out of talking to HR. They’ll either ignore it and mark you as the annoying person or try to fix it, in which case your colleagues will mark you as the annoying person.

    Either way, the overboard Halloween displays are part of the office culture and hard to fix.

    Best advice is to just ignore it. If you truly want to fight this, just set up your own annoying displays. Everybody has something that touches a sore point. Kids, pets, coworkers etc. You will be able to find something that will make your coworker and/or boss uncomfortable. But don’t go there.

    1. Xavier Desmond*

      I appreciate you are trying to be helpful but you can’t possibly *know* that’s how HR will react. Not all HR departments are the same.

      1. Librarian of SHIELD*

        This. Yes, there are some unreasonable HR people who would pull the “why do you hate fun?” Line and let the whole office retaliate against LW for “ruining Halloween.” But there are also very good and professional HR people who would see this situation for the problem it is and address it professionally. We don’t know what kind of HR LW has, so let’s not try and scare them off from trying to address a real and serious issue in their workplace.

    2. Observer*

      You are making 2 problematic assumptions here. The first has already been called out – not all HR departments are inept and incompetent.

      The second is that the OP is just being precious and objecting to a minor issue. Except that this is NOT a minor issue for a lot of people. The OP is describing stuff that is going to make like really uncomfortable for a LOT of people. Telling them to essentially “get over it” is not terribly helpful.

  24. Beth*

    LW2: Hopefully this will die down on its own eventually. I doubt viral tiktok videos will bring in much business! Most people don’t actually have that much say in their medical practitioners (at least in the US, though I shouldn’t assume that’s where you are–but if you are, let’s be real, most of us go to whoever is 1. covered by our insurance and 2. taking new patients when we need them). Plus, the demographics on tiktok tend to skew very young, and teens and young adults aren’t known to be the best at routine medical checkups. And even if a potential customer sees these, who chooses their doctor based on how good their staff is at dance routines?

    My bet is eventually your boss will decide the publicity isn’t worth the wasted time. Until then, in your shoes, I’d be highly tempted to do just a hair more than my usual workload–enough to look like I’m a team player, but not enough to actually pick up the bulk of the slack. And frankly, given the weird pressure to do an extra duty that you’ve already said you aren’t up for taking on, I’d probably start a low-key job hunt. Plenty of medical offices must need good, dedicated, focused, not-burned-out staff these days.

    1. Chestnut Mare*

      I would enthusiastically agree to participate, and then be enthusiastically terrible! I’d cheerfully struggle with the choreography, trip over my own feet, bump into others, practice perfectly and then horribly botch every take…all the while being so. very.cheerful. about being included!

    2. L'étrangere*

      I like the idea of minimizing how much work you pick up. By all means help a live patient, but don’t do the extra charting for instance..

  25. Keymaster of Gozer (she/her)*

    OP1: it’s a bit different here in the UK but I’ve had a few neighbours go…Doom level of gory in their window or door and it’s really gross.

    At work it’s even less appropriate. I mean, I’m a severe arachnophobe – if someone has plastic…one of those and refuses to take it down I’m heading to HR because it really will make it impossible for me to be in the office.

    Coming in dressed in my best witch gear? That’s fine. Having a desk display that’s making others uncomfortable? No.

  26. Spooncake*

    LW1: I love Halloween and have a total lack of squeamishness due to a combination of my own disabilities and the fact that I’ve worked in a medical-related field for over a decade. However… I totally understand that not everyone is as dead inside as I am and that a lot of Halloween decor isn’t really suitable for an office. Making sure everyone is comfortable in their surroundings is far more important than personal taste in seasonal decorations, especially since we can all have whatever decorations we like in our own homes. I hope that speaking to the coworker involved and/or HR is more successful than speaking to the manager was, and that at least some people will be receptive to your comments.

    And personally, I think cute Halloween decor is more fun anyway. Big fan of bats and cartoon skeletons. Realism, not so much.

    1. Mannequin*

      I like cute Halloween decor too- for normal everyday use or for sensitive very small children. October/Halloween is when you break out the GOOD stuff!

  27. caps22*

    LW5 – can a mother take the first 6-8 weeks off for your own medical needs (with doctor’s notes), then the full parental leave split with the father or coparent? I’m guessing not, but since I used to work at a place that allowed paid maternity leave only as short term disability due to medical needs of the mother to recover (6 weeks for v birth, 8 for c section), not parental leave per se, I know some places look at it that way.

    1. hbc*

      I think the question simply depends on whether FMLA is invoked and required. Nothing is stopping a company from being more generous, or for allowing a couple to simultaneously take two years off after the birth of their child and hold their jobs for that long. I bet there are a lot of places that would go through the formalities of FMLA but then grant “extra” unpaid, non-FMLA required time if asked.

    2. Just Jess*

      My guess is that a birthing parent could take 6-8 weeks of their 12 week total for recovering from birth and then be entitled to whatever part of the shared 12 weeks for bonding that the co-parent did not take (not to exceed the max FMLA 12 week total when added to the birth recovery time).

      If the organization has a separate parental leave policy on top of FMLA then they may be obligated to provide the full amount of parental leave and the full amount for birth recovery. It just depends on how they worded the policy. States and employers differ.

    3. SpaceySteph*

      Yes and there’s even a DOL fact sheet on it explaining this loophole.

      First 6 weeks the birth parent is recovering from birth, on leave to recover from birth. Spouse can technically take these same 6 weeks for caring for birth-giver which are not shared 6 weeks.
      Each parent then has 6 weeks remaining to use for other reasons, each can use those 6 weeks for bonding with infant– 12 shared weeks used that way.
      For each of our kids, my husband has taken 2-3 weeks off immediately after birth and I really did need help during those first two weeks– my first I could barely move I was in so much pain and I needed my husband to take the baby from me so I could use my hands to help myself out of a chair. Then after I go back to work (6 weeks for my own recovery + 6 weeks for care of newborn) he takes another 6 weeks of our shared FMLA allocation for care of newborn.

      The loophole doesn’t help adoptive parents though.

  28. Hacker For Hire*

    Advice for LW3: next time you are given a document to read, offhandedly (and shortly) comment/resume/quote it to the person immediately after reading it. This will validate that you have read it in full and not just skimmed it. They’re going to be amazed rather than annoyed.

    (Not that it matters, but I’m a fast reader too.)

    1. KateM*

      “Resume” and possibly “comment” I can see, but surely you can’t validate that you have read a document IN FULL by quoting a PART of it? That could easily make it look like instead of reading the whole document, you are picking on one sentence that caught your eye.

      1. AutolycusinExile*

        But most people aren’t trying to pull a ‘gotcha’ – usually they just want a little reassurance that you got through it. A reasonable person isn’t going to need to interrogate you to prove you’re doing your job. They’ll double-check that you understood what they needed from you and assume honesty when you say you read it (unless of course you have a track record of lying, but that’s a separate problem). Making a comment or asking for clarification preempts their double-checking question, but of course it’s not going to confirm 100% completion – if they really needed that, they probably should have asked for a book report from the get-go!

  29. TimeTravlR*

    I am a weirdly fast reader as well. I just pretend to still be reading to placate people. It really is just easier.

  30. Alton Brown's Evil Twin*

    #3 – I’m also a fast reader; never been formally timed, but I’ve gotten the same looks and comments from people.

    Here’s what I do to forestall criticism:
    * highlight, underline, or make notes in the margins- even just some tick marks next to things you think will be addressed later.
    * actively cross-reference, especially if it’s a multi-page document. Flip backwards and forwards where it makes sense, so that other people get the idea that you are absorbing it all and hanging it on a mental scaffold, not just burning through it.

    1. Let me be dark and twisty*

      I do this too. (Except my notes in the margin are more to-do list reminders.)

      My approach combines Alison’s suggestion and Alton’s. When I finish reading a page, I’ll spend about a minute or so reflecting on what I’ve just read before turning the page. Sometimes I make notes. Sometimes I highlight. Sometimes I’ll even ask a question (even an obvious one) to show that I’m absorbing the information or seeking extra context, like “It says here that 25 teapots were produced but only 20 were approved. Who’s the approving authority that makes those recommendations?”

  31. Richard Hershberger*

    LW2 is a textbook example of what I commented about yesterday in response to an extrovert asking for sympathy about empty offices. Nope, nopety nope. We introverts have our entire lives been subjected to the kind of BS that LW2 describes. LW2 doesn’t object to their coworkers ducking out of actual work. LW2 doesn’t object to taking on the extra work while their coworkers are off dancing. That in a rational world is just about the ultimate in being a team player, going above and beyond. But that isn’t good enough, now is it? This is the stuff we have been putting up with since forever, all the while being assured that it is fun, and what is wrong with us anyway that we don’t want to join in?

    1. Madame X*

      This is not an issue about introvert versus extrovert. This is an issue about appropriate office behavior and respecting peoples boundaries. The specific problems the letter writer pointed out is that her coworkers are ignoring their actual job duties in favor of posting for social media. We don’t even know if the letter writer identifies an introvert or an extrovert. Personally I identify as an extrovert and I too would not want to work for an office environment like the one letter writer 2 described. I’m also not interested in being extremely visible online. I’d rather go to work do my work and then go home and hang out with my actual friends.

      1. Cat Tree*

        Thank you! I’m an extrovert but I don’t routinely neglect my job to play on social media. In fact, like the LW I have almost no online presence because of family issues.

    2. Camellia*

      I like your ‘team player’ observation. Maybe next time she can be really puzzled and say, “Not a team player? What do you mean? I take on their work while they are practicing and filming, and that frees them up to do it – isn’t that me being the ultimate team player???”

      But for me, I would simple say, “That’s your idea of fun, not mine, plus I have privacy reasons for not appearing on the internet.” Repeat ad nauseam. And when they ask “What reasons?” I would reply, “That’s private.”

  32. Astoria*

    I suspect that LW2’s colleagues just want to do a Tik-Tok challenge for its own sake and are using the workplace as an excuse. They should do it on their own time.

    1. LITJess*

      Yes, this. I was honestly suprised that part of Alison’s suggestion was that LW2 say that they’ll continue to pick up the slack aka their coworker’s ACTUAL JOB while they goof off and film videos for Tiktok. Honestly OP, I’d start there with your boss, forget the privacy issues. And also, would love to know what higher ups or HR think about this dept and their silly dance videos entirely conceived and filmed on company time.

  33. UKgreen*

    Fast reader here. I can also read upside down. It does freak people out a little bit.

    Re: the TikTok videos – companies and organisations need to think about how this ‘looks’ – I’m not saying I agree with this view, but there was quite a bit of backlash here in the UK to the trend for nurses and healthcare staff ‘wasting time’ making videos for TikTok at the height of the Covid pandemic last year while the UK population was being required by law to stay at home to ‘protect the NHS’. People felt that perhaps if the NHS was under so much pressure that we had to stay in lockdown that perhaps nurses ought not to have time to do silly dances in the hospital corridors…

    1. Seeking Second Childhood*

      I can see it for staff who are living on premises (as happened with some Senior residence facilities here in the US), and for staff who are not allowed to leave the building on lunch break. Hopefully they were not doing this during working hours?

      1. UKgreen*

        Well, who knows if they were doing it in work time? As a member of the public I see a set of nurses in uniform who have time and everything to dance on TikTok. That doesn’t say ‘our NHS is so overwhelmed that I need to obey this lockdown order’.

    2. Free Meerkats*

      I can also read upside down and it has caused me problems in the past. Biggest was doing tagouts when I was in the Navy. The Reactor Officer had me called in and I was asked why I was signing tags upside down. I said that they are sometimes in places where it’s easier to read the tag upside down; when you do tagouts, you position the valve or switch in the correct position, hang the tag on it, sign the tag and initial the sheet, then the next person checks the position and then signs the tag and initials the sheet. He basically said that no one can read upside down. So I read the thing on his desk to him from the other side of the desk. He told me to get out of his office and never sign a tag upside down again.

      1. SpaceySteph*

        I can read upside down and backwards nearly as fast as the regular way. As a kid I once was walking out a glass door at a shop and saw “please use other door” and turned to go out the other door– only the writing was on the outside of the door for people trying to go in through what was supposed to be the exit. I didn’t even realize it was backwards.

  34. A Non*

    Regarding fast reading, as a socially awkward person, I have learned that, when in a group for something like this, to keep looking at the text but pay attention to the others in the room. It is totally safe once two other people have finished. Alternately, pick one person and turn a page every time they do.

  35. VanLH*

    I think LW1 ought to learn the difference between fact and fiction. They are decorations. They are not reality.

    1. The Prettiest Curse*

      You can know perfectly well that something is not real and STILL find it upsetting and not want to be exposed to it. This is why, for example, I don’t generally watch films or TV featuring rapes or violent murders of women.
      The OP in this letter doesn’t have a choice as to whether or not they are exposed to something that they really don’t want to see. Those decorations sound like they’d be great for a haunted house, but not in a work environment. If you’re into gory Halloween decorations, super – but you shouldn’t assume that everyone will want to see them as much as you do.

    2. geek5508*

      That is unusually harsh. some people have very real phobias about that stuff. IN ADDITION, OP has stated that it has reached the level of a serious distraction from her work

    3. hbc*

      I think that’s a bit strong, but I do think OP might not be presenting their case in the best way if the approach is anything like the post. I might have had the same reaction as the manager if I was told about dead bodies on site, but I would definitely be receptive to someone who was put off by fake gore.

      OP, you seem to have a very strong idea about the right way to do Halloween. The cauldron might be more than you or I would do, but there’s nothing inherently wrong with it. Instead of taking a “What’s wrong with people?” attitude, I would put it in terms of your (reasonable) comfort. You are unnerved by having such gruesome images around–can the gore and cadavers at least be out of eye line, for example? Can you work elsewhere so it’s not such a part of your day? Just stay away from any judgments about people who enjoy the stuff that you don’t.

      1. not a doctor*

        Excellent point! I was confused that they lumped the “Satanic symbol” and even the cauldron in with the gore and dead bodies. Like, there’s “this is a really bad vibe in the workspace/I don’t want to see blood at work” and there’s “people who like dark imagery on Halloween Are Wrong.”

        1. Mannequin*

          Honestly as soon as I read that I stopped taking OP seriously. If they are referring to ordinary innocuous Halloween decorations as “satanic looking symbols”, I can’t trust that they aren’t *also* greatly exaggerating how morbid or realistic these supposedly over the top gruesome decorations actually are.

    4. Observer*

      They are decorations. They are not reality

      Factually incorrect. They are decorations and they ARE reality. Sure, they are not actual gore and heads etc. But they ARE intentionally realistic representations of those items. They are INTENDED to evoke all of those things. Just because that does not bother YOU does not mean that no one else is allowed to be bothered by it.

    5. The Gollux, Not a Mere Device*

      They’re sufficiently real to be bothering the OP, and the OP’s coworker almost certainly chose those decorations because they’re “realistic.” If the coworker wasn’t aiming for realism, the fake blood might be blue, and the annoyingly loud noise could be the theme song from “The Brady Bunch.”

      Somehow, it never winds up being “yeah, it’s not real, I’ll swap in something that doesn’t look as realistic” and purple sparkly unicorns or octopi playing badminton.

      1. Mannequin*

        Because purple sparkly unicorns or octopi playing badminton are not scary and therefore not actually representative of Halloween ?

  36. PrairieEffingDawn*

    I used to work at a big print media company whose president was such a Halloween enthusiast that he’d take all the money allocated for the winter holidays and put on a wild annual Halloween party. Truly some of the most epic days of my life. The whole company went all out decorating their cubicles. Entire departments were transformed into jungles, pirate ships, the wizard of oz, you name it.

    I worked for the art department and we were always charged with designing the main party room and we made some incredible bars. One year I designed and built a disco floor and looked totally real, I still count it as a top achievement in my career.

    The down side to this kind of company-backed hard partying is, of course, lots of drunken bad behavior. In my time there a drunk colleague got hit by a car, someone lost his wedding ring in a puddle of his own vomit, and I witnessed my grand boss punch his fist through a wall while going after one of the other department heads.

    Those parties are long over and I’d never want to involve myself in that kind of workplace chaos again…but heaven help me, at the time it was so fun.

  37. MissDisplaced*

    #1. This is the thing about holidays in an office. Too many people have different beliefs and ideas. Just as you are creeped out at macabre Halloween decor, I get uncomfortable at overly religious Christmas or Easter decorations. It’s not right your manager dismissed the concerns outright though. I’d suggest that when the planning for this comes up next year you speak with HR (or whomever) and suggest the following: a) That decorations not stray into “gruesome & bloody” territory, such as realistic bodies hanging from a ceiling, and/or b) Suggest decorating a designated area (like a haunted house) instead of everyone doing their own cubicles all over the office.

    Option B might satisfy people’s desire to decorate scary, but it has the advantage of keeping much of the chaos contained, which is easier for people to ignore it too. And this option might be an easier “sell” to management as the rest of the office still looks professional and easier to clean up.

    1. Observer*

      Just as you are creeped out at macabre Halloween decor, I get uncomfortable at overly religious Christmas or Easter decorations.

      There is no contradiction. I don’t think that either of these belongs in most workplaces.

      1. MissDisplaced*

        Yeah, I know. And you’d think people know. But people will tend push the envelope of what is and is not office appropriate unless explicitly told.

        Not to mention some of these decorations are now motion activated with loud sounds and light/smoke effects — thus super annoying too.

        One place I worked at dedicated a corner of the large break room (it had 2 entrances) and people could decorate that how they wanted in that area (and they had to work together on it). Super easy to ignore it if you don’t have to sit next to it all day and easy to clean it all up too. LOL!

  38. Mannheim Steamroller*

    #2… [“They are starting to pressure me more and more and have even asked me why I hate fun. ]

    All you need to say is “I don’t hate fun. I like fun — but I get to decide what’s fun FOR ME and this isn’t it.” You don’t even need to mention your own reasons for not participating.

    Of course, this gets back to the long-running point that mandatory fun is not fun in general (although “Mandatory Fun” was a nice album by Weird Al Yankovic).

  39. anonymous73*

    #1 – A few jobs ago I was sitting in a large open area with the rest of our support team and one of the managers started decorating for Halloween. I am seriously creeped out by clowns and dolls, and he hung a creepy doll from the ceiling right in front of me. I said he needed to move it. He thought I was kidding. I wasn’t. And he moved it. If something is really bothersome with the Halloween display then speak up again. But if it’s just not your thing, let it go.
    #2 – stand firm and I don’t think you should emphasize your reasons for not wanting to be on social media. I have social media accounts and I wouldn’t want to participate either because it’s not my thing. Have a conversation with your boss outside of the times they’re pressuring you to participate. Emphasize the extra work you’re doing and the distraction while they’re practicing. Say you won’t change your mind and you need them to stop asking. And keep standing firm.

  40. Lacey*

    LW1 – I’ve worked at multiple places where people go all out for Halloween, but none of them were actually gory!

    It’s wild to me that people think this is in any way appropriate.

  41. Not really a Waitress*

    What jumped out from OP#1’s letter was the description of the plaque with “satanic looking symbol”. That in contrast to her original description of Halloween decorations as being a pumpkin and orange and black garland – which sounds more like “Fall/Harvest” decorations makes me think the poster is not a big fan of Halloween anyway.

    Is it all holiday decorations that are a distraction or just Halloween?

    My daughter had a teacher in junior high who announced to the class that Halloween was Satan’s holiday. It is not. Like the majority of holidays we celebrate (Christmas and Easter as well) It is a left over from the days of paganism. Samhaim was when they believed the “veil” was the thinnest between the living and the dead.

    Typically Halloween decorations are only up for a month. As long as its not an active distraction, a motion activated witch cackle, or a creepy sounding doorbell, why not just let it slide.

    1. RJ*

      I respectfully disagree: As the OP said, the coworker also “bloody looking, ghoulish figures hanging from the ceiling above our desk space. There are skeletons with teeth, cobwebs strewn about, and a lifelike bloody head cut off at the neck with facial wounds and hair that appears to be matted with more blood” in addition to the plaque. That’s seriously messed-up stuff to have to look it during a full-time, 40-hour-a-week shift.

    2. MuseumChick*

      Attempted to reply and it put my comment all the way at the bottom, lol.

      I got the same vibe from the OP. Some what what she describes having a problem with, like the cauldron, make me think the OP might have certain feelings about Halloween that were not explicitly stated in the letter. I think she is well within her rights and it is reasonable to for example, ask the coworker to move the head to a place the OP cannot see it. But, to demand that the entire office go from cobwebs/cauldrons/skeletons to pumpkins is not IMO. Also, I don’t understand what the problem is with the skeletons having teeth? To me it would be waaaaaay more creepy if they didn’t.

      1. Seeking Second Childhood*

        I love Halloween. I have Wiccan friends. I love CSI and MASH and enjoy the occasional horror flick.
        But OP1 is confronted with realistic looking gore including an artificial decapitated head. The display also has sound & artificial smoke. That’s over the top and I would be distracted and comfortable with it as well.

        1. quill*

          Artificial smoke is also going to be a smell / air quality problem.

          OP should probably stick to very specific things (The gore, the light/noise/smoke effect) when pointing out why it’s a problem.

      2. matcha123*

        I got the feeling that the OP thought people were “too old” for Halloween and anything more than half-hearted decorations was childish.
        I love gore, and wouldn’t be disturbed by a fake head, but the vibe I got was more that they just didn’t like Halloween in general and didn’t want to be reminded of it at work.

    3. Observer*

      As long as its not an active distraction, a motion activated witch cackle, or a creepy sounding doorbell, why not just let it slide.

      Because it IS making noise. And it IS a distraction for them.

    4. Worldwalker*

      I don’t think Halloween decorations should be up for a month. (nor do I think stores should be selling Christmas stuff in August)

      I’m much in favor of leaving holidays to some time around the actual holiday. This week would be the proper time for Halloween decorations. December only for Christmas decorations. Etc. At this point “the holiday season” celebrating Hallgivingsmas starts some time in the summer and continues for the next five or six months. By the time the actual holiday arrives, I just want it over with; the festivity wore off months ago.

      1. MCMonkeyBean*

        I can’t as much understand this take to be honest–if decorations only went up for a week that would be such a waste of money! And what a waste of storage space to keep those things around for the other 51 weeks of the year! I think generally October = Halloween decorations, November = Fall/Thanksgiving decorations and December = Christmas decorations.

        Though for me personally, Halloween decorations are often mid-September though November.

      2. Mannequin*

        I think Halloween decorations should go on sale immediately after 4th of July, but Thanksgiving & Xmas items are forbidden to sold until after Day of The Dead is over (Nov 3) And it should be ILLEGAL to play Xmas music in public places before Dec 1.

    5. Tali*

      What an odd interpretation of
      – “gross bloody looking, ghoulish figures hanging from the ceiling”
      – “a lifelike bloody head cut off at the neck with facial wounds and hair that appears to be matted with more blood”
      – “a black cauldron that when plugged in emits what looks like smoke, gurgles, and has neon lighting”

      Just because OP described something as “satanic looking” doesn’t mean they’re way off base about these decorations. This stuff would be incredibly inappropriate at any office I’ve worked at or heard of–just save it for your house party!

    6. Mannequin*

      Yep, I’m getting that vibe as well. And if she’s exaggerating that badly about a cauldron & a plaque with a “satanic looking symbol”, then I’m guessing she’s also exaggerating about how realistic/gruesome the rest of the decorations are as well as that’s why the manager didn’t take them seriously.
      Dollars to donuts the “ gross bloody looking, ghoulish figures hanging from the ceiling” are nothing more gruesome than the small cheap ass plastic hanging skeletons that have various bits of decor shoddily glue gunned on like a kids school project- cheesecloth mummy bandages, a burlap reaper hood, bride & groom etc., not professional props that might actually hold some semblance of realism.

  42. LKW*

    I am totally on the side of LW#1 and the creepy-as-eff decor, part of me is imagining “contributing” to the decor by adding knit hats and crocheted gloves to add that “extra touch”. I have a stupid knit cap that looks like a penguin with a bow tie. If I were to put that on the severed head… oh the whimsy. A balaclava with a jack o’ lantern would also work. Or one of those printed balaclavas with cat faces!

    Lace handkerchiefs stuffed into the severed hands, draped elegantly over the yucky parts. Or a pile of keurig cups next to the cauldron. Maybe a box of bandaids (they have chocolate ones … so candy!) and a tube of Neosporin next to the cut up face.

    I’m saying – if your boss isn’t going to stop this nonsense – maybe be a “Team Player”.

    1. Worldwalker*

      I *so* like this! I love the subversion. Years ago, when I was in a toy store looking for some action figures for my collection, and noticed they had Barbies and GI Joe equipment sets both on sale, I made “Ranger Barbie” who used to be rappelling down a bookcase in my bedroom … she got lost, or at least packed into storage, a few moves ago. I would so totally do this.

      Now I need to find a good hat for Napoleon Boney-parts!

  43. Ellena*

    Letter 2: There’s something seriously messed up with a “team building” activity that leaves one team member with all the work. How about stop with the nonsense altogether or minimize it and actually take care of the patients. The LW is even more understanding than I would have been – not only wouldn’t I participate but also make it a point that this is not a normal setup.

  44. Jigglypuff*

    LW #2 – A place a worked at previously was highly toxic, but I didn’t recognize it at the time. At one point a film crew was going to be coming through the building (something for a documentary – I don’t even know if it was ever finished) and I expressed my discomfort at being filmed, for family reasons likely similar to LW#2.

    My boss eventually capitulated and allowed a coworker to stand in for my position for the documentary, but before she did that, she seriously said to me, “Well, you need to decide what’s more important to you – your personal safety or your job.”

    Reader, I chose my safety, and I don’t regret it to this day.

    1. ccr*

      Oh my word! Your boss! Crazy! You definitely made the right call.

      LW #2, watch out, I would be concerned that they will film you when you aren’t looking and add it to their video. They are showing such bad judgement all around.

      1. I've Escaped Cubicle Land*

        JigglyPuff, I am so sorry your boss actually said that to you. I would have replied out loud that my safety was my priority and that I would sue out of Workplace back to the ston eage if they violated my privacy and put me in danger. I’ve had pt time 2nd jobs give out my phone # to coworkers without my permission even when I explained that I’ve had stalkers in the past and do not want my # given out to non management. Flat out told one place if 1 more stranger called me and said Workplace gave them the # I’d be changing said # at Workplaces expense and Workplace would not be given the updated info.

    2. quill*

      You would think that she would have noticed the problem as soon as those words came out of her mouth…

    3. Mrs. Hawiggins*

      And THAT should tell you everything you need to know about how your employer truly felt about you/others/the world. How awful. I am so sorry Jigglypuff. I probably would have clapped back with a, “And you need to decide what’s more important, this place or its liability insurance premiums.” But that probably would not have resonated if the employer was thick headed enough to say something so ridiculous in the first place. Aaagh, that just torques me.

  45. Jam Today*

    LW 3: I am not a fast reader but I am a relatively fast typist (my very first job after college was a secretary for 14 investment bankers, so I had no choice!). I *vividly* remember a meeting at a later job I had, at a client site visit where I was taking notes about what we were observing. A woman not my manager but much more senior to me didn’t believe that I was typing comprehensive notes as fast as I was, and said — out loud — “you need to be writing this down”. I replied in a low voice “I am” and then — in front of the client — she literally *grabbed my laptop off my lap* and turned it towards her so she could read the screen.

    I was so junior that I did not have the clout, or the confidence, to make it into the management/HR issue that it really was. I have no advice to give but your letter jogged that memory, and I wanted to share. Now that I’m remembering it I’m outraged about it all over again.

    1. Seeking Second Childhood*

      Wow, just wow. At that point the only thing to do is to Spock an eyebrow and say like “I type 92 words a minute.”
      I would have to force myself to stop there so I don’t let out my inner snarkbeast and ask her if she needs me to slow down so she can catch up…

  46. Sharpieees*

    If I walked into my doctor’s office and saw/heard/knew the staff was doing TikTok videos, I’d immediately find another doctor. Patients are worried or stressed about their health issues, they are taking time off from work or arranged child care to go to the appointment…..just no. And I’m never going to choose a provider based on TikTok “marketing”. I would actually make a point to avoid that office.

  47. Vanny Hall*

    I’m with OP #1. I’ve never understood why people feel the need to bring holidays into the workplace. I come to work to work, and I enjoy working with my co-workers, but I would hate having to live with someone’s over-the-top, how-do-you-ignore-this?? decorations in the office!

    People have very different ideas of what is fun, and that’s fine. But it’s one of many good reasons to keep non-work-related “fun” away from work.

    1. Sparkles McFadden*

      I once worked in a small office with two other people. Once a month, one of my coworkers would use an ENTIRE work day to change over to the next set of “festive” decorations. Every. Single. Month. If there wasn’t a holiday, we’d have “A Celebration of Spring” or “Fall Harvest.” No surface was spared: Walls, doors, windows, desks, floors, things hanging from the ceiling and items that danced and sang. I not only hated the tacky, over-the-top decorations, but I resented that I had to do extra work while this woman climbed on my desk to hang a happy bunny or Santa Claus over my head.

      I never bothered saying anything because there really was no point. It would just keep happening and I would be the person who “tried to ruin all the fun” if I said anything. Fortunately, I got to move along after about a year.

  48. Sleet Feet*

    #1 First, you mention that the gory decorations are what’s bothering you, but then you pointed out several decidedly non gory decorations such as the cauldron and the satonic symbol. Frankly ghosts don’t sound gory to me either. Since your boss dismissed your complaints about the ghosts as “not bodies” you may have better luck if you focus on what is bothering you most.

    Secondly you should ignore everyone saying how inappropriate gore in an office is because you work in healthcare. We have way more tolerance for macabre – even the pure back office accounting offices.

    Third, if you want to be successful I think you will have better luck if you come across as less anti-Halloween. A lot of folks in America have bitter memories of that overly zealous parent getting Haloween cancelled for everyone – cause SATAN. Your leter is hitting those notes, so if you aren’t meaning to suggest that you think the decorating should more or less go away and that anyone who decorates extremely for Halloween is WRONG I think you will get a lot further.

    Lastly, maybe ask your cubicle mate if the head can be less gory? Its odd to me that you jumped straight to the boss for what shpuld have been a direct conversation with a coworker. Just be apologetic and nice -“I’m sorry but Gore really disturbs me. Can we clean up the head or move it? You did a great job decorating it! I’m just weirdly sensitive to gore.*”

    *Note I don’t think you are weirdly sensitive but I have had better luck with the self deprecating approach in these. Gore bothers me too.

    1. Chilipepper attitude*

      I commented below that I was surprised about Alison’s answer and you did a better job than I did in capturing what I expected Alison to say. Especially the “I’m weirdly sensitive to gore” approach.

      1. PrairieEffingDawn*

        Agreed! I feel like just saying “blood freaks me out” is totally reasonable and if the decorating coworker is also somewhat reasonable, this could be quickly solved.

        1. Worldwalker*

          That depends on knowing how the co-worker will react.

          Consider some of the letters we’ve had here. (Snickers bars on the keyboard of someone with a nut allergy) “Blood freaks me out” might also be an invitation to arrive tomorrow to find one’s cubicle covered in fake blood.

          1. PrairieEffingDawn*

            Yeah, though that kind of reaction would *really* warrant an HR intervention and guarantee that the coworker would get their decorating rights revoked!

    2. Gerry Kaey*

      1000% agree with this advice. The judgemental tone (“what is wrong with people”) really jumped out to me, and I agree that it’s gunna put people on the defensive.

    3. Seeking Second Childhood*

      The cauldron makes noise and emits smoke. How is that not worthy of a separate mention?

      1. Worldwalker*

        If it’s what I think it is (saw one in the Halloween pop-up store the other day) it’s just a plastic cauldron full of water with one of those ultrasonic mist things in it, like were briefly popular for bowls of mist before everyone realized that the LEDs failed (due to water getting in) within a couple of months, and there goes your color-changing mist. No noise, and the “smoke” is only water. That’s the one part I can’t really see bothering someone.

    4. JLH*

      I completely agree in re: having a conversation with the co-worker and the script works. It’s a bummer when things enter your scope that bother you. One of my sisters is really sensitive to gore and death and I basically pre-screen everything in the Zeitgeist to say “yes/no/maybe but you’ll need to close your eyes around X”.

      Also wanted to add that I always get a little baffled when the comments start breaking down the presented concepts with professional/unprofessional — we obviously don’t have a full picture of the office inasmuch as cube-to-cube, wall-to-wall, but OP says “people” go overboard and then describes the scene right next to her. My read is that this entire office seemingly goes balls-to-the-wall – so “unprofessional” doesn’t really have a place in the argument, and it doesn’t matter if what OP is describing would never fly in our individual workplaces. I think different offices are going to have different thresholds for that metric, and not just with Halloween decorations- it’s not inherently toxic or problematic if it wouldn’t work for our workplaces or we would never want to work there.

      1. JLH*

        (To finish up my thought, I do think it’s toxic and problematic if you try to work to correct or compromise and people won’t budge- so talk with the coworker!)

  49. Yorick*

    OP3: If someone is waiting for you to read something, try reading it twice. Maybe read each page twice before moving to the next. This may even help you retain more – even if I really do read carefully, I sometimes either miss or forget stuff.

    A quick Google search tells me the average reading speed is 300 words per minute, so reading twice would make you seem like a fast reader but maybe not an unbelievably fast reader. If you’re gonna pretend to still be reading, the longest you need to pretend is double the time you actually spent reading.

  50. cookie monster*

    #3 – I don’t think I’m as fast a reader as you, but I’ve definitely gotten the same reactions. It’s definitely frustrating because I, as a grown adult, can’t believe that someone else is telling me something like that. It’s what my teachers used to say. I either highlight/take some notes, or go into specific questions, which show that you’ve read and understood it. Or quip “fast reader, always been!”

  51. Is this a real name*

    I’m a super-fast reader too! Never met anyone that can read as fast as me! What I do is keep staring down until I notice other people look up. Or, I’ll even read it twice – which often means I am better equipped with the information than other people who only managed to read it once.

  52. Scorbunny*

    LW3, I feel you. I also read really fast, and I just pretend I’m taking longer. I got yelled at for reading more than a single page at a time and getting ahead of the class in grade school, so at least I learned how to pretend early.

  53. blink14*

    OP #3 – I’m also a fast reader! Typically this also means you have high reading comprehension, I’m really good at assessing long documents and pulling out important pieces at a fast pace, which is a definite plus. I’ve also encountered situations in both school and work where I’ve been told that I haven’t read something or asked why I just glanced it over, etc. I approach it in a couple of ways.

    Within my own work group, over time my work quality proves that I’m reading and processing material well. My boss doesn’t care how quickly I seem to read something, when the product of whatever I’m analyzing is correct and done right. If I’m in a setting where I’m meeting with people that don’t know or are higher ups, I just adjust my “reading time” a bit, by reading the same content a couple of times before moving on to the next section. That way there are no questions, I look like I’m doing something, and I don’t have to explain anything. Just makes the whole situation easier for me, even though it sometimes annoys me!

  54. MuseumChick*

    LW 1, this seems like it is part of your office culture. I don;’t think going to HR will get you the results you want as I see the most likely outcomes being 1) They do nothing 2) You become the person who “ruined” Halloween for everyone else. Some of the decors you mention do not seem that bad to me like the cauldron and the cobwebs. Really think about what specifically bothers you and gently approach your coworker. “Hey Susan, can I ask you something? I’m so sorry to ask but would be possible to move the head? I’m a bit sensitive to gory horror stuff. I’d really, really, appreciate it if it could be moved out of where I can see it.”

    Frankly, this sounds like something that this part of your office culture and I doubt it will change. This happens! Where something we personally are uncomfortable with is part of office culture. Swearing comes to mind. Many people do not like it but in many offices, it is common, and to try and chance it would not come off well with coworkers. You can absolutely voice discomfort (as I mentioned above) but I would caution against trying to push for a complete change to how people are allowed to decorate for Halloween.

    1. JSPA*

      I enjoy my decorations immoderately, but have taken down specific spiders or other large creepy-crawlies on the request of phobic neighbors (or just because their tiny child was scared to go out on their own porch–not an acceptable trade off for, “I, an actual functional adult, really like my dragon-spider battle.”)

      I don’t think OP will get far by trying to insist that there’s something intrinsically terrible about the decorations (thus the subthread about, yeah, skeletons do have teeth, so?). And the point of halloween includes “coming to terms with the darkness in life, and the omnipresence of death.”

      But, a lot of people have seen enough real world suffering and death, and it’s not helpfully cathartic, nor “dark humor,” nor anything else helpful, to them.

      “This is making me desperately unhappy, is there a way to do spooky without graphic representations of death in my line of sight while sitting here” is something that should be doable.

      More specifically, hanging bodies also lands very differently, depending on one’s racial history. (If they’re hanging in the sense of, zombies hanging from the drop ceiling by their hands, that’s very different from dead people hanging from nooses.) There’s a STRONG conversation to be had, there.

      But if it’s mostly, “my tolerances are low,” how about asking to switch cubicles, or get help turning your desk around?

      Mind you, things blocking air space may very well also be against fire code. If OP is desperate–and knowing this will make them the official kill-joy-of-all-decorated-celebrations–OP could look into that.

  55. Chilipepper attitude*

    I really thought Alison’s answer re the Halloween decorations was going to be more along the lines of, sure, ask again and make sure you are clear (which is what she said), but if the answer is this is how our office is, then Alison would say, that’s how your office is and you get to decide if you still want to work there.

    The decorations sounded pretty typical to me for an office that likes to decorate for Halloween and I was surprised that Alison did not say that in some way.

    1. MuseumChick*

      This. It sounds like this is just how the office culture is. Now, as I’ve said in other posts I think the OP can and should ask the coworker nice to move the head out her line of sight if it bothers her the much. For me, if someone put up a scary clown that is what I would because I HATE clowns. But that is as far as I would take it.

      1. Worldwalker*

        I have to ask, since you’re here:

        What is it with clowns that gets to you? Is there anything clown-adjacent that has a similar effect? (mimes? kabuki performers?) Or is it just specifically the traditional western clown?

        1. Mannequin*

          I’m not afraid or phobic of clowns, but even as a child I thought they were kind of stupid: ugly/grotesque, annoying, and most importantly, not the least bit funny, ever.

  56. MuseumChick*

    I got the same vibe from the OP. Some what what she describes having a problem with, like the cauldron, make me think the OP might have certain feelings about Halloween that were not explicitly stated in the letter. I think she is well within her rights and it is reasonable to for example, ask the coworker to move the head to a place the OP cannot see it. But, to demand that the entire office go from cobwebs/cauldrons/skeletons to pumpkins is not IMO. Also, I don’t understand what the problem is with the skeletons having teeth? To me it would be waaaaaay more creepy if they didn’t.

  57. Nerd Boss*

    Fast reader: I too am a very fast reader (although not 1,000 WPM, which is pretty impressive!!) and I’ve encountered this issue at work too. I usually just read the full document at my normal (speedy) pace and then take notes or jot down ideas or even just doodle until most of the people in the room have finished reading the document. I think it’s the appearance of putting down the piece and disengaging from it (ex. Checking your phone, zoning out, making side conversation) that gives people the impression you didn’t fully read it or you’re not completely present with the activity. I think that prepping the conversation by saying you’re a fast reader might come across as a humblebrag, like you noted. I wouldn’t do that personally but I would offer up that info if someone commented on it after I had read the document.

  58. Anonymous Poster*

    The Halloween decorations sound over the top and problematic. What if they had a spotlighted spinning nativity scene for Christmas (I hope it has a disco ball too), or bunnies dropping off eggs for Easter?

    What fits for one fits for all. Look, I get people love Halloween. I don’t. I love Christmas. But the most I decorate in my office or in a professional environment for Christmas is a USB-powered string of lights and a USB-powered pipe cleaner Christmas tree. Someone complained to me that the string of lights was too bright, so I unplugged them and took them home. Work isn’t where I celebrate my holidays anyway, and it’s not ok for me to demand everyone else celebrate it the way I do. The same goes here. Someone objected to the gore and stuff, so it should go.

    1. JSPA*

      Halloween has moved so far from its Christian roots (All Hallows Eve) and its pre-christian roots (Samhain) as to be functionally non-religious for the vast majority of people who celebrate.* So far as I see, there’s less historical baggage than for Columbus day or Thanksgiving.

      long-divorced from-roots, over-decorated, sugar-saturated holidays that some people love and some hate: that’s pretty much (saint!) Valentines day and Halloween.

      I put up with Valentines, enjoy Halloween. Am fine with other people doing the reverse. But if someone had just been through a traumatic breakup, OF COURSE it would be reasonable for them to ask that there not be sappy love music in the adjacent cubicle, and spinning cupids. But not reasonable for them to include, “furthermore, no well-adjusted workplace should cater to this…” language.

      *Cauldrons are a Shakespeare witch or cartoon witch thing. Not a Wiccan thing. And while there are Satanists, I sort of doubt that someone has brought in Leviathan Cross or Baphomet sigil iconongraphy. (If they have, then yes, that’s a religious display in the workplace, and not appropriate, as such.) More likely, it’s the idea of some workshop in China, of what runes look like. And, no, just because Druids used runes, does not make runes “religion,” any more than the Bible being printed in it makes the Latin alphabet (i.e. our alphabet) “religion.”

      1. Anonymous Poster*

        The argument that it’s moved beyond its roots so far that it’s non-religious holds no water, since the roots of Easter weren’t about cute bunnies and jelly beans and hunting for the eggs that someone hid. I find it fascinating that some folks are trying to bend over backwards to nitpick at the deep motives of the letter writer and their possible Christianity, when the crux of the issue is that the letter writer doesn’t want to work among gory decorations everyday. I’m sure we can agree that it’s okay for someone to not want that, and that it’s also reasonable to ask for those to go somewhere else.

        1. Worldwalker*

          The letter objected to both the graphic gore and things like a plaque with a “Satanic symbol” on it. People are responding to both.

          1. Anonymous Poster*

            The letter writer is allowed to be disturbed by it, and it doesn’t appear as though it were a pentagram or a cross that someone were wearing as a necklace or something. Just like people can object to Christmas trees. I don’t see why one is allowed a pass and the other is not.

            Who cares if the letter writer is a Christian or not, anyway? They don’t want to work in an atmosphere that sounds really… not conducive to work, and they strongly dislike it. And it sounds over the top for an office environment. I find the pulling out of this one thing the letter writer doesn’t like, and blowing that up into a big deal, as absolutely fascinating and not in a good way.

            1. Worldwalker*

              Oh, I’m not disagreeing that the decorating is over the top. I don’t mind fake gore, but even I wouldn’t like that setup. One’s office should be something that at least reasonably resembles a business office, not the set of a B horror movie.

              I think what people are objecting to is the complaints cover both reasonable things (gory fake severed heads) and less reasonable (a plaque with a “Satanic” symbol on it). The LW doesn’t seem to make a distinction. And IMO there is a huge difference. The gore is not appropriate for an office environment; the plaque is trivial. (and nothing approaches that one office with a horror soundtrack playing)

  59. memyselfandi*

    I do not understand the evolution of Hallowe’en from spooky to grisly. When I was a child is was about the barrier between the real world and the spirit world dissolving at a time of seasonal transition requiring us to ward off the spirits but at the same time giving us the freedom to transform ourselves into something or someone else and create a little mayhem. No blood and guts required.

    1. Ardis Paramount*

      Thank you!
      I don’t mind a ghost story – it’s the jump-scares, grisly motifs and corpses that I really can’t stand.
      I wish I was able to enjoy October a little more – it’s such a beautiful month, with the leaves and the weather turning chilly.

    2. UKDancer*

      I love ghost stories, especially older ones. Nothing is pleasanter on an autumn day than curling up with a hot chocolate under a warm rug and reading or listening to a ghost story with creaking floorboards and whistling winds. I really like it when it’s being read by someone with a sonorous voice like Christopher Lee.

      I can’t stand horror with blood and guts. That just does nothing for me at all.

  60. drivesmenuts*

    LW #3: I feel your pain! I am really good at visual recognition and part of my job requires reading hundreds of samples under a microscope looking for anomalies. To me, these are super easy to spot and don’t require endless hours of careful observation. I have tested my skill with all types of anomalies and haven’t missed one yet! (I am also extremely fast at those “Find the differences” puzzles) Unfortunately because I am the fastest person at my company, many people assume I am rushing or skimming and not actually doing a thorough examination. I was removed from microscope work for a while under suspicion of inaccurate readings. I had to prove that I could find all the anomalies as my coworker at my speed, which was way faster than them, without missing any. They let me back on microscope work but still I feel that I am being watched more closely than someone who spends all day to do the same work.

    1. American Job Venter*

      Being punished for doing your job too well must have been incredibly frustrating. You have my sympathies.

  61. JSPA*

    OP#3, I clocked over 800 in junior high, which is as high as the machine could run. But I don’t catch typos (my own or others) at that speed. Neither do I fully gauge tone, or consider alternative wordings, or even necessarily spot ambiguities.

    I’d consider treating a subset of sections as low level editing exercises. When you’re done, flip back to the denser sections, and play spot-the-typo or “find the ambiguous phrase” for 30 seconds on each. If anyone challenges you, there’s your helpful (?) feedback.

  62. Spcepickle*

    Fun fact about #5, if you are not married you can both get your 12 weeks of fmla from the same employer for the same baby.

  63. Spearmint*

    Question for the fast readers out there: do you find you can notice and retain details, make edits, and so on when you read that fast? Or is it that you can comprehend the big picture and key points but not necessarily retain all the details? If the manger is case, your coworkers want you to edit a document or process all the details, then reading so fast may be an issue.

    I ask because I can read fairly fast when I want to, but my attention to detail and retention of all but the big picture goes out the window when I do. I certainly couldn’t edit a document or read detailed, technical documentation at high speeds.

    1. not a doctor*

      I can do proofreading without much issue because I find most of the common mistakes jarring enough to jump out at me, but I have to slow WAY down when it’s a technical document or something else that really requires focus on the small details.

    2. Sea Anemone*

      I am a weirdly fast reader, but a slow editor. The difference is that I look for different things when I edit. When I read, I will notice a misspelled word or misplaced punctuation, but it doesn’t interfere with comprehension, so I move right by it. When I edit, I am looking for both comprehension and spelling/punctuation.

      I’m also slower to read technical material than I am to read fun material. It’s a question of what I am looking for when I read.

    3. Mockingdragon*

      I’m a pretty fast reader, and also a professional proofreader. What I find is that I see a lot more typos and silly mistakes like missing words and punctuation on a second or third read. The first time, my brain is mostly taking in the meaning of the words. It’s not until I know the text that I can see the stuff my brain glossed over!

    4. Nanani*

      I hate proofreading and it is definitely a different mental gear for me than plain reading.

      I think you’re asking the wrong question though. Editing is a different skill than reading. You can read fast and retain all the details but miss that something was spelled wrong because you are extracting the meaning, not looking at the text as an object, if that makes sense. It doesn’t mean reading fast EQUALS missing details -about the meaning- (that is, reading fast does not imply less comprehension; ability to proofread fast is not connected).

    5. sb51*

      Ditto to the other people saying they’re different skills. As a fast reader (and someone who naturally speedreads, in the 1970’s fad learning technique sense — I cannot remember a time when I read word by word, although I assume I did as a small child), I don’t necessarily *retain* the details on a single fast read, but I will catch anything that matters (to me/my work domain) as a takeaway.

      To be concrete: most of the time when I’m reviewing a document for work it’s a new process or design. I’m reading through and noting down anything that worries me; if my end result is “I made no notes and think this design is awesome, please proceed immediately at creating it”, I may not retain many of the details as conscious memory. If I have a million concerns, I’ll probably remember it very well. But a week from today if someone asks me a specific question about the design, I’ll likely be able to answer it, and at the least be able to identify “this was covered in the document I reviewed last week, here, let me send you a copy, it’s about 2/3 of the way through”.

      If I’m editing a document, the first thing I do is read it fast. The second thing I do is read it fast. At this point, I’m super familiar with the material, have dealt with any questions/concerns at the macro level, and won’t be distracted by the overall content that I can fine-edit.

      In one of these review-and-comment type meetings, where the first X minutes is everyone quietly reading, I just read the document multiple times until everyone else is done.

  64. I'm just here for the cats!*

    #1 makes me think of a call center I worked at that had a Halloween contest. One team hung black tarp over their desks so that it made a cave. There was no light except for the computer monitors. I would occasionally have to go there for help if that Team Lead was the only person available at the time. It was so hot and I could barely see (i have issues with dim light)

    1. I'm just here for the cats!*

      Darn hit submit too soon! Basically, it was really bad and really creepy. I don’t know how people managed to work for a month like that. Plus it had to be a safety issue. If the tarp fell down and people could trip.

      1. Seeking Second Childhood*

        If the office had a sprinkler system, that was against fire regulations. If a wire sparks under that desk and causes a fire, the tarp would keeps the water from putting out the fire. Depending on how they set up the tarp opening, it might also have disrupted air flow for the smoke detection systems. And that’s before getting to whether or not the tarp itself can burn or melt.

  65. alynn*

    A friend’s workplace decorates for halloween. Their cubicles are organized in teams and each decides on a theme. They go all out but I don’t think there any gore. Pre COVID, kids (from a local school or other organization. I’m not sure) would come and trick or treat through the office! It sounds like a lot of fun for everyone involved

  66. Bland Ranch*

    Oh jeez. As someone whose house is festooned in the macabre I wouldn’t dream of bringing gory decor into my OFFICE. Keep it to themes that are everyone-friendly!

  67. Allison*

    #1 I am a BIG fan of Halloween, and when I had a cubicle (or even a dedicated workspace) I would go nuts on decorating for the holiday. A well-stretched spider web full of plastic spiders, a skull, a rat, a spooky spell book and some “poison” bottles, really as much as I could carry from CVS. I was nervous people would think it was obnoxious and ask me to take it down, but no one seemed to mind. The difference though? I refrained from bloody or gory decorations – no fleshy severed limbs, no fake blood. I think those elements are a big no-no in the workplace, along with anything that makes noise, or anything with a motion sensor. The key is to be spooky and a little creepy, not gross or startling.

  68. Cold Fish*

    OP#3 – I’m incredibly jealous. I am a slow reader, and horrible at skimming for info so I can’t even fake it. (I do have high comprehension when done, so at least I have that :P)

    I agree with Alison to take an extra half minute per page when in a group. At the very least to just give others time to try and process the info before conversations begin to distract them.

    But if it’s just you, could you come up with a question or two to ask after reading. If they are busy trying to answer a question, they are less likely to question if you read the material given.

  69. RagingADHD*

    LW#3, I assume that meeting time is allocated to reading these documents because they are important and require discussion, revision or approval.

    Stop talking about your reading speed and *ask intelligent questions or make insightful/helpful suggestions about the contents.* Nobody will care how fast or how slowly you read the words on the page if you are usefully and thoughtfully engaged with the content.

    Reading fast is not a superpower. Lots of people can do it. Most people are not particularly impressed by it because it adds no value to the meeting or the company if you aren’t doing anything with the information. Being able to add value to the meeting is a much rarer and more valuable skill. If you demonstrate that skill, folks will quickly stop expressing surprise or disbelief at your reading ability.

    1. I'm just here for the cats!*

      Your words seem a little harsh. Yes it would be a good idea for the LW to make comments or ask questions about the information they are reading. But to say that their skill doesn’t add value is very harsh. There are several places where that would be helpful. I believe someone up thread had said they worked in government and it was very useful for them when there is large documents with complex information that needs to be read.

      1. RagingADHD*

        It’s only useful if the person is providing summaries, analysis, or other feedback to their coworkers. Getting that done quickly is an advantage.

        The mere act of reading alone is not.

    2. kevcat*

      Speaking as someone who also reads at 1,000+ wpm, your aggression here is misplaced. The OP clearly stated that they have proven that they’ve read and understand the material, so I’m not sure why you assume that they haven’t. They have ‘demonstrated that skill’, as you say, and their reading speed is still an issue, hence the question.

      Personally speaking, I never bring it up, yet often have to defend myself from people who assume — incorrectly — that I haven’t actually read what I just read. People do care, oddly enough, or they wouldn’t take me to task for it. You seem to be taking this as some kind of humblebrag, however, so I do agree with you on one point — this is a ‘you/them/they’ problem, not a ‘me’ problem.

      1. Metadata minion*

        Cosigning this. I don’t bring up my reading speed, but people sometimes look startled at how fast I read things and them commenting actually makes me really uncomfortable since I got teased about it in school. I haven’t specifically worked to increase my reading speed; it’s just how I am and yet some people seem to either think it’s some great accomplishment they have to comment on or they see it as a challenge to their own reading ability.

      2. quill*

        Cosigning, because tbh, it is JUST as nasty to tell people that the way they process things is “showing off” or “bragging” as it is to tell people that they don’t do things quickly enough. Brains are complicated, almost like humans evolved as social organisms that flourish a wide range of skills and brain architecture within the population in order to cover more survival bases.

      3. RagingADHD*

        Speaking as another extremely fast reader, I’m not sure why you are reading aggression into my comment.

        When I say “stop talking about the speed,” I mean that the LW can completely ignore comments about their reading speed, because they are irrelevant. There is no need to justify or engage with them.

        The most useful response to such comments is, “actually, I had a question about X on page three, if we’re ready to discuss that.”

        Unless LW is dealing with new people every time, in meetings with the exact same format (which seems like a really unusual situation), folks will quickly get used to it and the remarks will stop.

        If LWs coworkers are repeatedly in doubt that they have really absorbed the information, that indicates that LW is not showing their comprehension in useful ways. The novelty wears off quickly. It’s highly unlikely that anyone would keep on being surprised or disbelieving, over and over again, if LW is clearly understanding the material and adding value.

        If they are, then the problem isn’t LWs speed, it’s that they are trying to work with a team of amnesiacs who don’t remember anything that happened last week.

    3. Mugsy*

      Yeah, I’d have to respectfully disagree. Watching people get weird about my husband’s reading has always surprised me. They tend to see a failure in themselves that they can’t read as fast, so they give him sh*t or try to make fun of him. I just tell these people that everyone has a superpower and that reading is his! But yeah, people react really nuts when they see how fast he reads.

      Ps: I love telling people that everyone has a superpower. Mine is my oddly beautiful handwriting. I have a friend who can remember everyone’s birthday off the top of her head, etc!! Superpowers don’t have to be ‘flying’ or ‘shooting flames from your eyes’, but they do make people feel special and I think that’s a good thing. I love asking people what their superpower is.

  70. Mockingdragon*

    LW1, it sounds like you actually have two questions that you’ve conflated…
    1 – How do I deal with a coworker’s decorations that make me uncomfortable?
    I don’t see that you told your coworker that you’re upset by them? If your boss isn’t responsive, you may have luck saying directly to her that the fog machine/hanging stuff/extra grisly decor is distracting you and would she please tone it down a little? (Maybe not, but maybe.) If not then I’m sorry you’re dealing with it, because it’d probably drive me nuts too.

    2 – Is this normal?
    Yes. It’s totally normal that some people are into grisly spooky halloween and some are into cute halloween and some aren’t. There are some phrases in your letter that just… rub the wrong way. “Not a pumpkin in sight” , well, there doesn’t have to be! You still clearly understand it as a halloween display. Other people have been over “some kind of satanic symbol”.

    The conflation is relevant to how you proceed. If you approach your coworker with a mindset of “This is abnormal and you’re objectively wrong”, you’re never going to get cooperation. If you can set aside the fact that she’s different from you and focus on “this is affecting my work, could you set that up at home instead?” Then you have a chance .

    1. Metadata minion*

      I would say that it isn’t weird to be into grisly Halloween decorations in your own time, but having them in an office is pretty atypical. Even offices I’ve seen that get really into decorating usually go for cutesy bats and pumpkins and maybe a cartoony skeleton or two.

  71. Not Elizabeth*

    Re LW2, I’m trying to understand why Alison suggested the LW say they’d keep covering the work while the others keep making the videos. It sounds like part of the LW’s objection (in addition to their particular privacy concerns) is that they have to pick up the slack for their TikToking coworkers. I think the LW should say something like “I’d rather just concentrate on doing my fair share of the work” rather than suggesting they’re willing to do their coworkers’ work as well.

    1. MCMonkeyBean*

      I think it’s possible that now that the boss is actively endorsing these videos as a form of marketing, they sort of are part of the work now. It doesn’t seem fair for OP to have to pick up the slack on the actual work, but it may be difficult to push back on that at this point. Though it may be worth trying to bring to the boss’s attention at least once how much the videos interfere in the patient work time.

  72. agnes*

    I’m in agreement with LW #1. I do not like the grisly, bloody, violent Halloween decor. What people put on their own lawns and homes is their business, but in a shared workspace I think there should be some guidelines, like no violent imagery or blood, headless corpses, ax murders, etc etc.

    Personally spiders, skeletons, etc are OK with me, but I could understand a workplace deciding to limit those as well. Just make it clear to everyone.

  73. too many too soon*

    “Satanic”?? Methinks LW has some religious prejudice about Halloween in the first place.

  74. London Calling*

    LW2 – I’m in the UK and there was a lot of negative feedback about hospital staff performing and posting TokTok videos. A lot of them looked as if they had taken a long time to choreograph, put together and film and this was at a time when we had constant info on MSM and SM that hospital staff were on their knees coping with covid and doing hours of shifts while caring for thousands of very sick people and that we should clap for them every week. It left some people very cynical.

  75. Hiring Mgr*

    I’m not a fast reader (I think, i don’t know how to measure it). But there are times when I’m the first one done with something when it still makes snese to review/double check.. Anybody can make errors regardless of reading speed

  76. YL*

    Re #1

    When it comes to Halloween decorations, anything gory should be approached with caution. I once started a new job a week before Halloween. When I get to the office for my first day, I see the normally locked front door wide open and there’s caution tape everywhere. I was very very confused. I thought I was stumbling onto a crime scene. I was afraid to walk inside. When I did, I saw things were fine. It was all part of the Halloween decorations. Whew, but I did have quite a scare.

  77. DarkMatter*

    LW1: The things you point put and the way you describe them makes me think that there is an unmentioned religious aapect to this. If this is the case, it’s an important aspect of the situation… Our world should not, and cannot, cater to all extreme religious views.

    1. Mannequin*

      Yup. The mention of an innocuous Halloween prop as a “satanic looking symbol” is to me a red flag that OP might have done some very extreme, irrational, and harmful religious beliefs that absolutely do NOT need to be catered to.

      1. Mannequin*

        It also makes me suspect that they are exaggerating the descriptions of the other decor as well & that’s why their comment about “dead bodies” was dismissed.

  78. The Rat-Catcher*

    OP 3 – this is me too. When really pushed, I usually pull out some specific piece to talk about. Not a quote, but “Are we looking at implementing strawberry teapots?” Or something of the sort.

  79. Mugsy*

    OP #3: my husband has the exact same problem. I’ve seen people be pretty intimidated by his reading speed, but I just call it his ‘superpower’! (Everyone has one, mine is my excellent handwriting, haha). I showed him this and he said a few things that I thought might be useful to you. 1. It’s not your problem. 2. Why are they giving out stuff to read during a meeting, that stuff should be sent before hand and 3. ‘Another case of this meeting could have been an email’.

  80. Ardis Paramount*

    Let me just say that…I. Can’t. Stand. Halloween.
    I’d be very happy if it remained in the G-rated barely-scary jolly decor zone.
    I love jack-o’lanterns and roasted pumpkin seeds.
    But I dread Halloween’s arrival every year. The beautiful fall leaves turning and the back-to-school energy is contaminated, for me…by fake blood, dead bodies, zombies, skeletons, spider webs, things that trigger dread, horror and fear for me.
    When my husband and kids watch horror movies, I happily stay out of the room. I make them snacks.
    (There are a few movies I don’t mind seeing, because they’re known quantities and I’m prepared for the suspense, etc.)
    Anyway. I’m aware I’m very much in the minority. I’ll certainly carry on giving candy out to (ugh) children dressed as corpses, et cetera. and putting pumpkins on the porch.

    1. Ali*

      Oh I’m 100% with you. I get serious nightmares from some of my neighbors’ decorations; if I had a coworker like the one described, I would probably be unable to work. I understand that some people enjoy that stuff, but I am extremely sensitive to scariness like that. I have to pointedly avert my gaze from the billboards that go up around town for haunted houses, much less do I want to work near a whole set of decorations like that.

  81. HAL9K*

    LW#3 I’m not as fast as you are, but I read more quickly than everyone I know and it regularly gets commented on at work. I don’t have a lot of advice; more that I feel your pain.

    I’m sure you know the usual tricks: reading it twice, staring at it for a few extra minutes so you look like you took more time. Sometimes tell people the first time they give me something to read that I’m an extraordinarily fast reader or that it’s my superpower. My team is small enough that they usually remember and don’t quiz me after the first few times.

    P.S. I literally made an account for this. Fast readers of the world unite!

  82. GreenDoor*

    LW #3 Could you maybe take a cue from the testing you went through and respond with something that assures the other person that you did, in fact, absorb the full context. Like:
    Person: You need to actually *read* that report!
    You: I did. I think you have all the relevant points on X, but you forgot to describe the methodology you used for experiment Y. Also you need to rework the middle two paragraphs because the causal reader wouldn’t understand all that scientific terminology you use.

  83. Mannheim Steamroller*


    This has me thinking about minimum wage for remote work.

    An employer in State A hires a new worker who lives in State B and works remotely. State B’s minimum wage is higher than A’s. Which state’s minimum governs, the one where the employer is based or the one where the worker lives?

  84. e271828*

    LW2, “No” is a complete sentence. Stick with that. Maybe go as far as “I prefer not to.”

    Also, stop doing the work they are leaving undone while they film dance videos. And perhaps look around for a saner workplace? Just to see whether there is one?

  85. Whereismyrobot*

    I worked at a place (in the 90’s, I am much smarter now) that made me sign a paper that said they could legally pay me below minimum wage. I wonder how legal this was.

  86. Anony4839*

    Re: #2. I don’t want to dance in my office’s TikTok videos

    Instead of saying “No, I don’t want to participate in these videos bc of x, y, z…” How about you say to your boss, “I’d be glad to participate but I’m finding that Jane and John are using work time to practice and make these videos and no one is covering the desk, etc. How do you want me to handle that?” I w