my boss wants us to meet with a spiritualist to fix the negative energy in our building

A reader writes:

I work at a small nonprofit and recently the employee with the longest institutional knowledge just left her position because of the years of abuse, micromanagement, and overwork she endured.

Now, the executive director is trying to set up an all-staff meeting with a “spiritualist” so that she can figure out why there has been so much negative energy in the building. Setting aside the issue that she will find any way to avoid responsibility for her bad behavior, I feel deeply offended that I’m being required to attend a consultation and a subsequent “cleansing.” I don’t have a connection with this sort of spiritual practice and it feels unethical to require staff attendance, but is it illegal?

Disgruntled Nonprofit Employee Attempting to Leave a Toxic Work Environment

Yes! Or rather, it would be illegal if they refused to let you opt out if you frame it as a religious accommodation.

Say this: “My religious tradition doesn’t permit me to participate in that, so I will not be attending.”

Religious accommodations apply to lack of faith as well as faith, by the way. Legally, your employer cannot require you to participate in someone else’s religious or spiritual ritual/observance/practice if it’s contrary to your own bona fide religious beliefs or lack thereof.

If you’re told your boss wants you there anyway, say this: “We can’t legally require that and could get in trouble for trying to.” If you need to cite the law, it’s Title VII of the Civil Rights Act of 1964.

Caveat: that law only applies to organizations with 15 or more employees, although some states have laws that kick in at lower numbers. If you’re not covered … well, honestly, you might try it anyway because your boss sounds clueless enough that she might not figure that out. Otherwise, just call in sick.

Also, I hope she hires this man.

{ 356 comments… read them below }

    1. Spero*

      Or “only in nonprofits” along with sharing beds on work trips! Both beyond the pale, both expected to suck it up for the mission

      1. Maggie*

        or camping on work trips. Unless I’m a park ranger, I want a bed in a room with a locking door and actual walls.

        1. Me1980*

          My husband is a park ranger and even they get a BED in a HOTEL ROOM that contains NO ONE ELSE. They even spring for AC and cable AND pay his expenses. What the actual re: these people who think it is okay to make employees sleep together!?!

      2. Wolf*

        And academia. It took me years after leaving academia to get used to the idea that sharing rooms and beds isn’t standard, and getting a per diem is a thing.

  1. Administrative Professionals Day Sucks*

    Please, my god, I am equally uninterested in all of it. Religion, spiritualism, all of it. Please just shut the f*ck up about it at work.

    1. not nice, don't care*

      Religious fkery seems to be at the root of so many problems (see maga/supreme court). Having to deal with this kind of harassment at work is just too much.

    2. Cubicles & Chimeras*

      As someone who just had people opt to not work with me on a volunteer project at work because they’re religious, agreed. I’m so tired of being hated because of religion.

      1. Some Words*

        It seems like we all get to be hated because we’re either the wrong religion, or we have none.

        1. Ink*

          Or the right religion, but still doing it “wrong” somehow. A family friend who is genuinely one of the best people imaginable for the role was recently booted from church leadership because he wasn’t willing to continue if he wouldn’t be allowed to wear his tiny rainbow flag lapel pin :(

      2. HonorBox*

        I don’t want to pry, but curiosity is getting the better of me. What kind of volunteer project through work would be opt-out-able via a religious citation? I am moderately religious and can think of a few things I’d opt out of, but none of those things would ever be brought up through work…

        1. John*

          My first guess would be something like volunteering at a shelter for LGBTQ teens who were kicked out by intolerant parents.

          1. Excel Jedi*

            Honestly, it could be something entirely uncontroversial, like not working at a soup kitchen because it’s not halal (and accommodating a volunteer would use resources better put elsewhere).

            1. Dek*

              I’m Catholic and live in a very Catholic area, and I remember a Lutheran friend of mine telling me that when she and her mother would volunteer at the local (Catholic) soup kitchen, they’d get a distinctly Not Welcome Here vibe.

        2. Petty Betty*

          My first guess would be that the opt-outers chose to opt out because the commenter is who they disagree with, therefore the mission is tainted by proxy.
          I’ve dealt with that issue myself because I’m not the “right” faith, not “of faith”, LGBTQ, divorced, “a sinner”, “a wh0re”, have tattoos, or a number of other unapproved and looked down on attributes. Funny, they sure do like to come calling when they need to ask for money.

        3. OrigCassandra*

          Volunteer work for a religious organization. A friend of mine lost an (unlamented) boss over that boss’s insistence that their employees spend a work-volunteer day on a project for Catholic Charities.

        4. Cubicles & Chimeras*

          I’m a trans queer person, and have been openly out about it for years and my company is generally pretty trans/queer positive. It’s a company volunteer lead thing – think something like running a birthday celebration monthly or a book club or whatever, something that benefits the employees but isn’t a part of job duties. The unprofessional responses from them that turn down the opportunities when I’m involved weigh on me a bit. Three years of it going on, but it’s not quite crossing the unprofessional boundary enough to involve HR.

          1. The Rise and Fall of Sanctuary Moon*

            Oh, heck those people right to heck, C&C. You have EVERY RIGHT to be your actual self in the world without people retiring to their fainting couches at the very thought of buying a cake with you or whatever. We’d all like to airily wave our hand and forget all about people like that, but of COURSE it weighs on you a bit! I’m sorry you’re dealing with it, and I hope it gets better.

            1. I'm a Pepper*

              I would like to both agree with your sentiments (those people sound awful, and I’m so sorry this person is dealing with that) and commend you on your excellent username.

            2. Cubicles & Chimeras*

              Some people just have so much hate in their hearts you can’t do much about it. Generally speaking I could give a flying frisbee about their opinions but sometimes it catches up with me.

              We have a workplace, that while imperfect, truly cares about LGBTQIA issues in a time where many workplaces don’t. I’m extremely lucky to have a manager and director (and executive branch and hr and most of the company) who are supportive of me splitting my work time between my work stuff and supporting the company with their LGBTQIA initiatives. Overall, their hate isn’t going to stop me or my workplace from having and celebrating our trans and queer folks.

              1. DJ Abbott*

                I think you’re right about the hate in their hearts. A person who wasn’t hateful would be like. “I don’t agree with everything LGBTQ people do, but whatever” and go on with their day.
                If they weren’t hating on you and your community, they’d be hating on someone else in some other community. It’s what they do.

          2. Irish Teacher.*

            Yikes, that’s even worse than what I was assuming. Those people are horrible.

            And yeah, as The Rise and Fall of Sanctuary Moon said, knowing they are horrible doesn’t really make it any easier to deal with.

            1. Slow Gin Lizz*

              I’m adding this to my list of quotes that I keep, because I love it. I mean, I hate it, but it’s a great quote and so very true.

          3. a trans person*

            I would absolutely involve HR tbh. But I also have a lot of security that most trans people don’t, so no blame on you.

            1. Slow Gin Lizz*

              May it be so that all trans people have that kind of security, sooner please rather than later. (Signed, an ally with many trans/NB friends)

              1. Cubicles & Chimeras*

                I mean the reason why I’m vocally out is because someone needs to be for other trans people who don’t feel comfortable. I do a lot of work at my job to support and improve processes and terminology and a variety of other things to benefit trans people. (And also tends to side benefit non-trans people too, there’s a lot of overlap in dumb processes.)

                HR is aware somewhat, I keep them apprised of varying incidents from people, if it truly got to the point where it was problematic I’d be a lot more vocal.

                Truly they’re only hurting themselves. Execs know my name because of the work I do, and I hate the spotlight so I love to tell Execs about the work everyone else is doing on our projects.

                1. Cubicles & Chimeras*

                  I should mention, I’m very much the “unless it’s egregious, it’s not worth fighting” when it happens to me, but burn the world down if it happens to someone else.

          4. I put the middle in middle manager*

            I’m so sorry! I say this from the perspective of a manager: if one of my staff had something “weighing” on them based on coworkers being unkind, I’d want to know about it. Even if it ultimately didn’t result in action being taken, it’s good to be aware of this kind of thing. Of course it’s your call, and what you’d be comfortable raising, but if you do have a good relationship with a superior, think about it.

            Take care!

          5. Anonymous Today*

            I just wanted to let you know that I have some very religious relatives who support the LGBTQ communities, whether at work or in their personal lives, such as attending Pride Week events.

            I’m happy to see that people can be religious and kind, something that should be a given but often is not.

            1. amoeba*

              Oh, absolutely! I grew up in a (very, relaxed, European, most people only go to church Christmas, etc.) lutheran community where both the pastor and the organist were openly gay. Nobody cared, and that was back in the late 90s/early 2000s. My religious education teacher at school was also lesbian and introduced me to feminism and gender theory.

              It’s not somehow inherent in religion, those people are just a*holes.

            2. Cubicles & Chimeras*

              That is 100000% true, my family is religious and works for religious orgs, and I actually credit those liberal factions of religious orgs with making my parents even stronger allies and better parents of a queer kid than they were went I came out. I have factions of my extended family who of course of gone the opposite way, but there’s a lot of people who truly live up to the love, community, and care ideals of their faiths.

          6. JSPA*

            A local food rescue group with a definitely open & affirming attitude was uninvited from partnering with a [major charity umbrella]-run food bank run under partnership with [large, non-affirming] religious org.

            I cannot of course be sure from outside that this was due to incompatible socio-religious philosophies. (Could have been a personality conflict. Could have been something to do with their definition of reusable food. Could have been a sort of non-compete, as the rescue had a second site. Could have been something to do with finances, diversion of food, vetting of volunteers. Who knows.)

            But it happened suspiciously soon after the death of the not-so-secretly gay head of the food bank, who was also [mumble mumble status] in the religious organization, and who had brought in the food rescue as a partner.

            I would assume that there were plenty of people in both (or all three) groups who had problems with the situation at one or another point.

    3. Michelle Smith*

      I’m interested in spirituality, but have absolutely zero interest in having it discussed at work. Fully agree that people should just leave that stuff outside the office to the extent possible (obviously not talking about people wearing things related to it or praying to themselves before they eat or whatever).

      1. Administrative Professionals Day Sucks*

        For me it’s just the woo-woo mirror version of religion. I admittedly side eye anyone who criticizes religion and then in the same breath talks about astrology or witchcraft.

        1. MigraineMonth*

          I understand your point about hypocrisy, but as a reminder to all commenters, Wicca is a religion and astrology is a part of a number of cultural and religious belief systems.

          1. Administrative Professionals Day Sucks*

            And it’s all equally either unprovable OR explained by science and not magic, which is the point I was trying to get at.

            1. Anonomite*

              This. And I will not talk to you about any of your religious viewpoints unless you are using them to make some proclamation that is wholly untrue.

            2. SheLooksFamiliar*

              That may have been your point, but your wording didn’t reflect that.

              I’m an atheist and think our moral codes are hardwired after eons of living and learning. Even so, I wouldn’t refer to *any* faith-based system or foundation of morality – which is all religions, as far as I’m concerned – as woo-woo.

              1. bookartist*

                Morals are relative and therefore cannot be hardwired. We are hardwired to breathe, not to avoid murder.

                1. basically functional*

                  There is a lot of thought-provoking anthropology research to suggest otherwise. Some aspects of human morality are indeed theorized to be universal and hardwired.

            3. a trans person*

              You can say that without insulting witchcraft and astrology, just like I’m able to criticize Christianity without kicking Judaism in the teeth.

              1. Administrative Professionals Day Sucks*

                My point is that I hold them all in equal contempt and do not find any one faith-based thing to be more valid/believable than another. I’m an equal opportunity “this is dumb, don’t involve me” hater.

                1. a trans person*

                  Your phrase “woo-woo mirror version of religion” demonstrates that there is a religion (specifically Christianity) which is the non-woo correctly-oriented version of religion. So you’re disbelieving in Christianity, but you’re outright *insulting* these other religions which are not Christianity, because they’re not just wrong, they’re wrong and worthy of mockery.

                  Stop being an asshole and learn how to respect people.

                2. Administrative Professionals Day Sucks*

                  You’re arguing against points I’m not making. All of them are equally wrong, and I actually have the *most* contempt for the religion I was raised in. Catholicism. Which…. is part of Christianity.

                  Log off.

                3. Eliza Beth*

                  “My point is that I hold them all in equal contempt and do not find any one faith-based thing to be more valid/believable than another. I’m an equal opportunity “this is dumb, don’t involve me” hater.”

                  Look out everyone we got a real edge lord coming through with a brand new hot take!!

        2. not nice, don't care*

          Religion (we know which one), in the US, is used as a weapon to cause actual harm to people. I side eye anyone who doesn’t criticize religion, regardless of their views on astrology or witchcraft.
          There isn’t a both sides here.

          1. ceiswyn*

            Witchcraft is also religion. As are many, many things that aren’t the stereotype of loud, uneducated bigots.

            Your statement sounds like you are side eyeing literally every person who has a belief system, and I hope that is not what you intended to say.

            1. Elizabeth West*

              “Your statement sounds like you are side eyeing literally every person who has a belief system, and I hope that is not what you intended to say.”

              I think we all know that is EXACTLY what Administrative Professionals Day Sucks (ooh so proactive!) is saying. So by that logic, their belief that Admin Professionals Day sucks should be side-eyed.

              It must be sad going through life so damn bitter and unhappy all the time.

          2. The Gollux, Not a Mere Device*

            You’re looking at a situation when (some of) the followers of one religion are using that as an excuse to discriminate against people who practice other religions, the problem isn’t “religion,” it’s trying to impose their beliefs and practices on everyone.

            For example, there are places with laws forbidding people from following their own religious teachings about covering their heads. Those laws were written and are enforced by people who are confident that their own beliefs about body modesty are baked into local law and custom. Sometimes those anti-Muslim and anti-Semitic rules are framed as “no religious symbols in public” or “you have to uncover your face to receive government services,” but the problem isn’t with the people want just to ride public transit and take their kids to the doctor.

          3. a trans person*

            > Religion (we know which one)
            THEN SAY IT. I’m sick of Christian atheists who only disbelieve in Christianity, and don’t even disbelieve in other religions because they were raised to mock anything but Christianity and they never stopped.

            1. TechWorker*

              ..what? I’m pretty confused as to what a ‘Christian atheist’ is or how an atheist can only disbelieve in one religion? Huh?

              1. a trans person*

                See the subthread with Administrative Professionals Day Sucks above (that we’re inside right now, btw) for a perfect example.

                1. TechWorker*

                  Yeah I’d read that & wouldn’t express my own views the same way.. but I still have no idea what point the comment I replied to is making. No worries :) I shall remain confused

              2. C*

                A person who deconverted from one religion will have different assumptions and talking points and triggers from somebody who deconverted from some other religion.

                It’s amazing how often atheists tend to talk like all religion as it’s all the specific one they’re familiar with. And I am an atheist.

              3. C*

                I didn’t say all atheists have deconverted. Please don’t put words in my mouth. I myself was raised areligious by atheist parents.

          4. Double A*

            I’m an atheist. We really love to act like religion is the thing that causes people to be terrible. But Joseph Stalin, in the name of exterminating religion in the USSR, killed millions of people. In the name of non-religion.

            Religion (or not) is just the frame people can use to be awful or incredible.

          5. Orv*

            Organized religion exists mostly to take people’s existing prejudices, turn them into moral principles, and give them the force of law.

        3. Empress Ki*

          And I side eye anyone who criticizes astrology and in the same breath talks about religion.

          1. amoeba*

            I side-eye everybody who tries to bring their personal beliefs into “real life” by pretending they’re facts, science, should influence politics, be relevant for medical advice or whatever. That’s what I call “woo”, no matter whether it’s Christian, Astrology, homeopathy, TCM, whatever. People can believe what they want but it’s *not science* and it definitely shouldn’t be treated as an equally valid viewpoint in, say, scientific debate.

            In my country, (lutheran) Christianity is luckily pretty mild in this respect – they generally don’t involve themselves in things they have no business in, they’re very much on the liberal side, love thy neighbour, etc., are quite tolerant, so I’m actually pretty OK with them, even if I don’t believe in God. Horoscopes, on the other hand are in every secular magazine, sometimes giving you life advice. People will drop in casual conversation which sign they are or what your sign might say about you. Health insurance pays for homeopathy (not for irrelevant things like dental work or glasses though!) A lot of the “esoteric” community spread anti-vax propaganda during Covid.

            Those things I have a problem with, indeed. And it’s not because I was raised culturally Christian – if my church started doing that kind of things, I’d turn my back on them in a heartbeat!

        4. a trans person*

          Spiritualism is a religion, not a “woo-woo mirror version of religion”. I’m not a Spiritualist but there are absolutely still religious ones out there.

          1. Peach*

            Yep. It’s a religion. I recommend the podcast Ghost Church, by Jamie Loftus. It’s a fascinating look at Spiritualism. I learned a lot.

            1. Lana Kane*

              Thanks for the rec! Spiritualism still has a following in my part of the world and I’ve always been interested in it.

              1. Princess Sparklepony*

                In NY state there is an entire town devoted to it! Lily Dale. (Technically a “hamlet.” I didn’t know we had those!)

    4. Tea Monk*

      Yes, no prayers in mixed spaces! No nonsense about how you can’t help this or that person because God. Just keep that private. I don’t go around telling people about MY religious beliefs! Hrumph!

    5. lilsheba*

      This doesn’t necessarily mean “religion”. Cleansing is a witchy practice as well, and doesn’t involve religion at all. While I don’t think you should be required to attend I do think it would not be bad idea to cleanse the place, it has been known to improve things a LOT, time and again, which is why it’s practiced so much. So let them have the cleansing and go on about your life.

      1. TechWorker*

        I love how we have people on this thread pointing out that Wicca is a religion and others saying ‘it’s just witchy so it’s not a religion so you shouldn’t be offended by it because it works’. Um no? Pretty sure lots of religious people believe prayer works too and it’s still not appropriate to force anyone to take part in prayer in the workplace.

      2. Rincewind*

        “Witchcraft” is a spiritual practice and a “cleansing” is very much a religious ritual. Things can be religious without worshipping a specific god.
        Also, I’d be really interested to see any scientific studies that support that cleansing works better than placebo or other religious practices. I doubt they exist. You believe cleansing a space makes it feel better, so after someone cleanses a space you feel the space is better. If you believed in the power of prayer and someone said they prayed over a space, you’d probably feel better too.

      3. Pinky*

        ‘would not be bad idea to cleanse the place, it has been known to improve things a LOT, time and again’

        Oh, it is known eh? Must be true then. I’m sure you can point me to the relevant scientific research on that.

      4. RussianInTexas*

        What is the difference between “witchy” cleansing, and bring a priest to pray over the place to “cleans” it? There isn’t one, if you are being logical.

      5. basically functional*

        No. Spiritual practices are religion. A ritual based on belief in the extrasensory/supernatural is religious. As an atheist, it’s all pretty much the same to me and I don’t want to be involved in any of it.

  2. not nice, don't care*

    Hire a counter-spiritualist to connect with the negative energy and pin it right back on the abusive manager.

      1. linger*

        The result we’d wish for:
        “Evil demons begone!”
        [Manager vanishes in a puff of acrid smoke]

    1. Antilles*


      Hm, I am detecting a bad energy flow coming from this particular office (waves vaguely at the exact corner office of ToxicBoss). It really feels like there’s some strong negative chi coming from this particular spot. Is it you? Are you the source of the bad vibes in this office?

      1. Not A Spiritualist*

        I would do this if I was a spiritualist. “Yeah, the ghost is trying to warn you about the carbon monoxide leak” and such.

        This is probably why I’m not a spiritualist.

        1. Irish Teacher.*

          I’d actually be way more inclined to…well, maybe not believe in ghosts, but certainly be more neutral about them if the stories about them were more like that.

        2. whingedrinking*

          I have been sorely tempted to set up shop as a “medical psychic” and tell everyone who consulted me that the spirits were unclear and they should go see a doctor.

          1. General von Klinkerhoffen*

            I remain convinced that the reason certain alternative therapies have worked for me when I’ve tried them (eg acupuncture, reiki) is because putting myself first and having someone else listen to what I’m going through works wonders whether I’m in a counsellor’s office or a spa or a salon or physio clinic.

            So I’m confident that if you listened earnestly for an hour then frowned slightly and recommended a medical doctor, any patient remotely like me would sigh with relief, go home feeling a bit better, and engage sensibly with the doctor thereafter.

            Maybe I’m particularly trusting :)

    2. Ghee Buttersnaps*

      ….or (insert evil mustache twist) offer to HIRE said spiritualist and pay them to pin it back on the ED! Now that would be gold.

    3. Deborah*

      Having the spiritualist she hired, without bribing, point at the executive director and say “It’s YOU! You are the source of the bad energy!!!!” would be so amazing. And then she could try exorcising her or something. It would almost be worth the flagrant violation of workplace norms.

    4. Not-So-New Mom (of 1 8/9)*

      You bring your shaman with sage, I bring my priest with holy water, they fight.

  3. ZSD*

    On the one hand, although this practice would contradict my religion, I would find the very idea of it hilarious, and I’d happily spend the day walking around the building burning incense or whatever and knowing I was getting paid for it.

    On the other hand, this is a nonprofit, and I doubt that donors would be thrilled that this is where their money is going! I’d be tempted to include it in the next newsletter:

    See where your money is going! In 2024, we…
    -helped pass a local ordinance to preserve our wetlands
    -delivered meals to over 2,000 seniors
    -hired a shaman to remove the negative energy from our building since that’s the only possible explanation for why people are quitting

    1. ferrina*

      Why have exit interviews when we could use donor money on a spiritualist to expel negative energy?

    2. lilsheba*

      it’s not “hilarious” it’s a valid practice, and is done by many many many cultures around the country and the world.

      1. Lime green Pacer*

        I strongly disagree with your sincerely held belief.

        Which is exactly why this spiritualist – or any kind of religion – does not belong in the workplace.

      2. Jessen*

        I’ll be honest, I thought the hilarious part wasn’t the practice itself but the rather univeral and in my experience generally cross-religious practice of finding esoteric reasons to blame for the unpleasant discovery that other people don’t want to put up with your nonsense.

      3. RussianInTexas*

        It is still a religious practice, and should stay out of a workplace.
        I also disagree that it’s ever done anything but possibly make people feel good, if they believe it in, which is how religious believes work, which still does not make it a valid practice for a workplace.

      4. MM*

        The practice is not. The situation absolutely is. I would also bet a hundred bucks this manager is not authentically connected to any of the spiritual and religious traditions in which such practices are rooted, and if she wrote in herself asking why her employees are unhappy about this plan, we’d be talking about cultural and religious appropriation in the comments.

    3. Ally McBeal*

      Completely agree. Any time I’m getting paid to not do work, I’ll jump on that opportunity. Worst case scenario, I’ll be offended by something the practitioner does/says… best case scenario, I learn something new about a different religion and get paid to do so. I am a non-churchgoing Christian and don’t believe my god would punish me eternally for passively participating in the exercise of another religion. I’m not gonna volunteer to read a blessing or ritually sweep a room, but I’ll respectfully observe.

      1. Princess Sparklepony*

        Worst case scenario can be come a best case scenario – you decide you are so freaked out by the cleansing that you must take extra paid time off to process it! And you will now need an upgraded office chair and fan to deal with it all…. plus lunch paid by company. It was so unnerving! I’m shattered! :D

      2. basically functional*

        Respectfully observing is valid and you get to make that choice. We all get to make our own choices about participating in religious practices. LW doesn’t want to participate and that’s also valid.

    4. Wolf*

      The smell of burning incense makes me sick. And I don’t want to be labelled “demon possessed” or something because I got a headache and barfed when my cubicle was exorcised.

  4. juliebulie*

    I’d say “I don’t believe, and I understand that having an unbeliever present screws up the seance, so I’ll find something else to do.”

    1. Pastor Petty Labelle*

      I would not do this because it conveys that this is acceptable in the workplace. Also that the OP believes in what is being done even if she is an unbeliever.

      A very firm this conflicts with my religious beliefs is all that is needed. Because clearly the boss will not get a clue that its not negativity its her bad management. No matter how many people leave because of it.

      1. Armchair analyst*

        Right, it’s not a joke, so presenting the inherent paradox doesn’t come of as clever or suddenly revealing unsaid truths. It dodges the issue: this does not belong at work.

        This is a work / company / organization problem, not an individual problem.

      2. Radioactive Cyborg Llama*

        I have a strong belief that people only need to use as many spoons as they have. If the LW wants the “cleansing” not to happen because of a broader feeling of protecting people, that’s great, but if she just mainly cares about opting herself out, that is also fine. She doesn’t owe it to the greater good to take one for the team, especially not with a toxic boss.

        1. MigraineMonth*

          Yeah, even if there are more than 15 employees, the boss isn’t doing anything illegal by having a spiritual or religious ceremony at work. It’s not appropriate, but I doubt LW is in a position to shut it down.

          The LW is in a strong position to refuse to participate themselves and to make sure coworkers know they can opt out, though of course toxic boss could always decide to retaliate (even if that’s illegal).

        2. Allonge*

          Thank you for this, really. Nobody should be responsible to solve the Whole Entire Issue TM, certainly not people not in decision-making positions.

      3. Zarniwoop*

        It sounds like educating this particular bossy on what’s acceptable is a lost cause; OP is just looking to survive until they find something better.

        So either go along with it and only roll your eyes when the boss isn’t looking, or decline in the lowest- friction manner possible.

    2. ferrina*

      This wouldn’t be my first option, but if the ED is known for retaliating against anyone who isn’t gung ho, this may be a last-resort self-preservation option. If you are trying to leave and don’t have the financial resources/would have your mental health jeopardized by retaliation, then yes, do what you need to do to survive.

      Ideally the ED has a lick of sense and will back off. Or if OP is at a point in their career where they can fight that battle, it’s important to set a precedent of what is/isn’t okay and why (if only to show others that this isn’t normal or acceptable). But if OP isn’t in a position where they can do that, I understand (and wish them luck on their job search!)

    3. Sola Lingua Bona Lingua Mortua Est*

      If it’s a séance, I’d show up and ask to speak to Harry Houdini.

  5. Lucia Pacciola*

    Sure sounds like the spiritualist session isn’t the problem here. My advice would be to look the elephant in the room in the eye, and tell them you quit.

    1. ecnaseener*

      LW did sign off as “Attempting to Leave a Toxic Work Environment” so they clearly know that they should quit ASAP. Most people can’t afford to just quit with nothing else lined up!

  6. LB33*

    Reminds me of a similar letter about an employee who had died and the office brought in a healer or something like that to perform a ceremony in the deceaseds old office?

    1. Siege*

      If I recall the one you’re thinking of, the staff were having trouble letting go of the coworker’s death (not the one where they ran off everyone who took her job) and it was intended not as a spiritual practice but as a moment of closure to assist the staff in moving on. It was also in with other advice on how to reframe/change the space so people stopped avoiding it.

    2. Hlao-roo*

      I think that’s the “no one wants the office an employee died in four years ago” from May 2, 2023 (and update from December 11, 2023). Some employees wanted to perform various religious rituals and upper management said no:

      In the aftermath there were several employees who requested to do various cleansing or religious rituals in the space (burning sage, having a priest bless it, bringing in a psychic to send a message to our deceased coworker) but leadership felt like that could get both practically and legally problematic in a hurry, so said “no.” Despite the fact that the office in question would be highly desirable under normal circumstances (large space, lots of windows, a beautiful view), nobody wanted to move into it.

    3. RagingADHD*

      And interestingly, there was a very strong current in the comments to that letter agreeing that it should take place! It will be interesting to see whether the pro-sage-smudging cohort are equally adamant that this is beneficial in these circumstances.

      1. xylocopa*

        As I recall, most of the support from commenters that time was along the lines of “people who want to participate in a ceremony like that should be allowed to, the higher-ups are overstepping to forbid it.” Which is a whole different things from this letter.

      2. BubbleTea*

        Were people saying it should be mandatory, or that colleagues who wanted to perform a ceremony should be allowed to do so? I think there’s a difference.

      3. basically functional*

        I don’t think people are saying the ritual shouldn’t take place, just that LW shouldn’t be forced to participate. I wouldn’t care if one of my coworkers wanted to do a spiritual cleanse of their office space, but I wouldn’t join them.

  7. ScruffyInternHerder*

    I’m sorry, but what in the h-e-double-f*ck?

    I feel I need a rewatch of a Ghostbusters movie or 4 in order to acquire the correct amount of snark about this one. Perhaps dressing as Jeanine, or bringing in an ion cannon?

    Reality: invoke religious accommodation, and double time the job search.

    1. ferrina*

      This would be an amazing premise for a parody movie. The Office meets Boo! A Madea Halloween

      In real life this is much scarier for all the unfun reasons. OP, best of luck on your job search!

      1. Jam on Toast*

        Or Supernatural. Quite a few work places with bad energy there! In fact, I think a rewatch of Season 4’s It’s a Horrible Life is in order tonight. It’s a classic episode for a reason, combining a haunted cubical farm, an abusive ghost boss AND abusive angel boss all in fun-filled 50 minutes.

        1. House On The Rock*

          There was also the Leviathan/Dick Roman plot line about a (truly) evil corporation that was music to the ears of anyone who has ever worked in CubeLand and been forced to speak BidnessTalk.

      2. Princess Sparklepony*

        Reminds me of Buffy the Vampire Slayer where they had to cover Willow’s room in hidden crucifixes to keep out the vampires. Her family is Jewish so she didn’t want to explain to Mom and Dad why there were crucifixes all over her room…

    2. lilsheba*

      This may not have anything to do with religion. This is also a witchy practice and is treated seriously. If you don’t like it you don’t have to participate.

      1. Future*

        Spiritualism is a religion though. And I personally would say it’s not super witchy, in the neo-Pagan sense. It’s kind of stuffy and strait-laced, despite the seances and talking to the dead.

      2. Ally McBeal*

        Wicca (“witchy” practices like this one) is a religion. Spiritualism is a religion.

        1. Dinwar*

          Terminology can be tricky, and is fluid. Wicca is not the whole of witchcraft, nor is one obliged to be Wiccan to be a witch. Witchcraft can be practiced by anyone–I know of some folks who are Christians that do witchcraft, which I still can’t wrap my head around. Personally I consider myself Pagan, but have not considered myself a witch. I’ve had people disagree with me on that, though. It’s a whole thing.

          The biologist in me is laughing about it all, too–zoological nomenclature went through this same phase a century or so ago. Turns out it’s really hard to put names on things, especially when those things grade into each other rather than having firm boundaries. You see it in biology, in geology (sandy silt vs silty sand gets violent), in music (especially heavy metal), in video games, and in religions. Even the boundaries of what constitutes a religion can get really tricky–a LOT of our concepts of religion are based on European traditions, and other cultures simply don’t view it the same way.

          That said, for the purposes of this discussion, I think it’s safe to treat the event as religious in nature. The boss appears to be treating it as such, and at minimum there’s sufficient overlap that it opens the business up to significant liability.

      3. Phryne*

        This may be treated seriously by those who believe in a religion or religious practice which includes this particular ritual, but there is really no such thing as a secular spiritual cleansing, no matter how often you keep saying that. And as a non believer I am under no obligation whatsoever to take it seriously. The only thing that can be reasonably expected of me is that I remain polite when I object to someone actively practicing their religion in the workplace.

        1. ScruffyInternHerder*

          “The only thing that can be reasonably expected of me is that I remain polite when I object to someone actively practicing their religion in the workplace.”

          Hence my “in reality, invoke religious accommodations and double time the job search”.

        2. Part time lab tech*

          Sure there is, it involves water, low scent detergent, optional squeeze of lemon and a bunch of elbow grease. It works better if you hire maintenance to thoroughly clean and replace all the air filters and vents and deep clean the carpets.
          Physically cleaning also spiritually cleanses a space (and reduces the background mould and dust mite load)

          1. Phryne*

            ‘Physically cleaning also spiritually cleanses a space’
            That would not make it a secular activity though.

          2. basically functional*

            No, physical cleaning makes a place visibly cleaner and measurably more sanitary. There is nothing visible, measurable, quantifiable, or even perceptible about spiritual cleansing. It is a religious ritual necessitating belief in something supernatural (beyond scientific understanding or the laws of nature). It baffles me what some people here are trying to claim as fact.

      4. ScruffyInternHerder*

        Whether its religion or not, my WTF is reserved for the concept of this being presented in the workplace. Lets not normalize that. Outside the workplace, I might just ask questions to find a better understanding of a practice.

        Its not a matter of liking or not liking, it should not be in the workplace at the behest of my boss. Who controls the paycheck and hours.

    3. Anonymous Today*

      I can hear Annie Potts now:

      “Ghostbusters, whaddya want?”

      (She is a long time favorite of mine.)

  8. Delta Delta*

    I’m looking forward to an update on this, because I see it going one of a couple different ways:

    1) OP takes the advice above, the manager understands and OP opts out. Odds: 100-1.

    2) OP attempts the advice above but the manager loses her mind over it. OP calls in sick that day. Manager attempts to reschedule 1:1 with the spiritualist and OP. Odds: 50-1.

    3) OP and other fellow employees approach Manager and say they’re not doing it. Manager says it’s cancelled and spiritualist doesn’t show up… until the subsequent staff meeting when people don’t expect it. Odds: 20-1

    4) OP spells “I quit” in cod on Manager’s desk. Odds: 5-2.

    1. Michelle Smith*

      If your #3 happens, I hope OP gets up quietly and walks out of the meeting.

      OP, you really do not have to sit there and just take it. There are other jobs. This is not okay.

      1. Slow Gin Lizz*

        Yeah, one of the absolute best things about AAM is helping me realize that I also do not have to take whatever my company throws at me. Consequently, I’ve just accepted a new job with a terrific pay and benefits increase and I no longer will have to work with our terrible leadership team. The internet *can* use its powers for good sometimes! OP, I hope you get out of there soon!

    2. old curmudgeon*

      I’d modify #4 to the OP spelling “I quit” in sage smudge sticks on the Manager’s desk. Odds of that are 3-2.

    3. ferrina*

      I’ll take #2. That seems really likely to me. Manager doesn’t seem like the kind of person to listen to reason (cuz reasons says “this is why exit interviews exist!”)

    4. Tio*

      Is #2 the one where the manager blames OP for being the negative energy because they refuse to join? Because I foresee that one

      OP, if you think it would cause you a serious issue if you actually didn’t attend (not everyone has “religious discrimination suit” money) go in, and then start faking sick while you’re there. Feel free to hide in the bathroom with your phone and a bad case of the runs.

      1. MigraineMonth*

        Ooh, yeah, my prediction is the manager blames OP for being the source of the negative energy. I’m sorry, OP, your boss really sucks and isn’t going to change, but I promise there are less batshit jobs out there waiting for you!

    5. Fiachra*

      I strongly suspect anyone who refuses to play along will be singled out as the source of the bad energy. Either by the spiritualist or more likely, by the boss directly.

    6. Joron Twiner*

      I’ll put $20 on “OP doesn’t even get the chance because the situation bizarrely escalates into a circus sideshow”.

      I’ll put an extra $20 on the escalation containing any of the following: drug use, manager slams a door, something in a potted plant besides the plant itself, a Tibetan singing bowl, a rude all-company email.

      1. Delta Delta*

        As the official Oddsmaker on this thread, I’d put 8-1 on your first one. That seems likely enough that it’ll happen that the odds ought to be low, but not too low.

        As for the second, you absolutely know there’ll be a Tibetan singing bowl and an all-company email.

    7. Princess Sparklepony*

      I’m really hoping for #4. But I will always choose #4 no matter what the problem is. It’s just got a certain panache.

  9. Yup*

    The lengths bad managers go to avoid taking responsibility for their behaviour and actually do their jobs. Wow.

    1. Email (Optional)*

      Yes! Real “I’ve tried nothing and I’m all out of options” energy from this allergic-to-accountability boss.

    2. ferrina*

      Why should I reflect on my own behavior when all these people are clearly impacted by an irrational desire to flee, which could only be caused by negative energies that must be exorcised? Obviously not me- I feel great, so I’m not a problem!

      (sarcasm- please don’t be like these people, these type of people suck)

  10. Meemur*

    reminds me of an old boss I had who used to insist on doing interviews against a cream wall so she could see the colour of your aura. she also refused to believe she was the one exuding negative energy

    1. UKDancer*

      Yeah I worked with someone who said I had an unpleasantly coloured aura and it made it difficult for her to work with me. I wasn’t sure what to do with that one. I don’t believe in auras and even if they do exist, I can’t do anything about the colour of it.

      1. KitKat*

        Which presents an interesting hypothetical. If auras were real, would aura color be a protected class??

        1. Irish Teacher.*

          Somebody needs to write a story about this, a world where aura colours are visible (or maybe only visible to certain people who make the decisions, which could make it interesting as they could lie) and people are judged according to the colour of their aura and things like getting jobs, getting into college, etc is based on it.

          1. Beany*

            Not exactly this, but Jasper Fforde (The Eyre Affair and sequels) wrote a fun book about a post-apocalyptic world where nobody has full-color vision, and a caste/breeding system has developed according to which colors you *can* see.

            The book was called “Shades of Grey”, and it was supposed to be the start of a trilogy. Sadly, “50 Shades of Grey” came out around the same time, and I think it may have poisoned the market …

            1. Princess Sparklepony*

              I’ve got that on my shelf to read! My building’s laundry room bookshelves have been very good to me.

  11. LinesInTheSand*

    In the letter Alison linked with the Mayan shaman, she advised going to the board of the nonprofit. It might be something to consider here as well.

  12. Pastor Petty Labelle*

    OP, the person who left has a point. Your boss is not going to change. Even if you can opt out the cleansing, your boss will still be your boss. Nothing about the workign conditions will actually change.

  13. Dawn*

    For what it’s worth, it sounds to me like you probably have a lot of leverage here even aside from the legalities; the ED already just lost her best employee. Is she going to fire you if you push back on this? That would be interesting to watch.

    1. Jack Straw from Wichita*

      This just made me do a spit take I laughed so hard.
      Best, a NPO employee for the past 10 years

    2. Essentially Cheesy*

      I’m never working for a non-profit or small business. Ever. Unless it’s an extremely last resort.

      1. PNut Gallery*

        I purposely leave out all small companies when I’m job searching. Done it once before and never again…. I’m happy to be a relatively unknown cog in a big machine. Log in, do my job, log off, and none of the crazy that comes out in these way-too-familiar smaller environments.

        1. Petty Betty*

          I endorse that action. I’ve worked for NPOs and small (FAMILY RUN and not) businesses when I was younger and had the idea that I could make an impact at the organization(s) I’d be working for.

          Ah, the idealism of youth. What a crock. Never again.

        2. Nunsense*

          Small medical (and adjacent) practices are small businesses, very prone to toxicity. I always said it was a spiritual calling because I was always working close to God (;)).

      2. not nice, don't care*

        Skip public libraries too. Such a nightmare, between violent ‘patrons’ and malevolent administration.

        1. Bibliothecarial*

          I’m pretty sure I work for one of the only healthy public library systems in the US. We are surrounded on all sides, geographically, by bananapants libraries with bananapants chairpeople. It’s terrifying out there and I am sure the book-banning nonsense will come here too :(.

      3. Statler von Waldorf*

        There are downsides, but there are also advantages to working for a small business. As a person in an admin role, in a larger corporation I will likely have a single area of focus that I work on. In a small business, I get to wear many different hats and have gained a variety of experiences that I would never have had a change to get in a larger company.

        Honestly, small companies depend a LOT on the owner/manager. If you have a great manager, they can honestly be the best places to work. There’s a flexibility and caring about you as a person that simply doesn’t exist in larger companies. On the other side, if you have a bad boss, they can absolutely be nightmare fuel incarnate.

        Guess which of the two writes to Alison more? It’s certainly not me, a guy working for a small business under one of the best managers I’ve ever had. This column is full of great advice, but it can also lead to a nasty self-selection bias, because almost no one writes Alison to tell her how great their job is.

        1. Richard Hershberger*

          This. In the range from great to awful, small outfits are more likely to fall at the extremes than are large outfits. Find a good one and you are set with a dream job. This is why I have been working for the same guy for nearly fifteen years. The guy before him? Not good.

        2. How We Laughed*

          Yup. Best workplace was small. They even gave me a goodbye check when I left, which helped sooo much with moving expenses. Worst place? International company with so many layers- the people making the decisions were so insulated from their workers. Maybe they didn’t care how awful their decisions made our lives- or maybe they just didn’t see the consequences. Either way, it was terrible. And the HR that wouldn’t confirm my pay so that I could get a place to live? Not helpful!

        3. Avery*

          Strongly seconded. I went from one small job to another. The old one, with a boss who managed to be too hands-off and too much of a micromanager at the same time? I sent a few letter Alison’s way, because there were a few different bonkers things going on there. The current job, with a great boss who encourages work-life balance and flexibility? I’ve written in exactly once, about something that likely was an innocent mistake, and that letter hasn’t been published while a few of the others were.
          Small businesses don’t have corporate breathing down their necks, and sometimes that can mean there’s nothing stopping a horrible boss from being as horrible to their employees as possible. But it also means some limitations to the upsides–I doubt the handful of spontaneous raises I’ve gotten from my current boss while working here would’ve happened that way in a large corporate setting! And I’d likely have to actually track sick and vacation time, too, rather than just emailing my boss for a heads-up each time…

        4. Orv*

          My experience working for small businesses has mostly been negative. For one thing the benefits sucked — I got relatively little time off, health insurance was expensive and changed every year, and HR was mostly nonexistent. Small businesses are also prone to financial problems, which means they’ll lay people off and pile their responsibilities on existing staff. Every once in a while, your paycheck will bounce.

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

      I was going to say the same thing. What is with non-profits and the coocoos!

    4. Elle*

      I am currently at a relatively normal NP and have worked for one other in the past. You can find them but you have to be a pro at identifying red flags.

    5. John*

      My wife works at a non-profit and aside from being chronically understaffed for the workload and people partying too hard at conferences, it sounds like a pretty healthy work place otherwise from I hear from her (and despite said understaffing they do seem to emphasize a good work-life balance)

    6. Lil' Shane*

      Yes, many. But the people working there don’t have a reason to write to Alison, so you don’t hear about them nearly as much as the bonkers ones.

      1. UKDancer*

        This so much. People don’t tend to write in and say “I work in a non-profit, my co-workers are lovely and I am well paid.” People write in with their problems.

        I’d say for me the main thing is size. The most dysfunctional place I ever worked was a small shop run by 2 people who hated each other and their staff. There were no rules and they were deeply tyrannical. I mean I’d said smaller places can allow for greater dysfunction (whether it’s a shop, a company or a charity) once you have more people you need more rules ad regulations which usually leads to greater fairness.

      2. Hlao-roo*

        To add to this, people who work at for-profit companies don’t write in and say “I work at a for-profit company…”

        They may say they work at a company, or they may get right to “I have and issue at work” or “one of my coworkers is annoying” or whatever else prompted them to write in.

      3. Irish Teacher.*

        Yeah, I suspect part of the impression comes from the fact that people who are writing in about bananapants behaviour in non-profits often mention it’s a non-profit whereas people writing about bananapants behaviour in “for profits” don’t tend to specify that.

    7. The Gollux, Not a Mere Device*

      Yes, there are, but people who work there either don’t write in, or write letters about problems that also occur at for-profit businesses, like favoritism, sexual harassment, or fights over coffee in the breakroom.

    8. Chirpy*

      I worked at one that would have been normal, except for one person (who unfortunately was just a poor manager due to some serious blind spots towards his own internalized misogyny and classism, but was otherwise a decent guy). In the staffing changes since then, it seems it’s just the general pattern to have one crazy person and a bunch of sane ones, but the board was always good, and willing to fix/fire the problem as necessary.

    9. BubbleTea*

      My former employer was a small charity and it was the best place I have ever worked. The only place where I’ve not had bad managers, or just no management at all.

      I now run a micro non-profit and am trying very hard to make sure it’s well managed and sanely organised. Currently I’m the only employee and I can confidently say that I’ve never forced myself to meet with an exorcist.

    10. Dinwar*

      It’s called the Clinician’s Fallacy. Doctors working at a clinic only see the worst cases of most diseases–say, the top 10% or less–for the simple reason that the majority of cases don’t warrant a trip to the doctor. So over time, even the doctors aware of this have their perceptions of what’s normal for the disease shift upward. They end up thinking that “normal” is what they see, because that’s what they see and that’s the data they have.

      Similarly, an advice column is going to paint a pretty grim picture of any workplace because people not in grim workplaces don’t write in to advice columnists. So if your information about a workplace comes primarily from advice columnists (like this one), what you consider normal at that sort of place is going to be far worse than it actually is. All the data you have to work with says it’s bad, after all. And humans are really, really bad at analyzing data unavailable to them.

    11. Phryne*

      That is like wondering if there are no normal managers or normal coworkers because no one writes about those to a work advice platform.

  14. Sabina*

    Does this non-profit have a board of directors (it should) and are they aware of these shenanigans? Who funds this non-profit? Are they cool with ouija board management practices?

      1. Petty Betty*

        An acceptable misread. I fully endorse it and will now only accept “shamanigans” when describing this issue.

    1. lilsheba*

      This is a valid practice and many cultures do cleansing rituals. Just because YOU don’t like it doesn’t mean it’s not valid. And doesn’t necessarily mean ouija boards either!

      1. RussianInTexas*

        Bringing a priest with sage is also a valid practice for many people, and also not appropriate at work.
        You keep repeating it over this thread will not make the practice acceptable to do in the workplace.

      2. JustaTech*

        It’s not a valid work practice because this is not a religious organization.

        The boss is dictating religious practice to their subordinates – that is colossally inappropriate, and violates everyone else’s right to practice (or not) their own religion.

        If the boss wanted to do it alone, off hours, fine, whatever. But by insisting that other employees take part, the boss is crossing a hard line.

      3. Alou*

        Friend, regardless of the fact that many cultures (and yes, religious traditions) do practice cleansing, that does not make it appropriate for the work environment. If someone wants to do it on their personal time, that’s great. Not at work.

  15. BellyButton*

    I would be so torn- I would want to go with a giant bag of popcorn just for the stories alone, but I would also want to stand my ground that it is ridiculous and as a non-believer in such things I refuse to participate.

    I know there are many wonderful and competent non-profit employees out there. However, having met mostly those from the non-competent side and the bananapants letters we read here- it seems like all the good people in non-profit would get driven out for their own sanity.

    1. Michelle Smith*

      Some of us, thankfully, have great bosses that shield us from the dysfunction higher up in the org chart.

      1. BellyButton*

        I had a friend who worked in the corporate world for 15+, when it was financially feasible for her to take a pay cut she went to work for non-profits. After 10+ years in nonprofits she said to me “Senior leaders in nonprofit are there because they can’t make it in the corporate world” Ouch.

        My job is org and people development- I get paid a very good salary to coach people into leadership positions and how to be better leaders as they rise up. So I am sure her statement and my own knowledge of what it takes to be a good leader, and a a few very negative experiences as a volunteer, has led me to have a negative bias.

    2. ferrina*

      But if you microwave the popcorn right before the meeting, it might distract the spiritualist and she might think the negative energy is coming from the kitchen! Then the microwave will be taken away!

      No seriously, with this boss that could happen….

  16. Kermit's Bookkeepers*

    Honestly, I’m the sort of person who might be interested in a spiritual cleansing, but absolutely never at work. Those streams SHOULD not cross.

    1. Ellis Bell*

      Especially when it’s for the express purpose of paying someone to suck up to the boss and tell them it’s not their fault people are leaving. Maybe it isn’t! But this rather defensive reaction doesn’t bode well if there are lessons to be learned.

      1. Putting the Dys in Dysfunction*

        The spiritualist will have to do more than that if they’re savvy. They’ll have to exclaim that all baneful influences have been excised. And who’s to say otherwise (side-eying the boss)?

        And several weeks/months later, when nothing has changed, then the spiritualist will have to come back to do it all over again.

        Cushy, recurring job.

      1. a trans person*

        I have seen public ritual cleansings done so poorly that, in my opinion, they tipped over into being energetically hazardous for the participants. That’s one of the reasons I wouldn’t want to attend a work-mandated ritual; I don’t trust this boss to hire somebody reputable.

      2. Irish Teacher.*

        In this case, I can think of at least three reasons.

        Firstly, because it is a religious practice and that is not going to be comfortable for everybody. Some religions actively forbid participation in rituals from other religions.

        Also because in this case, it seems like the manager is using it as an alternative to dealing with the issues. I mean, I’m Catholic. I pray. But I don’t replace dealing with a situation with prayer. If one of my students is misbehaving or bullying another student, I don’t just pray they’ll change their behaviour and make no effort to deal with it by discipline or referring the student to the school counsellor or other methods and it would be extremely problematic if I was to avoid dealing with such things and just pray instead.

        While yeah, I guess the cleansing itself can’t do any harm, not dealing with the actual issues definitely can and it sounds like the executive director is using the cleansing as an excuse to avoid dealing with the issues.

        And the third reason is that it comes across as sort of weaponised here. Like this is the executive director’s way of saying, “ye’re all too negative. Clearly, there must be something in the atmosphere that’s causing you all to behave irrationally. This will sort things out and then you’ll all do as I want.”

        It strikes me as only a couple of steps off the executive director standing up and praying that “God will change people’s hearts and help them to value the fantastic opportunities I have given them and show gratitude for them.” I mean, it’s not as bad as that, but I get a similar sense of a thinly veiled criticism.

        1. Dinwar*

          “I mean, I’m Catholic. I pray. But I don’t replace dealing with a situation with prayer.”

          Reminds me of an old joke a Catholic priest once told me: A man prays to win the lottery. Each month he fails, and each month he prays harder. Finally, he asks God for a sign. And God says “I’m doing my part, but you’ve got to meet me half way here–buy a freaking lottery ticket already!!”

        2. ferrina*

          Well said! Great points here.

          The issue isn’t that the ED believes in spiritual cleansing (well, it’s an issue with some commentors, and I disagree with that). The main issue is that the ED seems to be mandating employees to participate in a religious/spiritual activity. That’s violating the other employees’ freedom of religion. Even if it turns out to be optional, the fact that employees aren’t sure is highly problematic. It’s also that the ED is doing this in lieu of taking any other action (including really basic business practices around turnover). And I also agree with Irish Teacher’s third point- it definitely reads as passive aggressive (and again, if the ED doesn’t realize that, that doesn’t say good things about their communication and decision making skills)

        3. Orv*

          Yeah, getting real “thoughts and prayers” vibes off this. It’s a way to deflect from actually doing anything about the problem.

        1. UKDancer*

          Yeah I don’t think religious or spiritual rituals belong or are appropriate in the workplace unless you work in a religious institution.

          1. Dinwar*

            You can’t force your practices on others. But personal rituals are fine. I mean, if a Catholic wants to pray before they eat, what grounds does anyone have for stopping them? Or, if I want to drink a particular tea as a personal ritual, how will you ever know?

            You can’t keep religion 100% out of the workplace. It’s like family and sports and the like–it seeps in. And to an extent, that’s good! People should, in an ideal world, feel comfortable enough at work to be themselves. Closets are dark, cramped, and uncomfortable, even metaphorical ones. The issue is boundaries. Me praying quietly before I eat because my religion requires it is fine; me holding up a meeting so that we can all pray because my religion requires it is not.

      3. Dinwar*

        That’s on par with “Why not go to mass? Praying to the One True God never hurt anyone. It can only help.” Remember, this sort of thing is considered a mortal sin in some religions. And we need to respect those beliefs every bit as much as they need to respect ours. Put more simply: We have no more right to force our beliefs on them than they do to force theirs on us.

        Secondly, this cleansing appears to be being conducted in bad faith. Assuming the boss takes this religious practice seriously, AND assuming the spiritualist does as well (lots of frauds in this area unfortunately), it’d still be a mockery of something sacred. Without doing the work to improve both her spiritual self and managerial practices, no amount of cleansing can help this situation. It’d be like trying to drain a bathtub while someone shoots a fire hose into it–and the person demanding the tub be drained is the one directing the fire hose.

        Worse, this could be a mask to prevent engaging in the actual work. Ritual doesn’t replace elbow grease, it augments it. If you’re using it to hide from the problem, the problem will only fester until it explodes. Doesn’t matter if you’re trying to bury it in paperwork, hide it under rituals, or simply ignore it until it goes away–problems that are ignored don’t die, they grow, often exponentially.

        There’s also the risks inherent in the physical aspects of the cleanse. Fire, smoke, allergies, and the like. I know that some tribes in North America are concerned about how much sage is being harvested as well, and a LOT of rocks are not harvested ethically (from the legal, moral, or religious perspective). There are also issues with cultural appropriation. All of these are discussed in the community, and folks are working on it.

      4. Pinky*

        Really? Forcing a religious practice onto people who do not want to participate has never hurt anyone? That is the take you are going with to excuse this? Cause that is quite bold, as statements go.

      5. Katie Impact*

        “It can only help” is absolutely not a universally held belief among people who believe that spiritual practices like this can have an effect in the first place. I have at least one family member who wouldn’t have any part of this because she believes that ceremonies like this can unknowingly invoke evil spirits. If you’re going to respect someone’s sincerely held belief that it can be helpful then you also have to respect someone else’s sincerely held belief that it can be harmful, and at a bare minimum that means not coercing anyone into participating.

      6. basically functional*

        It can’t help. It could hurt by forcing someone to engage in a religious practice that goes against their deeply held beliefs. Would you be so nonchalant about your boss forcing you to fast on Yom Kippur or pray facing Mecca 5 times a day?

  17. Super Duper Anon*

    I would just call in sick. While firmly pushing back with the against religious belief wording is absolutely the correct thing to do, I don’t think it will work in this situation, and now just get the loony manager focused on you.

    The manager is the one with the bad energy, but does not see that and/or does not care. The most experienced person just left because of it. Pushing back will just cause the manager to focus on you as the bad source of energy.

  18. Maxitaur*

    This sounds absurd but I would probably attend just out of curiosity and to break up the day with something different.

    1. RLC*

      Me too, sat through quite an array of training/morale repairing/team building sessions in my career. Got a lifetime of good stories and anecdotes suitable for entertaining family and friends around a campfire or at a cocktail party.

  19. Householder*

    So, exclusive of my day job, I’m also the lay equivalent of a Zen monk. I’d be happy to show up in robes, burn some incense, then talk about how our thoughts about reality are not actually reality, are intrinsically delusional, and maybe the manager just needs to get clear on whether their own actions may be the cause of their own consequences.

  20. MBK*

    As a longtime AAM reader, I am shocked – SHOCKED, I say – that the word “bananapants” has yet to appear in the post or any of the comments.

    1. David*

      With the amount of nonsense people write in about, the bananapants store probably sold out

    2. Invisible dragonfly*

      In the spirit of “shamanigans” that appeared in a higher up thread, may I propose “shamanapants”?

  21. Ygritte*

    You should try working for the government of Canada! my office does 2x daily prayers as part of our indigenous land claims recognition. If i never hear “the buffalo god of first peoples of turtle island who sprung up from the grass” again it will be too soon.

    1. BellyButton*

      More info please! I thought it was just before major meetings or public meetings? Why/how is it 2x a day?

    2. I should really pick a name*

      I’m guessing (hoping) that that’s a particular manager’s horribly misguided attempt at a proper land acknowledgement.

    3. Beany*

      Wait … a Canadian government office requires employees to participate in indigenous prayers, regardless of the employees’ own ethnic origin or beliefs?

        1. Ygritte*

          Bossman says it’s not religious, it’s just showing respect. I think if we talk about a god, it’s religious

    4. Statler von Waldorf*

      I never encountered that once when I worked for the Canadian government. Granted, I wasn’t there that long, and it was over a fifteen years ago, but it still surprises me. Requiring an employee to participate in a prayer as part of their employment violates both sections 2 and 15 of the Canadian Charter of Rights and Freedoms.

      Was this for the federal, provincial, or a municipal government?

      1. Ygritte*

        Federal. and it’s new for my office, ever since we got that new aboriginal awareness holiday a few years ago

    5. slashgirl*

      I work at an elementary school (in NS) and a land claim is done daily on the announcements–but it’s pretty simple–“We acknowledge that we are in Mi’kma’ki the ancestral and unceded territory of the Mi’kmaq people. We are all treaty people.” I’m pretty sure if someone tried to add any sort of First Nations/Mi’kmaq prayer, our Native Student Advisor or her boss would be putting an end to that pretty quick, as I doubt they want white people giving Mi’kmaq prayers.

      Then, depending on the day of the week, we also stand for: O Canada in English, O Canada in French, O Canada in Gàidhlig (Scots Gaelic), The Honour Song (Mi’kmaq) and Lift Every Voice and Sing (Black National Anthem). That’s at my larger school, smaller school I’m only there Friday mornings and they play a horrible guitar version of O Canada which I f*cking hate. I wish they’d use Gordie Johnson’s version–at least it’s interesting and well played.

      1. Ygritte*

        Funny thing too is that I’m actually Cree myself. But I worship a middle Eastern Jew and I feel a little… judged for not worshipping a Buffalo God?

        1. Appley*

          If you mean Jesus, I hope that in the future you’ll that you use his name or find a different euphemism. Christians split from Judaism and referring to Jesus as a Jew and especially as if he’s the only Jew you could mean is often part of supersessionism, which is a too-popular Christian (and culturally Christian) assertion that the Christian religion has replaced the Jewish religion. We Jews are still here, practicing our own evolved religion with our own religious figures. It sounds like you have your own complicated relationship, too, but this is one of ours.

          Your workplace also sounds weird and not like any federal government office my friends work in (we’re all in Canada). I think you have some rogue folks involved if you’re doing prayer in yours.

          1. Ygritte*

            I’m not interested in defending my religious beliefs; thanks in advance for respecting my boundaries on this.

      2. Humble Schoolmarm*

        Howdy neighbour! My school’s the same although I haven’t managed to talk them into adding Gàidhlig O Canada yet (hopefully in May to recognize Gaelic Month). We do a smudge every fall to kick off Mi’kmaq history month, but God(s) isn’t mentioned and kids are allowed to stay out of the circle if they don’t want to participate.
        We did add in a Ramadan song last month, which went a little too close to the line for some people.

    6. Orv*

      I admit I don’t really get land acknowledgements. Absent any plan to give the land back, aren’t they just rubbing it in? “Before this roadtrip, Jeff, I’d like to acknowledge that I stole this car from you.”

      1. Daria grace*

        I think in a context like here in Australia) Australia (and so perhaps Canada too)where so long was spent ignoring indigenous history and trying to wipe out indigenous people there’s value in remembering and publicly acknowledging the places we’re in have indigenous history we weren’t taught in school and that indigenous communities are an ongoing important part of our country

        1. Lizard the Second*

          Exactly. Land acknowledgements aren’t a replacement for giving the land back. Land acknowledgements are a replacement for “This land was nobody’s, so it was free for us to take.”

  22. HR Friend*

    Soft disagree on the approach here. If Boss is abusive and a micromanager, calling out her silly plan as illegal might backfire on LW. Realistically we have to choose our battles, especially when dealing with an irrational person who controls our paycheck. I’d be out of office that day or, if that won’t work, sit through the session and participate as little as possible.

  23. Tracy*

    This reminds me of our “Beatings Will Continue Until Morale Improves” meeting at my last toxic wasteland of a job. One of the professional staff members decided to anonymously complain on our meeting topic document that the office staff’s morale was low and wanted to know what their problem was. She then dipped on the actual morning of the meeting leaving our gaslighting, toxic, micromanaging nightmare boss to run an interrogation about why we were unhappy. This meant rating our morale 1-10 on a piece of paper AND rating what we thought the morale was of the person standing next to us. I wrote 3 because I didn’t want him to blow a gasket (the reality was -46) and gave the person next to me a 6 because I thought she was doing ok.

    Boss then read all the notes and got redder and redder. He then told us we all knew where the door was if we were so miserable and demanded to know what activities would fix this like going to lunch would make up for him forcing us to thank him for being paid. He ended up planning a catered lunch in the office which the nasty bully of an office manager cancelled at the last moment because SHE didn’t want catered food that day. I didn’t have lunch and our office was in the middle of nowhere with zero food options for 20 minutes. I didn’t actually get a lunch break so I was not allowed to leave and get something.

    Morale continued to be bad and half the professional staff quit at once a few months later once other jobs were arranged. Boss said I stabbed him in the back and a coworker called me a traitor to my face. There has been insane turnover since and the clients are not happy, but nothing has actually changed.

  24. AnonInCanada*

    To coin an old phrase: “Religion is like a penis. Many of us have one. Some of us are proud of them. But no one wants or needs to have them whipped out in public nor shoved down our throats.”

    Maybe that’s the passage OP should use on their boss if they keep pushing for this. If that doesn’t work, I’d look for another job and consult an employment lawyer to see whether this qualifies as constructive dismissal.

    1. HR Friend*

      None of this! Don’t use a vulgar metaphor. Don’t try to sue your employer for constructive dismissal; this does not constitute a hostile work environment. None of this is good advice. Just get a new job, LW, and laugh at your weirdo boss when you have.

      1. Statler von Waldorf*

        Religion is actually a protected class, so this might be one of the rare times when it might actually qualify as a hostile work environment if they were discriminated against because of it, and ifthey can prove it. That’s a couple of big “ifs” though. I definitely wouldn’t call it a strong case, but then again, I’m not a lawyer, and this is not legal advice.

        I agree that this isn’t constructive dismissal, even with Canada’s looser definition of the term. I doubt that a court would consider that this single event unilaterally changes a fundamental term of the employment contract enough to qualify. It would need to be both ongoing and a permanent change to your job duties to qualify.

    2. Echidna*

      Weirdly, I think that the plural in “opinions are like assholes” lowers the vulgarity level of the original — a bit of a shock but less personal.

      1. RVA Cat*

        Plus it reminds me of Key & Peele’s “Office Homophobe”: “that’s not just ‘an anus’….”

  25. Keymaster of Gozer*

    I mean, my particular religious beliefs do involve cleansing rituals and incense and witchcraft and I’d still not go to this!

    However, if the boss is really irrational and the whole ‘you can’t legally require me to attend’ thing doesn’t work out then absolutely call in sick. Also bear in mind a heck of a lot of cleansing rituals involve burning something (sage, incense) and if you thought coworkers wearing lots of perfume was bad for your lungs..

    1. a trans person*

      I wouldn’t go to this *because* I do similar stuff. I like to pick my own rituals and ritualists, thank you, not have them forced on me by an employer.

      Not directed at KoG: That’s one of the reasons I get so irritated by some of the atheists further up in the comments. I’m firmly against this happening at work, not because it *doesn’t* matter to me, but because it *does*. You don’t need to mock people’s religions to mock the boss.

  26. Snoozing not schmoozing*

    I’d leave out the word “religious” and say “My beliefs won’t let me participate.” This has the added bonus of covering “my beliefs think its a total crock” or “My beliefs think you’re full of shit” or any number of things.

      1. not nice, don't care*

        I’m ok with being rude about others beliefs if they are homophobic, racist, etc. It’s my duty as a decent person.

        1. Dinwar*

          Are you stating that Neopaganism, Wicca, and related belief systems are inherently homophobic, racist, etc? I’d be curious to know what you base that assessment on. My experience is very much the opposite.

          If you’re not willing to argue that, what’s the point of this comment? The term “beliefs” here was obviously used (as is standard in English) to refer specifically to religious beliefs. If you’re ignoring that, you appear to merely be contorting the statement in order to justify being rude.

          1. JustaTech*

            I’m slightly confused where the connection to Wicca or Neopaganism came in?

            The OP said “spiritualist” – that could be any of a very wide range of things, including Victorian-style Spiritualism (seances and ectoplasm and the like), or New Age, or really who knows, except that it’s probably not a Major World Religion.

      2. Beany*

        In this case, I’d interpret the “total crock” etc as referring to the manager’s decision to employ a spiritualist in a work environment instead of owning up their own poor behavior — not as a knock on spiritualism in general.

      3. Ally McBeal*

        Snoozing isn’t suggesting that LW say “my beliefs think it’s a total crock.” The advice is to say “My beliefs won’t let me participate,” which is the opposite of rude. The rest of their comment addressed inside thoughts that should be kept inside.

        1. Snoozing not schmoozing*

          Thank you, I forgot that some people automatically jump to the worst possible interpretation.

  27. MicroManagered*

    I’m actually into stuff like that and would be up for an energy reading & cleansing sesh in my personal life, but at WORK?! Nope.

    So even woo-woo people who are into this stuff think this is weird OP. :)

  28. Zipperhead*

    Gotta hire someone who can fake a haunting. Maybe just for funsies, maybe to try to convince the boss to flee before the spirits of the dead drag him bodily into the netherworld…

  29. Texas Teacher*

    I have to say that the linked letter about the shaman was wild. And the update really should be included in Machiavellian things you’ve done at work.

    1. Might Be Spam*

      Since the shaman claimed partial parentage of the pregnant employee’s baby, he should be paying child support. I bet that would change his mind.

    2. BellyButton*

      The absolute best solution I have ever heard of for dealing with a bananapants boss. The OP deserves all the AAM awards for that brilliance.

  30. Blame it on the Weatherman*

    Be pretty funny though if the spiritualist honed in on your boss like a dowsing rod and said “Here! The negative energy is all coming from HERE!”

    1. I edit everything*

      Now this would be an office collection worth contributing to: bribing the spiritualist to lay the blame squarely where it belongs.

    2. Orv*

      Love it. Then the rest of the ceremony is everyone circling around the boss and shaking smoldering bundles of sage at them.

  31. Jennifer Strange*

    Part of me would want to participate and spend the entire time saying, “I feel the negative energy coming from this direction” while pointing at the Executive Director.

  32. RVA Cat*

    I’m imagining the whole cast of either or both Ghosts series to crash this little woo-woo shindig.

  33. HonorBox*

    LW, here’s a proposal that might actually bring some change, though it is close to a nuclear option and relies on you having a decent relationship with a member of your board.

    Take this to them. Point out that it would be illegal to do this without providing an opt out for those who don’t want to participate.

    Point out the potentially weird optics of this exercise. I’m not sure what your mission is, but funding sources and community partners might have a negative view of resources being put toward a religious-seeming activity.

    Offer a suggestion that rather than a spiritualist, if the organization wants to see positive changes AND have buy-in from employees, it would be better to bring in someone as a consultant (could be someone from your community) who can help map out strategies for positive steps forward. Rather than focusing on exercising the negative, the focus should be on positive strategy.

    Then ask that members of the board be involved with this strategy session. If the director is the negative force, you’re going to need board buy in to ensure whatever comes up in this session is something they’ll be keeping tabs on.

    1. Polly Hedron*

      Point out that it would be illegal to do this without providing an opt out for those who don’t want to participate.

      LW should request to opt out first, then go to the Board only if the boss refuses to allow opting out.

  34. François Caron*

    For me, I wouldn’t opt-out for a lack of faith, but instead opt-out for a lack of evidence.

    1. anon_sighing*

      There is plenty of evidence that religion helps people cope and improves their outlook on life. You would not win this on a “lack of evidence.” It’s also proven that you need to *actually believe* in that religion to get those benefits. Not to be a jerk, but look up the basic definition of “faith.” I’m very tired of this evidence argument when religion comes up; it’s not an intelligent gotcha when, if you look up faith, you get this definition, “strong belief in the doctrines of a religion, based on spiritual apprehension rather than proof.”

      So, no, LW shouldn’t try to be sassy about a “lack of evidence” and should rightfully say they have a lack of faith (or that this is contrary to their existing faith).

      1. Householder*

        It’s weird. Some studies show that actual belief in higher powers/the supernatural/God/whatever doesn’t correlate to a higher quality of life, but that participation in religious or spiritual ritual does. Partially through creating and strengthening bonds with a supportive community, partially because many religious/spiritual teachings tend to focus on compassion, forgiveness, gratitude, and other qualities that encourage more positive emotional states, and partially because it gives people a sense of agency and empowerment.

        1. anon_sighing*

          Yep – it’s also a hard thing to study in general, since belief varies from “I only step in a church/temple/mosque/religious center on major holidays and I believe in a divine being, yeah” to “I observe religion down to the letter.” In my opinion, you can’t really measure “belief” (well, ethically, I guess, lol; also on such a touchy subject, even in ethical settings, everyone says they believe “a lot” because they may look bad otherwise…a touch of social desirability bias) but you can definitely measure attendance to religious events. Definitely people see the benefit is community, a social network, and bombarding yourself with hopeful messages. It’s loads easier to forgive and forget when you think you’ll be rewarded for it later. People get a rush out of being a “good person,” too, and helping the “needy.” However, as many people will point out and I could, too, there are negative aspects of all these things and this line of thinking no matter the religion. A different conversation though…although some people would say it’s related.

          I’m curious – in terms of “higher quality of life,” were they looking at material things or more mental health indicators?

          1. Householder*

            The results I was looking at were through NAMI (National Alliance on Mental Illness) so they were focused on mental and emotional health outcomes.

            1. anon_sighing*

              That’s what I thought, but wanted to be sure since the term is used variably – thank you!!

        2. UKDancer*

          I think rituals are quite comforting whatever they are. There’s a certain comfort in doing something the same way each time, being in the moment and not having to think too hard about things. I never really had a religious faith but there were things I liked about church as a child and one of them was reciting the creed and the call and response nature of things that were the same each week.

          People like rituals. I mean I do ballet and we always do class the same way and start with the same exercises in the same sequence. It’s comforting because I don’t have to think what comes next and can just go with the sequences and the music and be in the moment. It’s also a shared experience from seeing the same people each week and building friendships. So it’s not religious but there’s a certain amount of ritual.

          1. anon_sighing*

            Yes! I was gonna add to my original comment about someone in a tennis club getting the same benefits but I didn’t want someone to get upset about conflating their religion with rec league tennis. :)

            I always suggest people develop rituals – even small ones – for their own benefit, if they feel lost or purposeless. Sometimes a hot cup of peppermint tea, a little chocolate, and a jazz record before bed can be a religion.

    2. RHH*

      I agree – there’s no reason to think that a spiritualist to remove negative energy is going to have any impact on the “abuse, micromanagement, and overwork” that the OP cites. The discussion about the correlations between rituals, religion, and quality of life are irrelevant in the context of the behavior of the non-profit.

  35. 2024*

    At my previous job, a property insurance company, the owner came in on a Saturday to sage the three story building, after a series of maintenance disasters. Including broken pipes in the ceiling on one floor. It was a half serious effort, but people did swear they had seen a young girl in 1800s clothes in the bathroom, among other things. But no one was required to do this. Happened before my time.

  36. MPerera*

    I once worked for a psychic because she owned a used bookstore and needed someone to run the bookstore while she gave readings out of the back room.

    I quit for a number of reasons, but one was that she asked if I had astrally projected into her bedroom the previous night (if I were astrally projecting into anyone’s bedroom, it wouldn’t be hers), and then she made me do a drawing exercise to get all my negative feelings out.

    1. anon_sighing*

      > astrally projected into her bedroom the previous night

      You know, some, if any, of your negative thoughts about her did reach her somehow, ha.

  37. Festively Dressed Earl*

    Dim the lights in the conference room, light some game-changing vanilla candles, dynamically place several notepads and pens around the table. Tell everyone that speaking when you’re not holding the conch shell of positivity will attract bad vibes from around the globe. Conduct mediation and/or active listening workshop as needed. I just found my side hustle.

    1. Selina Luna*

      If you’re super willing to do this, patchouli candles or incense will make you more believable than vanilla.

      1. Festively Dressed Earl*

        It was a reference to the 2023 Haunted Mansion movie.

        Gabbie (Rosario Dawson) speaking to her creeped out son: I know this place isn’t as warm as we hoped, but I’m gonna light a vanilla candle and it’s gonna be a game changer.
        Ghost in a suit of armor shows up behind her
        Gabbie: Yeah, we gone.

        The same candle is used in a seance later on, prompting some serious side eye from psychic Harriet (Tiffany Hadish).

    1. Festively Dressed Earl*

      I’d be wary of boss or spiritualist smudging the building if they’re not actually from a culture that practices it, before they even light a match.

  38. YoungTen*

    Let me see if I understand correctly, she is an abusive, micromanaging boss who expects way more from her employees than is humanly possible for them; yet she wants to cleanse the building of its “negative energy”? Yet she hasn’t figured out that the best way to “cleanse” the building/organization is for her to leave it.? Yeah, definitely site the law even if it doesn’t apply exactly because shes a clueless Karen

  39. Overit*

    Ugh. Had same situation. Toxic boss allowed to ruin a good department. Her horrible behavior led to firing of great long term employee. She thrn forced us all to attend a group therapy session. Therapist was her friend. Boss attended session. No one said a word except the office brown noser who just went on and on about how wonderful Boss is. At the end, Boss announced we were the
    ause of our own unhappiness.

  40. A Poster Has No Name*

    Can you take up a collection to bribe the spiritualist to point to the ED as the source of negative energy in the building?

  41. RHH*

    Is this Texas? They’re good for mass sessions of wishing for magic instead of actually addressing problems.

    1. Rando Calrissian*

      I’m not sure it matters what state this is. Or are the laws different in Texas regarding things like this?

      1. JustaTech*

        If I recall correctly, several governors of Texas have made official proclamations of a Day of Prayer for rain during droughts.
        So there’s a history there.

  42. Albatross*

    No, no, and goodness no. I am actually involved in neopagan religious groups that would do stuff like this, but that’s the thing – it’s religious. I would never bring it into the office. All my co-workers should know about my religious beliefs is what days I want off.

    I don’t know how I would actually tell my boss this, because I tend to be extremely non-confrontational, but “this is a religious/spiritual practice and I don’t think we should bring it into the workplace” would be a starting point.

    1. Dinwar*

      What if the business is openly religious? Like, a Pagan book store? The ones I know fall under the “less than 15 employees” rule, but I do know some that go over, especially when you add the part-time employees. At least one I know of is pretty open about employees being expected to help out with rituals, both on sabbats and private (planned) rituals.

      Self-selection has kept them from getting into trouble for the most part–they’re very open about what they do, and thus tend to attract people who are in that religion and want to be more active in it. But is that sufficient?

      1. Albatross*

        I’m not actually sure. I know the laws get different when the business is actually openly, specifically religious, but I’m not sure about the degree and areas of difference. I was admittedly filtering my initial response through my own personal employer – I work for the state department of transportation. We do get things like “the Reform Synagogue of Llamatown needs a permit to redo their access road”, which are of course handled the same as any other applicant, but other than that, religion is not by default a part of the work environment.

  43. metzengerstein*

    If the executive director looked in a mirror could they find all that negative energy in the building?

  44. Ann O'Nemity*

    “all-staff meeting with a “spiritualist” so that she can figure out why there has been so much negative energy in the building.”

    I’m curious what this would actually look like. Smudging sage? Or like group dialog about the negativity? Will employees be expected to share feelings?

    Has anyone ever done or seen something like this? I’m genuinely curious.

  45. Dinwar*

    First, can we stop with religion-bashing? Please? I get that it’s a bit of a sore spot for many people, but some of us believe in religions that utilize these practices. And to put it bluntly, it’s not safe for us right now. A person recently threw a bomb into a Satanic temple, for example. While I acknowledge that the Satanic church is not part of the Neopagan sphere (they’re more in Rationalist territory, though there’s significant overlap), the person who threw the bomb did not. I get that it’s not your cup of tea. But until people can safely practice their religions in private without threat to their life, I think flagrant insults are a unwarranted.

    As for the actual ritual, this should be treated as no different from a Catholic attempting to hold a mass at work and requiring everyone to participate. Which is to say, fundamentally wrong. For my part, I practice a religion that uses cleanses and such, and I’d still refuse–a fundamental aspect of my understanding of these practices is the aspect of individual choice, and compulsory attendance is antithetical to that.

    What to do about it? Well, you can push back. But this boss has already demonstrated themselves to be irrational (note that I do not include the ritual itself here, though attempting to do it at work is irrational). If you push back, expect consequences. That said, this is something worth burning political capital on, especially if you push back from a legal angle–after all, this is a serious threat to the business!

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

      thank you for your point of view. You are correct that people should not be bashing the act itself. After all, I don’t think there would be a problem if the boss wanted someone to come and cleanse the space after hours and not requiring anyone to participate.
      We need to be respectful of what everyone believes, even if it seems odd to you, goes against your beliefs, or if you think its wacko.

      I personally don’t see anything wrong with the cleansing itself, but the way the boss wants to do it is what is wrong.

  46. Hiring Mgr*

    Maybe the boss is playing 4d chess and did this on purpose to unite the whole team against this idea. Everyone lines up to denounce this, suddenly there’s team cohesion and no more negative energy.

    1. Mysterious Ways*

      Ha! That happened when our volunteer board hired a mediator– who was so bad we banded together in agreement we could do better ourselves.

      1. Phryne*

        That happened to me too! We had this team coach who managed to unite us in the opinion he just made it worse. Was a great place to start solving our problems amongst ourselves.

      2. Orv*

        This reminds me of the episode of Always Sunny In Philadelphia where the gang hires an arbitrator to resolve a dispute over a lotto ticket, and promptly gangs up on the arbitrator and fires them.

  47. Atheist myself, but yikes on bikes!*

    I think people may not realise that Spiritualism is a genuine religion that emerged in the 19th Century and still has adherents. Not that it makes it ok to do what the LW is describing, and the nasty manager may or may not be appropriating Spiritualism practices in a gross woo-woo way, but some of the comments here about religion in general and Spiritualism in particular are pretty offensive. Especially considering it’s pretty clear some commenters don’t even know what Spiritualism is.

  48. anon_sighing*

    Soooo she has enough awareness to know something is off (good thing; human instinct) but chooses a bonkers, non-solution (bad thing; gets nothing done).

    Well, since you can’t control it happening (hoping you can opt out though), let’s hope the spiritualist can go “I think more money in their pockets and a chiller vibe would make them happy.”

    1. pally*

      It would be very cool if the spiritualist is able to get across that the only cleansing needed is the management method used to run the place.

      1. anon_sighing*

        Yes, people are assuming they’re a quack but if the manager can sense the vibe, maybe the spiritualist will catch on quick and be a friend. The spirits are saying you need to lay off you’re staff!

  49. Crumbledore*

    I would be tempted to suggest playing Hoobastank’s “The Reason” on loop as a solution, because Boss, the reason for this “negative energy” is you!

    Best of luck with your exit strategy, LW. I hope you make it out soon!

    1. Dinwar*

      There are practices within this sort of religious belief system that would amount to that. I’ve seen a fair number of priests/priestesses discuss shadow work with individuals, and done some of it myself. It was useful to my career; it helped me concretize my strengths and weaknesses, in ways that I could apply to my managerial approach. If this were my boss, and I could be open about my beliefs with her, this is what I’d recommend we do first, privately, as individuals, before any cleanse–approaching from the perspective of “Each of us should do this”, because this boss is going to take any suggestion that they change as an attack (which means no one can actually approach her with any real suggestions, rather invalidating this line of reasoning). The most probable outcome is that folks would realize they’re giving too much time/effort/energy to a toxic person, and figure out ways out of that situation.

  50. mygreendoor*

    I would simply suggest that the Board of Directors and the top ten financial donors be invited, too. You know….just to make sure they are properly cleansed. Perhaps if these folks see how the boss is using the organization’s resources, they will “cleanse” the workplace of the boss.

  51. Addison DeWitt*

    Personally, I would find this so hilarious I’d be tempted to take part in it just to bait and mock Theoctetles of Zu’ul, or whatever the shaman’s name is.

  52. Falling Diphthong*

    When I started reading AAM, I had no idea “The problem is ghosts!” would come up so often.

  53. FunkyMunky*

    I wouldn’t even bother responding, just not show up and ignore any follow ups on this

  54. Travis + Taylor = Meredith*

    I actually did hear of something like this before but it was more aimed at the building as a whole instead of a manager (several workers had a string of really bad events happen so people started joking-but-not-really-joking that the place was cursed). The owners were Jewish and asked their rabbi to come out and do a prayer. One employee was friends with a priest and asked him to do a blessing. Someone else burned sage.
    So I feel like, if the manager was really committed to this then he might as well go all in and get as many faiths as possible. If he’s the problem anyway he might as well offend as many faith groups as possible.

    1. Old Admin*

      A similar thing happened when I visited a relative’s house where the the family was grieving a recent death (lit candle in her room etc.). The sad house felt cold.
      To comfort the family, I asked a Muslim relative to come along while I burned some sage and to speak a prayer for the deceased. She did that willingly, and the pall lifted.

      Now, in an office setting I’m not so sure about performing things spiritual in front of a captive audience (the employees). If the boss were serious about cleansing the negative energy etc., have him do that after hours. But that’s not what he wants, so boo.

  55. Retired Vulcan Raises 1 Grey Eyebrow*

    Hmm. The Executive Director turned to woo instead of sorting out the “abuse, micromanagement, and overwork” that has just cost them 1 valuable employee – who is likely to be followed by a flood of others.

    OP: I wish you rapid success in your job search, because it sounds like your nonprofit is circling the drain.

  56. kiki*

    I’m almost inclined to start a consulting firm as a spiritualist for businesses. Whenever I am called in, I just point to leadership and say they are the source of the negative energy. :D

  57. Anon for this*

    When the spiritualist comes, please update us on whether or not there was a full 1920’s seance with candles, someone knocking on a table, and Harry Houdini trying to break it up.

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