people who spout their bizarre beliefs in the workplace : LUSENET : Xeney : One Thread

So, a woman at work just explained to someone how she doesn't allow her daughter to read the Harry Potter books because of the witchcraft. And she doesn't want her daughter to be scared, and besides, witchcraft is nothing to play with.


She does this in a loud-ish voice. So the whole floor can hear. She lacks the social finesse to sense when someone is just waiting for her to hush so they can get on with their workday.

So, how do you deal with crackpots in your workplace?

-- Anonymous, May 16, 2001


I keep my door closed. ALL THE TIME.

Some of my crackpots read this forum, so I can't be too specific, so let's just say that I hear you, and I feel the pain, and my only advice is to sleep with whomever you have to in order to get an office with a door. Or else, headphones. Or else, Prozac.

Or you could just become one of the crackpots, embrace Satanism, and scare the bejeezus out of her so she stays away from you in the future. That might work.

-- Anonymous, May 16, 2001

Sometimes the grinding of my teeth is louder than the drone in the next cubicle. I got metal rasps applied to all my chewing surfaces for maximum internal volume. A fortune in dentistry bills but worth it.

-- Anonymous, May 16, 2001

Is the Prozac for me or her?

-- Anonymous, May 16, 2001

Depends. If you can slip it into her coffee, all the better. But you'll probably just have to take it yourself.

-- Anonymous, May 16, 2001

I guess I've become a confrontative person over the years of legal practice. I would just tell these loud, opinionated folks to stow it. Most open-air preachers proceed from the mistaken premise that you either haven't run into their brand of opinion before or haven't understood it. When roving missionaries come to my door I thank them and let them know that their beliefs are quite familiar to me, and also that I choose not to join in them. Judging from the look of surprise I get, I guess not many people put it that way.

I expect the same tactic would work with co-workers. The one good thing about an NYC law firm is that we have a lot of different faiths represented here, and people have learned not to push their set of beliefs on others. So I haven't had to test my method in the workplace.

-- Anonymous, May 16, 2001

(Sus - ref my last post in the "Why Can't We Disagree" thread)

First off - Why can't we disagree? The lady obviously was not pushing her opinion on anyone. Did it offend poor little you that she said something as mundane as Harry Potter and witchcraft? Awww. Too much James Dobson Family First idealism in there for ya? Too bad. Suck it up or express an opposing view. Work ain't all about work ya know? The lady wasn't trying to convert anyone. She was merely, unashamedly expressing her view.

If she stood up on the desk and, after reading my swaying arguments for Calvinist doctrine, began to spew the word God, that's one thing. Talking about what she ses as danger and pitfall that she steers her children from - yo're just being a baby. A baby that can't agree to disagree.

-- Anonymous, May 16, 2001

It is completely inappropriate to annoy others at work with loud conversations, no matter what the topic of that conversation happens to be. I don't care if you are talking about something as innocuous as getting the radiator in your car fixed; if I can hear you, you are being too loud and should carry on your conversation elsewhere, where it will not disturb others who are trying to work.

Furthermore, work is an inappropriate venue for proselytizing, no matter what topic you happen to be preaching about. The woman in question was speaking in a loud enough voice that everyone could hear her; clearly, she wanted everyone to hear her opinion. That is inappropriate. If she wants to discuss Harry Potter and witchcraft in the workplace, she can do so 1) where others who are trying to work are out of hearing range, and 2) with those people who are actively interested in her conversation.

To answer the original question, I deal with this type of thing at my workplace (luckily, it's exceedingly rare at my current job) by asking the offender, politely and apologetically, if she wouldn't mind carrying on her conversation elsewhere, as it is distracting me and I am trying to concentrate on a particularly tricky bit of work. That is the way I would wish to be treated if I were inadvertently annoying someone else with my conversation, and since you have to work with these people on a daily basis, it pays to assume that they are being annoying inadvertently.

-- Anonymous, May 16, 2001

I am pretty adept at tuning out overheard conversations (probably comes from living in a noisy household) - what bothers me is when people insist on talking TO me, at length, about something I have expressed no interest in - whether it be their child's snotty nose problem, their religious beliefs or (help - this is turning into a daily problem) - their personal views about other people at work, esp. those I work for.

There's just NO good way to respond - when it comes to crabbing about co-workers, even the neutral smile and nod method I am prone to use when being told that they believe aardvarks inhabit their bathtub doesn't cut it, because it can be construed as agreement with their assessment - but disagreeing with what they say (or even expressing distaste at their saying it) doesn't work if they *also* are in a position of authority over me. And dammit, they're ALL in authority over me.

I truly want to line up everyone I work with, shake them until they're cross-eyed and tell them that it's Leadership 101 to know that you NEVER EVER complain about a co-worker to a subordinate. man!

-- Anonymous, May 16, 2001

But Lynda, sometimes aardvarks DO inhabit the bathtub. I've known people who had that happen! Really.

Let me come to your office and tell you about it.

-- Anonymous, May 16, 2001

Sing it to the tune of Pink Floyd's "Trial" (from The Wall), it really works:

Crayyy-ZY, aardVARKS in THE at-TIC they ARE craze-ZY...

Carry on.

-- Anonymous, May 17, 2001

And it synchs up with the Wizard of Oz movie, right? The part with the aardvarks.

-- Anonymous, May 17, 2001

Those aardvarks are probably hiding from the aquatic cougars.

Lynda, I have the same problem, and I've started actively defending my co-workers: "Look, I know you have issues with x, and I'm not saying he's perfect, but let me tell you what he did that was right last week." Hint: you don't have to tell an interesting story about what they did that was right. Maybe it's better to tell a long, dull one that leaves your superior thinking, "Damn, if I complain about x again it's only going to draw another 20 minute story about him being so good at changing the toner."

-- Anonymous, May 17, 2001

omiGOD...Tom, that just might work!

But I'd never let aquatic cougars into the bathtub with my aardvark - they might go after the tuna that lives there!

-- Anonymous, May 17, 2001

Movies I have never seen:

Wizard of Oz, Casablanca, Fantasia, The Little Mermaid, The Sound of Music.

alt.must.rectify alt.sorry.excuse.ofa.cineaste

-- Anonymous, May 17, 2001

Good Lord, Aziz, you've never seen The Little Mermaid? What a blighted existence you must lead. Pitiable man.

-- Anonymous, May 17, 2001

I work for an enormous company which is currently in a situation where it needs to be very, very conscious of employee relations, interdepartmental relationships and workplace etiquette. We are constantly, quietly reminded that certain topics of conversation should not be broached, certain ways of relating with your coworkers must be observed, and to never, ever ever ever, for fuck's sake, put your phone on 'speaker' when you're talking to your broker.

Well, not that last one, but god, do I wish.

Anyway, it makes for a subtly different atmosphere, and one that I am, for the most part enjoying. The last place I worked, I was the hub of nasty gossip-dumping. I was the one everyone came to, to spew their venom, because eventually, for self-protection, I learned to just nod and pretend I sympathized. It was a horrible, uncomfortable situation, and attempts to explain that I couldn't really listen to that kind of invective at all were completely blown over.

However, I was comfortable with most people there, and gained a couple of friends, and occassionally, had a really good time.

So new place, this is a new thing for me: a consciously respectful environment. It, however, makes the place more formal, less festive, and I'm much less inclined to want to get to know my co workers, make friends, all that work club stuff.

I have not yet decided if it is a fair trade.

-- Anonymous, May 17, 2001

I normally try to get in the person's line of sight and then I start doing that motion where you put your hands up to your nose so the other person (the one doing the annoying chatter) thinks they have something on their nose or face. If that fails then I will say, "What? I'm sorry but I didn't catch that last bit". If they think I'm serious then I'll hold my hand up to my ear (universal I can't/didn't hear you quasi sign language). If they are too dim to get what I'm getting at then I give up and ask them to be more quiet or to please shut the hell up.

-- Anonymous, May 19, 2001

If you're not enjoying the conversation, you can either change the subject (start right in on your grocery shopping list) or remember every detail to share as a funny story later. I don't think you need to be rude, and you probably won't teach anyone a lesson.

-- Anonymous, May 21, 2001

If someone were loudly spouting some belief, or anything else, where it was disturbing me, I'd ask them to keep their voice down. I probably wouldn't engage in arguing about this particular issue - the fact that she is broadcasting her views means her mind is made up.

If someone were prostheletizing to me, I'd be very firm about telling them thanks, but I'm not interested.

My worst problem at work was a guy who'd come in and kind of muse to me about stuff our group is doing and deadlines and stuff like that. He was filling in for our boss when she was on medical leave, and I think it helped him to kind of talk over this stuff. But he'd repeat himself, and I'd be really bored by it. Luckily, our boss came back.

-- Anonymous, May 21, 2001

Moderation questions? read the FAQ