I’m catching up on some topics I came up with years ago. I came across this one regarding the use of headphones during work hours. We haven’t had much of a problem with this, but when we did, it was one of those things that caught me off guard. The fact that someone would be so presumptuous as to attempt to isolate themselves by using headphones to play music in a small office setting was absurd to Melissa and me. It was not that she was using headphones on conference calls or the like. It was to play personal music, with an iPod or something similar, while working in an environment where give and take discussions are the norm. There are certainly times when listening to music might help one concentrate when working on an individual task. Perhaps it helps avoid distractions. But, this wasn’t that and the person was oblivious when I, Melissa, or someone else approached her, and made a “show” of removing the headphones (pre-ear buds) to listen when someone needed to talk with her. It came across as a selfish behavior and it appeared that we were bothering her in making them take off the headphones. What was disturbing to me is that I felt like I was walking on eggshells in counseling this employee about what I perceived was inappropriate behavior under the circumstances. This person was obviously, first of all, a low self monitor who did not notice that she was the only person wearing headphones. But, beyond that, the person did not perceive that she should have asked if it was acceptable to do wear them while working. When in doubt, don’t do it!
No headphones in the office! No ear buds in the office! No music in the office! No, no, and no. I love music, as almost everyone who knows me is aware. I love music played loudly. Turn it up! But, when I am working, I require absolute, or near absolute, silence. I need to concentrate. In addition, I expect my employees to concentrate on their work and part of this concentration is the expectation they will be responsive to David’s and my requests. When someone is wearing headphones or ear buds, he/she cannot hear what the boss is trying to say. Indeed, the purpose of these listening devices is to block out sounds other than the sound of music or whatever the wearer is listening to while wearing them. David and I have differing recollections about the person we had to counsel about headphones, however, the identity of the former employee is less important than the message we are communicating in this post. When someone works for someone else, that is, when someone is not the “big” boss (as opposed to a lower level manager or supervisor), one must conduct himself/herself according to the policies, procedures, and norms that have been established by the boss, in this case, the two people who own the company. If an employee is unsure of how to conduct himself/herself during the workday, it is preferable to ask the boss what to do instead of forging ahead, potentially violating office policies. Listening to loud music on headphones or via ear buds is a fantastic aural experience, but I will never pay an employee to do this while they are performing work on behalf of a Magnus client.