In today’s offices, people are working closer and closer together. Even if you are “lucky” enough to work in a cubicle (versus at an open desk), a coworker in the cubicle next to you can still easily annoy you. Like it or not, there are some people who think that the thin cubicle wall somehow magically blocks all the noise that they are making.
Since the loud music your cube neighbor jams may be just the distraction you do not need as you put the finishing touches on a big project, addressing the issue may be a necessary evil. And since standing up and screaming at them to turn down the music is not an option (ah, if only it was), there are a few techniques you can try to squash the noise without creating an awkward working environment.
Do a quick self-check – First of all, take a moment to assess all of the events at hand. Is the music really that loud, or are you stressed, irritable or having a bad day? Make sure a volume adjustment is really warranted before addressing your coworker.
Hint around – In casual conversation with the offending coworker, subtly mention that the project you’re working on takes utmost concentration and that even though you’d love to be rocking out in your own cube, you simply can’t focus with music blaring. In the next breath, mention how dastardly the thin cubicle walls are and how you can hear Bob from Sales talking to his wife on the phone even though he’s three cubes away.
Grab the ‘phones – Get a set of cheap headphones, put them in your desk drawer and the next time your coworkers starts blaring music, you’re armed.
Have “The Talk” – If none of the other options work and you’re feeling adventurous, you can initiate a delicate conversation with your coworker about how their penchant for loud tunes is a bit distracting. Let them know that you respect their decision to listen to music and that you are not asking them to turn it off altogether, you’re just hoping for a compromise. Then, pull the aforementioned headphones out of your desk drawer and tell them that when you listen to music you usually use the headphones and that if they would like, they are more than welcome to borrow yours (just don’t forget to swipe them down with an antibacterial wipe afterwards!).
While pointing out any fault of a coworker could easily elicit a firestorm of office politics, another person’s habits should not interfere with the productivity of others. When it does, be it loud music, gum snapping, cell phones ringing, etc., it’s time to address the problem. Remaining objective, empathetic and even-keeled are the keys to compromise – and success!