I got new neighbors in the office last week. In place of the quiet and helpful guy across the hall and my friend next door, I got two guys who like to listen to music without headphones, bringing the total to three at this end of the hallway. This does not delight me. I strongly prefer quiet when I work. I was never one to listen to music while I studied during high school and college and for the first fourteen years after I graduated I had jobs at places where no one listened to tunes while they worked, so I didn’t pick up the habit then, either. Now I’ve taken up programming, and a lot of my coworkers listen while they code. So far, I haven’t joined them, but I may be forced to try it, given the current situation. I’m really having trouble blocking out the bass line coming through the wall from next door and the intermittent random selections from across the hall, so choosing my own soundtrack may be the way to deal with the distraction. Until now, I could just close my office door and block it out, but the two new guys play their stuff loudly enough that shutting the door doesn’t help.
“But Karen,” you say, “why don’t you just ask them to turn it down?” Well, I probably should. But since I never asked the one guy who was here before they moved in to not play his stuff, I don’t feel it’s fair to ask the new guys to keep it down. That concern got reinforced on Friday, when my boss asked one of the newly relocated guys to turn the volume down and the first response was “why don’t you tell Sam the same thing?” True, he was ignoring the fact that Sam’s stuff can barely be heard outside his office in contrast to his own tunes being shared with half the people on this floor, so he wasn’t arguing from a position of strength and did end up turning it down.
I also haven’t approached my new neighbors about the noise because I wonder if I’m just being cranky and overly sensitive. If I’m the only one who sits around here that seems to have a problem with it, is it really a problem, or am I just being a bitch? I don’t want to be the office meanie, especially since this is such a small company and I’m likely to need help from or have to work with everyone at some point. So my first instinct is to keep quiet, find a non-confrontational solution.
The leading contender in the solution race is getting headphones (for me, not for them). Most people here who listen to music while they work have headphones, so only they can hear what’s playing, and that seems like the polite way to do it. There are some drawbacks to this plan, though. First, I’m not sure how well I’ll be able to concentrate and focus with music playing in my head, though I expect that music of my own choosing will be a lot easier to deal with than music forced upon me. Second, it might not be comfortable to wear headphones all day. Given that I’m prone to headaches and collecting stress in the muscles of my neck and shoulders, that’s a real concern. Last, I’d have to take them off to answer the phone or talk to people who stop by, and part of the culture here is everyone answers the phone and we all share information, so being isolated in one’s own little sound bubble is probably not the best choice, politically.
However, I might not have to put the headphone plan into action, because my boss stopped by last night and asked how it was going. He has some weird truth serum effect on me, because despite my instinct not to complain, I told him I was struggling a little getting used to my new neighbors’ musical tastes, and he said he’d been thinking about sending out an e-mail about music in the office. Unfortunately, I think the guy next door overheard this conversation and probably thinks I’m a bitch anyway, even though I haven’t said anything to him. But I can’t go in and apologize for going over his head, because I only suspect he overheard based on something I overheard him saying, and it’s really not polite to reveal that it’s a fiction that all of us are minding our own business around here.
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