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My boss is so old-school, and it is annoying to younger colleagues

Friday September 6 2019


It helps if the music you listen to does not pose distraction to your colleagues. PHOTO | FILE | NATION MEDIA GROUP 

My supervisor does not allow us, the younger employees, to work while listening to music on our headphones. He claims that it will make us unproductive. He says that if we want to listen to music, we should go to the discotheque. He believes that those who cannot work without listening to music are not focused individuals. Why is he so rigid?

You seem quite disenchanted by the approach that your boss takes towards people working while listening to music.

No doubt, there are some jobs or work situations whose performance standards might not be met effectively by an individual who works while listening to music.

This notwithstanding, productivity does not depend on whether music is playing in an employee’s ears or not. The circumstances conducive for optimal productivity vary for different individuals.

A work setting that is suitable for one person might not always fit another.

Is the moratorium on listening to music in the office recent or has it been part of office policy since you joined the organisation?


Is listening to music on your headphones as you work merely frowned upon or expressly forbidden? What is the nature of your job?


Would it fall under the category of occupations that are ill-suited for listening to music while on the job? One could infer that your boss belongs to a generation that is different from yours.

Do you think his sentiments are necessarily driven by the peculiarities of his generation? Have you fully understood your supervisor’s point of view? Has your organisation been performing well? How has your own performance record been?

Holding a job whose output cannot be adversely affected by listening to music as you work and posting positive results against your objectives can form useful basis for a conversation with your boss concerning your grievance.

It helps if the music you listen to does not pose distraction to your colleagues.

It should be possible to find suitable moments to raise your concerns with your boss during which you acknowledge his expectations and explain what listening to music as you work means to you.


Have you had a conversation with your HR colleagues about this matter?

Although it is important to acknowledge that each generation has its own regulations, it is more important to focus on the shared interest of organisational performance.

It is finicky to fuss about headphones especially if they do not undermine employee productivity.

In any event, an organisation should ideally be measuring its people’s performance against objectives, not pitting one generation’s penchants against another’s.

Fred Gituku, Human Resources Practitioner ([email protected])