My office colleague listens to the radio while at work. Not too loudly, actually quite quietly, however it is audible nevertheless. I asked him to turn it off but he says it can't be disturbing that much because it is so silent. I hear it and I find it highly distracting.

How do I deal with this? I suggested earphones but he asks:

Should I then be sitting around with earphones on all day long?

Any advice?

  • 3
    Talk to your manager. You tried to solve this yourself and your colleague was not cooperative. Time to escalate to the next level.
    – user29390
    Commented Dec 27, 2017 at 10:53
  • 1
    This is almost a duplicate of What can I do about a very loud coworker? - the same advice applies, although I might change the order - speak to management before trying to avoid the problem. Commented Dec 27, 2017 at 11:13
  • I very much think going to the manager is the right idea. Should that fail, look into acoustic earbuds, the kind that are used by on-stage musicians. They don't cancel out all noise, but they do filter certain levels/frequencies. I wear them to remain functional in certain circumstances because of a disability I have, and they're wonderful in that they don't cancel all sound like regular earbuds, and they're more discrete. Talk to the boss, then look and see what you can do to limit the impact if they should think you're being out of line. Commented Dec 27, 2017 at 13:49
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    I'm not saying this is a troll question at all (because I could see it definitely happening) but your coworker sounds a lot like Milton from Office Space. Check his desk for a red Swingline to be sure.
    – Chris E
    Commented Dec 27, 2017 at 14:40
  • 1
    @IamSoNotListening I know this is OT, but did you know that Swingline didn't even make a red stapler at the time? news.tinypulse.com/…
    – Chris E
    Commented Dec 27, 2017 at 14:46

1 Answer 1


Another option, beyond telling to turn off the radio (which you already tried and didn't work) and talking to the manager (as others have suggested):

Start whistling...very quetly... ;)

I actually had a situation at work where someone on another team listened to a radio, and it reverberated all through the area, wasn't quiet at all. She worked for HR dept which was/is out of control in all sorts of ways, so this was part of a larger pattern, but nevertheless highly distracting. I ended up making a special trip to their area, and calmly and politely telling her to please turn off the radio as the acoustics resulted in the sound traveling to my work area.

I also told her I hope she would agree that it would be best if we could find an agreement among ourselves than to get management involved, especially as this appeared to be a violation of company policy about courteous and respectful conduct and minimizing distractions in the workplace. I made sure our conversation is overheard by several of her colleagues sitting all around her. I ended by thanking her in advance for her understanding and expressing hope that we don't have to revisit the issue again. That took care of it.

This also reminds me of a colleague who listens to classical music in headphones, but then HUMMS the tunes so loud that you can hear it 3 cubicles over. I am pretty sure she doesn't hear herself doing it, or if she does, thinks she is quite a virtuoso hummer. She really leans into it, and humms like crazy (I believe Mozart in particular excites her).

When it got too much, I walked past her humming the tune loudly enough to guarantee she would get the idea. After a couple humm-by's, it got better. Now whenever I hear humming, I simply begin to humm back. Doesn't always help, but I get a kick out of it every time. Neither of us has confronted the other yet, so it's a bit of that shaky equilibrium of don't ask/don't tell.

I guess you could try the same (bring your headphones and start listening to music and humming to the tune). There is a risk it might upset your colleagues, but your excuse is that it's your only solution for coping with the distraction. If all (including appeals to management) fails -- earplugs. Good luck!

  • 3
    I may be in the minority, but I don't see passive-aggression as always a bad thing. Some people just need to be hit in the head with a clue-bat. Yes, you can talk to your manager, etc. but if you can make your point without involving them, why not do it, even if it may be a bit juvenile? Anything that keeps management from trying to handle something is usually a good thing. (+1)
    – Chris E
    Commented Dec 27, 2017 at 14:44
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    @ChrisE Agreed. If aggressive is not an option, and passive is not cutting it, then some combination may be in order...regrettably, sometimes eye for an eye is the only way. As I mentioned though, a polite conversation is probably the best first pass, but if that doesn't achieve the desired result -- gloves off (at least part-way).
    – A.S
    Commented Dec 27, 2017 at 14:55
  • [regarding an eye-for-eye, hand-for-a-hand] "So you support a system that would leave everyone blind and toothless." -- Delenn, Babylon 5 :)
    – Chris E
    Commented Dec 27, 2017 at 15:01
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    @cdkMoose Completely agree -- not in a professional work environment...
    – A.S
    Commented Dec 27, 2017 at 17:57
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    @cdkMoose it's not? Says who? Who gets to define that? I'd personally rather have a p-a coworker deal with the problem semi-quietly than have him annoy my boss and force him to put in a bunch of stupid rules applying to everyone when simply making the point that the guy is being annoying achieves the same goal. I've seen it happen. One guy complains about Bob's soft light jazz annoys them and suddenly "No music in the office". They're like children. Let them handle it themselves unless it escalates.
    – Chris E
    Commented Dec 27, 2017 at 18:55

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