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We are small company of 6-8 people, all sitting in one 30 square meter office. A new 19-year-old intern, who works as a programmer, will stay for 6 months.

The problem I have with him is that he constantly listens to very loud music. I don't enjoy the style of music, and many of the songs have very rude lyrics. I really can't concentrate when I have constant spikes of music coming from behind. My boss is probably too nice to say something. The intern also acts like he owns the place. He comes at 11 and already leaves at 3-4 sometimes. We have until now never gotten a finished project from him.

Well most of the stuff is not my problem, since I am not the boss, BUT I want him to turn his music down. Of course, I could just ask but I don't want to confront him since I am shy and don't want to be "that Guy". Also he recently started singing aggressively and moaning while having these ridiculously big headphones on.

Any of you have some advice on how to handle this?

  • Is your boss in the same room? Is you boss not aware of the hours? – paparazzo Nov 2 '18 at 16:17
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    @cdkMoose If he's loudly playing obscene lyrics in a workplace (read between the lines on "very rude lyrics") then he has both bad taste and he's an idiot. – Jim Clay Nov 2 '18 at 18:53
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    @JimClay, I'll concede the idiot half, but taste is purely opinion and is not right or wrong. Appropriate for work environment is a different question than taste. One could posit that playing John Philip Sousa music loud at work is just as distracting and represents a different taste that the intern might classify as "bad" – cdkMoose Nov 2 '18 at 18:57
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    I agree with all the comments and answers so far, but as an additional point, you might want to consider working somewhere else with a boss that is competent at being a manager. – Matthew Read Nov 3 '18 at 1:05
  • You are his superior. Walk over and turn the radio off. Then, tell him "there's no music here." I don't see the issue? You're the absolute superior. Only an idiot would play music while programming or writing. – Fattie Nov 3 '18 at 3:53
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He's 19. He doesn't have much work experience.

Your role as his colleague is not only to help him to develop his skills but above all to teach him what is acceptable in professional contexts and what is not.

Just ask him to turn it down since it's disturbing you. Explain to him that he can listen to whatever he wants on his earphones, but at a volume that's not heard by other people. If he reacts rudely or doesn't change his behavior, you need to talk to his boss.

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    also - musical taste is purely subjective - just address the noise, not the content (unless the cursing is so blatantly obvious that it could be violating HR rules or something) – NKCampbell Nov 2 '18 at 15:52
  • Yes you are right, this part was more of a rant i had to get out, – Amundi Nov 2 '18 at 15:53
  • He can listen to the radio at a reasonable volume from 9:00 to 11:00. – Simon Richter Nov 2 '18 at 20:39
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    You don't have to "ask" him to turn it down, any more than you have to "ask" him to write the new USB code. Just TELL the guy where to sit, what to do, and to turn off the music. The idea of someone playing music in a programming room is so ridiculous it's just ... bizarre. – Fattie Nov 3 '18 at 3:55
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    „Hey, your music is too loud and distracting me. Please use headphones/turn it down. Thanks." If that's not working bring the issue to your manager. – Simon Nov 3 '18 at 10:59
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As others have pointed out, this is a young intern who doesn't know what kind of behavior is acceptable in the work place. He does this stuff because he's been allowed to get away with it. If somebody (ideally his boss) had confronted him about this behavior sooner it likely wouldn't have escalated this far. Hopefully it's not too late to nip this in the bud.

It also sounds like your boss dropped the ball on this one. Part of being a leader is being willing to confront people and have the occasional tough conversation with them. By being "too nice" and ignoring them he's allowed these problems to grow.

the problem i have with him is that he constantly listens to music very loud. [We all sit in one 30 squareMeter Office] His Music taste is also, sadly very bad (Rap& other songs where very Rude text is used). I really can't concentrate when i have constant spikes of music coming from behind.

Is he wearing headphones? If not, then tell him to wear headphones. If he is, then tell him his music is too loud and ask him to turn it down so because it's making it hard to concentrate.

He comes at 11 and already leaves at 3-4 sometimes.

You can try talking to the intern about this. Explain to him what the standard working hours are and what the possible repercussions are if he doesn't respect them. Make it sound like your trying to watch out for him and help him avoid trouble. However, unless this impacts your ability to be productive like the sound issue does, then this is something your boss needs to address formally. Make sure it's brought to his attention if it hasn't been already.

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He is young, probably has little or no office work experience so as the other answer suggests it is up to you and your colleagues to show him what is OK and what isn't in the work place, that is after all what he is there for. To get experience.

If his boss is too nice to say something, take ownership of the situation and make yourself the one who does. Ask him to turn it down as it is affecting your concentration which provides a little justification as to why it isn't ok. If you can hear it too then it's obviously too loud (defeating the purpose of headphones!).

Distracted employees are not productive ones and can affect project work and overall productivity, this I'm sure will fly with management if you point this out to him.

The Intern also acts like he owns the place, He comes at 11 and already leaves at 3-4 sometimes. We have until now never gotten a finished project from him.

We actually had this in my team right now and my boss openly mocks the person in question for being lazy and not pulling his weight for a while to see how he reacted and he started to correct it. Slowly slipping back he then took him aside and had a direct conversation about it, which sorted this out. Maybe this could be something that helps.

You are not being 'that guy', you are protecting yourself, your work and your productivity. If you are constantly distracted and it affects your work it will be you that has to answer for it if mistakes are made etc and simply blaming the interns music probably won't cut it.

However if you've been vocal about it and people have seen you ask him then others may even follow suit or its seen that you've actually tried to do something about your distraction while also mentoring the intern about the work place dos and donts.

Also he recently started singing aggressively and moaning while having these ridiculously big Headphones on. Any of you have some advice on how to handle this?

In the same way, make him aware of it and ask him to stop.

If he gets confrontational about it, personally id explain that it is causing a distraction to project work which isn't good for the business and hint you will need to have words with his manager if it continues. Especially when you are helping him get a leg up on a career and he will potentially ask for a reference.

  • -1 for too aggressive. I don't think a first step needs to be a long discussion. E.g. for the music, a simple "hey, I can hear your music through your headphones, do you mind turning it down?" should suffice; if the problem continues then escalate the warning. For coming in late, a simple "I've noticed you've been coming in late, you really should try to respect the work hours better" from his manager should be good enough as a first step. It's not worth blowing up on a first offense. – Ertai87 Nov 2 '18 at 19:29
  • I’m not saying a long discussion, more just backing up what your asking with justification as to why he is being asked to do so so he understands why he is being asked to. Does that really constitutes as aggressive? e.g “Hey can you turn your music down please, I’m finding it difficult to concentrate on my work that I’m doing”, asking and explaining why it’s not ok. – UIO Nov 2 '18 at 19:38
  • That would be acceptable. That's not how I read your statement "[e]xplain why it isnt ok and how it is affecting the the environment he is in" though. Maybe I'll suggest an edit. – Ertai87 Nov 2 '18 at 19:41
  • Edited, conveying aggression wasn’t the intention, more encouraging conveying clarity. – UIO Nov 2 '18 at 19:43
  • Much better. +1. – Ertai87 Nov 2 '18 at 19:46
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The solution to the music problems are noise cancelling headphones. Not earphones. As an example Sony MDR-ZX110NA for about £35. He can listen to music at a level that is painfully loud for most people, while his environment hears absolutely nothing.

If he starts singing loudly and moaning! That is absolutely unacceptable. Tell him that he behaves like an idiot (which he does), and tell him to turn off the music or leave the office. You don't want to be "that guy", but it seems he is in serious need of "that guy".

Or you can go on a counter-offensive. I recommend Stravinsky, 50's original recordings of Art Tatum, Oskar Sala if you can find a record of his works.

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