I often work in an open office which can be somewhat distracting. Many people at my office listen to music with headphones to help them drown out the background noise and improve their concentration. I am among those people.

The problem is that my taste in music is... Well, imagine a parallel universe in which Sir Mix-A-Lot and Vanilla Ice are near the apex of musical culture. It's not even music so much as a telepathic assault on good taste delivered via sound. A portal to this universe exists in the depths of Spotify, and this tear in the fabric of reality should be sealed for the good of all human kind, but in the meantime, I shall listen at the edge of this abyss.

To be clear, I am not talking about music that is hateful, just bad. Not just bad music, but bad for me, and arguably, bad for society. Children who are exposed to it probably go on to write JavaScript frameworks at the very bottom of npm dependency chains. Simply naming some of the "musicians" is probably a violation of the TOS of this site, let alone the names of the actual songs. I do not sing or hum along to these songs ever (mostly out of fear of summoning Lovecraftian horror), with the exception of some songs from 1989 that I only sing along to when working from home to make my wife laugh.

Let's assume that I'm going to keep listening to it because I am totally addicted to it. It's like heroin, the first time you encounter it, you vomit, but then you're hooked. I realize that this path probably leads me to life as a concubine at a large cat rescue shelter, but hopefully I can delay that as long as possible.

My question is: How can I best minimize the impacts of this upon my career?

  • I already only listen via headphones.
  • I never mention anything to my colleagues about it.
  • I avoid skipping tracks or opening the UI at all when I know someone is looking at my screen.
  • Still, someone could walk by, see the title of a track, look it up, and become irrevocably... changed.

Given that I think I'm an at-will employee, I'm sure I could be terminated for "bad taste in music" but would this be grounds to deny an unemployment claim (let's say the jurisdiction is California)?

Is there any possibility of having this classified as a coping mechanism for some kind of other problem (like lack of focus)? It would be very easy to convince anyone else that no one would voluntarily listen to any of it. Would that grant me any protections?

  • 6
    So, what you are basically asking in all that over-complicated description is, are you afraid that listening to music with explicit content during work may get you in trouble?
    – DarkCygnus
    Jun 13 '20 at 0:23
  • 9
    On another note I feel that the title can be edited to better reflect what you are asking, and the post could be reworded in a simpler and clearer way.
    – DarkCygnus
    Jun 13 '20 at 0:25
  • 1
    I listen to Kraftwerk at work, not because I like it but because I’d rather focus on literally anything else than the vibrations reverberating against my eardrum. But if I were worried about getting fired as a result of my music choice, I’d listen to something else. Do you want to get fired and collect unemployment? Or do you just want everyone to know how special you are? Jun 13 '20 at 1:59
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    It's still completely unclear what the problem with the music is if you're not talking about explicit lyrics but it doesn't actually matter: Does the music you listen to violate something in your employee handbook or go against the values of the company in some way? (By company values do you, for example, work for MADD and listen to songs that say drunk driving is super awesome?)
    – BSMP
    Jun 13 '20 at 3:06
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    What exactly is the problem? I fear the way you describe an issue will impact your career a lot more than your taste in music. What are you concerned about? Explicit lyrics? Lyrics that degrade women? Lyrics that use racial epithets, even if used by a person in-group? Lyrics that glorify or minimize violence? Politically controversial lyrics? None of these? Because if it is none of those but just music that no kne else likes, who cares? You’re using headphones.
    – Damila
    Jun 13 '20 at 21:07

Assuming this is a serious question (something which I am not sure about), you are not in high school anymore. No sane person cares about your taste in music as long as they don't have to listen to it. And no, don't try having your taste in music classify as a coping mechanism or psychological disorder. That just makes you look weird, something you definitely don't want in an at will state.

  • 1
    1. This is a serious question, albeit, one asked somewhat farcically. 2. Based on this and the comments, it does seem like I might be unnecessarily concerned. Jun 13 '20 at 15:09

Surely the playlist UI is customizable to a different language. Surely there exists a written language that no one in your office can decipher.

Look around the office. Are there any Japanese, Tamil, Farsi, Chinese, or Urdu speakers? Switch the language of the playlist UI to one that matches the native tongue of no one in the office, and one where you can learn to distinguish between most words. You don't even have to translate the titles; just roughly remember their general appearance. Soon you will learn to skip the track with the word that looks like a penis, and repeat the track with two adjacent left squiggles.

Of course if one of the words really does look like a penis, you now have another problem...

  • This is an amazing non-solution to OP's non-problem. +1
    – Meg
    Jun 15 '20 at 19:03

Play your music using a personal device with earphones (MP3 player, phone, etc.) so you don't need to worry about possible copyright issues by having your MP3s on company computers. I remember hearing from a system admin talking about MP3s on the network back in my university days, and he said it was frowned upon because many of these files were illegal copies).

What you have on your personal device is no-one else's business but your own. As long as your music played off your personal device does not impair your ability to do your job (i.e. volume not so loud, so you can still hear the office phone ring) there should not be a problem.

Whether you listen to classical music or some of the most far-fetched stuff imaginable, it does not matter to anyone as long as it doesn't affect your job. If it helps you stay "in the zone", then it is fine by me, and I can't think of any reasonable manager who would think otherwise.

  • OP mentioned spotify. I fail to see copyright issue there, as downloading the files is not needed on spotify ( not even possible apart from phone AFAIK ).
    – bytepusher
    Jun 15 '20 at 0:08

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