I'm recently started an internship at a small web dev company (only 2 dev and the boss), we're all around a table in an office, and the boss seem to be working only with some music on speakers. It seems to be an old habit. And so there is constant music (mostly pop, although she also give the speaker to others for a bit of genre variety).

Problem is, music mostly disrupt my focus, especially when I don't like it (pop), and I'm tackling some complicated tasks (asynchronous dev in php).

At first I just thought I'd bring my earphones to counter it with some of my own, but she straight up refused it arguing it would be harder to communicate and offering me to put some of my music on the speaker instead.

I agreed but at the end of the day I'd much rather listen to my music only or not at all, as I can literally not think sometimes.

It doesn't seem to bother the other two, and as I'm just an intern I'm not sure I can just come in and change their habits.

What should I do? Bear through it until the end of my internship (3.5 months left)? Try to push harder for allowing me to use my earphones?

  • 2
    Well, do just what you did not: Explain to her that the speak music disrupts your work flow and present two solutions: Either no speaker music or you are allowed to use earphones yourself. I would be rather surprised if she dismisses both solution, as it decreases your productivity.
    – dirkk
    Oct 22, 2015 at 9:38

3 Answers 3


You've already raised the issue and they've chosen to do nothing: this is pretty rare, but it does happen - you've raised the issue, so it's up to the manager if they care more about increasing your productivity or leaving things as they are. And you're right that as an intern you can't simply demand they change their practices. It may be that the manager finds their own (and other members of the team's) productivity to be higher with music, and losing that productivity isn't worth improving yours, no matter how good you are as an intern.

In all honesty, they're probably more likely to see this as a negative than if you're simply not as productive. That sounds counter-intuitive, but internships are as much about workplace interaction as actual work produced (which tends to be add-on stuff): if you're more interested in your reference and experience to talk about, focus on keeping people happy and getting as much work done as you can in the circumstance.

The simplest answer is to see out the internship and then simply not seek full time employment with that company: sometimes culture clashes just happen.

  • 3
    +1 For the advice on the attitude the OP needs to have. I wish every intern would have it.
    – Nobody
    Oct 22, 2015 at 11:48
  • 2
    Yeah, this. Internships are about culture fit and basic competence (enough interns are terribad that it's a worthwhile check to make sure that you show up to work, do anything, etc).
    – enderland
    Oct 22, 2015 at 12:42
  • +1 Sorry, the intern doesn't get to dictate the office environment to the permanent staff.
    – A E
    Oct 23, 2015 at 21:29

You should calmly explain to your manager that the music is something that is distracting you from your work; and it is affecting your productivity.

You should also offer a solution - such as you bringing a pair of headphones to put on while you work; and then counter her argument (that it affects communication) by proposing an alternate solution - such as a message system (like slack.com - which is used by many teams) to have more effective communication.

If your manager refuses; then there are actually doing you a huge favor by letting you know what kind of environment you'll be dealing with should you wish to join this company permanently.

Although I find it very odd that your suggestion was outright refused.

  • He already asked for headphones and she refused. Oct 23, 2015 at 21:28

Try to offer a compromise. Your boss is envisioning, "Every time I want to ask this guy something, I'm going to have to yell or go over there and tap him on the shoulder..."

Pick and choose some time to try it out. Suggest you're working on a specific task that you know your boss wants you to get done. Suggest you wear head phones the last couple ours of the day or before lunch.

You don't rank very high as an intern and since an internship is a bit of a test, you're expected to show you can tolerate things and get stuff done even when the conditions are not idea.

Let this be a learning lesson so you start asking the right questions about the work environment and especially how the boss perceives interruptions. Many managers will respect your time and are aware of the loss of productivity that come with interruptions. Start thinking about ways to identify these people before you take your next job.

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