Recently we were assigned a big contract with a big company, who manufactures headphones. We have a developer which works on this project, who always works with his headphones on. Normally, this wouldn't be a big deal at all, as it's perfectly normal for our employees to work with headphones on in our company.

However, I perceived a problem when he got assigned to this project, because his headphones are made by a direct competitor of our client. We told him not to use those headphones because he is working on this big project (worth 60% of the company revenue) and he responded by saying he is not prohibited in any way from using headphones during work. HR also told us that when he was hired he explicitly asked to work with this brand of headphones on and no other (don't know why, seemed strange, but perfectly acceptable by HR at the moment).

The situation escalated quickly when we were informed that at anytime, an emissary of the client may come to check on the work, so it is perfectly reasonable to assume he will get discovered.

Since he has every right to wear his headphones, and HR signed him on explicitly granting these rights, how we can handle the situation?


5 Answers 5


You are overthinking this, your client can't and won't expect that all of you are working with their products, just because you are doing work for them.

  • @bolov in the auto industry, it's common for a carmaker to have one lot for vehicles from that carmaker and another, much more remote lot for ovehicle from other carmakers. This goes for both their employees AND visitors.
    – DLS3141
    Commented Feb 27, 2017 at 17:31
  • The one time I worked for a carmaker I didn't notice anything like that.
    – gnasher729
    Commented Feb 27, 2017 at 22:47

If HR said it's ok for him to use those headphones, then it's ok.

If it's not ok with you, take it up with HR.

I know this is a short answer, but I'm not sure how writing more words could make the situation more simple.

  • HR said that BEFORE he was assigned to the project, and still think they are not informed by the brand of his headphones
    – Anon
    Commented Feb 27, 2017 at 13:29
  • 5
    Still. If it's an issue, take it up with HR. You can't really impose on someone's free will without something in terms of internal regulation to back up your request.
    – user44108
    Commented Feb 27, 2017 at 13:32
  • Who do you think pays for the HRs salary? Big contracts from big companies. You think they'll risk the company going under and losing their jobs over someone wearing a brand of headphones?
    – Jack
    Commented Feb 28, 2017 at 11:29

Since he has all the rights to wear his headphones, and HR signed with him the deal , how we can handle the situation?

If the brand of headphones is a big deal, then the company should purchase an equivalent set of headphones from the preferred vendor and give them to him.

Then it would be reasonable to tell him which headphones to wear.

  • Agreed. Say I am using a set of Sennheiser headphones, that are high end (around $500+) but the client company produces headphones that do not approach the same quality or capabilities. One cannot be faulted for using the better equipment. Heck, I have seen people who work for Dell, using Asus laptops. Commented Feb 27, 2017 at 14:41
  • I don't think it would be reasonable to tell him which ones to wear but now it would be reasonable to ask him to consider using them instead if he likes them better.
    – Jonast92
    Commented Feb 27, 2017 at 15:38
  • If my company signs a contract with Honda, should I sell my Toyota which I drive everyday to work?
  • If my company works on an online system for KFC, should everybody in the office stop eating McDonalds' during lunch?

Companies will not expect contractors to use their own product just because they signed a contract. Contractors are there to deliver work to the company, not to promote it. What you have in mind is for celebrities who sign a contract to promote a brand or company. Even if your company signed a marketing campaign contract, employees can still use whatever product they want unless they are in the eyes of the public.

"Anytime" an emissary of the client's will come to check work and other stuff, so is perfectly reasonable he will get discovered

So what? what's the problem?

  • With respect to cars, I've actually seen that happen. The company I worked for sold very large computers to the automakers in Detroit, and the salesman was extremely particular about which brand of rental car he drove. Show up in the wrong one and he'd be asked to park in an outlier lot an extra 1/2 mile away. (This was in the late 80s early 90s, so things may have changed since then) Commented Feb 27, 2017 at 14:29
  • @DanPichelman They haven't changed. Only you're lucky if the remote lot is only 1/2 mile away.
    – DLS3141
    Commented Feb 27, 2017 at 17:35

Leave him be, and get to know more about his headphones in a positive way.

unless he deliberatly goes towards your client's working enviroment and THEN use his headphones, I see no problem (even then it's just a bit akward). What happens in your own working enviroment is up to you. It may seem a bit strange for when your client looks around your working enviroment, however there are plenty of valid reasons he could make for using them that don't need to offend the client.

For example:

  • Know thy enemy, to know thyself.

  • I used these headphones before having you as a client because of A,B,C and I hope to bring many of these features to you in order to show that your headphones will become the very best like no-one ever was!

I'm sure you can think of better reasons than me. But since he was hired by HR with the explicid request to keep wearing those specific headphones, it'd be either him or your client. And that'd be way too much of a reaction just for some headphones.

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