I am a software developer, and recently joined a new company. Five of us, including my boss, work in a small office.

My boss plays music very loudly while he works — the kind you hear in nightclubs — which is not conducive to a work environment where concentration is needed. The "music" is severely affecting my concentration and productivity. At my past jobs, developers would use their own headsets to listen to what they want without bothering others.

Should I take this up with my boss and if so, how should I do it?

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    Put your own headphones on – AMB May 16 '17 at 14:01
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    Maybe use noise cancelling headphones? They work great on engine noise. I don't know how well they'd do with music. – Dan Pichelman May 16 '17 at 14:04
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    Noise cancelling headphones, by themselves, are surprisingly effective. You might not drown out everything (bass is hard to filter), but it can make it much better. I bought some in a noisy office, and often just switched them on and wore them with no source. – The Wandering Dev Manager May 16 '17 at 14:09
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    "the kind you hear in nightclubs which doesn't seem appropriate", many people including me get in the flow (zone) better on rhythmic repetitive music. The boss needs to get a good pair of cans. – mtone May 16 '17 at 14:39
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    simplynoise.com or rain.simplynoise.com are also very effective (and cheaper than noise cancelling headphones). The combination will be even better (but try talking to your boss first). – Martin Bonner supports Monica May 16 '17 at 16:57

Why not just ask the boss? Maybe he doesn't realize that his music is too loud for the others. Don't assume that just because he is a boss, he is necessarily a jerk. Before using earplugs, headphones and other passive aggressive ideas, just try asking.

Boss, would you mind lowering the volume?

Don't make a public spectacle of it, don't start by complaining that it is bothering you. Just ask. If he insists to know why, you could tell him the music is so good that you are paying more attention to the music than to your work. :-)

The problem with passive aggressive ideas like earplugs and headphones is this:

Boss: I noticed that all of you use earplugs or headphones when I am around. Is that because my music was too loud? Why didn't you just tell me?

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  • Why didn't you just tell me Because it's the done thing not to disturb your colleagues but since you outrank me I thought I'd keep my mouth shut. That's one surprisingly astute boss in your example by the way, people who are so obnoxious as to use speakers for their music don't notice or care about others in their vicinity, and even if they do see them wearing headphones, they would probably think problem solved – rath Aug 4 '17 at 9:35
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    @rath Not sure what kind of bosses you have worked with, but in my part of the world, you cannot become a manager until you can demonstrate a certain level of finesse. If your boss is a jerk, then of course, this solution doesn't work, but loud music is likely to be the least of your concerns in that case. – Masked Man Aug 4 '17 at 9:54
  • Not sure what kind of bosses you have worked with Granted, the boss I have in mind did not display finesse in that way, but I'm happy to learn he was probably an outlier. (it was actually another colleague who played music, the boss who was in the same room just looked the other way every time him and I had "that" fight) – rath Aug 4 '17 at 10:32
  • @rath Oh, that's unfortunate. You are right, in that case, my solution won't work, and a slightly more passive aggressive approach might be required. 😉 – Masked Man Aug 4 '17 at 10:39

Ear plugs would send a signal, and help a little bit with your own concentration.

If the manager gets confused about the earplugs, he probably engages the exact conversation you want to have. Then just be honest, and say the music is bothering you right now, and you need some quiet - so you brought earplugs. So it's fine if you all enjoy music at the office, but sometimes I don't - but it's okay, since I've found a fix for this issue myself, which doesn't ruin the office environment you enjoy.

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  • I like your suggestion, though it could be considered quite rude. – RunLoop May 16 '17 at 14:05
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    @RunLoop How would earplugs be rude, while the headphones of your colleagues are not? – skymningen May 16 '17 at 14:06
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    Earplugs says I don't want to hear your **** whilst headphones says I want to listen to my own ****. – RunLoop May 16 '17 at 14:07
  • I would recommend this for a short period of time. If nothing changes, your boss can't take a hint and you would probably need to take the talk. – Jonas Praem May 16 '17 at 14:09
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    The answer to that, is simply: I just don't want to get distracted. just be honest? - now that the manager engaged that interaction – Jonas Praem May 16 '17 at 14:18

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