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I work in a shared office space with a small group of coworkers. One of the more senior coworkers has made it a habit to play political talk radio through speakers for the entire room. It seems to create a very toxic environment of constant argument and raised tempers. Even though I try hard to not let it bother me, it ultimately seems to cause me a lot of stress. I've been tuning it out by putting my own headphones in, but the type of work requires regular communication with other coworkers, so having headphones in seems to impede my work.

I've suggested we turn on something more pleasant, like music, or nothing at all, and that occasionally works, but sometimes I am denied and it always seems to wind up back on the political talk.

What steps can I take to put an end to this situation? Or how could I convince my senior coworker to stop playing political talk out loud?

I thought about asking my management to relocate me to a quieter environment, but I am worried that I will be viewed as not being a team player, or being high maintenance. We were grouped together in the area based on a common skill-set and the area contains the equipment we work with. It would probably be impractical for me to ask that all that be relocated.

  • These are his speakers or belong to the company? – Kilisi Sep 27 '17 at 22:35
  • A related question that could also help you: What can I do about a very loud Coworker? – DarkCygnus Sep 27 '17 at 22:58
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    Complain about the activity, not the content. Simply playing anything loud in an office environment is disruptive. – HorusKol Sep 27 '17 at 23:04
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I suggest you first talk to your senior coworker, and kindly ask him to refrain from playing political talks out loud. Explain to him (just like you did here with us) that this tends to create a tense environment, something that does not contribute to the wellbeing of the team and its productivity.

If he is not willing to do so, you can also suggest he uses headphones, so he can keep listening to those talks while not disturbing fellow workers.

Another option could be to make him realize that not all of the teammates enjoy listening to that sort of talks during work (surely you are not the only one that finds it disturbing). If he has some common sense and respect he should refrain from playing those talks out loud.

Now... if he still does not want to cooperate then I am afraid the only option you have left is to tell your manager about this. One should always try to solve problems with the ones actually involved, so try taking this to your manager as a last resort.

Finally, if this keeps going on, and you find that this work is no longer a good fit for you (given its disturbing atmosphere) you probably would be better seeking a new job, where these sort of things don't happen (seems that the one who is not a team player is your senior coworker, but that is only my opinion). Hope this helps you solve this situation.

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    It could be construed as crating a hostile work environment especially if this is as I suspect (from the tenor of the q) these are American right wing talk radio shows – Neuromancer Sep 28 '17 at 17:17
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This is something I would likely bring directly to HR. It is not in the company's best interests to have people arguing politics on company time. Most HR people would put a stop to this immediately as politics and religion have no place in the work world (unless you are a political or religious organization of course).

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    I would bring it up to the team and hope they come up with a solution on their own or HR is going to have to be involved. Going to straight to HR could present bigger problems than this. – user8365 Oct 3 '17 at 15:19
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Since you did talk with your senior coworker AND you're currently stressed.

it ultimately seems to cause me a lot of stress

It's time (if you didn't yet) to talk with your manager ASAP.

I don't suggest you use headphones and (act like you're not listening senior's radio show or whatever he plays).1

If he is causing so much stress, you should talk with your manager - maybe a relocation (if possible).


1 Not good for your ears, head, etc.

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Assuming these are his speakers there are a couple of ways of handling it.

You have already talked to him and it doesn't work so management is your next step if you feel strongly enough. It may come across as petty.

Alternatively bring in your own music and play it, if the coworker wants to listen to theirs they will have to use headphones. If taken to task about it say you have no interest in politics so the talks are annoying and you feel like listening to some music.

It's fairly common in places where staff are allowed to play radio rather than it being controlled by management for people to sort of take turns playing whatever they want.

If something is really annoying you, it's best to be proactive about resolving the problem.

  • So, in other words, are you suggesting fighting fire with fire? – DarkCygnus Sep 27 '17 at 22:44
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    @GrayCygnus Not really, but if you prefer music, and you're allowed to play radio, then just play music. No need to blast the whole office, just to make your immediate workspace more pleasant. – Kilisi Sep 27 '17 at 22:46
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    This could rapidly escalate into a tit-for-tat with people trying to be the first to put on their radio station or increasing volumes to drown out the other. I would not recommend doing this. Where I used to work we had a rule, if you can't agree on what to listen, nothing is played and you can listen through headphones. – R-D Sep 27 '17 at 23:18
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    OP is clearly dealing with a petulant person though (no need to bring gender stereotypes into it ;) - any reasonably accomodating and generous person would realize that the radio station in question may not be appealing to everyone – NKCampbell Sep 29 '17 at 14:22
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    @NKCampbell I agree, 'petulant schoolgirl' is a frame of mind, can be either male female or confused. Best not to pander to them and be proactive rather than join the 'petulant' circus. – Kilisi Sep 29 '17 at 14:54

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