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Politics At Work…Or Anywhere Else For That Matter

Always a touchy subject, I know, but I don’t know how far etiquette goes in this instance.

My workplace is about 95% awesome. My coworkers and I all have private offices with doors. We frequently must consult each other about our jobs; we do complex tasks and each of us has different areas of expertise. This is expected. Most of us also either listen to music, the radio, podcasts, etc while we do our work. I use headphones but not everyone does. Typically it isn’t a noise issue.

I have one coworker who is intelligent and personable, and is always happy to answer my questions when I have them. My problem is that when I go to his office to ask him a question, he is often listening to radio broadcasts talking about political views that I find very objectionable, even upsetting. I stand there and grit my teeth and focus on the question I am asking and the answer he’s giving me and pretend I don’t hear what’s coming over his radio, and get out as fast as I can.

It’s his office and his radio. He can listen to whatever he likes. Am I within the bounds of office etiquette to ask him to turn it down while I’m talking to him? Or because I am coming into his space, should I just do what I’ve been doing and ignore it…and try to find others who can answer my questions before I have to go to him for  help?  0807-12

So, it isn’t the noise level that disturbs you but rather the content of what you are hearing.   You can ask him to please turn down the volume of his radio while you and he are engaged in the business of working together under the premise that the radio distracts you from concentrating on the problem at hand.   Here’s your quandary, in my opinion.  To be consistent, I believe you must ask ALL your co-workers to turn down the volume of whatever they are listening to whenever you and they engage in work related interactions.   Otherwise you simply look intolerant.

I think one reason why being tolerant is a challenge for many people is that they see an opposing opinion as being the entire sum total of the personality and character of the person(s) who embraces that opinion.   Considerable weight is given to that one area of a person’s life so that it completely confines them into a narrow definition or even stereotype.  It’s like having tunnel vision and only seeing that one thing and not noticing that there is a whole lot of others areas of our lives where we have a lot more in common than we think.   Sometimes it takes a shared tragedy to bring about an awareness of the commonality we have with others.

In my extended family there are polar opposite politics and lifestyles but while we all know where each other stands on particular issues, those get “boxed” neatly away in the mind and the focus is on common areas we share like memories, love of certain relatives, children, vacation destinations, food, similar sense of humor and jokes, shared work ethics,health problems, money, and on and on.   Every once in a blue moon, the “politics box” gets taken off the mental shelf, dusted off and we debate the issues civilly but once the debate is exhausted, the box goes right back on the mental shelf for another day and we go right back to working to love each other for the things we do share in common.

So OP,unless your co-worker is listening to radio instructions on how to make bombs and destroy a specific group of people, I think you would foolish to continue to focus on your affable co-worker’s choice of listening material and lose sight of the fact that he appears to be a decent person who cheerfully and consistently helps you succeed in your job. 0807-12

{ 47 comments… add one }
  • livvy17 August 8, 2012, 7:29 am

    I don’t necessarily think the OP has to ask each person to turn down their radio, just the ones who are listening to TALK radio. Personally, I can tune filter out music from conversation, but not other conversations. Even if the co-worker were listening to something right up my alley, I’d be forced to say, ” I’m so sorry, but my brain gets confused trying to listen to two people at once. Could I ask you to turn the radio down while we talk?”
    I totally agree with Admin on “the box” concept for politics. I only wish everyone were so sensible. Seems to be that politics have gotten so devisive, so angry, and so black-and-white that it’s nearly impossible to have a civil conversation about it at all anymore. It’s like the whole world has forgotten how to RESPECTFULLY disagree.

  • lkb August 8, 2012, 7:35 am

    It seems the OP (or anyone else in a similar situation) is well within bounds to politely and lightly ask, “I’m sorry would you please turn that down for just a minute. I need to ask you about the TPS reports.” but only if the radio is too loud for the OP to concentrate on what he or she is trying to say. Otherwise, it seems the OP will just have to grin and bear it and try to ignore the broadcast as much as possible. If the sound level is such that it is not interfering with other people getting their jobs done, it seems that not much more can be said.

    Similar situations come up all the time — someone may have to communicate over broadcasts that contains F-bombs, “adult” lyrics etc. It doesn’t have to be in an office setting or a politically related broadcast. It’s part of the price of free speech.

  • Cat Whisperer August 8, 2012, 7:37 am

    One possible solution to OP’s problem: instead of going into co-worker’s office to talk to him, call him on the telephone to ask questions.

  • Margo August 8, 2012, 7:40 am

    Is it practical for you to phoen or e-mail him, so that you don’t have to physically go into his room?

    I don’t think you can expect him to turn his radio down or off on the basis you don’t like the content (I’m assuming that this is mainstream but objectional to you) I think if you find it very objectionable you can *ask* whether he would mind turning it off – you could explain that topic X is an hot button one for you and you find it hard to focus on what he is saying when it’s also being talked about – you don’t have to say where you stand on topic X. However, this couldlead into a discusion about where you do stand on that or other issues, so I think trying to tune it out, and thnking of pracical alternatives to going into his room, is likely to work better.

    I guess if the views are very extreme or controversial you couls speak to your boss about whether a policy could be put in place aboutwhat is/isn’t acceptable in the workplace, not for him but for everyone, but from the way you describe your place of work it sounds as though that might be overkill!

  • Katie August 8, 2012, 7:42 am

    I think that there are a lot of potential issues here, so I will try to deal with them (as I see it) point by point 🙂

    1. Is it your workplace culture to listen to political material at work? Or are they more like ‘opinion pieces’ featuring many different points of view?
    2. He may not necessarily agree with the points of view being put forward. Listening to or reading something does NOT mean that you think the same way! He may be listening to further understand particular debates, or to keep informed.
    3. Even if he does agree with these viewpoints, he is entitled to do so, as long as he is not letting them affect his work or doing anything illegal.
    4.Finally (and this is the most important), a lot depends on the nature of the material. Is it suggestive, illegal or discriminatory? If so, then you are absolutely right to draw attention to it to a supervisor.
    5. If not (i.e. if it’s just stuff you don’t agree with), then I think it’s perfectly fine to say casually ‘Oh John, do you mind just turning that down for a second? I just want to be able to concentrate on what you’re saying for the x project.’ If he’s as affable as you say, then I’m sure he won’t have a problem with it, and probably won’t even figure out the true reason for you asking.

  • Melnick August 8, 2012, 7:50 am

    You know, I really don’t think it’s much of an issue if you say something along the lines of “I’m sorry, do you mind if I turn that down a little? I can’t help getting distracted and listening to their conversation”. And then turn it up again as you are leaving. I don’t think you need to do the same thing for everyone. And if your co-worker asks about your views or opinions, just smile, shake your head and tell him that you have rather strong opinions (you don’t have to say which way) and you’d rather not get pulled into it at this time. Then redirect your attention back to the task at hand.

    I often have strong opposing views to those around me and if you pull me into a conversation I will very passionately argue my point of view so I regularly tell people that I am like that and I’d rather not have that conversation with them. The truth is, as we get older, we recognise and respect that people don’t want to get pulled into an argument anymore than they want to get smacked over the head with an argument they didn’t see coming! Most people are very respectful of my desire to avoid a confrontation like that … and those that aren’t seldom engage me twice!

  • Jenny August 8, 2012, 7:50 am

    I agree that you can’t let the content be the deciding factor. Just tell him you have trouble focusing on conversations with the radio on (you don’t have to tell him why, personally I would have a problem having a conversation when the radio is on loudly) and could he turn it down when you’re in his office.

  • The Elf August 8, 2012, 8:07 am

    Here’s another situation where headphones can go a long way. Political Guy should either be using them himself or keeping the volume low enough so that it can’t be heard outside his office. After all, we’re talking about an actual office with walls and doors, not a cube. It shouldn’t be difficult to make it unintelligble to everyone else.

    OP could keep a pair of headphones handy for herself when she finds herself annoyed by the political radio.

  • Sarah Jane August 8, 2012, 8:20 am

    How is it that you find the views expressed in his preferred media “upsetting”? Are there statements being made that are discriminatory or sexually explicit?

    What is your office’s policy on employees’ listening to the radio during work hours?

    Would your opinion on this subject be different if he were simply listening to music? What if the music contained obscene lyrics or foul language?

    I agree with admin. Depending on your office’s policies on this type of entertainment, I think you will appear intolerant if you simply ask him to modify his right to listen to these programs simply because you don’t agree with the viewpoints. I’ve worked with plenty of people with opposing political views who expressed them at work through bumper stickers, t-shirts, wristbands, and so on. I don’t get “upset”; I ignore them and work with these fine folks to get the job done. We’ll never find a workplace where we’ll be in complete agreement with everyone about everything.

  • Justin August 8, 2012, 8:24 am

    You could also take the polite approach of saying something like “I have trouble when talk radio is on while I am having a conversation because I hear two sets of voices speaking and it is harder for me to tune out than music. May we turn it down while we talk.”

    However something to keep in mind. While you find his choice of politics objectionable and offensive, there is a good chance he feels the same way about your political viewpoints. I find the best things to do in these situations is just realize you agree to disagree and avoid talking politics with the person. Is this really a battle that is worth fighting? Your coworker has as much right to strongly held beliefs as you do.

  • Chris August 8, 2012, 8:49 am

    In an office such as you’ve described, I assume there is ample technology available to help improve productivity. Every office I’ve worked in since 2006, except for one very small company, has had or has allowed an instant message program to be used for intra-office communication. Do you have such a program? If not, try suggesting it at the next meeting. It really CAN boost productivity by allowing you and a coworker to discuss simple things from your desks.

    As for the present issue, most everyone has the right of it: politely ask him to turn down the radio while talking to him. To avoid confrontation and potential claims of discrimination, you will probably need to extend the same request to other coworkers altho the suggestion of only asking those who ALSO listen to talk radio has its merits. I agree that I, personally, can tune out after a few moments most music regardless of genre. But voices chatting are more difficult. But so long as his radio isn’t escaping his space, you have no grounds, at least to my eyes, to ask him to switch it off entirely. Only while you and he have to work, however briefly, in the space.

  • A August 8, 2012, 8:53 am

    I frequently listen to talk radio at work and I often wonder if others find it offensive in some way. No one has ever said anything, but I don’t try to make my coworkers listen or ask them about what’s being said on the radio when the walk into my office. Sometimes I turn it down if they start talking about something that might be very controversial. I usually turn it down when someone calls or starts talking to me as I’m the one who gets distracted by two voices.

    I was a little worried that the “polite thing to do” would be not listening to political radio at work as I do enjoy listening. So, I’m glad others have agreed that it’s not impolite and it sounds like I’m doing the right thing by turning it down and such.

  • GroceryGirl August 8, 2012, 9:16 am

    If it were me, I’d just ask him to turn it down, making some light joke about myself. “Oh, would you mind turning that down a little? I’m like a puppy, I can’t concentrate on more than one thing at a time!”

  • mygracious August 8, 2012, 9:32 am

    well said admin! well said!

  • Another Alice August 8, 2012, 10:36 am

    Yikes, that would make me crazy! Not at all for the political viewpoints, but I’m with others that say I couldn’t have a conversation with any kind of talk radio on, because I would just be so distracted. I’m actually surprised that he doesn’t turn it down himself, purely out of politeness and willingness to focus on the conversation. I feel like most people would automatically turn down anything – whether music or talk radio – when another person enters the room to talk, but oh well.

    I also agree with the others that it depends on what kind of “offensive” it is. If it’s purely political viewpoint, no matter how impassioned, then no, you can’t really ask him to turn it off. Just give a simple, “Oh, this is really important, could you turn it down?” And then, perhaps, email/telephone for matters that are quick and can be addressed easily with those mediums.

    However, if it’s something offensive in terms of sexual/gross content, as in shock radio, I think it WOULD be perfectly within bounds to talk to HR about it. Even if it IS political, no matter what side it’s on, the language is important. Meaning, if it’s a show where name-calling is prevalent, I do not at all think it is wrong to ask someone to help you with this problem. The sad part is, as another commenter has said, politics are so utterly black and white in this day and age that it’s sometimes hard to tell the difference between political and shock radio! 😉 I think it’d be relatively harmless, in this scenario, to simply ask higher-ups to send out an email reminding people to be polite/use headphones/turn down volume.

    I am interested, actually, to hear Admin’s POV on listening to things such as this at work at all. While I do not think it appropriate for the OP to ask her coworker to turn it down based purely in differing political beliefs, am I remiss in thinking that work is not the forum to listen to any form of political commentary? I’m trying to think of how I’d feel if a coworker was constantly listening to viewpoints that actually DID agree with my own, and I still come to the conclusion that it wouldn’t be appropriate. Granted, I agree that we tend to “box” people in to what we know about them, but that’s the main reason why I think, “Why take the risk?”

  • Dear! August 8, 2012, 10:42 am

    I think this is a situation where the OP just needs to “suck it up” so to say. I work in an office, where it is common for the radio to be played at a moderate level, but everyone is able to hear it. The majority of my office belongs to an opposing party, and they LOVE a particular show host that I don’t aggree with, but I’ve come to find enjoyment from listening to opinions, that I may find “silly” but I respect the fact that they enjoy it.

    Tolerance is hard, but unless he listens to one of those shock jocks that preach hate speech, or racism, just suck it up. You’ve said it yourself that the volume doesn’t bother you, so ask your questions politely, thank your coworker for their time, and head back to your desk where you are free to listen to what you see fit.

  • Ashley August 8, 2012, 10:58 am

    I get driven to work every morning and the man who drives me listens to nothing but talk radio. At the time he drives me each morning, there is political talk on the radio, and the host is on the complete opposite end of the political spectrum from me. Thankfully, the man who drives me is polite enough to turn it down when we start talking.

    I see nothing wrong with asking him to turn it down, but that’s really all the more you can do. Just say “Hey, would you mind turning down the radio a bit when we talk, I want to make sure I don’t miss any details of our conversation”

  • b-rock August 8, 2012, 11:24 am

    @The Elf,
    I don’t think it can be heard outside of his office. The OP’s issue seems to be that he/she has to listen to it when entering the office to speak with the co-worker about work.

    I agree with the others who said if it is distracting to you (regardless of content) then you are within your polite rights to just say that it is distracting for you to hear two people talking at once, and could he turn it down a bit while you are addressing whatever you came in there for to begin with.

  • German Shepherd August 8, 2012, 11:25 am

    “he is often listening to radio broadcasts talking about political views that I find very objectionable, even upsetting”

    My question is whether these views are offensive as in racist, sexiest, etc. or if they wish or encourage harm to others. I wish the OP would elaborate on this. Until then, this is my answer:

    OP, unless the radio is too loud to hear your conversation, just ignore it. Don’t let your emotions get the better of you at work. You may not like what’s being said on the radio, but real life is about all sorts of opinions being expressed. Just deal with it.

  • Enna August 8, 2012, 11:30 am

    I like Katie’s post – that covers all bases – going to use that if I ever come across something simliar. I think a lot depends on the content – everyone is enittled to have an opinion provided it is not extreme. Music (without swear words or sexual lyrics) is different from a talk show or debate on the radio.

  • June First August 8, 2012, 11:33 am

    @Sarah Jane: As someone who used to work in radio, some talk show hosts deliberately take an extreme stance to get a rise out of listeners. Not all talk radio is like this. I can also think of several cable news networks (both right- and left-leaning) that use this tactic. I can see why someone would get upset about this.

    Easiest solution (as mentioned) is to say you get distracted. You avoid confrontation and don’t risk the coworker getting defensive. The way you present it is that it’s YOUR problem, not THEIR problem.

    @lkb: TPS reports! Ha!

  • DowagerDutchess August 8, 2012, 12:24 pm

    I disagree emphatically with all of this. Politics has no place in the office unless you do, in fact, work for a politician. The reason it doesn’t is precisely because of situations like this. I’d go to HR and mention that I am uncomfortable approaching coworker because of the intensely political material be listens to, and ask them to handle it. If you don’t have an HR or manager person, I think it is perfectly fine to say- could you turn the radio off for a minute? It’s distracting.

  • Green123 August 8, 2012, 12:48 pm

    You have no more right to be offended by his political talk radio station than you do to be offended by a pop/rock/classical/country music radio or sport radio or religious radio. It’s just a preference after all.


    It’s rude and unprofessional for anyone to have a radio on at a disruptive level when someone is trying to speak with them in person or on the phone, music or talk or otherwise. If, and only if, the volume prevents you from hearing or speaking with your coworker successfully and thus properly doing your job, should you ask for it to be turned down while the meeting or phone call takes place. Otherwise, accept your differences of opinion and suck it up.

  • Cat Too August 8, 2012, 12:52 pm

    Hmmm… it seems I’m the outlier here, because I have no problem with saying “Hey Glen, our politics seem to be in really different places, and the programs you listen to drive me nuts. Would you mind turning the radio down when I’m in your office?”

    Unless Glen’s a complete jerk, he’ll be able to easily see this as an accommodation to a co-worker who isn’t asking him to change his views, just please not be exposed to them when they have to be in the same place at the same time.

    However, in order for that to work at all, LW has to be willing to show equal consideration in return to Glen, and what bothers Glen, even if it shouldn’t in LW’s opinion.

  • Miss Raven August 8, 2012, 1:32 pm

    I may be the lone voice of dissent, but I believe you can most certainly let content be the deciding factor, if the content upsets you. If a co-worker was listening to an audiobook about dying puppies while trying to have a conversation, I would ask him to turn it down without even thinking about it, because it would be distracting and upsetting for me. If a co-worker was listening to misogynistic gangster rap, I would ask him to turn it down for the same reasons.

    Just because it’s “political” doesn’t mean we have to walk on eggshells and pretend the only reason it’s offensive is because we disagree. Political rhetoric has gotten VERY offensive in America, and I’m guessing that if the OP finds the messages “upsetting,” as she says, it’s not civil discourse or news he’s listening to. It’s not someone the OP disagrees with espousing perfectly rational viewpoints. That sort of thing isn’t “upsetting.” He’s probably listening to the vitriolic garbage we all know is out there and IMHO, that sort of thing has no business in an office environment unless you are literally the only one who can hear it.

  • Tsunoba August 8, 2012, 1:39 pm

    I would think asking him to please turn it down because you find it distracting would be sufficient. It is the truth, after all. It doesn’t matter that it distracts you because you find it offensive. The only thing that matters is that it distracts you while trying to do your job.

  • Hellbound Alleee August 8, 2012, 3:10 pm

    We should be realistic here and remember that a lot of talk radio is pretty heavy stuff: just because the FCC allows it, doesn’t mean it doesn’t contribute to a hostile workplace. If the radio jock is suggesting that one type of person, for instance, deserves pain and suffering, regardless of which political side he is on, it interrupts work and is obviously divisive.

    I think the solution here is to suggest everyone use headphones, and make the excuse that talk radio makes it hard to hold work conversations. That way, no one is necessarily singled out.

    I mean, how would YOU feel if you dropped by a cubicle and the radio jock was saying really rude things about people of your own persuasion, or about people you love? How does that affect your work performance?

  • Huh August 8, 2012, 3:24 pm

    @Another Alice: Try having a co-worker who loudly decides to have political conversations ALL THE TIME. Thankfully we now work opposite shifts, so I rarely see him, but he would drive me nuts talking in a very loud voice in the middle of our open-plan office about politics with whomever he could draw in. Then he’d take personal calls and loudly relate the same political story/opinion that I heard him rant about earlier and this would go on for the whole shift.

  • kingsrings August 8, 2012, 3:32 pm

    My former workplace had a rule about politics at work. No political material was to be displayed at one’s cubicle, and no political books were allowed to be left in the employee “library” (employees could leave books they didn’t want there, others could take them). Of course this wasn’t always enforced, but that’s a whole different story. I wonder what they would have said about this talk radio being played openly like this? Probably consider it a violation of the policy.
    I see no reason why the OP can’t politely ask the co-worker to turn the radio down when they’re talking. The reason why doesn’t matter – the bottom line is, it’s distracting, period. The OP can’t concentrate on her important, work-related discussion when it’s playing.
    And I loved what EHell Dame had to say about tolerance. I find this to be such a problem with too many people in my life, and it’s so upsetting and problematic. I wish everyone could read and absorb what she said – it really puts things in perspective! Don’t just cut people out of your life for their views, that’s the height of intolerance.

  • chechina August 8, 2012, 5:12 pm

    I would agree that the most you can do is ask him nicely to turn it down; the content of what he is listening to in the privacy of his office when you happen to show up is not your concern. Your office seems to be a great environment, probably because of the respect you all show each other.

  • Library Diva August 8, 2012, 5:21 pm

    Why all the drama? Just ask him to turn it down, or call him on the phone. If you value your chats with this guy enough to go to these lengths, you can even try to discern his pattern with the show you hate, and take the time to learn that from 2 to 3:30 p.m., staying out of this guy’s office might be good for your blood pressure. Or, just try to deal with it better when you do hear it.

    And I emphatically disagree with the posters who propose going to HR or trying to get some kind of company-wide policy drafted. This is precisely how things get ruined for everyone. OP described the office as “95% awesome,” with this minor issue presumably being the lone cloud in the sky. Since OP also described their work as complex, with each person representing an area of expertise, I’m going to assume the culture is more like NASA and less like the 8th grade cafeteria.

    Complain about this to your superiors, and the office will change if action is taken. Everyone will wonder why they suddenly aren’t allowed to listen to whatever they want in their own office anymore. The loss of this freedom, and speculation about the events that brought it about, will become Topic Zero in the office. If OP’s brought this up to another co-worker, his or her name could come up in the list of “suspects,” and co-worker’s behavior towards OP might change. Also, before complaining, OP should bear in mind that he or she enjoys the exact same freedom that her co-worker does. OP can listen to her own extreme politics, gangsta rap or speed metal without anyone saying anything to her, apparently. There may even be a policy against what OP’s co-worker is doing that’s never enforced, but if OP complained, HR might feel as if they had no choice but to get the guy in trouble.

    So, OP, before complaining to HR, ask yourself: is it really worth getting your co-worker in trouble, losing a freedom at work that you also enjoy, and changing the office environment, just so you never have to hear something you don’t agree with again at work?

  • sv August 8, 2012, 5:54 pm

    ” Hey, Political Guy, I just have a quick question regarding X. Could you turn down the radio for a sec? ”
    Simple, easy, to the point. And remember, just because he is listening to it doesn’t mean that is ALL he listens to, or even that he agrees with it.

  • Aunty Em August 8, 2012, 5:56 pm

    I used to listen to a talk radio station all the time in the car with personalities that had the extreme opposite point of view as myself. (I finally got bored with the sameness of the vitriol.) I found it really facinating to hear their crazy points of view and their justifications for their political positions. Just because someone is listening to something does not mean they agree with it.

  • Cat Whisperer August 8, 2012, 8:48 pm

    I have to add, in reading all the responses: I guess I’m showing my age, because for the first 25+ years that I worked for the aerospace defense contractor, we weren’t allowed to have radios in our offices! It was a security issue. You could literally be fired on the spot for having a radio.

    I can remember when there were important news events that occurred during working hours, watching people heading out for the parking lot in droves to listen to someone’s car radio to find out what was going on.

    It was nice (and a revelation, for us old-timers) when the rules changed and we could have radios in our offices; but there was a caveat to the rule change, and that was that we were told that permission to have a radio (or to listen to broadcasts through the internet) would be withdrawn if supervision determined that the radio was affecting productivity or if there were complaints from other workers about either volume of sound or content of what was being played.

    The affect this had was that people virtually all used headphones to listen to radio (or iPod or internet broadcasts). Our management made it very plain that there would be no quibbling about whether a complaint from fellow employees was justified or not: if someone complained about what someone else was listening to, de facto it was a problem and the employee who was the subject of the complaint would have to start using headphones.

    I thought that was both fair and wise. You’re at work to do a job, and radio is not essential to doing the job. At best radio is a neutral factor; the moment someone is bothered by it, it becomes a negative, and since you don’t need it, you have to eliminate the negative. But I guess my viewpoint is affected by decades of working in an environment where having a radio was a serious breach of rules.

  • Rug Pilot August 8, 2012, 9:47 pm

    That’s why I play classical music in my office when I see clients. Anybody can put up with it and it calms them while we discuss delicate financial matters.

  • Alice August 8, 2012, 11:53 pm

    He could also be using the readio just to have background noise and not actually listen to it. When sewing I always turn on the radio but don’t actually pay much attention to what’s being played, it could be political talk, music, news, and I won’t know until I take a break and actually hear what’s going on.

  • Kovi August 9, 2012, 12:42 am

    It’s his space, and he doesn’t seem to be listening to anything too loud or actually offensive (simply voicing a differenting opinion is not considered ‘offensive’). Frankly, I don’t believe you have any right to tell him to quiet it down, since volume is clearly not the issue. Try emailing him or calling him, as others have mentioned, but otherwise just smile and keep your mind on the topic at hand, which should be your question.

  • sweetonsno August 9, 2012, 12:56 am

    I agree with Admin that there’s nothing wrong with asking him to turn down the volume on the grounds that the radio makes it tough for you to concentrate on the task at hand. However, I disagree that you’d need to ask everybody to turn it off. Some soundtracks are distracting, others aren’t. I don’t think it’s necessarily inconsistent to ask that the person who listens to the “The Purple Party Must Die!” DJ to turn it down but not ask the same of someone who listens to the “Peaceful Baroque” station.

    I enjoy listening to music while I work (it helps me tune out the sound of children running amok in the library), but I only listen to instrumental or calm Icelandic music. In both cases, it’s just sound. . . there aren’t lyrics to distract me. I think this is kind of the same thing. Having two people making meaningful sounds (that is to say, words) at the same time can be tricky.

    As an afterthought, why would someone leave the music on full blast when a person wants to talk to them, anyway? Wouldn’t it be more polite to hit the pause button, regardless of what you are listening to or what others think of it?

  • Enna August 9, 2012, 4:13 am

    @ Library Diva you are right that OP should just ask him to turn it down, he/she might just want to see what other people think before doing something. What we don’t know is if it’s just a difference of opinion or if is something really offensive. If it’s just a difference of opinion then asking the person to turn it down so they can’t be disracted by the radio is the best option forward. However, if the content has got a lot of swearing or violent content or very sexually explicit e.g. if the perosn is listening to an audio book of Fifty Shades of Grey then that is something that is not suitiable for the work place and should be left for listening to at home. I think what posters who are saying going to HR mean is if the content is nasty, extreme and distrubing there may need to be some policy made.

  • Erin August 9, 2012, 7:36 am

    I agree with Kovi – if the issue is just that he doesn’t vote the same way you do, and not the noise level, you should probably just suck it up.

  • Morallia August 9, 2012, 11:39 am

    I can empathize with the OP. I am fairly open minded in my political views and have no problem with respectful debate. However, a lot of the talk radio shows are very rude, condescending and downright offensive in the way they talk/describe people with other views. Heck, even when I happen to agree with a point they’re trying to make, it makes me want to change my mind just because I dislike their rudeness so much.

    I had a co-worker who was a lovely person and liked to listen to that sort of thing for hours on end in our shared office, which made me uncomfortable and rather angry after a while. I finally told her that the broadcasts were bugging me… and that it was mainly their argumentative tones of voice that really made me edgy. She was very gracious about it and we took turns bringing in audio books after that. We had very different tastes in fiction, but it was fun for both of us being exposed to new things.

    I don’t think the OP is out of bounds for citing “distraction” because it’s a conversation that has nothing to do with the task at hand and is likely in very energetic delivery.

  • Jenny G. August 9, 2012, 12:24 pm

    If it is distracting to you then it is perfectly reasonable that you ask for it to be turned down for the duration of your conversation.

    The idea that you would have to make the same request of all co-workers “to be fair” is ludicrous. For one thing, not all sound-based distractions are equal, even if their decibel rating is. I – and many other people – could happily have a conversation whilst music was playing, but would find loud speech difficult to “filter out”.

  • Cat August 9, 2012, 7:20 pm

    I’d give him headphones for his birthday, Christmas, or for doing me some favor.

  • nk August 9, 2012, 11:55 pm

    I have to agree with the admin here–it seems pretty intolerant to expect other people to stop listening to something when you go into *their* space, just because you personally disagree with it. It might be a different situation if this were happening in a more open, shared workspace, but it’s his office and you don’t have to be there if you don’t want to. If you really can’t bear hearing political opinions that differ from yours, it seems you could just as easily call him or email him when you need to discuss work-related issues.

  • Cat Whisperer August 10, 2012, 2:45 pm

    It’s WORK. The people involved are there because they’re paid to do a job.

    The radio is not essential for these people to do their job. It’s a “nice,” not a “need.”

    The radio is interfering with the ability of some of them to do their work effectively. Since the radio isn’t needed to get the job done, and since it’s interfering with getting the job done, the radio has to go. There is no possible argument in favor of keeping the radio on that is valid: it doesn’t matter what’s being listened to, it doesn’t matter why it’s causing the problem. It isn’t essential to the job, it’s interfering with the job getting done.

    Radio has to go.

    (And the argument that the worker who is playing it is in “his” personal office doesn’t figure. It isn’t “his” office. It’s his EMPLOYERS office. He only gets to use it because he works there.)

    I don’t understand why this is a problem. When you’re at work, work takes priority. If something someone is doing is preventing other people from getting their work done, then it has to go. End of problem.

  • KateLyon August 13, 2012, 12:57 pm

    @ Cat Whisperer, please don’t ever come and work with me because you sound UPTIGHT. The radio is interfering with the ability of some of them to do their work effectively so it has to go? LOL. I bet you’re ‘that person’ at work.

    OP, suck it up. You are lucky to to enjoy a ‘95% awesome’ workplace with such freedom. Listen to Library Diva because I agree with everything she has said.

    One last thing OP – I think you are letting this upset you much more than it should. To be honest, if objectionable talk show matter upsets you to the point that you have to ‘stand there and grit your teeth,’ I don’t understand how you have gotten through life without being in a constant state of upset. We are beaten over the head with different political, religious, etc views and opinions every day.

    Relax. I sometimes listen to certain talk shows to which I have strong opposing political views, just so I can know the enemy LOL. I think you should expose yourself to everything, even the things that offend you.

  • Kay L August 16, 2012, 2:16 pm

    I agree that the OP needs to suck it up.

    Tolerating an opposing political viewpoint for a few minutes in the background would seem to me an important adult life skill.

    And if you can’t tolerate hearing opposing political views how can you be informed?

    It really bothers me when people lambast talk radio when instead of actually listening to it, they rely on their own political gurus to tell them what was said and it usually involves a lot of spin.

    I can’t count the amount of propaganda that I have seen on cable TV from both sides. If you only watch one side, you may as well watch nothing at all.

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