I have a new software manager that sometime during the day likes listening music while working (email, etc.). I don't think this is a professional  behavior for a leadership position. I believe that some staff and team members will judge this behavior as non-professional and get a quick impression of him.

Is it a  behavior that you will tolerate? 





jib88's picture

Is the music loud? Can you hear it outside his office? If so, ask him if he can wear headphones. Listening to music seems like pretty innocuous behavior to me. For some people (and certainly in some environments), it helps to crowd out distraction and can create focus.

Putting myself in that person's shoes - If I wasn't disturbing anyone and my boss asked me not to listen to music anyway, I would probably think he was a tyrant.


GlennR's picture

Is it that you find music played in offices all the time unprofessional, or is it that you believe it's a distraction for visitors, such as you, when they go into his office?

In the first case, I have never heard that music, when played so that it does not distract others is unprofessional. Everything I have seen or read is that it improves employee morale and perhaps productivity for those who choose to listen. That's what I experience.  I play music in my office about half the time. But I check to make sure it is not detectable outside my door.

My rule, when people walk into my office, is to immediately mute the music. That's a courtesy for others and for me since it helps us focus on the conversation.

I work with people of different generations and I disagree with many things others do. But I keep my opinions to myself especially when I've seen that they're just as effective as I am.

If music does not negatively impact his or others productivity or engagement, let it go. You have other more important tasks and you will need his support.

stephenbooth_uk's picture

 Do you have any evidence that others think him listening to music as he works is unprofessional?  Is his work performance at a reasonable level?  Is he disturbing others?

Unless there was evidence it was causing issues (or it was explicitly barred by policy) I'd tolerate it, but then I'm pretty tolerant.  I'm also aware that a lot fo people use music to block out distractions (I do so myself).

Consider the MT feedback model, steps 2 and three are describe the behaviour and describe the impact.  The behaviour is obvious, he's listening to the radio and you can see it, so step 2 is covered.  But what about step 3?  What is the impact?  You think others might think he's unprofessional?  That might work if he's a High S or High I.  If he's a High-D then he's thinking at that point, "So?" If he's a High-C then he's thinking, "Prove it?"  Actually a High I at that point would probably be thinking "Dude!  Take a chill pill!  Everyone should listen to the radio.  Have you heard this song from The Pierces, it's the best ever!  Lets all sing along to it, why don't we have a kareoke night next week?"  You could ruin a good relationship (if you don't have a good relationship then perhaps that's something yiou could work on) for the sake of something that isn't really a problem.

If you can identify a negative impact then step in.  If it's a breach of policy then step in.  Otherwise keep an open mind and a relationship.


PS my view may be coloured by the fact that my (High I) current manager has the radio on all the time.



Skype: stephenbooth_uk  | DiSC: 6137

"Start with the customer and work backwards, not with the tools and work forwards" - James Womack


RaisingCain's picture

Is this one of those stories where you say you, "have this friend," but you are realty talking about you?
I stick to the basic notion that things to label unprofessional fall into the category of unfulfilled promises. When someone agrees to do something and doesn't. That's why the MT guidance on coaching, feedback, work assignment, and project management works. Someone agrees to do something by sometime.
There maybe better, and still negative, labels; but, without the "ask" and "agreement" to not listen to the radio it is not unprofessional.


BrianT's picture
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I agree with others; look at this through the framework of the Feedback Model.  If you were to deliver feedback on this behavior (playing music in his office), then what is the specific consequence?  Don't just say 'it's unprofessional,' but be specific.  E.g. is he in a cubicle, and the music disturbs other people within earshot?  Does the music contain profane or suggestive lyrics, and thereby is offensive to others?  Is the music noticeable by others during conference calls?  Etc. 

Unless there are negative consequences to the music he plays, then it's entirely a matter of your opinion that it's unprofessional.  If there are no tangible negative consequences to this behavior, then you need to ask yourself if eliminating his music makes him (and you) more, or less, effective.  

JohnG's picture

 <cite>Unless there are negative consequences to the music he plays, then it's entirely a matter of your opinion that it's unprofessional.</cite>

His main concern is that other people may believe the behaviour is unprofessional, so I'm afraid I disagree about it being entirely a matter of his opinion. If your boss, the business directors or other senior staff believe the behaviour is unprofessional then your direct, and you as well for allowing it, will be tarnished by it.

I would suggest that you discuss the matter with the direct. Be honest about your concern. If you want him to stop then ask outright, a professional may disagree about whether it is unprofessional but would stop if asked by his boss.



bacox's picture

My question would be:  Does this manager's behavior of listening to music impact the overall perception of him (The Big Picture)?  How is his performance in the duties of his position?

As others have posted here, as long as the music is not loud or offensive, then how does it affect his performance.  If his performance is questionable, it can be one more "cut" that will reduce people's impression of him.  If his performance is exceptional, I think most people would look past the music.    As managers, our direct reports performance is our main focus. 

This could be an opportunity to provide coaching on professional behavior and the impacts or perceptions of the behavior.