Don’t Create Policy for the Exception…Example: Music in the Workplace!

Posted on July 2, 2012


After working with many companies one thing that I really don’t understand is when after a single employee does something unreasonable…ALL the employees have to suffer.

I’ve seen it with regard to attendance policies, lunch time schedules, performance metrics and theft.  One employee — who is wayward, aggressive or just doesn’t have a clue — breaks a “rule” that you assume is common sense  and you or your manager or someone else create a policy that applies to everyone and greatly constricts independent judgement, trust and potentially your culture.

Here is an example of what I’m talking about. In this article, Music in the Workplace: Motivator or Distractor? the information about the potential positive facts of letting people listen to music is clear however the article quickly deteriorates into a fearful legal warning!  For goodness sakes! Really?

What’s HR’s role: Set a music policy BEFORE you encounter problems. That way, your directive won’t appear to be retaliation against one troublemaker.

If you have one troublemaker playing music to loudly or playing offensive music — handle that one troublemaker!  How can HR help?

  • Advise the manager on how to address this issue
  • Help the manager document the conversation and expectations
  • Be present (if needed) during the discussion
  • Don’t let anyone (yourself, manager, leaders, co-workers, executives) overreact.
  • Do NOT follow this advice…”The easiest policy is to prohibit all aural media sources in the workplace or for certain jobs.”

I agree that as part of your employee handbook you can have a statement about offensive music/content being prohibited. Better yet — every day create, define and reinforce a culture that 1) shows respect for your employees, 2) gives them choices so they can bring their life preferences to the work place and 3) trusts them to use common sense and co-worker courtesy.

Sure would love to get your reactions to this article and my reaction to it…what do you think?