Is it possible to bring your whole self to work?

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Gimme some beats

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SCENARIO 1: Only Jake doesn’t like heavy metal music while all the other employees are fine it.

Reaction 1.1: Peer pressure could cause Jake to bottle up his emotions and suffer in silence.
Reaction 1.2: Jake approaches Amy and requests her to use headphones. Amy understands his feelings and complies.
Reaction 1.3: Jake approaches Amy and requests her to use headphones. Amy asks Jake to shift to the farthest location so the music would be less intrusive for him. Amy feels there is no fault in playing her preferred music. It allows her to work well and bring her entire self to work. And everyone except Jake likes it.

SCENARIO 2: Except Amy, everyone on the team hates heavy metal music.

Reaction 2.1: All the team members gang up and express their displeasure to Amy. Peer pressure could cause Amy to bottle up her emotions and suffer in silence. Out goes the bass, in goes the headphones.
Reaction 2.2: Amy feels threatened and not valued in her organisation. She decides to quit the job and find her tribe.

SCENARIO 3: Jake and some of the colleagues dislike heavy metal music, while Amy and a bunch of folks love it.

Reaction 3.1: Jake & Gang confront Amy & Gang and demand music be turned off. Imaginary pistols are whipped out and heated words are exchanged.
Reaction 3.2: Jake & Gang demand a sound-proof chamber to work in peace.

If you were the manager of the team, what would you do in this scenario?

Gunning for that corner office doesn’t sound so exciting now, does it! Jokes apart such situations do arise in real-life. I have been in a similar situation. In a previous workplace of mine, some folks liked to play music on their speakers. If one soundtrack is disturbing, two is double-trouble. We implemented a policy of no music on speakers.

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Was this policy fair to all employees?

Not necessarily. But this was the best available solution.

So coming back to the original question — can everyone bring their whole self to work?

Not always.

  • walking on egg-shells around each other or
  • trying to please everyone (fyi — it’s not possible) or
  • being passive-aggressive or
  • ignorning genuine needs
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UX Research & Strategy, Writer, Voracious Reader