DEAR READERS: I'm marking my 10-year anniversary of writing the "Ask Amy" column by rerunning some of my favorite Q-and-A's from a decade of advice.
DEAR AMY: I really like my job, which requires a lot of concentration. The problem at my workplace is the music. It is driving me absolutely bonkers. The music is loud and distracting. No one else seems to notice that the same music is played day after day after day. I actually think office workers would produce higher-quality work and make fewer mistakes if we worked in a quieter atmosphere. It's really hard trying to manipulate a spreadsheet with Madonna singing "Borderline" for the millionth time. I have asked to have the music turned down, which they did for a while, but then nobody talked to me. Then the group I work with complained, and the music was turned up loud again. I want to get along with everyone, but the music is driving me nuts.
DEAR TIRED: Speaking as someone who can have Barry Manilow's "Mandy" in my head for days just because I heard 10 seconds of it on the elevator, I feel your pain. Distracting music can affect productivity and in general make people pretty miserable.
Please contact HR -- not your department head -- and have a meeting about this. Also consider the following options in the short run: See if the music can be played during certain blocks of the day, leaving at least some hours music-free. See if the speakers can be "regionalized" so the music isn't pounding directly over your desk. Along those lines, explore if your cubicle can be moved to a quieter location.
Lastly you could do what I've been tempted to try when noise in the newsroom gets to be too much -- really gigantic headphones, of the sort that workers on airport tarmacs wear. (2003)