What's Your Problem?

Q. I work in a small team of six and two of my colleagues are plugged into their iPods all day long. I find this not only rude, but a hassle because I have to keep tapping them on the shoulder to get their attention. Our manager has her own office so just sends them e-mails and seems unfazed by their behaviour. What should I do?

by Jeremy Bullmore
Last Updated: 31 Aug 2010

A. You may find those iPod addicts infuriating. In turn, they probably don't appreciate the sight of your disapproving face every time you tap them impatiently on the shoulder. I'm not taking sides here; just observing that apparent, if understandable, bossiness can cement thoughtless people in their habits rather than persuade them to change.

You need to depersonalise this problem. There are six of you in this team so there must be another three people who find the iPodders almost as irritating as you do.

Do a gentle e-mail to the offending two, signed by all four of you, couched as wittily as you know how, pointing out that you hate having to attract their attention but can't think of how to avoid it. So suggest an iPod-free 10 minutes - on the hour, every hour. The very fact of suggesting it should be enough.

- Jeremy Bullmore is a former creative director and chairman of J Walter Thompson London. His book Another Bad Day at the Office? is published by Penguin at £6.99. Address your problem to Jeremy Bullmore at: editorial@managementtoday.com. Regrettably, no correspondence can be entered into.

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