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Who’s going to win: Millenials vs Managers vs Headphones

This month’s millennial management question: Why are my millennial employees always wearing headphones at work?

This is a common question we get a lot, both from managers who feel ignored by their earbud-wearing young employees and by millennial professionals who don’t understand why headphones are a problem. Whichever side of the debate you’re on, it’s helpful to step into the shoes (ear canals?) of both perspectives.


Let’s face it, offices can be distracting. Noise — in the form of overheard phone calls, coughing colleagues, ringing cell phones or nearby construction — is a real problem, especially in modern open office layouts. One study from Oxford Economics found that “the ability to focus and work without interruptions” was a top office concern for two-thirds of respondents of all generations. Realize that for a millennial, popping in earbuds serves much the same purpose as you closing your door (if you’re one of the few who still has one).

Some studies indicate music can help workers concentrate, especially on repetitive tasks. Whether you buy the evidence or not, many millennials truly believe that music helps them work better. This is, in fact, the top reason younger workers tell me they wear headphones: because it helps them to be more focused and productive.

Background music is literally the soundtrack of millennials’ lives: In fact, a recent study found that millennials listen to 75 percent more music on a daily basis than boomers. While people of all generations love music, those of us in previous generations didn’t have access to personal headsets until we were much older. (The Sony Walkman wasn’t invented until 1979.)

Okay, so millennials can make a good argument for why they listen to music at work. What if it still bothers you?

As always, it is perfectly okay for you to set boundaries and let your employees know you’d prefer they not wear headphones at certain times; say, when clients are around or when you’re working on a team project with a lot of conversations happening all the time. The important thing is to explain why you want your employee to be earbud-free. For instance, you might say, “When you’re editing a spreadsheet or working on data entry, it’s totally fine to listen to music. But today while we’re working on this sales deck I really need us all to be available to each other.”

It’s also recommended reminding younger professionals that availability is an opportunity. If you are a boss and want to brainstorm with someone on a new marketing idea, who are you going to ask to join — the person who is available and attentive or the one who is lost in her music?

Finally, make sure you aren’t promoting the loner norm by closeting yourself in your own office. If you aren’t walking around and interacting with your team, there’s little incentive for them to take those earbuds out and participate in the ambient office action.


If you are the one craving music at work, here are some tips to keep in mind:

  • Keep your music at a volume where you can still hear what’s going on around you, and where others can’t hear your music.
  • Let your manager know when you’re putting on your music and share why: “I really need to concentrate on this spreadsheet, and the earbuds help me tune out distractions. Is there anything I can do for you first?”
  • Devise a signal that your team can use so they’re not shouting at you to get your attention. Maybe they’ll knock on the desk in front of you or wave their arms. Make sure that you look up every now and then to be aware of what’s going on around you; you can have your music on and still be responsive.
  • Watch the lyrics in your music. Yes, everyone in the office is an adult, but there are still some lyrics that might be offensive to some, and you wouldn’t want to lift out your earbuds and have your supervisor hear a slew of obscenities.
  • Only use headphones when you really need to for concentration. A lot of learning happens when you’re just listening to overheard conversations and the buzz around the office. Being on high alert also allows you to know if there’s a situation where you could jump in to help.
  • Remember that even though having earbuds in constantly is normal to your generation, to others it signals that you are not involved or are tuned out — not the message you want to send your supervisor. If you’re always in your own world, it can be hard to build the working relationships that occur naturally just from the small talk as someone walks by.

This article originally published by Lindsey Pollak..


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5 Business Books That Should Be On Your Holiday List

One of the best parts about the Holiday season is all that free time you have to curl up on your couch with a good book. On the other hand, one of the least fun parts (or at least, to some people!) is having to find ideas of gifts for all your friends, family, and your acquaintances.

In this blog, we want to help with you both instances: here are 5 business books that should be on your holiday list.

1. The Culture Code: The Secrets Of Highly Successful Groups, by Daniel Coyle

A business is not just its leader – it’s an entire group of people, all working together towards a common goal. Or at least, that’s how it should be.

But how do you get a group of people to fight towards the same objectives? How do you build (and sustain) a great culture for your company and your own group of people? And how do you become a great leader or manager?

Coyle starts his book, The Culture Code, with a simple example of an experiment between 2 groups: kids in kindergarten and college students. Each group had to work towards a common goal: build the highest tower using straws and marshmallows.

2. Moneyland: Why Thieves And Crooks Now Rule The World And How To Take It Back, by Oliver Bullough

Named The Sunday Times Business Book of The Year, Moneyland is a must-read not only for business people but for anyone interested in making sense of a very foreign world: the kleptocrats, tax havens, shell corporations, extreme corruption and so on.

Oliver Bullough looks at numerous countries all over the world, both those who shelter the corrupt and those who facilitate their corruptness, from Ukraine to the United Kingdom and from Russia to the US.

The book is highly readable, thoroughly researched, thought-provoking and somehow both scary and humorous at the same time. Read it to find out how the rich and powerful are able to skirt through laws and regulations and why there is so much corruption even in the biggest Western countries.

3. Crushing It!: How Great Entrepreneurs Build Their Business And Influence – And How You Can Too, by Gary Vaynerchuck

Following up on his book, Crush It!, published back in 2009, Gary Vee is back with a new and updated version: Crushing it!

Whether you read the first one or not, Crushing It! still makes for wonderful reading for aspiring (and existing) entrepreneurs, as there are quite a few changes and updates made in the current book.

To start with, he begins by sharing stories and case studies from some of the entrepreneurs who have read Crush It! and have successfully implemented the strategies and principles they learned from the book.

These stories are not only very engrossing but they also provide their own bits of useful advice. And following them, Gary quickly takes us through the basic principles that were outlined in his previous book, principles aimed to help entrepreneurs find their own groove to achieve success.

4. The Book Of Mistakes: 9 Secrets To Creating A Successful Future, by Skip Prichard

What if success isn’t due to what you do but rather what you don’t do?

This is the basis of Skip Prichard’s Book of Mistakes, a very interesting book that actually uses fiction to motivate people and teach them important lessons about success – and achieving it.

Prichard introduces David, a man who feels disheartened with the world and what he’s achieved so far, even though in theory, he has everything he needs – a job, a place to live and good friends.

But as he meets a beautiful and mysterious woman, his life starts to change; during his journey, he meets 9 people who have achieved the success they wanted. Each of these 9 people has managed to achieve this success and fulfillment because they realized they were making a specific mistake that was keeping them from achieving their goals.

This book is quite different from the norm so it’s definitely not for everyone; however, if you’re not a fan of reading non-fiction but want to learn how you can grow and achieve success, then it’s definitely worth a read.

5. Bad Blood: Secrets And Lies In A Silicon Valley Startup, by John Carreyrou

Remember Theranos? Well, if you don’t know about, you’re certainly in for a treat. And if you do know about, Bad Blood will help you understand what exactly happened with the multibillion-dollar biotech startup…that didn’t actually have a product to sell.

Back in 2014, Theranos’s founder and CEO, Elizabeth Holmes, was largely seen as the ‘female Steve Jobs’ and an entrepreneur who had the potential to ‘revolutionize the medical industry’.

The product they sold – a machine that would completely change blood testing and make it easier and faster than ever – attracted a lot of attention from some of the biggest and most popular investors in the world. At the height of its ‘success’, the company was worth an estimated $9 billion, while the CEO herself at $4.7 billion. But the promised technology didn’t exactly work – so how did they make it this far? How did they attract all of this investment, so quickly? What exactly happened and how did this scam get this far?

John Carreyrou, the journalist who actually broke the story initially (and it was certainly not easy to do so, considering the immense pressure from the company), wrote a very insightful book about the subject, detailing the full story of this incredible $9 billion scam. This is not just a business book but a true crime story as well, one fit for the big screens.


There have been some truly amazing business books coming out this year and December is the perfect time to dig in.

Many of the books in this list are perfect not just for entrepreneurs, managers and business people in general, but for anyone who loves a good real-life story.

Have you read any of the books in this list and if so, what did you love (or hate) about them? What other great business books have come out this year that you’ve read?

Source: Forbes.

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