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Cell Phone Business Etiquette -- Avoid Meeting & Workplace Faux Pas

Categories: Workplace Etiquette

cell-phone-etiquette-steve-straussDo you enjoy hearing the intimate details of complete strangers’ lives while you’re shopping, waiting for a movie to start, eating out, or simply walking down the street enjoying the spring weather?

I sure don’t. And it fascinates me that the same people who would never tell you these details don’t seem to care how loudly they’re speaking while on their so-called smart phones. Doesn't sound too intelligent to me. They don’t seem to care who’s listening or whether or not they’re annoying other people. Of course, the worse the connection, the louder they have to speak.

I do enjoy the convenience of being connected wherever I go, so I suppose we have to take the good with the bad. But what happens when we get so used to shouting into our cell phones about anything and everything that we lose all sense of appropriateness, even in business situations?

A national survey conducted earlier this year by the USC Annenberg Center for the Digital Future and Bovitz Inc. shows that what we consider bad cell phone manners (use during meals, at meetings, etc.) often relates to our age.

Overall, much higher percentages of Millennials (Generation Y-ers) compared to those over 30 think that mobile devices are appropriate at a meal, during a meeting, or in class -- regardless of what type of cell phone they own. Those with jobs who were surveyed reported high levels of disapproval for mobile device use during meetings. When asked about sending e-mail on a mobile device during a meeting, only 54 percent of respondents ages 18-24 said it was inappropriate, compared to ages 25-34 (68 percent), ages 35-44 (73 percent), ages 45-54 (89 percent), ages 55+ (89 percent). Interestingly, the tolerance of those surveyed changed when ownership of different types of mobile devices is considered, regardless of age. For example, while 11 percent of basic cell phone owners said it was appropriate to text during a meeting, 25 percent of smartphone owners said it was appropriate.

You can see the full survey results here.

This survey's results certainly provides food for thought if you're in the younger group of respondents. Think about it -- how likely is it that your manager or other higher ups are in the older demographic, and consider your cell phone behavior to be out of line and disruptive to business?

Along with the rise in popularity of cell phone have come some pretty inconsiderate and annoying behaviors on the part of their users -— behaviors that can become career-limiting moves.

Have you ever been in a meeting with someone who kept getting calls and answering them. The first time they say, “Sorry, I have to take this call,” it sounds like it might be important, but after that it just starts to seem self-indulgent, rude, and self-important.

Who would have thought that new technologies might require new rules of etiquette? They don’t really, they simply require thoughtfulness and common sense!

But in case that’s lacking, here are six necessary and long overdue cell phone etiquette reminders:

  1. If your company has a requirement for cell phones to be turned off during working hours, do it. This is a perfectly legitimate and valid request. Once upon a time, we didn’t all get calls and texts all day while we were working, and we all survived perfectly well. Even if your company doesn’t have that requirement, turn down the ringer or switch it to vibrate. That Lady Gaga track you’re using for a ringtone might turn you on, but if it drives everyone around you crazy, you are not doing your career any favors.
  2. If you must speak on your cell in public or on the job, keep your voice down. We don’t want -- or need -- to know!
  3. Don’t give out your personal information, or any information about your company or your clients while talking on your cell. This technology is not yet foolproof; signals can get crossed and strangers may hear things you don’t need them hearing.
  4. If you use your cell for business, and leave messages, don’t assume the recipient got the message. Many people complain of missing, garbled or inaudible messages on their cells (not to mention their land lines when the caller used a cell). Call back, or send an e-mail.
  5. Don’t call business contacts on their cell -— unless they’ve asked you to, or it’s the only number you have.
  6. Never text or tweet from your phone during meetings or presentations, unless specifically asked to do so. This is no different from side-talking, it’s just as rude.

As career-limiting moves go, poor cell-phone etiquette is just one of the many offenders. Read more in my book, Help! Was That a Career-Limiting Move?

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