Texting in Meetings Considered Disrespectful
Just about everyone in the office has a mobile phone. But it seems very few understand the etiquette for using it during business meetings. In the workplace, some people carry devices that are company-issued and strictly business, others use their personal phones for a balance of business and home life activities, and the rest are just making weekend plans, posting to social media sites, and texting their friends.
Mobile phones, particularly those with email capability, have changed behaviour in business meetings forever. The supplier of office business products and technology, Staples Advantage Canada, got a bit curious about how their clients – largely office workers – feel about these changes and surveyed them about mobile phone use during meetings.
The majority of survey respondents (59 per cent) indicated that they do not even bring their phones with them to meetings. Only 17 per cent said that their company actually bans the use of mobile phones during meetings.
Thirty-nine per cent said using your phone in meetings is frowned upon but the rule is not enforced, and 43 per cent said no ban exists in their companies.
But how do people really feel about watching others reading and sending messages during meetings?
About 60 per cent of survey respondents indicated that they believe texting or answering emails during a business meeting is disrespectful. Only two per cent said no, it’s not disrespectful. Others (39 per cent) prefer to judge based on the role of the person, choosing “It depends on his or her job requirements.”
Luc Marotte, the vice president of information technology at Staples Advantage, says he believes the issue is not really about the technology available to us, or what that technology can do, rather it’s about human beings and how they choose to interact with each other.
“It’s just manners,” he says. “In our company, as in most workplaces, we expect everyone to treat everyone else with respect. We assume people will operate with common sense and common courtesy, so all we have to do is take those basic principles and apply them to cell phone use.”
After hearing about the results of this survey, Marotte asked people around his own workplace to share their ideas for etiquette dos and don’ts related to using mobile phones in meetings. Here’s their list:
• Do turn off your device or choose silent mode. At the very least, choose vibrate, but realize that vibrating phones can be just as disruptive as full-volume ringing ones.
• Do inform the other person or group at the beginning of the meeting if you are expecting a call or message that is very urgent and cannot wait. Apologize for any disruption that may occur. If the call or message comes in, leave, deal with it, and return as quickly as possible.
• Do change your mobile phone voice mail to tell callers when you are busy in meetings and when you’ll be free.
• Don’t discuss sensitive business or personal topics in front of anyone.
• Don’t choose a ring tone that tells others a bit too much about your personal life.
• Don’t place your phone out on the table in front of you.
“It’s up to each one of us to make smart choices,” Marotte says. “We all have the opportunity to make or break relationships. Your behaviour, whether interacting with your coworkers or with customers, matters a great deal. Polite handling of your phone shows others you care. Impolite use can have serious consequences in business.”
More information is available online at www.staplesadvantage.ca.
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