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Blunders and Basics of Cell Phone Etiquette

September 27, 2013

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Several years ago, a little cell phone ringing in the back of the room was all it took to cause former Green Bay Packers coach, Mike Sherman, to walk out in the middle of a press conference.“It’s a total lack of respect for each other. Forget me. You don’t have to respect me, but respect each other,” said Sherman.  The media reported that some thought Sherman over-reacted, but the majority of people polled supported his actions because they are irritated with the lack of courtesy by cell phone users. Cell phone abuse is creeping into the workplace.A senior executive of a large company interrupted a training seminar I was presenting for his employees. He said, “I just need about five minutes to tell the employees how much they’re appreciated.” I’m a big supporter of employee recognition so I stepped aside and gave him the platform. He began his speech by telling the employees how important they are and thanking them for a job well done. After a few minutes, the cell phone in his pocked buzzed. He stopped talking, pulled it out and checked the display. When he returned it to his pocket, he continued his speech. A moment later, out came his phone, he checked the display again and placed it back in the pocket. Then he looked up at the group and said, “Now. Let’s see. Where was I?” He repeated this ritual with his cell phone three more times during his presentation. I looked around the room each time it occurred. The body language of the employees told the whole story. Several were angrily whispering to one another. Many were rolling their eyes and folding their arms in exasperation. Some wore expressions of stunned disbelief that this executive would choose to behave so rudely.His five-minute speech turned into a 25-minute exercise in frustration for the whole team. His actions sent a much louder message than his words. Instead of recognizing the employees, he communicated that the phone calls he was receiving were of greater value than the time he was spending with them. There are more and more complaints emerging about cell phones in the workplace. The abuses are numerous: the executive who takes a cell call in the middle of a meeting; the phones left on in cubicles that blast loud, annoying ring tones; the seminar leader who interrupts his speech to take a call on his cell; the co-worker who discusses vacation plans with her husband or yells at her son to do his homework after school.  Unlike many new technologies, even the people who love cell phones consider them a nuisance. A University of Michigan poll of 752 adults found that 6 of 10 users found public cell phone use “a major irritation.”The Society for Human Resource Management surveyed 379 human resource professionals and found that 40 percent of their companies had formal policies governing cell phone use at work.If cell phone use and abuse is creating problems in your workplace, it’s time to create and implement a set of guidelines for cell phone etiquette. These guidelines need to begin with the premise that employees are paid to work, not take personal calls. Studies reveal that the busier an individual is the less likely he or she is to take time and be interrupted by personal phone calls. Conversely, individuals with time on their hands fill the day with personal calls.6 cell phone guidelines to help you get started:

  1. Company-issued cell phones are the property of the business. Prohibiting the use of cell phones that are owned by the company for personal calls is permissible.
  2. Limit personal cell phone use to lunch hours and breaks.
  3. Personal cell phones must be turned off and stored during business hours.
  4. Do not allow ring tones of any kind.
  5. Employees who cannot be reached on a direct company line, may use their phones in case of an emergency only.
  6. Do not allow cell phone use within 30 feet of another employee, even on breaks.

Cell phones are here to stay and because they are so intrusive, their use needs to be managed in the workplace. Lack of cell phone courtesy is creating a set of problems similar to the problems caused by email. The best way to develop cell phone etiquette guidelines is to look in the mirror and ask yourself, “Am I guilty of committing the same cell phone sins that drive me crazy when others commit them?”

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