** Editor’s note: This new series features answers to the most commonly asked workplace etiquette questions.
With the persistence of technology in our everyday lives, what can we do about the person who constantly checks their phone during conversations, meetings, etc?
Sadly, we are becoming addicted to our cell phones. These new devices, like any good addiction, satisfy a deep-seated need to be as aware of our surroundings – no matter how far they may stretch. Instant gratification is a human craving; delaying gratification is a skill.
Today people feel that they live in a time-starved world, and that knowing everything as immediately as possible will give us an advantage. It’s a bit of a scramble however because it’s still a new toy and not everyone plays with it in the same way.
Throughout this settling process, some people will exhibit rude behavior because their new addiction has gotten the better of them. This predicament is not one into which we have been reasoned, but rather we are simply reacting as any human might to something new and exciting. As a result, it is unlikely that a subtle approach to correcting this behavior will work.
My advice is to make a policy in the office, or before any meeting, that cell phones must be turned off or set to vibrate if one is expecting an urgent call. If the offender’s rude habit creeps into use during private conversation, let the offender know how this interruption makes you feel. Nothing could be more disrespectful than an interruption of this sort and people cannot be allowed to continue with it. This is nothing more than common sense – something that has become all too uncommon!
The good news is that old dogs can learn new tricks – even if the new trick is returning to traditional respectful behavior.