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Meeting Manners: Keep the Phone Off and Away
Marsha Egan, CSP - Workplace Productivity Coach and E-mail Expert Marsha Egan, CSP - Workplace Productivity Coach and E-mail Expert
Reading, PA
Thursday, April 14, 2011

The meeting is going on and on. Your boss is rambling. You get the gist of the concept. You're bored. Your mind drifts. You wonder if you've got any new messages on your smartphone. Who will notice if you sneak a peek?

Your boss will. A client will. Don't do it. You could be committing career suicide.

According to an article in the New York Times, a third of 5,300 workers polled by Yahoo HotJobs admitted to frequently checking e-mail in meetings. Everyone commits this professional taboo, from businesspeople to government employees, but few companies have enacted policies on smartphone usage in meetings. It's left up to the individual to decide whether the temptation is worth the risk.

Robert Half & Associates recently conducted a study of 150 senior executives, which showed that 31 percent found it inappropriate for employees to check devices like smartphones and PDAs during meetings. And 86 percent of those polled had witnessed people engaging in this behavior. If nearly one out of three executives finds this behavior inappropriate, the odds are against you.

Every meeting you attend is an opportunity for you to showcase your abilities, or to be judged for poor participation. Advance preparation, effective participation, and especially leading the meeting well can all be career advancers. Blowing off an important meeting or showing up late can do just the opposite. Acting bored or disinterested, or checking your phone, can hurt you more than you expect.

Smartphones are no different from any other new technology—guidelines as to expectations and usage must be set. The constant access provided by these devices offers not only connection to information, but also the temptations to do things unrelated to work, like checking social networking or playing games. Having constant connectivity through smartphones can easily tempt us to become so involved in responding to messages that we may act in ways that can be career-damaging.

Here is a clear set of rules to help guide your on-the-job smartphone usage:

1) Show respect for meeting organizers and avoid annoying your colleagues by turning off your phone before the meeting starts and keeping it out of sight.

2) If you're waiting for an urgent call or e-mail, inform the meeting organizer in advance that you may have to excuse yourself for a moment to attend to an urgent matter.

3) Set the ring tone volume only as high as you absolutely need (or better yet, turn the volume off if you can), and avoid ring themes that are lengthy or annoying.

4) Do not put your phone on the table or check it in the middle of conversation—it gives the impression that the device is more important than the subject at hand.

5) When you do need to type a message, excuse yourself and find a private place to do so.

By following appropriate guidelines, smartphones have the potential to increase efficiency and productivity. But if you're not careful, abuse of constant connectivity can hurt your professional image among colleagues and clients. If you're paying attention to your phone, you attention isn't on the person speaking.

So do yourself a favor. Keep the phone out of sight and out of mind during meetings.

News Media Interview Contact
Name: Marsha Egan, CPCU, PCC
Title: CEO
Group: InboxDetox.com, a division of The Egan Group, Inc.
Dateline: Nantucket, MA United States
Cell Phone: 610-780-1640
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