Thursday, January 2, 2014

Smartphones in Meetings?

Hang it up…..

Smartphones, tablets and notebooks are ubiquitous equipment in the business world today, and in our personal worlds, as well. And along with those devices come issues and attitudes about their use, the where and when of their use. I’m sure many people have experienced that "how rude!" thought at one time or the other when confronted with a loud cell phone conversation or the intrusive "alert" tones for email, text or incoming calls.

But now, there’s more documented evidence of our attitudes about their use, at least in one venue: a study conducted by Peter W. Cardon of the USC Marshall School of Business and colleagues at Howard University reveals these attitudes and differences among men and woman, different age groups, and even different regions of the country.

Sampling more than 550 full-time working professionals, the study shows us what business professionals view as acceptable, courteous or rude use of mobile phones and other devices in the workplace. The researchers identified the most common complaints people had about smartphone use among their co-workers. These included browsing the Internet and checking/reading text and email messages. The respondents, all working professionals making at least $30,000 a year, were asked to identify which of these behaviors they considered acceptable – and which were just flat-out rude.

"Not surprisingly, millennials and younger professionals were more likely to be accepting of smartphone use, but they might be doing themselves a disservice," Cardon said. "In many situations, they rely on those older than them for their career advancement."

The study found that 76 percent of people said that looking at texts or emails was unacceptable behavior in business meetings and 87 percent of people thought answering a call during a business meeting was rarely or never acceptable.

Interestingly enough, broken down by gender, the study found that more than 59 percent of men said it was okay to check text messages at a power lunch, but only 34 percent of women said so. Along those same lines, 50 percent of men said answering a call at a power lunch was okay, compared to 26 percent of women.

Higher-income professionals had less tolerance for smartphone use in business meetings, but younger professionals were nearly three times as likely as older professionals to think sending out a message over a business lunch is appropriate – 66 percent of people under 30 said texting or emailing was okay, compared to just 20 percent of those aged 51-65.

Despite the perception that West Coasters are more laid back, these professionals were less accepting of mobile phone use in meetings than people from the East Coast.

A full 20 percent of professionals said simply having your phone out at a business lunch is rude.

Even attempting to be polite and saying "excuse me" to take a call didn’t help; over 30 percent still found it to be rarely or never appropriate during informal/offsite lunch meetings.

I believe that for many people, there are some basic tenets at play here, or possibly more accurately, not at play here.

You’re not paying attention to the matter at hand, which in this case is the business meeting, whether formal or informal. You can’t possibly have your full attention on what’s being discussed if you’re busy texting your friends, tweeting your boredom or updating your Facebook status. Your colleagues in the meeting will assume you don’t feel they, or the topic of the meeting are as important as whatever is happening on the other end of your phone. This then leads to the perception that you’re not showing the proper respect, for your colleagues, or the meeting.

I think we can all agree that smartphones and other devices can help us be more productive and they certainly can make our lives easier, but it’s time to remember there is a time and place for everything – and maybe business meetings are not the time or place for indiscriminate use of our smartphones.

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