Technological advances can be a good thing – when used appropriately. Unfortunately, society has become obsessed with gadgets and tends to disregard how our actions affect those around us. Miss Manners would not approve. Etiquette is to treat people with consideration and respect.
Do you answer your cell phone during lunch with colleagues? When you approach a co-worker with a question, do you interrupt your co-worker’s response to answer your cell phone? Do you dial out on speakerphone and, sometimes, miss your call being answered because either you were distracted or there was too much noise? When you miss a call, are you one to quickly hit the redial button before listening to the caller’s voicemail?
Although many of us would deny doing these things, take a look around. This happens every day and it’s just plain rude. Technology should not trump manners. Just as we say “please” and “thank you”, there are rules of conduct we should follow when using such devices.
Speakerphones. Speakerphones should be used in a private office with the door closed, so as not to disturb co-workers. Keep in mind that speakerphones pick up noise and can make hearing difficult. Use a headset if you like to be hands-free, but be cautious of multitasking while on the call, as it may take away attention from your call.
Do not answer or make calls on speakerphone. Ask if it’s all right to put the caller on speaker. Make sure you let the person know if someone else is in the room and remember to introduce that person to the caller.
Cell Phones. When in a professional setting, turn the ringer off. Not only is it very disruptive to others, but some ring tones are quite obnoxious. Have you ever had your cell phone ring during a meeting that your boss is conducting? Or, how about at a conference in a room of 300 people and the speaker is interrupted by the ring? While we admit this is discourteous to the speaker, it begs the question: Why do we continue to do it? How would you feel if you were speaking in front of a group of people and they didn’t care enough to turn their ringers off?
Resist the temptation to bring your cell phone to meetings. If you decide to bring it, and should your phone vibrate or you are notified of text messages, don’t respond until after the meeting has concluded. This is not the time to check e-mail, sports scores, etc. – even if you are checking it “under the table”. Keep your attention on the speaker.
When you are conversing with someone in-person, don’t interrupt the conversation to take a call, check e-mail or text. By doing so, you have just told that person how unimportant they are, not to mention how rude it is.
As an HR professional, I would also recommend leaving your phone in your vehicle during job interviews. Receiving calls during interviews does not give a good impression to the interviewer. Keep in mind that, even if your phone is on vibrate, it still sounds off and is recognized as an incoming call. Furthermore, should you fail to pay heed by leaving your phone in your vehicle, don’t answer the call during the interview. If you decide that your call is more important than landing that job, you may just as well grab your phone and leave.
Another place where cell phones should never be answered is in the restroom. There is no exception to this! Aside from hygiene concerns, realize that the person on the other end can hear “bathroom noises”. If you were on the other end, would you want to hear that?
The best place to make cell phone calls is in a private area. If you are with a group of people and need to call someone, step away to make that call. This holds true if you are in a restaurant, even if you are dining alone. It’s disruptive to other diners to hear people talking on their cell phones as, for some reason, people feel the need to talk louder when using cell phones and the voice carries throughout the restaurant.
Don’t be so quick to hit the redial button when you’ve missed a call. Most people have voicemail, asking callers to leave a message. When a caller reaches your voicemail request and takes the time to leave a message, show the caller respect and take a moment to listen to the message. Quite often, it may not require a return call or it may give specific instructions for a return call (best time or phone number to be reached, etc.). From personal experience, when I leave voicemail at work, I leave the main number so I can be paged if I’m away from my desk. Too many times to count, the person returning my call will hit the redial button and dial directly to my phone. And so begins the saga of “telephone tag”.
What phone etiquette boils down to is be mindful of how your actions affect others. Put yourself in other people’s shoes. Ask yourself how you would feel if, for example, someone interrupted your conversation to read a text message. Doesn’t feel very good, does it?