5 Must-Follow Rules of Cell Phone Etiquette in Business
Melissa Dothan was excited to attend a prestigious, employer-sponsored workers’ compensation lecture where a State Representative was slated as the keynote. “The meeting kicked off professionally,” she remarked, “with a facilitator introducing the speaker.”
Two minutes into the introduction, however, all professionalism was put on pause while the host answered his cell phone! One might expect an emergency call was the cause of such an interruption. Not quite, Melissa recounts. “The man stood there in front of everyone having a personal conversation with his wife.”
Five years ago, people might be outraged by this behavior, but in today’s 24/7 culture, most are jaded. Cell phone interruptions are so ubiquitous—ringing during weddings, funerals and surgical procedures—that nothing takes us by surprise.
Make no mistake, when used appropriately, cell phones are invaluable for business, especially business on the go. But poor cell phone etiquette can be irreparably damaging to reputation and business.
Five Must-Follow Rules of Cell Phone Etiquette
- Use the vibrate or silent setting.
It’s happened to you before. You’ve come to a very serious moment in a conversation when suddenly erupts a ringtone from the latest top 40 hit. Face beet red, the offender fumbles to mute the ringer before causing any further embarrassment. Sure, accidents happen, but before a meeting, good cell phone etiquette says to change your ringer setting to vibrate. Even better, always keep your phone on vibrate so that you never forget.
- Keep your phone in your pocket—not on the table.
Observe the next time you are at lunch or in the conference room. Most will set their phones on the table. I’m certainly guilty! But the message this sends to the meeting organizer or your guest is that you’re not fully present or engaged. Others complain, “It’s like a third person in the conversation who doesn’t say much, but is just there.”
- Never peak at your phone during a conversation.
It’s so tempting isn’t it? Your phone gives the split-second buzz of an incoming email message and your curiosity begs you to see what’s going on. Even a quick glance, however, to check the time or confirm who is calling, sends the message that your device is more important than your guests. If you just have to see what the buzz was all about, be sure to wait for a break in the conversation.
- Don’t take personal calls during a meeting.
This rule of cell phone etiquette should be obvious, but in light of the above story, it has to be said. Perhaps nothing is ruder than answering a call in the middle of a meeting or conversation, even if it’s just to inform the caller, “I’m in a meeting. I’ll call you right back.” Few things are more frustrating than working to get back on topic after such an offense. In the event that you are expecting a must-take call, inform your guests ahead of time, and briefly excuse yourself to take the call when it comes in.
- Avoid multi-tasking.
Benjamin Lane describes an all-too-common experience behind a cell phone etiquette offender at his local coffee shop. “In the line ahead of me, a man talked non-stop on his cell phone while the clerk waited patiently to take his order. When he received his drink, the man started screaming because his latte was all wrong. In the clerk’s defense, it was hard to take his order because she kept having to interrupt his phone conversation to get it.” Avoid multitasking by making phone calls while shopping, banking, waiting in line or conducting business.
These rules may all be summarized by a golden rule of etiquette: Always value the time and attention of those who are in front of you.
Those who keep good cell phone etiquette will be rewarded in the earned business, value and respect of their colleagues and clients.