I was interviewed recently about the use of cell phones in business settings. While Iím not an expert on business etiquette, Iíve discussed the subject with colleaguesó usually when we are sitting in a restaurant and hear a cell phone ringing or a loud cell conversation three tables over. Why not share your thoughts with your own colleagues and see what they think is good cellular behavior?
Here is a sample of our interview:
What are the most common mistakes people make regarding using cell phones in the business world?
When you are with a business associate, your phone should be off. Because cell phones are so accessible, itís easy to make the mistake of thinking itís different than the phone on your desk. If someone were sitting in your cubicle or office and your phone rang, your visitor would be insulted if you picked up the phone and started a conversation. I often hear employees complain about this bad behavior on the part of their manager. They tell me, ďItís obvious my boss thinks the person on the phone is more important than I am.Ē
I think the same message is conveyed when you make or receive cell calls when you are with another person.
Is it okay to take important phone calls on a cell phone, or should we leave that to a landline?
Itís unrealistic to think people will always use a landline for important calls. Too many people are out of the office for much of the day. However, I think it is good business practice to schedule important calls for times you are in the office. When youíre on a cell phone, you often canít take notes, there may be static or a dead zone and most important, you usually canít give the call your full attention.
What is an appropriate place to take a cell phone call? What about driving?
Driving while on a cell phone is risky and in some states itís illegal. If you must take an important call while driving, pull over and focus on what the person is saying. In addition, weíve all read the statistics that measure your lack of attentiveness behind the wheel when youíre deep in conversation.
What about playing golf?
Yikes! My golf buddies would never put up with it. Golf is a game that takes concentration and a ringing phone or business phone conference is sure to disrupt the flow and pace of the game. Even if your golfing pals say nothing, they will think, ďGee canít this person even forget about business for a few hours?Ē
And if you are in a restaurant, airport or other public place, find a hallway or foyer to have your discussion. And why do people bellow into their cell phones? Carrying on too loudly about an important deal, stock trades or other dealings in a crowded public place makes you look inconsiderate and self-important.
What about during a business lunch? What is proper etiquette?
Not only is it annoying to nearby patrons to hear a phone ringing, it is even more annoying when you are sitting with someone who is talking with someone else. I remember an evening when my dining companion spent 50 percent of her time on her cell phone conducting business. After the second phone call I was wondering why I had given up my time to have dinner with this person, when it was obvious her work was more important than I was.
If you have forgotten to turn off your phone and it begins to ring, simply shut it off quickly.
What if he or she canít turn it off because the call is so important?
A family situation or work crisis would be a reasonable reason to leave your phone on during a lunch. However, the phone should be set to vibrate and as soon as you arrive the situation should be discussed and permission requested to take the emergency call. If the call comes, excuse yourself and find a private spot to talk and keep it shortóand quiet.
What if your business colleague is using his cell phone during lunch? Does it change the rules?
If your business colleague has bad manners, itís no reason you should. If you have lunch together but spend part of the time talking to other people, why bother?
What about checking e-mail when youíre on a business lunch or in a meeting?
It tells people you donít want to be there or youíre bored. Itís bad form in either case.
Is it appropriate to make business negotiations using text messaging?
Itís risky. Youíre too limited and nuance and tone are important. If it is something you are negotiating for, the outcome is important to you. Why use a limited form of communication?
Joan Lloyd has a solid track record of excellent results. Her firm, Joan Lloyd & Associates, specializes in leadership development, organizational change and teambuilding. This includes executive coaching, 360-degree feedback processes, customized leadership training, conflict resolution between teams or individuals, internal consulting skills training for HR professionals and retreat facilitation. Clients report results such as: behavior change in leaders, improved team performance and a more committed workforce.
About Joan Lloyd