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Business Etiquette in the Age of the Smartphone

In the “need it yesterday” pace at which we all work, it’s important to keep business etiquette in mind. Be aware of the messages you send – not just text, e-mail, Twitter, etc. – but the messages we send to those around us. In the electronic age of smartphones and 24-hour access, we can’t forget about the people right in front of us. They expect and deserve our full attention.

You’re sitting in a meeting and it happens – that familiar buzz that lets you know that a message has just arrived. It could just be junk mail, but it could be that important email you’ve been waiting for all day. It’s OK to check it, right?

Wrong.

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Forget for just a minute about that e-mail you might be receiving. Think of the message that you’re sending to those around you in your meeting – especially the guy who thought he held the floor. Put yourself in his shoes. You’re giving a presentation that you’ve been preparing for some time and you stop, look up, and scattered throughout the room are several heads (down) engrossed in the contents of their little black box.

Insulting, isn’t it?

It’s far better to wait a few more minutes (hours, whatever) for the meeting to end to check your messages, return your calls, e-mails, etc. Another option is to excuse yourself briefly (preferably after you’ve let everyone know ahead of time that you may need to step out for a few minutes).

Today’s smartphones can be both an asset and an anchor. Sure, we keep in touch 24 hours a day and don’t have to be tied to an office or a desk. But are we sacrificing the interpersonal communication skills that have been the hallmark of successful businesses for the last half-century? Are we offending those around us by staying in touch with those in cyberspace?

In order to balance the good with the bad, we must get back in touch with our business etiquette. We must learn to integrate the new technology with the old way of doing things. A smartphone is obviously a business asset. Clients will no doubt be impressed with your prompt replies. Quick Internet searches mean never having to say, “I don’t know.” But, if used incorrectly and without regard to those around you, they can be a disadvantage. One can be perceived as rude or disinterested.

The simplest rule is the practice of self-awareness. If you’re engrossed in your handheld device, you’re not paying attention to someone giving a presentation. Be aware that when your phone buzzes, beeps, rings or chimes, you’re not the only one who hears it. Turn it off when in a meeting. Don’t look at it. Don’t answer it.

Use common sense, and be smarter than your smartphone.