Are Smartphones Killing Common Courtesy?

Shawnee Love   •
April 18, 2019

Would you jump off a bridge, just because all your friends were doing it?

When I was a kid, my parents asked me that question each time I had done something to be cool. Even at 15, I knew the correct answer to that question is a definitive “NO!”

Pan forward a lot of years, and that question ran through my mind while reflecting on the mobile-device-inundated world we live in. It seems to me the rule of critical mass applies because with everyone doing it, “IT” might just be okay.

Then again, maybe not!

It is not okay to talk on your cell in a restroom.  Nor in a movie theatre! (They make that pretty clear.) In both cases, you will know you are in the wrong by the dirty looks and outraged gasps.

There is no doubt that the explosion of smartphones means increased convenience, safety, and efficiency for their owners.  However, smartphones have seemingly spawned a decrease in what has been affectionately known as common courtesy.  Interestingly, because so many are less courteous, few seem to feel guilty about it. (I wish I knew this argument when I was 15!)

When common courtesy goes missing in your workplace, you have every right (and dare I say responsibility) to have a chat with your employees about it.  Here are the top cell phone discourtesies we handle most:

  • Looking at / scrolling on their phone while someone else is talking (i.e., in a group meeting, training session, or worst of all one-on-one),
  • Leaving the volume on so you can hear a whistle, chirp, or burp with each keyboard click or message transmission,
  • Taking pictures of people or their property without permission,
  • Posting pics or recordings without approval or appropriate credit (#companyproperty),
  • Using their speakerphone when no one else needs to be part of the conversation,
  • Making personal calls or texts while they should be working (also known as Time Theft!), and
  • Answering a call and/or having a conversation while customers or colleagues wait.

If your employees are doing these things, it might be because they are rude or following the herd, but it might also be because they don’t know they are being disrespectful. Increasingly, it is up to employers to teach what used to be thought of as common sense.

With that in mind, it is basic cell phone etiquette to:

  1. Pay attention to whomever is speaking
  2. Use silent mode
  3. Ask for permission for taking pics, making recordings and most especially for posting and sharing
  4. Give credit where credit is due
  5. Protect the privacy of those you are communicating with
  6. Focus on work while at work
  7. Respect others’ time and personal space.

We hope this list helps you bring common sense back into fashion when it comes to cellphones at work.