Recently I’ve been hearing from supervisors about unprofessional texting among their newer employees. For example, a customer service representative was texting when a customer approached. Rather than set his phone down, he finished his message while leaving the customer waiting.
On balance it isn’t very different from the types of issues managers have always had with needing to set appropriate boundaries and state expectations for using communication tools at work. Telephone etiquette was once a common part of employee training.
In previous times, telephones, then fax machines, then email and cell phones — all have required companies to establish employee-use policies. While some are more lenient than others, almost all of them curtail personal messages on company equipment and mobile devices during work time.
An online discussion forum I follow recently spent days debating the question of whether to allow cell phones in work meetings. The responses varied widely from those who said absolutely not to those who thought smart phones were an efficient research tool to answer questions in the moment.
Nowadays, the issue has shifted to text messaging. Not only for personal use but also in terms of how it is used at work.
There’s something about the speed and brevity of texting — communicating at the speed of fingertips tapping — that make it vulnerable to mis-communication. Also, because it’s relatively quiet unlike a phone conversation, for example, it’s easy to be secretive with it in the midst of a group. Similar to cyber bullying among teenagers, text bullying has been used at work among co-workers to denigrate colleagues.
Some of the texting at work isn’t quite as dark as bullying but it is inappropriate and unprofessional. As my guest post this week on Pick-the-Brain says,some text messages contribute to misunderstandings and escalate conflict.
I hope you’ll hop over and read it there.
Meanwhile, I’d be curious to know your opinion about using smart phones during work meetings. Should they be allowed? If not, why not? If so, in what capacity? What limits, if any, would you put on their use? What problems have you encountered when expectations and guidelines haven’t been clear with regard to smart phone use at work?
Let’s get a dialogue started. Talk to me. Talk to each other. The comments section is for all of us and I do enjoy a good conversation. Don’t you?