Workplace Culture

5 Essential Smartphone Behaviours

“I am so ticked off; he must have texted or checked his phone a dozen times during our meeting!”

Is this type of behaviour rude or is it an efficient use of your business time? Does the risk of incivility outweigh our need to be accessible and instantly responsive to a lot of people? The debate rages today.

When we use our smartphone and how we use it can make us more efficient – but if we use it improperly it can also endanger our business career.

But how we use our phones is not the only danger. What we say and where we say it carries its own set of risks.

Let’s look at five tips to help you navigate the fast-moving waters of smartphone behaviour.

1. What should I do with my device when meeting with people in person?

Business cellphone decorum varies, so it is important to assess what is acceptable with your specific colleagues and in your particular corporate culture. In some workplaces it may be fine if you multi-communicate when you are with co-workers but not when you are with your manager.

You also need to think about the impression you are making on those you are meeting face to face. If you’re in doubt, turn it off and put it away.

A smartphone on the desk or table between you is both an emotional and physical barrier. Like a handshake or our body language, we can signal the importance of our meeting with the other person by putting our phones away.

If you are expecting a critical call or message, let those you are meeting with know beforehand that you may need to take a call or respond to a text.

2. How do I handle others on their phones while leading a meeting?

Unfortunately, sometimes people can be sidetracked by their devices in a meeting and text, talk or check their Twitter feed. While it is a distraction for the user it also has an impact on others. It’s often not just disrespectful to the speaker but also to every other person in the room.

When leading a meeting how do you handle it?

  • You can try to ignore the person and hope others on the team or in the audience will take care of the matter.
  • Quite commonly, the person themselves may be so distracted they don’t realize they’re being rude. If you are able to make eye contact with them you can signal your annoyance.
  • Another option is to gesture to someone sitting next to them to get the person to stop.
  • If you are standing or walking while you are speaking you can also position yourself beside the person and continue talking.
  • If the user is a superior you could pause as a silent signal that you will wait for them to rejoin the meeting.
  • If all else fails, you could have a positive confrontation with the person, tell them that you and others are distracted by their behaviour and ask them to either focus back in to the meeting or take their device outside.
  • Another successful technique used by many organizations is to develop and communicate a “no device” policy or practice for meetings; that way everyone knows the expectations beforehand.
3. Should I text, email or call?

Another quandary we face in this ever-changing world is determining when we should text, email or call someone.

It is again wise to determine what your corporate culture and colleagues say about the business use of texting. Does everyone use texting? Can everyone receive texts? Are they able to receive photos and attachments? Do they want to communicate by text?

You also need to think about whether or not you can clearly communicate your message in the way you want it interpreted. A good rule of thumb is to not use texting to communicate any message with an emotional content that is sad, embarrassing or should be private.

Emailing is a great way to communicate a message to a large number of people and is an efficient way to create a record of discussions and answer questions. Again, stay away from emotional topics that should be addressed either face to face or in a call.

Above all else, avoid engaging in conflicts via email. If you get included in what appears to be an ongoing email conflict between others, do not engage, and instead suggest a meeting to resolve the issue.

Issues with emotional content or matters that need a quick response should trigger a phone call. If you need someone’s attention or information within thirty minutes then it is time to make that call.

4. What am I really saying in my emails?

Emails give others an impression of who you are, so you need to be conscious of how and what you write in an email.

If it is the first contact you’re having with someone it should be as formal as it would be in a letter. Include a salutation such as “Dear (name)” and close with “Sincerely, (your name)”.

Keep your messages short, direct and focused. Use numbering or bullet points and allow space between your paragraphs and points. Indicate that the person can respond with their answer beside each of your questions or points.

Be sure to include a clear subject line which allows others to quickly find your email amongst all their other email chatter.

And remember to proofread your message before you hit “Send”.

5. Response speed and how we communicate

In this age of messaging flux, we must consider how many messages we send and receive a day, our ability to respond and what our response speed means. Understanding and setting expectations with others in this realm is important.

For example:

If you want a response from me in…

  • …30 minutes, you should call me.
  • …two hours, you should text me.
  • …a day or later, email me.

Everyone assigns different meanings to how quickly someone responds to a text or message so we need to be clear on how we feel and find out how they feel.

So, these are our tips. Everyone good? Please comment or email your thoughts or suggestions.


George Anderson

Trainer, ACHIEVE Centre for Learning

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