Today, over a billion people around the world view the planet as their personal phone booth. More than 11 million new mobile phone users came on line in a six-month reporting period. While mobile phones are a necessity, they could also become a career-killer, a way out the front door.
How did we ever live without them?
A CBS poll showed that eight out of ten people say mobile phones make their lives better. However, six in ten view mobile phones in public places as a major irritation. Now there’s a new twist: improper use of a mobile phone can impact your job. Nevermind that NetEffects’ clients are naturally tech savvy, or that it’s becoming more commonplace to be attached nonstop to our “Bluetooth,” or “ear buds” no matter what’s going on around us, whether it’s important business meetings or our plane landing.
In a recent column in The Sideroad on business mobile phone etiquette author Kate Zabriskie wrote: “Somehow mobile phone ownership seems to affect common sense…but poor mobile phone etiquette can ruin a career.” Her important, critical points:
Annoying or Cutesy Rings
Have mercy on the public when picking a mobile phone ring. Sexy “Ooh, baby, baby” may be funny to your friends, but it’s a credibility wrecker at the office.
“We just landed, and I’m waiting to get off the plane.” In the midst of all the benign information that follows, remember, if there is nowhere for the rest of us to go, think about whether you really need to have that conversation.
We Can Hear You
Many people talk at top volume on their mobile phone. Microphones are sensitive. The person you are calling can hear you. We don’t need to.
Taking a Call When in a Meeting
A scheduled meeting is not the time for mobile phone calls. The rings alone are intrusive; answering them is an even worse breach of etiquette. The message you send the others at the meeting is that they are less important than the disembodied voice coming through the mobile phone. Unless your intention is to make others feel insignificant (definitely not a cool move if your boss is waiting for you to get off the phone), then don’t answer, turn it off, and get it out of sight. If it’s a critical call, tell people in advance you’re expecting it, and then step outside to talk.
Are You Talking to Me?
With the invention of hands-free mobile phones and ear phones came the double-edged sword of convenience and mistaken identity. Who among us has not been taken back by the presence of another human trawling the aisles while actively engaged in what seems to be an animated discussion with himself or herself? At the risk of being mistaken for a pop singer or air traffic controller who has wandered away from work, leave the headset in the car.
Too Much Information
Discussing anything of a private nature that others within earshot might be able to hear is unwise on a number of counts. Unless you want to raise a lot of questions and eyebrows, take calls in private from those who have unpleasant, upsetting, or incriminating information.
You Have it, Use it
Voice mail and caller ID are two services that help mobile phone etiquette: caller ID lets you know who’s calling so you can determine if it’s urgent or not; and with voice mail, you don’t have to worry about a missed call. If you must take a call, ask the people with you: “Do you mind if I take a call?” They will appreciate your consideration. Finally, “short text messages” are a great way to communicate in silence (but again, not while the boss is talking!).
Too much information given over a mobile phone with others present could cost you dearly. A friend shared an experience of standing behind a woman talking on her mobile phone to a repairman who was coming to her home to do some work while she wasn’t going to be there. By the end of the call, my friend had learned the woman’s name, address, neighborhood (complete with directions on how to get there), and the location of the spare key she had left for the repairman to gain entry to her house. Had he been so inclined, he could have reached the woman’s place before the repairman and cleaned her out — or worse.
It’s best to keep your life and plans and trivialities to yourself.
(EDITOR’S NOTE: What particularly bugs you about the way some people us their mobile phone? Have a funny story about mobile phone misuse? Drop us a note at firstname.lastname@example.org. Two movie tickets to those we publish.)