Why it’s a bad idea to bring smartphones into meetings

Are you one of those people who check their phone for text messages or emails during business meetings?

Are you one of those people who check their phone for text messages or emails during business meetings?

Well, according to new research, you are probably annoying your boss and colleagues. Interestingly, the research by the University of Southern California’s Marshall School of Business in the US indicates that older professionals and those with higher incomes are far more likely to think it is inappropriate to be checking text messages or emails during meetings of any kind.

Researchers surveyed 554 full-time working professionals who earn more than $30,000 in income and are employed by companies with at least 50 employees. They asked survey participants about the use of smartphones in formal and informal meetings to uncover attitudes about answering calls, writing or reading emails or text messages, browsing the internet, and other mobile phone related behaviours. The survey’s key findings include:

• 86 per cent think it’s inappropriate to answer phone calls during formal meetings.

• 84 per cent think it’s inappropriate to write texts or emails during formal meetings.

• 75 per cent think it’s inappropriate to read texts or emails during formal meetings.

• 66 per cent think it’s inappropriate to write texts or emails during any meetings

• At least 22 per cent think it’s inappropriate to use phones during any meetings.

The findings didn’t surprise many HR managers and coaches.

“In my work with executives, ‘smartphone or tablet use in meetings’ is one of the most frequent comments for the ‘behaviours to stop doing’ category,” said Roger Lipson, an executive coach and founder of The Lipson Group.

Why do so many people, especially the more successful people, find smartphone use in meetings to be inappropriate? It’s because when you access your phone it shows:

Lack of respect. You consider the information on your phone to be more important than the conversation in the meeting; you view people outside of the meeting to be more important than those sitting right in front of you.

Lack of attention. You are unable to stay focused on one item at a time; the ability to multitask is a myth.

Lack of listening. You aren’t demonstrating the attention and thinking that is required of truly activelistening.

Lack of power. You are like a dog that responds to the beck and call of others through the buzz of your phone.

As expected, opinions on cell phone usage vary greatly by age. Millennials were three times more likely than those over age 40 to think that checking text messages and emails during informal meetings was okay. However, unlike other Millennial traits, this difference is one that could influence young professionals’ careers as they are typically reliant on their more senior, and older for career advancement.

As with any communication, it is important to be open and transparent with what is expected in the workplace.

Experts advise firms to have clear guidelines on the issue to make sure everybody knows is expected of them.

“One of my clients said he put a wicker basket at the entrance to his main conference room, along with a sign. The sign had a picture of a smartphone with the message, ‘Leave your guns at the door’,” Lipson narrated.

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