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Professional Cell Phone Etiquette


The invention of the cell phone has undoubtedly been both a blessing and a curse for our modern society. We’re connected to people and knowledge in ways we never thought possible. Yet, we probably all realize the scope of the dependence it’s created for most people.

Cell phones aren’t just for personal use any more. For many, they’re part of our professional world. Clients and employers have access to us via cell phone at all hours. Our work emails are always there, presenting a problem to handle or a fire to put out. Being available by cell phone has become something expected of us, but doing it with proper, professional etiquette also comes as part of these expectations. What does that look like?

The Basics

It seems obvious to mention, but so many people seem to forget: those around you can hear you. They hear your language and the personal or confidential subject matters. Take inventory of what perception you’re giving when taking phone calls in public.

Save the speaker phone for private spaces. No one in the grocery store wants to listen to your entire conversation, and chances are, the person on the other end of the phone doesn’t want to be on speaker phone either. This includes their voicemails.

Be Present

When you sit down in a meeting or attend a lunch and keep your cell phone out on the table the whole time, you’re sending a message to the person sitting across from you. You’re telling them you are not fully present in that meeting and there are more important things to be dealt with other than the task at hand. You may need to respond to an urgent text or email in the middle of a meeting. It happens to everyone! There’s a polite way to handle issues that arise, and staring at your phone during a time previously allotted to someone else is not the solution.

Lose the Crutch

It’s easy to default to playing on your phone when you’re in an uncomfortable situation – in the break room waiting for your coffee, at a work party when you don’t know anyone around you, waiting for a meeting to start. While it’s not necessarily outright rude, it’s still not the best use of your time and resources. When you’re using your phone as a crutch, you’re passing up the opportunity to meet new people. There’s also something to be said for the appearance of having your head buried in your phone all the time.

It can be difficult to know where to draw the line in a time when we’re expected to be available and ready to work hard. Even with expectations that ebb and flow, there are two pieces of advice that are evergreen in all situations: treat others the way you want to be treated (stop staring at your phone in meetings), and apologize when you can’t. When situations can’t be helped and you have to reply to a text or take a phone call, apologize and let them know you realize the inconvenience.

We’re talking more about this topic and other import aspects that create your “executive presence” with Mandi Stanley, Certified Speaking Professional in Tupelo and Southaven in February. Stay tuned to your inbox to know when registration opens.

In the meantime, you can read more about cell phone etiquette here, here, or here.