Rudeness Creep – Put Away that Smartphone!

Business Evolution2We all know that smartphones can provide maps and directions, a quick shot of information on virtually any topic (in the nick of time), and in most cities, they can hail you an Uber. They can take professional quality pictures. They can text. Most importantly, they can receive and deliver email, all the time, from nearly everywhere.
As a result, we can’t leave these devices alone. They are irresistible. Gallup reported we check our smartphones hundreds of times a day. This constant checking addiction is a real problem as the Huffington Post reports that 1 in 4 traffic accidents is caused by texting and driving.
One unforeseen consequence of smartphone ubiquity has occurred in the workplace as jobs for many have become increasingly an “always on” affair. Traditional boundaries around work and working are now completely blurred as it is now possible to check in at work, via email accessed through the smartphone, anywhere anytime.
The result is a new worker expectation – being available evenings, weekends, and holidays.  Anecdotally I know this is true. I have seen coworkers deliver email replies during weddings, surgeries, baby deliveries, funerals, client meetings, and even during annual reviews. The new work day, thanks to the smartphone, is 24/7/365.
Whatever the business value is of all this connectivity, can we pause for a moment and think, at what price?

I mean, isn’t it sort of rude to let those in your direct company play second fiddle to your phone/work during a meeting, meal or vacation? I think it is.
Moreover, I see in myself and others in a general “rudeness creep” that is becoming more tolerated thanks in part to smartphones and this new always-on worker.
I don’t like it – I don’t want to be rude. So, I have adopted a few rules for myself:

  • Give people my undivided attention. Leave the phone in the car. Turn the computer off. Don’t multi-task when there is someone in front of me. BTW- what is more valuable than your undivided attention? Nothing.
  • Ask others for their undivided attention. What is more rude, someone ignoring you while they multi-task or requesting someone’s full attention during your time together? Chances are they don’t even know they are not giving it to you or that it matters.
  • Ask permission to use the smartphone. “Would you mind if I checked my email or looked up something on Wikipedia?” It may be rude, but at least you were polite about it.
  • Make holidays – holidays! My family deserves my full attention on a vacation – why bring them all into work? Impossible with your job/company? Then set up one or two check-in times with work. You may be surprised to learn they’ll survive and you’ll return to work more rested with greater zeal!
  • Have smartphone free times/zones.  Ordering your Starbucks coffee while on the phone? Great way to disrespect two people at that same time. Sneaking peeks at your phone during a business meeting and missing the key point? Maybe adopt some smartphone free zones.  I know several companies that now require all smartphones be turned into a basket during certain events/meetings. Great idea. Imagine, undistracted collaboration!

Look, I know Digital Natives think these ideas are the ridiculous vestige of a bygone era where face to face meetings was, well, overvalued. The more quick assessment for them is, “the smartphone is an innocuous part of a new more efficient reality that improves work and life. So, deal with it old man!”
But isn’t that sort of rude? Doesn’t it make my point?

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