Good Vibrations?

by Brian Katz on March 7, 2013 · 1 comment

I did it again. I just reached for my phone. I’m sitting at my laptop, winding down from the day, catching up on all my to do’s. I have all my feeds up in different windows and I actually reached for my phone. It is lying next to the computer, face down, not on purpose but just because that’s how I put it down. It is a Pavlovian response. The phone vibrated, and not one of those wimpy sounding buzzes, it’s sitting on a 60-year-old pine wood desk, you know the one, so solid you can’t pick it up easily, so it resonates well against the hard wood surface. I reach for it, even knowing that if I look around on my screen in front of me I can probably see what set it off. There’s a satisfaction as I pick it up and check the notifications. The endorphins fire in my brain, someone has reached out…

picard turn off your cell phone alreadyqmpicard turn off your cell phone alreadyqmFor many, it’s a status symbol reaching for the phone. “You are important, someone wants you!” You can be sitting and talking to someone and it takes real will power not to glance at the phone when it buzzes. “Don’t these other people know I’m important…someone needs something from me!” It doesn’t matter that you were in the middle of an important conversation or that there are 10 other people around the table with you. You reach for it anyway and start typing away. A response is necessary. It has to be immediate. Etiquette be damned. If Miss Manners were actually dead (she is alive and kicking) she would be rolling over in her grave.

The real question is whether this is something we should be giving into. None of us have an issue with surfing the net on our own time or sending that tweet or checking Facebook during a lull in the day. Yet, there is a certain amount of disdain and even anger when it happens to you. You know how meetings start these days. It’s the first thing said, please turn your phone to vibrate or off. There is always someone in the room who forgets to do it, or feels they are too important for the directive to apply to them. They can’t wait until the air in the room is alive with their latest ringtone, maybe it’s Pitbull or Beyonce that shatters the calm of the room. Sometimes they shoot you the “oops, sorry, I thought I had it set on vibrate” as they reach into their pocket and flick the switch to vibrate. Other times, it is the step out of the room, they’re more important than this meeting. Only you know it isn’t an emergency call, it’s just their way of asserting their importance. To be fair, I have been know to replace their current ringtone when they aren’t paying attention with either Carly Rae Jepsen’s ‘Call Me Maybe”or Right Said Fred’s ‘I’m too sexy’ if they’re obnoxious about it

Let’s not forget those who put their phone on vibrate and then place it on the conference room table next to their laptop or pad. It’s the old passive aggressive, let’s make a louder noise when the phone vibrates against the table and interrupts everyone. Then there is the other one, who turns their phone to silent but then responds every time the face of the phone lights up with a notification.

Where has civility gone? It’s gotten so bad that people now play the restaurant check game. Everyone puts his or her phone in the middle of the table and the first one to grab theirs is responsible for the check. Yet, this very rarely stops people. The endorphin rush is too much. How many times have you reached into your pocket to check your phone because you felt that phantom vibration. You know the one, where you leave the phone in your car or on your desk and yet you still feel it vibrate. The look on your face as you try and cover up the fact that your phone isn’t in your pocket even though you felt it go off is priceless. Yet, it doesn’t stop you from doing it again five minutes later.

I actually talked about this with a group of people on twitter recently and we chatted about how you teach etiquette. Do you have rules as a business? My boss always had a rule that no laptops could be open during a meeting. That quickly morphed to they could only be open if you were using it to take notes, and he reserved the right to check. How do you do that when everyone has a phone or a tablet?

Let’s be fair here. I spent some of my time in the enterprise running a help desk and providing third level support. There was a time I didn’t have a choice but answer the phone or the 2 way pager. It’s an awfully hard habit to break. My younger daughter has been known to put her foot down and demand I give her my phone during dinner. If I remember, I try and leave it in the other room. I have also set up special ringtones and vibration patterns for family, it allows me to distinguish who’s calling…and no, it isn’t Carly Rae Jepsen, although my youngest is making a ringtone for me “Daddy, pick up the phone, c’mon daddy, pick it up already you slowpoke!”

A lot of it needs to be based upon having a culture of etiquette. You can’t just tell people what you want them to do but you have to demonstrate and model the behaviors. You can’t set a rule of no answering the cell phone in a meeting and then be grabbing yours the first time it alerts you. It doesn’t mean you never answer the phone or check it, there could be an emergency, but it isn’t the norm. It has to be based upon common sense. Cell phones don’t sit on the table. You make meetings short and you only invite the appropriate people. Your conference calls don’t have 50 people attending them. As much as it is a culture of etiquette, it’s a culture of respect, and you have to give some to get some. I can’t expect the people who work for me not to check their devices while I’m talking to them if I do the same thing to them.

In the meantime, my phone just went off again and I really need to see who it is…

{ 0 comments… add one now }

Leave a Comment

{ 1 trackback }

Previous post:

Next post: