Cellphones, tablets disrupt workplace etiquette

You may have learned your manners from your parents. But increasingly, your cellphone is having some influence on your etiquette.

A new survey shows that the same technology that can bring people together also is separating them at work. Sixty-four per cent of 2,300 CIOs surveyed by professional staffing consulting firm Robert Half said increased use of mobile electronic gadgets such as cellphones and tablets has led to more breaches in workplace etiquette over the past three years.

That’s up from 51% who reported increased failures in etiquette in a similar survey three years ago. In the 2013 survey, 17% said digital distractions have led to a significant increase in workplace etiquette breaches in the past three years, while 47% said breaches have increased somewhat as a result of technological interruptions.

“As mobile devices have become increasingly integrated into the workplace, they’ve helped us become more productive, but they also can serve as a round-the-clock distraction,” John Reed, senior executive director of Robert Half Technology said in a news release.

In the digital age, many workers have become more attached to the devices they carry with them than the colleagues and even the clients they engage with face to face. A recent survey by job search site showed that cellphone interruptions are even common during job interviews.

Sixty per cent of hiring managers in the CareerBuilder survey reported encountering job candidates who answered cellphones or texted during interviews.

In the workplace, Robert Half suggests, people should follow these suggestions to keep their technology from offending others:

  • Don’t surf and talk. Checking email while having a conversation with someone can make you appear distracted and uninterested.
  • Keep voicemails succinct. Unless it’s a complicated or delicate issue, get to the point. A voicemail of 30 seconds or less should suffice.
  • Use the correct form of communication. A phone call or in-person conversation is best for difficult or complicated issues. But sometimes you can send a text or instant message instead of calling. And when an immediate response is not required, email may be best.
  • Multitask in moderation. If you bring laptops or smartphones to meetings, don’t let your technology prevent you from being an active, attentive participant.

Ken Tysiac ( is a CGMA Magazine senior editor.