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:-0 Shocked- Cell Phone Usage in the Workplace

Q:  Dear Workplace Wonda,

I’ve noticed more and more that people are texting at work.  I’ve walked into several offices and noticed staff texting right at their desks.  This isn’t the first time I’ve witnessed this.  I even noticed employees texting during staff meetings and presentations.  Is this proper for the workplace? 

Signed:  :-O (Shocked)

A:  Dear :-O (Shocked),

OMG!  It's Textageddan! 

Blame it on Generation “Text” for this textatrocity! 

Generation "Text" are the many teens and young adults coming into the workplace who came out of the womb operating technological devices. 

Ringing or vibrating cell phones at work and during meetings is being replaced with text-messages or PDA e-mails.  While employees gasp at the sound of a cell phone ringing to the tone of ‘Baby’s Got Back’ during a meeting or presentation, many believe their quiet finger tapping at their phone keyboard goes unnoticed.  But... we see you.  Some try to hide what they are doing under the table, while others openly text or email in plan view.  Hey, I get it-it’s quick, it’s easy, and it’s  extremely useful when making a phone call isn’t an option.  I mean technically you’re not talking on the phone, right?  Wrong!

Texting during a meeting or presentation is just as rude and unprofessional as the phone ringing, you putting it on speaker phone for everyone to hear, and letting your BFF know that U R going 2B L8 for DNR.  Hey, Workplace Wonda isn’t so long in the tooth that I haven’t myself been caught up in textamania.  I get the fascination.  Of course, the quick and easy isn’t so quick for those of us who don’t know text messaging abbreviations.  Seriously, it takes me 20 minutes to type, “Can you pick up the kids tonight?”

Sorry,  I digress...

To answer your question, no it is not proper to text or e-mail during a meeting or presentation.  Talk about the professional “kiss of death."  It shows disrespect, lack of interest in the speaker, and suggests that you believe you are more important than all other individuals in attendance.  Not to mention that the elicit giggles or other distracting responses that you make while texting or e-mailing is especially irritating to those around you.    My suggestion - save texting and checking your PDA for breaks or your lunch hour.  If, however, your addiction to texting is so severe that you can’t control the urge to send a quick TGIF text to your work buddy, you might be a textaholic and I suggest immediate intervention.  Intervention could mean turning your phone off completely until a more appropriate time.  I know, I know, the horror!

For those facilitating a meeting or giving a presentation, I suggest using the direct approach and making an announcement at the beginning of the meeting in reference to phone calls, texting, or emails.  You could say something like this, “We only have a short time together.  I’d appreciate it if you would not use your PDA or text while I’m speaking.  If you must respond or are expecting a message, please feel free to step out to do your business.” 

Let’s be honest, unless you are expecting a text or e-mail that your wife has gone into labor, that a long awaited liver donor has finally been found for you or a family member, or that the President of the United States is anxiously awaiting your acceptance of the position of Supreme Court Judge, you probably could wait to check and respond to messages after the meeting or presentation.

Texting and emailing business-related information from a PDA is becoming a more acceptable norm in the workplace today.  This being said, monitoring or controlling personal abuse is becoming more difficult.  If you don’t already, you should incorporate a cell phone policy into your handbook.  This policy should include etiquette tips  and clear guidelines on acceptable and not acceptable cell phone usage. 

TAFN (that’s all for now, UNT (until next time).  Wow, this is addicting...


Workplace Wonda


  1. I teach business students. We try to explain to them that our no cell phone policy in classroom is preparing them for when they enter the workplace. Unfortunately, the students only see it as being mean.


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