Saturday, October 26, 2013

How Your Smartphone Can Sabotoge Your Business

You're an entrepreneur in an important meeting that could mean a big contract or create a connection important to your success.

And your smartphone beeps, rings, or vibrates.

Do you answer it?

A new study published today in the journal Business Communication Quarterly, co-authored by Peter W. Cardon of the USC Marshall School of Business and colleagues at Howard University, is the first to provide an empirical baseline for how attitudes towards mobile phone use actually break down across gender, age, and region.

With a national sample of more than 550 full-time working professionals, the study reveals what business professionals perceive as acceptable, courteous or rude use of mobile phones in the workplace.

Among their findings:
  • Three out of four people -- 76 percent -- said checking texts or emails was unacceptable behavior in business meetings.
  • 87 percent of people said answering a call was rarely or never acceptable in business meetings.
  • Even at more informal business lunches, the majority of people thought writing a text message is rude -- 66 percent said writing or sending a text message is inappropriate.
  • Men were nearly twice as likely as women to consider mobile phone use at a business lunch acceptable. More than 59 percent of men said it was okay to check text messages at a power lunch, compared to 34 percent of women who thought checking texts was appropriate.
  • Similarly, 50 percent of men said it was acceptable to answer a call at a power lunch, compared to 26 percent of women.
  • Despite the casual reputation, professionals from the West Coast were less accepting of mobile phone use in meetings than people from the East Coast.
  • Higher-income professionals had less tolerance for smartphone use in business meetings.
  • Dramatic age gap: Younger professionals were nearly three times as likely as older professionals to think tapping out a message over a business lunch is appropriate -- 66 percent of people under 30 said texting or emailing was okay, compared to just 20 percent of those aged 51-65.
  • At a working lunch with five other people? Chances are, just having your phone out is offending somebody: A full 20 percent of professionals said simply having your phone out at a business lunch is rude.
  • Saying "Excuse me" to take a call didn't cut it: over 30 percent still found it to be rarely/never appropriate during informal/offsite lunch meetings.
The researchers first identified the most common grievances people had about smartphone use among their colleagues, including browsing the Internet and checking text messages. They then asked working professionals earning at least $30,000 a year to identify which of these behaviors they considered acceptable -- and which ones are flat-out rude.

"Not surprisingly, millennials and younger professionals were more likely to be accepting of smartphone use, but they might be doing themselves a disservice," Cardon said. "In many situations, they rely on those older than them for their career advancement."

"Hiring managers often cite courtesy as among the most important soft skills they notice. By focusing on civility, young people entering the workforce may be able to set themselves apart," said Cardon, associate professor of clinical management communication at the USC Marshall School of Business Center for Management Communication.

Results to think about the next time your phone goes off.

And speaking of off, I find the off switch on my phone to be its most useful function.
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Story Source:  Melvin C. Washington, Eephraim A. Okoro, Peter W. Cardon. Perceptions of Civility for Mobile Phone Use in Formal and Informal Meetings. Business Communication Quarterly, October 2013

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