Six Gadget Etiquette Dos and Don'ts for the Workplace

Six Gadget Etiquette Dos and Don'ts for the Workplace

You know gadget-related behavioral excesses have gotten out of hand when etiquette columnists tackle text messaging and PDAs.

For example, here's an excerpt from the syndicated "Ask Thelma" etiquette column, written by Thelma Domenici: "The etiquette of technology doesn't deviate from etiquette standards we all know. Etiquette and manners are about thinking of others before ourselves and treating them with respect and courtesy in all our actions -- even those dominated by technology."

But techies who regularly hold the door and remember to send thank-you notes don't always know when to turn off their camera phones. In a Robert Half Technology survey, 67 percent of 1,400 CIOs queried said breaches of technology etiquette are increasing.

With such concerns in mind -- and a polite nod to varying job requirements -- we offer these guidelines for minding your tech-gadget manners as you manage your career:

Workplace Gadget Etiquette Dos

  • Shut It Off During Meetings: Unless you must use your PDA or cell phone during a meeting, presentation or other gathering, turn it off. Etiquette experts caution that whatever efficiency you gain, you will likely lose in respect when your attention shifts from the meeting agenda to your gadget of choice. 
  • When You Must Leave It On, Tell Others: "Announcing to the group, 'I'll text Charles for those figures' is a far cry from spending the entire meeting checking your email under the guise of 'efficiency,'" Domenici writes. 
  • Consider Your Audience and Environment: What's acceptable gadget behavior at a Seattle startup may be rude at an architectural firm in Philadelphia. And you won't impress anyone by wearing your iPod during a presentation or trotting out your Treo over lunch. "If you're with a group that doesn't have your same level of technology adoption, they're not going to appreciate or be impressed by it," says Diane K. Danielson, coauthor of Table Talk: The Savvy Girl's Alternative to Networking
  • Admit You're a Gadget Freak: Tech enthusiasts may be oblivious to their faux pas. "I think that the zealots are quite possibly the least likely to honor standard rules of etiquette, in my experience, because they seem to think that those on the other end of a digital connection are just as important -- or even more so -- than those that they're with face-to-face," says technology guru Dave Taylor. "Just remember that except in extraordinary situations, the person you're facing should take precedence over the person you're IMing, SMSing or even chatting with on your latest device."

Workplace Gadget Etiquette Don'ts

  • Ignore Cultural Differences: Remember: Boston isn't Bangalore. Phillip Bergman, vice president of Roher Public Relations, says the Japanese have a "greater social consciousness" about cell phone use. "On public transit, they will cover their phones with their hands as they speak to keep the noise level down and maintain privacy. This is something I've adopted as a matter of courtesy and personal privacy." 
  • Text When You Should Be Talking: Typing rather than talking won't win you any etiquette bonus points. Text messaging, in particular, can be viewed as an intrusion. "It's one thing if you discuss something important and say, 'Give me a second. I want to send myself an email before I forget what we've just discussed,' and then quickly use your BlackBerry or PDA and then put it away," says Leah Ingram, author of The Everything Etiquette Book. "It's an entirely different thing to be on your BlackBerry and not fully paying attention when someone else is giving a presentation, especially if this goes on for the entire meeting." Text messaging "forces you to lose eye contact and sends the message that you're not fully engaged," says Joseph Sommerville, president of Peak Communication Performance and coauthor of the "Business Etiquette: Manners Mean Business" audio program.

Additional Articles in This Feature