Do You Have Bad Gadget Manners?

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5 behaviors that irk others

In the early 1990s, cell phones were comically oversized, at least in retrospect. They were tethered to carrying cases or the size of paperback books. Today, phones are the size of a credit card and can do much more than make calls. They're necessities for many people, not just conveniences. That's why you can't walk down the street or through the grocery store without someone bumping into you while they type away on a smart phone.

Today's technological gadgets, especially smart phones, enable you to work without being at the office. You can answer an e-mail from the boss while riding the train, rather than having to open up your laptop and launch your e-mail application. All this access to work is turning some people into inconsiderate gadget geeks, according to a new survey of chief information officers conducted by Robert Half Technology. Of surveyed CIOs, 51 percent cite an increase in poor workplace etiquette as a result of improper mobile electronic device usage.


The five inconsiderate people you meet in the office

Technological advances have given workers the tools to increase productivity, but they've ultimately increased opportunities for distraction, says Dave Willmer, executive director of Robert Half Technology. Perhaps worse, mobile devices offer one more way for you to offend the people you're communicating with, even if you don't intend any harm.

"The best communicators take time to consider the most appropriate medium for the message," Willmer cautions. If you hammer out an e-mail on your phone and it's filled with typos and improper capitalization, the recipient will know you didn't spend much time thinking about the issue at hand -- especially if it includes the signature "Sent from my iPhone."

Hopefully you have enough self-control to keep your smart phone habits in check, but not everyone does. According to the survey, you can expect to encounter these five types of professionals who have no concept of gadget etiquette. Do you see yourself in any of these offenders?


1. The misguided multitasker

The offense: This offender asks, "Why do one thing when I can do seven?" When you're giving a presentation, she'll nod every few seconds as she types away on her phone and occasionally glance up to acknowledge you and then go back to writing the message.

The problem: You're left wondering if you'll ever have her undivided attention or if the phone will always win.

The solution: Don't use your phone to answer messages in non-emergencies in a meeting, during a conversation or at a work lunch. If you feel compelled to send a message, excuse yourself (or slip out of the meeting quietly) and conduct your business in private.


2. The e-mail addict

The offense: He will do anything to communicate via text (e-mail, instant messages, text messages) in order to avoid speaking aloud.

The problem: E-mails and the like aren't immediate forms of communication. You send the message and wait for the other person to respond so that you can respond, and the cycle continues. Eventually, your inbox is full and you've established nothing.

The solution: If you're playing e-mail ping-pong, pick up the phone. Often a five-minute conversation can solve a problem that would otherwise require 40 e-mails.


3. The broadcaster

The offense: The concept of too much information means nothing to these people.

The problem: The best part about smart phones is that you can take them anywhere, and the problem is that you can take them anywhere. And people do. This is why you'll share an elevator with someone who is arguing with a significant other or making a doctor's appointment while riding the bus. Their personal business becomes yours.

The solution: Personal issues should remain personal. Don't force people to eavesdrop on your private life.


4. The cyborg

The offense: She can't function without a piece of technology affixed to her ears.

The problem: The cyborg walks around talking into a Bluetooth headset or wearing earbuds so you have no idea if she's free to talk or if you're interrupting her.

The solution: If you need to be available to your colleagues and you're not dealing with a pressing issue, put down the headset or let them know that yes, you can answer their questions. Don't keep them guessing.


5. The distractor

The offense: His incoming call is your incoming call.

The problem: Whether the distractor forgets that his ringer is on or that his phone on vibrate is just as noisy as a Beethoven ringtone, you know when someone's calling. It's a distraction from the meeting you're in or the conversation you're having.

The solution: Turn off all notifications of incoming calls completely or put it in your pocket so that only you know when it vibrates.

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