Smartphones

Three ways your smartphone can hurt your career

Smartphones are as common in modern workplaces as coffee. But be careful that your smartphone does not end up causing problems for you.

I know you guys hate when I talk about actions that you take for granted but that are perhaps inappropriate in the office, but here I go again, raining on your parade. This time I address the smartphone -- you know, that gadget that you would keep if you were asked to decide between losing it and a major bodily organ. Here are a few ways that your smartphone can cause problems in your work life.

1. Overusing during meetings

OK, we all know that you're in IT and you have to be available to put out fires on a moment's notice. But if you can't get through an hour-long meeting without texting someone, then it's a bad sign. And nothing can be more insulting to a meeting leader (who, more than likely, is your boss) than if your head is in your smartphone the whole time he or she is talking. Don't confuse "commonplace" with "accepted," because that's not the case. Texting/chatting on your smartphone just sends the message that the person in front of you is less important.

2. Doing too much business with your smartphone

If you do too much business by texting or sending email via your smartphone, it could decrease the appearance of professionalism.

Dana Brownlee, founder of Professionalism Matters, Inc., a practical professional development training and management consulting company, says she is amazed at how often she gets email from PDAs with a disclaimer at the bottom that reads, "Please excuse any typos in this message. It was sent from an iPhone." She says:

The first time I saw that I really thought "Wow, now that's lazy!" I feel like there's been a slow reverse "work ethic" if you will in our daily communications. When I was in college, the expectation was that you proofread before you sent a communication. When I started working, the focus was on using spell check/grammar check, etc. to let technology speed up the editing process. Now, we've graduated to not editing at all and just sending out a disclaimer at the bottom of the message.

It's probably safe to say that millennials might not have a problem with smartphone messages. But there are about 25 percent of people out there who might. Just consider the recipient before you send the message.

3. Putting across the wrong image

If you don't work for Sanrio, yet you carry around an iPhone in a Hello Kitty case, don't be terribly surprised if people question your seriousness. That may be profiling, but people have taken cues from smaller indications than that.

The same goes for ring tones. Yes, it is your unalienable right to have any ring tone you want and it shouldn't affect the way you're perceived as a person, but guess what? It will, at least in a business setting. I don't care whether you have a calliope ring tone or the latest death metal ditty called "Death to all CIOs," you will get judged, however unconsciously it might be.

You don't really have to detach your smartphone from your person but use it wisely in work situations.

About

Toni Bowers is Managing Editor of TechRepublic and is the award-winning blogger of the Career Management blog. She has edited newsletters, books, and web sites pertaining to software, IT career, and IT management issues.

90 comments
Leahhayhoe
Leahhayhoe

Sometimes I really like cell phones, and change it often.Last year i got a LG Chocolate one, but at my angry moment i throw it away, so it died! And this year i bought this kind of cell phone with cheap price, but i am afraid of his fate then. I hate the noises of irrelevant calls,you know sometimes i just want to be alone, that is enough, anyone knows how can i do? I have got a cell phone jammer from http://www.jammerall.com/ in Google, but I heve no idea of it, ask some profession for help!

M01
M01

I like Death to all CIOs for a song!

RobertFL
RobertFL

I've been in way too many meetings in which my time would have been better spent elsewhere. Meetings for the most part are a huge time waster. If I am needed in a meeting that is a different story, but if I am not needed, keeping me out of my phone will be difficult. I hate meetings in which I am not needed, and I would like to think so does everyone else; hence the smartphone use. Meeting starters: Only invite those needed - Memo the rest what was covered and let us do our job.

tep0583
tep0583

If someone needs to reach me, they know where I am and can choose if it's important enough to break into the meeting or if it can wait. It always seemed like a no-brainier, to me anyways, to leave the phone out of the meeting.

allennugent
allennugent

I find that people who select irritating ring tones are most likely to leave their phone unattended, to the annoyance of all around. I feel I should be allowed to turn the thing off after the third unanswered call.

Gennady
Gennady

1. Choosing smartphones, comparing prices, features and capabilities online can be addictive and obsessive. If you do it in your work time, your employer may not be happy and you can loose your job. I know several people who did it at work time and just could not stop this and their team leaders had to notice that to them. 2. Dealing with their new gadgets all the time. If you install apps, try settings, etc for your new toy at your work time - see above. 3. Looking for additional accessories for your new toy. Leather cases, bluetooth kits, chargers, additional batteries, car hands-free sets - this all steal your time and finally endangers your career. 4. Giving them to kids, when they start demanding them (they actually do, I heard 12-year kids literally screaming to have Galaxy-SII because "everyone in the school have it"). When kids start spending time with the smartphone this can bring lots of different problems, probably less related to the career, but still terrible. My two cents. Actually four.

jneville.work
jneville.work

What do you think about the use of :-) in work messages? Is is acceptable to use them in emails to people you haven't met? :-o and, if so, at what point is it OK to start using them :-? Is it a coincidence that LinkedIn doesn't have a smiley pallette next to their message box? Just because smartphones often have an Emoji keyboard either installed or as a free app... doesn't mean the recipient will be as impressed by them as the sender is. Unless you know the person, it can come across as childish, or over-familiar. Just something that irks me from time to time >:-@

PeterM42
PeterM42

People who answer a phone while talking to you, without even saying "excuse me while i quickly answer that" and then go on to have a LONG conversation without even asking the indulgence of the person they were talking to face to face.

andrew
andrew

I have a ringtone that sounds like the theme from M*A*S*H on my non-smartphone. I find that people are soothed by it when* it rings. Some, if they know the words, have been known to sing along. If I am compelled by outside factors to remain in a meeting/presentation that is dull, boring or disengaging, I try to engage by asking myself a few questions; such as: How could this person have done things better? When did s/he lose me/us? What are they trying to say? Why do they think it's important? How does their presentation 'style' compare to mine? *that is, when I haven't switched it to silent due to being in a meeting - which is my norm.

Barmace
Barmace

You forgot that if you are not provided with a smartphone from work your personal one become that. I always say "yes call me this time but remove my number after that because this is my personal phone." I still get about 3 calls a day at work for work issues. there are far to many people that know the number.

kjackson
kjackson

It does leave a huge void in the room when everyone is texting or twittering. I've run into it in social situations too. A Super Bowl Party where everyone is tweeting more than watching makes one wonder how we got that way and why we didn't just watch at home.. However, let's not be too quick to condemn electronic communication. Many times I prefer email over conversations because it creates a clear record of the exchange.

Hans Schmidt
Hans Schmidt

Why is there so little left these days? The world is going to hell in a handbasket.

craig
craig

I learned one of the pitfalls of smartphone ownership recently the hard way! I installed Vlingo on my Android to stay on the right side of the law when driving, one useful (or otherwise) feature of Vlingo is that it reads out your text messages for you. This might be a good thing on the motorway when you can't use your phone, but it certainly isn't the most treasured app when it reads out that message from your wife who just text to say how much she loves you... or worse! With a smartphone those quiet moments in the office are no longer always cherished, or in my case on the car journey with a company director in the passenger seat!

tewany
tewany

I will also add, if no one has done it yet, auto correct. I had issues where i send an email or text to coworkers and the autocorrect changed the word. Example when i write Help Desk I do it as one word (don???t ask why :-)) and it changed to worthless in a way ???you are worthless??? instead of ???you are HelpDesk???. I had to prove it was not what I meant. And that is one of many of my story with auto correct

DJMorais
DJMorais

I'm surprised that the level of common sense being displayed today has degraded to the point where you actually have to write an article like this at all. C'mon, people, put the idiot box down, and slowly walk away... and get to work! :-)

yodi.collins
yodi.collins

Is it redefining civility, or obliterating it altogether?

GSG
GSG

I leave my phone at my desk, and it has a generic ringtone. The only time I have taken my phone to meetings is when I'm: 1) experiencing issues with a system and need to be reached 2) have a close relative who has been ill and I need to be available 3) Other emergency situations I always tell the person who is hosting the meeting that I have my phone on vibrate and may have to step out as I'm monitoring an emergency situation. Many times, I'm told that I can be excused, but sometimes, I have to stay, so I sit at a seat closest to the door, and quietly leave before answering the call. As far as ringtone goes, it's really annoying to be in a serious meeting, and suddenly hearing, at top volume, "Buttscratcher, Buttscratcher, Buttscratcher!" Peter Griffin from Family Guy is not appropriate when you're in a meeting with administration. What may be funny in every day life, can ruin your career. As for taking notes on a phone or laptop, we did an informal experiment one time in a meeting and half of us took notes on our laptops or phones, and half of us on paper. At the end of the meeting, we closed our notes, and had a verbal Q&A to determine who got the most out of the meeting. Hands down, the people who took notes on paper, immediately understood what was going on, and the people who used electronics, missed about half of what was said. Next, we compared our notes. We expected the people with laptops would do a better job taking notes. I can certainly type faster than I can write, but it turns out that the people who took notes on paper took more complete notes that were better organized. Sometimes, technology is a barrier, not a facilitator.

mike21b
mike21b

I am one of two owners of the company. My partner (president) sits in staff meetings, looking at his phone or reading the news most of the time. He complains a lot that people don't "keep him informed". Duh! The true Pointy Haired Boss. He doesn't like that cartoon. I wonder why...

CSouthard
CSouthard

"it shouldn???t affect the way you???re perceived as a person", I strongly disagree. Your choice expresses some aspect of your personality and you project it for the public to hear. I would suggest that you want the people around you to be aware of it, to hear you express your personality and to assess you, in part, on that expression. Please excercise your right to choose your ring tones and to enjoy the consequences.

kraabeasa
kraabeasa

I completely agree with everything in this article.I am one who uses my smart phone extensively, but there is a time and place for it. It seems that no matter the setting anymore, either business or social, the phone is always more important than the people present. It's very disrespectful.

MCSquaredEqually
MCSquaredEqually

is that they need the line [i]because[/i] of the iPhone auto-correct. I still think this is even more reason to email from an actual computer. Responding from the road is fine, but not in-depth discussions.

ernesto.bec
ernesto.bec

For those of you with Android phones, that carry a personal phone into work, the app called Locale is a must. It does many things, but the pertinant one here is that you can set the wallpaper, the ring tone etc..., based on calendar or GPS location. I have it set for GPS so when I get to the office the ring tone, wall paper, the WiFi and the Bluetooth settings are changed. Tis way I do not have to worry about manualy changing my profile. When I go to church and the movies it automaticaly goes to vibrate. Hope this helps. It is not free, but it is worth alot more than what it is currently being sold for.

taomaster99
taomaster99

I can agree with everything but #3, if you can't be adult enough and look past a hello kitty/superman phone case or beethoven/cee-lo ring tone than that's just sad. Might as well not like the person because they were glasses then!

RebelRouser852
RebelRouser852

Losing your phone with personal identifying client and corporate information equal corporate compliance nightmare!

gpolens
gpolens

I find it a true lack of respect for those around you. I wasn't sure if I was just not changing with the times. I can see a change of office expectations coming from the new college recruits, but I would hope that we never lose common courtesy.

panthyr
panthyr

I'm taking meeting notes with EverNote, and I've made sure my boss, my boss's boss, and her boss all know it. My phone's on silent, and my notes stay on the touchscreen in case anyone's looking over my shoulder.

mckinnej
mckinnej

Let's be honest. If you see someone futzing with their personal smartphone at their desk there is a 90% or better chance they are not working. They're probably texting their friends, checking facebook/twitter, or some other such personal activity. The call that interrupts the meeting is probably from a friend or spouse and isn't related to work. I admit I have a hard time understanding the attraction to mobile devices and the constant need to communicate. I enjoy having some quiet time off the grid. For me social networking is a chore which I avoid as much as possible. Is it an introvert-extrovert thing? Maybe.

gadutra
gadutra

The lack of etiquette in the environment actually hinders and talk about us.

keyboards
keyboards

Very simply put, I had an applicant interviewing that took a call from his girlfriend while he was sitting in front of me. He told her, while we were sitting right there together, that 'once I get the job, we'll celebrate with dinner and then go back to your place and f*** all night'. Hope Mr Hungry & Horny was talking about some other place of employment...... Personally, I have simply stood and waited, or better yet, took care of the next person in line while someone has been texting or talking on a cell phone. If they think I'm less important than their conversation, I'm entitled to feel the same way. It's a tool, not a way of life folks!!!

ITCompGuy
ITCompGuy

The business culture is definately changing. As short as 3 years ago, my organization was fighting tooth and nail again allowing anything other than Blackberry devices on the corporate network. Now, Blackberry devices are being dropped like "hot cakes" as everyone changes to droids and iPhones. I have monitoring alerts where servers send email and text messages to my mobile device when problems occur. On the flip side, so many people are coming to meeting with laptops and smart phones that my organization has started to have a no-laptop policy for meeting attendees due to the constant "tap-tap-tap-tap" from all of the people doing "other business" during meetings. If you are on your smart phone or laptop during a meeting with someone, it hints of disrespect in the same way as someone watching T.V. as you are talking to them.

justl
justl

Our division Director and CIO have made the smartphone use a capital offense in our DOD division. Violations are viewed as insubordination and can end or at least detour a career on first offense. Using a cell device of any kind while driving on base revokes driving privileges for two years, first offense, no appeals. Cell phones are the anti-Christ it seems. As a motorcyclist, I agree.

Dr_Zinj
Dr_Zinj

1. Announce at the beginning of the meeting that it will be a cell-free zone for the duration and that anyone who is anticipating an emergency is excused. 2. Get a cell phone & beeper jammer and turn it on at the beginning of the meeting. 3. Once the meeting begins, the doors are locked so no one can get back in if they step out.

kburrows
kburrows

I just finished a continuing ed class where about half the people were texting and emailing constantly. It was rude and inconsiderate of the others in the class distracted by their constant grabbing for their phones. It is already bad enough that we text and email in the car (not to mention everyone that drives with a phone glued to their ear). In Europe, it has been illegal to use a cell phone in a car for over a decade. Let's get a grip on the need for instant communication. Are we driven so much that we have to be tethered to our devices every second of the day? Productivity experts have proven over and over again that multi-tasking is inefficient and counter productive. Pay attention in class, at meetings and at a client's office. My phone goes in my pocket on vibrate as soon as I walk in the door to a client's office only to be used to contact support, a vendor or to access my remote files. My focus is on the client. I wouldn't have a need for the phone otherwise.

tech
tech

...If you superiors think your time is being wasted at these meetings. One of the problems with most meetings is that people don't pay attention and make the meeting drag on longer because things need to be repeated. If your presence is requested at a meeting and you think you don't need to attend get your superior to tell you not to go. If you go, you have a duty (I assume you are being paid, even if only on commission) to pay attention and participate, not to play on your phone. In my position, I must always carry my phone. Sometimes I must read messages and occasionally take a call even during a meeting. It is always done very discretely, and if I am taking or making a call I will excuse myself from the room. My goal is to participate in the meeting, if I can't I excuse myself and don't disrespect the person leading the meeting or the other participants that are there to do what they are supposed to do. It is rather egotistical to think that you are wasting your time in a meeting when your superiors, you know the ones that actually pay you, have requested you attend a meeting. You may not get much out of it, but that is for them to decide, not you. There could be legal requirements, or perhaps some information that will make your job easier or communication more thorough.

hippiekarl
hippiekarl

In the 1980s, when I lived in Manhattan, if your car alarm sounded for longer than 10min, YOU got a ticket for waking up the neighborhood--possible crime-victim notwithstanding. Any kind of beverage could easily spill on such an unattended-yet-bellicose phone---especially if it had startled the drink-holder....

jneville.work
jneville.work

Even Techrepublic converts emoticons into smileys

NickNielsen
NickNielsen

It's usually from other techs seeking assistance (we are dispersed). If I'm talking to anybody at the store, I will ask those who call (even my boss) if I can call back as soon as I'm finished discussing the outage with store management. Haven't had anybody, from the CTO on down, say no yet.

drronster
drronster

Worthless with top down & 80mph.

hippiekarl
hippiekarl

At my sweetie's mom's send-off, one of the relatives' phone went off at a quiet moment of the service, and the chapel was suddenly filled with: "HOW--HOW I WISH YOU WERE HERE!" before its owner could shut it off. A few of us cracked up in spite of ourselves; it was (while accidental) an undeniably poignant interruption. For those leaving their phones on in church generally, though, my recommended ringtone would be a few bars of 'Spirit in the Sky'....

cliff
cliff

Indeed! It's a form of narcissism, really. When did we become so egocentric as to believe that we should have the freedom to do what we want, when we want to do it??

xaqster
xaqster

I use LLAMA (Location Aware Mobile App) on my Android device. This is a freeware version that uses the cell tower ID numbers to switch modes. You have to train it with which cell towers are at any location, but that is a very simple operation. I use it to put my phone on silent when I get to work, and between 11pm and 5am at home. A colleague uses it to turn off the data on his phone at night, so he can be called but does not get woken up by e-mails. You can also override the changes by locking a profile for a certain length of time, so you could lock it on silent for a hour to cover you in that meeting. Worth a look at least.

Pinkwho
Pinkwho

I agree, they may be on with a spouse, about the son or daughter just hurt at school. Or the elderly mother or father who has been admitted to the hospital. Shame on that person - fire them immediately and make an example. Seriously people, can't we just say there are instances where a cell phone can hurt a career, but that there are always exceptions to the rule? If there aren't just ban cell phones altogether, as they must be the anit-christ.

tech
tech

There Fixed that for ya! Seriously, Number 2 on your list is not legal (at least in the US)! You can goto jail for that. In fact I believe, at least in the US, it is illegal to own a cell phone jammer. #1, OK, I am not anticipating an emergency (and in all likely hood my phone would not ring), but as stated elsewhere I am at the top of several call lists and must be accessible 24x7x365 (yes even on vacation). While I respect that you are leading a meeting or teaching... and while I would turn off SMS notifications and email notifications. I can not turn off the cell phone, I must be available. 3. I feel sorry for anyone who has a bathroom emergency then.

GSG
GSG

When I'm teaching a class at work, I start off by stating that all phones should be off, and if anyone's phone rings, or they are on their phone, or not paying attention, they get an incomplete immediately and will have to leave the class. I also report the incomplete to their manager. The students in my classes leave with a better understanding of the material than the students in the classes where the instructor doesn't kick them out.

NickNielsen
NickNielsen

One of those great Reformation hymns: Praise God from Whom All Blessings Flow A Mighty Fortress is our God Wachet Auf ruft uns die Stimme (my personal favorite) Wie schoen leuchtet der Morgenstern

drronster
drronster

Commented before seeing your response.

cliff
cliff

That is a perfectly sane and appropriate guideline. For all the good that mobile devices have brought us, they have visited bad things upon us as well. If I had a nickel for every time a customer answered their cell phone while I was helping them, I would have retired a year ago. And I mean picking up their call, turning their back on you, and becoming engrossed in their conversation without so much as excusing themselves. Mobile devices have gone a long way to deteriorating the public's sense of common courtesy, which was never very common to begin with. When someone makes the effort to teach you something and you are not engrossed in what they are telling you, you do them the great dis-service of wasting their precious time and energy.

tech
tech

you would want to set such rules. So many people are so inconsiderate, so tied to their phone, and email and texting that nothing else much matters. Also for probably 99% of your students that is the right answer. As I said before, I CAN NOT turn off my phone due to my job. I am at the top of several call lists for IT emergencies and in more than one case for building emergencies. I can and would set the phone to vibrate. I would turn off email, and SMS notifications, but I have to be accessible by phone 24x7x365. (and yes I did get a call from the fire alarm company on Christmas day (burst pipe)). To have not answered the call would have resulted in more damage to the building and equipment. As a matter of fact that number is set to over-ride the silent setting and it is a siren. Typically when that call comes in I am out the door as I answer. So as is normally the case there is no one size fits all answer. Though as I stated way too many people are way too tied to their phone / tablet / computer.

GSG
GSG

In that case, it would be prudent to notify the instructor ahead of time. The point is that when I've called people out, not one single call or text has been due to anything work related. It's always been personal texts or calls.

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