All around us, at all times, faces are buried in glowing screens, ringtones are going off at inappropriate times and vibrating electronics can be heard from across the room. These daily occurrences are proving costly in the workplace, according to a new study, as smartphones are resulting in a higher number of Canadians becoming less mindful of etiquette.
“Companies are paying people a salary to do work,” said Jeff Thompson of Robert Half Technology, the California company that developed the survey. “And they find out [the employees] are doing other things.”
According to the survey, 42 per cent of chief information officers said they have seen an increase poor workplace etiquette.
Nancy Kosik, of the Nancy Kosik Academy of International Protocol and Etiquette, said she believes there has “definitely been a change” in manners, and that the change can clearly be correlated to advancements in technology.
“The last generation has completely skipped self-presentation skills, and the fine details of how to deal with people in a face-to-face scenario,” said Kosik.
RHT, a company that matches IT professionals with companies, identified five types of tech etiquette offenders: “the misguided multitasker,” who believes he’s showcasing his efficiency when sending emails or texts during a meeting; “the email addict,” who knows no other form of communication; “the broadcaster,” who has no qualms about using her cell phone anywhere and everywhere; “the cyborg,” who is always plugged in to his Bluetooth; and the distractor, whose phone never fails to interrupt meetings.
Thompson said he believes that of the five types, the “misguided multitasker” is the worst offender. “They’re playing with their Blackberrys during meetings versus respecting the environment they’re in.”
Though the use of smartphones and other devices can help with daily work, the payoffs aren’t always worth it, Kosik said.
“Human resources departments tell me they’ve laid people off because they spend their time on the Internet or checking their emails,” she said.
In an effort to stop time-wasting behaviours, companies have begun to block social networking sites like Facebook, Thompson said.
This problem, however, is not exclusive to the business world. Kosik said she feels too much time is being spent multitasking, without one task ever receiving someone’s full attention.
Sam Parkovnick, professor of psychology at Dawson College, said students are able to concentrate more easily when there are fewer distractions. “You have to get them to focus on what they’re doing at the moment,” he said. But with phones in the hands of most students, “they’re not used to doing that.”
There is a simple solution to these problems, Thompson said. Employees, students and friends “need to pick and choose the appropriate times to use their devices.”
More than 270 chief information officers were interviewed for the RHT survey, which was conducted by an independent research firm.
In your words
What do you think about offenders of technology etiquette? Here’s what some students in the SP building said.
“I’m guilty of doing it. I pay attention to whoever I’m talking to but I still check my phone from time to time.” &- Melissa Richards, 20.
“It annoys me when I’m in the middle of a story and you take a phone call or answer a text message. That’s the same as telling me I’m boring.” &- Anthony Massotti, 20.
“If a person is good at multitasking I don’t see a problem. I know people who can have a conversation and still send a text. If it doesn’t take away from who you’re talking to, why not do it?” &- Stephanie McNichols, 19.