Check Your Phone at the Door! Are you Disrespecting Your Coworkers?

Fatimah Gilliam Founder, and CEO The Azara Group

November 28, 2017

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Nearly everyone has a cell phone. These devices make our lives easier. They keep us connected to other people and send us continual information. However, there is a time to use them and a time to put them away.

We are all guilty of checking emails, sending text messages, and surfing the web when we're interacting with other people. People do this in meetings, on conference calls, and when grabbing lunch with colleagues. Sometimes we do it out of necessity, but often we do it out of a sense of self-importance.

Let's be honest about this practice. Most of the time it's rude, disrespectful, and annoying. People can tell when you're half-listening to them, and they can see you pull out your mobile device when they're mid-sentence. Your behavior is inescapable.

It's time for more of us to start unplugging and reconnecting with people. Why? You could be sending signals that you do not intend—signals that could have negative repercussions on your professional advancement. When you offend people, they take it personally. They tend to remember and stop liking you.

So what messages are you sending when you do not fully engage with others and have your nose in your phone? What is that potential, negative blowback from being unable to disconnect electronically?

1. Sending the Message: "I'm Not Listening, and You Aren't Important."

Here's the bottom line: people want you to listen when they speak. They don't want to feel like they're talking to themselves. Also, your colleagues don't want to repeat themselves at a later time because you missed pertinent information. Having to re-explain something wastes their time and is inefficient.

If you cannot actively listen and participate in key conversations, you're saying that the people around the table are not important. Your actions indicate that your collective work is less important than what's on your phone and that you lack self-awareness and "home training." You may not want people to assume you're a narcissist, but your actions by their nature may indicate otherwise.

Therefore, if you're in a planning session at work and brainstorming your team's next big project, it's the perfect time to disconnect from your phone. Not only will your colleagues perceive you like a more involved team player, but you will end up being just that—involved. Go figure.

2. Relationships Require Facetime, So Stop Showing People the Top of Your Head.

To build relationships with colleagues and clients, you need to show up and be present. We may live in a virtual world, but relationships need real face time. There is no substitute for direct involvement and going beyond virtual experience. Start living and working more at the moment.

You cannot build strong and lasting relationships if you only connect virtually with people. You should strike while the iron's hot, and connect with the people physically around you. If you are half-engaged with someone else virtually while you have a live human being in front of you, it's a missed opportunity that you elected to squander.

Genuine human connection requires mental engagement to show you are a full participant in conversations. The best way to form strong relationships is to put gadgets away so you can become an active listener in real time.

3. Whatever It Is, it Can Wait.

Unless someone is about to die, there's an emergency, or the company or a client relationship is on the verge of falling apart, those texts and emails can wait an hour or two. The world will not crumble if people have to wait a little longer to hear back from you because you're in a meeting. However, what will start to deteriorate is how you are perceived by your fellow team members when you cannot pay attention when others speak.

For those special instances when something is truly urgent that requires your immediate attention, you should alert your colleagues that you have a time-sensitive matter that you are handling simultaneously. This allows you to manage expectations. You should only check your phone periodically. Do not remain glued to your device, checking and responding to messages every few minutes. You should only look for messages specifically related to that urgent topic. Everything else can wait.

However, if you use this "urgency" excuse too often, then people will catch on to you. They will believe this is how you always operate. Colleagues may become annoyed and think you are rude and disrespectful. This disrespect will become a part of your narrative, brand, and who they think you are.

Final Thoughts

While you may try to convince yourself that you can multitask, please don't fool yourself; you will end up doing two things poorly instead of one thing exceptionally well. At the end of the day, everyone wants to feel respected and heard. A good method to signal that you think what your coworkers have to say is important and that their time is valued is to check your phone at the door.

Not only will bonds with colleagues and clients grow, but you will engage in what takes place around you. You will find that as you increase, fully engage, it will pay positive dividends in your career and the relationships you develop.

If you resist change and are incapable of disconnecting, then ask yourself this: why would anyone want to invite you to the next client meeting or task you on the next major project if you are oblivious or indifferent to the impact that your phone etiquette and behavior has on the team?

Originally posted on The Azara Group.

The Azara Group

(TAG) is a consulting firm that promotes the development of leaders in an increasingly competitive and diverse marketplace—providing strategy consulting services and leadership training services to advance professional and life success. TAG leverages expertise in career strategy, diversity, negotiation skills, and business acumen to provide strategic advice and consulting services to help people and organizations get what they want, achieve their goals, and advance their business and career objectives. TAG also helps companies better attract, retain, and promote diverse talent, and develop robust diversity platforms and strategies to create a more inclusive workplace.

The Azara Group welcomes your direct comments and feedback. We do not post comments to our site at this time, but we value hearing from our readers. We invite you to share your thoughts with us. You can contact us directly at [email protected].

Opinions expressed by the author are not necessarily those of WITI.

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