Smartphone Etiquette In The Business World
October 25, 2013

Smartphone Etiquette In The Business World – The Gender And Age Divide

Brett Smith for - Your Universe Online

With the near-ubiquity of mobile devices that has come about in the past decade, the etiquette for when and how to use these devices has evolved along with the proliferation of technology. Researchers from USC and Howard University decided to look into how feelings towards mobile phone use break down across gender, age and region in a new study published on Thursday in Business Communication Quarterly.

In the study, researchers consulted two recent research studies: an open-ended survey of more than 200 employees at a beverage distributor on the East Coast and a national survey of 350 American business professionals.

The researchers discovered business professionals’ general attitudes toward what is acceptable, polite or uncouth use of mobile phones on the job. The researchers focused on common grievances people had about smartphone use, including browsing the Internet and checking for incoming texts. They also asked working professionals earning at least $30,000 annually to tell them which of these behaviors they find acceptable and which ones are rude.

More than three-quarters of respondents said checking texts or emails was unacceptable in business meetings, and 87 percent said that taking a call was rarely or never suitable in meetings. Regarding business lunches, a more informal setting, 66 percent said writing or sending a text is improper and 20 percent said just having your phone out at a business lunch is wrong.

Perhaps unsurprisingly, the researchers also found divisions between the sexes when it comes to attitudes on smartphone use. Men were almost twice as likely as their female counterparts to view mobile phone use at a business lunch as acceptable behavior. Over 59 percent of men said it was suitable to check text messages at a business lunch, as opposed to 34 percent of women who thought checking texts was ok. Half of the men said it was okay to take a call at a power lunch, compared to 26 percent of female respondents.

The research team also found divisions between younger and older professionals, with respondents under 30 being nearly three times as likely as older professionals to say that texting at a business lunch is appropriate, compared to just 20 percent of those ages 51 to 65.

"Not surprisingly, millennials and younger professionals were more likely to be accepting of smartphone use, but they might be doing themselves a disservice," said study author Peter W. Cardon of the USC Marshall School of Business. "In many situations, they rely on those older than them for their career advancement."

Other surprising findings included professionals from the supposedly ‘more-relaxed’ West Coast were less tolerant of mobile phone use in meetings than East Coast professionals, while higher-income workers were less accepting of smartphone use in business meetings. The study even found that someone excusing themselves to take a call is inappropriate, with over 30 percent saying it is rarely or never acceptable during lunch meetings

"Hiring managers often cite courtesy as among the most important soft skills they notice. By focusing on civility, young people entering the workforce may be able to set themselves apart," Cardon noted.