June 12, 2009

Excessive Use Of Smartphones Results In Bad Business Etiquette

Experts say newer forms of poor office etiquette "” paying more attention to a hand-held device than to a conversation or business meeting "” happens so frequently that businesses are complaining it upsets workplaces, wastes time and costs money, Reuters reported.

Jane Wesman, a public relations executive and author of "Dive Right In -- The Sharks Won't Bite," said it is becoming an occurrence that happens all the time and is definitely getting worse.

"It's become an addiction," she added.

A March poll by Yahoo! HotJobs, an online jobs board, showed that a third of more than 5,000 respondents said they often check their e-mails during meetings.

Tom Musbach, senior managing editor of Yahoo! HotJobs, said such habits have their price.

He explained that things like BlackBerries fragment our attention span and can lead to lost productivity and wasted dollars because people aren't focused on their work.

Nearly a fifth of respondents in Yahoo! HotJobs research said they had been reprimanded for showing bad manners with a wireless device, but even those who rail against such behavior admit to occasionally doing it themselves.

"You can't help yourself. There's this need to know what's going on," said Wesman.

But research shows such multi-tasking can take more time and result in more errors than simply focusing on a single task at a time.

Nathan Bowling, an expert in workplace psychology at Wright State University in Dayton, Ohio, said a person attending to different things at the same time is not going to retain as much information as they would if they attended to that one thing.

Billionaire businessman Tom Golisano said he grew angry after meeting this spring with state Democratic majority leader Malcolm Smith, who paid more attention to his BlackBerry than to issues at hand.

Golisano, who is known for hefty campaign contributions and for funding his own unsuccessful bids for governor, told statehouse reporters he thought it was very rude.

Golisano reportedly approached other legislators, who this week voted out the Democratic leadership and voted in the Republicans.

Henry Stern, former head of New York City's parks department, wrote on a Yonkers Tribune blog: "One should not play with one's BlackBerry (or anything else) when billionaires who have helped elect you have traveled to your office to talk to you."

Bowling said so-called "counter-productive work behavior" includes people who text message when they should be doing something else, as well as harassment, showing up late or playing endlessly on the Internet.

He noted that technology now allows us to do counter-productive things that we weren't able to do 10, 20 or even five years ago.

But there is a "learning curve" to new technology such as BlackBerries, according to business etiquette coach Barbara Pachter.

She said many of us who are owners of such devices are still at that point where we're being rude, but people's behavior is likely to improve in the next year or two.

"We're just not there yet," she added.