How to stay on the right side of your boss

ey cio blog - colleagues discussingIs your boss an older woman? If so, don’t even think about bringing your phone to a meeting with her. New research suggests that four-fifths of people over the age of 50 disapprove of someone using their phone during a meeting or a business lunch — and that women are much more likely to be offended than men.


The study, conducted jointly by researchers at Howard University and the University of Southern California, canvassed more than 550 workers and business professionals on whether they’re bothered by mobile phone use in the workplace. Large numbers said they were, particularly in certain circumstances:

  • Employees get particularly angered by managers using their phones during meetings. Most consider taking or making calls rude, but some said they didn’t even like it when managers brought a phone into a meeting.
  • Three-quarters of those surveyed said that it was inappropriate for someone to check their phone for text messages during a formal meeting, while more than half said it was wrong to even use the phone to check the time or to see who was calling. People were more accepting of phone use during a business lunch, but more than half felt it was rude to look at your phone while at the table.
  • Men are nearly twice as likely to consider it acceptable to use a phone over lunch — more than 59% said it was OK to check text messages at the table, compared with only 34% of women. Similarly, 50% of men think it’s OK to answer a call during lunch, compared with 26% of women.
  • Younger people are less worried about phone use than older colleagues. For example, two-thirds of people under 30 consider it acceptable to send a text message while at a lunch meeting, but only one-fifth of people aged 51–65 share that view.
  • Even excusing yourself to use the phone may offend — 30% think this is almost never appropriate during a meeting or lunch.

What does the research tells us? Essentially, that in a world where smartphones have become ubiquitous and people are connected 24 hours a day, many of us still regard it as common courtesy to concentrate all our attention on the people we’re currently engaging with.

Even a suggestion that you don’t share this view may offend: one in five people consider it rude to have your phone out during a business lunch. So if you’re eating with four other people and your phone is on the table, there’s a good chance you’ve upset someone.


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