Tech-Etiquette Abuse: Are You One of Them?

The use of gadgets such as smartphones and other hand held devices may make employees more productive, but they haven’t made the workplace more polite, a new survey suggests. More than half (51%) of CIOs report an increase in instances of poor workplace etiquette resulting from more frequent use of mobile electronic devices, according to a new Robert Half Technology survey.

CIOs were asked, “In your opinion, what effect has the increased use of mobile electronic gadgets — such as cell phones, smartphones, hand held devices and laptops — had on workplace etiquette in the past three years? Have the number of breaches in workplace etiquette increased, decreased or remained the same?”

Their responses:

  • Increased significantly 22%

  • Increased somewhat 29%

  • Remained the same 42%

  • Decreased somewhat 4%

  • Decreased significantly 2%

  • Don’t know/no answer 1%

“While electronic gadgets are designed to make employees more productive, they also may serve as a distraction,” said Dave Willmer, executive director of Robert Half Technology, in a statement. “Although the rules of tech etiquette vary from business to business, it’s always a good idea to give people you’re collaborating with your undivided attention.”

Willmer added that it’s easy to inadvertently offend people when you’re moving too quickly. “The best communicators take time to consider the most appropriate medium for the message.”

Robert Half identifies five types of tech-etiquette offenders, and offers tips for making sure you’re not one of them:

The Misguided Multitasker – This person thinks that e-mailing or texting during a meeting or conversation demonstrates efficiency. But others may regard it as a sign he prizes his BlackBerry more than the company he keeps. Unless you want to create potential animosity at work, use your handheld device only in an urgent situation and step out of the room to reply.

The E-mail Addict – If you’ve ever played e-mail tag with a colleague, you’ve likely encountered this person. She relies on a constant stream of e-mails, instant messages or texts to communicate all of her needs, often thinking it will save time. But excessive messaging, particularly regarding trivial things, can be inefficient and disruptive. Often a phone call or in-person discussion can resolve issues more quickly.

The Broadcaster – This person has no shame when it comes to using his cell phone anytime, anywhere (including open office halls and the public restroom) to discuss anything. When using your cell phone in common areas, it’s not only disrespectful but also potentially off-putting to others. Keep private conversations limited to private places.

The Cyborg – Rare is the chance you see this person without the blinking glow of a Bluetooth headset or iPod ear bud nestled in her ear. Keeping a wireless earpieces or headphones constantly plugged in signals to others who may need to speak to you that your attention is not available. Show that you are accessible to your colleagues by using earpieces in the office with discretion and consideration for those around you.

The Distractor – This person may have good intentions in setting his phone to vibrate rather than torturing colleagues with a cheesy ring tone, but hearing it repeatedly buzz loudly on a desktop or during a meeting can be just as distracting. A better solution: Set your phone to silent or keep it in your pocket.

About the Survey

The national survey was developed by Robert Half Technology, a provider of IT professionals on a project and full-time basis, and conducted by an independent research firm. The survey is based on more than 1,400 telephone interviews with CIOs from a random sample of U.S. companies with 100 or more employees.