How dare you text when I’m speaking

11403768_mTexting in meetings is considered by many to be unprofessional and rude. If there was any doubt, asking that question recently on LinkedIn released a torrent of emotion that made it clear that some people feel very, very strongly against it.

After watching weeks of emphatic responses and a few descriptive comments on how texters should be strung up, hung out, laid low, and made to pay for their transgressions, it became clear that something bigger must be at stake. All that emotion wasn’t justified. The reaction was visceral and involved much more than etiquette.

Then it hit me: People could be very afraid of the anarchy that texting during meetings could unleash. They prefer a world of rules, order, hierarchy and ‘forced relevance.’

Those gosh darned kids

For those in this spot, texting during a meeting represents all that is wrong with life these days. They’re part of a large contingent of people angered or at least frustrated by the rapid-fire, real-time, multi-channel conversations that are ruining their comfortable status quo. They yearn for the good old days when everyone sat smiling politely around the table, daydreaming or doing their taxes in their heads while the conversation droned on.

After all, how can there be order in a world when no one appreciates the professional skill of pretending to be engaged and interested while the conversation is as fascinating as watching paint dry? When we cease to value the skill of polite hypnosis, anything can happen, right?

Age of Relevance

We’re in an era where communication is easy, fast and seems unlimited. We no longer are forced to be engaged in a conversation if it doesn’t have relevance to what we need to accomplish. Thanks to texting, we can reach anyone, anywhere and aren’t compelled to get ideas and accomplish work with those in the room if that isn’t going to get the job done. We can give attention to someone who needs it more. We can choose relevance over irrelevance at any time.

Relevance is the new hierarchy and climbing the corporate ladder is increasingly about being relevant more than having rank. There are those who hate that, like anyone who benefited from forced relevance in the past…those who we listened to only because of their position or out of politeness.

The angry mob’s biggest fear isn’t that people will be texting in the room…why would it be? Those not following a relevant conversation are digging their own graves. The angry mob fears they can’t command an audience without etiquette forcing the issue. They’d rather their captives stare off into space than do something of their own choosing.

Deep down inside they fear their own irrelevance.


Taking it one step further, forcing someone to watch you every move and hang on every word is the most counter-innovative practice possible. Disruption comes quickly and cycles times in healthy businesses are getting shorter. Let the ideas and thoughts flow freely and trust that it ultimately has a benefit. Likewise, each person has their own communication style and like BYOD, perhaps there’s BYOC (Bring Your Own Communication).

One size never fits all, so forget forcing everyone into your Industrial Age model for how business is done.

Pragmatic advice

In the end, those who text during meetings need to understand the stakes. If the others in the room are offended, that could certainly have a negative impact on the texter. Likewise, texting during a job interview or the CEO’s meeting is likely not career enhancing. Text at your own risk and be ready to pay the price.

For those angry about texting, rather than indignation and invective, why not take the opposite approach and say, “I’m going to be so interesting that it isn’t insulting to me if you don’t pay attention, it is insulting to you.”

If you can’t do that, at least ask yourself, “Why take it so personally?”

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Categories: Disruption, Featured, Social / Collaboration

Author:Chris Taylor

Reimagining the way work is done through big data, analytics, and event processing. There's no end to what we can change and improve. I wear myself out...

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34 Comments on “How dare you text when I’m speaking”

  1. Donald Smith
    February 16, 2013 at 8:01 am #

    I have no knowledge of any thread of discussion leading to this article, but I am unconvinced. This seems to be all about the well-being of the individual rather than of the the group. If a group gathers to meet for any reason (listen to speakers, watch a movie, discuss an issue, etc.), each individual participant must decide if there is enough value in the meeting to stay engaged, yet keeping in mind that all others have come and hope to receive what they came for. To engage in unrelated activities in the presence of other group members is to compromise their experience and potential value realization. Disregard for others in the group is selfish behavior not socially acceptable. There are other choices. If the meeting is not compulsory, you are free to leave and make better use of your time while not compromising the opportunity for those remaining to receive the value they may find. If the meeting is compulsory and you find no value, you can do what you can within the bounds of the meeting to make it valuable for yourself AND the others by engaging the meeting with good questions or discussion. If the speaker needs help making it interesting, remember that people aren’t born with the ability to present and offer your valuable knowledge and skills.

    I don’t know, but I sense part of this frustration is in the fact meetings (gatherings where people sit in the same room) don’t actually work the way we are now working and it makes us restless and uncomfortable enduring them. Our comfortable work environment is sitting in an office by ourselves in front of our primary computing device and one or two PDAs within reach. We have multiple threads of email, texts, multiple browser tabs which allows us to listen to a webinar while working on a spreadsheet or other document. We think, why can’t a meeting work this way too? Nicholas Carr may have an explanation for this in his book The Shallows. Maybe our brains have become rewired from our use of the Internet and we no longer function well in the traditional meeting, which isn’t nearly as interactive as an internet browser.

    • February 16, 2013 at 9:04 am #

      Donald, thanks for your very coherent argument. I think you’ve hit on something that is a bigger issue…we can now be so productive in our cubicle without offending anyone that we hate the meeting’s pause of our ongoing conversations. Meetings become the least productive part of the day.

      So…why do we have them? Should we have in-person meetings unless it is really necessary? Do we have far too many? When we have them, should we allow each person to ‘attend’ in their own way as long as they’re not interfering with others?

      • Donald Smith
        February 17, 2013 at 1:07 pm #

        Chris, these are excellent questions. Meetings can and do get in the way of our ability to contribute and/or generate value. Yet there are times when meetings are the best way for groups to collaborate and create much greater value in the given time than any other method. I personally believe most meetings fail to deliver sufficient value for the resources expended and I understand why many people feel resentful of them. Yet this is no excuse for behaviors which are really nothing more than measures to reassert control of individual time and resources.

        There are positive and proactive ways to maintain control of our precious time and effectiveness. It is perfectly acceptable to respectfully question a meeting organizer about the value of attendance. What added value do they perceive your attendance will provide? Is this expectation realistic? If not, it’s good to say so in order for the organizer to invite the appropriate resource. If you are the right resource but highly constrained at that time, you can offer to negotiate better timing or find another resource or offer an alternative solution that provides equal or better value for all concerned. If there really is a better way to accomplish the given objective without a meeting, it should be offered as an alternative. And as you suggested, why couldn’t we offer an alternative method of attendance which accomplishes the desired outcomes?

        I would also like to offer that many of us should seriously reconsider what we think is effective in our work habits. Consider some of the research suggesting that many of the existing tools (especially our beloved personal communication devices) are actually compromising our effectiveness and in disturbing measure. Additional research suggests these same tools are compromising the quality of our interpersonal relationships (addictions come in many forms). Lastly, any tool we use to communicate to others instead of face-to-face interaction imposes a certain amount of “signal loss” and there are times when these are used deliberately as barriers in order to isolate and/or insulate ourselves. In other words, we use them to hide from the very people we need to work with. This is evasive, not effective.

        I’m certain we do not need as many meetings (people gathered in a place) as we have. We have never had better means to disseminate the information an organization needs to accomplish it’s mission than we do today. Online collaboration tools are getting better all the time. Yet there are times when the value of face-to-face interpersonal interaction is the only way (currently) to achieve our objectives and there are important ground rules for those interactions to achieve the best results. Online meetings have their protocols to maintain effectiveness, don’t they? We use mute when others are speaking. One person speaks at a time, etc. Otherwise, it doesn’t work. Let’s also consider that each group can and should establish what is acceptable or not to the effectiveness of that group. And all in the group must agree on what the operating rules are.

        People need to proactively and respectfully take control of their time and resources, and stop the inappropriate reactive behaviors to recover them. We still get more accomplished in groups than we do individually. We still need to get along well with others.

      • February 17, 2013 at 1:16 pm #

        Excellent response, Donald.

      • Sean Sullivan
        February 26, 2013 at 11:11 am #

        Chris, I think you are assume that working with multiple devices along multiple threads is more productive based on your statement. Yet, and I can’t quote any off the top of my head, I recall reading multiple articles and research in the past that says such multi-tasking is less productive for most people because it does not allow us to concentrate on a single task for long enough. This is the whole mini-movement that people and some organizations have that allow meetings for only certain times during the day/week and many people turn off email except during certain dedicated times of the day.

        Just because multi-tasking is how we work and are more comfortable today does not make it necessarily more productive.

        Regarding your article, I am also unconvinced. Texting during a meeting is the same as having a side conversation. It takes away from the value for all to be there and usually causes weaker outcomes, repeating discussions, annoying some in attendance who are dedicating their time, etc. If the meeting is not valuable to you, decline it.

      • February 26, 2013 at 4:25 pm #

        Not sure it is really the same as having a side conversation that involves two people in the room and is audible.

  2. paullabelle
    February 16, 2013 at 9:30 am #

    Managers and execs who ban texting, or any multitasking, in meetings risk creating a groupthink culture where the unspoken message to reports is that since all eyes need to be 100% on me, I really don’t want to hear any counter thoughts. That 20th century style of management is what almost wiped out the US auto industry, whose execs took a long nap as Japan drove QC rings around them. Luddites all!

    • February 16, 2013 at 9:41 am #

      Very interesting point. In a forced relevance scenario (like you describe and like maybe Enron as well), the lack of sideways and free-form conversation could very realistically have been part of the problem. People text what they won’t say or email. It can be some of the most important conversation we have.

  3. Kimberley
    February 16, 2013 at 11:10 am #

    This is such a funny issue where I work. The most productive people are the ones who are texting the most. LOL. The ones who are complaining about the texting are the ones that seem to take five days to get an answer from. I’m not saying texting is polite, either. I just noticed the trends that I mentioned.

    Agree that people get crazy about this issue and thank you for suggesting a reason why…I couldn’t figure it out. Maybe because I text sometimes? The most important thing for people to remember is to r-e-l-a-x. It isn’t as personal as you make it (unless it really is in which case time to check yourself…)

    • February 16, 2013 at 1:42 pm #

      Thanks, Kimberley. The amount of emotion just doesn’t add up. I’m just here to off an opinion why.

  4. February 16, 2013 at 1:39 pm #

    Texting in a meeting is the modern “excuse me a minute, I have to answer this phone call.” People realize that we are in a fast-moving world today but they often refuse to keep up with the technology. If anything, texting is a lot less rude than taking a call during a meeting because now I don’t have to listen to a side conversation, and if you are the texter, I can answer at my own convenience. Not that I take all of my advice from movies, but a favorite scene from Social Network is when Zuckerberg tells the lawyers, “You have part of my attention – you have the minimum amount. The rest of my attention is back at the offices of Facebook, where my colleagues and I are doing things that no one in this room…is intellectually or creatively capable of doing.” Shouldn’t you want your workers concerned with the work they have waiting on their desks? If you hired someone that cannot multitask to a point where they cannot type and listen at the same time, then it might be time to start hiring new people. If you demand my attention, 100% of it, I expect a high degree of importance, otherwise you have wasted my time and the company’s time.

  5. February 16, 2013 at 1:55 pm #

    Kimberley, you may have just turned on a light bulb in my head. Perhaps why I am so adamant against texting is because I can’t do it. Due to a TBI (blood vessel exploded in a benign brain tumor left with with all the aftereffects of a hemorrhagic stroke) I can’t think as quickly as I used to think. I also no longer have the manual dexterity that I formerly possessed. I had to give up my blackberry. I couldn’t manipulate the buttons.

    In terms of relevance, I also have very strong feelings about relevance. Some of those I expressed in an essay that I wrote in my early recovery period from the TBI. “What I Know Is Relevant” can be found in my blog at

    Chris, as you are asking us to “Walk a mile in the shoes of a younger generation, or a generation that communicates differently.” I would ask for the opportunity to demonstrate relevance in a world that I know is changing. It is just frustrating to me that it seems to be changing to a world that is no better than the world we inhabited where people who were different were treated poorly, or simply ignored.

    • February 16, 2013 at 3:00 pm #

      Thank you for the comment, Bayard and we wish you the best recovery. Relevance is a strange bird. Sometimes the more you struggle for it, the more you lose it. It’s like a boy or girlfriend in that regard. I’m no expert but when I see myself getting a good response, it is usually because I’ve contributed without looking for return. When I’m self-serving, relevance is elusive. The world has always been that way, but I think people could buy relevance more easily in the past with athletic achievement, cash, good looks and fame. Those points won’t go away but they’re less critical in a flatter, more democratic world.

  6. Terri
    February 17, 2013 at 9:10 am #

    Chris, the judgmental tack you have taken in your synopsis is a disservice to you and everyone else. You may have such fear; I don’t. As has been said, if there is something more important you need to be doing and a meeting is not where you need to be, don’t go.

    I have the same choice… If I’m presenting to a group who insists on being rude, does not want to pay attention, or is otherwise refusing to participate, I can leave (or invite those who don’t want to be there to leave).

    I find it quite interesting that the “my way or else” mantra only seems to apply to those who want the “rules” to not apply to them. vis. I can’t be restricted by these so-called polite people, so I’m going to dictate my way to them. They have to change to suit me. I don’t care if they think I’m rude – I don’t care what my co-workers think at all. I’m going to do what I want and too bad for them. Really?

    Suppose one of the “whatever” advocates is the one presenting / leading the meeting and all the attendees are abdicating any responsibility to participate? Is there anything accomplished? How does the total lack of respect for others promote teamwork?

    The idea that “not texting” during a meeting is a demand for attention … yes. Attention to the purpose for the meeting, which is usually the presenter. If you are there, you should make some effort to participate — or leave.

    Participation does not mean nodding in agreement (or nodding off). It means that you should be thinking about the topic, asking questions, and providing your point of view to the group. That’s why you were invited to the meeting, wasn’t it?

    One of the best teachers I ever had could give a lively and engaging presentation. But he would absolutely shine when people asked questions.

    Relevant questions help focus on what those present today want to know. I find the same is true – a presentation I gave last month was extremely well received. When I gave the same presentation to a similar group, they were less enthusiastic at first. I made some adjustments. Turned out, they had completely different questions.

    If the attendees or audience is too busy with whatever else – texting, their deskwork, or whatever, they are surely not participating, they are incapable of asking RELEVANT questions, and are just taking up space needlessly.

  7. February 17, 2013 at 9:20 am #

    @Terri, just trying to figure out why people are so impassioned about something that really affects the individual and not the group. The fear of being irrelevant is the best answer I’ve come up with so far. There has to be a reason.

    You call it rude, but they’re choosing to not listen during a conversation that isn’t one-on-one…they don’t feel connected (right or wrong) so they disconnect. You are a teacher, so you get to test them on what they choose to listen to and you have the means to make listening valuable (at least from a threat perspective) and maybe haven’t connected to them from a non-threat perspective (just guessing…no evidence).

    The underlying assumption you’re making is that giving attention is equal to respect. I’ve made the case in the blog that those ideas are based on a hierarchical society and date back to the feudal system. Giving attention is becoming an issue of relevance…the point of this piece.

    Attention was given differently in a world limited to the immediate surroundings. When the world is literally at your fingertips, the choices change, the channels change, the etiquette changes…and I would argue the pace changes, the value changes, and the haves and have nots change.

  8. Terri
    February 17, 2013 at 10:16 am #

    @Chris, I can’t speak for anyone but myself. I call it rude, impolite, disrespectful. If every team demanded a one-on-one conversation to get each individual’s attention, there would not be any teams and every “team leader” would spend all his/her time coddling those egomaniacs who can’t or won’t contribute to a group, any group.

    You seem to be missing the point of a meeting — everyone in the room hears the same thing at the same time. They may not all actually hear the message because they are somewhere else with their devices, that’s a problem – and a loss of productivity for everyone.

    Feeling disconnected… that’s a two-way street. Everyone in the room should have the opportunity to participate somehow. Checking out (via fiddling with devices) is not participating.

    Respect. Yes. Professional and Personal. If I have asked you to attend a meeting (or a class), I am asking that you respect me, the time and effort I have put into arranging the meeting, preparing my presentation, and the time I spent preparing to stand up in front of the group and deliver it. That’s a reasonable request.

    Conversely, I should have the same respect for those in the room. If I’m rambling on about something that is not Relevant to THE MEETING, perhaps I should prepare better. Whether or not you JUDGE that what I’m saying is Relevant to you, is another matter. Maybe you shouldn’t be so judgmental?

    Instead of rudely checking out and ignoring me by fiddling with texts or doing something else, a courteous person could interact with the people in the room to create a more Relevant meeting; stop the rambling by asking a Relevant question or Participate in the meeting by exercising leadership to re-direct the discussion (again, asking a question or stating a viewpoint).

    I’ve been involved in some one-on-one conversations where I had to emphatically stop the other person interrupting. Would not let me finish a short sentence – which would have given him the information he was demanding during each rude interruption. If he had simply given me 45 seconds (literally) to finish my point, we would not have spent 10 minutes arguing about why he should let me finish my sentence.

    There are many situations when I find sending a text is preferable to a call.

    If you ask for my attendance at a meeting, you will get my full participation. That can be more frightening to some than if I am sitting in the back 1/2 listening and sending texts.

    Listening (and reading) with only 1/2 or 1/10 of the brain is a bad habit that shows lack of respect, leads to mistakes and sometimes to insults. Is it only an insult when you deliberately insult another person or can someone find a comment or behavior insulting when you did not intend it as such?

    You have jumped to a conclusion, used a stereotype and mischaracterized me as a “classroom teacher who gives exams” merely because I said I teach. Had you been an active listener/reader, you might have asked something about the topics or situations. Most presenters are teachers… they have knowledge that they are willing to share. Same for those in leadership roles.

    I’m lucky. I only teach those who want to learn. I’m selective. I don’t teach everyone who wants to learn. I will only consider teaching those who show respect. And, yes, I require phones be off and everyone pay attention during class. I also expect that my responsibility is to make an effort to keep the class interesting. Relevant to what you demand… no. If you are making demands, you don’t know how to learn and clearly don’t know what’s relevant to the topic…. (unless you are also an expert in which case you wouldn’t be in my class in the first place). In my classes, if you assume your ideas about what should be presented are more Relevant than mine, you have failed the first test. If you participate and ask questions, you may learn something.

  9. February 17, 2013 at 10:23 am #

    A great blog by Seth Godin today addresses the anger aspect of people’s responses. They want to excoriate (some threw tantrums on LinkedIn):

    There are only three reasons to really chew someone out for something they did, only three reasons to have an emotional tantrum, to use cutting language and generally make them feel lousy:

    1. You want them to never do it again.

    2. You want them to stop doing it right now.

    3. You feel upset about the change and taking it out on the person who took action makes you feel better. First clue, “he deserved it!”

    Can we agree that the third reason is selfish and there are almost certainly better responses if your goal is one or two?

  10. Terri
    February 17, 2013 at 10:38 am #

    Chris, you live in a world (marketing/advertising) where the inhabitants are constantly clamouring for attention. Your clients want as many people as possible looking at their marketing campaigns. Success is measured by the counts. More is always better. Faster is considered “first” and being thorough takes too much time.

    I live in a world where the inhabitants may or may not be relevant to what I’m doing and may consider me irrelevant to what they are doing. Getting their attention (or mine) requires thoughtful, measured communication. Superficial attention doesn’t have value; depth matters. Less is often better and taking more time to be thorough is highly prized.

    So, in your world, being constantly distracted, giving your attention to many things at once, may have some value.

    It has zero value in my world.

    Case: I did some work for a US company with quality problems. The PMO in China was consistently shipping orders with 30-40% defects. The GM in charge of the China office carried two phones and a pager. He worked 15 hour days. He was always late for something. He was constantly on the phone – talking on one, texting on another. He never planned anything and was always “responding” to something. My recommendations for him: A time management class, a daily planning meetings, and a strategy to stop reacting and start acting. For the company, I taught the on-site QA team Six Sigma methods. They reduced defects on the first order (after the class) to less than 10%.

    • February 17, 2013 at 12:14 pm #

      Terri, good comment and thank you.

    • February 17, 2013 at 12:19 pm #

      I think what is really interesting about this debate is something that was highlighted in the blog itself is the line “Text at your own risk and be ready to pay the price.” It is at your discretion whether or not you are listening to someone at a meeting, your professor at a lecture, or even watching a movie. I really cannot tell you how many times I answered an email during a lecture at Stanford and if you think I am the only one, well then professors have to start adopting the no computer rule….which they ended up doing. I would also tell you that there were times when something that was time sensitive was missed because I did not have access to my computer during that 2 hour lecture. I would even say the reason I could graduate in three years was because I was able to multitask. It is really impossibly not to. We live in a world where technology and the world are sitting in our laps. To completely shut us off from that is just not even a possibility anymore. Any time we would take a break during class, that was a cell phone text break. We cannot expect the world to stop spinning during a meeting or during a class period. There are other things going on, and just because you take 5 seconds to respond to that text that is coming in does not mean you are being disrespectful or you are doing something more interesting. You are just trying to put out as many fires at once. This was my world in school and it is my world now. I had 5 classes every quarter, devoted as much time to each and would say I did well for myself. I did not dilute anything by answering a five second email during a lecture. I would not go on Facebook or anything during a meeting or lecture because these types of things do not require my immediate attention. I always saw things as this, in order of importance we try to contact people: by phone, by text, and then by email. A text coming in is something that warrants a little more attention and requires a more immediate answer. I would not say I was ever distracted….I was addressing the issues that came up when they did. Otherwise I was undoubtedly going to face the consequences later.

  11. Sandra.
    February 17, 2013 at 12:41 pm #

    I don’t think it’s possible to multi task (and I believe there are neurological studies to support this) – you end up doing many things badly instead of one thing well. Therefore you’re either txting OR you’re being present in the meeting. I think the root cause of the problem is boring or irrelevant meetings. I am disgusted by the amount of waste caused by badly run meetings, where the many are subject to the tyranny of the few, who think it’s their God given right to drone on and on while they have a captive audience. That’s rudeness. However the solution isn’t to disengage and start txting, it’s to make sure meetings are well managed and valuable.

    • February 17, 2013 at 12:43 pm #

      Sandra, thanks for a great comment.

    • February 18, 2013 at 6:30 am #

      Amen, Sandra. The meeting is the issue, not the act of texting (or doodling – the precursor to texting in meetings).

  12. Rob Mian
    February 17, 2013 at 5:22 pm #

    Humans hate rejection. If you’re a human who interprets being ignored while trying to share as a sign of rejection, then you’re going to have a strong reaction to the texter. Add an audience to the mix to witness this rejection and you’ve triggered one of our greatest human fears – embarrassment. This would explain at least a part of the strong emotional responses to this topic.

    Another contributing factor to the emotional torrent stems from a desire for a binary answer to a complex question. It is rude to text in a meeting? It depends. Rudeness is culturally dependent and subjective. Does your org tolerate rude as long as it produces results? Does your org even consider the behavior rude? Do you agree with your org’s position? Can people effectively multi-task? What kind of meeting it is? Why was the texter even invited if s/he had more urgent matters to address? etc.

    I think this has been a great debate thus far and have learned so much from the sharing. Thank you, Chris, to starting these discussions.

    • February 17, 2013 at 5:25 pm #

      Well said, Rob. The embarrassment and public nature of rejection is something I hadn’t thought about. Yes, companies definitely tolerate texting if they’re getting great results, regardless of rudeness.

  13. February 18, 2013 at 6:27 am #

    Chris, this was a sore issue in our organization. It was primarily a leadership issue in the beginning. Much like you described, using your smartphone during a meeting was considered bad. I even had someone leave a meeting during a break and email me to either leave my smartphone at my desk or leave the meeting. It didn’t turn around until a group of us started a logical dialog with the leadership, and they all got smartphones. Then things changed.

    The logical argument was around a few key points, that I think could serve everyone well when looking at this issue. They are want I use whenever I speak.

    1. Treat others like you want to be treated – What? The Golden Rule! Say it isn’t so. If I’m in an audience, I don’t ever want to be disruptive to the speaker, regardless of what I’m doing at the time. Texting, speaking, writing on a notepad, etc.

    2. If I, as the speaker, can’t keep you engaged enough to keep you off your smartphone; I failed – This gets back to your point about the nature of the meeting. Meeting just to meet will result in a lot of folks on their smartphone. Meeting to get real work done, that everyone in the room cares about will result in little use of a smartphone during a meeting (for non-value added tasks like texting others). Bottom line, if someone is not engaged, regardless of what they are doing while not engaged (taxes, texting, daydreaming, doodling, etc.), they probably don’t need to be in the meeting because their not vital to the outcome.

    3. Why does the medium matter? – This was the most logical part of this issue that I NEVER understood, and it was the point that really made others think about their argument for having smartphones in meetings. We were in a meeting and I take notes on my smartphone so I can have them in electronic media faster (task list, calendar, etc.). We were in a meeting and I did that at the same time the person next to me wrote their tasks on a notepad. I got called out and I asked the logical question: why is the way I took this note bad when writing it on an notepad is OK? (Actually, my way was overall more productive). What this led to was a realization that every time someone picks up a smartphone, they aren’t updating their mood on Facebook or texting someone about the boring this meeting really is.

    These are the rules I live by as a speaker and as an attendee. As the speaker, just because I called the meeting and I may “out rank” you, doesn’t mean you are obligated to pay attention. I have to make sure I pick the right people, make the meeting (or speech) engaging, and give them value for the time they are in the meeting. Or, alternatively, I should expect everyone to be on their smartphone within 10 minutes.

    • February 18, 2013 at 6:31 am #

      Always a rock star response, Ron. It’s great to see a balanced approach rather than yet another voice saying, “It’s always rude and you should stop.” It isn’t that simple. There is a very lively thread on the topic on HRB that has even spilled over at times to emotional and angry.

      • February 18, 2013 at 6:33 am #

        I’m waiting for the t-shirt that says, “I will stop texting in meetings when you pry my smartphone from my cold, dead hand!”

  14. Jim
    February 22, 2013 at 11:42 am #

    If I don’t need you to pay attention in my meetings you won’t be invited. There’s an aspect here that most ignore, respect for the speaker. When I’m the boss and someone is uninterested in what I’m saying, I’ll take that into consideration in future evaluations. My test for this type of communication in meetings is very simple. If the person you are communicating with were standing outside that door, would they dare to interrupt my meeting to have that conversation, or would your have ignored my meeting request just to talk to that person.

    This should have nothing to do with productivity, if that’s what this is about then let’s pull the plug on the internet during business hours, there cannot be a bigger misuse or productive time than the time spent on “PERSONA” use of the internet during business hours. An individual would have to be awfully valuable for me not to take action immediately and it they were, then I’d find a backup for that talent and send the texter home. I have always had very little turnover in my organizations, but seem to have sent home more than my peers. Business isn’t a democracy, no matter what HR says!

    • February 22, 2013 at 2:23 pm #

      Jim, thanks for your comment. I’m not sure what industry you work within, but many I’m in contact with require the employees to use the Internet extensively, and just as we use our voice for both business and chatting with coworkers during business hours, we use the Internet and mobile devices to do the same. It isn’t anything new…just a new way to do it.

      Part of the argument you make in the first paragraph is very hierarchical and power-based rather than relevance. That may work in some industries but where collaborative outcomes are necessary, power doesn’t get the job done nor does it attract the creative and enthusiastic types that love a level playing field and a chance to be relevant rather than just a worker.

  15. BillCastellano
    August 30, 2013 at 6:30 am #

    Chris, I was in a job interview and the interviewer was texting frantically during our conversation (although the interviewer amazingly did this without really losing stride or attention). I found out later I was being reference-checked-on-the-fly – which, actually was a good thing rather than having all of the wait/delay cycle as usual. PS I got the job 🙂


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