Cell Phone Manners

Keep your voice down, get a grown-up ringtone, and most important, turn it off!

Full keyboards, color screens, and GPS systems have made the lowly cell phone an indispensable business tool. But using your phone inappropriately in a workplace setting can easily distract or offend, says Paul Siddle, principal of the Executive Protocol Group in Naples, Fla. Here's how to avoid a slipup.

EVERYWHERE

As a business owner, you want to project an image of maturity and professionalism. Stick with a standard ringtone rather than blasting Beat It. Remember not to yell into the phone. And if you're taking a call on your cell, as a courtesy let the other party know. That way he or she won't be surprised if the call gets dropped, the connection goes fuzzy, or you get distracted by a texting pedestrian who steps into your path.

IN A MEETING

Three words: Turn it off. Clients and colleagues expect your full attention, and "if you reach down even to check the phone or, worse, answer it, you're sending the wrong message," says Siddle. And no, putting it on vibrate doesn't cut it, especially once your device starts doing the buzz-boogie across the table. That's annoying.

OFF-SITE

If you're worried about how the office is running in your absence, check in before you start your meeting. Tell your staff that you'll be unreachable for a short while. Then hit the off button.

UNLESS...

There is exactly one exception to the "turn it off" rule: If you're expecting a call from a doctor. Explain that you're waiting for a call about a medical matter. If the phone rings, leave the room even before answering. "You want the least amount of intrusion possible," say Siddle.

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