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Technology Etiquette for the Emerging Generation

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Results are in from a new study by Jive/Harris on the most annoying smart phone behaviors at work. You may not be surprised by what they discovered. The most annoying habits in order are:

  • Having loud private conversations: 65 percent
  • Not silencing the phone: 59 percent
  • Checking the phone during a conversation: 52 percent
  • Checking the phone in a meeting: 38 percent

Why do those surveyed say these activities are annoying? All of them signal disrespect.

For over a decade now, social media -- and technology in general -- has redefined the way we interact with people. And we haven't yet had a chance to establish common courtesies to accompany it in the workplace. So, for both the old and new generations of workers, let me offer a starting point for common guidelines to follow in a social work setting.

Etiquette Rules to Follow:

1. Unless you're expecting a vital message, conversations in person always trump virtual conversations. It's disrespectful to the person standing in front of you to be set aside because of a text or a call from someone who isn't. This is why we are annoyed at sales clerks who take a call when we are standing right in front of them with money to buy a product. As a rule, prioritize in-person interaction.

2. Emails or texts are only for messages containing information, not emotion.
Digital interactions have made us relationally lazy. It's easier to communicate a message via email, text or Facebook. Because written words do not communicate non-verbal tone or meaning, however, emotional messages can be misunderstood and do more damage than good (i.e. breaking up through a text).

3. While in a meeting or conversation, do not check your phone. In fact, it's often better to leave it somewhere else so you can focus on those in front of you. Unless the people you are with have all agreed otherwise, avoiding your phone signals you are focused on the meeting at hand.

4. If you must bring your laptop, tablet or smart phone into a meeting, always acknowledge it and even ask if it would bother anyone if you used it. This is common courtesy and it communicates (even if no one in the room is your "boss") that they are important and you don't want to signal disrespect.

5. When on your phone, keep the calls short and quiet. If you cannot, move to an area away from others. This communicates you are self-aware and mindful that the world does not revolve around you. This actually cultivates a culture of caring and perspective that others can emulate.

6. Social media use during work hours should be within the boundaries of your employer or supervisor. Ask them. They have exchanged money for your time, so it belongs to them. The vast majority of Generation Y believes it's their right to be on Facebook, Twitter or Instagram during work hours. I would just add -- it's also the right of your employer to let you go. It's your call.

What else would you add to this list?

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