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FALL 2009

I Have to Take This Call
woman and cell phoneIN TODAY’S FAST-PACED, instant communication workplace, cell phones are a necessity. But if misused, they can diminish face-to-face communications and become an office irritation. Powerful cell phone applications and the expectation that employees be accessible have changed the business landscape. And given that cell phones – nonexistent prior to the 1990s – represent a relatively new social phenomenon, there are few established norms for their use. Here are some basics of good workplace cell phone etiquette. Ring tone The ring should be professional and subtle. Putting cell phones on vibrate or silent mode is preferable. However vibrating phones left unattended on desktops can be irritating. Meetings Cell phones should be off or silent during meetings. If you forget and the phone rings, turn it off without answering and apologize. In most situations, taking a call or texting during a meeting is a no-no and may give the impression that you are disengaged from – and possibly place less value on – the meeting itself. The exception: If you are expecting a critical call, let others know and set your phone to vibrate. Leave the meeting to take the call. Incoming calls A face-to-face conversation takes precedence over an incoming call. Let the call go to voicemail. If you are expecting a critical call, let others know beforehand. Don’t cut off the conversation with, “I’ve got to take this.” Personal cell phone calls Use discretion when placing and taking cell phone calls at the workplace – and in public. Take your call to a private area, keep it brief, and keep your voice low. Maintain at least a 10-foot zone from others while talking – note that this negates cell phone use in elevators. Libraries, funerals, and movie theaters are clearly no-cell phone zones. But restaurants, elevators, and even public restrooms continue to cause strife in the debate over cell phone etiquette. In any case, common sense should guide behavior at the workplace. Until there are clearer guidelines, make no assumptions and remember: when in doubt, switch to silent mode.