An old post/column I wrote - e-mail etiquette (or lack thereof) and the impact on clients – led me to check out other technologies which, without policies regarding their use, offend clients and people in general. There was a great archived article in Missed Manners which discusses the impact of poor etiquette when using Blackberries, PDAs and Smartphones as well as e-mail.
It’s worth a read because most people don’t realize they are behaving rudely. As business people we have to be extra-aware or risk our professional and personal reputations and relationships.
Technological advances give us new freedoms. But they also come with a whole new set of rules regarding their use. If inappropriately used, those very freedoms can impact our behaviors and destroy our professional and personal relationships.
If I am talking to a friend or colleague and am expecting a call (through call waiting or call forwarding…not a secretary) that I need to take, I let the person I am talking to know in advance that I am expecting that call and to please not be offended if I need to interrupt our conversation. And it really had better be important. Otherwise, all other calls go into voice mail. Prior to call waiting and call forwarding, this was not a dialogue I would have had to consider.
If I receive a call while I am driving in the car, I will also let people know in advance that our call may be interrupted if I know I am coming to a known dead zone. If I am initiating the phone call, I don’t even dial until I’ve passed the dead zone. Prior to cell phones and their use while ‘hands-free’ driving, this was not a dialogue I would have had to contemplate.
Now with text messaging, Twitter, Facebook and more, how many of you have sat with friends, family, clients, or colleagues at a presentation and found yourself jumping at the bells, the Twitter bird’s warble, etc. How many of you go to lunch and leave your iPhone or Blackberry or Droid on the table as if it is going to order coffee with you? Meanwhile your eyes drift down to see if you’ve got a text message? Or you pull it out of your pocket or pocketbook and place it under the table so it can’t be seen by your company while you see if you’ve gotten any e-mail?
We’ve all been there.
We’re either the perpetrator, more engaged with our social media friends and feeling important receiving text messages about silliness than engaging the person we are with in real live conversation, or we’re the victims who are trying to have conversations, being interrupted several times while the person we are with is excusing themselves for phone calls, picking up their phones, reading a text and then saying, ‘let me just answer them quickly.’
Don’t kid yourself. This behavior is no different and no less offensive than a stranger walking up to your table and saying to your tablemate, ‘Can you bring home a gallon of milk?’ and they respond, ‘Yes, and I’ll buy some Yodels’ then turning back to you and saying, ‘Where were we?’
If you are in these situations and you are truly expecting an important e-mail, text or phone call, let your company know in advance. Once received, put your ‘technology’ away. If you are at a conference with others and tweeting the speakers’ comments for your followers, let others know this is what you are doing and invite them to do so as well if they have the technology and give them the #hashtag. Include them. If they don’t understand what you are talking about educate them. It’s a great opportunity. Again, a dialogue we would never have considered before but need to address today.
Technology requires we learn new etiquette based in common courtesy and education. Professional first and foremost. Therefore, we need to regulate and develop personal policies and dialogue for when dealing with clients, colleagues and even your friends and family. Poor use of technology can damage all manner of relationships.
Upshot: Failure to do so will have your clients and colleagues deeming your behaviors rude and unprofessional. And your friends and family may distance themselves, too.