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20-Somethings Find No Problem with Texting and Answering Calls in Business Meetings

2013 November 1

ResearchBlogging.orgIn an upcoming article in Business Communication Quarterly, Washington, Okoro and Cardon[1] investigated how appropriate people found various mobile-phone-related behaviors during formal business meetings.  Highlights from the respondents included:

  • 51% of 20-somethings believe it appropriate to read texts during formal business meetings, whereas only 16% of workers 40+ believe the same thing
  • 43% of 20-somethings believe it appropriate to write texts during formal business meetings, whereas only 6% of workers 40+ believe the same thing
  • 34% of 20-somethings believe it appropriate to answer phone calls during formal business meetings, whereas only 6% of workers 40+ believe the same thing
  • People with higher incomes are more judgmental about mobile phone use than people with lower incomes
  • At least 54% of all respondents believe it is inappropriate to use mobile phones at all during formal meetings
  • 86% believe it is inappropriate to answer phone calls during formal meetings
  • 84% believe it is inappropriate to write texts or emails during formal meetings
  • 75% believe it is inappropriate to read texts or emails during formal meetings
  • At least 22% believe it is inappropriate to use mobile phones during any meetings
  • 66% believe it is inappropriate to write texts or emails during any meetings

To collect these tidbits, they conducted two studies.  In the first, they conducted an exploratory study asking 204 employees at an eastern US beverage distributor about what types of inappropriate cell phone usage they observed.  From this, they identified 8 mobile phone actions deemed potentially objectionable: making or answering calls, writing and sending texts or emails, checking texts or emails, browsing the Internet, checking the time, checking received calls, bringing a phone, and interrupting a meeting to leave it and answer a call.

In the second study, the researchers administered a survey developed around those 8 mobile phone actions on a 4-point scale ranging from usually appropriate to never appropriate.  It was stated that this was given to a “random sample…of full-time working professionals” but the precise source is not revealed.   Rated appropriateness of behaviors varied by dimension, from 54.6% at the low end for leaving a meeting to answer a call, up to 87% for answering a call in the middle of the meeting.  Which leaves me wondering about the 13% who apparently take phone calls in the middle of meetings!

Writing and reading texts and emails was deemed inappropriate by 84% and 74% of respondents respectively; however, there were striking differences on this dimension by age, as depicted below:

From Washington, Okoro & Cardon, p. 9

From Washington, Okoro & Cardon, p. 9

Although only 16% of people over age 40 viewed checking texts during formal meetings as acceptable, more than half (51%) of people over 20 saw it as acceptable.  It is unclear, at this point, if this pattern is the result of the early exposure to texting by the younger workers or the increased experience with interpersonal interaction at work of the older population.  Regardless, it will probably be a point of contention between younger and older workers for quite some time.

So if you’re a younger worker, consider leaving your phone alone in meetings to avoid annoying your coworkers.  And if you’re an older worker annoyed at what you believe to be rude behavior, just remember, it’s not you – it’s them!

Footnotes:
  1. Washington, M. C., Okoro, E. A., & Cardon, P. W. (2013). Perceptions of civility for mobile phone use in formal and informal meetings Business Communication Quarterly, 1-13 DOI: 10.1177/1080569913501862 []
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5 Responses leave one →
  1. Enlightened permalink
    November 2, 2013

    You punks are too stupid to know right vs wrong

  2. Denise Plested permalink
    November 2, 2013

    Why must a person be available 24 hours per day? If you are in a meeting, at a meal, or even just having a conversation….DONT ANSWER THE PHONE. Finish what youre doing and call back. Unless you are waiting for some extremely important call, I think interrupting even a conversation to answer a cell phone is the height of rudeness.
    (I know I am in the minority here!)

  3. Anonymous Coward permalink
    November 2, 2013

    On a related topic, how about the folks sitting on the toilet talking on the phone? Kind of the opposite of a business meeting but also very weird.

  4. Hannah permalink
    November 6, 2013

    If one is distracted during a meeting by your cell phone whether you are checking an email, typing one, or answering a phone call this is inflicting with your sensory memory. You are focused on your phone but if someone were to ask you a question while you are not paying attention you will still be able to respond and be aware of what is going on. At first you may respond “What?” but before the question can be asked again you are able to remember the question, following with an answer. This is possible because of your sensory memory registered and preserved the other persons words, and long enough for you to remember what had been said or asked.

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