20-Somethings Find No Problem with Texting and Answering Calls in Business Meetings
In an upcoming article in Business Communication Quarterly, Washington, Okoro and Cardon 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:
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:
- 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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