Debrett’s: the smartphone edition

I realise that I’m a bit old-fashioned in my ways – for instance, I refuse to drink out of bottles and insist on asking for a glass, often to much eye-rolling from young bar-staff.  And I also work alone much of the time, in my own little office where I set the standards and the rules (the usual stuff: dressing-gowns fine until elevenses but no later; Jaffa Cakes may – indeed should – be eaten at the desk, but with a saucer to catch crumbs).  So this means that I am rather out of touch with modern office manners, and I need your guidance.  Let me elaborate.

Recently I was delivering some AML training, and partway through the session I looked around the room and realised that fully half the people there were looking down at their smartphones and scrolling/tapping away.  Now I used to teach teenagers so nothing that adults do actually offends me – I really don’t take it personally.  Plus – as the Americans put it so succinctly – it’s their dime, so if they want to pay me to train them and then spend the time instead playing Angry Birds or checking the weather or reading emails, I’m no worse off.  But I was just wondering: is this now the norm?  Is it accepted that in every meeting the participants will be multi-tasking so openly?  Pre-smartphones, I don’t remember people getting out their laptops and doing those things, so has something changed?  Is it now the sign of the committed worker, to be seen keeping in touch at every opportunity?  Some guidance please, from those of you more intimately acquainted than I am with the mores of the modern workplace.  And remember: always a saucer for the Jaffa Cakes.

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8 Responses to Debrett’s: the smartphone edition

  1. Sue Hillman says:

    Nothing wrong with having good standards. I think we all should be rather more “old fashioned”. Smartphones should be banned from all meetings it is downright rude.


  2. Ermin says:

    I couldn’t agree more with Susan and Sue. One word springs to my mind: Disrespect!

  3. Thank you, Sue and Ermin – it’s hard for me to gauge what is normal now, when I only go into people’s offices in unusual circumstances (i.e. during training sessions rather than for day-to-day work). Knowing my own propensity to be distracted, I don’t even own a smartphone – otherwise I might be tempted to look at it when I shouldn’t!
    Best wishes from Susan

  4. Kay says:

    Agree with all of the above. Incredibly rude, and most probably something you’ll only really come across in Compliance related training, as its the one that no-one wants to go to, but knows they have to. Slightly different for me as i was training ‘my staff’ rather than brought in to deliever the training, but i used to make it clear at the beginning that if anyone was caught using their blackberry/smartphone during the session, it would count as a non attendance. One thing i can’t put up with is ignorance and people being disrespectful…

  5. Lara Wild says:

    Morning Susan.

    I think this is extremely rude (unless it is a manager / senior board member with a serious / pressing business critical matter to take care of) and if any of our staff conduct themselves in such a way during our training, I would like to think that you would make it known that this is highly inappropriate. Personally, I would be inclined to stop talking until such a time as they stopped.

    I sincerely hope that our staff will not be so impolite.

    I hope this helps. It is something that I feel strongly about!

    Kind regards


  6. This is all very helpful – thank you. I sometimes worry that I am out of sync with what is expected, and it is handy to know that good old-fashioned standards do still apply. I may resurrect my “Paddington Bear hard stare” for malefactors.
    Best wishes from Susan

  7. Graham Thomas says:

    Hi Susan

    I would take a slightly different tack on this one. I am certainly one for old fashioned manners and paying attention, especially when in a face to face conversation with someone and I would agree that the use of smartphones etc has become too much of the norm and that people should remember that there are times when their use is inappropriate.

    At the same time though, their day to day usage is becoming increasingly common as a part of business meetings and, more specifically to the tablet type mini computers, they are being used for real time note taking etc. We even have one IT-based meeting where all the attendees use IPads and can note down comments, action points etc on their own screen which are then instantly shared with other attendees. Details can then be printed off at the end of the meeting as a reminder of what has been discussed / agreed plus a note of any specific action points that people need to take forward.

    As with most things, there needs to be use of common sense and judgement and I’d imagine that in the example you noticed, there were more than a few culprits who should have known better. At the same time though, there may have been some who were using their tech to record useful notes on all the excellent training that they were receiving.

    Best Wishes


  8. Dear Graham
    I hadn’t thought of that: with my Luddite tendencies, allied with my worsening eyesight, the thought of being able to read – let alone write on – a smartphone screen is astonishing! I do hope that’s what they were doing – let’s give them the benefit of the doubt. A good suggestion – thank you.
    Best wishes from Susan

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