It’s for you-hoo!

Apart from the days when I am out preaching the AML gospel, I work alone in an office above my garage.  Although this means that I get all the Jaffa Cakes and can break off to dance to ABBA’s “When I Kissed the Teacher” whenever I need to stretch and loosen my shoulders, it also means that I quickly fall out of touch with modern office manners.  And what has been on my mind recently is the use of the mobile phone.

When mobiles first became ubiquitous, people would bring them into AML training sessions but hide them: for some reason, they thought that I wouldn’t spot them fiddling around under the desk with their phones (at least, I hoped that’s what they were doing under there).  But now mobiles are brought in completely openly, placed brazenly on the desk, and picked up and consulted with impunity, which does rather discombobulate me.  I realise that some of the fault is mine: I should check with the MLRO beforehand, to ask about the in-house policy on phones in training sessions.  (Nowadays of course, in life outside work, it is perfectly acceptable to have your phone with you – and to check it at will – wherever you are: out with friends, in bed, in the cinema, on a date…  So we’re swimming against the tide here.)

That said, my concern is less about etiquette than about concentration.  I know we think we can multi-task, but actually we can’t.  The current fixation with mindfulness is the predictable outcome of a realisation that although we can do several things at once, it really means that we’re doing none of them well.  And – I would suggest – if you’re reading an email or surfing the web during a training session, you’re not listening to the trainer or processing what is said.  And where will it go next?  Actually, I know: in a recent training session, I had someone answer their phone (I’ve had this before) and then stay in the training room and have a loud conversation (that, I will admit, was a first).

So help me out here, those of you who work in offices: what is the expectation these days?  Phones in all meetings?  Can you check/surf/email/talk – or only some of those?  And do you find it enervating to try to do it all?  Would you actually find it a welcome relief to have a phone-free session?

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12 Responses to It’s for you-hoo!

  1. CDWOS says:


    I have made myself suitably popular(!!) in the past by insisting that people turn off/do not use their phones in meetings I chair or training that I am presenting…….I have sadly had to go further and ask persistent offenders to leave both meetings and training because of their refusal(and complete lack of manners, some would say respect) to stop playing with their phones. In the meetings situation the offenders were dropped from future invites and in the training cases (thankfully few) they were informed that they would be deemed to not have attended and would be required to attend the next session without their phones……………………
    I’m sure that this slightly draconian approach may not suit your needs and I was part of the organisation so I could bring significant others pressures to bear on offenders that could/would impact their immediate roles and potentially their future within the business. Fundamentally it boils down to an unacceptable arrogance and rudeness. If you are pretending that you are that busy don’t accept the invitation and if mandatory justify an acceptable reason for senior management to excuse you.

  2. Diane Riebeseel says:

    In our office, we are informed that it is not good etiquette to have mobiles in meetings and training sessions and most meetings/training starts with; “please switch off your phone but if there is an urgent call to be made/received to take it out of the room”. However, there are always those few that believe they are above such recommendations and bring them in and lay them, as you have said “brazenly on the table” and look at them, text on them etc. However, maybe I am old school, but I think that is rude to the speaker/trainer and the old adage “how would you like that to happen to you!” comes to mind! But saying that we recently had a town hall meeting via Skype with our other national offices and during this session we were told to make a vote as well as ask questions using our mobile phones!!!! So who knows what future expectations for meetings/training sessions will be but it will certainly be more technology interactive….and for me that means more impersonal!

    • Welcome to the blog, Diane, and thank you for your comment. I must admit that I do find it a bit rude – much as I would if my husband took out his phone at the dinner table (he wouldn’t dare…) – as it suggests that something else is more important. And if that something else is simply checking emails just in case (rather than dealing with a specific issue), well, that really is contemptuous of the training, isn’t it?

  3. ddd4182 says:

    When i have raised this question prior to meetings, the response can be mixed, and one comment i received was “at least our generation does not smoke in the room” (a dig at my age i think).

    Is it an affront to courtesy and learning? is it an example of multitasking? From my perspective, yes and no. it may be distracting to me but does it distract everyone else in the room?

    An eminent futurologist i know used an exercise prior to starting their presentation to emphasise his wish that all phones, laptops, Ipads etc were switched off. It involved asking the audience collectively, to count “10, 9, 8, … 1” (It took less than 5 seconds).
    Then they were asked to do the same for “a, b, c, …j” (again took about 5 seconds).
    Then they were asked to do 10, a, 9, b, 8, c, … j” and the room went quiet after the first few letters and numbers.
    I think he used this to illustrate that we don’t multitask very well on even somewhat undemanding tasks.

    • I’m with you on this: I think we can look like – and trick ourselves that – we’re concentrating on both things, but if you ask questions, you quickly find that only one thing has “true” attention. I might use your handy ABC/numbers example to demonstrate, so thank you.

  4. Trish says:

    I read this out to my husband …. He said,” 2 questions, when Mrs May is holding a cabinet meeting, are there mobiles on the table? Or when President Trump holds a meeting? ”
    From my point of view I remember being quite annoyed when casting an eye across an office where internet researchers were supposed to be identifying peps, and financial crime cases, and they were sitting staring at their screens with a phone plugged into ears, claiming they could work better with music in their ears. I could not imagine the task was getting their full concentration.

    • Welcome to the blog, Trish, and thank you for your comment. I must admit that I rather fear that the Trumpsters are on their phones all the time – if only to monitor any tweets by the Donald. Mrs May’s meetings, on the other hand, are probably much more controlled. Like you, I can’t imagine being able to concentrate better with music in the background, but plenty say that they can.

  5. Shaun Baker says:

    Hi Susan,

    We do not have a policy, but like you I would consider it extremely bad manners to use a phone during a training session.

    I was aware that this happen at one of your presentations with us – their manager was informed accordingly!!

    We have since developed procedures which request staff to switch off mobile phone or mobile app during the training. Should anyone have extenuating circumstances to have their mobile/ app on they need to advise the trainer.

    Hope that helps

    Regards [cid:image001.png@01D15471.9D6B0810]

    Shaun Baker ACIB,CAMS Vice President | Compliance P O Box 71,Trafalgar Court, Les Banques, St Peter Port, Guernsey, GY1 3DA P+44 (0)1481 745685 | F +44 (0) 1481 745063 |

    CONFIDENTIALITY NOTICE: This communication is confidential, may be privileged and is meant only for the intended recipient. If you are not the intended recipient, please notify the sender ASAP and delete this message from your system. NTAC:3NS-20

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  6. Micah says:

    This is a good question. Personally, I hate it when people are distracted by having their phone in a meeting and are not fully concentrated. However, “tone is set from the top” and if your Directors are constantly on their phones reading emails during a meeting, junior staff will copy as they presume it is ok to do so.

    We are in a globally connected world and due to the sheer volume of information and media, attention spans are much reduced. At teacher training, (10 years ago) it was estimated that primary school children had an attention span of 15 minutes, you therefore had to make your lessons interesting, interactive and themed to keep your 8 year old attendees interested! This generation are now joining the jobs market and will be challenging for those teachers not used to the reduced attention spans!

    Maybe – as I have seen at recent Thomson Reuters seminars, you have a series of polls/votes to take advantage of the modern technology, to keep your attendees interested. Just a thought.

    • Welcome to the blog, Micah, and thank you for your comment. I hadn’t thought of it in these terms – although I am now worried that one day I will need major surgery and my hotshot young surgeon won’t be able to concentrate for long enough! But I do like the idea of online polls/votes – my husband mentioned something similar at a conference he attended.

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