Has it really become acceptable etiquette for a professional to 1) leave his phone on during meetings and 2) answer it? I only ask because since starting my job, I’ve been in four or five different training sessions, and in all but one, the presenter’s phone has rung, and in all but one of those instances, he’s answered it! (I should note that these are all different presenters; they just all happened to be male)
Keep in mind that these are professionals, conducting scheduled, prearranged training sessions. This isn’t an informal, spontaneous meeting. Also, none of these calls seemed to be urgent (they were all answered with something like, “Hello?….Uh-huh…..Hey, can I call you back? I’m doing something right now.”). If this is acceptable, I’d like to reserve the right to play Angry Birds or shop online during boring presentations. As it is, I don’t, because I’d like to show a little respect for someone who’s supposedly teaching important things (also, sometimes because I’m sitting next to my boss).
Emily Post provides the following reflection on the use of cell phones in public:
How are my actions affecting others and how am I perceived? Both are important aspects of good etiquette. If you are perceived as being disrespectful it can be as damaging to a relationship as actually disrespecting someone.
We’ve all been guilty of accidentally leaving our phones on at the wrong time, but for goodness sake, when did it become a fire-breathing master that needs to be answered immediately, every time? The correct response is to turn it off, not answer it and stage-whisper, “Hello? I’m in church. No, church! Oh yes, it’s very pretty…well, there are some annoying children behind me…”
Answering your phone automatically tells whoever you’re with that they’re a lower priority than whoever’s on the phone. Sometimes, that may be true, but as Ms. Post points out in the full text of the post above, it’s worthwhile to clarify any motivations or extenuating circumstances ahead of time. Otherwise, business clients, God, and anyone else whose company you keep will be left to form their own assumptions. And then, heaven forbid, they may blog about it!