'Tech-Etiquette' Blunders More Common in Workplace: What to Avoid

If you're checking e-mail in meetings, taking cell phone calls during business lunches or allowing similar distractions, executives are on to you. In a recent survey, 67 percent of chief information officers (CIOs) polled said breaches in technology etiquette are more common today than three years ago.

The national poll includes responses from more than 1,400 CIOs from a stratified random sample of U.S. companies with 100 or more employees. It was conducted by an independent research firm and developed by Robert Half Technology, a leading provider of information technology professionals on a project and full-time basis.

CIOs were asked, "In your opinion, what effect has the increased use of mobile electronic gadgets -- such as cell phones, handheld e-mail devices and portable computers -- had on workplace etiquette in the past three years? Have the number of breaches in workplace etiquette increased, decreased or remained the same?" Their responses:

 
Increased significantly 28%
Increased somewhat 39%
Remained the same 25%
Decreased somewhat 6%
Decreased significantly 2%
100%

CIOs also sounded off on what annoys them most during business meetings: 88 percent feel it is inappropriate to leave on a cell phone ringer, while 80 percent say sending instant messages to others is a definite "don't."

Seventy-nine percent of CIOs frown on sending and replying to e-mail when the meeting is in session, and 65 percent consider it poor etiquette to work on personal computers while others have the floor.

"Mobile electronics such as cell phones, portable e-mail devices and laptop computers can significantly increase productivity when used appropriately," explained Katherine Spencer Lee, executive director of Robert Half Technology. "However, paying careful attention to the rules of 'tech etiquette' will ensure you demonstrate courtesy, professionalism and respect for business colleagues at all times."

Lee identified "tech-etiquette" blunders that are increasingly widespread and offered tips for avoiding them:

  • Taking cell phone calls during meetings -- Few things are more disruptive to the flow of business than answering a call in the middle of a conversation. Unless you need to be reached urgently, turn off your phone or set it on vibrate mode before every meeting.
  • Using e-mail for sensitive subjects -- E-mail and instant messages can be easily misinterpreted because they lack subtle clues like vocal tone and body language. Refrain from discussing sensitive or personal matters using e-mail and instead reserve these discussions for face-to- face meetings when recipients can be sure of your intended meaning.
  • Overusing "reply all" -- Make sure your responses to e-mails are sent to only those people who require follow up.
  • Using high-tech shorthand -- Instant messaging and e-mail have created a language of acronyms with "words" such as BTW (by the way) and IMO (in my opinion). Only use these terms if you're confident every member of your audience is familiar with them.
  • Clicking your camera phone -- Don't take pictures unless there is a business need and you have permission from colleagues.

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