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WHEN THE HEART SAYS NO: Stay off your phone during meetings

Columnist Roy Erasmus says it is a good idea to ditch the smartphone before going into a business meeting. photo sourced from

The other day I heard about a boss who got so tired of his employees being on their phones during meetings that he told them not to bring phones to meetings or they could get fired. Eschia – take it easy, eh!

That reminded me of a time when I was in a large conference and the emcee was standing in the front at the microphone talking to us. All of a sudden, his phone rang.

"Geez, I thought I shut that off," he said. He answered his phone, talked for a bit, hung up and said to us, "My son’s being an ass to his girlfriend. Now, where was I?"

Can you imagine? He was the emcee. He was at the mike. And he answered his phone. He looked like a fool and was totally uncool, man.

Another time, this guy next to me in a meeting loudly answered his phone then started loudly talking about not wanting to buy fish. How did he expect the rest of us at the table to hear what was going on? We couldn’t.

The person who was speaking stopped and we all listened as my neighbor talked about perhaps going to Edmonton the next week.

When he was done, the person who had been speaking asked him, a little sarcastically, if it was okay to start speaking again. And he said, "yeah." As my statistics tutor used to say to me, "no clue?" Lol.

But, get this. When I first started texting, I used to answer texts during meetings if I got a message. I thought I was being efficient by multi-tasking, but I now know that I was probably annoying my boss and fellow workers. Not cool, man.

A recent study of working professionals found that many people don’t like it if you answer phone calls or text during meetings.

And, the more money people make the less they approve of cell phone use in meetings. Whoa ... that probably means the boss.

Why do they get mad about it? Because they think your actions show a lack of respect and that you think the person on the phone is more important than the conversation and the people sitting in front of you.

They also don’t feel heard because you’re not practicing active listening and you can’t seem to stay focused on one thing at a time. Who? Me? I heard every word. Yeah, right!

They also thought people who use their phones during meetings don’t understand how it affects people around them or how ridiculous it looks to others. Like the emcee who answered his phone while taking on the mike.

Finally, you’re giving away your power because you’re responding to anybody who decides to call or text you.

Here are some ideas to reduce the impact of peoples’ insensitive phone use in meetings. Now you’re talking.

You can say in the meeting invitation that it will be a phone-free meeting. Then, send out an email a couple of hours before the meeting as a reminder.

If people forget and bring their phones, have them leave their phone in a basket at the door when entering the meeting room.

You can also set ground rules at the beginning of the meeting. Tell people, "Please turn off your phones while in the meeting. We need everyone’s best effort to use this time efficiently."

People are more likely to leave their phones off if they know when they can plug back in. So, be sure to announce when the breaks will be and when the meeting will end. Then keep to the schedule.

Don’t forget many of us are addicted to our phones and to email and will find it hard to go more than two hours without checking. Say what? Yep, many, many people sleep with their phones beside their beds, especially Millennials.

Finally, if you’re the one asking for this, it’s important to set a positive example by leaving your phone in your office, shutting it off, or being the first person to leave your phone in the basket at the door. Well yaaaaaaaa.

Have a good week, and stay off your phone during meetings.