The Daily Item, Sunbury, PA


August 13, 2013

Your Office Coach: Office etiquette is evolving

Question: Since taking a new job, I have been appalled by my colleagues’ disrespectful behavior in meetings. Most of them bring laptops and type continuously while others are talking. I initially believed they were taking notes, but soon discovered that they are actually working on other things.

Cell phones are also a problem, with people constantly texting and taking calls. In one meeting, the leader responded to instant messages while her computer screen was on display for everyone to see. All this extraneous activity is extremely distracting.

When I attend meetings, I leave my laptop on my desk, silence my phone, and return calls afterward. However, since I am middle-age, perhaps my ways are just old-fashioned. What do you think?

Answer: While common courtesy never goes out of style, the definition of appropriate behavior does evolve over time. Children are still expected to use proper table manners, for example, but are no longer required to remain silent during meals. Because workplace norms also shift, your question does not have a simple answer.

To demonstrate respect, meeting participants should be expected to give their full attention to the person who is speaking. Using a laptop or tablet for note-taking or locating relevant information is perfectly OK, but working on unrelated tasks is unquestionably rude.

That said, however, there is a distinct and growing generational divide regarding technology. Younger people, who grew up surrounded by multiple communication devices, tend to be less offended by electronic multi-tasking. For them, simultaneous talking and texting is a common occurrence.

Older colleagues should try to understand that split attention does not necessarily indicate intentional disrespect by their juniors. At the same time, millennials have to realize that texting or emailing during meetings with senior managers could be a career-killer.

To prevent misperceptions, leaders need to establish clear ground rules for the use of electronics in meetings. They should also be sure to invite only people who really need to attend. Otherwise, some participants may multi-task simply to make better use of their time.

Text Only
  • Balancing Act: How much is your time worth? Consider outsourcing some tasks

    Todd Paton has a booming business getting customers noticed on the Web. One tool he uses is generating online press releases to build brand awareness and create links that will send traffic to a customer’s website. But Paton, owner of Paton Internet Marketing, acknowledges that writing the releases is not his strong suit. Rather than spend his time doing it, he hires out the task.

    July 23, 2014

  • The Color of Money: No easy way to get out of debt

    Many people who are deeply in debt are desperate for a quick fix. They ask the question: What can I do to get out of debt?

    July 21, 2014

  • Watercooler: When to speak up if you see problems down the line

    Q: Our organization has hired a new director. I am one of a number of division heads; above us, there's the associate director, and above him is the director. The associate director is feared and disliked for his duplicity and dictatorial nature, though few have come forward because of his vindictiveness.

    July 18, 2014

  • Career Coach: Bringing a purpose-driven spirit to work

    Increasingly, religious beliefs and practices of employees are becoming more evident in the workplace. Religious diversity and concepts of spirituality are more prevalent in organizational settings.

    July 18, 2014

  • Ask the Mompreneur: It’s best to farm out your payroll

    When my husband and I hired our first employee at our Web development company, we had it easy when it came to doing payroll.

    July 17, 2014

  • Protecting against unnecessary losses

    QUESTION: I run a small bar and grill which is open 7 days a week and have to rely on others for some of the shifts. How can I ensure employees have not become my partners?

    July 17, 2014

  • A checklist for keeping you focused at work

    A quick check of Facebook and next thing you know, a half-hour’s passed. Start chatting with a co-worker and suddenly 20 minutes is gone and the report you were supposed to finish by lunch is late.
    Workplace distractions are everywhere, especially in an age of social media and open-plan offices. In the face of so much temptation, accomplishing what you’re paid to do can be tough.

    July 16, 2014

  • It could be time for a career coach

    Need a little help figuring out your next career move?
    If you’re putting in the hours and still not seeing the rewards, feeling undervalued or simply striving to be more successful, it may be time to hire a career coach.

    July 16, 2014

  • Your Office Coach: Turn to boss for help with disgruntled underling

    QUESTION: When I joined this company a few weeks ago, I discovered that the person who previously held my position is now working for me. “Sarah” obviously resents my presence and frequently says I don’t have the authority to manage her, even though I clearly do. Her negativity has made my job much more difficult.

    July 15, 2014

  • You are not trusted

    If it seems like employers don’t trust employees - well, they don’t.

    July 15, 2014

Business Video