Top 5 Tips on Electronic Etiquette

By Kathleen E. Murphy

Besides your license, credit card and keys, what is the one item and gadget you always have on or near you? Most people will tell you it’s their phone, or some version of an electronic device they use to keep in touch with the rest of the world (e.g., Smart Phone, iWatch, tablet, etc.). With electronic communication technology advancements, we are able to keep in touch 24/7 with virtually anyone else who is connected to a mobile communication device. There are clear advantages to this, but there is also a downside to always being “in touch”, and it is easy to lose sight of what the “unwritten rules” of electronic etiquette might be. Actually, do they really exist, and who is the “keeper” of these rules? If there are electronic etiquette rules, do you know what they are, or have you considered whether you might be breaking them on a regular basis?

In doing research on this topic, I was surprised to find that Forbes Magazine last published an article back in 2010 called Top 10 Electronic Etiquette Faux Pas This article covered a variety of electronic gadgets and the faux pas noted were reasonable and exercised common sense, but I am going to focus strictly on our Smartphones, and offer (5) tips on how not to offend others if you do any of these actions with your phone.  I know most of these will make you roll your eyes, but I guarantee you many of you have done at least one of these things in the last day or two. Don’t try to admit you are not guilty, as I have seen just about everyone breaking what I will call the Top (5) Smartphone Etiquette rules. Here is my version of the unofficial Smartphone Etiquette rules which if applied, could up the ante on our professional behavior to a whole new level of being polite and more aware and respectful of others around us.

  1. Phone in the bathroom – Talking on the toilet or anywhere inside of a public or private bathroom. Think twice before you do this, and how it could be construed as being offensive on so many levels – hygiene being one of them. I can’t tell you how many toilets I have also heard flushing during conference call meetings, and who really wants to be hearing this?
  2. Bringing your phone to your interview – whether you are the interviewer or interviewee. It seems like common sense for the interviewee not to bring their phone to the interview, and to give 100% of their attention to the interviewer, but I have also witnessed and been thoroughly disappointed by countless interviewers who have brought their phone to the interview, taken a call or two and responded to incoming texts while they were interviewing me, or someone else if it was a group interview situation. Not only is this incredible rude, it is highly disrespectful of the interviewee who deserves your full attention. Think twice about working for someone or a company who has employees who bring their phones to an interview.
  3. Taking calls or texting when you are dining with other people. Maybe they could claim they are addicted to their phone, and I have heard this is possible, but I would say most people are not addicted to their phone although they might feel like they are. The point is, when you are dining with other people, it is one of the less common times you have their full attention, so each of you should be taking full advantage of this face-to-face interaction. If you are on your phone either talking or responding to incoming messages from email or your social media feeds, you are signaling to the person or people you are dining with they are not as important as the attention you are giving to your Smartphone content. Is this really the message you want to convey to them?
  4. Your phone is not going to make you stronger when you talk on it at the gym. I am a big fan of listening to music at the gym or possibly responding to either texts or emails, but it definitely is not a place I want to be hearing other people talking on the phone. Think about this the next time you queue up a phone conversation when you are at the gym. Perhaps you didn’t notice the people glaring at you when you were doing this.
  5. Meetings – When you are scheduled to be in a meeting, the expectation is you are there to be present and to contribute your full attention during the course of the discussion. When you are constantly checking your phone for incoming emails and other alerts which come up, you are essentially indirectly telling the people you are meeting with they are not as important as your phone, or the communications which are coming in. You are also not able to devote 100% of your attention to what is being discussed, as you are in a state of distraction when you switch between your phone and the “live” or “virtual” meeting. Is this the message you are intending to send?

Yes, there are numerous other “rules” I could come up with relating to peoples use of their Smartphone in places or situations they should not, but I limited it to five to give you “food-for-thought” and good fodder for office or social conversations. The bottom line is there are a plethora of other scenarios which are likely putting you in a situation of not being socially on top of your Smartphone etiquette. Do you agree, or do you have other examples of poor Smartphone etiquette?

Kathleen E. Murphy is the Founder, Chief Strategist and CMO of Market Me TooMarket Me Too has expertise in bridging marketing and sales teams and providing organizations techniques to accelerate their market growth, regardless of the industry they are in, or the business stage they are presently at. Contact Kathleen at




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