Tech Etiquette at Work: How to Avoid Common Mobile Device Mistakes

Sep 17, 2010 | Corporate Member News

Is your smartphone making you appear dumb? Learn and use these mobile phone tech-etiquette tips.

New technologies have undoubtedly helped people become more efficient in myriad ways. But it’s come with a cost, according to a survey by our company. Fifty-one percent of the executives we interviewed said they’ve seen increased instances of etiquette breaches resulting from more frequent use of mobile devices in the workplace.

With more advanced electronic tools being released every day, it’s wise to step back and make sure you’re not making any career-limiting gadget-related goofs. Here are some tech-etiquette tips to consider:

Break the ties that bind. Whether you have an iPhone, BlackBerry or Droid, a smartphone can make you look not-so-smart if you don’t know when to put it down. While you might consider yourself to be an effective multitasker, compulsively checking your device when in the company of colleagues or during meetings is a bad move. Appearing distracted is disrespectful. Don’t let constant-connectivity capabilities undermine your in-person interactions.

Avoid phone faux pas. Nothing disrupts people’s train of thought like the jarring sound of an unexpected ringtone. This should go without saying, but turn off your phone’s ringer before entering meetings. While putting your device on vibrate mode is less annoying, it’s safest to let calls go straight to voicemail. If you’re in the midst of wrapping up a high-priority project and know you might need to answer the phone, briefly explain the situation to the meeting facilitator at the outset. If a critical call comes, wait until you’re out of the room before you begin talking.

Don’t click. Cell-phone cameras make it easy to take pictures any time, anywhere. That said, save your image-capturing activities for scenic weekend strolls. Photography is a highly sensitive matter in the business world — especially the accounting industry, in which strict rules and regulations make confidentiality crucial. Snapping a photo of coworkers acting silly during a departmental brainstorming session might seem like innocent fun, but you could be running afoul of company policy. In addition, if you’re a Facebook user, never tag fellow employees in a picture or video unless you get their consent.

Cut the textspeak. The rise of instant messaging and the ubiquity of mobile devices has led professionals at all levels to occasionally play fast and loose with the English language. Sending the message, “U want 2 review report w/me b4 noon?” to a coworker you know well is one thing, but it’s generally best to keep text lingo out of your business communications. Moreover, because mini-keyboards and tiny screens make it easy to overlook mistakes, wait to send important messages from a full-sized computer.

In the increasingly high-tech world, etiquette involves much more than just knowing where to place your salad fork during lunch meetings. Understanding when it’s appropriate to use your digital devices — and when it’s not — matters today. The bottom line: Don’t sacrifice professionalism in the name of efficiency.

Mind Your Social-Media Networking Manners

Networking sites like LinkedIn and Facebook allow you to significantly expand your web of contacts. But there’s a certain unwritten code of conduct to which to adhere. Following are tips on cultivating connections with class:

Be polite and upfront. Formally introduce yourself when reaching out to someone you don’t know on LinkedIn or Facebook. If you have no contacts in common, explain how you found the person and spell out your reason for writing. For example, you might note, “I’m currently a senior accountant with a public corporation and I’m looking to move into the not-for-profit sector. I’d like to add you to my network because I see you’re a financial executive with a respected charity in the area, and I’d appreciate your insight into this career path.”

Name-drop with care. Having mutual contacts makes it much easier for you to link to new people online, but name-dropping can backfire if you don’t first get permission to do so. Moreover, misrepresenting your relationship with a shared connection will likely damage your credibility with both parties. Remember: There’s a huge difference between “a great personal friend” and a casual business acquaintance you’ve met just a few times.

Seek recommendations the right way. LinkedIn provides space for others to comment on your work. Rather than blasting the same generic plea for a recommendation to every contact, target members of your professional network who will speak most knowledgably, enthusiastically and persuasively about your skills and qualifications. When soliciting a testimonial, write a personalized note explaining why you value that person’s endorsement. The more effort you put into crafting a gracious request, the more time and thought people will put into their recommendations. Promptly express your sincere appreciation and offer to return the favor.

About Robert Half International

Founded in 1948, Robert Half International, the world’s first and largest specialized staffing firm, is a recognized leader in professional staffing services. The company’s specialized staffing divisions include Accountemps(R), Robert Half(R) Finance & Accounting and Robert Half(R) Management Resources, for temporary, full-time and senior-level project professionals, respectively, in the fields of accounting and finance; OfficeTeam(R), for highly skilled temporary administrative support personnel; Robert Half(R) Technology, for information technology professionals; Robert Half(R) Legal, for legal personnel; and The Creative Group(R), for advertising, marketing and web professionals. Robert Half International has staffing and consulting operations in more than 400 locations worldwide.

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