My co-worker is always texting on her mobile phone. In meetings, out of meetings, in the break room, walking down the hall, during conversations with anyone at any level. She’s certainly entitled to her choice about how she spends her time. The problem is that she doesn’t hear things the first time they’re said and demands a repeat as if she’s entitled to it. Dealing with her takes double the time of other employees. I’m the project manager on a team assigned to complete a huge project in record time. The co-worker has been assigned to my team. In my view, not only does she short us on labor, she’s a walking, texting deadline extension. What do I do about this texter?
Sending or receiving text messages on a mobile device while in the company of others has become so ubiquitous that waiting for someone to complete a text has almost become a social norm, like waiting for a person to complete a sentence because it’s impolite to interrupt. Texting, however, is almost never a mutual act of mutual choice. The texter, by taking private action in the presence of another, makes a statement, conscious or otherwise, that the person at the other end of the electronic connection is more important than the person physically present. That is impolite.
With an incessant texter at work, one really has only one choice. That choice does not include trying to enlighten the texter as to the impoliteness of her texting. If she were socially aware, she would already know this.
Implement a policy of no mobile devices at meetings you lead. That means you, too. This eliminates the connection to data that a mobile device provides for all the team members, but it also enhances focus on the task at hand. The texter will break the rule. You will say to her, “No mobile devices at meetings,” and she will say, “I’m just texting.” This will be a test of your leadership. You will choose between two options. You will say, “No mobiles devices at meetings.” Or, you will say, “Well, keep it to a minimum, all right?” The first option will result in the business of project completion. The second will result in text-encumbered business as usual.
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Valley Business FRONT's Workplace Advice Column, written by Handshake 2.0's Anne Giles Clelland, appears monthly in Valley Business FRONT and in the collection Work: It's Personal. A version of this column appeared in the August, 2010 issue.