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What is the appropriate way for me to use my cell phone in business?

Technology Etiquette In American Business

Phyllis Davis (Business Etiquette Consultant) gives expert video advice on: What if I am expecting an important call on my cell phone during a meeting or business meal?; How is a proper business e-mail constructed?; Is it appropriate for my assistant to place calls for me? and more...

What is the appropriate way for me to use my cell phone in business?

Cell phone ringing, going off at inappropriate times, is the biggest complaint we have in business etiquette today. In the old days, people thought etiquette was all about dining manners. And then, cell phones came along and then, they realize that technology etiquette was as important as anything they could learn. And yet, we're still learning. Cell phones going off in the work place, going off in restaurants - that's a big complaint – and certainly cell phones in business meetings are inappropriate. If you don't have your cell phone on vibrate, you're making a big mistake because it does break rapport. Some people are very proud that people are trying to contact them, it's ego, and they'll answer their cell phone regardless of what kind of conversation is going on and it's inappropriate. Anything that breaks rapport keeps people from trusting you, so cell phones can be very inappropriate within a business setting.

How can the misuse of my cell phone affect my business relationships?

The misuse of a cell phone can affect your business relationships in a number of ways. Anything that breaks rapport keeps people from trusting you. And If you think of examples of people you know that constantly grab their cell phone, it does breaks rapport with you, as if to say you're not as important as the person on the other end of the phone. And again misusing your cell phone is all about breaking rapport, so keep your cell phone on vibrate, and when you have time you can pick up your messages.

What if I am expecting an important call on my cell phone during a meeting or business meal?

Let me give you an example, if I am going into a meeting but I'm expecting a call from the director of training for Microsoft, then if I walk into a meeting I say I'm expecting a very important call. You don't need to tell people who it's from, and it may come during this meeting, so you ask if they don't mind while you check your messages. You should keep it on vibrate and if this call comes you'll excuse yourself for a moment and be right back. You can also do that at a dining table with people in a business meeting and then when the call comes in at the dining table you excuse yourself. Go somewhere so that no one hears a one sided phone conversation which is the second biggest complaint we have about cell phone etiquette today, many hate those one sided telephone conversations which are inappropriate. Go find some place quiet where no one will hear your one sided telephone conversation and then when you come back to the table you don't ask for forgiveness or apologize instead you thank the people at the dining table for letting you step away. And you also don't interrupt the flow of conversation by telling them anything about the call, it's private.

Is it appropriate to discuss company business on my cell phone?

It sometimes may not be appropriate to discuss company business on your cell phone. You have to remember that company confidences are open to anyone because cell phones are not private. It takes a little less than a baby monitor to check for cell phones and hear what people are saying. Company secrets and corporate espionage are one of the biggest growing factors of business today, and therefore to keep company secrets off a cell phone is a good idea. Indeed anything that comes out of your cell phone, your fax machine or your computer, is considered company property. And if you give away company secrets on any of these things, your company's liable for your legal defence. So be very careful because it's not your property and if you get caught giving away company secrets, it's tantamount to being fired. They have grounds for serious repercussions.

What is the etiquette for Instant Messaging and texting in business?

With instant messaging and texting in business, be careful who's on your buddy list. Don't walk into a conversation if you're texting someone. Ask if it's a good time to ask them a question, as people are busy and one of the things that I think is most important in the productivity of the American workplace today is to allow people the privacy they need and the quiet to get things done. We don't have that anymore. It's a luxury to have an hour of uninterrupted time in the workplace and although text messaging is a great way to get information. It's intrusive, but it's never going away.

Is it appropriate for my assistant to place calls for me?

You know, people in senior management often do have their administrative assistant place a call for them because their time is limited. They're the ones that book and arrange calls, so I think that's appropriate for people in senior management to have their assistant place calls for them.

What is good phone etiquette when calling someone in business?

What is good phone etiquette when calling someone in business? Well any time I call someone, and they answer their own phone, I ask "Am I calling at a good time?" or even "Do you have a moment?" because people could be in a meeting. It's easy to break rapport with someone if they're trying to get you off their phone, so use those questions in your phone etiquette when calling someone in business.

Why is it sometimes better etiquette to communicate by phone rather than e-mail?

Sometimes it is better etiquette to communicate by phone rather than e-mail in business because you can get a lot more when you make a phone call. You get body analogue. For example, if you got an e-mail from someone that said 'Call me' on Friday at two o'clock, or be in my office Friday at two o'clock, you don't have the body analogue. You don't have the voice tone that you would have if somebody called and said, "Hi. Be in my office Friday at two o'clock. See you then, bye." You can tell if they don't sound angry so there's a lot more you can determine by a phone call message. It's easier to create trust and rapport on the phone within a business setting.

What is proper business etiquette when leaving a voicemail message?

When I leave a voicemail message, I use business etiquette and I tell people what time I can be reached. For example, "I'll be in my office after four o'clock, Tuesday, Wednesday, and Thursday. Please try and call me at that time. Any of those days, I look forward to hearing from you then." We have to tell people when leaving a voicemail message. If I may talk about technology etiquette in terms of leaving a voicemail message, you should avoid playing what is considerably called phone tag as it irritates everyone. So I'll leave my name at the top and bottom of the voicemail message. I give my name, then I leave my number and then I give a brief reason for my call and then I give my name again and my number at the end of the call, with a "I look forward to hearing from you". If you leave your name at the front and the end of a voicemail message, they can push 1 at the end of the message, and get it at the top of the message again if they didn't get it at the bottom. Telephone etiquette when leaving voicemail messages is very important, because if you don't give a very clear reason why you're calling, and give a time frame for a response, people wont get back to you. You have to create some sense of urgency in the call and a good time for people to reach you and then you will have a higher incident for people to return your calls rather than dismissing them.

How long is it appropriate to keep someone on hold?

Research has shown that 20 seconds is about average time that people are willing to stay on hold. Though some would prefer you to come back and say “They‘re still on the other line. Would you like to continue to hold?” or “May I have your phone number so that I can have them call you back when they're off the phone?” or “I can't find the information I'm looking for. Can I have your name and number, and I'll call you when I find it?” rather than have you hold.

What is the etiquette standard for how long it should take to return a phone call?

In high levels of management and money management 24 hours is the appropriate time to return a phone call. Some companies that I work with say the same day, and I think it's appropriate even if you cant return the call to have someone return it for you and find out what going on. Not to return a call is inappropriate. I don't even understand what that's about, my mind doesn't even understand that because it's so rude that it just it irks me terribly to have that happen. And as far as returning an e-mail, there's no reason you cant return an e-mail within 24 hours.

Why is it beneficial to meet people in person from time to time?

It is beneficial to meet people in person from time to time as there are many cues and clues that people give us in person, from eye accessing patterns to some of the simplest body language. If someone touches the back of their neck then they have conceded to what you're trying to tell them and they are just looking for a way to tell you. So when anyone ever does that, stop talking and let them tell you what they want. If they touch their mouth or lip, it's not that they are lying, it's that their telling you something that they don't believe.