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Ask Sue
A Weekly Q&A Column About Professionalism, Etiquette and Problems in the Workplace
by Sue Morem

Cell Phone Use at Work

Dear Sue: At the beginning of our meetings, a request is made for cell phones to be turned off. Without fail, some idiotís phone will ring during the meeting. Instead of being embarrassed, the culprit seems to think its funny, and so do others. Aside from confiscating the ringing phones, what can be done to prevent this from happening again, and let people know how rude it is? It isnít only in meetings that cell phones have become a problem.

- Furious

Sue Says: If thereís one thing that gets people talking, itís cell phones. People are talking on them and talking about them. Cell phones can be distracting and disruptive to others, and most people agree that cell phone use has spun out of control. Just because we can be accessible twenty-four hours a day doesnít mean we should be. Asserting the right to talk whenever you please infringes on the rights of others.

I like your idea of confiscating cell phones, but why wait until you hear one ringing? Why not collect all of the phones at the beginning of the meeting? This way you can be assured they are turned off and wonít disrupt the meeting, and return them at the end of the meeting.

You could draft a list of cell phone rules, but might be better off delegating the task to the offenders. Perhaps a meeting about cell phone courtesy is in order; with the purpose of putting together guidelines and distributing them to everyone in the office. Here are a few ideas to get you started:

  • Turn your phone off when you are in a meeting, whether with one or one thousand people.
  • Turn your phone off whenever you are in a quiet environment.
  • Turn your phone off when you are with someone else.
  • Turn your phone off when you arenít around to answer it by the third ring.
  • Turn your phone on vibrate if you must leave it on.
  • If you are expecting a call you must take, inform others ahead of time.
  • If you must take a call when in a meeting or with others, step outside.
  • Leave your phone in the car if you canít trust yourself to remember to turn it off.
  • If you must keep your phone on, turn down the ringer volume.
  • If you must talk on the phone in public, talk quietly; no one wants to hear the intimate details of your conversation.

Sue Morem is a professional speaker, trainer and syndicated columnist. She is author of the newly released 101 Tips for Graduates and How to Gain the Professional Edge, Second Edition. You can contact her by email at or visit her web site at

Send Sue your questions by clicking here: Ask Sue
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