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Smartphone Use Twice as Likely to Bother Women in the Workplace

First Posted: Oct 24, 2013 08:51 PM EDT

A recent study shows that women are twice as likely as men to be offended by smartphone use.

According to researchers at Howard University, discourteous behavior in the workplace can provide implications about bad behavior outside the work environment and cause tension among coworkers.

Peter W. Cardon of the USC Marshall School of Business, who co-authored the study, notes that this is the first empirical baseline for how attitudes towards mobile phone use break down across various factors, including gender, age and region.

Researchers looked at a national sample of more than 550 full-time working professionals, showing what's qualified as acceptable and non-acceptable in the workplace. The most common problems included browsing the Internet and checking text messages.

The study authors also asked working professionals hearing at least $30,000 a year to identify what they considered to both acceptable and rude in the workplace.

"Hiring managers often cite courtesy as among the most important soft skills they notice. By focusing on civility, young people entering the workforce may be able to set themselves apart," said Cardon, associate professor of clinical management communication at the USC Marshall School of Business Center for Management Communication, via a press release.

Here are their findings, courtesy of the release:

  • Three out of four people - 76 percent - said checking texts or emails was unacceptable behavior in business meetings.
  • 87 percent of people said answering a call was rarely or never acceptable in business meetings.
  • Even at more informal business lunches, the majority of people thought writing a text message is rude - 66 percent said writing or sending a text message is inappropriate.
  • Men were nearly twice as likely as women to consider mobile phone use at a business lunch acceptable. More than 59 percent of men said it was okay to check text messages at a power lunch, compared to 34 percent of women who thought checking texts was appropriate.
  • Similarly, 50 percent of men said it was acceptable to answer a call at a power lunch, compared to 26 percent of women.
  • Despite the casual reputation, professionals from the West Coast were less accepting of mobile phone use in meetings than people from the East Coast.
  • Higher-income professionals had less tolerance for smartphone use in business meetings.
  • Dramatic age gap: Younger professionals were nearly three times as likely as older professionals to think tapping out a message over a business lunch is appropriate - 66 percent of people under 30 said texting or emailing was okay, compared to just 20 percent of those aged 51-65.
  • At a working lunch with five other people? Chances are, just having your phone out is offending somebody: A full 20 percent of professionals said simply having your phone out at a business lunch is rude.
  • Saying "Excuse me" to take a call didn't cut it: over 30 percent still found it to be rarely/never appropriate during informal/offsite lunch meetings.

"Not surprisingly, millennials and younger professionals were more likely to be accepting of smartphone use, but they might be doing themselves a disservice," Cardon added, via the release. "In many situations, they rely on those older than them for their career advancement."

More information regarding the study can be found via the Business Communication Quarterly

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