Kevin Kruse, Contributor. I write about wholehearted leadership and employee engagement. Excerpts from


Do you check your phone for text messages or emails during business meetings?

According to new research from the University of Southern California’s Marshall School of Business, you are probably annoying your boss and colleagues. Furthermore, the research indicates that older professionals and those with higher incomes are far more likely to think it is inappropriate to be checking text messages or emails during meetings of any kind.


Researchers surveyed 554 full-time working professionals who earned more than $30K in income and were employed by companies with at least 50 employees. They asked survey participants about the use of smartphones in formal and informal meetings to uncover attitudes about answering calls, writing or reading emails or text messages, browsing the internet, and other mobile phone related behaviors. Key findings include:


  • 86% think it’s inappropriate to answer phone calls during formal meetings
  • 84% think it’s inappropriate to write texts or emails during formal meetings
  • 75% think it’s inappropriate to read texts or emails during formal meetings
  • 66% think it’s inappropriate to write texts or emails during any meetings
  • At least 22% think it’s inappropriate to use phones during any meetings

These findings don’t surprise Roger Lipson, executive coach and founder of The Lipson Group who said, “In my 360-survey work with executives, ‘smartphone/tablet use in meetings’ is one of the most frequent comments for the ‘behaviors to stop doing’ category.”


Why do so many people—especially more successful people—find smartphone use in meetings to be inappropriate? It’s because when you access your phone it shows:


  • Lack of respect. You consider the information on your phone to be more important than the conversation in the meeting; you view people outside of the meeting to be more important than those sitting right in front of you.
  • Lack of attention. You are unable to stay focused on one item at a time; the ability to multitask is a myth.
  • Lack of listening. You aren’t demonstrating the attention and thinking that is required of truly active listening.
  • Lack of power. You are like a modern day Pavlovian dog who responds to the beck and call of others through the buzz of your phone.


As expected, opinions on cell phone usage vary greatly by age. Millennials were three times more likely than those over age 40 to think that checking text messages and emails during informal meetings was OK. However, unlike other Millennial traits, this difference is one that could influence young professionals’ careers, as they typically reliant on those who are more senior, and older, for career advancement.

As with any communication, it’s important to be open and transparent with what is expected in the workplace. Lipson noted one novel idea to make sure everybody knew what was expected, “One of my clients took a chapter from saloons in the old West. He put a wicker basket at the entrance to his main conference room, along with a sign. The sign had a picture of a smartphone with the message, ‘Leave your guns at the door.’”


I have functioned as a Business and Media Consultant over the past sixteen years and spent many years developing my capacity to function in our ever evolving use of technology, communication, education and training.