As the world becomes ever more technologically advanced, attitudes towards technology change as well. While there may be situations in which cellphone usage is never acceptable, like during a religious ceremony perhaps, views on the use of a cellphone during other gatherings may change over time.
But a new study, published in the Mobile Media & Communication journal, found that the general population isn’t as accepting of cellphone usage during gatherings as one might have thought. In fact, a majority of people don’t even think it is acceptable to use a cellphone during a business meeting unless stated by a manger that they should be used.
How people view you if you use a cellphone during a meeting
The study, done by researchers at the University of Kansas, asked 250 participants to watch several videos of people who were in business meetings and were either using a notebook, laptop, or cellphone.
The researchers reported that cellphone users were seen as snubbing their coworkers and received poor competence grades from the participants.
Who is to say that those using smartphones during meetings aren’t taking notes, looking over a meeting slideshow, or bringing up a document to reference in the meeting? While our smartphones connect us more and more each day to our professional lives, they are still related to being rude and slacking off if used during a meeting.
“We know you can do work on your phone,” says co-author Cameron Piercy in a statement. While that is true, Piercy added that since smartphone usage is often linked to dealing with personal matters, such as texting a friend or scrolling through an Instagram feed, “we assume that you’re not working when we see you’re using it.”
This assumption is present even in those who use habitually use cellphones during meetings themselves.
“We can always infer our own thoughts and motives, but we can’t ever know a partner’s thoughts and motives, so we make negative assumptions about others, and we make excuses for ourselves,” Piercy said. “People expect that technology is used for ill, even when the person using the technology says their use is related to the topic of conversation.”
Though cellphones are as ubiquitous as cups of coffee in the office, and maybe even more so as people find out the negative effects of caffeine, cellphone usage in meetings is not something that is completely excepted yet. In fact, the study found that cellphone usage had a dramatic effect on how the viewers thought of a meeting participant.
“The effect for the phone is ginormous,” Piercy said. “It’s as big an effect as you’ll ever see in a social-science study — 30% of the variance. You can just look at the numbers and see it.”
What Piercy means is that those who used a notebook scored 30 points higher than those who used a cellphone when the participants graded the worker’s effectiveness. Those who used laptops feel between the notebook and phone users.
“If you were to use a laptop in the meeting, you’d be better off than using your phone because there was this big spike in all the numbers that are associated with using the phone, relative to the other two,” Piercy said.
How does a manager’s view on cellphone use impact others?
The researchers found that when a manager sets policy for cellphone use in meetings, workers who follow that policy receive a higher competence rating, even if they are on a cellphone.
In fact, when there was a pro-cellphone policy, “those who acknowledged their multi communication were evaluated higher and seen as more competent,” the authors wrote. “In the absence of a policy, the pattern is reversed.”
“The manager articulating a clear policy about expectations of technology use ought to affect the way that people engage with technology in the workplace,” Piercy said. “But so is the idea that people would be excused if they apologize for using technology. And in that case, we didn’t find a significant effect.”
When it comes to those who apologized for cellphone usage when the boss had a policy against it, the participants did not have much sympathy. The viewers rated those who apologized with low competence scores due to their seemingly unforgivable office snub.
Jennifer Fabiano is an SEO reporter at Ladders.