LAWRENCE, Kan. — Smartphones are everywhere these days. For some, even doing a full day’s workload from a handheld device is certainly possible. Although tech-savvy employees may think they’re making a good impression, a new study says their co-workers may not be as impressed. Researchers from the University of Kansas say the best thing an employee can do during a company meeting is keep their cellphone out of sight until it’s over.
The study says workers who look at their phones during a meeting create a perception as less competent and effective. That’s still the case even if they’re doing work on that device.
In the study, published in the journal Mobile Media & Communication, nearly 250 participants watched several videos of people using either a paper notebook, laptop, or cellphone during a business meeting. Researchers say cellphone users in particular were seen as snubbing their co-workers and received poor grades for competence from the viewers.
Phones have bad reputation in meetings
“We know you can do work on your phone,” says co-author Cameron Piercy in a university statement.
The assistant professor of communication studies explains that since phones are commonly used by people to leisurely browse the internet and social media, “we assume that you’re not working when we see you’re using it.”
Piercy says the results are an example of “introspective illusion.” That is, viewers think the worst of cellphone users, even if they admit to doing the same things in their daily lives.
“We make negative assumptions about others, and we make excuses for ourselves,” the researcher says. “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.”
Researchers say notebook users scored 30 points higher than cellphone users when the viewers graded the worker’s effectiveness.
“The effect for the phone is ginormous,” Piercy adds. “Even 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.”
The boss knows best
The study says managers play a big role in this workplace puzzle. When a manager’s policy on using technology is clear before the meeting, workers who follow that policy have a more competent rating — even if that means they’re able to use a cellphone.
For those who don’t follow the office rules, saying “I’m sorry” doesn’t help much either. Researchers say workers who apologize for their phone use during a meeting still get negative marks for their perceived office snub.