Meetings, Texting and Civility

Well, I managed to hit the concrete for a few miles early this a.m. Hey, it’s not the Cleveland Marathon — but at least I was moving forward. And I even managed to avoid the rain that most likely will be with us for most of the day in NE Ohio.

I enjoy running outside. I appreciate the solitude and the time alone it gives me to think about things. It’s a totally different experience — call it forced exercise? — for me on the treadmill or on the elliptical trainer.

Today I was thinking about civility — and how rude and inconsiderate we are to others often without even knowing it or thinking about it.

I attended a meeting Inside the Beltway last week. And the majority — including me — spent considerable time tethered to a BlackBerry: texting, reading messages, mentally figuring out whether missed phone messages were important or not. That’s a shame on a lot of levels. But it’s also rude. Do we really have to be connected — and available — these days 24/7?

And I’m not the only one thinking about this. Here’s from Christine Pearson, a professor of international business at the Thunderbird School of Global Management in Phoenix, writing in the “Preoccupations” column in the Sunday NYT, “Sending a Message That You Don’t Care“:

For more than a decade, my colleagues and I have gathered data on incivility from more than 9,000 managers and workers across the United States, and we’re continuing this work internationally. We have learned a great deal about the problem’s causes and consequences.

I define incivility as behavior, seemingly inconsequential to the doer, that others perceive as inconsiderate. Electronic devices lead to more incivility because of their powerful ability to claim our attention — no matter where we are or what we’re doing. No one likes to be snubbed, of course, but the offense can take on a new edge when the winner is a machine.

Some younger employees may not be as concerned, as they’re already more likely to communicate electronically. Indeed, if everyone is texting at once, it may seem like “no harm, no foul.”

Chances are, however, that if you ignore your colleagues while jabbering on your cellphone, keep others waiting for an appointment while you check your e-mail or send something electronically that should be delivered in person, some people will see you as inconsiderate.

Yeah. Inconsiderate — and rude.

Just sayin’.

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2 responses to “Meetings, Texting and Civility

  1. Kimberly Scafaro

    You are right, people really have become obsessed with staying connected 24/7. I think we are all guilty of that. With the use of text messaging we can instantly contact someone. But it has also resulted in the lack of our interpersonal skills, because we have become so used to talking with our thumbs. There are also those that can be very uncivil about because they are engulfed in their own world while texting someone else. Since tragic events like Virginia Tech happened the use of text messages was a great way to ensure you would get your message to the audience.

  2. Kimberly,

    Thanks for your comment. I’m as connected 24/7 these days as most people — and I’m not sure that is always a good thing. I miss the personal contact that you get from real-world associations with friends and others, and it will be interesting to see how this evolves over the next decade or so.

    And you make an excellent point about texting from the standpoint of immediacy and the ability to communicate quickly to various audiences. Clearly it is a new world now when it comes to communications and media. Maybe we just have to figure out the right balance.

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