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One of my staff members is constantly texting, even during meetings. He thinks no one notices, but it's distracting. Is there a way to make him ease up?


According to telecommunications analyst Chetan Sharma, U.S. cell-phone users send an average of 675 text messages per month. Clearly, texting is an ingrained part of our daily behavior now, but that doesn't mean it isn't sometimes rude, and even counterproductive, to do it at work. So take a firm but flexible two-step approach to delete this problem before it grows bigger.

First, take the staffer aside and call attention to his behavior. For example, you could say, "Tom, I notice you texting during meetings. This makes communication difficult since I can't be sure you're really listening. From now on, please stop texting for the duration of our meetings."

Next, establish ground rules for everybody to follow in future meetings. It isn't realistic to ban cellphones entirely from meetings, but you can set parameters that decrease their ability to derail and distract. Alert your staff that, going forward, everyone must refrain from texting during meetings. If something urgent requires their attention on their phones, they will need to excuse themselves so they don't disrupt others. For longer meetings, you might give your staff a short break to catch up on things, including their phone-related business. By setting these few simple rules, you can be sure your staff will get the message about texting.

Dan Lumpkin is an organizational psychologist and president of management-consulting company Lumpkin & Associates in Fairhope, AL. E-mail your career-related questions to askdan@exhibitormagazine.com
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