Screen dropping and other tech etiquette blunders that leave people fuming

Technology has changed the ways in which we work and communicate in many ways over the past few decades. Along with these advancements and trends comes some new set of behavioural norms and expectations to navigate. Sometimes we get it wrong, and that can leave people upset or offended.

To help avoid those situations, here is an update on some of the new tech faux-pas to avoid at work.

Screen dropping.

My friend showed up on Friday ranting about an incident at work. She had been updating her husband about their evening plans over Facebook Messenger. When she looked up, she noticed her co-worker was standing behind her. He commented on what she had been typing, “Oh, you’re having dinner at Juniper? I love that place.”

So, he had been actively reading her conversation. That’s a fairly egregious invasion of privacy. In a world where we are always connected by networks, smart phones, and mobile devices, there is no 9-5 anymore. People solve work problems from home, answer calls, messages, and emails at all hours. And on the flip side, we also take care of personal matters at work.

Reading someone’s monitor over their shoulder is rude – whether they’re working on company business, or taking care of something from their private life. If you’re standing behind someone, say something, alert them to your presence, and don’t read their screen.

Texting, reading messages during meetings.

Communicating on your smartphone or laptop while in a meeting sends the message that you are not interested in what is being discussed and that you aren’t going to contribute. Is that the message you want to send to a group of your colleagues? When you show up, be there.

This is particularly offensive when you are in a one-on-one meeting. Sitting across from someone who is looking down at their phone while you’re speaking is just insulting. Don’t do this.

Expecting an instant reply to an instant message.

We can use messenger apps to communicate directly with others in real time. It’s fast and convenient. You can even see that they have seen your message. However, what you can’t see is what that person may have been working on when you messaged them.

I’ve had people show up at my desk for a response to a question they just emailed me – somehow arriving even before the email. Faster than the speed of electricity.

When we approach someone or call them, we usually start with a polite inquiry, “Do you have a moment?” or “Is now a good time?” For some reason, we often forget this courtesy when communicating electronically.

Just because you can send an instant query or request doesn’t mean that other people are instantly available to respond. They have their own work and priorities too. Have reasonable expectations, and if something truly is urgent, explain the situation and negotiate a timeline.

Talking loudly on cell phone in public areas.

As much as we don’t want other people reading our business on our screens, we also don’t want to hear about theirs on their loud phone conversations. If you are in a crowded public area, you will probably have to speak extra loud so that the person on the other end of the call can hear you. Unfortunately, this also means that everyone in the vicinity can’t help but listen to your conversation. Find a quiet spot to talk.

You know what’s worse? People who have phone calls or take conference calls over speaker phones in an open concept office. That is just obnoxious to everyone else around.

Like most traditional etiquette rules, the guidelines for behaviour over technology come down to being aware of how your actions affect other people and choosing to be polite and respectful.

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