Danielle Belanger was presenting slides on projected airport traffic growth to colleagues and clients when the chat window popped up, on a massive scale, on the conference room screen: “How was your date with Dimitri?” her best friend had innocently asked. Belanger, a former consultant from Boston who’s now a nurse practitioner, had neglected to turn off her messaging app when she fired up her personal laptop for the presentation, leading to the cringe-worthy moment.
“It seems funny now, and I was lucky that it happened in front of clients with whom I had good relationships,” she says. “But, as a young woman trying to be taken seriously in a professional environment, it was frustrating.”
Other professionals aren’t as lucky. In Sacramento, attorney Neal Lutterman angered a judge when he forgot to silence his cell phone during a trial. “My ringtone was Barracuda by Heart,” he says. “That’s hard to ignore.”
With smartphones, tablets, laptops, and other devices now almost always by our side, tech slip-ups in the workplace have become more common, which means being savvy about using your personal tech at work is a necessary part of office life. New communication pitfalls are emerging as more employees are working remotely, collaborating with colleagues from different backgrounds and age groups, and adding new devices and services to their daily routines. At best, poor tech manners can lead to uncomfortable, embarrassing situations at work. At worst, they color someone’s reputation or sour professional relationships.
“The manners we see change the most rapidly are those around communication,” says Daniel Post Senning, the great-great grandson of manners maven Emily Post and co-author of Emily Post’s Etiquette, 19th edition and Emily Post’s Manners in a Digital World: Living Well Online. “The smartphone has become such an integral part of the way so many people live and interact. It’s put stresses on our social systems and structures.” Understanding the new norms and rules of professional communication in the digital age can help you avoid embarrassing tech-related situations.
Of course, a lot depends on your company’s culture and your job itself, whether it’s collaborative or more independent, and that will help dictate what technology is acceptable to use and when. But here are eight basic tech etiquette rules to follow at work.