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A cell phone has become an essential tool in the workplace. It’s more than just a phone. It’s a calendar. A research tool. A calculator. And so much more. But it can also be a liability.

An example happened recently when I was in a morning meeting and someone was on her device and not paying attention to the meeting. She was called upon by the leader of the meeting and, because she was looking at her cell phone, she missed the leader’s call to her and was embarrassed in front of her peers. I found out later that she was looking at her calendar. Nonetheless, she should have been paying attention to the meeting instead.

Here are a few rules to keep in mind when using your cell phone:

When you’re in a meeting, turn your ringer off and pay attention to 
the group. No one is more important than the person (or people) you’re meeting with, so it’s almost never acceptable to take a call during a meeting. That goes for reading or writing text messages, checking your calendar and anything involving your phone. 

There are, however, exceptions to this etiquette rule: if you’re anticipating an urgent call regarding a family member’s health, or if an incoming call will provide valuable information for the meeting. In either situation, you should let the person/people you’re meeting with know BEFORE the meeting begins that you’re expecting an important call. When you take the call, excuse yourself and leave the room. 

Pay attention to your tone and topics during cell-phone conversations in public. No one wants to hear about your doctor’s appointment, your late-night escapades or your mother’s ailments.

Never use a cell phone when you are in a restroom.

Good cell-phone etiquette boils down to this: Be mindful of and considerate to those around you and to those on the other end of your call. We will all benefit. 

Suzanne Willis is the founder of Willis Consulting & Communications in Naples, which specializes in contemporary business, social and children’s etiquette.

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