Tuesday, February 3, 2009

The votes are in

Well, the polls have closed on my PDA etiquette survey and the votes have been tallied - all 24 of them - and I have to say, I'm surprised. The question was: what is the appropriate way to handle e-mails in a meeting?

An overwhelming 54 per cent chose "turn off the PDA and check e-mails on a break". While I'm thrilled that so many of you picked the etiquette-friendly option, I'm wondering who you are and why you never seem to be in the same meetings as me. Only one brave soul was honest enough to admit he/she opted to check e-mails and respond to them during meetings. And yet, it seems like everytime I'm in a meeting I see people reading, tapping and vibrating.

Some of you think you're being discreet - appearing to pay attention while surreptitiously reading e-mails under the table, or, my personal favourite - pretending to rummage in your briefcase for a pen so you can sneak a peak at your PDA. We know what you're doing. We've done it ourselves.

A quarter of you prefer to keep it on vibrate and leave the room to deal with emergencies. While this is more polite than responding immediately, it is still distracting and sends a signal to the speaker that they are not as important as an e-mail.

In coming to terms with my own PDA etiquette, I've tried many approaches but now I just turn it off and put it at the bottom of my bag. That way, no one else is disturbed by vibrating or ringing and I don't have to worry about the flashing light calling out to me. It's just easier...and more respectful.



  1. I agree that PDAs should be turned off and put away out of respect to others in a meeting. From a less altruistic perspective, doing so is also much less distracting for the user and allows him or her to focus on the meeting itself. When I had a PDA, the compulsion to check new messages was driven merely by the light or vibration that signaled them. Interestingly, a time management expert I once heard speak said the need to check new email as it arrived is part of our human nature, and he, too, recommended turning off distracting notifications while working at a desk (and only checking email at a designated time). Whether it's a computer or PDA, I definitely think the old adage - out of sight, out of mind - applies.

  2. Good to hear that the compulsion to respond to the flashing light is a genetic human trait and not a just a symptom of electronic overload