We start a conversation and he always breaks off


Improper telephone manners

It has come to my attention a habit when I talk to my colleagues and their phone rings. I see them answering the telephone without hesitation. No matter how urgent the call is, they pick it up. Some of them are self-conscious and eventually get off the phone after a five minute chit chat. The majority seems to disregard that they have stopped me mid-sentence.

There are times that this happens after the co-worker has asked my contribution to an issue. I have rolled my chair next to his desk and we exchange ideas on how to handle it. Some other times, a manager has called me in his office for clarifications on a report; when his mobile phone rings not only does he get distracted, but he starts a long discussion with his daughter regarding family issues. He keeps talking and I stand still, waiting to be released from the stand-by mode.

True story

I was sitting next to a new comer for three years. He was lacking experience and often was asking for my hints on the job tasks. Although a rookie, he was partially available because of his freelancing activities. At work I was eager to help and I was moving my chair next to him. We were analyzing the issues together in front of his computer, but it was impossible to finish anything with no distraction. He was receiving so many phone calls that I thought he was a call center agent.

Why would someone give such an impression?

First and forefront, he was pretending to be busy. He had been told that the daily schedule should be full of responsibilities. That he had to solve one thousand problems simultaneously in order to be considered capable and clever. The more complicated the problems were, the more gifted he believed he was. Indeed, he was raising the volume of his voice while speaking to the phone and he was gloating about it.

People tend to assimilate behaviors of other human beings. Employees are likely to copy a manager who is unable to keep a phone call short, or an executive who pays too much attention to his mobile and treats every call as a matter of life and death. But truth is, few of them take into serious consideration the impact a phone interruption might have on their connection with peers.

What to do

Understanding the impact of improper telephone manners on workplace interaction is a key element. For this, an individual has to focus on the results of such an experience. He may discover that he feels disconnection because the colleague does not return the value that he first addressed. He may become infuriated because a phone call upstages a work-related matter.

In both cases, the distance between the co-workers is getting longer and the mutual appreciation begins to subside.

Those who are keen on showing off when speaking to the phone, should ditch multitasking and work on their ability to focus. Learning how to block distractions is also a must. Finally, letting people know that they are busy and cultivating the ability to say “No” would help them regain control of themselves.


To wrap it up, giving always priority to the phone is a bad habit. Identifying the problem is the first step and realizing that it could jeopardize relationships with the rest of the workers should operate as an alert. Successful companies need engaged and connected employees who take control of the phone and learn how to prioritize their tasks.


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