I’m really frustrated because my staff are constantly checking their phones: they’re texting, they’re waiting for a response to the text, they even take personal calls during work time.
I’ve tried telling them to stop it but they don’t listen and make me feel bad for saying anything about it. How do I stop it?
This is one of the most common frustrations right now. Managers try to get their staff to put their mobile phones away and the employees respond as if a fundamental workplace right is being taken away from them.
And, then there’s the fear that if the manager goes in too hard, that the employee will respond badly and they might disengage or they might leave – either way causing more frustration and stress for the manager.
So, what to do?
Firstly, as a manager you have to decide what reasonable mobile phone use is acceptable to you. There are no hard and fast rules – this one comes down to how you want to manage the problem with regard to your unique business situation.
For example, most managers I’ve spoken to are okay with some phone use, but they want their staff to show more reasonableness about that use (not too much, not if it’s going to disrupt the task, not if they are wasting time).
Some managers I coach have a total no-mobile phone policy, because it’s unsafe or too disruptive and staff can only check them during breaks. Other managers are able to be okay with staff checking phones as long as the work gets done efficiently and properly.
With my staff I am okay with mobile phones under certain conditions. The rules are: answer anytime for family needs, check phones during breaks or if it’s really quiet and the key message is that they need to be focused on doing quality work first.
I talk to all staff about these expectations and make it clear that this is how things will be done in my workplace and then I ensure that they work within the rules.
Sometimes staff will raise objections to the rules. In this case I listen to them and make sure to explain why the rules are there. I keep an open mind to changing the rules, if managing their concerns makes it better for both of us.
The key is to ensure that the mobile phone rules you introduce meet both your needs and the needs of your staff, although the business needs should always come first.
If you have a great relationship with your team, you can meet with them and say that you’ve noticed a problem with staff being distracted by their phones and ask them to help you come up with some guidelines around reasonable use to meet your and their needs.
This action will help build the relationship between you as well and you’ll find staff will start to respect you and listen to you more when you include them in solution finding.
Unless… you approach the situation with loads of judgements and strong negative emotions like “I shouldn’t have to do this” or are really fired up because “their staff should know better”. These strong emotions ALWAYS prevent us from getting to a reasonable solution.
What I have learnt is simply this: staff don’t know better – until we tell them what matters for us in our unique workplace.
See the mobile phone usage as a problem in need of a solution. Diagnose the real problem, bring staff in on finding the solutions and ensure staff stick to the rules.
About Andrea Tunjic
I’m a Human Resources strategist. I solve workplace issues quickly and positively and I show leaders how to do the same