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Etiquette at Work

A few tips to control your BlackBerry during public events

By Peter Post
January 11, 2009
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Q. I recently attended a big gala event and was annoyed by two of our board members sitting at our table who were on their BlackBerrys during the entire program. Yes, they did have them on vibrate but still I thought it was rude behavior. Can you provide some guidelines for BlackBerry and text use during public events?

J.C., Orlando, Fla.

A. 1. Control it; don't be controlled by it. Just because you have one doesn't mean it has to be on all the time.

2. Any time its use will bother others, turn it off. Keep the focus of your attention on the people you are with and not on your device, regardless of whether you are using it as a phone or to text message, read e-mails, or surf the Web.

3. If it must be on and it could bother others, use the silent ring mode. If a situation occurs when you really need to receive information or a call, be considerate of the other people with you and step away so your use doesn't bother them.

4. Do not use it at your table when dining. The one specific place where I advise people to turn off these devices is in a restaurant. Enjoy the people you are with and show them the respect they deserve by focusing on them and not on your BlackBerry.

5. Beware of using a BlackBerry in a meeting. You might think no one notices you checking your e-mail, but they do. Your lack of focus can be interpreted negatively, damaging your image.

6. Don't send or receive confidential information. I once found a BlackBerry on the backseat of a taxi. It was still on, and all the information and e-mails were available to me. I wondered what that person would tell his boss about the confidential client information that might have been compromised by his loss of the phone.

7. Speak softly. We naturally tend to talk louder on a cellphone. It's not necessary and makes the call all the more intrusive on the people around us.

Peter Post is the great-grandson of manners guru Emily Post and is the director of the Emily Post Institute in Burlington, Vt.

NEED ADVICE? E-mail questions about business etiquette to bizmanners@globe.com; fax to 617-929-3183; or mail to Etiquette at Work, The Boston Globe, P.O. Box 55819, Boston, MA 02205-5819.

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