It’s virtually impossible to get through a meeting without at least one call or text interruption.
Q: My boss is a very nice guy, and I enjoy working for him, with one exception.
We’re a very small company, so he doesn’t have an assistant to screen his calls. As a result — and here’s the problem — he keeps his cellphone in view at all times. It’s virtually impossible to get through a meeting without at least one call or text interruption. Even when he doesn’t answer, he pauses to look and decide whether whatever he’s receiving can wait.
I’m left wondering whether I should continue to talk, or pause until he looks up. Often, I have to reiterate the point I was making when the phone broke his concentration.
Some of these interruptions are work related, some are personal. He is dedicated to his family, and I appreciate that about him. Still, this behavior seems unprofessional at best and just plain bad for business at worst. Is there anything I can do without coming across as an unsympathetic malcontent? — New York
A: Your boss sounds familiar. Far too many people don’t get that observing basic social mores also happens to be good for keeping a business functioning smoothly. Generally speaking, there is very little in this life that can’t wait an hour.
Here’s one strategy that might send the message. If you’re speaking to someone who looks away to check his phone, stop talking immediately. Don’t be theatrical about it, but through your behavior make it clear that you are not going to communicate information to somebody who is taking in other, totally unrelated information.
This doesn’t have to be hostile. You can smile! And say in the friendliest possible tones: “Oh, I didn’t want to interrupt what you’re dealing with there. Everything OK?”
Yes, this might seem passive-aggressive. But you can’t order your boss to put his phone on airplane mode. So try to model the best behavior and nudge him in that direction. Even if he doesn’t get it immediately, at least you won’t have to repeat yourself quite as much.