Cell Phone In Workplace

Question to Ask the Workplace Doctors about cell phone use at work: The new manager does not want us to use our cell phones at work, but yet he uses his. What are the laws?

I work at a furniture store and sometimes I use my cell phone to call on customers. I also give my cell number to customer to call me if they have any questions or they will be coming in to see me. The new manager does not want us to use our cell phones at work, but yet he uses his. What are the laws? Can they just grab the cell phone from your hand while you are using it? It happen to one of the guys and work. Is that legal? Thank you for your help.

Signed, Not In Touch

Dear Not In Touch:

I have never heard of any laws against using cell phones at work. Work rules of this type are a local manager’s prerogative. I imagine you can understand that use of cell phones can appear to or in fact distract from one’s job even when used for business. Probably that is why your new manager restricts their use. Should your manager grab a cell phone from an employee’s hand? I think you know the answer to that. That is rude and probably springs from failure to manage his temper. So you have learned both that your manager does not abide by the rules he set to not use cell phones and that he has a temper.

What should you do? Is it not time for you to have a conversation with your manager about what are the goals of your job–if it is sales, how you might best accomplish sales? When talking about the best ways to accomplish what you have been hired to do is the time to ask about why he rules out cell phones. And you can speak with him about the advantage of a cell phone to communicating with customers if you are busy with other tasks not within easy reach of an on-line phone or if it might be busy. Also you can help him see that if you give customers your cell number, they can contact you at all times. A good boss-bossed relationship is based on trust and respect. That kind of relationship is earned by some friendly small talk and much appropriate task talk. Civility, politeness, and goodwill should be the rule and not the exception.

Workplace policies and practices regarding what communication makes for good business usually have a history. Communication acts that distract or appear to distract from doing one’s job come to be restricted. Those that can help such as use of new technology–cell phones and e-mail– pose both opportunity and problems. Rules regarding their use sometimes are manager made without consultation with subordinates, and modification or changing those rules will hinge on subordinates making the case of what will better accomplish their jobs and be good for business.

Your question gives me the impression that you have the potential to be a good employee, but are not yet comfortable with speaking as a professional with someone in authority. Can you look in the mirror and practice the kind of talk that you would like to hear if you were a manager? What would you like a subordinate or associate to say other than “Yes, sir”? Would you like for her or him to think of and suggest ways to cut wasted supplies, time, and money? Would you like to hear talk about how to improve productivity and sales? Would you like for a subordinate to frankly initiate conversation about rules that don’t seem fair or helpful to doing business?

Once you think through and do this kind of talking with yourself, you are ready to speak to your manager. Or if you have been speaking with him on these topics, he should welcome a conversation about how restriction on use of the cell phone can hurt your job effectiveness. Let us know if these thoughts make sense or help you think of other ways to approach your manager.Working together with hands, head, and heart takes and makes big WEGOS.

William Gorden