In a memorable scene in the movie Star Trek IV, Mr. Spock delivers the famous Vulcan neck pinch to a kid who’s blasting rock music on a boom box at obnoxious levels. As he turns off the music, his fellow bus passengers applaud. I’ve sometimes wished I could do the neck pinch on the drivers of those cars who think their stereo bass should rattle my bones. I shouldn’t be able to feel music through steel and glass from a dozen feet away.
A few weeks ago, I published a blog about how some people inconsiderately disrupt other peoples’ lives through sheer mindlessness. This includes inconsiderate use of technology. I learned of an excellent example recently, when my office manager Jin shared a story about taking her family out to eat at Olive Garden one Saturday. They heard talking and music and couldn’t figure out where it was coming from…until Jin noticed the man in the booth next to them had his iPad propped open on its stand, watching a movie—without headphones.
They had to listen to his movie the entire time they were in the restaurant, and it ruined their lunch. When I asked her why she didn’t ask him to use a headset or have the manager speak to him, she said it was a public place, so she didn’t feel it was her place to say anything. I shared one of my favorite sayings with her: “If you never ask, you never get!” My mother used that phrase over and over when I was young, encouraging me to advocate for myself, express my opinions, and make requests.
This obvious technological disregard for other people is rampant in our society: on the subway, in restaurants, on airplanes…and at work. I hear complaints from employees all the time about selfish co-workers who think other people should just have to put up with their rude communication habits. Don’t be that person. Before you hit play, ask yourself, “Will this bother anyone?” Earphones should be de rigueur by now. If not, speak up and ask for the following:
1. Turn down your phone’s ringer. The open-plan offices most of us have are already full of phones. We hear enough ringing all day; no one appreciates an especially loud, strident ring.
2. Keep your voice down. You don’t need to speak loudly on your phone, in front of everyone—sitting at the bar, in the club, or in your cube. If you must speak loudly to be heard, go outside or behind a closed door.
3. Turn off your alerts. No one needs to know you just got an email or Tweet but you. We get annoyed with your “importance.”
4. Hold conference calls in conference rooms. Don’t listen to calls or voicemail in public places with a speakerphone. We aren’t trying to eavesdrop but can’t help it. Beware, lest someone hires an actor to leave a very embarrassing message for the whole office to hear— just to teach you a lesson. It’s happened.
5. Talk on your cell phone outside or in the break room, NOT in the hall next to someone’s office or cubicle. Your problems are private, and your business issues aren’t more important than ours.
We need to all actively advocate for common courtesy at work: if you never ask, you never get. Talk openly about these techno-annoyances at your next staff meeting, so innocent bystanders won’t be forced to give you the Vulcan neck pinch!
© 2015 Laura Stack. Laura Stack, a.k.a. The Productivity Pro®, helps professionals achieve Maximum Results in Minimum Time®. For over 20 years, her keynote speeches and workshops have helped leaders boost personal and team productivity, increase results, and save time at work. Laura is the author six books, most recently Execution IS the Strategy. Widely regarded as one of the leading experts in the field of performance and workplace issues, Laura has been featured in the Wall Street Journal, the New York Times, and USA Today. Connect via her website, Facebook, or Twitter.