Phubbing — Mobile Device Etiquette

Though unfamiliar with the term “phubbing” until a recent column in The Tribune by Linda Lewis Griffith, I am certainly both familiar with and guilty of the action. According to Dictionary.com, “phubbing  is the act of ignoring a person or one’s surroundings when in a social situation by busying oneself with a phone or other mobile device. “  Dictionary.com dates the origin of “phub” as between 2010 and 2014.

Observe families while dining in restaurants. It is not unusual to see each person looking at their phone with minimal attention to those they are dining with.   While enforcing my new “no unnecessary phubbing” rule at dinner last night, I noticed a mother and two teenaged daughters at the next table.  Both daughters were on the phone while the mother sat silently waiting for dinner to be served.

I have also noticed “phubbing” in various meetings and seminars. This can be rude to the speaker as well as those seated near you.  People do notice that you are texting or scrolling through emails.  Some of us are better at multi-tasking than others, but it will be deemed by many that you consider the current setting or speaker unimportant.

Our Staffing Managers have commented that job applicants sometimes glance at their phones during job interviews.   Others have apologized as they silenced their ringing phone during the job interview.   It is definitely not a Best Practice to have your phone visible or to have to silence your phone while responding to an interview question.  I’d recommend that you leave it in your car or in your purse or in your pocket and, by all means, set it on silent!

Many employees now keep their personal phones on their desk or close by. This may be necessary for some jobs, but for most it is either a convenience or a bad habit which studies show is significantly reducing productivity.  Verify your company’s policy with your supervisor.  The Best Practice for most jobs, particularly office positions, is to silence your phone and place it in a desk drawer or in your purse.

There are occasional times when it is appropriate to “watch” your mobile device. If you are waiting for serious news from or about a family member or news from work that you have to handle, it’s okay to “watch” your phone.  It’s best to advise those with you of the reason you are “phubbing”.

Julia Aguilar