rude new coworker won’t get off her Blackberry

A reader writes:

I work at a fairly large university in the DC area, and one of my responsibilities is meeting new adjunct faculty to complete hiring paperwork. (We do this to save them the trouble of travelling all the way out to our main campus, which is quite a drive from where we are.)

There is a new adjunct joining our faculty for fall term, and after rescheduling twice already (they request times, they are not assigned), we finally met at 8:30 this morning to complete her paperwork. Throughout our meeting, which took about 15 minutes total, she had her Blackberry out, reading and sending messages. I was so shocked, and afraid I would lose my cool, so I didn’t say anything. She was nothing but polite when she spoke with the Associate Dean, so I can only assume that her rudeness was either because of my age or that she sees me as “administrative staff” and beneath her.

What is the appropriate way to handle a situation like this?

I’d say: “Do you need a few minutes to take care of that before we resume our meeting?”

Of course, the person might respond that they can do both just fine … which, to be fair, might actually be true when the meeting is simply to fill out paperwork. This would actually be a lot ruder if the meeting was a discussion.

Not that her behavior wasn’t rude. Of course it was. When you’re meeting with someone, especially someone who has traveled to see you, you give them your attention.

But ultimately, how you assertive you can be in situations like this depends on hierarchy. If she’s above you in the hierarchy, my suggested sentence above is as direct as you can get. After that, if the behavior continues, it’s really the person’s prerogative and you’ve got to deal with it. (Although, yes, it’s still rude if they don’t least give you the courtesy of a “sorry about this, I’m dealing with something that can’t wait.”)

If she’s a peer, however, you can be as direct as you’re comfortable being. I’m pretty assertive when I’m annoyed, so I’d say, “I’ll give you a few minutes. Let me know when you’re ready to resume.” Or even, “This will go more quickly if we’re able to focus on it for a few minutes” or “Do you mind focusing on this for a few minutes so we can get through it more quickly?”

Of course, if you’re above her in the hierarchy, it’s even easier. In those cases, I’ve usually gotten the message across with a pointed look.

By the way, I know this isn’t your question, but I wonder if she was simply annoyed that she had to schedule an in-person meeting just to complete new-hire paperwork. That’s not usually a two-person job, and she might have been irked that she couldn’t just fill it out on her own and send it in. That’s a different issue than rude Blackberry behavior, but it’s probably worth considering whether that practice should be revisited.

{ 79 comments… read them below }

  1. AK47*

    OP here. First, thank you for answering my question! I just wanted to clarify that the meeting was more than just paperwork. I was also explaining to her our online HR system (where she would set up direct deposit, see her class assignments, enter grades, etc.), details about syllabi and book orders, parking and some other administrative things she needed to know.

    1. Ask a Manager* Post author

      Oh! Then that really is incredibly rude, and I can see why you were so taken aback. In that case, I’d have definitely used one of the statements I suggested in the “peer” paragraph.

      1. Anonymous*

        sadly, in my experience it’s not uncommon for faculty (adjunct or otherwise) to be fairly dismissive toward academic administration, to the point of being actively irritated about having to engage with paperwork, online systems, etc. at all. that doesn’t change the rudeness, of course, but maybe AK47 will feel better knowing that they’re not alone.

        1. Rana*

          *shakes head* Those are stupid faculty! One of the very first things I learned in grad school is that good admin staff should be treated like GOLD because they are the ones who actually know how things work, and what to do when things go wrong.

          No one should treat other people like crap, just on principle, but as a practical matter, discouraging support staff from wanting to help you is stupid, stupid behavior.

          1. Anonymous*

            ohhhhh don’t I know it. but frequently the culture is such that there’s no real way to enforce common decency, & a lot of people are happy to take advantage of that fact.

          2. Vicki*

            OMG Yes! Be respectful and polite and friendly with the admin staff at all times. And then, when you need to race into the office and say “Nikki, help! I need 30 copies of this in 5 minutes!” you get 30 copies in 4 and a sympathetic smile.

    2. Charles*

      OP, make sure that you document this somewhere.

      Not to get back at this adjunct or anything like that; but for your own sake.

      As a trainer I can tell you when someone doesn’t pay attention in class and as a result they do not learn how to do their job their first excuse is “I wasn’t trained properly.” It is a load of BS that trainers hear ALL the time! (for those who don’t believe me just watch the TV news, whenever there is a police shooting or such one of the defenses most likely used is “lack of training” for that specific situation)

      So, make sure that you document this somewhere so that when she claims to not know how to enter grades (or whatever) later in the semester you can prove that it was NOT due to your “poor” training.

  2. Sean*

    I personally just wouldn’t hire her, but that’s just me. I just figure if that’s maybe how she treats administrative staff, I can only imagine how she’d treat the students.

    1. Keith*

      With respect to Sean’s point, it sounds from OP’s question that this lady was already hired. I would agree that this is a major red flag, and it raises serious concerns about her future performance and student interaction.

      My first phone call after the meeting would be to the hiring manager to fill them in on the situation. This kind of thing needs to be addressed quickly.

    2. Mike C.*

      You’re really reading a whole lot into a simple faux pax here. There are tons of places where this sort of activity is the norm.

      1. Sean*

        Where it shouldn’t be. Saying “it’s the norm” is an excuse that shouldn’t be used.

      2. Jenn*

        How is it a “faux pas” to keep your eyes glued to your Blackberry, when someone is speaking right in front of you? Unless you’re the President, and you just got a text that they need you to hit the red button, you can do without your phone for 15 lousy minutes. ;-)

  3. JT*

    It’s certainly rude, but a fundamental question is was she answering/responding to you quickly enough. If she was on-the-ball in dialogue with you, it’s rude but worth ignoring. If, on the other hand, you were having to say things twice and wait for her to give you enough attention to respond, then that’s not just rude but unacceptable and I’d end the meeting with “This clearly isn’t a good time – let’s set a time when you can give your attention to this” or “Let me give you few minutes till you can give your attention to this.”

  4. Mike C.*

    This is an issue of culture. I can’t tell you how many meetings I’ve been in where half of management is on and off their blackberries and walking in and out to take care of emergencies.

    If your workplace isn’t like this, then make sure the employees know this. Don’t sit there and fume about how rude someone is, just say something and the problem will fix itself. As others have said, this isn’t a “giant red flag” or the sign that “they’ll be a terrible teacher”. The person most likely has a ton of stuff to sort out before the next teaching session and got preoccupied.

      1. Mike C.*

        I’ve had it happen with one on one meetings as well. To their credit they excuse themselves or apologize. If they didn’t, I think your advice would be perfectly appropriate.

        I just think that some folks are reading way more into this situation than is warranted.

  5. Anonymous*

    Just note, adjunct professors are usually just hired to teach one or two classes, and generally have full-time jobs elsewhere. This might go a little way to explain the rescheduling and it might have been that the emails/texting were completely work-related. That being said, this doesn’t excuse rudeness.

    1. Anonymous*

      I was thinking of this exact point. At my husband’s university, adjuncts are expected to be FT working professionals, and really only earn a perfunctory salary for teaching duties. Unless the school wants to pay adjuncts a liveable FT salary, the adjuncts pretty much *have* to continue to make their other employer their top priority. When they already are potentially leaving early to cover classes, and they now have to add in a half day to cover paperwork, I wouldn’t then make a stink if they are trying to keep an eye on their email.

    2. ITforMe*

      Is she going to text while meeting with students, too? Sorry, if you don’t have the time to devote to your adjunct position, you shouldn’t take one.

  6. Charles*

    I view it sort of like when I am training someone one-on-one and the phone rings; usually they will say “excuse me I have to get that.” Even when they are higher up than me (and it is usually the VP’s and above who get one-on-one training) they will make some sort of apology.

    However, some folks are so “addicted” to their blackberry that they don’t even realize how they come across to the person right in front of them. So, OP, I wouldn’t want to be so quick to assume it is intended rudeness – it really might be that they don’t realize what they are doing (this doesn’t excuse it however).

    Hopefully, OP, you now know to say something the next time someone does this. This first time sjust eems to have just caught you off guard.

  7. fposte*

    Interestingly, though our department is totally on their laptops throughout meetings (it’s open and approved), I think people here would find this behavior pretty rude. Actually, we’d probably hold it against her more doing it with our office/admin people, because they are freaking gold, we cannot run without them, and we would generally value them over an adjunct.

    However, it wouldn’t be a “never hire again” kind of feeling unless there were other problems, so I agree completely with Alison’s ideas of how to handle it–I’m just offering some possible context and agreement.

    1. Jamie*

      Replace laptops with smart phones and that applies to my area as well. I don’t have a problem with people checking email during meetings, and excusing themselves for emergencies.

      I do think it was rude in the circumstances stated by the OP – for one on one meetings undivided attention is preferable unless there is an explanation. But it could also just be a bad habit and not malice – which is what I would assume.

      Then again, more than once I’ve had my husband email me from his phone to mine over a restaurant table to make the point that my attention is easier gotten electronically…so I may not be completely unbiased on this subject.

      1. fposte*

        I would agree that it’s not malice, but if she suppressed this habit with the Associate Dean, I would be somewhat frosted if she didn’t bother with me. That suggests an awareness that this is a habit that should be suppressed at times but some misjudgment about when those times are.

        1. Ellen M.*

          Yes, she has consciously decided that this behavior is acceptable with certain people but not others, which is a bigger problem than “she is just clueless”.

      2. Anonymous*

        Then again, more than once I’ve had my husband email me from his phone to mine over a restaurant table to make the point that my attention is easier gotten electronically…so I may not be completely unbiased on this subject.

        I’ve seen people holding a talk session with each other, while sitting in adjacent chairs….

        1. Jamie*

          Those sound like my kind of people. Then again I will text my kids in my own house because I don’t feel like yelling up the stairs.

          It makes for a more peaceful and quieter world.

        2. Kat*

          Guilty of this. Couple of years ago a group of us were out having drinks, and all 6 of us were texting each other while sitting together. We laugh about it now.

          Sometimes my close friends and I will be out and do that through tweets if something needs to be captured for posterity.

          But never in a professional setting or with certain people. I know who I can and cannot be absolutely ridiculous with.

    2. Anonymous*

      A little off topic but it says a lot about your company that admin people are treated so well! In some companies they don’t realize how important their role is.

  8. Bella*

    In the future you may want to have something stated in the paperwork or in your office that says phones/texting off so you can just refer to that.

    I think people consider it pretty normal now a days. I hate when your in the movies and somebody is talking on their phone and it is very personal you almost dont want to listen.

  9. JT*

    “In the future you may want to have something stated in the paperwork or in your office that says phones/texting off so you can just refer to that. ”

    Really? Would the other person have to sign a contract for that, or would you have a sign on the door stating that crossing the threshold represents agreement to your terms?

    1. A Bug!*

      I agree that a sign or a bit in the paperwork is a bad idea. (And a sign in the office would be useless in the asker’s circumstances, as she attends at others’ offices to get the paperwork completed. Unless she brings a sign with her, maybe print something on a ping-pong paddle and silently hold it up when the other person’s texting.)

      Anyway, a pre-emptive “Be polite” note says more than “It’s nice to be polite”. It says “I think you need to be told to be polite because I am expecting you to be rude.” So someone who was fully intending to be polite and would never even think otherwise gets a figurative slap in the face.

      Once you’re out of elementary school, it’s safe to expect that other people have learned their basic manners, and it’s kind of rude to assume otherwise.

      1. Jamie*

        I actually laughed out loud at this. I picturing meetings with people having paddles with them so they can hold up signs correcting others.

        Mine would be double sided:

        Side A: Chew silently
        Side B: Stay on Topic or Stop Talking

        I love this idea – in theory only, of course :).

        1. A Bug!*

          Awesome! With the right set of people that would be hilarious. I love it.

          I’m thinking I should make one for myself that I can use when I’m faced with an interruption-proof chatterbox. I am convinced that such people have brains that work like walkie-talkies – they can’t receive while they’re transmitting.

        2. VintageLydia*

          My husband actually used to do this at his old work. They had weekly meetings just to give people a heads up on what the projects were for that week and who were to work with which departments. They weren’t supposed to last longer than 30 minutes or so, but would often drag on for over an hour so there was always talk about keeping people “out of the weeds” since people would start talking details when this was just supposed to be a general discussion. But since no one was actually leading the meeting, well, as you can imagine just telling people to stay on topic didn’t always work. So he just wrote on his notebook in large print “IN THE WEEDS” and flashed it whenever necessary. Didn’t always work, though.

      2. Charles*

        I am SO geting those ping-pong paddles for my training classes!

        Only, mine will be made of whiteboard so I can write on them the issue of the minute!

      3. VintageLydia*

        You’ve obviously never worked retail since cell phones became so ubiquitous :/ So many people will completely ignore you and drag out a transaction 3 or 4 times longer than they need to be because they’re on the phone, and as a cashier I didn’t have the power to tell them to shut up and stop being so rude! It’s even worse in food service where a lot of back-and-forth conversation is required to take and complete and order.

        1. A Bug!*

          LOL, if your actual sentiment IS “I think you need to be told to be polite because I am expecting you to be rude”, then by all means, post the sign! I wouldn’t grudge a weary cashier a sign like that (though I think the ping-pong paddle would work better!). In the average office I’d raise an eyebrow, though.

          But it sounds to me like the problem in that example is more that the cashiers are denied the authority to ask customers to give them their attention than any lack of signage. I’d imagine that policy actually has a negative effect on customer satisfaction, since all the other polite customers are forced to wait behind Chatty McYapperson.

          (P.S. I have actually experienced phone-talking dilly-dalliers – they do throw a pretty serious monkey wrench into the morning coffee rush!)

        2. mh_76*

          I would just not say anything to them at all. When it was time for them to pay, I would gesture to the display that showed the total and then to the credit card reader. Occasionally someone would put down her phone and say (in a snarky-b–ch sneer) that she had a membership discount card and (if she’d already swiped her card and signed the slip) would demand that I cancel the transaction and start over. My reply was usually “You were on the phone” and thankfully the head cashier was usually nearby to take it from there.

          A Bug!, I cut the line in front of people that are on their phones. I figure that if they’re talking on the phone, they’re not actually in line, regardless of where they’re standing, and can wait to rejoin the line until their call is over. It’s very annoying, though, when they’re at the register or ordering… and it’s frightfully rude to the cashier to not even pause or put the phone down for a few seconds (unless the call is directly related to the transaction…and do let the cashier know that up-front).

          1. Anonymous*

            I used to take the opposite tact. I’d ask all the questions I was *required* to ask as if that person was a mystery shopper and did it *very* loudly and *very* peppy. Petty? Probably, but I was tired of having to do post-voids (which got me in major trouble) because they weren’t paying enough attention to me when I asked the first time for their loyalty card.

            Honestly, if I were just ringing you up, being on the phone is no big deal, but when you’re paying, I needed your attention.

            1. mh_76*

              A couple of my coworkers tried that and the customers snarled/squealed “I’m on the phone” and went back to their blathering. Thankfully, most of the managers and all of the head cashiers understood and after that customer left, we lamented the decline in manners for a second or two.

              I never liked to grill the customer much anyway, except to briefly ask if they had the member card & (if not) were they interested in hearing about it (I’d slip a flyer in their bag too). I think that secret shoppers are given guidelines that say to not be on the phone at the time of the transaction (or those guidelines should exist) so the blathering customers were probably not secret shoppers.

  10. ITforMe*

    Adjuncts are above NOBODY in the hierarchy. I don’t know the exact details of this particular school, obviously, but they are contracted for a single semester and have to be rehired if they want to keep teaching. Unless the adjunct is some sort of total rockstar in her field, she is replaceable. If she sucks at dealing with people, she will be a crappy teacher.

    So, as rude as she was, I’m a believer that if you give her the rope she will hang herself on this one.

  11. Anonymous*

    At my place of employment I am basically an assistant lowest on the food chain. It doesn’t matter if I am helping a new hire with the orientation process, consulting with the Director of HR , or other Sr. members of the staff. That type of unkindness to another employee would not be tolerated. Your new hire was flat out disrespectful and unappreciative of being in front of another human. I’d bet on it that this is one of those people who think the phone is more important than the clerk at the store in front of them. This is a MAJOR red flag at inappropriate behavior and displays arrogance.

  12. Ellen M.*

    New hire paperwork does have to be done in person because the person has to provide two forms of proof of identity (Driver’s license, passport, social security card, etc.) and photocopies are not acceptable – the real documents have to be shown and the other person has to sign that he/she saw the actual documents and make copies of them, then and there. (I work at a University, with adjuncts and teach as an adjunct myself).

    As for adjuncts being higher up in a hierarchy at a University(?) – not exactly! It would take a very insecure person indeed to think adjunct = big shot. The fact that this person behaved differently around the Associate Dean indicates someone who is just that insecure – those who put great stock in hierarchies kiss up as much as they kick down. I wonder how this adjunct will behave towards the students.

    Alison’s advice is good. You could also just sit there are look at her with eyebrows raised and a polite “I’m waiting” look on your face until she stops what she’s doing.

    Never diss anyone as “just administrative staff” – they usually have the ear of their bosses, and many have much more informal power than you might think!

    1. Anon*

      At one place I taught, the “lowly admin” did the adjunct scheduling. You want first selection of good class times? You better be nice to the admin.

    2. mh_76*

      Couldn’t they plan to meet with someone a short time before their class is scheduled to begin, kind-of like new employees typically fill out the tax forms / new-hire paperwork on their first day? Or are they online faculty? Regardless, that person was very very rude! Hopefully, that attitude will be reflected in her semester-end evaluations and the Assoc. Dean will be smart enough to not hire her for the next semester.

      1. Anonymous*

        OP here. You can fill out paperwork right before the work begins, and legally, you only need to do it within three days of work beginning, but there are many things that can’t be done until the paperwork is filled out (assign an ID number, obtain an ID card, have an e-mail address assigned, get access to library, get access to class assignments, add the instructor’s name to the list). Each of those things may take a few days to clear in the system, and in the case of some, other items may need to clear first. So we like to take care of this as early as possible.

  13. JT*

    There is tendency on this blog’s comments, as in many online spaces, to get a little too worked up about disrespect and little problems, and to project or speculate about motivations for “bad” behavior. I don’t think this is productive in life.

    Here’s the bottom line, at least for me: did the meeting take longer than necessary or go more badly in terms of outcome than if this person had been less rude? If so, it’s an issue to be dealt with if something like this happens in the future – don’t let the person waste your time or contribute to a bad result for the meeting. We’ve had some suggestions on how to do that (though I don’t think the eyebrows raised/I’m waiting idea is nearly direct enough – be explicit with words if you want someone to do something different).

    But if the rudeness didn’t result in a waste of time or a bad meeting, it’s not worth caring much about. So they’re rude – that’s their problem. So you don’t like them – so what? Ignore it.

  14. Alisha*

    Yeah, I like the tactic of asking, “Is this a bad time? Should we re-schedule?” It often works really well IME.

    I didn’t get an iPhone until a couple months ago, so I often forget I have one. When I was working, I never brought my cell to meetings, but I have definitely encountered the scenario where I’m presenting or hammering out the details of a contract and the client is on their Blackberry, iPhone, etc. It’s frustrating. Oddly enough in my experience too, it’s never been the new grad crowd I’ve encountered doing this – it’s been fellow mid-career Xers. Could be related to the fact that younger employees don’t have as much responsibility, so there’s no incentive to be glued to a smartphone. Not sure!

  15. Ashely*

    I once had an new employee checking her email and sitting back with her eyes closed during the majority of a 2-hour training class I taught. She clearly thought that since she was a supervisor (not my supervisor, though) she was “above” me as a “lowly” admin employee. I’m in HR though, so those types of things get noticed and discussed among the department. Not the best way to make a good impression.

  16. JT*

    “She clearly thought that since she was a supervisor (not my supervisor, though) she was “above” me as a “lowly” admin employee”

    How do you know that? I don’t think it’s wise or reliable to definitely project the motivation for someone’s behavior from one instance. Now if she had a pattern of paying attention to peers or people higher in the hierarchy. But “once”? No.

    Yes, she did not make a good impression. No, you do not know why she was behaving that way.

    1. JLH*

      +1–I see this happen too many times, but especially on here for some reason–people assuming they know what’s going on in other people’s heads, which is actually impossible to do. As Joe Friday used to say, “Just the facts, ma’am.” Everything else is speculation.

  17. Tel*

    My previous supervisor (during one-on-one meetings) would keep texting and checking her cellphones. She had a Blackberry and an iPhone. Sometimes she went as a far as physically turning away and typing on her keyboard as I was in the middle of a sentence and randomly checking her Facebook. Not much I could say about that.

  18. Anonymous*

    But she’ll be the first one yelling at her students for when they are using their cell phones in class while they should be listening to her.

      1. Anonymous*

        My post meant: Practice what you preach or maybe even pot calling the kettle black.

        This woman who kept on playing with her blackberry when another thought it was rude will insist her students keep their phones in their backpacks when it is her turn to lecture. She probably will no problem telling them off.

  19. Scott M*

    For a one-on-one meeting, this is rude. However I’ve been in enough meetings where I have no reason to be there, that I have no problem with bringing a laptop or using my blackberry. If called on it, I have sometimes said that this part of the meeting doesn’t apply to me. That doesn’t always work, but at leat it’s truthful.

  20. Steve G*

    omg 2X I’ve left meetings and never came back because so many people were texting. I know what their day to day functions are and nothing is serious enough to need constant emailing/texting. I guess I got away with it because the culture at my job isnt rigid. The other parties in question both times never came to check up on where I went. Both times I just made all of the decisions my self and moved on.

    So I totally feel your pain but probably would have just said “can you stop texting for 2 seconds” before it would have gotten out of hand

  21. Anon2*

    So does the meeting usually take 5 minutes and her messaging stretched it out to 15? From what all you said you had to go over, it sounds like 15 minutes would be about right, if not a little fast. So did her attention to her blackberry really impact the actual function of the meeting, or were you just offended on principle?

    I look at this a little differently. If she didn’t waste your time, then I don’t really understand why you consider this rude or disrespectful. The only person who might be hurt by her inattention is her; though an argument could be made that she’ll impact others if/when she has to ask followup questions.

    Frankly, it doesn’t sound like a big deal to me but if it was to you then I don’t know why you didn’t just speak up. I think so many people are connected to their phones and so often are asked to put their phone down that either side of this equation is pretty common and shouldn’t entail any drama.

    As for retail/restaurants…. I’ve been asked to get off my phone and I was quite angry. I like to think I’m very considerate of others which means I alert the person I’m talking to about where I am, I maintain eye contact with the clerk/cashier and I answer any question I’m asked or order in a timely fashion. Ordering a sandwich isn’t rocket science, I can tell someone that I want an 8in club on wheat with swiss cheese, black pepper and mayo and still listen to my bestfriend tell me about her day. I can even reach into my purse, pull out my credit card or cash and pay … all without needing to have an in-depth conversation with the cashier. I smile and I say thank you. And even with all this, I’ve had rude employees get in my face when they did not have cause. I’ve worked both sides of the counter and I’ve never had someone so distracted by their cell that they significantly impacted any other customers, though I would have dealt with it if they had. I just think this particular thing has been blown so out of proportion.

    1. VintageLydia*

      Maybe because it’s rude to the employee? I mean, they’re people, not automatons.

      A remember my days cashiering and often we *had* to try to up sell or ask certain questions (do you have your loyalty and/or credit card? Want one? etc) and I remember most of my managers not caring if the customer was on the phone or not. If they were around and they didn’t hear me ask those stupid questions, I got in trouble. From talking to people still “in the trenches” so to speak, it’s only gotten worse.

      And I’ll grant if you’re buying one or two items and you already have your cash ready, whether you’re on the phone or not isn’t going to impact the speed of the transaction. But we had those credit card swiper things that liked to ask the customer 20 questions just to pay and the cell phone talkers almost always stopped paying attention to it immediately after they swiped. It would often take me more than one try to get their attention so they can finish paying and I can get to the customer behind them.

      My favorite were the people doing complicated or expensive returns and exchanges, but wouldn’t get off the phone and be exasperated at *me* whenever I had to ask them a question. I had to tell one lady point blank that I needed her undivided attention so I could count out her over $300 in cash so that she and I would both know she got her proper money back. She wasn’t happy with me even though I was as polite as I could be about it. Thankfully the customer behind her was irritated enough to be snarky to the lady for me. It would’ve been a fairly quick return, despite the large amount of cash, if she were paying attention.

      Sorry for the novel but cell phone talking while one is dealing with service people is in my top three pet peeves. I was just always taught it was incredibly rude to ignore people you’re having a face-to-face transaction with.

      1. Anon2*

        I don’t treat service workers like automatons, whether I’m on a phone or not. However, I also feel no need to cultivate a deep, personal connection with every service worker I encounter. Partially, I feel this way because I AM a service worker (albeit, not in food service) and I would much rather help someone brusque than someone so chatty and friendly that they hold up the line way more than the inattentive cell phone user. I’m not saying that people can’t be annoyingly inattentive while on their phone, I’m saying that being on a cellphone is not some automatic evil. It’s the inattention that is annoying – no matter the cause.

        I’ve had clients hold us up because they want to spent 7 minutes talking about how great their new house on the golf course is or how their husband “only” spent $150 on her valentine’s gift, because they forgot about their appointment, because they got the timezone wrong … I’ve given 75% of the information I need to convey and when they realized it was more than they thought, they stopped me to find a pen and paper … I’ve spent my whole career in customer service, I could go on for hours about all the ways clients have made my job more difficult and even impacted other clients without realizing it. But I’ve learned is that you can’t take it personally and you shouldn’t hold on to the frustration/anger of the moment or you won’t be happy in your job. I like to ask myself – is this something I’ll remember/care about 10 years from now? Is this life or death? Always the answer has been “no”.

        I feel that people look for issues with cellphones, then hold them close and nurse their discontent so that no one is given the benefit of the doubt and they make themselves miserable.

      2. qwerty*

        I agree, the level of entitlement of those who are on their devices constantly is exactly the problem here – and those who do it all the time really do feel that they have every right to – whatever they are doing is more important than what anyone could possibly be doing: they don’t want to stop their texting, they see no reason why they should alter their behavior out of consideration for others, and so they continue their texting/talking on the phone. They have their habit and they don’t want to to change. That’s what it comes down to. They will argue that it is not rude and not interfering with anyine else or with getting anything done because they have already decided they are not going to stop, no matter what. They will argue and argue and attack anyone who disagrees. Which only demonstrates their entitlement, again and again.

        If you’re that important, why don’t you have an assistant or two to run interference for you, so you can attend only to the truly important things a truly important person such as yourself needs to attend to? Why would you be at the mercy of anyone who has your number?

        Also: just because someone texts you, it does not mean you have to text that person back immediately. Same for phone calls. Really. Can you not prioritize? Not every communication is urgent.

        1. V*

          I pretty much agree here and also think it’s not that difficult to say “hold on, i’m at the counter” and just put someone on hold for… 90 seconds? It’s not like the person at the counter is telling you that you aren’t allowed to have your phone out.

          I will also admit that if I’m ordering the same coffee at Dunkin Donuts that I’ve ordered every day for the last 5 years, I’ve been on my phone. I already knew the process and, as said above, was pleasant. But I think if you’re at a counter in a store (and especially if you’re returning something! wow!) it’s really not that hard to simply *pause* (not end) your conversation.

  22. Cassie*

    In terms of the adjunct being polite to the Associate Dean – was that an actual meeting or just a greeting (oh, hi, how are you? All set up for next semester? Great!)? That may explain one of the reasons why the adjunct acted differently.

    Of course, that doesn’t excuse the behavior in the meeting with the OP, but there might have been a slight difference in context.

  23. Another anon*

    I work in higher ed as an administrator and I’m continually shocked at how many people are dismissive/rude to our front office staff and then are sweet as pie with me. It’s noted and remembered–not a great way to make a good impression.

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