what to do when your coworker won’t put down her phone

A reader writes:

I work at a fairly large university and one of my responsibilities is meeting new adjunct faculty to complete hiring paperwork. (We do this to save them the trouble of traveling 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 phone 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?

You can read my answer to this question over at Inc. today, where I’m revisiting letters that have been buried in the archives here from years ago (and often updating/expanding my answers to them).

{ 155 comments… read them below }

    1. Cajun2core

      I doubt this is the case because the person was very polite when they were in the associate Dean’s office.

      1. PEBCAK

        I would pin it more on the idea of a meeting to fill out paperwork being unimportant, not the admin herself being unimportant.

        1. _ism_

          I was surprised to see comments that “filling out new hire paperwork” shouldn’t be a two person job. In my experience, it always is done with a manager or HR or whoever present, in case the new hire has questions about the paperwork.

          1. Jennifer

            Also, AFAIK the I-9 has to be done in person because the employer (HR person, manager, whomever) is required to physically examine the identity documents to confirm that they’re genuine. So if that piece has to be done in person, it makes sense to at least go over the other required forms the employer has, doesn’t it?

            1. TCO

              I believe the I-9 has to be completed no later than 48 hours after the employee has started work–so in theory the new employee could do all of the other paperwork remotely and then finish the I-9 document verification on her first day.

              1. E

                3 days on the I9. I’ve been known to tell new hires on their 3rd day without bringing documents that they can’t work the 4th day unless they bring the documents.

          2. esra

            I’ve never done it with someone, definitely not in person. Usually they email it over and I fill it out before starting, or they give it to you and you go to your desk to fill it out.

          3. Vicki

            Present is not the same as “a two-person job”. The other person should have nothing to do but sit patiently while the papers are signed. I would have expected the OP (whose responsibility is meeting new adjunct faculty to complete hiring paperwork) to be the one checking her phone. Isn’t this a thankless and boring task? Reschedule several times, then drive somewhere to watch someone fill out paperwork??

            Also, how do you fill out paperwork and check your phone at the same time?

            This situation confuses me.

          4. Desdemona

            I’ve seen it done both ways, but most typically the manager or HR gives the new hire the paperwork and gives them time to read through it, making him/herself available for questions, but not sitting and holding the new hire’s hand throughout.

            (I do think it’s a good practice to go through benefits with a new hire, though. I’ve actually seen people opt out of health care coverage because their manager gave them the information to read, and they found making decisions and completing the application so cumbersome they gave up.)

            My own worst onboarding experience was a company that had you do the whole process by yourself, online, before you reported for your first day. It doesn’t sound that bad, but their system was a disaster — at one point, I got stuck be being required to fill out a section that didn’t relate to me, with no option for “N/A,” and “submit” was grayed out until I chose one of the options that didn’t actually fit. Once I got past that, I completed another section, received an email confirming completion, and a week later received an “urgent” email “reminding” me to complete that section. I’d log in and it looked complete, so I’d have to reach out to HR for clarification, and they’d reply, “You’re fine.” It was incredibly stressful and I kept worrying that my difficulties with their system would cost me the job before I even started.

            TL/DR: The OP’s client really showed poor appreciation for having someone make time to help her.

          5. JayemGriffin

            I work in the HR department in a university, and we ALWAYS try to have someone sit with academics and faculty to fill out their new hire paperwork, because otherwise they’ll give it to their secretary or assistant and have them do it instead. Which is fine for some things, but could cause huge issues with the I9s and tax forms. Or, because administrative paperwork is beneath them or something, they just won’t do it, period, and then throw a fit when they aren’t paid on time. It’s easier to take 30 minutes and sit with them than to deal with the fallout a month later.

        2. Cajun2core

          It has been my experience with faculty members that they see the people as unimportant but you may be right.

          1. SerfinUSA

            I concur with your observation.
            A few of the faculty I deal with are very nice and thoughtful, many are neutral, and some are raging narcissists who refuse to acknowledge that a non-peer can have any independent authority or expertise.

        3. jag

          Yeah. Or not needing full attention of two people. If the person with the phone was attentive enough to get contribute to task getting done in planned amount of time, then it doesn’t seem like a big deal.

          If, on the other hand, the OP had to push push for attention to keep the process rolling, then it’s bad.

  1. Cajun2core

    I also work at a university and I have a very bad feeling about this. There are a good number of PhD’s out there who believe they are above staff. There are PhDs who think that the world revolves around them and that they are too important to be bothered with paperwork, regulations, policies, and procedures. This person seems like one of them. I wish you the best of luck in dealing with this person.

    1. Melissa

      There are people of all academic levels who behave like that…I think it’s more a function of the arrogance of the person rather than the degree that they hold.

      1. So Very Anonymous

        +1

        And some PhDs treat other PhDs like crap, too, if they perceive them to be in weaker/lower/more junior positions or positions outside of traditional academia.

        1. Academic & Anon for this

          Oh yes! I have an adjunct teaching some classes in one of my courses who is like this. I am the course convenor and am the lecturer who sets all the materials. I am also a very experienced tenured academic with a range of publications on Higher Ed pedagogy. I have an academic administrative role which directly relates to and supervises the first year cohort, for which I was chosen due to my earlier high first-year teaching survey scores and curriculum development work. (Bragging, but this is relevant to the next bit!)

          The adjunct teaches workshops on another campus of our large multi-campus institution. He is not under my direct supervision, but rather that of another academic on the other campus. He constantly removes my materials (including a number of exercises carefully designed for capacity building for our first year cohort) and swaps in work on his pet area (definitely outside the scope of the course) because mine are “not interesting enough.” He has been told bluntly by both me and his supervisor not to do this, but still does. He also refuses to read the course readings or use the other online course materials (think videos, interactive tools etc) and then claims we are incompetent and not teaching important content, because he didn’t say it in a workshop. After a recent clear email exchange, he “kindly” offered to help me understand how to create materials and teach first year students since he has taught as an adjunct for several years.

          Several other female staff have noticed this pattern, but funnily enough, none of the male staff have seen this behaviour. I have alerted our management to the problem and it is being addressed. This guy can’t accept that his utter arrogance may be career limiting.

          1. Academic & Anon for this

            Should also have mentioned said adjunct is a PhD student who also puts other PhD’s down.

  2. _ism_

    The more I hear people complaining about this, the more I think about the technology/generation gap. Those who grew up using personal computers (me), and those (younger than myself) who grew up with mobile devices, have learned a specific kind of multi-tasking or multi-attentional skill because of these devices being a part of our lives. Sure, many older people have caught on too, but many haven’t.

    I’m not saying that it’s OK or acceptable to be communicating with someone else on an unrelated during a work meeting, typically. Especially if it’s personal communication!

    But I have noticed, in my particular workplace, it really drives my older co-workers up a wall when I do certain things that someone my age wouldn’t probably think twice about. Examples:
    * Boss is at my desk and we are discussing a document on my screen. If I perform a keyboard command for a quick text search for the relevant information, she gets upset because she wanted to scroll through with her hand and skim with her eyes for the relevant phrase. She feels that I am not paying attention to her because I am “clickity clacking” while she talks.
    *Boss is at my desk and we are both trying to find information on a new website we’ve just gotten access to. I open all the relevant links in new tabs in my browser, and she gets upset because (when she grabs my mouse and keyboard out of my hands and leans over me to use them) she thinks I am not following her instruction to open each link separately and read it separately. That’s what browser tabs are for, but she is not familiar with them. It doesn’t matter if I politely explain tabbed browsing and how it keeps me productive and keeps me from missing and forgetting all the various links.

    1. CAsey

      Its never occured to me that I shouldn’t CTRL-F! Thanks for the heads up. And you’re quite right, if they’re not used to it, they’ll find it ‘too fast’. I have totally been told to slow down (while mentally I’m thinking ‘hurry up, slowpoke, this isn’t that hard!’).

      1. _ism_

        I don’t mean to say that nobody should CTRL-F. It’s just old-hat power-user muscle-memory for me. I’ve been using that command since I was 14 years old. The issue is that the older generation of managers at my workplace never learned these things, and even if I give them handy tips, they don’t remember and want to do things the long way. (And watch me do them the quick way, get frustrated, and ask me to do it the long way “just to be sure.” These are the same people who print out an email, scan a picture of the email, and email that scan to someone else down the hall.)

        1. Kat

          maybe to them, it IS faster to skim. I read really fast and prefer skimming. I can search too.

          Just because your brain wasnt trained that way, doesnt mean it is a slower way.

          1. _ism_

            yeah, some people have that skill, but not my boss. Anytime she wants me to show my work or check it over, it adds 3x to the time it took me to complete, in order to show her “her way.”

          2. Melissa

            I would find it hard to believe that in a document longer than about 2-3 pages it would be faster to skim and look for a word or phrase than to simply control-F to find the phrase. In some cases it’s really not about brain training.

            1. Desdemona

              Even at 2-3 pages, it can’t possibly be faster to skim than to ctrl-F and let the computer find the phrase. The way Kat’s message reads to me is that, if she skims, she can still be efficient enough, and may catch something else while looking for the phrase in question.

        2. Windchime

          I’m 53 and I’ve been using CTRL-F for decades. It’s not a generational thing. It’s a comfort-with-computers thing. Despite my proficiency in using keyboard shortcuts, I still find it incredibly rude when I’m trying to have a conversation with someone and they are playing on their phone. It’s the equivalent of turning your back and walking away in the middle of a conversation.

          1. ThursdaysGeek

            Yes. I’m a geezer, and I can search using shortcuts, etc. Your co-workers are just not proficient with computers. But there’s a difference between looking something up on your phone as part of our conversation, and trying to pay attention to both the phone and the conversation at the same time. One of those is rude.

          2. Wakeen's Teapots Ltd.

            Ha seriously.

            C’mon, young folks, I owned my first computer 24 years ago and worked on ones I didn’t own a few years before that.

            Keyboard shortcuts were introduced in 1984! 1984! Your grandpa invented them.

          3. Beancounter in Texas

            Yeah, I agree it’s not necessarily a generational thing, but learning is closely tied to age. The brain naturally does not learn as fast when it is more experienced (ahem, older) than less experienced (younger) brains, unless the owner of the more experienced brain practices learning on a regular basis. My boss (who just turned 77) wanted to learn how to scan documents and attach them to email. It took him 14 months to be confident enough to do it without me sitting at his side just watching, but he did learn!

            I’m in my 30’s and I too find it rude to talk with someone who pulls out their phone and reads email or text messages, because it’s an obvious indication that I do not have their full attention.

          4. Anx

            And it’s not a universal comfort, either.

            I know a former computer programmer, current web designer who probably doesn’t know half the shortcut or search tools I know. Meanwhile, I know very little about programming.

          5. Lipton Tea For Me

            Totally agree Windchime! I am a tad bit older than you and also have used Ctrl-F for decades. I find it incredibly rude as well, case in point. I took a vacation with my sister who is 18 months younger than me and she had a new boytoy and they texted back and forth from here to there. Even in front of me having a conversation, I wondered why I even bothered talking to her as it was very clear from her giggles that whatever I said wasn’t heard. Just like in real life, if I am talking to you and in mid sentence you start talking with someone else, that literally invalidates anything and everything I just said. It is rude!

        3. Barney Stinson

          Hey now…I’m in my mid-fifties and I’m the technical go-to for just about everyone in our office. I’m considered a power user of Excel, Access, and all the other Office products, and in computers in general.

          You whippersnappers jump to all kinds of conclusions…:)

      2. Allison

        I’ve had people tell me to slow down as well. Sometimes I forget that things that come easily to me aren’t common knowledge for everyone, especially the older generations. I’ve also had coworkers try to walk me through something that was either super straight forward and easy to use, something I’d learned to do years ago, or something I’d already figured out how to do on my own.

        1. _ism_

          This happens to me on a regular basis with my manager. For a variety of reasons, I’m always doing something, telling her I completed it, and then she’ll ask me to show her what I did. Then she gets confused/frustrated because I use keyboard commands, shortcuts, browser extensions, and all manner of things, and she makes me go through and show her how I would have done it her way (or makes me sit and watch while she does it).

          1. LQ

            If you are supposed to be showing her how to do it then you flying through it is a highly ineffective way of doing something. Your boss wants to understand what you do, that’s not generally a bad thing. One of the best ways to teach someone technology, which it sounds like is a part of your jobs – in your job description or not, is to have them do it, get them hands on. If I’m expecting someone to do something more than once I always make them drive so they learn through practice.

            1. _ism_

              I’m never clear enough in my comments :/ I am not showing her how to do it, she’s the one who showed me how to do it way back and said “If you find better ways to do this that’s great.” But then she insists on having me go through all my steps to demonstrate my work after I’ve already completed the task, and if my steps aren’t the way she has done it herself in the past, we both get frustrated.

        2. ThursdaysGeek

          Amusing story: I’d resisted getting a cell phone for many years, but finally acquiesced, buying a second hand tracfone from a friend. Her teenage son gave it to me and offered to show me how it worked, since I was old and would need help with this new-fangled technology stuff. I politely told him I’d see what I could figure out, and ask for help if needed. I’d a database geek, I’ve been using menus and setting options for longer than he’s been alive. I fixed some of the contacts he’d put in for me, including his, and then texted him to let him know I thought I wouldn’t need his help. He was amazed, unaware that there’s really very little new under the sun, and experience in other things has transferable skills.

    2. Chris

      While I agree that this can be related to a generation gap, this issue seems to be more about norms within a given institution. In these examples, you and your boss are working on something together, but the OP is talking about an individual being on the phone working on completely separate tasks while they are meeting. These strike me as two very different issues.

      1. _ism_

        I agree, they are two separate issues. This is why I stated I don’t think it’s acceptable to divide your attention by communicating on unrelated matters during a work meeting. However, because of how ubiquitous these devices are (and the skills and habits that come from being used to them) I’m noticing an over-arching theme of people saying “how rude” if someone is operating a device while they are speaking. It really is context dependent. In my personal stories, we were both “using” a device to discuss a relevant work document, and my boss still found my device usage rude. That’s where I start getting frustrated.

      2. BRR

        Yeah I think they’re different issues. The letter is about using technology in general, not how you use technology.

    3. LQ

      I disagree. On a couple of points.

      No one is good with multi-tasking. It’s just not a thing humans are designed to do. We haven’t gotten better, we still stink just as much. We divide our attention or task switch.

      And plenty of people who are older are just as distracted with technology as people who are younger, and plenty of younger people understand that there are times and places where it is acceptable and where it isn’t. At this point people who want to learn technology can (including my 85 year old great aunt) and people who don’t, won’t, they are making the choice that it isn’t a priority for them to learn and that’s ok. But it’s not oh old people don’t get tech.

      1. Windchime

        Yes, if there is a flip side to the “millenials are entitled” argument, it’s “older people aren’t tech savvy”. That is undoubtedly true for a lot of older people, but guess who created that computer/phone you’re playing on? I see all this phone-playing as a manifestation of the inability of people to focus on something for more than a minute or two. It’s a problem of a short attention span in my opinion.

        1. LQ

          I keep waiting for this argument to die and it won’t. I wonder if by the time my nephew is in the workforce and nearly everyone in the US will have grown up with technology is will, but I’d put all my pennies on that it will just change to something new. Oh old people don’t know how to control their computers with their eyes, they keep using their hands, like animals!

          1. BRR

            It will likely never die. Just as there are tons of articles about millennialist that is characteristics people have used for every generation.

            1. Beancounter in Texas

              My father told me a story once from when he was about 13. His father pulled an old letter from the family Bible that was written in German and dated in the 1850’s or so. It was correspondence from a friend to one of my ancestors who complained that “things move so fast these days – you can send a telegraph instantly from village to village” and “teenagers are lazy bums, with no work ethic” and generally commiserating that the society is unraveling because the next generation is ruining everything. Sound familiar to anyone? :D

              I now use the benchmark that if “things move too fast” for me, I am officially old and set in my ways.

                1. Kelly L.

                  ““Our youth now love luxury. They have bad manners, contempt for authority; they show disrespect for their elders and love chatter in place of exercise; they no longer rise when elders enter the room; they contradict their parents, chatter before company; gobble up their food and tyrannize their teachers.”–Socrates

          2. Snoskred

            The argument may never die, but I’m guessing the younger generations will if they cannot find a way to put their mobile phones down when they are in the car. :(

            It is becoming more and more common here when I am driving to see someone who I suspect might be drunk – they are weaving from side to side and crossing over to the wrong side of the road, their speed is going from the speed limit down to 2o-30km under the speed limit.. and when I (very carefully!) manage to overtake them, they are trying to text while driving or they are looking down at their phone.

            My phone is in my handbag when I am driving in the car, and it stays there no matter what. If I need to send a message, I will pull over in a safe spot and do that.

            There was one day when three different vehicles in front of me ended up entirely on the wrong side of the road. Lucky for them there was no traffic coming their way. I tried using my horn but my cars horn is more like a clown car than a get your attention horn. I’m going to get it changed to sound like a big truck instead of something people either don’t hear or just laugh at.

            Someone from the big companies – Apple and Google/Android – needs to get responsible and inbuild something into the phones so they cannot be used if they are travelling over 15MPH (30km/hr).

            1. UK Nerd

              That would stop people using them on trains and buses though…
              A plan with no drawbacks!

        2. Wakeen's Teapots Ltd.

          I’m going to give a tiny bit of ground on the “old people” thing here, a tiny bit.

          I was born in 1961. If you were to list and count up all of the new technologies, systems and devices I have had to learn to be proficient in my lifetime, it would be ginormus. There were ditto machines, then there were copy machines, then there were very fancy copy machines which eventually dovetailed into scanners (of many different variations.) There were no printers, then there were dot matrix printers, then laser printers, then color printers dot dot dot and ad infinitude.

          Remote controls! Video game systems, many of them. Cassette recorders, CDs, VCRs – god in heaven I did actually learn how to program my VCR — microwaves, fancy microwaves, convection ovens — answering machines, call waiting, car phones that were the size of five bricks — fax machines (early to latest and now efaxing)—- USENET, the World Wide Web, aol, compuserve, ***freaking modems ***, on and on and on and on.

          Automatic tellers! We were the first to learn how those machines worked and believe me it was nearly as simple when they first came out. They ate your card for doing the wrong thing more often than not. All the way to online banking with automatic bill pay.

          DOS to every windows version every coughed up. Plus every iteration of Mac.

          I had to learn how to use all of them and you know what, I’m a little tired of learning new tech allllllllll overrrrrrrrrrr againnnnnnnnnnnnnnn.

          I am probably not nearly as excited about learning something brand new as someone who is on version 2.0 of whatever technology, okay? I’m on version 94!

          Now get off of my lawn!

          1. _ism_

            I must chime in here and say we’re using a computer system that’s 25 years old. Most of the people here have that many years of experience with it. I’ve been using it for 1 year and I already know a ton of shortcuts and hidden menus and things that the others dn’t know. It’s not “new technology,” but it is technology. I am just tired of being told I was hired for my computer skills and that I have the go-ahead to find more efficient ways of doing things, only to have to backtrack and sit on my hands while my managers do it their original way, a second time, to make sure the way I did it worked. Even if it’s the same task that I do every week, we go through the same backtrack every week, and both methods get the same result. I have said many times I am happy to teach people what I know, from quick tips to actual training sessions. I just don’t know how to handle it without seeming condescending.

            1. Wakeen's Teapots Ltd.

              That’s a horse of a different feather. I’m joking about not really caring that “there’s a new app to do (whatever), Mom!”, vs an issue with people not wanting to learn to do their jobs better.

              I’ll tell you what, if you throw that it in Friday open thread, you’ll get some good input. You’ll get some good back and forth (or, moral support/commiseration if nothing else).

              1. LQ

                I agree with Wakeen on this, it’s such a different beast. There are really good ways to handle this. And yes Wakeen I’ll agree that learning the 94th OS is a pain, but it just shows that you are MORE than capable of doing it, not 2 or 3 times, but 94!

            2. Desdemona

              I agree with Wakeen that it’s not an age-related thing. I’m in my 40s and have seen exactly this with people who are both younger and older than I am, and have seen people my own age and older latch onto any shortcut that has the potential to make their lives easier.

              One of my worst frustrations at my OldJob was watching people of all ages react against the simplest functions that would take literally hours off of their workflow. For example, we had a 20-something A/R clerk who insisted on printing classic aging reports [30-60-90] each day, sorted alphabetically, and comparing yesterday’s report against today’s to see who had entered a new category, and calling those people, when we could have printed the same report sorted by account age in actual days, so she could have just skimmed straight to the exactly 30s, 60s, and 90s, but when I offered to show her, she insisted that taking the two seconds to select “sort by” was too much “work,” and complained to our manager about how I was unfairly trying to add to her workload. So in my experience, it doesn’t seem to have to do with age, or even intelligence, so much as a core of pure intellectual laziness. Lazy people will find a way to do a task that doesn’t take any thought, and they’ll cling to that way no matter how tedious slogging through it is, as long as they don’t have to put any thought into the process.

          2. Lizzy May

            This. I technically fall in with the “young whippersnappers” but I’m the oldest in my workgroup. I’m the only one who can use our fax machine. If young people were just more intuitive about tech they should be able to figure it out. Tech savvy isn’t an age thing, it’s a skill thing. Some people have tech skills, some work hard to learn them and some just aren’t ever going to be tech superstars.

      2. _ism_

        I tried very hard to not generalize about all people or use a dismissive and disrespectful phrase like “oh old people don’t get tech.” Some do, some don’t.

      3. jag

        “No one is good with multi-tasking. It’s just not a thing humans are designed to do. We haven’t gotten better, we still stink just as much. We divide our attention or task switch.”

        But if two tasks are easy – such as answering simple questions while someone else types in answers, plus scrolling through a list of messages to see if anything is important – task switching seems an appropriate use of time.

        I don’t know if that was the case here, but I’ve sure been with people doing something in such a slow manner that I can and do switch back and forth.

      4. Three Thousand

        I disagree to some extent. I’ve noticed I’ve gotten better at multitasking in the past couple of years due to sheer impatience leading me to get a lot of practice with it. I’m still not fantastic at it, but I can definitely switch between tasks and pick them up again much better than I could a few years ago.

        Other things about my brain have changed as well. I used to have a photographic memory, and now I can hardly remember the names of people I’ve known for years. Part of this is likely age, but I’m in my early 30s, which doesn’t seem old enough for such a rapid decline. I like to think my brain is adapting to having enormous amounts of information offloaded into an easily available external memory bank and is choosing not to bother to remember as much.

    4. SerfinUSA

      I would have more of a problem with my boss getting in my space and grabbing my mouse and keyboard away from me. Wow.

      1. _ism_

        Doesn’t help that my desk is shoved into a cold, dark corner and there isn’t even room for a second chair.

    5. EB

      I have to say that there are a series of studies and experiments showing that the vast majority of people cannot multitask in the way you’re describing (we can certainly multitask in other ways, we have to). There are actual specific studies showing that information retention goes down when multitasking (see studies like the laptop and the lecture: the effects of multitasking in learning environments published in journal of computing in higher education). There’s also some neurology studies showing our brain doesn’t process information well when constantly switching between tasks.

      I’ve had many students in my classes make the argument that their generation is better at multitasking because they have learned multitasking skills and are more familiar with technology, but the studies seem to indicate that the ability to multitask in the way students describe is a rarer ability, and certainly not a generational ability.

      I do agree that for some older cohorts, technology skills may be lacking, but I also find that in younger cohorts it’s lacking as well. I’m finding myself teaching word processing skills to students in order for them to complete the assignments in my class that require them to make tables and format a report to the correct disciplinary style. I have had to make a series of handouts on how to use various common technologies for my students because the technology they are familiar with is social media technology. I have to say, I teach in a STEM area, so computer literacy is not my area. As someone who was taught how to use a word processing and spreadsheet programs in high school (we had a typing/computer class combined), I find it disturbing that many students come to my classes and have to be given directions on how to set margins in Word, how to make a table, or how to ensure your paragraphs are formatted correctly. We’re talking at least 60-70% of my students.

      1. _ism_

        Are there different types of multi-tasking, or is what I described not technically considered multi tasking?

        Consider:

        Discussing the information in a document, while also navigating through the document or making notes on it

        vs.

        Discussing the information in a document, while pausing to take calls on other matters or do unrelated small tasks as they come up, and coming back to the original discussion

        Scientifically curious.

        1. EB

          I think so. I’m not an expert, I just looked up part of the literature in an attempt to persuade my students to close the laptop and pay attention. But my understanding is that our ancestors had to multitask for suvival (pay attention for signals while hunting and gathering so you don’t get eaten). That type of multitaskingyou describe (but I’m not a neuroscience expert), is being able to do two things at once to process information (say track words across sentences as you read, while at the same time seeing the sentence at a whole), but they seem to be related tasks. Most of the studies I’ve seen test somewhat unrelated tasks (like having to track something on screen while listening to something else, which is akin to viewing your email and texts while listening to a speaker presenting you information).

  3. CAsey

    I work with PhDs at a very large public university system and I have not had that experience. In fact, they would find this woman quite rude.

    1. Big10Professor

      I wouldn’t assume an adjunct is necessarily a PhD. Depending on the field, it’s possible that the adjunct is someone who is a working professional, and really is busy enough to need a reschedule and to keep abreast of email. For example, if a small business school asked AAM to teach a leadership course, she’d be an adjunct, but not a PhD, and she’d be doing them a favor in even being there.

      Of course, they should be able to put it down for ten damn minutes out of politeness, but hierarchy is real.

      1. Sheepla

        I agree with this. I work as an adjunct professor and if I had to go fill out paperwork during the day during my full-time job hours, I would absolutely be multi-tasking (though perhaps not as blatantly as this woman).

      2. Cajun2core

        Good point. Most of the adjuncts here don’t have their PhDs. Most only have their master’s but are working professionals.

  4. fposte

    It’s interesting, because my academic workplace is very tech-inclusive–we’ve all got our laptops or tablets out at group meetings and lectures, for instance. But messing on your phone in a one to one meeting would still be beyond the pale here.

    1. Dang

      I used to work for a large university and had the same experience.

      There were strange intricacies when it came to hierarchy, though, even when dealing with something as simple as using technology in a meeting vs. not.

    2. lowercase holly

      agreed. super rude for one-on-one no matter what. the only good explanation is if she was looking up relevant info on her phone like emergency contact address/phone or msging someone to find out. if i was doing that, i would definitely explain it. because so rude. rude when checking out with a cashier, unbelievably rude in a meeting.

    3. Beebs the Elder

      This exactly. At my academic place, everyone’s looking at phones during larger meetings. One on one, though, it’s just rude. I have asked someone to stop using a tablet during a three-person meeting. He tried to pull the “I’m just looking up relevant info” card and I told him that it gave the appearance that he was not paying attention to the discussion and if we needed the info, we’d ask him to look it up.

      I’m the boss, though, so it’s a different dynamic than OP has to deal with. There is a small but very annoying subset of academics who think they have to be nice to the administrators but can walk all over staff. Not in my place, you can’t.

    4. KJR

      I’m still trying to get my *family* to put their phones down in a restaurant! And this includes my husband. Grrr….

  5. Dang

    I could be way off here, but what exactly was she filling out? I know I’ve had to text beneficiaries for SS#, or look at notes on my phone for random things like that, if I didn’t have it memorized.

    1. SR

      This is exactly what I thought of too – it seems like the simplest explanation. (Although of course the best way to handle that would be to explain it – “Sorry, I just need to quickly text [family member] for some of this information.”)

      1. Dang

        Yes, this is true. Even if that WERE the case, she should have acknowledged that because it looks rude (at best) regardless.

      2. Windchime

        Yep. A quick explanation would have fixed the situation, but I’m guessing the explanation in this case would be something like “I’m facebooking”.

        1. Jennifer

          If this is the explanation, that also would be a point in favor of at least sending all the forms to the employee in advance, asking them to fill out as much as possible prior to the meeting so that the meeting time can just be to cover any questions, make sure forms are complete and won’t cause any delays/rework, and fill out anything that’s legally required to be done in person. As I noted above, I think in the US, at least, it’s pretty much a given to have to at least verify eligibility to work in person. But just because an in-person meeting is required doesn’t mean it can’t be made as efficient as possible.

          1. Windchime

            Agreed. But if an in-person meeting is required, then it’s polite for both people attending to pay attention to the meeting so it an end quickly. It’s so rude for the new employee to demonstrate their boredom by playing on their phone.

          2. Meg Murry

            Yes. OMG, do not schedule a meeting with me to ask me to hand-fill out forms that require my social security number in 8 places, my kids in 4 places and my husband’s in 6, plus all our birthdays, my bank account number and routing number, etc etc. At a minimum send then to me in advance and tell me we can go over questions at the in-person meeting. Better would be fillable pdfs so you don’t have to read my chicken scratch, and even better would be a fillable form that feeds directly into your HR system so I don’t have to type this all, print it, and then give it to you to have someone type in.

            But yes – I store all this info on my phone, so I would be looking it up there. I also would be annoyed that you made me schedule a meeting with you to do this instead of letting me fill it out on my own time, especially if the meeting times you had were nowhere near the class meeting times – adjuncts aren’t well paid, and many of them have other jobs to do as well to make ends meet, or don’t live very near to the campus.

            Was it moderately rude for this person to be on the phone the whole time? Maybe. Was it rude of you to take up a chunk of her time to sit while she filled out papers that she could have filled out at home? Yes, IMO.

            1. Artemesia

              I am guessing this person was not using the phone to gather needed information or it would have been clear to the OP.

              1. SerfinUSA

                And the OP probably didn’t create the in-person form-filling policy either. So be annoyed all you want, but don’t take it out on us lackeys. Better yet, send a nice ranty message to the head of HR, university pres, etc.

    2. LQ

      This was my thought too. I have numbers and contact info and things like that in my phone so I’d have to pull that up from there. Even to sign into my benefits account I have to look up my “username” every time (why oh why can’t it just be our email address!) so I’m on my phone to do that.

        1. LQ

          I don’t always tell people when I’m looking up a number in my phone or putting information in because the fact that I’ve been employed for a handful of years and still can’t keep that username straight, or I want to be able to remember later what someone said might be distracting to the conversation. Not saying it wasn’t rude, but assuming goodwill can be helpful in a situation like this.

          As can the short sentences offered. Which I personally use variations on frequently. (And “I know this is a lot of information and I don’t know that I’m doing a good job of explaining so can you tell me what you understood?” which is my favorite when I’m one on one trying to convey something.)

    3. BRR

      It’s possible but it really doesn’t sound like it. I think we can be too fair to all parties on here sometimes. Filling out new hire paperwork, it would be pretty easy to tell if they were using their phone for information or personal communication.

  6. Susan the BA

    Ugh, I bet this is for E-Verify, which must be done in person. We had fun explaining that to emeritus faculty a few years ago…

  7. Patrick

    I work for a guy who does this all the time. I just stop what I’m doing and wait for him to put his phone down. Doesn’t always work but there isn’t much I can do otherwise.

    1. Beancounter in Texas

      When my husband does this, I interrupt him and ask him all kinds of questions regarding what he’s doing on the phone. He usually gets the hint.

  8. Artemesia

    Frankly, adjuncts are the serfs and scum of the academic world. It sucks that it is so and they are grossly underpaid generally and it is part of the mentality which delivers multi million dollar salaries to college presidents and top administrators and keeps the actual teaching mission of the university on starvation wages. But nevertheless adjuncts are not in a position to treat administrative staff badly. Thus from your position, you are not dealing with a powerful person and so don’t need to tolerate the rudeness you might feel you have to deal with from the cranky full professor who is department chair.

    If I were you, I would simply say: ‘Do you need to reschedule this meeting; you appear to be busy.’ and refuse to deal with her until the phone was put away. What is she going to do about it? And it is probably in your power to tip the person hiring her that she is difficult to work with and they might wish to keep an eye on her teaching and student relations.

    1. AdjunctGal

      I’m an adjunct, so your assessment is correct that we are the scum of the academic world. I doubt it was the adjunct’s attitude toward the admin about being above her or something; we are above no one except maybe the janitorial staff, and they should be getting benefits, unlike us.

      But when I’ve filled out paperwork, it’s always done beforehand, and then I give it to them all done, with my ID, which they copy, and away I go. Having a sit down meeting for this is absurd, and she may well have been double checking her info on her phone for it.

      It’s a tough call. Was it rude? Maybe to probably. Was the purpose of the meeting inane? Most likely. In order to pay her bills, she might have a full time career somewhere, or be like me, adjuncting at two places or more, and freelancing also. It’s tough to manage, especially for so little.

  9. Lizabeth

    It makes me “wish” it was cheap & easy to set up a dead zone where no cell phones work :))))

    I vote for movie theaters to be the first ones to do it. Major reason I’ve stopped going…

    1. Michele

      Or any kind of theater. I went to a play recently, and I am convinced the woman behind me was writing a novel.

    2. MK8

      I understand that sentiment, but it would actually be a huge public safety issue! Imagine if there was another movie theatre shooting & no one could use their phones to call for help!

      1. fposte

        It wouldn’t be a huge public safety issue. The public gets to go many places where cell phones don’t work as it is.

      2. Carrington Barr

        Oh really? Wow, imagine the state of helpless emergency we lived in when we went to a movie 25 years ago!

        1. Kat

          Lol omg however did we survive without cell phones?

          911 has only been around since 1968, sooo…..yeah.

          If your cell isnt in a dead zone, try using something called a land line. It lets you dial 911, even without phone service. Cell phones without plans can also call 911, just fyi.

    3. AndersonDarling

      I was thinking the exact same thing when I was driving home yesterday! They should black out the highway during rush hour to make people get off their phones.
      But there are emergencies and such…

      1. Carrington Barr

        Emergencies happened long before the advent of modern cell phones.

        We can deal, believe it or not.

        1. fposte

          Though it’s not about whether we managed before, it’s about whether the drawbacks outweigh the advantages.

        2. Elsajeni

          That’s true, but it’s also true that a lot of the pay phones and other public phones we could have used in a pre-cell-phone emergency have disappeared.

  10. Hermione

    UGH I feel your pain, OP. I’m an academic advisor for undergraduate (for a specific department, not college-wide, if that gives you a sense of hierarchy) and have the occasional student who will check their phone, or worse even try to type continuously on their phones while meeting with me. I’m in my mid-twenties, well-versed in technology and am perfectly fine with them using their phones or laptops to pull up something relevant to the meeting – like tentative schedules I can’t access with my login or an e-mail pertinent to the conversation – but DO NOT check a text message or your SNAPCHAT while I’m talking to you, because my brain will ooze out of my ears.

    Often I just sit there like Alison with a pointed look at the phone until they get the hint. Only once in three years have I had to tell them to put it away. That time, he just looked at me blankly, put it in his pocket, and nonchalantly finished the advising session, not an apology in sight. SIGH.

  11. HDL

    I work in academia and, as an instructor with a PhD, I would never consider messing around on my phone while meeting with anyone be it my boss, a colleague, a student, or anyone else. I don’t even take my phone with me to class or meetings, it stays in my office. I have voicemail service for a reason and I want to focus on the task at hand rather than holding several conversations at once. But I often think that I am an anachronism in the field. Many of my peers and many of my students routinely play on their phones during meetings or during class or even take phone calls during a personal discussion in my office with no explanations given. I don’t think it has anything to do with feeling “better” than the person with whom you are currently interacting and more about general (lack of) attentiveness to what you are doing right now.
    ps I’m 35 and many of the people I know as constant phone players are the same age or older than me.

    1. Cajun2core

      Thanks for being on of the good PhDs. There are many like you but there are a few that still see non-PhDs as a lower life form. Think Sheldon Cooper.

      1. Artemesia

        Nearly all adjuncts I know are PhDs; some of them work 4 or 5 different colleges at a time to eek out a living.

        1. AdjunctGal

          I’m not a PhD, though I adjunct at two places. I do think many PhDs are like children, but those are usually the ones with the big reputations, not us adjuncts.

      2. HDL

        I think the PhD divide has more to do with being a PI (primary investigator), aka running your own research lab. I don’t run a lab, I just teach. Many but not all of the PI’s I’ve known (and by default a PI has a PhD or an MD or other high-level degree attached to their name) are rather full of themselves. Those who only teach or teach and do some research on the side tend to be more down-to-earth. But in every set, I’ve witness phone rudeness.

  12. Colorado

    Put the damn phone down! Would you be holding the old school rotary phone handset to your ear while in a meeting with someone else? What has our society come to that we cannot give another person the respect of our time and presence? If it were a family crisis or something that needed immediate attention, I would have excused myself for a moment and apologized profusely. Will we reach an age where we don’t even have face to face verbal communication (like the disturbing movie HER)? Obviously this irks me to no end.

    1. Kelly L.

      No. But you might have to take out your paper address book to get phone numbers, for example. But now we have combined both of these functions into one device, so it’s hard to tell what people are actually doing unless you’re peering at their screen.

    2. LQ

      Rude people were rude before cell phones. Rude people will be rude after cell phones. Don’t blame the cell phones for rudeness.

      And Her was an amazing movie because it showed you can create genuine connections without ever having to meet someone. The idea that the only interaction that matters is face to face is just silly.

    3. Rae

      Honestly, in academia we’ve reached a place where we no longer completely value face to face communication. It isn’t a secret that online universities are booming and that even those fresh faced undergrads are doing more and more of their work through the computer. And they expect answers, NOW! or they will call dearest mommy and mommy will call the dean and the poor prof will get harangued for not answering right away. Unless they have tenure…then nothing.

  13. Anon Today

    What do you do when the person on the phone is your boss in a meeting? My boss does this in meetings constantly, and it is very embarrassing. I know that she is just checking and responding to emails that are not emergencies. If they are emergencies, she leaves the room. I have dealt with it so far by conducting the meeting with the other participants and basically ignoring her. Not sure what else to do.

  14. HR Pro

    Yes, in the U.S. the I-9 form (where you prove you are eligible to work in the U.S.) requires that some representative of the company (often an HR person) must see the identification documents in person. So that has to be done in person. It’s often the perfect time for the new employee to ask their other questions at that same meeting.

  15. Rae

    I also work in academia but in a leading edge school where everyone–from CEO to janitor is really busy. The demand on people’s schedules is insane. The very stupidity of paperwork is insane. It takes us an entire day to fill out the most basic onboarding paperwork and then we’re interrupted quite frequently (2×3 times a year) for another half hour of paperwork. Its freaking insane.

    Yes, this woman was being rude but the amount of paperwork is just tedious. For Adjunct even more so. They are not being paid to do this, and they are paid poorly as is. You may want to consider that she was probably half on the clock for another job…or kids…because she isn’t being paid a living wage by your school….which most adjuncts aren’t.

  16. Dasha

    Former adjunct here! Adjuncts really don’t get paid that much.. maybe she has another job or commitments she was tending to? She may not have meant to be disrespectful. Just my two cents!

    1. fposte

      I don’t think meaning matters here–she shouldn’t have been tending to other matters during a meeting unless there was a vital time component and this was explained to the other person in her meeting. Doing so was rude.

  17. pony tailed wonder

    I was in a meeting once with someone who is much higher up in the university than I was. He sat right by me and played with his phone in his lap the entire time. I am sure that other people around the table were wondering just what he was doing with his hands while staring down at his lap, smiling the whole time. It looked like it could have been something else entirely inappropriate.

  18. MK

    If this meeting was indeed that, two people filling the paperwork together, she was very rude. But there have been many times, both at work and in places like banks, when it was basically the other person filling in the paperwork from the documents I had given them, as was their job, and me just waiting/proving the odd detail/explaining this/confirming that, etc. I don’t think it’s unforgivably rude to check your phone in these cases, provided you don’t delay the other person’s work.

  19. Anonsie

    Also in academia here and this is sooo common. People are always checking their email on their phones, in meetings, while taking to other people, during presentations. For our faculty it’s definitely true that they’re so overbooked that not peeking in at those times would be problematic, so no one really minds. We’d rather they notice our urgent emails when they have marathon meetings than have them be unreachable 99% of the time.

    That said, I would agree with others that I’m pretty sure she was looking up information or asking a spouse for it or something.

  20. Laurel Gray

    If it is okay or common for faculty to do this because they hold a PhD or tenure or whatever, what did they do before cell phones and mobile devices? Were they constantly stepping out to return calls from the pager? And what about before the pager, were they constantly stepping out to call their answering service to see if they had a call? Are professors and such more busy now because of smart phones? I am genuinely curious.

    I’ve had people try to make arguments about why similar behavior *should* be okay on a date and no matter the scenario that was given, I was not sold. I applaud people who immediately end and leave a date where similar is happening.

    1. So Very Anonymous

      One thing that I think is different nowadays is that students/other faculty/staff are more trained to expect faster answers to questions etc. because of email. That was an issue when I was teaching 15 years ago, and I’m sure it’s been heightened considerably by smartphones — back then I did have to be at a computer to check my email, whereas, not so much these days when smartphones are more and more common.

      (Also, surely this behavior is not limited to PhDs or academia? I know nonacademics who will whip out their phones and start playing in the middle of conversations).

    2. Beebs the Elder

      I don’t want to defend phone checking in small meetings, because there’s no excuse for that. But in general, what’s different now is that the accessibility of email has multiplied the number of “important” work communications exponentially over the past decade. Now, everyone sends a message for everything. I do it too. I can get several hundred emails a day, and if I don’t check during long meetings I’ll never get caught up. Before phones? People checked their emails sporadically throughout the day, and didn’t respond as copiously. Before email? People paged, but only if it were Really Important.

      So I would say that not just academics but most professionals are made more busy by smart phones.

      1. So Very Anonymous

        Exactly. I meant to add, too, that adjuncts who are cobbling together a living by teaching large numbers of classes at multiple universities (= different from what adjunct used to mean, which was more like an expert in industry coming to teach one course) is typically in a pretty tenuous position, and continued employment may hinge pretty heavily on student evaluations, meaning a real need to be as responsive to students as possible. Again, doesn’t excuse phone checking in small meetings, but, an adjunct may be dealing with this kind of pressure.

        1. Rae

          Exactly. Fast food workers have better benefits than adjuncts often do…all for the sake of one day getting tenure or a full time goldmine…just a bigger gamble.

          1. So Very Anonymous

            And those kinds of jobs (tenure-track or even just full-time) are just getting scarcer and scarcer…

        2. So Very Anonymous

          Sorry, meant “are typically” — subject/verb agreement a little haywire there.

    3. jag

      “If it is okay or common for faculty to do this because they hold a PhD or tenure or whatever, what did they do before cell phones and mobile devices? ”

      I don’t understand the premise of this question. I mean the point of technology is to be able to do more. Before they had mobile devices, they had to plan more carefully, be less flexible, be less responsive to new circumstances, not work as well with colleagues in different time zones and places, be less able to look up information on the spot, and had to stay in one place when expecting an important message. Should we just be that way now for some arbitrary reason?

      Also, adjuncts don’t have tenure. Quite the opposite – they’re easily let go and generally will never have tenure.

      1. Laurel Gray

        I was asking about faculty in general, not specifically adjunct. And I am even asking about faculty since other posters were commenting specifically about whether this was normal or not normal in their academia setting.

    4. A. Nobbs (no relation)

      I was reading an article on workflow the other day and it mentioned that while the computer has made many tasks faster, the downside is that it has moved many administrative tasks onto workers. So, for example, people are their own secretaries. While previously, some items like correspondence, may have been handled by secretaries, it is now handled by the individual.

      Same for professors. Technology has made some things easier (grades, assignments, and course related items are almost always online where students can reach them easily), but faculty have to take on more roles.

      So, for example, if I don’t have a TA, I become the web person for my class who uploads all the assignments, and basically uses the equivalent of an academic wordpress program to make my course site. This means while technically my life is easier because grades and everything is online, I now have added tasks of being a webmaster that suck up time. Older faculty had course readers and a syllabus. I have a syllabus, course reader (which I upload myself), and a website to maintain.

      This is the same for office hours. Faculty should (and at my school we do) make themselves available to answer question about course work and assignments. This was generally done through office hours. Now that email is ubiquitous, my students try to skip office hours and ask me all their questions via email. I now find myself having to (1) tell students I will not answer their either vague (I don’t understand, no details given) or incredibly complicated (here are 10 variations, what I am doing wrong) questions over email ,and (2) to come into office hours with their questions. Some questions can be answered online, most, for me, can’t. So I now have an extra duty of correspondence with students where I have to say several times that I can’t answer their question via email. I have a policy in my syllabus that if it’s not yes/no they need to come to office hours, but students still try to get email answers.

      These are just 2 examples of how things have changed. There are lots, just like for office workers there are lots of examples.

      As a result, I see many of my colleagues trying to multitask in the innumerable meetings or presentations that we have to attend (most meetings in my school are 1 hour, but that is a whole other thing). For some meetings where decisions are made some faculty show up so that warm bodies can be had because for a policy to pass (often 75% of members on the committee have to be present for a vote). Just like our students can’t multitask, faculty can’t multitask, so it turns out that they partially listen while answering emails.

    5. Cath in Canada

      “what did they do before cell phones and mobile devices?”

      When I was a grad student and then a postdoc, lo these many years ago, a lot of profs would bring a red pen and hard-copy drafts of grant proposals and manuscripts to meetings, and edit them during the meeting if their full attention wasn’t required. It’s only the technology that’s new!

    6. Rae

      What did they do before mobile devices? Quite frankly before the advent of instantaneous communication the barriers to enter education were enormous. If a person failed to be able to be mature and financially stable enough to attend college between the ages of 17 and 22 then they basically were barred from it for the rest of their lives. Sure there are trade schools and community colleges, but their graduation rates are abysmal.

  21. Annoyed Librarian

    I work the Reference desk in a mid-sized university library. I’ve lost count of the number of students that text-chat on their phones when asking me for help finding articles or books. What they **really** want is for me to do it for them while they socialize.

    It’s rude and annoying behavior, and I finally had enough. When they whip the phone out I ask them to please put it away while at the desk. Sometimes I have to explain why, and most patrons get it. On the rare occasions they say “But it’ll just take a minute” then I get up to get a drink of water/freshen up/whatever and return to the desk. By then the phone is put away and doesn’t come out again.

    Yes, I’m in my mid-forties. I’ve been using computers since I was seventeen years old, and am not intimidated by tech. All I want is a few minutes of their time to educate and help them, and I don’t think it’s so much to ask.

  22. rPM

    I guess I’m in the minority here – I thought the OP was overreacting and taking this too personally. I’m not saying the adjunct behaved well, but I do think it’s a pretty big leap to assume she was deliberately being rude to the OP due to the OP’s age or administrative role. The adjunct was perfectly polite during all other interactions and we don’t actually know what she was using her phone for. It’s possible she was dealing with extenuating circumstances like a family emergency, but didn’t feel like she could reschedule the meeting yet again since she’d already done that multiple times.

    If I was above the adjunct in hierarchy I’d just ask whether she needs to have her phone out and, if she doesn’t, tell her that I expect phones to be put away during meetings. If I was a peer, I would ignore it the first time, then say something like, “Do you mind putting your phone away while we wrap this up?” if it happened a second time.

  23. Warwick

    This is a fascinating debate. I strongly believe that soon – 5 to 10 years max – that dealing with people who are also on their cell phones will be the utter norm, rather than the exception. It won’t be considered rude or anything other than SOP. Undivided attention will be the luxury, rather than the rule. So many people will required to multitask that delaying an answer (even while ordering your lunch at McDonald’s) will be considered a major social and business faux pas. Smartphones etc, are here to stay and society will adapt as necessary. Teenagers of today will be the business leaders of tomorrow, and we had best adapt. I’m not saying I like it, I’m just saying that the rules will change as the generations change.

    1. pony tailed wonder

      I disagree- not giving someone your complete attention will still be considered rude.

    2. fposte

      But doesn’t that mean the person taking the order will be on her phone too? Because we’re talking about uses at work, after all. Or are you theorizing that that will be another differentiation between the office worker and the retail or food server–the latter will be excluded from thus new norm?

      1. Warwick

        Nope, he or she will also be on his/her phone as well. The lines between business and personal use of cell phones are eroding daily. What we are looking at is a new definition of mufti-tasking. I work in a law office and spend a lot of time filing documents at the courthouse. Both the courthouse staff and I *plan* to be on cell phones as we complete the transaction – me relaying the staff’s questions to the attorney, and the attorney making their needs clear. It works well- much better than before.

  24. Melly

    Just wanted to say that my coworker leaned over my cube and looked at my computer screen just as i was looking down at something on my phone. she thought it was hilarious and wanted to take a picture. lol

  25. AHK

    OP here–glad to see this question tackled again! Just a few details to clarify. The hiring paperwork is always provided before the meeting, so actually the only thing that absolutely must be done in person is the I-9. The rest of the meeting is to tell adjuncts about all of the administrative support we provide throughout the term and what they can expect in terms of teaching, students, etc.

    Basically, I’ve never had this experience again, although I would feel confident in speaking up if it did. And I never had to worry about dealing with that adjunct again because we never hired her after that term.

  26. Cassie

    It’s one thing if the admin was disorganized and taking time to pull out forms and such – then I could see where the adjunct might feel it was okay to look at his/her phone while waiting. Otherwise, theoretically, the adjunct is the person who has to be filling in the forms (not the OP). The adjunct is just making the meeting longer than necessary if she’s getting distracted.

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