Wireless-device users, mind your manners

Toronto Globe and Mail

Shawn Kahandaliyanage learned an embarrassing lesson about the dangers of his BlackBerry obsession.

Kahandaliyanage had developed what he thought was an “excellent strategy” to allow him to text while walking: “I’d latch on to the brightest-colored shoes I could find and follow behind that person, keeping their shoes in my peripheral vision while keeping my eyes glued to my BB,” says the director of business development for Waterloo, Ont.-based mobile video company Metranome Inc.

All well and good until he got off a plane in the Ottawa airport one day en route to a business meeting. Trying to catch up on his e-mails, he followed a pair of red high heels. Suddenly, the shoes came to a halt and turned in his direction.

“I looked up, and was met by the dirty stare of the woman with the red heels. I had followed her straight into the ladies room,” Kahandaliyanage says.

Kahandaliyanage’s experience is a good example of how mesmerizing the little glowing devices can be to their users — so mesmerizing that they can get those users into trouble.

Whether while walking through an airport or sitting in a business meeting with head bowed and fingers tapping, users who pay more attention to their BlackBerrys, iPhones and other portable devices than to the people around them are displaying etiquette-challenging behavior that could be career-limiting, experts say.

“The bottom line is that people have more to gain from practicing and nurturing their face-to-face relationships than they do in replying to the call of their Black- Berry,” said Steve Prentice, president of workplace technology consultancy Bristall Morgan Inc.

Nearly one-fifth of 5,000 U.S. workers say they have been reprimanded by their employers or fellow workers for showing bad manners with their wireless device, a recent survey found.

The biggest bone of contention: responding to a device in a meeting or a presentation, followed by answering one at a business dinner, according to the poll by online job site Yahoo HotJobs.

Such distraction can even cost a job.

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