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How to Avoid (Unintentionally) Insulting Your Colleagues


Passive-aggression at work is bad for everyone involved. It’s not very different from yelling or bullying. But what about when you insult co-workers, with no intention of doing so? An objective examination of behavior, not intent, sheds light on how this happens, and how you can prevent being misunderstood.

(Photo Credit: jseliger2/Flickr)

Psychology Today author Liane Davey, Ph.D. defines the various and sundry messages that people get from others thanks to the ubiquitous use of the cellphone. Before you roll your eyes and say, “I know, I know, I put my phone on vibrate before meetings,” take another look at the issue.

Do You Know What You're Worth?

We are all obviously annoyed at the nudnik whose phone starts playing a loud Prince song from the 1980s in the middle of a class lecture or a silent meditation. Even those who are socially aware enough to say, “Oh, sorry, I meant to turn that off…” have still earned the ire of the many. That is not what this article is about.

How Others See You

If you were bored with what your co-worker was saying, would you blurt out, “I am so tired of listening to this nonsense”? Would you arrive at a meeting and say, “I have more important things to do than pay attention to whatever you people have to say”? If you would, you may as well stop reading now.

When someone is talking to you and you glance at your cellphone, you are sending the message that you are not interested in what he is saying. When you look at your phone during meetings, you saying you have more important things on your mind. People who are insulted by your love affair with your phone will likely never tell you, but if they are in a position of power, they are less likely to give you a positive review, or choose you for the good assignments. You may never know why.

Put the Phone Away

Dr. Davey recommends more than just putting the phone away. Best practice is to leave your phone in your desk drawer or some other safe place when you have meetings. If you have it with you, turn it off. If it’s on, vibration settings are not good enough — choose silent. And just because you have a visual alert on your phone is no excuse to take a quick peek. Do not be using the phone when interacting with others.

Tell Us What You Think

Are you addicted to your phone, do you work with people who are? We want to hear from you! Leave a comment or join the discussion on Twitter.

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