According to Wikipedia, a telephone, or phone, is a telecommunications device that permits two or more users to conduct a conversation when they are too far apart to be heard directly. In 1876, Alexander Graham Bell was the first to be granted a United States patent for the phone. This invention greatly helped those were deaf or hard of hearing. Bell’s own mother and wife were deaf which influenced his pioneering work. Wikipedia also stated that, “The telephone was the first device in history that enabled people to talk directly with each other across large distances. Telephones rapidly became indispensable to businesses, government, and households, and are today some of the most widely used small appliances.”

They are no doubt the most ubiquitous item in our possession. Yet even almost 150 years later, we’re still having challenges figuring out to use them with civility. This is especially true in the workplace. Let’s review some good pointers:

The phone isn’t an interruption

Don’t sound annoyed or irritated if someone calls during business hours. They may be potential customers, for goodness sake!! We don’t want to turn them off by an abrupt or curt tone of voice.

Return calls

They should be returned within the same business day, if possible, or the next day.

When leaving a message, try to keep it simple

Just mention your name, company, date & time of call and the purpose is all that needs to be included. Mention your phone number at the beginning & end of the voicemail message. Remember to speak slowly. Nothing is more annoying than having to listen to a message several times to get the correct name or phone number. Avoid phone tag by respecting the time of other people. Give some options when they could return your call. Or suggest that the person provides the answer to your question as a text message or email to avoid the needless back and forth of phone tag.

Don’t call an employee at home unless it’s an emergency

Supervisors or managers, keep in mind the need that your employee has to create that positive work-life balance that everyone deserves.

Don’t wait by the phone

Give others the benefit of the doubt if they don’t respond right away. In your voicemail message, ask them to provide a better time to contact them. If needed, change your message so that others know the best day & time to contact you as well particularly if you’ll be out of the office.

Limit your calls

Refrain from the temptation to phone a colleague/client more than once in a day. If they haven’t returned your call, refer to the point above!!

In business as well as our personal lives, we appreciate when others take the time to be respectful of our time. So let’s be sure that we’re following these basic tenets of civil phone manners. On an interesting note, Bell considered his famous invention an intrusion on his real work as a scientist and refused to have a telephone in his study (Wikipedia).


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