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Technologies Creating Distractions

Question:

In Policy 3.1 - Office Practices, Section H. Attending Meetings - employees are directed to conduct themselves in a way that doesn't damage the reputation of the District. Employees are advised to arrive early and fully prepared to participate, be fully present and refrain from using cell phones or other devices that are a distraction.


I've been in too many meetings with District Staff where some are glued to their laptops or cellphones, working on other projects, and don't fully participate and miss important discussion points. As a Supervisor, the opportunity is available to manage down and write up employees for not abiding by policy. What is your suggestion for addressing issues with your own Supervisor? What is the preferred method if direct conversation is unsuccessful?


Thank you in advance.


Answer:

There’s no doubt about it, technology rules our world. As much as information and communication technologies can be used to help us be efficient, improve communication, and connect us with resources to make decisions, they can also be a huge distraction. Layer in the pandemic and forced virtual meetings, and digital distractions are even more prevalent. We have become dependent on devices to keep us connected to others. Getting emails in the middle of a meeting can draw your attention on screen…not to mention on your smart phone and smart watch simultaneously! The challenge becomes how to manage our time as well as our interruptions, while still using technology tools to help us stay on top of things. The important thing to keep in mind with the policy referenced above, is the INTENT. Then intent is to be fully present, respecting each other’s time, and getting the most value out of the time we spend together.


When in doubt, talk it out. The first step in correcting a problem is through direct communication. If you've already tried this as you indicated in your submission...try, try again. Whether it’s a supervisor to subordinate employee or the other way around, start with a conversation. It may be that the offending person is unaware of the distraction or how it’s impacting your time together. Sharing your observations and feelings is a step in the right direction. Be respectful and honest in your communication. Nine times out of ten, this will either fix the problem or at least create the opportunity to readdress it if it continues to occur. The next time your supervisor starts to "tune out," distracted by technology, point it out. A simple pause in your conversation and request for undivided attention is perfectly acceptable.


Perfectly imperfect. It’s important to remember we are all human and make mistakes. Brace yourself…even our leaders (or should I say especially our leaders?) aren’t perfect. It takes courage and leadership on your part to speak up to have a positive influence on the situation. There’s a concept introduced by John C. Maxwell in his book The 360 Degree Leader: Developing Your Influence, that any person in an organization, regardless of their position or title, can influence others in a positive way. I challenge you to seek out your influence in this situation to help create a more positive environment for the whole team. Here’s a link to a blog on the topic that might get you started.

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