A colleague cannot put down her phone, not for a moment. She's a lecturer in English. Today I came into one of her classes, and she was holding her phone in front of her face with one hand while reading from a textbook held in the other. Amazing to behold. She was giving a dictation test and chatting and giggling at the same time! This is forbidden at my university. I could not help but notice that she is doing a rather poor job. She is not focused on her work at all. She does this every time I see her, which is about three times a week.

We are very friendly with each other and I do not want to make her angry. At the same time, I am astounded that she has started to do this, and now I feel that I should say something. I am not going to go tell on her, so I either let it go or I figure out a way to tell her to knock it off.

How should I tell her to stop? Just to be clear, her habit clearly gets in the way of her work, and that means the students are not getting what they deserve.

  • Did she pick up that behaviour recently? For how long have you known her?
    – iLuvLogix
    Commented Jul 26, 2019 at 10:52
  • 1
    @iLuvLogix I have known her for three years. She started this behavior about three weeks ago. I don't know why she is doing this.
    – user106815
    Commented Jul 26, 2019 at 11:00
  • 6
    chances are good that she has met someone she's romantically interested in, which would explain the sudden change in behaviour and inability to put down the phone.
    – Stun Brick
    Commented Jul 26, 2019 at 12:19
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    @Patriot there might also be an issue (medical, family, ...) for which she needs to be available/keeping up with updates that you don't know of. Unlikely with her suddenly giggling and chatting, but worth keeping in mind.
    – Blub
    Commented Aug 5, 2019 at 12:04
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    Since this appears to be in an academic setting, this may also be appropriate over at Academia
    – David K
    Commented Aug 5, 2019 at 12:19

3 Answers 3


You could consider your relation with that person (lets call her 'Mary') as a friendship. As a friend you should address this issue and speak to her. Maybe something along those lines:

"Mary - I recently started noticing that you seem a little distracted by using your smartphone during lectures and other work related activities. I'm a bit worried that this behaviour during work can have a negative impact on how colleagues and your students perceive your work ethic"

If she continues with her bahaviour you could step up a bit and mention that this could get her reported or even fired..

  • 3
    I think you hit the nail on the head: " ...a negative impact on how colleagues and your students perceive your work ethics." That is it. The students will see the negative thing and imitate it--we can't have that.
    – user106815
    Commented Jul 26, 2019 at 14:05
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    So, I have to say something. It is my duty as a teacher. I will mention its negative impact on the students.
    – user106815
    Commented Jul 26, 2019 at 14:07
  • Not enough for an edit but it's 'work ethic'.
    – jcm
    Commented Aug 4, 2019 at 3:24
  • @jcm Thanks for the hint ;) I've edited my answer accordingly..
    – iLuvLogix
    Commented Aug 5, 2019 at 7:46

If you don't have managerial authority over her then you cannot tell her to stop.

You might consider suggesting or advising though.

If all else fails, will you report her behavior to management / the Dean / HR ?

I know if I did that in class then the students would report me... But I don't take my phone to class...

  • 3
    Right. One of the students might report her. That's probably the answer--ask her to stop before a student says something.
    – user106815
    Commented Jul 26, 2019 at 11:33

I'm not sure if you're in a PhD program with this person or if they're an adjunct or full-time lecturer. But in my experience with colleagues, i.e. other PhD students who are teaching university courses, I would advise the following:

  1. Talk to your colleague. Ask what's up with the phone/textbook thing: I assume it's unrelated to the course? Double-check it's not part of your friend's new digital humanities curriculum.
  2. Tell your colleague why you're concerned. Is it because the university students won't be getting a quality education? You're worried about a dean coming in and her being reprimanded and/or fired. I imagine that the student course evaluations won't look great if they're on the phone when they should be teaching.

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