I have an employee at a mid-size IT startup who is texting during our Daily Standup meetings. It's just a text or two at a time, but it's obviously personal. They get emotionally aroused, tune out of the meeting, it's visible to others, and has been going on for 3 weeks without a miss.
I'm fine with people doing personal things at work, but want to avoid this during the few windows when we're supposed to engage each other as a team.
It's easy to ban phones in just this 10-minute meeting. In most, I'm fine with phone use. I want the delineation to be work use vs non-work use. To keep phones and laptops available for meeting-relevant work, but limit personal conversations to when one is alone.
What would be the softest, least embarrassing way to ask an employee to avoid personal (not all) texting during meetings?
The options I've considered include:
- Discussing group norms without singling anyone out. My concern is that it would be obvious who it's about.
- Mentioning this "casually". I'm worried that it might feel like I'm intruding into their personal life (I know their texting is an office romance, but don't want to bring it out).
- Asking them not to use the phone during meetings at all. My concern is that this feels rigid and is a use of direct power, which I try to avoid. It would also be singling them out.
I don't want to restrict cell phones as tools, only their use for entertainment, and only when it's important to be engaged in the work. We do check them in meetings for work reasons, like looking up the calendar.
I'm not the employee's line manager, which I'm still hiring, and don't work with them much. Still, as the ranking company officer that's actually in the office, it falls to me.
This is complicated by high power distance, patriarchal culture the employee grew up in. Even a single embarrassing conversation could damage their self-esteem that's been difficult to build up.