E-Gads! Turn That Thing Off!

We've all heard them, and more and more of us don't like the electronic interruptions we hear — especially during meetings, according to a recent study commissioned by 1-800-Flowers and conducted by the Luntz Research Cos.

“There are definite distinctions between what is deemed appropriate in professional vs. personal situations,” the survey states. For example, checking a beeper during a meeting is considered rude by 34 percent of respondents, but only 22 percent feel the same way about checking one over dinner with a friend.

The majority — 83 percent — of those surveyed think letting a cellphone ring during a meeting is rude. “Cellphone abuse is the most common and most disliked e-etiquette faux pas,” says pollster Frank Luntz. Particularly interesting: Respondents who use cellphones held roughly the same opinions about proper cellular etiquette as the general population. “They just don't practice what they preach,” says Luntz.

To help head off these irritating electronic interruptions, companies — even those that make the very gadgets that bother people — have begun creating rules of e-etiquette for their meetings. Take Woodbridge, N.J. — based Cingular Interactive, which issued these guidelines governing wireless handheld pager use during meetings.

  • Tell people that you will not always be available to respond immediately to pager messages. Turn pagers off whenever possible.

  • Do not respond to non-urgent messages until a break in the meeting; for non-urgent messages that are continuously repeated, send a discreet reply that the message will be responded to after the meeting. Respond unobtrusively to urgent messages via the handheld or leave the meeting to respond.

The Luntz study was based on a nationwide sample of 1,000 adults surveyed by phone — presumably not by cellphone — this past November.