You're in a meeting when the teammate next to you whispers the five most annoying words in the modern workplace lexicon: "What did she just say?"
Your co-worker, who only a few seconds ago couldn't be pulled away from an invigorating round of Super Mario Run on his smartphone, realizes that he missed something important. Now he's looking to you to fill in the blanks. You very kindly do, but now you've both missed something even more important. Grrr!
This happens in every meeting, too. Why can't your co-worker put the phone down for a few freaking minutes, and how do you get out of this poor feedback loop?
What Did They Just Say?
The technology-distracted teammate who always misses key details in meetings is a sign of the times we're living through, unfortunately. Attention spans are already short thanks to memes, Vines and other short-burst ways of communicating. If it can't be said in 15 words or less, then we're losing everyone in the room.**
Do you know there's talk of shortening the game of tennis because nobody has the attention span for the traditional game anymore? It's true!
Still, there are a few brave souls who are turning their backs on the smartphone. Consider Simon Cowell of American Idol fame, who just revealed that he hasn't used a smartphone in ten months and feels great about his decision!
Your teammate, however, can't seem to quit his smartphone even for the length of a staff meeting. Ugh.
Five Tips For Dealing with Smartphone-Addicted Teammates
Here are five tips for managing the smartphone-addicted co-worker who never listens in meetings and looks to you to fill him or her in:
1. Take the "one strike" approach. You'll fill in the blanks once per meeting. That's it. Is it harsh? Maybe. But is it deserved? Maybe.
2. Tell them to pay attention. This is the easiest approach, but also the hardest. Nobody wants to look like a school marm telling a colleague, "You'd better pay attention!" But you could whisper, "You might want to pay attention, they're going over some really important stuff." Go ahead, be that teammate.
3. Pretend you didn't hear them ask. You need to concentrate on what's being said, so you momentarily tune this co-worker out. Consider it an act of self-preservation. You can explain after the meeting, which brings me to my next tip:
4. Tell this co-worker to wait. Tell this co-worker you'll answer their question after the meeting. Hey, you need to hear what's going on, since you're carrying the water for the both of you!
5. Consider it the price of teamwork. You're both on the same team, which means you must work together to get projects done correctly. Think of keeping this teammate in the loop as working to your benefit, too. If your teammate is up to speed, then you're both getting things done better.
There is no easy solution to the smartphone-addicted teammate who never pays attention in meetings. If you have found anything that works, please feel free to share it. We promise to look up from our smartphones to listen.
** Sorry this blog post is so long.