Are you being held hostage by your phone? Is it preventing you from being successful in your career?
A recent article in the Harvard Business Review notes research findings that say Millennials become anxious when not around their smartphones. Personal experience tells me they're not alone -- I recently went on a cruise and people of all ages were having trouble being disconnected while at sea.
Why the anxiety?
"In my personal experience, mindlessly relying on my phone and computer has been a useful, albeit insidious, way of avoiding uncomfortable feelings," writes Charlotte Lieberman, a New York-based writer and editor in the HBR article.
I think she's onto something, and I want to explore this further as it relates to careers.
In my job as a journalist, I get to interview a lot of people about a variety of career and workplace issues, and one issue that keeps popping up is the lack of one-on-one connections. It's this lack of personal communications that prevents people from rising in the ranks, creating loyal, professional connections and even from landing big clients.
I know that phones are helpful for a variety of workplace issues, but let's look at when you need to avoid them on the job:
- When you're unhappy. If you're having difficulty getting along with a colleague or you get nervous around the boss, don't reach for your phone as a way to erect a barrier. Think about what's really going wrong. If your colleague is taking all the credit for a project you helped to build, then that's something that you need to address face-to-face. If your boss makes you nervous, don't hide behind your phone to avoid talking with him or her. The only way that situation is going to improve is by working on your communication skills.
- When you're talking to a client. Never have your phone in your hand or on your desk when you're with a client. You should only be looking at your phone if you need to schedule something with the client or look up information. Anytime you have a phone nearby, you're telling the client: "You're not important enough for me to abandon my phone and give you my full attention."
- When you're bored. Don't rely on your phone to entertain you. If you're bored, use it as a time to think more deeply about work, come up with new ideas or help out on a project. Use the time to connect with others at work in a more meaningful way.
- When you're procrastinating. Phones are a great way to avoid doing something you don't want to do. If you're using your phone to check the weather in Malibu, rant on Facebook or download a podcast on how to make your own wine, then you're using it as a crutch to avoid work.
Think of it this way: A smartphone is fun and useful, but it's also expensive. How are you going to pay for it if you lose your job? Next time you want to reach for your phone at work -- don't. Give yourself five minutes to think about why you want that phone, and whether your career could benefit from leaving it alone.