Q. Our office has an outdated cell phone policy that doesn't address text messaging. It simply says "If an employee receives an important call on their cell phone, they are to leave the office and proceed into the hall to take the call."
At least half our employees keep cell phones on their desk and do a lot of texting during the workday. Many people feel that management needs to step up and deal with this issue, because texting distracts people and reduces productivity. Don't you think we should have a texting policy?
A. Actually, your company needs a more general guideline, not another specific rule. Phone calls and texts are only two examples of the many personal pursuits that can make people less productive. Others might include online shopping, running errands, reading magazines, exploring social media, or anything else that takes time away from work.
For that reason, your policy should simply indicate that during work hours, employees are expected to avoid engaging in personal activities which interfere with productivity. Providing examples would be helpful, as long as the policy clearly states that the list is not comprehensive. Management should introduce the new policy in a staff meeting, allowing time for questions and discussion.
If texting has been a particular problem, then that issue should be specifically addressed. For example: "Texting has become a significant distraction from work for some employees. From now on, everyone is expected to limit texting about personal matters to breaks and lunch. Exceptions can be made for critical situations."
After that, anyone who continues to over-text should be dealt with individually. Finally, this would also be an excellent time to eliminate that rather silly "call in the hall" cell phone rule. Allowing personal conversations on a desk phone, while banishing mobile talkers to the corridor, makes absolutely no sense.
Q. I recently applied for the supervisory position in my department, but management selected an applicant from outside the company. Although my boss said I was not qualified for the position, he has now asked me to train the woman who was hired. If he thinks I'm not qualified, how can he expect me to train someone else?
A. While your confusion is understandable, your manager's request actually does make sense. External candidates are typically chosen for their management expertise, industry experience or some other useful attribute.
What they lack, however, is an understanding of their new surroundings. As a knowledgeable insider, you are being asked to orient this woman to the company, not teach her how to supervise. Although your recent rejection may have left you feeling slightly resentful, you need to recognize that training your boss presents a valuable opportunity. Not only will she see that you are well-regarded, but you will also be able to impress her with your competence and helpful spirit. If you handle this interaction wisely, she might even recommend you for the next supervisory opening.
Marie G. McIntyre is a workplace coach and the author of "Secrets to Winning at Office Politics." Get free coaching tips at www.yourofficecoach.com, or follow her on Twitter @officecoach.