How to Tell a Co-Worker to Stop Using a Cell Phone on the Job

Be friendly but firm with a co-worker so she will take you seriously.

Be friendly but firm with a co-worker so she will take you seriously.

It’s not just teenagers who seem tethered to their cell phones nowadays. Many adults, too, can’t seem to release their grip on their cells and think nothing of taking calls and making calls during the work day. If you work in close proximity to someone whose cell phone habits are driving you to distraction, there’s no way around a polite but firm confrontation. Establish ground rules for both of you. In this way, your co-worker should see that fair rules regarding cell phones apply to every considerate and conscientious employee.

Ask to speak to your co-worker during a break, lunch time or after work so you have her undivided attention away from the natural interruptions of the workplace.

Adopt a calm, non-accusatory tone. What you say will be almost as important as how you say it. If you feel angry or distressed, reschedule your talk for a time when you can achieve the balance of a diplomat by being friendly but firm.

Explain that while you’ve tried to be patient, her cell phone habits are distracting and pose undue interference with your work and hers. Without itemizing every infraction, give her examples of times when you’ve heard her phone ringing or overheard her talking on her cell. If she’s honest with herself, she knows full well her dependency on her cell phone.

Spell out your wish directly. Ask her to refrain from receiving and taking cell phone calls while she’s on the job. Point out that you will abide by the same terms, a vital point that should underscore your sense of fairness.

Put on your “diplomat hat” and clarify that you understand exceptions to the rule. Of course, you must take urgent phone calls from a child in trouble or an aging parent in distress. In these cases, express your wish that she take the call outside the listening range of others so she doesn’t distract her co-workers.

Spell out your “rules of cell phone engagement” moving forward. You might ask that she put her phone on “vibrate” mode when she is in the workplace, and inform her friends, family and loved ones not to call her during the day when she's at work.

Reassure her that you wish to maintain good relations and want both of you to succeed and excel at your jobs. Thank her for listening to your concerns and requests. Say that you value open communication and want her to come to you directly if you ever exhibit distracting behavior in the workplace.

Tips

  • As long as you’re addressing cell phone use, you may wish to include texting in your “rules of engagement.” While it doesn’t require verbal communication, texting can be another workplace distraction that you may wish to nip in the bud.
  • A second warning may be necessary with a particularly chatty co-worker. After that, you may have to consult a supervisor or human resources employee for help in establishing company-wide protocols regarding cell phone use. If this happens, try not to feel like “the bad guy.” Workplace surveys repeatedly show that cell phone use is a major irritant among American workers.
 

About the Author

With education, health care and small business marketing as her core interests, M.T. Wroblewski has penned pieces for Woman's Day, Family Circle, Ladies Home Journal and many newspapers and magazines. She holds a master's degree in journalism from Northern Illinois University.

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