Today, in a very important meeting I did fidget with my phone for 2-3 minutes and it was a shopping site. My boss saw that from the other side of the table and have issued me a disciplinary warning letter for me. I however never disturbed anyone in the meeting and was throughout concentrating and even saying where ever I had to to the client .

My question is
1. Can my boss do that?
2. Does it not cross workplace ethics to see a colleague's phone without her knowledge and comment on it?

Need urgent support from all of you

From India, New Delhi
Dinesh Divekar
Business Mentor, Consultant And Trainer
Sr.manager - Hr&admin
Insolvency N Gst Professional
Management Consultancy
Agarwal BD
Hr Head

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1. As it was a very important meeting, it was inappropriate to attend the phone in the midst. It caught the attention of the boss and he peered into it and it might have disturbed him. Though it is an unwelcome behaviour, considering the above situation, it cannot be termed blameworthy.
2. Such a response has to be evaluated in terms of the situation. In meetings such disruptions cause many sensitive bosses to overreact. Meetings involve the investment of time and the thought process of all the participants, so any cross-current against the meeting dynamics is counterproductive and needs to be discouraged.

From India, Mumbai


Though you haven't disturbed any one in the meeting use of phone during a important Client meeting is inappropriate and not line with professional ethics. Like your Boss even other Participants of the Meeting including your Client might noticed you using phone during such crucial meeting which was certainly a distraction for them as well. Your Superior has all right to issue warning letter for such Act of yours.

Though it is not a big crime, take this incident as a lesson and avoid using phones during meetings. To err is human but learning from mistakes is very important.

From India, Madras
Dinesh Divekar

Dear Somdatta Neogi,

Though punishments are aimed at correcting the behaviour of the defaulter, it is not easy for the defaulter to take punishment in his/her stride. It requires great humility to accept one's wrongdoing. The defaulter perceives actions by others as irrational when he/she is unable to fit them within a framework of humility.

In your case, the root cause of the incident is your visit to an e-commerce website when an official meeting was in progress. Your superior reacted to your action. Your post is a reaction to his reaction.

The incident highlights how we are addicted to the mobile phone, an electronic gadget that has become an extended body part. Unlimited use of the phone has reduced our attention span and the urge to check the phone has become so strong that it makes one forget how will it be perceived by others. The opening sentence of your post reads, "in a very important meeting". However, your temptation to fidget with the phone was so strong that it overrode the "importance" of the meeting itself. Your manager did not condone undermining the importance of the meeting.

Every addict gives a semblance of naturality to the actions related to his/her addiction. Yours is a no different case. Rather than doing introspection, by pointing out the unethical conduct from another side, you have tried to cover up your addiction. However, your superior perceived your actions as a violation of the code of conduct of the meeting. Hence the issue of a warning letter to you.

When seniors initiate disciplinary action, it serves a double purpose. The first one is to take on the task a wrongdoer, and the second one is to send a message to others that he/she meant business. A warning letter to you could create a psychological deterrence in others' minds. This deterrence makes the superior's job easy as others think twice before going astray.

You might not have looked forward to what I have written above. Probably you were expecting the members of this forum will agree with the victim card of unethical conduct which you have played. However, we the members of this forum view the incident neutrally and also dispassionately. For us, you and your manager, both are equal.

The learning from the incident is to allocate time to check mobile phones and control the impulse.


Dinesh Divekar

From India, Bangalore

I fully agree with Mr Dinesh.We are habituated to keep checking mobile and do so very often.
One needs to be careful in Office meetings and diversion of attention to Mobile can give a poor impression to others.
Once a mistake is done, accept it and change for the better.
Mobiles are tools for work and communication etc and should not dominate our minds.

From India, Pune
Agarwal BD

Being on your mobile during an important meeting is what you call "crossing workplace ethics" and not the other way round. Please take this as a learning experience and don't try to justify your actions. In the long run you will grow as a person.
From India, Kolkata

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