By John O'Connor

The powers that be tell us that everything should be done through our phones — that speed is the currency of the day and response time matters. How important is response time to an emergency medical technician? It seems pretty important. How important is it for you as a career professional to respond to a text, an email or a phone call? It depends. If you are a physician or nurse on call, you’d better respond quickly. If you possess a safety-oriented role in a manufacturing setting, it seems very important. But most career professionals interrupt their careers and sometimes do permanent damage to their relationships by the overuse that our smartphone culture provides and prods us into.

Here are three of the biggest problems I have seen in our smartphone career culture, along with three insights on how to temper the impulses that could hurt your career:

Answering With Harshness

As a current sales manager, James decided to put everyone on Slack and create a new rapid response system for his sales team. That meant each salesperson needed to respond to emails, texts and phone calls within an hour or report why they had not done so. Calls had gone unanswered by his district teams and sales, in his opinion, had been lost due to a lack of prompt responses. How did he know this? He polled his clients and lost customers. With that data, he cleared it with the vice president of sales and instituted this new dictate.

How did his sales team respond? Sales went down. Interruptions grew. His rapid response system put “our crazy clients” in control instead of “our mature sales team,” as one of his salespeople said.

The Lesson: Cut The Always-On Culture With Reason

Help your team communicate better but do not open them up to constant bombardment from needy clients via text, email and phone. Thoughtful responses win the day. It turns out many of those rapid responses could have been handled in a timely manner and most sales were not lost because of a lack of response within a reasonable time period of 24 hours. But the loss of personnel from James’ sales team — and the increased dissatisfaction — hurt their productivity.

Losing A Precious Commodity: Sleep

In her role as a sales trainer, Amy provided needed relief from the constant changes within the contract research organizational field. This work requires meeting management, training development and having conversations with many intelligent nurses, doctors and people who participate in clinical trials so that drugs can be approved. Amy’s company required her to answer questions from trainees for weeks after training. She created detailed training but the trainees could pose questions to her 24/7 for one week after the meeting. This presented a situation that was untenable as her seminars were attended digitally throughout the world.

“I was literally on for a week after the training, answering questions about my training,” said Amy. “This crisis management added to my training put me in sleep deprivation mode every time until the next major training, every cycle. I had to quit.”

The Lesson: Disruption Of Sleep Is A Sign

Sleep issues occur for a lot of people with blue light, tablets and more — in almost any career trajectory. But when your career path and job asks you to stay on and not turn off, it is time to push back and work with human resources or your boss. If that doesn’t work or if it is unsustainable to make changes, it may be time for a career shift. Perhaps Amy could have found a way to cut down on the move toward the always-on culture within her training by working with management or cutting down on the access to her globally. Protect your sleep at almost all costs. Know when the line is crossed.

Thoughtful Responses Lost

This multitasking culture of so-called smartphones has created rapid responses to complicated issues, issues that require thinking, analysis and positive responses. Email via phone and even computer can provide more thought-out responses than texting can. But problems exist there, too. Many responses via phone email, regular email, LinkedIn InMail, text message and new dialogue systems like Slack can create quick and ineffective reactions instead of thought-out responses. Darien, a marketing manager with a digital company, found this to be true in losing a client. The client asked a few tough questions and the team rushed answers in text-like form.

“I think the overall message to the client was,” according to Darien, “‘we are in a hurry with you’ and not ‘we need to answer you thoughtfully and fully.’ A really thought-out response was needed. With that happening several times it helped break the relationship.”

The Lesson: Clients And Stakeholders Need Your Brain

Many clients hire you for your products, but part of the service of any marketing firm or business is to help a client and stakeholder think properly through problems and issues. Sometimes it frustrates a client or stakeholder when you over-answer. Know when you need to back up thoughts with research, articles and visuals, and know when quick reactions are okay. It’s hard to know when too much is too much. Clients hire you to listen to them.

Bottom Line: You Can Be In The Culture But Not Of The Culture

Don’t think too deeply here. This just means that you should use the easy communication capabilities of smartphones, devices and the like to respond. But keep it in check so that you are not reacting, especially emotionally, to clients, customers, stakeholders and team members. It’s not that smart.


Category: Editorial