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Ask Anne: Cell Phones and Time Skills

Ask Anne: Cell Phones and Time Skills


Dear Anne,

My company is small and has recently hired its first full-time sales rep. She is bringing in revenue and generating a lot of business, but also causing my partner and me a great deal of stress. An example: Last Tuesday, she called the office after sending a document and said we needed to read and respond within 15 minutes. Everything with this rep is last minute and urgent, with no regard for our time. Is this normal? How do we decide if her revenue generating is worth our mental health? What should we do?

If you haven’t gone nuts by the time this answer comes, you might want to take a look at why your rep is like she is. Remember, you said she’s new, and a good rule of thumb is to allow a mistake here and there, but have rules in place also. Hopefully, she’ll learn from any mistakes made and not repeat them.

All that said (giving her benefit of the doubt), it seems her issues relate to a lack of good organization and ability to plan and manage her time. Perhaps she doesn’t know how to get organized well enough to block enough time for a client, understand your time and its importance, or know the company products well enough that she doesn’t need to disrupt you and your partner.

Sometimes things like this are signs of immaturity, or maybe she’s very creative. It’s been shown that creative people seem less capable of planning or managing time. People can improve to a tolerable level if someone is willing to help identify their shortcoming, give them a chance, and coach them.

I suggest setting a time to discuss the mishaps. Document recent incidents, and don’t forget to mention that she’s done a good job generating business. Point out how each instance cost the company time or money, caused confusion, or inconvenienced you and your partner. Point out that this behavior cannot continue. Then, let her talk. She may admit having had difficulty in the past or have feedback as to why the issues are happening.

Regardless of her reasons, suggest she develop some vital skills through time-management courses, seminars, etc. If she embraces the change, you will notice it quickly in her demeanor. She will probably want to share information and ideas with you about the changes she is making.

When you follow up in a week on what she has done to find and start training and the answer is the deer-in-the-headlights look or “nothing,” you know your answer. You are not going to be able to help her if she won’t help herself . . . hire slow, fire fast!


Dear Anne,

I have a problem with several staff members who are continually on their phones. I catch them texting a lot. Can I take their phones away at the beginning of their shift?

I just encountered this in my office. I actually said, “If I see you on that phone again, I may shoot it.” I was joking. (Not really.)

The first thing I hope you have is an employee policy on texting. If not, get one and enforce it consistently. If someone violates the policy, he or she should be disciplined as they are for violating other policies.

An effective way to emphasize the policy is to include that, as the final warning step of the disciplinary process, the employee will be required to surrender the cell phone during work hours. As always, do not put this policy or any other in place that you do not intend to enforce equally. Unequal enforcement lessens the respect management has at the company.


Here is a sample policy. As always, check with your HR department or legal counsel before using.

Personal Use of Cell Phones, Computers, and PDAs at Work: While at work, employees are expected to refrain from unnecessary personal use of cell phones, computers, and PDAs. Personal calls, messaging, texting, etc. during the work day — regardless of whether the equipment used is company-owned or not — interferes with employee productivity and is distracting to others. Employees are at work essentially to provide value to the company. They are expected to limit personal communications during work time and make personal calls and/or send personal text messages, etc., on non-work time and to ensure that friends and family members are aware of this company policy. The company is not liable for the loss of personal cell phones, PDAs, or other personal electronic equipment brought into the workplace.



Anne Williams is not an attorney. All content in this column is not guaranteed for accuracy and legality and is not to be construed as legal advice.

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