Digital Manners: Can You Tell a Colleague To Nix Her Annoying Cellphone Noises?

Navigating the intersection of etiquette and technology.
March 27 2012 2:07 PM

Working My Nerves (Transcript)

Office etiquette on borrowing earbuds, email misspellings, and loud cellphone games.

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Farhad: Our next letter writer wonders whether it’s helpful or annoying to point out a glaring e-mail mistake. She writes, “Dear Farhad and Emily, a woman recently e-mailed me about a work matter and her signature says she is the staff analyst with the word ‘analyst’ spelled incorrectly. I have not met the woman but we have now e-mailed back and forth several times. Should I let her know about her misspelling? I would want to know.” Signed, Bad Spellers of the World Untie.

So Emily, should she let her know about the e-mail signature?

Emily: Oh man, I would want someone to tell me if my signature was misspelled. The word “analyst” in this is spelled “A-N-N” so there’s a possibility that this woman analyzes Anns. But that’s probably unlikely and I think it would be a kind thing to, next time they have an exchange, highlight in yellow the “analyst” and say, “I just wanted to point out to you, you probably want to correct that.”


Farhad: When I heard this letter, I couldn’t stop thinking of the show “Arrested Development” where the David Cross character was the world’s first analyst/therapist, in other words, an analrapist.

Emily: Well, maybe that’s what this woman is going for and she doesn’t need to be corrected.

Farhad: Yeah, I think this is like having something in your teeth. You really want to know and you really wish someone would’ve pointed it out before you went into a public space. I think if there was some question about whether this was a mistake, you might wonder whether you should tell her. But there’s no question here. It’s obviously incorrect and she probably wants to know.

Emily: And she will be very grateful that this woman pointed it out and it will cement their professional relationship.

Farhad: Yeah, I agree.

Emily: Our last letter writer is sick of the sound of cell phone games around the office and thinks the pinball wizards need to give it a rest. She writes, “Hello Farhad and Emily, what is the correct etiquette for cell phone noises? I’m not referring to ringing, annoying as that can be, but the sound of games. My cubicle mate enjoys playing Words with Friends on her cell phone. Several times a day I hear the game’s telltale pop, pop, pop, pop sound effect and it’s irritating. Similarly, I get allergy shots and I’m required to stay in the waiting room for half an hour to make sure I don’t keel over. A lot of kids also get shots and have to wait. Many of them play handheld games with the volume turned up. What is the proper response in these situations?” Signed, The Games People Play.

Farhad, what do you think?