Call Shari 303-863-0948 or Email Us

Contact us for virtual speaking and training!

Business Etiquette – Things You Should Never Do In Public

business etiquetteEvery time I get on a plane I’m grateful that skype isn’t allowed and that cell phones haven’t made it to the friendly skies. I can’t imagine sitting in a relatively small, contained space for that long, while numerous people chat away.

There was no such luck in jury duty last week when people passed the time watching TV on their phones and iPads, WITHOUT headphones. Does anyone think this is acceptable business etiquette? Please post a comment here. I’d really like to know.

Watching TV on an iPad and phone are still somewhat of a novelty. My fear is that soon, watching TV in public places without headphones will be like talking on the phone in a coffee shop – the norm. I am apparently, one of the few people who finds talking on a cell phone in restaurants and coffee shops rude. And one of my employees let me know that this makes me sound old and cranky. I can accept that I’m both old and cranky.

If you find yourself in a public place with someone watching TV or listening to music without headphones, here’s what you can say: “Would you mind using headphones?” It’s as simple as that.

If s/he tells you s/he doesn’t have any, then you can say, “Would you mind not listening to music or watching TV without headphones? It’s distracting.” The worst the person can say is no. And if you don’t want to make the request directly, then ask someone working in the location you’re spending time.

If you say nothing, and it bothers you, you’re training people to that it’s OK to fill public spaces with TV and music that you don’t want to be watching and listening to. And both will quickly become the norm.

You won’t get what you don’t ask for.


Shari Harley is the founder and President of Candid Culture, a Denver-based training firm that is bringing candor back to the workplace, making it easier to give feedback at work. Shari is the author of the business communication book How to Say Anything to Anyone: A Guide to Building Business Relationships that Really Work. She is a keynote speaker at conferences and does training throughout the U.S. Learn more about Shari Harley and Candid Culture’s training programs at

    Find more about me on:
  • facebook
  • linkedin
  • twitter
  • youtube

Tags: , , , ,

3 Responses to “Business Etiquette – Things You Should Never Do In Public”

  1. Barbara says:

    It’s amazing what can happen with public TV. I entered an auto repair waiting room with the walll-mounted TV blasting away. All the other patrons seemed to quietly reading. Before being seated, I asked, “Is anyone watching this? Would anyone mind if I turn it off?” Some people nodded; no one spoke.But when I turned it off, EVERYONE sighed a little and smiled. Some said, “Thanks!”

    No such luck another time during jury duty, waiting all morning, when numerous requests to our uniformed guard resulted in the truly blasting set of 3 TVs penning us in being left on. Luckily I had a book. But I’m not one of those folks who can easily tune out TV or music, whether it’s in the usual form or from someone’s device. The protocol Shari suggests seems reasonable to me. But I don’t have high hopes about folks complying when asked to use headphones. I’ll be curious to know!

  2. Anglea says:

    I smiled when this showed up in my email box, I must be old and cranky as well. This is true for kids with hand held video games in public (or generally around me), no one wants to listen to their game. Why are people so against headphones? I am afraid that it is becoming more and more socially acceptable.

  3. Randy says:

    Never never accept that you are old and cranky! 🙂

Leave a Reply

Sign Up

Career tips
you won't get
elsewhere. Sign up
to get a free
tip card.