Business etiquette tip: Don’t eat on the phone!

This is one of those business etiquette tips that is less about business travel and more about, you know, generally not being a jerk. But chipslately it’s come up so frequently in my life, and the lives of my friends and coworkers, that I just want to give a friendly reminder.

I was recently leading a conference call with about twenty people. As you probably know, the etiquette is to mute your phone if you’re not talking so background noise doesn’t disturb the call. Well, during that call not only was someone not muted, but was eating what sounded like an apple right into his or her phone. Yes, an apple, one of the loudest things you can eat. I said the normal, “We’re getting some background noise, it would be great if everyone could go on mute unless they have a question.” The chewing noise continued and actually got louder—so loud that I couldn’t hear the questions coming in. After a few more minutes I said, “Sounds like someone is eating—please, please put your phone on mute!” That stopped it. (Note: since then we got a new conference call system and we can see on our computer who is talking—so if that ever happens again I will know exactly who the culprit is!)

Then last week a coworker was on the phone with a business partner who had completely dropped the ball on something. On that call not only did the business partner wrongly berate my coworker, but she was eating loudly at the same time. It’s just wrong on so many levels!

Finally, a friend told me that this week she was talking to a customer late in the afternoon this week. It had been a busy day and she hadn’t had time to grab lunch. So it was not fun for her to listen to this customer chow down while they talked about specs and terms.

Obviously, if you are booked in back to back meetings and your only chance to eat is on a call, do what you have to do. Just make sure you mute your phone while you are chewing!

Readers, do you eat while on business calls? Or do you think it’s rude?

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  1. Can I also just add… Don’t use your phone in a public bathroom.

    1. We hear the flush
    2. We hear the echo
    3. The others in the bathroom don’t want to hear your conversation.

    I can’t believe in this day and age some of this needs to be mentioned. If you are thinking to yourself should I do this while on the phone… Just assume the answer is no. No you should no do that while on the phone.

  2. I would add: do not use your phone while in any bathroom! Even if it’s your own one at home and you are on the phone to your daughter. No! (MUM, I’m looking at you here!)

  3. I am thinking of having a business phone system installed in my business and I totally agree that you should not eat while you are on the phone. It seems like a very unprofessional thing to do that is fairly inconsiderate to customers. If you are going to talk on the phone, I think that you should make a customer your first priority. Thank you for sharing.

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