Phone Snubbed by the Boss

Source: Pixabay

By: Marie Donlon

According to new research from Baylor University's Hankamer School of Business, supervisors who continue to look at their phone while meeting with employees are likely to lose their employees’ trust, which will subsequently affect their engagement.

Publishing their findings in the journal Computers in Human Behavior, the study “Put Down Your Phone and Listen to Me: How Boss Phubbing Undermines the Psychological Conditions Necessary for Employee Engagement,” explores a phenomenon called “boss phubbing.” Short for boss phone snubbing, boss phubbing is defined by researchers as “an employee's perception that his or her supervisor is distracted by his or her smartphone when they are talking or in close proximity to each other, and how the supervisor-employee relationship is impacted as a result.

"Our research reveals how a behavior as simple as using a cellphone in the workplace can ultimately undermine an employee's success," the researchers wrote. "We present evidence that boss phubbing lowers employees' trust in their supervisors and ultimately leads to lower employee engagement."

The research is the combination of three different studies where a mix of over 400 employees and supervisors were surveyed. Among the findings:

  • 76 percent of survey respondents reported a lack of trust in a supervisor who “phubbed” them.

  • 75 percent of survey respondents expressed decreases in psychological meaningfulness, availability and safety.

  • A combination of those decreases and the reported lack of trust led to a 5 percent decrease in overall employee engagement.

"Employees who experience boss phubbing and have lower levels of trust for their supervisor are less likely to feel that their work is valuable or conducive to their own professional growth, and employees who work under the supervision of an untrusted, phubbing supervisor tend to have lower confidence in their own ability to carry out their job," said Meredith David, Ph.D., assistant professor of marketing. "Both of those things negatively impact engagement."

Ultimately, researchers warn that being distracted by smartphones can diminish communication in the workplace and isn’t exclusive to supervisors.

"Developing the self-control to put away your smartphone in favor of meaningful, distraction-free interactions with your supervisor and other coworkers will yield benefits that far outweigh that text message, unread email or social media post," David said.

For more on the study, click here.