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Submitted by chunt7 on


I would like to read fellow members (and Mike and Mark's) thoughts are on the use of bluetooth headsets in the workplace.

I am incredibly annoyed when they are used in the workplace other than when one is sitting at one's desk, and uses it to free up one's hands to do other things. I always wonder if the wearer is listening to something else during meetings, or when I want to talk to them. The pulsating blue LED is also distracting. The people wearing them in my office away from their desks are generally the same people who I think exhibit a lot of other unprofessional behavior.

I own and use a headset, but I have a strict rule that my bluetooth does not leave the boundaries of my automobile. It's sort of the same rule I have about wearing Croc's anywhere other than my backyard- they're incredibly comfortable, but I don't want anyone to see me with them on!

I realize I could be way off base here. I used to think generally the same thing about cell phone users 15 years ago...

ken_wills's picture

 Sure, I get it.  You think they're showy.  And I think people walking around the grocery store with their little blue lights pulsing in their ears are laughable.  But I've re-read your post, and I don't see any examples of behavior that you can validly criticize (for example, taking calls in meetings or shouting into their tiny headsets at a volume which interrupts your conversations).

So maybe you just want to have a laugh and let go of's not worth being "incredibly annoyed" about.

chunt7's picture
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Great point. I was focusing on the technology, and unfairly inferring unprofessional behavior. Thanks for pointing that out.

Writing that I was incredibly annoyed was a bit of puffery on my part.

But I'm still not wearing my Crocs outside of my backyard.

ken_wills's picture

 ...about the Crocs.  REALLY good call.

RichRuh's picture
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I agree with Chunt7's original post, and I think wearing an earpiece IS behavior- and unprofessional at that.

"Hey, can I give you some feedback?  When you wear a Bluetooth headset outside of your car, it's unprofessional.  It gives an impression that your phone is more important than the people you are with, and reminds everyone of 'that guy' who rudely talks loudly to his phone in public.  How could you do that differently?"

Agree on the Crocs, too. :-)



RichRuh's picture
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Ha!  Whatever, dude.  Glad you think you're more effective.


ken_wills's picture

Rich -  In all seriousness, and with no intent to aggravate (because of the way your last post included a "whatever") - I'm curious about where you'd draw the line.

BTW, I agree that wearing something is behavior.

But if the behavior of wearing a bluetooth headset is unprofessional to you - then does the same standard apply to wearing a Blackberry on your belt?  Or a cellphone?

When does "geeky" become "unprofessional"?  This seems to me to be a question of taste, of style.  So I'd completely agree if you were dismissing the act of wearing the bluetooth or other items on the basis of looks.  But it seems to me that it's entirely different to correlate this behavior with professionalism.  That's what I'm curious about.

mtietel's picture
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Your BB/PDA/mobile/iPod stays on your belt.  Is it any different if, instead of wearing a bluetooth headset, they simply held their mobile up to their ear and didn't talk on it?

When you wear an earpiece/earbud/headphones in meetings, we doubt that you're fully engaged in the meeting and wonder if you're listening to something else.

medphred's picture

On a less serious note, you could let your employee know that there's a slang term for people who wear a BT headset when they are not on a call (BlueTool).  Or point them to the Wired Magazine view (  Maybe this will get them to change their behavior ;-)

On a serious note I'd tell my directs that it makes me, and others, question whether they are engaged or if they may be listening to voice-mail.  It gives an appearance that you're not engaged.  As we all know from DISC, its not about doing whatever behavior you like, but doing what is more effective for the one that you're communicating to.  In this light, ditching the headset when with others is the appropriate thing to do.

ken_wills's picture

Thanks for the link, and for the laugh.

The serious notes in the last two posts are great.  Thanks for adding to the discussion.

I think there's one important piece missing in some of the suggested feedbacks - it seems to me that there's still a bit of a leap, a bit of an assumption being made that causes the feedback.  Here's what I mean:

"When I see you wearing your bluetooth in meetings".... (behavior)

..."I think you might be listening to voicemail..." (speculation)

Wouldn't it be tighter feedback if the behavior gave evidence of the conclusion you're reaching?  That is, something like:

"When I see you wearing your bluetooth in meetings, and at times when you're asked a question you pause and appear to have not have been paying attention...." (behavior)

..."that makes me wonder if you're using your headset to listen to voicemail."

RichRuh's picture
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You are correct- assumptions are being made.  And... the BlueTool name and Wired article suggest that this is an extremely widespread assumption.  Perhaps someday wearing a headset will be a common and accepted practice.  Personally, I hope so- it IS convenient. 

But until then, I would be cautious.