What to do if someone on your work Zoom does something weird, according to an etiquette expert
- Virtual meetings have been the norm for many since March.
- But even though people are attending from their homes, business conduct is still expected — even if people are slipping up.
- If you see someone making a Zoom faux pas, you should alert them or whoever is in charge of the meeting right away.
- If you're the one making the faux pas, apologise quickly, and don't drag out the issue.
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Meetings have looked a little different since March, but that doesn't mean that all of the rules of business conduct have changed.
Yes, we may be able to see each other's home decor, pets, and children more than we normally would, but etiquette expert Elaine Swann told Business Insider that every meeting is still in the "business arena" — and that means you should dress, speak, and behave as you would around a conference table.
That also means that if you're planning on attending to personal business while on a work call, you probably shouldn't. New Yorker staff writer Jeffrey Toobin was recently suspended for exposing and pleasuring himself while on a work Zoom call, according to Vice News.
Swann said that this is behavior you should certainly refrain from, unless showcasing more private features of yourself is part of your business model.
What to do if you see or experience something strange
If someone on your call is doing something that could lead to potential embarrassment — or just shouldn't be happening — Swann said you try and alert them to it.
If you're not in charge of the call, let whoever is know that something potentially unpleasant may be unfolding. Swann emphasized that you should never take a photo or screenshot to show others; it could lead to legal fallout, and is "not the right thing to do when someone has made such an egregious misstep."
Instead, if a coworker messes up, you shouldn't chastise them further. They're already "wounded" by messing up.
"Don't add to their embarrassment," Swann said.
What to do if you're the one who messed up
Perhaps you're the one who messed up on the Zoom call. If you've made a social faux pas, Swann said that there are three steps you should take: Acknowledge the mistake, apologize, and move on quickly. She said that the longer you dwell on the mistake, the longer it'll linger.
"Don't go on an apology tour," she said. "The more you talk about the incident and the longer you discuss it, the longer it will take for people to move beyond it."
Keep in mind the basic tenets of Zoom etiquette
Swann said she's mostly been asked about when screens and microphones should be turned off. If there's going to be an obvious distraction — like a roommate or someone else you live with coming over to ask a question — turn off the microphone. And if you're stepping out to grab your mail or laundry, you should turn off video; an empty screen can be a major distraction for others on the call.
And Swann said to remember that video meetings are a type of visual communication; that means that, yes, you should dress professionally for them.
While your personal life is all yours, wait until the workday ends and your computer is closed to attend to any offscreen matters.
"In the business area, there is certainly conduct that is expected. If you would not sit in a business meeting and pleasure yourself, then you should definitely not do it in a Zoom, whether you turned the screen off or not," Swann said.
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