Phubbing – The Unethical Practice to Avoid at Workplace


As a general feedback to the advancing use of technology in modern day-to-day functioning of life, the use of smart gadgets like the smartphones can be summed up to be a boon of convenience in facilitating the daily execution of official and personal correspondence. Though it has inter-woven us globally and made life much easier, the adverse impacts of technology (smartphones) cannot be overlooked. One such disadvantage this article primarily focuses on is that of phubbing in the corporate/business sector and its impact on organizational efficiency.

What Is Phubbing?

The term ‘Phubbing’ is an emerging terminology that has made not only its debut in the realm of practical life but is also incurring fatal damage through the unethical trend setting of disregarding and snubbing someone.  It basically means ignoring a person due to focused attention towards your phone rather than on the person addressing you in a face-to-face meeting at times accompanied by body language and gestures that are offensive. Though it may be unintentional, the damage it does especially in terms of job behaviors, compromised employee bond, work quality and work commitment cannot be overlooked.

The growing addiction and preoccupation with mobile phones due to several engaging activities ( with special reference to workplaces in particular) has given rise to involuntary snubbing/ ignoring which is an ethical hazard that reflects arrogance and compromises the self-respect of the person being phubbed.

It is well understood that human nature is basically reciprocal and reacts and behaves in the likewise manner it experiences things. Being phubbed often may trigger a feeling of being disrespected by an employee who may eventually with time lose the enthusiasm to actively participate at work. As a business rule and as a socially ethical practice, the sense of belongingness, experience of meaningful work and respect of an individual/employee are highly crucial for him/her to be able to identify him/herself as a part of the whole.  Regretfully, the same tends to stand compromised due to phubbing by senior managers, supervisors and colleagues. Under such experiences, the employee is not able to absorb him/herself in the working environment and undergoes a psychological  drift.

Major Disadvantages

For fresh entrepreneurs and for the existing business firm owners, it is highly critical to realize that this trend (phubbing), though apparently harmless bears detrimental impacts for any operating business. Following are some of the alarming business disadvantages most likely to surface if the practice of phubbing goes unbridled.

  • Targets employee self-respect
  • Emotional exhaustion & aggression of employees
  • Encourages hostile behaviors
  • Employee work deviance
  • Workplace ostracism
  • Social isolation
  • Knowledge hiding
  • Employee / talent loss
  • Undesirable working culture
  • Cyberloafing
  • Organizational loss

The above handful of adverse effects of phubbing are far more than enough to reduce organizational efficiency and can greatly impact profitability because they primarily compromise the active work force and the social alliances deemed vital for business productivity and growth.  Being the frontline promoters and upholders of any business, phubbing is a big ‘Business No’ to ensure as an employer, senior, manager or supervisor through already done homework because your subordinates will communicate and behave towards one another as you do and give likewise shape to your business culture.

Phubbing and Employee Behavior

Phubbing works on a psychological level and usually casts undesirable imprints on the mind of an individual and can thus make your trade highly vulnerable to business loss. Every person has a different nature, different coping capacity, and a different level of response to experiences. Depending upon how strong their determination and work ethics are, we can tentatively assume how people can or will react.  Phubbing can unconsciously and slowly lead to several reactions such as:

  1.   An employee with strong work ethics may ignore the behavior and remain unaffected by it.
  2. An employee may experience social loneliness and may limit his interaction with fellow staff or seniors.
  3.   An employee may completely cut off his social interaction with other staff members and resort to work deviance by engaging in non-productive activities like cyberloafing, reduced work, work delays etc.
  4.  An employee may resort to aggression as a tit for tat policy, thus triggering professional hostility between co-workers, senior & subordinates etc.
  5.  An employee may look for other possible professional opportunities

As per conducted studies and reviews, it is evident that there is a gradual rise in the trend of mobile usage hence, the risk of phubbing is assumed to continuously be on the rise and linger on in the coming years. So, how to go about to address this issue?

 As a proactive approach to ensure maximum persistency of a business, deliberately pursued endeavors to curb the harmful impact of this growing unethical practice ( phubbing) are imperative for assuring a conducive working environment  that grooms a healthy working culture  which guarantees protection against the shredding of the social fabric of a business and where employees intrinsically desire to render valuable service in the institution.

The menace of Phubbing can be discouraged through several business endeavors such as:

  • Be the example yourself and refrain from usage of the device every time an employee or peer comes to you.
  • creating general awareness of work ethics in staff
  • Professional trainings on work ethics
  • Trainings of supervisors and seniors as role models
  • Increased employee interactions and collaboration channels
  • Encouraging knowledge sharing

Let it be known that man is by nature a social animal and having said so,  the experience of actual human interaction can never be surpassed or superseded by the technological communication. Technology is mere for the purpose of facilitation hence, it should not be allowed to overwhelm our inherent bond of cooperative communication by some unethical practice such as phubbing.


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