There are plenty of things that speakerphone is good for: conference calls, …
… actually, that’s all I can think of at present. Pretty much any other use of speakerphone is just obnoxious. Here are some examples of dumb things people do with speakerphones (all of which I have observed in my office):
- Talk on speakerphone when you’re the only one on your line
Why bother doing this? If you’re just lazy then you don’t need to be working. If you’re working on something else, stop what you’re doing to give your caller your full attention – it’s rude to give someone half of your attention. If you can’t commit to a phone call, don’t make one or take one. It’s why God invented voicemail.
- Leave your office door open with speakerphone full blast
This is inconsiderate to everyone who works on the same floor as you. Some people are even trying to have their own phone conversations and don’t necessarily want to participate in yours.
- Leave your phone on speakerphone while the person on the other end talks about something personal or confidential
This happens SO frequently. Either the other person doesn’t know they’re on speakerphone (perhaps they think they just have a bad connection), they don’t realize how loud your phone is set, or they don’t realize how many people are around who shouldn’t hear the information they’re passing along. Regardless, lots of information is shared with people who shouldn’t have it because of speakerphone abuse.
- Put IT on speakerphone while they’re giving you a confidential username and password
I assume people do this because they have difficulty balancing the receiver on their shoulders while writing down their password. Working in IT security, I cringe every time this happens, because I realize that for every one time I hear this in our building, I know that it’s also happening 50 other places throughout the company.
- Have a detailed conversation with your doctor on speakerphone about what should be a very private medical condition
There is a lady who used to work a few offices down from me (she moved to a different building since then) and she doesn’t know what a receiver is, so everything was either on speakerphone or her cell phone. Whenever she speaks, she’s unreasonably loud, and whenever she spoke on her cell phone, she liked to do it immediately outside of my cubicle. It was almost a relief when she used speakerphone (since it was the lesser of two evils) because at least she wasn’t invading my personal space when she did so.
- Have a personal conversation with your friend on speakerphone while at work
It’s like shouting to the company, “I’m using company time to do personal stuff!!”
- Have a heated argument with your spouse on speakerphone while at work
In my old cubicle, I worked right outside of this guy’s office – he got into a screaming match with his wife over speakerphone every single day. They argued about the stupidest stuff, too, like groceries, who would pick the kids up from karate, which side the fork goes on… things like that. I always wanted them to get into it about something interesting, but they never did.
- Have a conversation on speakerphone when the other person actually needs to understand what you’re saying
I can never understand anything over speakerphone. I’ll get the caller to repeat what they’re saying over and over until they give up and pick up the receiver. I find that just asking someone to do something isn’t nearly as effective as teaching them a lesson through passive-aggression. :)
- Putting someone on speakerphone without first asking their permission
I don’t mind being put on speakerphone if there’s a reason for it, and if I’m told ahead of time. If I’m put on speakerphone without consent or notification, that’s both rude and sneaky.
- Dial a phone number while on speakerphone and then pick up the receiver just after the other person answers the phone
This last example angers me more than all of the others combined. Really, how lazy do you have to be to not be able to pick up the receiver before you dial? If I’ve got the receiver up to my ear and the person on the other end then picks up the receiver, it makes a loud fumbling “thump-click” noise right in my ear. Not only that, but at that point I already know that the person on the other end of the phone is unforgivably lazy. So before they’ve even started talking, they’ve already lost my respect and damaged my hearing.
There are two types of speakerphones: half-duplex and full-duplex.
Half-duplex phones (the least expensive and much more common) can only send sound in one direction at once. This means that when the speaker part is activated, the microphone part is deactivated, and vise-versa. This can (and often does) lead to miscommunication as either party can be completely cut off at any time.
Full-duplex phones (more rare and expensive) can communicate in both directions at once. Communication is still degraded, however, due to the fact that the microphone covers a much larger area than the phone receiver would.
More and more cell phones are equipped with speakerphone, as well. I always find it obnoxious when someone is walking down the street, holding their cell phone up to their mouth, and shouting into it because they have it set on speakerphone. How much easier would it be for them to just hold the phone up to their ear and speak in a normal tone? I assume that they must do this because, for some reason, they need the whole world to hear their conversation. I hate to say this, but I don’t care about whatever they’re talking about.
Don’t get me wrong – speakerphones have their purpose in this world, and many dial-in meetings would be difficult without them. However, just like every other piece of technology Man has created, speakerphones have been tarnished by those who choose to utilize them in an irresponsible way.
*Credit for the title goes to my friend Elan, who said this in an e-mail to me once :)