How bad is it to be caught playing games on your phone in a meeting?

John McCain playing poker

John McCain has been caught playing poker on his smartphone in a Senate committee meeting. How naughty is this?

There are people who seem to get away with fiddling with their smartphone during meetings.

There is surreptitious typing. A swoosh noise - made by firing off an email - is not accompanied by even the faintest expression of regret.

They are ostensibly doing work-related smartphone fiddling. Or at least they say they are, but it's difficult to disprove. Sending emails to important clients seems a reasonable thing to be doing - to some - if it's a bit of the meeting that isn't directly pertinent to you.

But there are limits, as Senator John McCain has found. He was snapped playing poker on his phone during a Senate Foreign Relations Committee meeting.

He later tweeted: "Scandal! Caught playing iPhone game at 3+ hour Senate hearing - worst of all I lost!"

Even if you're not caught by a journalist taking a photo over your shoulder - as McCain was - it's dangerous.

Looking at your phone in meetings is rude, says Matthew Gwyther, editor of Management Today. Yes, some people can multitask. "But in the end it's a politeness thing. The strong suggestion you give out by looking at your phone is that the other people aren't saying anything interesting."

Hugh Greenway, managing director of the Elliot Foundation educational charity, and who rues the amount of time spent in meetings, concurs.

Image caption Senator John McCain - busted

"I would initially be very annoyed but I would think about it and take some responsibility for not making the meeting more interesting."

There's a pecking order. The top brass can get away with it but it's not advisable for the office junior or workie.

"It's a power thing," says Greenway.

What McCain did wasn't so bad, Gwyther argues. If you understand the arguments in a meeting and have made your mind up, then "why not keep your brain sharp with a game of poker?"

Best to hold the meeting standing up. It keeps things short and there's no table to hide your phone under.

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