NEW YORK (AP) — Next time you reach to check the messages on your smartphone during a meeting, think of Malcolm Smith.

The New York State Senate Majority Leader was ousted in a legislative coup on June 8. One of the men behind his removal complained that during an important meeting, Smith paid more attention to his smartphone than he did to the discussion at hand.

While you may not be stripped of your power if you violate smartphone etiquette, tapping away at the wrong time can hurt your business relationships, and in turn, your career.

Abby Gouverneur Carr recalls having lunch with a woman she was considering hiring. \”It was essentially an interview situation over lunch,\” said Carr, managing director of BlissPR in New York.

The job seeker had placed her phone on the table, and midway through the meal, it started to vibrate. With no apology or explanation, she picked it up.

\”I just found it rude,\” Gouverneur Carr said. \”I really believe that in business, your attention is the most important thing you have. And it\’s increasingly scarce.\”

The woman didn\’t get the job.

Even President Obama is famously hooked on his BlackBerry. And in today\’s highly competitive business world, it may seem like you have to be connected at all times.

But business experts say smartphone users of all types should be careful.

\”I think that there are a lot of people who have, what I would call, low \’EQ,\’\” or etiquette quotient, said John Challenger, CEO of Challenger, Gray & Christmas Inc., an executive consulting company. \”The lower your EQ quotient, the more likely you are to be oblivious to the feelings of those around you as you tap away.\”

Paying attention to your messages instead of the meeting you\’re attending sends a signal that the people in the room are not important to you, Challenger said. And that\’s a dangerous message if those people have power over your job and career path.

Some senior executives have started to ban the devices from meetings.

Whether or not there\’s a prohibition in effect, Marla Harr, a consultant and trainer for Business Etiquette International, advises turning off smartphones and even less advanced cell phones before going into a meeting. Leaving a device on vibrate, she warned, can be distracting and create the temptation to check it.

\”When you\’re in a meeting, you should be there,\” she said.

If you\’re waiting for an emergency call or message, she suggested mentioning that to the person running the meeting at the start. If the call does come in during the meeting, she said, apologize, excuse yourself and leave the room momentarily.

Harr warned that sending business e-mails from handheld devices, and not just during meetings, can also lead to problems, especially if you hit the send button before proofreading for both grammar and spelling.

\”I think people forget that their e-mails and how they\’re writing are a reflection of who they are, and also a reflection of their company,\” she said.

In other words, what\’s good for personal communications doesn\’t make the cut for business purposes. She said it\’s best to avoid using abbreviations, to always write in complete sentences and to use punctuation. \”In the business world, you function a little differently,\” she noted.

One reason this issue has cropped up is that there isn\’t a lot of training involving these devices, which are still quite new to corporate culture, Harr noted. She advised workers to take a cue from senior executives in their companies about what is considered appropriate, in much the same way career counselors suggest looking \”up\” to determine a company\’s dress code.

Gouverneur Carr said she\’s seen distracted smartphone users at all age levels, and she thinks it\’s getting worse because of the recession.

\”People are feeling so vulnerable that they\’re in semi-panic mode,\” she said. \”And I think it\’s self-defeating.\”

It comes down in her view to setting real rather than perceived priorities. And, asking, is it really necessary to respond right away to each e-mail or text message?

\”I think that being able to take a step back from the immediate, to be able to not be distracted,\” she said, \”is what makes people valuable in their job.\”

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