can I stop taking phone calls at work and direct everyone to email me?

A reader writes:

I hate taking phone calls. I find them intrusive — they require 100% of your attention (it’s almost impossible to multitask while on the phone), immediate responses to questions, and I for one find it awkward and difficult to talk in real-time to someone whom I can’t see face-to-face. Phone conversations also aren’t very private — unless you have a closed office, everyone around you can hear your end of it.

I vastly prefer email, instant messaging, or texting for any long-distance communication — with those media, I can take time to re-read and think before replying, I can multitask around them much more effectively, and there’s much less chance that someone walking by will accidentally catch a snatch of a private conversation. I sometimes think I should just stop picking up incoming phone calls — I could record a voicemail greeting something like, “I don’t answer phone calls, but leave me a voicemail and I’ll get back to you, or even better, send me an email – in general, that’s the best way to reach me.”

Is this a reasonable position to take, or do I need to just get over it and accept that phone calls are part of the way business gets done? Am I alone in feeling this way, or do others hate phone calls as much as I do? Are there “phone people” and “email people,” like cat and dog people?

(This has been on my mind lately because I’m in the final stages of the hiring process with a new company, and have been dealing with some HR folks there who insist on calling me about every little thing, rather than emailing. It’s getting on my nerves, especially since I cannot take these calls at work due to the risk of a coworker overhearing. I’ve taken to leaving the office and walking down the street to a park to take/make these calls, which is of course inconvenient. If they emailed, I could respond from the office with no concerns about privacy.)

I hate the phone too — hate it, hate it, hate it. Unless something is urgent and needs to be attended to immediately, or is so complicated that an email would be inefficient, I don’t see why people default to the phone. If you email me instead of calling me, I can concentrate on other things without interruption and answer you when I’m at a good stopping point. And lots of conversations take far longer on the phone than they would in email.

However, that said … yes, you do need to accept that phone calls are part of the way business gets done.

And there are indeed phone people and email people. Some people are like us and despise the phone, and others can’t imagine why we’d write an email instead of jumping on a five-minute call and dealing with whatever’s at hand right there and then. They are wrong, of course, and we are right … but they are plentiful, and it’s not reasonable to think you can avoid them in your professional life.

That means that you really should not leave an outgoing message on your voicemail telling people that you don’t answer phone calls. It will come across as odd, kind of rude, and a bit prima donna-ish. You can, however, have a voicemail message that suggests that people can get a faster response by emailing you. For instance: “You’ve reached Fitzwilliam Darcy. While you can leave a message here, I’m often able to respond more quickly by email, so feel free to email me at ___ instead. Otherwise, I’ll return your call as soon as I’m able.” (Keep in mind, though, that this might not be cool to do in some offices, so make sure you know your culture first.)

As for those HR people who keep calling you … You can certainly say, “It’s difficult to for me to talk from work during the day, so it’s often easier to reach me over email.” However, ultimately this may be about who wants who more. If they want you more than you want them, feel free to take a strong stand on your communication preferences. If that’s not the case, though, then I wouldn’t take a hard-line here; they’re communicating with you in the way that works best for them … just like you prefer to do yourself.

{ 236 comments… read them below }

  1. Anonimal

    This works if you respond to people promptly. If you are going to take half the day to answer my questions, I’ll start calling you instead so I can get the information I need.

    1. Victoria Nonprofit

      … but that’s exactly the point. Sometimes I don’t respond promptly, and that’s because the question isn’t my highest priority.

      Obviously, we all need to be mindful of other people’s priorities, but there are times where it will be in conflict. An email generally allows the recipient to control prioritization; a phone call allows the caller to control prioritization.

      1. Anonimal

        I guess it depends on the job and role. My boss typically expects quick responses to emails. I expect the same from my staff. If I need something ASAP, I say so and expect you to do that. But I know some people agonize over emails and I need an answer. So, I’ll call instead.

    2. KellyK

      If you need something quickly, then I would really recommend *stating that* in your email. “Half the day” isn’t a long wait at all if the other person has higher priorities going on for that half of the day.

      1. Becky

        Or if they receive a bunch of phone calls and haven’t had a chance to even look at their email the first half of the day. *cough*not that this ever happens to me*cough*

      2. Chinook

        I would go a step farther. If you need your email responded to immediately, say so in the subject line (Ex: Urgent – How. Any chocolate teapots melted in yesterday’s heat wave).

    3. fposte

      Knock yourself out. It goes to voicemail, which sends me an email, so you haven’t really gained anything.

    4. Lanya

      “Prompt” response to an email means a response within 24 hours. Same thing with phone calls. You have to give the person a full day to get back to you before you start harassing them again, otherwise that just comes across as pushy!

      1. fposte

        Right. There’s actually no communication method that makes people stop working on their priority and switch to yours just because you got in touch.

        1. Chloe

          Not 100% sure about that. If I stop by your desk and talk to you for 5 minutes, you have stopped working on whatever was your priority, and you are now dealing with mine. And if thats all it takes to resolve my issue, instead of each spending 10 minutes reading and writing emails, it seems like a good use of time to me.

      2. Lexy

        lol… I wish.

        “prompt” response so varies by culture. At my company more than a couple hours gets people anxious. Even partners who’ve been here 20 years will usually respond to emails from first year staff within a couple of hours.

        We NEVER use the phone amongst ourselves unless you’re explaining something complicated and need the back and forth. This may be because accountants tend toward being socially awkward? I don’t know, but I love it.

        However I definitely have clients that I know I won’t get a response if I don’t call. I hate it… but what are you going to do?

  2. Guera

    Phone calls are disruptive I agree. They do take too long, again, I agree.
    But we are losing so much of the human connection with technology!
    I am taking a new job soon and the new employer is emailing everything to me but did call a couple of times. That was ok. Email would have been easier but I appreciate the human touch.
    This same employer texted me in one of our first communications which blew my mind. It made me chuckle as well as worry. Chuckle because times have changed so much. I would never have thought to text a newly hired employee who has not started yet. I was sort of pleased and worried at the same time.
    But I digress. I get that several calls a day are disruptive. Let them go to voice mail and return them when you can.
    Email, while convenient, (I like the time it gives me to return a thoughtful response; it doesn’t put me on the spot and I have a record) is so impersonal.

    1. Coelura

      My employees and my boss will text me if they can’t reach me by IM or email. And the texting usually starts before a new employee starts their job – I was surprised the first time a new hire texted me, but now its pretty normal. It actually makes things easier since I am a telecommuter – much easier for them to reach me, since they can’t stop by the office to get answers to their questions.

    2. Ask a Manager Post author

      Ugh, texting is the worst for me in work situations. No easy way to remember the message is there (unlike email, which is in front of me all the time) and no trail remaining afterwards (unless you keep and scroll through all texts, which I don’t). Intrusive and inconvenient — hate it.

      1. Lora

        See, I am a chronic texter. I can switch my phone to vibrate in meetings and quietly answer your urgent question without disrupting the meeting too much, or I can ignore it if it isn’t really urgent. But I do have some colleagues who are email haters and insist on calling me or dropping by my desk…only to complain that I am never at my desk and rarely answer my phone. My job takes me into situations (clean rooms, field work, etc) where I can’t answer my phone easily, or to meetings where I can’t answer my phone without disrupting the meeting significantly. So I don’t answer phone calls in general. But an email or a text, you’ll probably get an answer right away even if you’re only asking whether the donuts are fresh or from yesterday.

      2. Rana

        Plus, if you don’t do it regularly, you’re not likely to be on a plan, and those texts can add up!

      3. Jen M.

        I agree. I like texting for quick conversations–Like IMing–but not for more involved discussions. For that, go to email.

      4. Shel

        I agree. Texting is unprofessional. Unless there is absolutely no other way to communicate something urgent, I do not see a reason to text for work.

    3. Jessie

      “But we are losing so much of the human connection with technology!” I’ve heard this argument often and I’m not ure I understand. For much of human history business & telationships were conducted/maintained through letters, no? As long as the recipient on the thee end is a person, we are having a human connection; the mediums are just evolving. At least that’s how I see it.

      Also, I agree to AAM’s voicemail comment & suggested message. Alternatively can you set your phone to Do not Disturb for set hours each day? Then your message could say, “I will return your call after 1pm today. If your query is urgent, please email”. If anyone asks, you’re doing it to get work done.

        1. Kelly O

          Plus infinity to the infinity power, times infinity.

          “Technology” has been everything from steam powered trains, telegrams, telephones, fax machines, pagers, cell phones, email, and whatever comes next. We adapt the way we interact with each other as “technology” develops.

          Even when I have phone conversations with people, I will often ask that they email me a quick recap so I can have a trail (and I also explain that’s why email is the preferred option for us – it helps show why we did what we did when we did it.)

          And I’m one of those people that has my Outlook set to display in the lower corner of my screen. If I’m doing something that requires me to focus, I will turn that off, and get to them as soon as I finish the high-priority project. That way I’m seeing things, and can respond quickly to “easy” things, and triage questions as they come in.

          Trust me, I get to know people through email, and I don’t feel like I’m missing out on human connection. (Although, the caveat that I am introverted, so I feel more recharged when I get that quiet time, or perceived quiet time.)

          1. Jessie

            My point would have been stronger with fewer typos but I’m glad it makes sense. Plus, isn’t this blog a great example of amazing human connection that would not be possible without the exclusive use technology?! :)

  3. Coelura

    I’m on the phone most of the day – mostly on conference calls and 1:1s with employees. Its almost impossible to reach me by phone, so my voicemail says “It is often easier to reach me by email at ____. I will respond to your voicemail as soon as possible, but it may be a few days. If you would like a faster response, please send me an email.”

    Most folks know that I don’t actually check voicemail very often (like every few months – I HATE voicemail even more than phones), so they don’t bother to leave messages.

    1. Victoria Nonprofit

      Coelura, this isn’t related to this thread at all (sorry for derailing!). I just wanted to be sure to tell you that this comment from the “best piece of work advice” thread was totally sincere:

      That must be really powerful, coming from their boss. What a great standard to set – this work is important, but I’m not asking for it to be the most important part of your life.

      I didn’t check in on the thread after I commented, and it seems as though Alison and others thought my comment was sarcastic. I was bummed that you might have thought I was snarking on you, ’cause I genuinely thought what you said was awesome.

      /derail

      1. EnnVeeEl

        I have to chime in on this: This has been happening quite a bit here lately. Everyone is taking everyone’s comments as sarcastic, and it isn’t like that. I wish we could discuss and post on this board without everyone always jumping to the worst conclusions about intent. I like this blog and I like reading the comments and posting. But if everything you say is taken the wrong way…

  4. mary

    Use voicemail. Choose a block of time that you will return calls and say that in your outgoing message.

    1. Kacie

      This. I had a boss who had lots of direct reports, and also handled customer comments and complaints. I respected her for this, since she was clearly communicating her response time and setting expectations.

  5. Runon

    I am entirely with you in the phone hate hate hate.

    I generally (when it isn’t someone with a higher paygrade than me) let whatever the message is go to voice mail and then I return it with an email. I also try hard to be really prompt about returning emails and if a phone call can sit, I let it.

    Phone calls are a part of the job, but that doesn’t mean you can’t have email be your preferred method of communication. I also let people know that I’m often away from my desk but at different computers so I can respond to email more quickly.

  6. Sarah

    You can train people on the best way to get in touch with you. If you are prompt on e-mails and slower on voicemails, anyone who regularly is trying to contact you will figure it out. This doesn’t work if you are regularly in touch with a huge variety of people, but I interact with a lot of the same people over time.

    I usually e-mail people, or IM them and ask if it is a good time to talk (if I can see they are there), then I call them. Only people who haven’t responded to my e-mails will get a phone call. The final step (according to a colleugue) is showing up at their desk/office.

    On a similar note:

    http://www.psychologytoday.com/blog/the-introverts-corner/201002/dont-call-us-we-ll-call-well-no-actually-we-probably-won-t

    1. BossLady

      I was just about to say just this. If you answer the phone and respond to their inquires more promptly than email, you are communicating that phone is OK with you. Even if you directly say “hey email is better” if they can keep getting you on the phone, you are really not saying email is better at all.

      I have a “Do No Disturb” button on my handset and I use it frequently when I need to focus. Something like this might help.

      That being said, I am also someone who believes that different types of communications (and people) require different tools to get your message across. You have to be flexible to that too, within reason.

      1. Tina

        +1 to the last paragraph. Communication is a two-way street, and being too hard-nosed about how we do it may come across as very one-sided and unconcerned with the other person’s preference.

        That being said, I also do prefer email to phone call, especially since I don’t answer the phone when I have a student in my office. Email allows me to answer at a time that’s more convenient and I have time to think through my response.

  7. AdAgencyChick

    I hate the phone, too. If you’re hunkering down to work and don’t want to deal with an interruption, just let it go to voicemail and deal with it as soon as you’re able. (But, as Anonimal said above, whether by email or phone, you still have to be at least somewhat responsive — otherwise your coworkers will start coming by your desk to get their questions answered.)

    Definitely do not change your voicemail message to “I don’t want to be called,” for reasons Alison stated above.

    For HR/hiring managers, in my experience they’re reasonable people who understand why you need to be emailed IF you tell them. I have told hiring managers and recruiters, “I work in an open office and it’s not easy for me to have the privacy to talk to you, so can we work by email? And if not, can we set up a time to talk?” (This is so they wouldn’t just call without my having planned to be somewhere that I could take the call.) I’ve never had a negative reaction to that request. But if you don’t ask (and give a reason beyond “this is the way I like it”), they’ll just continue to contact you in the way that they prefer.

    1. Anonymous

      I like that suggestion, because I hate the phone too and a big part of the reason (if I’m the caller) is that I don’t know what the other person is doing and it could be that they’re way distracted and won’t be able to talk.

      I called a client once who sounded really cranky and abrupt, and after a little back and forth I asked what would be a better time to call. He said “Well, I’m at my daughter’s recital.” I really would have just preferred getting voicemail with directions to email if necessary.

  8. TheSnarkyB

    You know, I think a lot of this also has to do with workplace power/position and your confidence. I know that I can come across as well-spoken, intelligent, and professional over the phone. If I’m speaking with someone who is very casual, I can turn the vocabulary pretentiousness down a couple notches. If I’m speaking with someone who is using $10 dollar words, I can do that too – part of my issue is that, as a job applicant especially, I have a hard time coming across exactly the way I want to in email, and I obsess over word choice when emailing people I don’t know well, and that takes a lot of time. Also, as a very direct and to-the-point woman, I can find the balance between sounding pleasant and smiley (as is expected of our gender) and being direct or directive, if necessary. I find I come across more harshly over email – actually, I’m writing in a question about that today. :)

    1. Alex

      I totally relate to you here – the trouble is, I hate the phone. But I do worry that my emails can come off as snarky because of my tendency to get right to the point… I’m tempted to use smiley faces a lot in my emails, ha!

      1. Anonymous

        I hate emoticons, personally. They seem really juvenile to me in professional communications. As a woman, I would much, much rather be stereotyped as bitchy and brusque instead of child-like. I expect people not to take every comment and question as some sort of personal attack or passive-aggressive insult that I need to soften with a digital smiley of reassurance that I’m still totally your friend. We’re all supposed to be adults here in the office.

        How often do you see management using emoticons? That’s probably a decent indicator of whether they are appropriate in your workplace.

        1. Greg

          I generally agree with you, yet just yesterday I included an emoticon in an email negotiating a freelance rate with the CEO of a small business. (In case you’re wondering, I’m in my late-30s). I did it for very strategic reasons — I put a higher rate out there that they had already told me they wouldn’t pay, as a way to try to reframe the negotiation — but I’m not going to lie, it felt very risky, and my wife recommended against doing it. I did end up getting them to budge a little on their number, although I have no idea if my “joke” had anything to do with my success.

        2. HR Pufnstuf

          Agreed. Emoticons look silly in a work email and I automatically knock someone down a notch or two when I see it.
          LOL!
          :)

    2. Rana

      Ah, see, I have the exact opposite problem. I feel in control of my message and tone in emails – especially since I can re-read and edit before sending – while when I’m on the phone I feel awkward and liable to forget what I’m calling about, and waste a lot of time beforehand trying to think of the exact right way to word things.

      The only people I’m genuinely comfortable on the phone with are my parents and my husband; every other phone call tends to be very abrupt and focused on getting one single piece of information if I’m initiating it. Sometimes I do need to go over things with my clients on the telephone, but then I have to take notes and email the summary back to them, so it’s not like it saves me any time.

    3. OneoftheMichelles

      I so resemble this remark.

      Hate that I sound abrupt in emails, so sometimes I try to make it sound “nicer” and then I sound like a sniveling twit.
      Wish I knew how to read as intelligent and kind at the same time in print.

      (no preference on the phone/email thing. I have a permanent hand injury, so avoid texting at all…people get perplexed that I haven’t gotten their text messeges. Isn’t that a *phone* you are trying to text me on?…)

  9. TheSnarkyB

    Oh sorry, part of my point was that if you’re high up or important at your company or talking about communicating with coworkers who are unlikely to misunderstand you, email is awesome. But if you’re not so high up or feel you need to prove yourself, it might be easiest to come across well by voice than text.

  10. Janelle

    I am a phone person. I handle as much as I can over email because I understand that just because I had a brain wave on something, it does not require that you get on my wavelength at the same time.

    However, there are times when the email rigmarole is *ridiculous*. Particularly when an email chain explodes to include half of someone else’s department and mine due to one party misunderstanding some aspect of the conversation. In those instances, I have found that the vast majority of the time, we can clear it up in a five minute conversation, on the phone or even *grab your pearls, Mabel* stopping by to talk to someone in person.

    I’m learning to be okay with IM, which, frankly, is about as intrusive as a phone call, but yeah… phone is where it’s at.

    1. Anonymous

      I agree. I can’t believe the ridiculous novels I get by email sometimes, that I can often see my coworker across the way spending 35 minutes to compose, when they could have just come talked to me. I get that people have different communication styles, and I like email for the “paper” trail, but there’s a place for all forms I think. That said, I do try to take a cue and mimic other people’s communication styles.

      The thing I hate most is IM, which we recently got in office. Now THAT I find super disruptive when it starts blinking at me, especially if I’m in a meeting or something and using my computer (when my status always says, IN A MEETING grrr!).

      1. Sascha

        I’m definitely an email/IM person, but in all forms of communication, there has to be respect and a recognition of what will be the most efficient thing to do. So yes, I totally agree that it’s better to talk in person or on the phone instead of spending 35 minutes composing an email, when a 10-step walk down the hall would get the job done faster. And it’s rude to expect someone to respond to your IMs immediately when you’re in a meeting. And don’t get me started on Reply-All Addicts…my point is, it’s good to let people know your preferences and how you work best, but you just have to be flexible and cognizant, as others have pointed out.

        1. AMG

          Set to ‘do not disturb’ and they won’t be able to get the IM to you. Or, keep your status as ‘away’ all the time. That way you can ignore as long as you would like.

        2. Vicki

          Not for me. You may have saved 35 minutes typing an email but you’ve broken my concentration for at least 20, as well as the people on both sides of my cube who are overhearing the conversation.

      2. tcookson

        The thing I hate most about our IM system is that, if I’m typing something and an IM pops up, my text that I was typing is entered into the IM reply screen, and it can take me several moments to notice.

        If I’m typing numbers into an Excel spreadsheet when this happens, and the last 17 digits I entered get hijacked into an IM box, that is annoying. If the person keeps IMing me after I’ve returned to my spreadsheet, it is really, super annoying.

        1. Ash

          You should look in that program’s setting to see if there is a way to make it so that the text boxes don’t pop up over any active windows. There is a way to do this with most OSs too.

      3. Runon

        I would definitely figure out (depending on your system) how to either put the IMs on a DND which won’t show up to you until the DND is off or silence them so they come in (and hopefully people see there is a message) but don’t blink. You might also have a system that catches them. So you can close the IM program entirely while you are in meetings and then when you open it whatever was sent to you will be there when you open it. Or of course just go offline when you are in meetings.

        I really like IMs but I also don’t feel any pressure to respond immediately to them. I know instant is in the title but that is only about the sending. It is like super short emails. As long as your organizational culture doesn’t expect instant responses I would use them for conversations, but don’t stress about every single one of them being responded to instantly. It’ll sit there until you get around to it.

      4. Chinook

        I love IM when used sparingly and in a multi-floor office. As receptionist, if someone’s line was busy and their client showed up, I could shoot them a quick message and get a response, allowing us to look professional and organized. We also has one tied into Outlook that would tell you if someone was in a scheduled meeting or if they were away from their desk because their computer was in locked screen mode

    2. Jen M.

      I DO agree with this. There are DEFINITELY time when phone is more efficient, and I don’t hesitate to use it in that instance.

      I find that my problem is that talking on the phone–for business or personal reasons–makes me tired. If someone wants to talk to me, I’d prefer it be face-to-face, but in a business situation, phone is best for urgent items or items that need clearing up.

      Those uneccessary email chains are SO annoying. LOL!

  11. Dana

    The phone is my nemesis, I hate it, hate it, hate it. I loathe even personal calls and really only use it to communicate wtih those that are too far away to see smoke signals.

    That being said, there are times I’ve found myself taking forever to painstakingly explain somehting in an e-mail or have had a volley of back and forth e-mails over the course of the day that could have been avoided with a 5 minute conversation.

    I feel like the phone should be used like the commisioner engages the bat signal, he busts it out for the important stuff but he doesn’t light up the sky for every mugging.

    1. Anonymous

      I feel like the phone should be used like the commisioner engages the bat signal, he busts it out for the important stuff but he doesn’t light up the sky for every mugging.

      I love this. Esp if you think of the old sixties series. I’m picturing Batman getting email updates on the small stuff so his BatComputer can track trends. But when the red phone rings, drop everything and start pulling on your tights.

  12. VictoriaHR

    I’m an email person also. Recently I’ve had three different situations where the person insisted on calling me instead of emailing me as I asked:

    1.) My husband and I are trying to sell our old house. The realtor (a family friend) just can NOT get it through her head that I can’t take personal calls at work. If I email her a question, she calls me to answer it. Extremely frustrating! I don’t take her calls and she leaves a voicemail asking me to call her back, to which I email her and (once again) explain that I can’t take personal calls at work. She’s my age, too, not an older person who isn’t up to date on technology.

    2.) Recently I was looking at new cars and stopped into a dealer twice to check out different models. The first time, the salesperson insisted upon a phone number (I could have refused, I suppose, but I didn’t want to be rude) and called me every other day for over a month before giving up. I tried again and the kid kept calling me even after I asked him to email me instead.

    3.) I’ve been looking for craft fair venues this summer to sell my handcrafted soap. The two major event organizers in the area will NOT respond to emails. Their websites are antiquated and out of date. One of them, when I emailed him initially, told me to call him because he “hates email and will only talk on the phone.” Then when I called him, he was on vacation and told me to call him the following week. I gave up – I don’t have time to remember when to call someone (plus I can’t do it from my desk – personal call and stuff).

    Too often I find that the phone people win out over the email people.

    1. Anonymous

      Well, extroverts tend to win out over introverts in general, don’t they? :\ Mostly because sometimes we’re so weary with their constant presence in our faces that we agree to anything just to make them go away.

      1. Runon

        I agree with this so very very much.

        Except at home in my apartment. Then the introvert always wins. Mostly cause I kick everyone out very quickly and leave my phone on silent.

      2. Anonymous

        My current boss once gave me a tip to use the phone for every third message. It’s really polished up my business acumen, and has vastly improved my negotiating and speaking abilities. I may prefer e-mail, but you have to know when to use what form of communication. That’s the world – it’s not always going to be exactly as we like it, and so we give and take.

    2. Apostrophina

      This touches on one of my pet peeves: businesses that have an online presence and a “Contact Us” button on their website, yet respond with a phone call when I’ve filled out the form.

      If it’s a case where I have a choice, any place that does this does not get my business. It’s a little like having a false door on your office: “Sure you can come in that way! …Fooled you! Let me show you the real entrance.”

    3. Anonymous

      As a fellow crafter, I feel your pain. Those are the same organizers that make you snail mail your application with a paper check and hardcopy photos of your work. Or even better, they make you CALL THEM so that you can request an application that they will then snail mail you on paper…. gahh.

    4. Chinook

      The salesmen only calling in reply to an email are a pet peeve of mine. I am thinking of telling them that, if they insist on not following my wishes regarding communication than I can trust them to sell me what I want so I will look for one who can.

  13. Emily

    Oh man, I hate the phone so so SO much. SO MUCH.

    I find using the phone stressful to the point where I’d call it a borderline phobia. It can get my heart rate going way faster than any hardcore exercise ever could! I’m much better than I used to be, having been forced into situations at work where I haven’t had any choice but to just get on with it (and go take a time-out in a quiet spot later), but it still really bothers me and I will always find an alternative if I can.

    I think part of my problem is that I often have trouble understanding what people are saying if I can’t SEE them say it, if that makes sense? I also have the same problem if someone talks to me from another room and there are only so many times you can ask a person to repeat themselves before you come across as being rude/inconsiderate, so I get quite anxious if the call is important. If I absolutely have to use the phone, ideally I’d take myself off to a quiet spot where I can concentrate super hard on understanding and not have to worry about other people overhearing (which also makes me nervous), but that’s very difficult when your phone is attached to the damn desk. Working on reception is honestly my idea of hell.

    This sounds really dramatic and back-of-the-hand-to-the-forehead…I promise I’m not actually as neurotic as I sound! I just don’t like being put on the spot and am very lucky that it’s completely acceptable at my current workplace to just send an email instead of calling. I think I’ve had a grand total of three phone calls in the entire year I’ve been here.

    1. Sascha

      I know exactly what you mean, I am the same way, and so is my husband! My phone phobia really kicks in when I have to call tech support or something like that – any time when I am making a request of someone or taking up their time. I stammer and blank out on what I’m supposed to say, and I have to have a script in front of me. The worst was when I had a surprise phone interview for a job. The hiring manager called me about 3 months after I applied and heard absolutely nothing, so I moved on and figured they weren’t interested. Then she called me out of the blue, so I wasn’t prepared. Totally bombed that one.

      But yes, I prefer either email or in-person because to me, the phone exists in this limbo between no nonverbal communication, and lots of nonverbal communication. I have trouble interpreting someone’s mood and nonverbal cues with just voice, especially if I don’t know them well.

      1. AdAgencyChick

        I would call my dislike of the phone an aversion, not a phobia…except when it comes to that little voicemail light. I’m like one of Pavlov’s dogs when I see that it’s on…except instead of drooling, I cringe.

        1. Sascha

          Definitely, when I walk into the office on Monday and the light is on…I just want to throw my bag at the phone and run away.

    2. khilde

      I often have trouble understanding what people are saying if I can’t SEE them say it, if that makes sense?

      Oh my gosh, YES!!!!! I totally understand what you're saying. I am so sensitive to people's body language and facial cues that I feel much more comfortable with a conversation if it's face to face (versus the phone). Still, I prefer email over all. But yes, I've said the exact same thing you did before to people and I just get a dumb look. I'm so glad someone else knows what this means!!

      I have found, too, that I'd rather go out of my way to go to a business or something so I can ask a question (not a routine "what are your hours" question, but one that's going to require me asking a favor or negotiating with them). I get WAY better results this way; I think because I can read them better and can match my own body language. The times I have tried to negotiate/have a tricky conversation with a business on the phone I'm just awkward. Hate it.

    3. Rana

      I often have trouble understanding what people are saying if I can’t SEE them say it, if that makes sense?

      I completely understand. I’m highly visual, so if I’m to pay attention to someone on the phone well, I have to close my eyes or stare at a blank piece of paper in order to process the sounds properly. And in person, forget about talking to me while I’m in the process of changing from my sunglasses to my indoor glasses; I’ve actually said on a couple of occasions, “Wait, I can’t hear you with my glasses off.”

      Another reason I prefer text. I can see it, and it doesn’t slide away from me while more words pour in.

      1. cf

        I do a lot of work in Spanish and always have a harder time understanding Spanish on the phone over face to face. It really helps to see the speaker!

  14. Ann O'Nemity

    “You’ve reached Fitzwilliam Darcy. While you can leave a message here, I’m often able to respond more quickly by email, so feel free to email me at ___ instead. Otherwise, I’ll return your call as soon as I’m able.”

    This is perfect!! I’m going to change “email” to “text” and use this for my personal cell.

    1. AL Lo

      My cell’s outgoing message is, “You’ve reached Al Lo. You can leave a message if you like, but I check voicemail infrequently, so for a faster response, please email me at [address] or text me at this number.”

      I don’t actually mind talking on the phone — I don’t have a phone phobia — but it seems so much more time-consuming to listen to a voicemail than to read a text, and if I don’t recognize the number, I may or may not answer in the first place. Also, I’m in Canada, so Google Voice (and voicemail transcription) isn’t an option. Grrr…

      Anyway, I find that some people still leave messages, but that message cuts it down a lot, and I appreciate that.

      1. GH

        I don’t know if you’ll see this reply 8 months later but I’m in Canada too and I have voicemail transcription as an extra on my Rogers plan. I LOVE it. It’s not perfect I get the gist of messages and can tell if I need to deal with it right away or later. Also some of its mistakes are hilarious.

  15. Anonymous

    We’ve been trying to set my daughter up with a roommate for college, and I get frustrated with how many ads give a phone number and get all capslocky with “I WON’T RESPOND TO EMAILS!” I have 15 questions I want to ask and my daughter probably has 20. Can she bring her chameleon? How often do you have overnight guests? How late do you stay up and how loud are you? Is there an alarm system?

    Why anyone want to answer all these questions over the phone is beyond me. Same with work; people act put upon when you ask several questions on the phone but won’t answer an email where they can stop and think (and um, make up lies).

    That said, there is that occasional time when you have one quick question that’s too weird for email, but phone people don’t usually get the distinction. I agree with suggestions here to change your VM to where it tells them you’ll respond faster to email, but ultimately if they insist on calling, just suck it up until you get the job.

    1. some1

      No offense to you, Anonymous, but if I were looking for a roommate, I would not respond to any questions by phone OR email about how often I have overnight guests to a potential roommate’s mom. That’s personal and needs to be sorted between roommate-to-roommate without parental involvement.

      1. M

        Idk, if the mom is paying the rent and the daughter’s tuition, and would lose money if the she had to move because she felt threatened by her roommate’s all-hours guests or started doing poorly because she couldn’t have quiet to study, I’d say that very much is her business. You can take a stand on it all you want, but if you need the money and live in a saturated rental market, you have to deal with the person who cuts you the check.

        (I assume the mom is footing the bill since if she wasn’t involved financially she probly wouldn’t care about being involved any other way.

        1. Ask a Manager Post author

          She might feel it’s her business, but I can’t imagine most 18 year olds wanting to answer questions from a potential roommate’s mom. I’d take it as a big red flag about the living situation. Mom might be footing the bill, but these are adults.

          1. some1

            This. I certainly understand that Anonymous has valid safety and financial concerns here, but she needs to trust that her adult daughter can adequately address them for herself. The only “stand” I would take if I was in this situation is inviting someone else to live with me.

        2. Elizabeth

          Still, I think that the way to deal with this is for the mom to tell the daughter, “If I’m going to pay the rent for this apartment, you have to ask prospective roommates these questions” – not for the mother to actually do the asking.

          The mother and daughter have a relationship (familial and possibly financial) that the daughter has a vested interest in maintaining. The daughter’s potential roommates, though, do not – and I think some prospective roommates (even very good ones!) might get scared off by being interviewed by a third party.

    2. Lynn

      You know, in general I love email and hate the phone as much as anyone. But I don’t think I’d want to type out answers to 35 questions at once (I type 100 wpm, so this isn’t about being a poor typist), especially if #1 and #2 are deal-breakers. If “1) I am quiet and go to bed at 10 pm, and am looking for someone similar” is totally incompatible with the other person, why should I answer everything down to “35) there are working smoke detectors in the kitchen and master bedroom”?

    3. Tina

      Actually, even as an introvert who prefers email to phone, if you have a long laundry list of questions for me, I’d actually rather just get it done on the phone rather than typing up all the answers. I’m an extremely fast typist, but I still don’t want to type up all those answers.

    4. Slave

      Yeah, don’t want to pile on you, but I would have run screaming away from a roommate if their parents had questions for me. That is WAY too much parental interference.

      1. Slave

        Besides, bad roommates are great practice for dealing with difficult co-workers in the future :)

      2. Jamie

        I guess I’m in the minority but I’m with the Anonymous Mom who is helping vet an apartment.

        If she’s paying, and it sounds like it, the financial relationship is between her and the roommate and she has a vested interest in the whole thing not pooping the bed where she’d be out money. And most people aren’t fully equipped to the adult world and these kind of deals just because they turn 18.

        When I bought my first car my dad went with me, even though I was a legal adult, I had NO idea what I was doing and it was his money. And even if I had been using my own money I’d still have wanted him to help me out the first time so I could learn and not get taken. There is nothing wrong with parents helping young adult children navigate the world of contracts and deal making at first.

    5. Kou

      When I’ve tried to buy/sell/find roommates/etc online I’ve always done it by phone because otherwise you waste SO much time going back and forth before you realize something is a no-go. It can take five minutes on the phone or three days by email.

      1. AL Lo

        I read this as “When I’ve tried to buy/sell roommates online…” and thought that was an apt description of the process (or wishful thinking with certain roommates) at times!

    6. Rana

      35 questions? Oy. In my extensive experience with roommates, it’s better to focus on a few deal-breakers: do you smoke? can I have a pet? what’s the rent? and wait until you do a walk-through of the place for the rest. Some questions (like “is there a laundry?”) will get answered on their own, and others (like “can I stand to share physical space with this person?”) can’t be answered except in person.

      1. OneoftheMichelles

        Geez, I’m clueless. That’s so obviously a better way than peppering some poor stranger with a zillion nit-pickly questions–which is my tendency.

  16. Rachel in Minneapolis

    Our company has a *magic* (I assume!) system, where my voicemails get sent to my email, so I can just listen on the computer and respond from where ever I am! I love it! I now choose whether to answer the phone or not, based on what I am working on at the moment.

    Oftentimes, people leave me voicemails on things not really for me or that I need to research before answering. I end up emailing replies 75% of the time, and making calls for those situations that really require it.

    And it’s great for anyone who makes a personal call to my office phone!

    1. RJ

      Not only do I not like answering the phone, I don’t even like listening to voicemail. We have the same type of system, and when I see a voicemail message, it may be hours before I get around to listening to it. And then 50% of the time, the caller left an annoying “Hey, call me back” message. If they had left a message telling me what they need, I could have it ready when I called them back. This way, I have to call to find out what they want, and THEN go find the information to call back and tell them. Hate.

      1. Rachel in Minneapolis

        RJ That’s the worst! I usually find those type of messages to be unprofessional—unless it is in the context of an ongoing discussion where you know what it is about. Or if it is your boss. Then it is acceptable. For all other cases: Leave a detailed message!

      2. S. Martin

        I hate that message. Almost inevitably if I call back in response to a message like that I end up in that person’s voicemail, leaving a message to the effect of “you asked me to call you so I did, but I have no idea why we’re trying to get in contact”.

      3. Jen M.

        We still have a strong phone culture where I work. One thing for which I can give my coworkers props is any voicemails left are very detailed, so all I have to do is call back with an asnwer.

        When I hate voice mail is when someone just drones on and on and on, especially if it’s not even a message that’s relevant to me. *HATE*

      4. Jen M.

        …Or how about the people who call you at EVERY. NUMBER. They have for you and leave the exact same message? I have a couple of friends who do this. *WHY?*

        LOL!

        1. OneoftheMichelles

          I have One friend I do this to occaisionally.

          It’s because she lets her land-line go to a voice mail which just gets erased every couple months without being heard– unless she recognizes me leaving a messege and picks up. She prefers to take calls on her cell, which is only on her if she’s travelling somewhere. And she only answers email if the email interests her.

          She’s a very good friend. Whose tech manners suck.

        2. Elizabeth

          I sometimes do this with parents of my students, but that’s because if they see that they’ve missed a phone call from school and I *don’t* leave a message, they panic and assume something terrible has happened. So I leave the same bland “Nothing is wrong, I just have a question about X” message each place.

    2. fposte

      Ours actually emails a highly creative text transcription of the voice mail, so it’s an entertaining game to figure out what was actually at issue. “Karen magic carpets in the sun Irish noodles. Call me.”

      1. Ellie H.

        Ours does the exact same thing – people joke about it all the time. One example that springs to mind is that my mom left me a voicemail in which my name was rendered as “Jimmy.”

  17. John Powell

    The main thing to take from this is different people have different preferred methods of communication. When should your preferred method override someone else’s preferred method?

    I too totally prefer email and hate voicemail. And my voicemail does say “the fastest way to get ahold of me is generally by email”.

    Part of being successful is learning when to assert your preferences and when to set them aside. It’s definitely not OK to assume that your preferences should always take precedence.

    1. A.

      I think this is an important question that I’m surprised more people aren’t addressing! Obviously a lot of that knowledge comes from experience, but it seems like (at least on this comment thread) that there’s a bit of a Phone Person vs. E-mail Person tug-of-war going on with not much benefit of the doubt going to either side.

      Believe me, I hate the phone but I recognize it as a necessary evil, not only for getting my work done (with customer service and internal issues) but also living in harmony with those coworkers who would rather rip their fingernails off than shoot me an e-mail. Why is my preference more valid than theirs? So long as there is some level of reciprocity, it shouldn’t be that big of a deal to take a phone call every once in awhile…even if you’re a big ol’ introvert like me who stammers a bit when put on the spot. And even if there isn’t reciprocity, I would personally prefer the above-mentioned harmony to creating tension over 5-minute phone calls.

      But I’m also speaking from a junior level position, so I’m probably being overly deferential to a fault. Maybe once I’m a manager (ha! we’ll see), I will feel differently.

      1. Rana

        I think some of the question is “who is asking a favor of whom?” If you’re the one asking, then it’s polite to use your colleague’s preferred method, and vice versa. (Obviously being at different rungs on the ladder will affect this too.)

    2. Jamie

      I think there is a ranking order of communication styles – which of course needs to be broken if you’re outranked by one of the phone people or you need a favor…but for most normal things the less obtrusive act should always be given preference over the more obtrusive act.

      Email when you can respond when at a breaking point trumps phone which demands your attention immediately and requires you stop what you’re doing to cater to the needs of the person on the line.

      Quiet trumps noisy. Odor-free trumps stinky. Neat trumps messy.

      I know there are people who prefer the phone, but sometimes it’s quiet rude to disrupt someone just because something popped into your head. It’s always polite to not barge into someone’s train of thought unless it’s urgent – so email is preferable from an objective standpoint.

  18. Susan

    I started my job absolutely hating phone calls, and I still prefer to communicate by email in almost every situation. What I found, however, is that for a lot of people communicating by phone is far more efficient than an email, *especially* in situations where I’d think that email would be better.

    If I and another person are both working on a file with a shared deadline, they send me a set of badly-designed instructions, and I have a series of fairly complicated questions, it makes sense for me to send this person an email with all of the questions in a clearly-worded list.

    It’s amazing how many times the response to this kind of email is one word — “yes” (no punctuation or capitalization, either). Then I either have to email back and say “okay, is that yes to the first question, or to all of them including the ones that are not yes/no questions, or to the question that you arbitrarily decided was most important?” or I can call them.

    Some people know their jobs and are just appallingly bad at communicating in writing. Sometimes they’re too busy to read the whole email, sometimes they don’t know how to use their smart phone properly, and sometimes they’re poorly trained, underpaid, unmotivated, and working a job they don’t have the skills for because the company fired all its experienced higher-paid staff in 2008 (happily I am not talking about my own company here!). And sometimes it’s because my own email is too wordy or badly organized and it’s simply not worth the recipient’s time to answer thoroughly.

    Anyway, yes, I wish I could do most of my work communication via email, but in my job at least, it’s not all about whether expressing this preference is appropriate — it’s also because emails often result in really ineffective communication.

    1. Cat

      Yeah, I generally hate the phone too, but I have certain clients where I know go through their comments and edits to the document on the phone where I can hear what they’re saying and suggest edits in real time. Because they know what they like and what they don’t, but don’t have specific suggestions to get the latter to the former and it’s just easier than exchanging drafts over and over. I think it’s about adapting to who you’re working with. (Incidentally, this is one of the nice things about being in a client-centered business: there’s never really any question about whose preferences matter. It can be frustrating, but it gets you in the right frame of mind to take things as they come and teaches you a certain adaptability.)

    2. Jen M.

      Oh, those one-word replies are awful! I find it very disrespectful, and I hate it when people do that!

    3. Sarah

      The situation you described is one where my instinct would be that a phone call would be more efficient. If I already have a confusing email the requires in depth questions (or just several questions), I assume it is easier to chat. I think 3 questions (even that are mostly yes/no) is the maximum that I’d expect sufficient responses to. I prefer e-mail for sending out information or asking for help (with specific instructions), but not so much for clearing up confusion.

      As rude as the 1 worders are, I also hate overly long e-mails from coworkers and often wished I could respond with “tl; dr”

  19. Lily

    I really like email because I can answer them when I want, but I don’t like too many emails back and forth, so I tell people to call
    if they want appointments with me
    if I have to ask them questions in order to answer their email
    if they seem upset or I am getting upset

  20. Frances

    In my RSS reader, this post came up directly above one titled “Email Is the Worst.” I think it’s safe to say there’s no real consensus on this topic.

  21. EngineerGirl

    I hate talking on the phone. That said, it is superior to email for resolving issues that are subtle and have a lot of threads. This is especially true if there are multiple people with differing viewpoints involved.

    I’d also like to bring up a generational issue here. Older workers are much more likely to phone because that’s how they’ve been doing business all these years. Not to say that there aren’t tech savvy older folks – but people default to their “normal” paradigm.

    So easy issues – email
    Complex issues – voice

    1. Runon

      Wait how is a phone call better when you have to keep 5 people informed on something or need input from 5 people. Maybe a conference call I guess but at that point it is just a meeting, real or virtual. If there are multiple people who need to be in a conversation I always do email or meeting. Otherwise someone is being left out of the conversation.

  22. nicole

    I hate the phone as well but have found that many people would avoid replying to email for WEEKS so it became necessary to either phone them or corner them at their desk/office. I prefer to do business over email so I am very quick in replying to all inquiries even if it is with “got your email, will have a response by x time” so that people feel confident that emailing me is the most effective way to get a response. That being said, they still call me to tell me about their email! Ugh. I could see doing that in certain cases where the request is urgent but requires details in writing to avoid confusion, or if the person is known to ignore emails, but I’m sure after a decade with my organization I had demonstrated I would reply back sooner rather than later so I just stopped picking up the phone if I’m too busy for a conversation at that exact moment.

    1. M

      It definitely depends how the other person responds. I have a friend who checks her email maybe once a week. You’ll email her about going to the gym together two days from now, not hear back, and then a week later she’ll email you with “Yeah, let’s go!”

      She does the same thing with texts. I guess I could call her, but for the most part if it’s not urgent I just pass, so we don’t get to get together much.

  23. Julie

    Okay, but here’s a VERY important follow up question. I have several people in my office whom I will have conversation with (because they’ll call me, or worse yet, just come over and start talking) and then later, they won’t remember the conversation or say there were surprised by information that I already told them – then *I* get talked to for not keeping people in the loop. I’ve tried saying things like “can you send me this over email, so I don’t forget,” but that’s often met with “sure,” and then they don’t, or they say “no, it’s real quick, I just wanted to check….”

    What’s a nice way of saying “we need to do this over email, because I need a track record of what conversed?” And yes, I do work in a somewhat disorganized environment with a CEO that enjoys being feared somewhat.

    1. Runon

      A good way to handle this is when they are at your cube you start typing up an email, ask specifically ok who else needs to know about this, cc those people. I actually find this is easier when someone comes to my desk because I’ll type it up as we talk and then show them the email and they’ll agree or make changes, then I send it to them and whoever else needs to know.

    2. Charlotte

      Send them an e-mail post-conversation, telling them a summary of what you spoke about and asking them to respond back and let you know if you got any of the details wrong. It’s easier than trying to get them to send you an e-mail sometimes.

      1. Lora

        Yeah, this.

        Sometimes they are genuinely surprised and don’t remember. I am THE WORST MANAGER when it comes to in-person conversations because unless I wrote down everything (and I never do, or I lose my notes in the mountain of paper on my desk or scrunched in the bottom of my backpack under a lunchbox, makeup kit, sweatshirt and laptop) it’s long forgotten. I always sent emails or asked people to send me email summaries so I wouldn’t forget what we talked about. I can remember that I did talk to you, and more or less about what, and sort of what I think about that, but exact wording or subtle interpretations? Nuh-uh. Gone.

        Sometimes they do it on purpose. It’s frustrating but does happen. One of my co-workers actually just did this yesterday, pulled one of those “I never said that” type shenanigans, and if I hadn’t had the follow up email to prove that yes, he had said that, it would have been very, very damaging to a particular project. Grrr. Those sort of stunts get shut right down if people think there’s a good chance of a follow up email.

    3. Rana

      This is precisely why I prefer email for my own communications. I know that I’m capable of forgetting what I was saying only five minutes before – I’ve had friends tease me for saying something completely opposite to something I was saying earlier, with no memory of it at all, more than once – so unless someone’s taking notes, I might as well be shouting down a well for all the good it does me.

  24. Anon

    “They are wrong, of course, and we are right … but they are plentiful, and it’s not reasonable to think you can avoid them in your professional life.”

    Was this line a joke? I always thought AAM had a bit of a know-it-all attitude but this just seems a bit much!

    1. Ask a Manager Post author

      It was meant humorously, although I do actually believe my stance is correct (although you’ll notice that I told the OP that she needs to accept that phone calls are part of the way business gets done anyway).

      As for a know-it-all attitude, I’m writing a column where people are asking me for answers. The whole point is to know something.

    2. Another Anon

      I was wondering the same thing. I think she was going for sarcasm. Tone is sometimes hard to read in textual format, but I think the die-hard EMAIL OR NOTHING fans would probably disagree….

      1. Looking forward

        It was meant humorously, but it’s a correct statement. As much as an opinion can be correct, anyway.

  25. Wow

    “I fear the day when the techonology overlaps with our humanity. The world will only have a generation of idiots.” Am I the only one who thought of Einstein when I read this? I get that phone calls aren’t human contact, but now we’re moaning about having to answer the phone? If you can’t answer their questions, then say something like “Let me look into that and I’ll get back to you” or whatever you like. Or if you’re really that pressed for time, let it go to voicemail and get back to it when you have a moment. I get annoyed when my phone won’t stop at work, but for those times when I absolutely can’t get to it, voicemail is there. If it’s that important, I’ll get an email. This post seriously had my mouth hanging open by the end of it.

    1. Dana

      If you really think about it though we have so many more interactions with others on a daily basis due to technology that it is normal to want to minimize it. I have just as many human interactions as I did 20 years ago, but with mobile phones there are far more calls, and with e-mail and texts the interactions have grown exponentially. It’s natuaral to want to minimize it somewhere to help mitigate the overall ‘communication fatigue’.

  26. Laura

    Every time I’ve had a job where phone usage was required (sales, customer service, admin) I’ve always been told “We use the phone because it works” – meaning, for the vast majority of people, the phone is the preferred way to disseminate or collect information, to influence decision making, or to get a decision.

    Email and text = super easy to avoid, ignore, delete, forget about, pretend you never received, & not easily tracked for the majority of businesses

    Phone call = much more likely to get responses, even if you leave a voicemail – even if you call back later

    Personally, I prefer the phone because that tells me I have the person’s attention and I can pick up cues in their voice (smiling, cranky, etc) much more easily. Except in my current position, I find that it makes more sense for people to email requests and inquiries due to the amount of detail they often need to share.

    1. Steve G

      I am an email person that is becoming more of a phone person.

      #1 – many people don’t respond to emails
      #2 – I work in an industry where there are 15 competitors in NYC. If you are just a name on an email, you are not going to have the loyalty you could have from the customer base. Sometimes you need to have a back and forth with someone on the phone. Otherwise, your contacts just become a list of names, as you become to them.

      I think it is important to heed the corporate culture as well. My company prefers we do more via phone to build a relationship w/ clients.

  27. mel

    I am terribly neurotic and I really hate phones. I hate the way the sudden shrill ring interrupts (and I hate being interrupted) my perfect silence. And it’s almost always telemarketers anyway. The other day, it was a random person who looked up random phone numbers so she could “chat” with us about her religion! What the hell?

    I used to have a “friend” who liked to ring me up constantly, not to talk, but to keep me hostage so that I couldn’t accidentally have any fun on my end of the line. He’d force me to listen to him breathe, basically, because he was so bored at home. No conversation.

    For some reason, I found answering phones at work (customer service desk) to be much easier than answering phones at all. Don’t know why. Probably because there is a sort of disconnect as neither caller knows each other or wants to have anything to do with each other. Just straight to the point and over in three seconds.

    So I’m an email person. I find this okay, because I don’t usually wait until the very last minute to ask for information. A week or two for a response isn’t detrimental in most cases. But it does annoy me sometimes when someone can’t figure out their inbox and don’t know when new emails are being stuffed into old “conversation” folders.

    1. Claire

      Honest question, why would you answer that “friend”‘s calls? If someone did that to me, I would hang up after a few minutes of awkward silence and definitely wouldn’t be picking up any calls from them in the future (although I do have a pretty strict “If they actually need to talk to me, they’ll leave a message” policy in my personal life)

    2. The Other Dawn

      UGH. I used to have a friend who would keep me on the phone for two hours at a clip. Most of the time was spent man-bashing, talking about all her “problems”, why X is Mark’s fault or how Susan betrayed her, why she can’t work, etc. By the end of these calls I would be totally drained. Eventually I dumped her as a friend and now I absolutely can’t stand the phone. There are only a small handful of family members, and one friend, that I can stand to talk to on the phone. Email me or text me, please.

      1. Lora

        Heh. I had a crazy neighbor who had my phone number in case of emergency–we occasionally took care of each other’s pets when we went on trips. Eventually she started calling me every single day to talk about her dog’s poop for two hours. Seriously, what color it was, was it firm or runny, did I think the dog should go to the vet, should it get rushed to the vet school two hours away…? Dog poop. For two hours. It stopped when I moved away and left no new phone number, only an email address.

      2. anon for this comment

        We must’ve had the same friend because I’ve been in a similar situation myself. I too dumped this person; very sweet, but had way too much baggage. I think it took a long time to not associate the sound of the phone ringing to her calls.

  28. Claire

    Ugh, phones. It is funny, I’m in training for a new job right now that does involve reaching out to clarify information fairly regularly and my predecessor keeps saying “oh, so you can reach out to them by phone or e-mail…I usually just call, it’s so much easier” and I think to myself “this issue would be WAY more conveniently solved by e-mail!” Different strokes!

  29. SW

    Ugh, I hate the phone too! I’m also uncomfortable when I know I HAVE to call someone because they never answer their emails.

    Since I handle office supplies, I get a lot of sales calls — and salespeople LOVE the phone because it’s easier to put you on the spot that way. I’ve had to be firm with two of my vendors and say “We’re very busy here, so I prefer to communicate by email so I don’t have to drop whatever I’m doing every time you want to negotiate a price with me.” They used to call so often that I memorized their numbers and never picked up (they never left voicemails, either).

    But I only ever did that with vendors since money flows from us to them. (It also makes sense to have everything in writing when you’re talking to a salesperson.) I’d never try pulling that with coworkers — like Alison said, it makes you look like a prima donna.

  30. The Other Dawn

    I like the paper trail email provides. I’m in banking and deal with compliance so having things in writing is what I prefer. Also, when someone says to me, “You never told me”, guess what? Yes I did, on X date at X time. It also allows me to think before I answer. I generally have a hard time thinking on my feet so email allows me to think about it and then respond accordingly, rather than blurting out something inaccurate. And the biggest bonus of all, it allows me to avoid the extroverts that want to tell me all about their weekend, what they ate, who they ate with, how long they waited in line at the store, yada, yada, yada.

    1. M

      I like the paper trail as well. I keep absolutely every email I get (other than spam), and it’s saved my butt on numerous occasions. I can show what I was told and what I told others.

      1. Kate in Scotland

        And email is searchable, whereas my memory seems to become less searchable every day.

        1. Rana

          Bingo. You can save it, sort it, search it, copy it, re-read it… I can’t do that with analog communications. My short-term memory for verbal stuff is CRAP.

    2. SW

      Agreed. I’m an admin, so for me the paper trail is extremely important when negotiating prices with salespeople.

    3. Lils

      Really great point! Email is so key for CYA.

      I have to deal with a couple of higher-ranking people who won’t respond to emails. I worried because they often mis-remember (on purpose?) details of directives or decisions. A friend advised me to follow up every phone call with an email: “per our discussion via phone [date] [time], I will now do X and will wait for you to do Y”. Makes me feel a lot better about using the phone and way less confused during the next phone call.

    4. Kelly L.

      This, so much. There are people I deal with who I prefer to only email with, because they will conveniently forget what they’ve promised unless it’s in “print.”

    5. Another anon

      . . . and the flip side, using the phone when you don’t want a paper trail. Just 15 minutes ago I deleted a draft of an email and called instead for just that reason.

      1. Looking forward

        +1
        I like the phone for when you are declining a request – it seems rude over email. Or generally when you need to give some negative feedback – kind of like that praise publically (on record), coach privately.

    6. Sarah

      While I completely understand the sentiment, it doesn’t seem that helpful to me. When something goes wrong or a disagreement is had, i want the whole team to focus on how to move forward rather than who is to blame. I understand for huge fire-able things there may be reason to dig into an investigation, but ‘jan never told me’ countered with ‘yes I did!’ (then providing proof) would make me feel like i was dealing with children (or jerks). Perhaps I just work with really good people!

      I assume this type of thing doesn’t apply to people with whom you have good working relationships with on a day-to-day basis, but those that are outside your “inner circle”?

  31. Jessie

    Amen! I’m a phone hater too. I work in a VERY quiet office, and when I get phone calls, I feel like I’m yelling and distracting everyone. Also, I’m a person who likes to be very prepared before having conversations. I hate looking things up on the spot, so when someone calls me with a question, I always struggle trying to verify the answer, or end up saying, I’ll have to call you back later. It’s a total interruption!

  32. Kerry

    I’m email-only by necessity. My hearing is lousy, and it’s reached the point where I can’t have a phone conversation with most people.

    Even having a bona-fide disability, you’d be amazed at what weenies people can be. If I had a dollar for every person who’s left me a voice mail and then complained that I didn’t call them back, I’d be typing this from a private island. When the complain, and I remind them that I’ve told them repeatedly that I can’t understand the voice mail and couldn’t call them back and speak to them anyway, they usually say something like, “But I wan’t near my computer/I prefer phone/It was just a quick question/whatever.” Because apparently my disability should magically disappear when it becomes inconvenient for other people.

    That said, I no longer work in corporate life, because getting people to accommodate you on this point (whether for your preferences or because of a disability) is straight-up not happening. The world will only bend for you so much.

    1. Jen M.

      Ugh. My BF deals with this (he is deaf.) People are so stupid about it.

      We had to complain to our HMO to get them to stop insisting he call them, because he CAN’T! They finally got it, and he now communicates with them by email.

      In this day and age, I still find myself amazed at how dumb people can be about dealing with the deaf/HoH.

      1. Kerry

        YES. It’s crazy. Every website, every form…they all require a phone number. At the dentist, they refused to start working on me because I hadn’t provided a phone number. I kept explaining that they couldn’t call me anyway, and they kept not getting it. When I finally got my purse and put my shoes back on and started to walk out of the exam room, someone else intervened, but it was a big unnecessary scene. Why can’t they just email my appointment reminder? Or skip it (since I’m an adult who knows how to work a calendar)? This sort of thing happens nonstop

        It’s 2013. In situations where I’m the customer, I should be allowed to say “email me instead” and have that honored. 1 in 6 Americans has some hearing lost…it’s not like it’s an exotic, rare thing.

        1. Anonymous

          I had this problem with my ISP! I tried to explain that I’m hard of hearing and can’t call their tech support, that’s why I came in person with all the information their tech support would need (I’m tech savvy), and they told me they offered tech support in a variety of languages. Ffs, they’re an internet service provider. why can’t i e-mail them about a problem with my account? eventually i had to get my landlady to call for me.

          can’t get a job either. where i live, everyone wants a phone number on your resumé and i can’t hear anything over the phone.

  33. Anonimal

    I instituted a 3 email rule a while back because my dept has gotten insane on emailing. If our email exchange has gone into a 3rd reply, I’m calling you. Especially if it seems there is a miscommunication somewhere and I’m hearing confusion in the email. It has saved me so much time and so many useless emails.

  34. Yup

    I hear ya on the annoyance of phone interruptions. However, effective communication requires that we use the best medium for the message. I’d use email 100% if I could. But when an issue has gone back and forth 3x in email, it’s time for me to pick up the phone. Or if there’s a an interpersonal problem or a management issue (like poor performance), then that communication has to happen in person. So even though my preference is for one method over all others, it’s part of being the workplace to have to deal with multiple types.

    However, I think the real core of your question isn’t about the phone versus email — it’s about interruptions when you’re concentrating or being blindsided when you’re not expecting something. For this, there is plenty of good advice upthread about setting your phone on Do Not Disturb for brief periods and updating your outgoing voicemail to offer your email address. Also, there’s nothing wrong with telling a caller, “I’d love to help you with that, but I’m right in the middle of something. Can I call you back in 30 minutes with the answer?”

    One last thing: it’s worth it to note that some folks who prefer phone are contacting you that way to be courteous. They might view it as a way to build the relationship and demonstrate that you merit the warmth of a call, rather than a (perceived) impersonal email. Keeping this a little bit in mind might help reduce the feeling of “ack, quit bugging me!” when someone persists in calling despite your gentle hints that email is preferred.

  35. Joey

    Give me a break. Asking to totally direct all work phone calls to email is completely ridiculous. There’s a reason your desk has a phone. Now phone calls associated with a new job are private calls which you can treat however you want. And i think its totally reasonable to tell those folks to email you while youre at work. But frankly if this is going to be an issue in your new job I say go ahead and tell your new employer you don’t want to take phone calls once you start working. Better they know now than later.

  36. Anon A.

    I also hate talking on the phone. Luckily, the primary forms of communication at my company are email and IM.

    However, I do attend many conference calls, but I don’t mind those as much b/c I can multi-task and they have a specific agenda.

    If I need an immediate response, I’ll mention it in my email or IM the person and ask if they would mind checking my email.

  37. Ann

    I used to be on the receiving end of a bunch of general business information questions. I would get upwards of 60-100 phone calls a day (depending). Since answering these questions wasn’t actually my main responsibility, I ended up doing similar to what the OP wants to do and set up a voicemail that stated “If you have a general information question, please check our website. You can also send me an e-mail and I will get back to you within one business day. If you chose to leave a message, it may take up to 4 business days to return your call due to the high volume of calls”. It was really surprising how many people STILL left a message.
    For the record, I also had a work cell phone, for important business I directed people to call me on my cell phone so they didn’t get lost in the general shuffle.
    Now I have a boss that texts and I hate it. He doesn’t have time to answer the phone, and hates e-mail because it “takes too long to go through”. Well, if I have an important, but detailed question (like… flight reservations or on something highly technical) sending a text is pretty much impossible. I’ve started sending him texts that I sent him an important e-mail and to please check it.

  38. felipe

    I hate it when colleagues insist on using phones, too–I hate it enough where I think people who use it are hiding something. Because coincidentally (or maybe not coincidentally), these are usually the colleagues you can never get a straight answer out of. Instead, they call, ramble about a project without saying anything definitive, and hang up thinking they accomplished something when the opposite is true.

    Email is great because 1) It provides documentation in case you’re blamed for something you did not do; 2) It provides reference in case you forget something about a project; 3) It forces the party who’s writing it to actually think about and organize what they are saying instead of just brain dumping in an indecipherable pile at once; 4) everything else everyone said on this thread.

    1. A.

      Wow, it sounds like maybe you have some toxic colleagues; I’m definitely an e-mail/written word person, but it’s never been because I think my coworkers might be hiding something or could blame me for something I didn’t do.

      In my admittedly limited experience, I’ve mostly found that people who prefer the phone to e-mail are generally not comfortable with typing or don’t feel they express themselves well in writing. Or both. I have a colleague who is a very strategic person and a valuable member of our team, but frankly, her e-mails make her look like she has the reading comprehension (and spelling) of a 12-year-old — there’s just some disconnect there. There’s another person on our team who is dyslexic, so he only writes extremely short e-mails and only when absolutely necessary. And then there are your run-of-the-mill extroverts!

      Of course, I’m in an essentially entry level position, so I pretty much have to be flexible to others’ communication preferences – it would be presumptuous and rude for me to insist my supervisor and her peers e-mail me even if they don’t like to. And certainly, if you’re more senior, you can state your preferences rather bluntly. But I do think there are other reasons people use the phone beyond the ones you mentioned and sometimes even the introvertiest of us can bend a little to accommodate for a happier, smoother working environment.

  39. Anonymous

    Just my own perspective and I haven’t read the comments.

    I work in a field with billable hours with a fairly defined hierarchy (law/accounting) and it ticks me off beyond anything when a certain person who is subordinate to me on the org chart with a lower billable rate [all of these things are given as background with our relative value to the business, not relative values as human beings] almost ALWAYS refuses to answer calls and instead writes back with emails, usually almost immediately.

    I only call when the question isn’t worth documenting in an email or when I need assistance on something immediately (and I have a right to politely ask for that immediate assistance). So if when she makes me take several billable minutes typing out a non-billable questions, I take it as a message that she’s really prioritizing her aversion to phone calls over the efficiency of the business as a whole. FWIW, other people on the same level as this person also hate her habit. But she also has an extremely self-important attitude in general, so that doubtless colors my opinion of her.

    1. Jen M.

      Oooh. No. When it comes to my superiors and the people I support, I match their method. If they email, I email them back. If they call, I take the call or call them back if I’m not immediately avaiable.

      Does this person not need a job? Yikes!

    2. OneoftheMichelles

      Is there a calm way that someone can point out to her that this both wastes company money and makes her look out of touch with colleagues? Yikes.

    3. Cat

      Oh, as a law firm associate, I would never, ever do that. I don’t even work at a particularly hierarchical firm, but it is taken absolutely for granted that the preferences of people at higher seniority levels than you rule on things like that. (And you are, indeed, more or less expected to keep track of them for everyone you work with at all regularly.)

  40. Catbertismyhero

    I may have missed it in the comments, but shouldn’t the OP talk to his or her boss about this? They might frown on this.

    I work for a non-profit professional membership society. We are expected to respond to members and each other in the same way we are contacted. So if a member calls, you call them back if you cannot immediately take the call. Same for email, social media, etc. During the call, I might for the email address to send information if that is appropriate.

    1. A.

      Oh boy, I think the assumption was that this was for internal calls only. I can’t imagine AAM (or anyone) would advocate this for customer service type roles!

      1. Catbertismyhero

        Good point, I should have more clearly stated that it is the same expectation for responding to co-workers at our society.

      2. A.

        Oh, just noticed that you said the same goes for internal. I think that makes the most sense – and to be honest, I don’t think people are truly advocating e-mailing as a response to phone calls (in fact, that’s my CEO father’s biggest pet peeve so I learned from a young age to never, ever, ever do that). But rather, if there is a way to actively and assertively communicate your own communication preference.

        1. Matt

          My pet peeve (as a phone hater) is the opposite: people who always call in response to a mail message …

  41. Anonymous

    I had to stop a particular colleague from calling me. Whenever I’d send an email to the bosses and she’s cc’d on it, before the email even disappears from my outbox, my phone would ring and there she’d be, ready with a barrage of interminable questions: “I don’t understand. What’s this? What’s this about?” On and on. And when I’d refer her to the email, it’s: “But I’m asking you. It’s your email. You tell me. Aren’t you the coordinator,” etc, etc.

    The last time, I hung up on her and went straight into the boss. Soon there was an email from him to her saying, “Stop calling him.” LOL. And she’s our HR rep to boot. She lacks discretion and professionalism. Everyone who sits in cubicles around her are appalled at how open and free she is on the phone, particularly with people’s snesitive background information–financial, criminal, etc.

    1. EnnVeeEl

      Wow, that is annoying. Sounds like she got the email, decided she couldn’t be bothered with reading it, and instead called you to give her the information she could have sought herself.

      1. Anonymous

        And what’s worse, I’d often get trapped in trying to sort out whether she was asking a question or making a statement. Whenever she’d appear to be making a statement, with no question mark inflection in sight, I’d pause and then ask, “So, you’re telling me it’s so?” but she’d reply, “No, I’m asking you.” And whenever she’d appear to be asking, with a clear question mark inflection at the end, I’d pause and ask, “So, you’re asking me?” and she’d say, “No, I’m telling you!” O.M.G.

  42. Bluefish

    This is me. I hate, hate, hate the phone! When someone calls me and I do answer the phone (I usually let voicemail get it), I always have to say, “let me look into that and get back to you”. My job is not one where the questions people are asking me can be quickly answered. I usually have to do some research 1st and then get back to them. I generally tell the phone people, “hey, how about I look into that, figure out the answer, and then shoot you an email”. That typically turns them onto using email to communicate with me for all future correspondence :)

  43. Scott M

    I’m lucky that our voicemails are converted to text and sent to our inbox. So often I respond to people’s voice message via email.

    My pet peeve is people who call and call and call, but don’t leave a message. I have gotten to the point where I have specifically ignored phone calls from the same number, even when I could have picked up the phone, because they didn’t leave a message.

  44. anon o

    Wow, this is timely. I have a package that urgently needs to be delivered somewhere (they want it there as much as I do). My contact’s cell message says to email her. I called the company no voicemail and it directs you to their website for questions. I really need to speak to someone so I know if there’s going to be someone in the office if I have the courier redeliver. I sent emails but it’s not really helpful when the courier has the driver on the line to reschedule his afternoon. I’m really trying to help them but…I’d love a little support. This is really frustrating and needlessly wasting my time.

  45. Kou

    The way I see it, you’re in charge of managing your time. That often means people will be trying to reach you to fit their time frame, and you have to triage that in accordance with your own time frame. People have different styles of this just like with any other kind of communication, and you have to find a system that works decently for both of you.

  46. Greg

    This is kind of a tangent, but what the hell is up with recruiters who cold call potential candidates during the work day with no seeming regard for the fact that the person is, oh I don’t know, AT WORK? I had a recruiter once call me and, without first asking “Is this a good time to talk?” proceed to launch into a long spiel and pose questions that would be impossible to answer in an open office without raising suspicions (eg, “What type of role are you looking for?”) Then she had the temerity to say, “You’re pretty quiet. I’m sensing you might not be so interested.”

    I mean, have some freakin’ self-awareness! You know it’s the middle of the work day. You know I’m employed because you just looked me up on LinkedIn. And called me on my work phone! Is it really so hard to start with the assumption that I might not be available to chat away?

    Stuff like this happened to me a few times, but that one was definitely the worst. I finally just started cutting people off and saying, “Listen, now’s not a good time, but can you follow up by email?” But should I really need to point out something so obvious?

    1. Allison

      I definitely communicate better in text forms, like e-mail and text. I can take the time to think about what I’m gonna say before I say it, and the person can respond at their convenience rather than us playing phone tag during our busy days.

      Of course, older people feel that phone calls are the more polite form of interaction, and things like e-mail and text messages are too informal and casual, and thus rude.

      1. Allison

        Shoot, that wasn’t supposed to be a reply to to you, I’m an idiot!

        But I did mean to reply to you, and say that they often assume the candidate is unemployed. That and they work, thus make their calls, during the workday. Calling after hours means they have to stay late or work weekends. It’s a flawed system.

        1. Greg

          Huh? Why would they assume I’m unemployed? Here’s how that one particular recruiter got in touch with me: 1) Looked me up on LinkedIn, which listed my most recent job as “2006 -present”; 2) Called the main number at my office and asked to be patched through to me. Sure, I can see from that why she would have had no idea that I had a job.

          Besides, I wasn’t saying recruiters should never call potential candidates (well, I do believe that, but I understand that different people have different communication styles). And I’m certainly not saying they should do it off hours. I’m saying that if they do call, they should use some common sense and recognize that not only are they interrupting someone, they’re potentially putting them in an awkward situation.

          In fact, I would extend that to just about any cold call: The first thing you say after you introduce yourself should be, “Is now a good time to talk?” Otherwise, you’re potentially wasting everyone’s time and pissing off the person you’re calling, which is really not a good way to start a relationship.

          1. OneoftheMichelles

            How convenient.
            She made it immediately clear that you didn’t need to waste any effort to have further dealings with her!

            It’s too bad she seems to have irritated you more than amused you. In my mind’s eye, I see you realizing how idiotic this was almost at the beginning of the call…and typing up a couple memos while she blathered on. You, secure in the knowledge that you wouldn’t have to take any meaningful calls for a while… :’)

            1. Greg

              You know, for a plain ol’ salesperson, that would undoubtedly be true. If the company is putting someone out there who doesn’t represent them well, they don’t deserve my business. It’s a little different for third-party recruiters, though. It’s not like I’d have to deal with them after I got the job, so if the opportunity is enticing enough, I *might* overlook my concerns (though I wouldn’t ignore them — after all, I’m depending on this person to sell me to the hiring manager and negotiate my salary, so I’d prefer to have some level of trust).

              In the case of this woman, I wasn’t actively looking, but I was open to other opportunities, so I heard her out. I also was less experienced (read: cynical) about recruiters at that point in my career, so I didn’t yet have rules like the one I mentioned above. She also had a rambling conversational style that made it hard to get a word in (I know, another red flag), so the whole conversation took longer than it should have. She was a nice enough person who meant well, but she wasted my time, made me feel uncomfortable, and ultimately, the job was a nothing-burger. Good times.

  47. Andrew

    “If they emailed, I could respond from the office with no concerns about privacy.”

    Uh, not really. Not if you’re using a work computer, and especially not if you’re using a corporate email address.

    1. Lynn

      Surely nobody would be silly enough to use their corporate email for job-hunting? Please, no.

      1. Tina

        I had a coworker do this once, when he was applying for the job in our office. After he started working with us, I did mention it to him. He just shrugged and said his employer knew he was looking anyway, and encouraged him to because there was no growth opportunity at his current position. I still thought it was inappropriate.

      2. Jamie

        I assumed since she was leaving the office to take calls she meant she could return emails on her phone in the office, without having to leave. I wouldn’t assume she meant she was using her corporate email.

  48. G

    I’m the same way and here’s what I’ve done at my current job: 1) I let calls go to vm 90% of the time; 2) I have this on my email signature line: “Due to the nature of my job, email is the best way to communicate with me. Thanks for understanding.”; and 3) my vm message directs people to email me or to call my assistant if it’s an immediate matter. It’s helped cut down on those random, non-important phone calls quite a bit. (And yes, it does help that I have staff that I can direct some of this nonsense to.) However, I let the CEO use whatever method he chooses to contact me with; the boss’s rules override mine.

  49. anon for this comment

    I very much dislike the phone too, which is interesting because when I was younger, I talked to my friends nearly every day on the phone. I think my tune changed when I had one person call me allllllllll the time with all of their problems. Then, two receptionist jobs-gone-wrong was the icing on the cake.

    You’d think I would’ve learned my lesson after that, but no….I still took on jobs that required a lot of phone work. I’m not too comfortable with thinking on my feet and I tend to get very flustered when a situation is complex. I would dread the phone’s ring every time. It’s helpful whenever I’d get a written message or a voicemail so I can at least think about my answer before returning a phone call (though even when speaking, my brain sometimes can’t formulate the thoughts quickly enough). However, I still vastly prefer written communication as I think I express myself much better that way, probably because I can take the time to think about and edit what I’m saying.

  50. anon in tejas

    I just wanted to add that email only really works as a form of communication when you can communicate very clearly in writing and your counterparts/coworkers can as well.

    I use a mixture of both in my job and both are completely 100% required. More often than not if there is a miscommunication it happens via email/writing and not by in person or by phone communication.

    Just something to consider.

  51. likesdesifem

    Well, CYA at every opportunity.

    E-mail IMO is better since it’s a permanent record. This is especially crucial for instructions and important information.

    It’s a simple request, then a phone call can suffice. That said, e-mail is preferable over telephone, any day of the week.

  52. Jesicka309

    Once upon a time, I worked as a promo driver. My coordinator would often call me while I was out on the road…and get snarky when I didn’t answer. I was driving a car!!! Texting would have been much more appropriate.
    The othe thing about calling is that some mobile services charge for you to access your voicemail. So I never check mine – I’m far too poor, and the service is far too unwieldy. And then of course there’s the people who call from a blocked number. I don’t have the money to listen to your voicemail multiple times to get your number right, but my phone remembers your number and I can call you back.
    Pet peeve: calling on a blocked number. Ugh. Just..just email me already, I can’t even call you back!!

      1. SW

        Well, talking on the phone while driving isn’t appropriate either. Perhaps she meant texting is better because she can check it at the end of her trip?

        @Jesicka309: If you hook your number up to Google Voice, they’ll text/email you transcripts of voicemails for free. You can also listen to your voicemails on their app or website (also free).

        1. Kerry

          How good are the transcripts? If I have a chronic low-talking sing-song-y ramblebabbler who leaves me voice mails, is it going to actually translate them for me?

          (I have a chronic low-talking sing-song-y ramblebabbler who does this constantly, and unfortunately I can’t ignore her because we’re related)

          1. anonymous

            It’s not great, but you can listen to your voicemails on your computer, if the transcription reads like nonsense. They are really bad with southern accents (and probably others,) so I donate them when I’m not violating someone’s privacy.

        2. Lynne

          @Jesicka309: If you hook your number up to Google Voice, they’ll text/email you transcripts of voicemails for free. You can also listen to your voicemails on their app or website (also free).

          But only in the US, so far (I am totally jealous about this), and I believe she’s in Australia.

      2. jesicka309

        I am saying that I can check my phone when I get to my destination, or pull over and check my phone when there’s a break in traffic/a road to turn off onto. A phone call demanded I pick it up immediately. A text message *bing* was enough for me to know to pull over when safe to check.

        And yes, I’m in Australia, so no Google Voice thing for me. :( I had planned on working there longer, I would have requested a bluetooth or something be installed so tehy could communicate safely with me whilst on the road – there were many instances where immediacy WAS needed, but not practical.

  53. glennisw

    I don’t hate answering the phone, but I hate making calls – I often have to be stern with myself to initiate a call. I’ve gotten better lately.

  54. Sarah

    This has been an eye opening thread for me. I had no idea that people hated phone calls and pop-ins so much. I personally have no issue with either one of these things. I figure if someone stops by my desk or phones me that the issue is important enough to them to warrant my attention. Our email program has instant messaging (which I find to be an irritation) that lets people know if you are available. If your status is green, you are fair game for a phone call or desk side visit.

  55. Marie

    Don’t know if anyone has mentioned this or not, but I used to have a boss who would email me and then call me several minutes later to TELL ME that he had emailed me. “Yup, I know. Got it.” Positively maddening on all levels.

  56. Cassie

    I prefer email (can check it and respond to it when I have time) but there are some people who don’t respond to email regularly. Not even to let you know that they received your email and will respond soon.

    And I hate talking to people who are unpleasant on the phone – I once called a CEO’s assistant to schedule a meeting (with busy schedules, it’s easier to do this over the phone than swapping emails) and she kept sighing and complaining about how much work she had to do. Look, lady, I really don’t care. It’s not my problem. This is the first time I’ve talked or communicated with you – stop unloading your issues onto me. (I wondered if the CEO knew his assistant was like that…).

    I once heard a prof’s voicemail that said he doesn’t check vm and that you should send him an email instead. I’ve thought about doing that for my boss’s voicemail because he never ever checks.

  57. anonz

    Our work phones show missed calls, and a bunch of people will call and not leave a message, therefore adding to the work. “Do I call Wakeem back? Well, he didn’t leave a message, but I should see what he wanted”. UGH.

    I am an extrovert who prefers email. I need a paper trail since I work on many projects at the same time. I hate the phone. I had a boss once who sent around (on paper, natch) a story about a CEO who banned email in his company. Everyone had to phone or drop by to communicate with each other. She thought it was the best idea EVAR, because she was a technophobe always looking for an excuse to not use the computer. She was unsuccessful in implementing the no-email thing but she did drop-bys whenever she needed something, which was 4-6 times a day, and almost always when I was deep in the groove. I worked as an analyst and those “little” interruptions cost me a ton of working time to get back on track.

  58. Vicki

    OP – You are me.

    The important questions for you to consider are: What is the culture in your company? and What is your role?

    If the culture is “everyone uses the phone” then you can’t just refuse to use the phone. Although you can change your voicemail message to something like “My preferred contact method is email” or even “The best way to reach me is by email” (be sure to state your email address in the message) or “If your question is complex, it helps if you email me the details first so I have some background before we talk” or anything that will help _you_ without actually saying “no calls”.

    I have a friend who was doing this in 1989. It’s not a new idea.

    You can probably get away with sending al calls directly to voicemail if you have a Do Not Disturb button on the phone. Then you don’t lose so much time to interruptions.

    It can help if your role is something technical like IT or engineering. We’re better able to get away with this because everyone knows we’re “weird” already. Managers, project managers, and people in “soft” areas like Finance or HR or Sales tend to be expected to talk.

    If you’re lucky enough to work in a company with an IM/email culture and only Some people are phone-a-holics, you may be able to get away with a more phone free existence. Find out how your workmates treat the phone.

    I was very lucky. I worked at a company where everyone, including the receptionists, relied on IM, the engineers tended not to answer their desk phones (hey turned down the ringer and ignored it). At least one woman I knew (a tech lead) had allowed her voicemail box to fill up to the point where it wouldn’t accept more messages. In that environment, I was able to return my phone to IT with no argument. My directory entry said “no phone”. Not everyone is this lucky… but there’s a subtle difference between “I don’t have one” and “I refuse to use the one I have.”

  59. Vicki

    Oh. Also.
    Stop saying “I hate telephone calls”. Start with the objective facts.

    Phone calls require your attention NOW, immediate responses to questions can be difficult to come up with. It can be awkward and difficult to talk in real-time to someone you can’t see face-to-face. Phone conversations aren’t private — everyone around you can hear your end of it.

    50% of people are introverts. Many Introverts (not all but enough to make it a majority) as well as some Extroverts prefer not to communicate by telephone. The phone is a habit, rarely a necessity. If phone calls destroy your productivity, you can (and should) find ways to control them.

  60. M-C

    Is it me, or does this batch of impassioned comments miss an important point here? Liking phone or email is a bit beside the point, aside from expressed preferences. The OP is saying that they’re getting constants phone calls WHILE AT WORK from the HR at Potential New Job. That is totally inappropriate. First, OP should not be answering personal phone calls while at work, much less from their hoped-for next job. And OP, in my opinion, would do well to wonder about the company culture where people are feeling free to be incredibly intrusive, even when asked to do things differently, toward employees who aren’t even theirs yet. That doesn’t bode well for a future personal life if an offer gets accepted. But also it puts OP’s present job in jeopardy, wantonly. Eeck all around. Is this an HR problem, or is it the whole company?

    1. Cassie

      I did think about the getting personal calls at work from prospective companies part and thought maybe those companies should be calling the OP on his/her cellphone instead (if the OP has one) – but I think the problem would still exist. If you are in a cubicle or open office, there’s no privacy. Not to mention, if these calls are frequent, the OP is using work time to answer them. (It’d be the same if the OP was responding by email too).

  61. Callie

    I am a PhD student at a R1 university, and last term I and another grad student were hired to fill an emergency temporary position in the undergraduate advising office for my department. (The undergraduate advisor had a serious medical emergency and was out on medical leave for a couple of months–she’s still only working part-time as she recovers.) She handled nearly everything by email, and had “trained” students to ask the vast majority of questions by email, and she had saved all these emails in neatly labled folders in an archive. When we stepped in to her job–right in the middle of admissions season!–we could find the answers to almost every possible question students could ask by searching previous emails. Or if students tried to get away with something they knew they shouldn’t, we could say “Anna already told you on X date that you were ineligible for this waiver”, and so on. Dealing with everything by email has also benefited her now that she is back; her medical condition makes it difficult for her to switch between tasks, so phone interruptions are a problem, but everyone is used to emailing her anyway. And having her email archive makes it easy for her to look back and see what she’s told students in the past so she can remain consistent even though it’s hard for her to remember things sometimes.

  62. Matt

    I can relate so much to the original post … I’m a phone hater too. I’m a writing person, not a talking person; I’m a slow thinker, and a phone call doesn’t give me the time even to think over issues for a couple of seconds before it’s already “you still there???”. I find it intrusive too because it’s the caller who demands that I deal with his issue now and here, while with e-mail I control my priorities for myself and anyone sending me a message instead of calling me allows me to do this.

    And there are so many colleagues at my workplace who ALWAYS use the phone, even after missing me for the 3rd time and if they ever send an e-mail, it’s only “Please call me back” without even mentioning what it’s about … aaaaargh

  63. Anonymous

    Wow… I hope that your manager or CEO is not reading your post… PS… you have an email from your HR that you have been relieved of your duty…

    The point of the matter is, people generally call other people, because its an urgent matter… Things like, I need the answer now, and you have it and I really want your real opinion and not your PC opinion where you have to really think it through… But I guess if you are not smart enough to be able to hold conversation over the phone, how the heck do you hold conversation face to face…

    Another scenario is, you noticed you didn’t get paid, I do hope that you get on the phone right away instead of emailing and finding out that you have been relieved of your duty because the boss could not talk to you last week, about your promotion, to the outside world. That is why you didn’t get a paycheck!!!

  64. Matt

    No, phone people don’t only call for urgent matters, they call for everything. (Or they are unable to priorize things and everything is urgent to them …)

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