Remember the reader whose manager refused to text her, even though he texted the rest of her team regularly? His texting moratorium with her suspiciously started right after an uncomfortable incident on a business trip where he grabbed her phone and frantically tried to delete a text from it. Since then, he’d gone through all sorts of lengths to avoid texting her, including when it would have been far more convenient to. Here’s her update.
Though I hadn’t planned to, I did wind up approaching my boss about his weird behavior. The week after my question was posted, my company released a promotional app with a photo editing/sharing feature and everyone was trying it out. My boss messaged his photos to everyone else in my department, including our intern, but to share with me, he’d upload the images to his computer and email them instead (there’s no way he was confusing that process with messaging me from his phone!) I was so hurt that he’d go to that much trouble to exclude me from something that was meant to be goofy, and furious that he’d edge me out of the group “activity.” As I sat in my office listening to everyone laugh, I jotted down some of my thoughts and several examples of this affecting our communication and our work.
The next time the texting thing came up in a work-related scenario, I scheduled a 10-minute meeting with my boss and brought those notes with me. I guess my goal was to get his behavior out in the open between us, and get him to look me in the eye about this, if only for a minute. He claimed to only vaguely remember any the instances I mentioned, insisted there was no problem on his end, deliberate or accidental, and said things like “I had no idea you felt that way” and “but you are getting the information eventually, so you can’t say you’re out of the loop,” but didn’t acknowledge a “problem” or agree to any “solution.” A BlackBerry might be a possibility when they roll new ones out next year (in the mean time, IT has loosened their policies and we’re allowed to sync our email accounts to personal mobile devices. At least I have the peace of mind that I can access my work email that way if I need to.) He’s sure he has my number (and he has used it correctly, so I don’t think that’s the problem anyway). He didn’t get defensive so much as he feigned ignorance.
The only thing that changed after we spoke is that when it’s absolutely necessary, he will text me, but always with another person in a group message—even if the other person isn’t even at the meeting or conference we’re attending. It’s pretty clear that he perceives a trust or liability issue, but now that I’ve shifted my perspective, I recognize that this is all his problem, not mine.
I don’t know if I would have had that important perspective adjustment if I hadn’t written to AAM. You and your readers helped me a) validate the problem, when I’d started to doubt that my feelings were justified at all, and b) forced me to look at the whole story again, with a much more objective view. I’d gotten tunnel vision about the texting and forgotten how upsetting that tabletop tussle with my boss after his errant text message to my phone had been. Of course, that was the part of my question that many AAM commenters immediately picked up on, even though I’d practically glossed over it! “Reliving” that incident in the comments was exactly what I needed to do to process those feelings.
Every time my boss ignored my messages, emailed me instead of texting, or texted someone or everyone else in the department, I felt frustrated, miffed, excluded, and disrespected…and really silly for letting it bother me. I finally realized that I was also experiencing the shock, anger, discomfort, and confusion that I felt that night all over again. When texting comes up now, it’s still frustrating, but I remind myself that I have a legitimate reason to be upset about the root of the issue, and this ongoing behavior is just my boss handling his problem badly.
I also realized that I feel like I demonstrated my loyalty and discretion by letting the incident go and not going to HR or something, and I feel like my boss owes me trust, respect, and equal treatment in this area in return. So when he deliberately refused to text me, I felt like I was paying the price for his error and his completely inappropriate behavior.
The other thing I did that day while everyone else was playing with our company’s app was delete his name from my contacts. His number is still readily available in my call history or in my email, it just doesn’t have his name associated with it in my phone. It’s amazing how much better I felt after that! As soon as I took control of that tiny detail, I felt much less victimized. Symbolically, he’s not even worth naming in my address book. If he ignores a text from me or “copies” someone else for no reason, who cares? It’s not a person; it’s just “123-456-7890.”
I’ve also started calling him in situations where I’d normally text. He hates talking on the phone almost as much as I do, but I always keep my calls succinct and strictly business—just like a text message would be. If we can’t text each other, I’ve decided we’re going endure phone calls together. I guess that’s another example of taking back some control over the situation.
Finally, I want to thank you for posting my question and giving it a thoughtful answer, and to all the AAM commenters who drew my attention back to the much larger issue—if I had gone on ignoring my feelings about my boss taking my phone from me, I never would have been able to start coping the way I have. And that’s my advice for everyone else—when someone does something that just drives you up a wall, be honest with yourself about why it bothers you, and if there’s a larger issue under the surface, focus on that. Also, I think a lack of control is at the root of a lot of interpersonal problems at work. Sometimes the tiniest shift in perspective or behavior makes a world of difference. I’ve basically tricked myself into not caring (at least caring less) about this, but in this case, I’d rather play mind games on myself than let my boss play mind games on me!
As it happens, a new job may be in my near future, so please keep your fingers crossed for me!