is it rude to call out an employee’s name when I want them to come into my office and they’re nearby?

A reader writes:

My assistant and three other staff members’ desks are just outside my office door. From my desk, if I look up, I can even make eye contact with one person. If I call someone into my office to discuss something, sometimes I will call on the phone, but since they sit five to eight feet from my door and I have my door open, sometimes I will just call out the person’s name.

Is it disrespectful to call out a name? Should I call them via the phone even though they can still hear me? We are the only ones in this area behind glass doors.

Eh, I don’t think it’s a big deal if it’s every once in a while, but I’d try to avoid it most of the time.

While it’s your prerogative to simply call out when you want someone to call to your office, it’s a bit of a … well, not a power play exactly, but it’s not the most respectful way to approach people. Think of them doing it to you, after all; if something about that rubs you the wrong way, that’s the respect piece. And while certainly being their manager means that you can ask things of them that wouldn’t go over the same if they asked them of you, it’s a nice gesture to be thoughtful about it when the circumstances allow it.

Plus, I’m a big believer that you most of the time you should be asking people if they have a minute, rather than just interrupting them. And if you just call out someone’s name, you’re basically summoning them to appear in your office right then and there. But if you call or instant-message, you give the person the opportunity to finish their train of thought if they’re writing something, or to reply that they’re about to get an important phone call that they scheduled for one minute from now but will come by as soon as it’s done, or whatever.

That said, it’s something that will take on a different flavor depending on the dynamics of the relationship. If you have a gruff or very top-down relationship with them, it’s more likely to come across as a rather ungracious summoning. But if the relationship is warm and respectful on both sides, people might not even think twice about it.

{ 155 comments… read them below }

  1. LBK

    My immediate thought – if you’re that close, is it really so tough to take 3 steps over to your door to poke your head out and get their attention? Even just that would be less rude than simply shouting their name while you’re sitting at your desk, IMO. That would come off as extremely lazy to me as an employee.

    1. Traveler

      This. I had a boss that did this notoriously – to the point all employees commented on it in private. To be fair, this boss was like this all the time, having us fetch things she didn’t want to get up for that were two feet away, creating reasons we needed to run to another department because she didn’t want to go, etc. The calling out was frustrating though. It wasn’t just disruptive to the employee being called, but everyone else within earshot. I get that the boss gets to make the rules (which is why no one ever said a word to her) but you don’t want to be labeled the lazy boss.

      1. Cassie

        Gah, yes. Being in a cubicle, I have to hear supervisors call out to their staff (either sitting in offices next to each other, or one person in an office and the other person in a cubicle) AND staff calling out to student workers. I get why they do it (my kitty-corner coworker and I are guilty of asking each other questions over the cubicle walls from time to time) but it is still a bit annoying to everyone else who has to hear.

        My boss, whose office is about 30 steps from mine, has finally learned how to use his phone to call me and ask that I come to his office to help him on something. At the very least, he’ll take 3-4 steps outside of his office towards my cubicle to call my name (his office is so big that I probably wouldn’t hear him if he was sitting at his desk).

        My other boss, who has since moved offices, used to shout out my name directly from his desk – and the thing is that he would call my name and then walk to my cubicle. What is the purpose of that? Just walk to my cubicle without disturbing other people!

        I always think “I’m not a dog, stop calling me like one”.

      2. rdb

        I think it depends a lot on one’s relationship with the boss in question, and also what is being asked. My current boss and call to each other from time to time. With this particular boss, I don’t mind because 1) it goes both ways and 2) more often than not, we’ll get up and walk the ten feet between our desks. If we do call to each other, it’s just to say things like “so-and-so just called, he’s on his way down” or “did I leave my notebook/pen on your desk?” type of stuff. He will occasionally call to me to say “X, can you come in for a moment?” But again, I don’t mind, because he answers if I call to him. (I *never* ask him to come to me, of course.)

        However, in another job with a different boss, I would get called into her office (from her desk) in order to open her blinds for her, water her orchid for her, to fetch her tea or to heat up her lunch. I am not making any of this up. I was treated like a servant. And woe unto me if I ever spoke to her without first stepping into her office.

    2. Felicia

      My office set up is sort of like this, and my boss takes the few steps it requires to walk over here. I would hate if he just called out my name. For him I sometimes phone or email because it’s hard to tell when he’s super busy

    3. Sadsack

      My manager sits about ten steps away, he usually IM’s me and asks if I can stop in when I have a chance. Works for us. My former manager used to call my name through the wall. Depending on what we were working on, it was totally acceptable to me. If he was getting on my nerves, I’d ignore him and pretend I didn’t hear him. That also worked, for me anyway.

  2. Alien vs Predator

    Yes, it is rude. This is how you treat a dog. Call, email, IM or get up yourself and go over there.

    1. Sarahnova

      Yeah, this is kind of context-dependent, but unless you have a very warm, friendly relationship and informal office, my first thought is, “I’m not a dog”.

      With an adult, if you want their attention it’s respectful to approach them (either physically or via phone/IM/whatever) and determine whether they can immediately respond to you or not.

    2. Ann O'Nemity

      I have to agree. A boss from years ago routinely did this and it drove me nuts. Especially since interruptions killed my concentration on the very detail oriented work I was hired to do. It would have been so much better to get an email, IM, or even a phone call that would allow me to say, “I’ll be with you in 3 minutes.” But when the boss was yelling from her office, I always felt like I had to drop everything that instant.

      Although that boss gave me glowing reviews and the highest raises she was allowed to give for my pay grade, I never felt very well-liked or well-respected in the day-to-day.

    3. JB

      That was my thought–that’s what you do to your pet. My test is this: is this something you would do the person at the top of the chain of command, like the CEO? Would that person be fine with it? If not, then it is probably not something that shows respect. That doesn’t mean you *can’t* treat your subordinates that way, but it also means you are not showing your subordinates respect. And although you don’t need to show deference to your subordinates, you should show them a certain level of respect.

        1. Not So NewReader

          I can’t even see treating a pet this bad.
          There are plenty of times where I walk over to my dog.

        2. JB

          Good point. That is certainly true about my cat half the time. The other half he will come when I call him because he wants to keep me confused about what he will and will not do. But I still try it every time, so I guess what I should have said was, “that’s what you do to your pet, though possibly in vain, if the pet is a cat.”

    4. AnonAnalyst

      My thoughts exactly. This is a Thing in my office, and we are a pretty informal group in a small office so I know it’s not intended to be rude, but I still think “I’m not a dog” most times it happens.

      Please don’t do this.

    5. Kelly O

      This is one of my BIGGEST pet peeves at work.

      I am not a dog. Please either pick up your phone and buzz me, or stand up and walk the four steps it would take to speak to me like a person. I might be on a call, I might have someone in the office, I might be in the restroom.

      Seriously. Just get up or pick up the phone. It’s not unreasonable.

      — With the caveat that every now and then is totally different than daily, or multiple times daily.

  3. Vancouver Reader

    I’m currently in a two person office with only a wall separating my boss and me. For me, having her yell to me means I get up and go answer her, thus giving me an excuse to get off my butt. :) However, that is a two person office, and sometimes 3, so it’s not a big deal. When I worked in bigger offices, I really liked the instant popup because you could carry on a full conversation without disturbing anyone else.

    1. Chinook

      I currently am in speaking voice distance of my boss and procurement who handles our POs. We all find it weird to call each other on the phone when, in fact, we can hear each others phone cnversations when we speak louder than usual. IMing works when we know someone is concentrating, but we have all, on occasion, just called out each others name or looked in their direction until we make eye contact (i.e. boss will call my name as she roles her chair to see me through her doorway). We are a casual bunch and it is culturally appropriate here to say “hey” when you pass someone in the hall and start conversations with strangers while waiting in line (general ones like how about the weather). I think the difference is the tone of voice – they aren’t calling out in a commanding way (which I have had other bosses do)

      We are also all female and Canadian, so I think we naturally make the name sound like a question (with an uspoken interrogative “eh?”).

    2. Haleyca

      I am also in a two person office and we operate in the same way. It is interesting because when I first read the question I did think that it wasn’t very respectful to call out to people like that, but then I realized that my boss does it all the time and I don’t think that he is disrespectful. It would seem strange for him to call me on the phone (and I’m not sure he even knows my desk phone number).

      I think, like Alison said, that it comes down to relationship. He is usually good about asking if I am busy or am working on something and does sometimes come out of his office to talk to me about things, so I don’t feel disrespected. If he did the yelling my name thing all the time and didn’t care what I was doing when he did it I would have a problem.

      1. Haleyca

        Oh and I meant to add, I think it is different for now two person offices. First of all, it can bother other people when they are working and secondly (and more importantly) I think the dynamics would be different than in a two person office.

  4. Cat

    I work with someone who pulls this off because he does have a warm and friendly relationship with everyone involved and it is basically just one of his semi-annoying/semi-endearing quirks at this point. I think it’s probably hard to get there though.

    1. Laura

      Definitely. If you don’t have a good rapport with your boss, this will be less semi-endearing quirk and more insult-to-injury.

    2. OhNo

      This. A coworker and I have frequent conversations over the cubical wall that we share, and it never seems rude to have her call my name over the divider – I either walk around to see what’s up or just stay put and speak loudly enough that she can hear my response. But if our relationship was any less cordial, I might find it really annoying.

    3. BethRA

      Right, but note that despite him being “warm and friendly” generally, you’re still labeling this “semi-annoying.”

      1. Cat

        Yeah, but in this case, one of those semi-annoying things that makes him the person he is, if that makes any sense. Which is not to say that I think everyone should adopt it; just that it’s hard to imagine this particular person not doing it.

  5. Lily in NYC

    I think it also depends on your work culture. Here, we all yell to each other all day long and it’s a complete non-issue. It doesn’t bother me at all if my boss yells down the hall for me to come back.

    1. ExceptionToTheRule

      I think work culture is a huge part it. Ours is very similar to yours, but I can understand why other’s wouldn’t be okay with it.

      1. Jamie

        Yes – I can see some work cultures where this is just casual and not weird. A lot would depend on rapport and tone.

    2. Karowen

      Ditto! I actually get worried if my boss calls me to come over (rather than yelling) because I feel like he doesn’t want other people to know that he asked me to come in, which means that I’m getting in trouble.

      That’s never the case, but it still freaks me out!

      1. Mallory+Janis+Ian

        Yes! If my boss actually picked up the phone and asked me to come to his office (instead of yelling for me to “come here”)? I’d think I was in big trouble — the kind that comes with a formal summons.

    3. Hous

      Yeah, my boss does this all the time and it doesn’t bother me in the slightest. The only time he ever calls me is if he’s out of the office for some reason.

    4. Mallory Janis Ian

      Our culture is like this, too, and when my boss needs me, he calls out to me from his desk. It doesn’t feel disrespectful, as we do have an informal, cordial relationship. It would feel really forma, though, if he called me on the phone.

      1. fposte

        Yeah, I’d never phone. We do email a lot, but that’s usually when it’s a longer-term request or something that I’ll need to refer back to. But for a “Hey, did the thing come?” That’s just a voice thing.

    5. Jen RO

      My department is the same. Part off the reason is that we’re all the same age (early 20s-early 30s), very casual and friendly, and most of us started as peers. (Also, not even the most senior person ‘summons’ anyone – we always ask if they can come over for a bit.)

    6. Joey

      What’s interesting is that you would assume most people would prefer a casual environment where you could flag someone down if you need something. I’m a little surprised to see so many commenters preferring it in a more formal way.

      Id be a little bummed if people felt that something so seemingly benign would be so grating and didn’t feel like they could say “I’m in the middle of something. Can it wait 5 minutes?”

      1. Jamie

        I think that’s where it starts to grate on others, though. Least for me.

        Even if it’s casual and everyone is cool with it and I’m working hearing one person yell for another, that one yell back that they need 5 minutes, the first one yelling back okay. Even if it’s not screaming – that’s a lot of annoyance for something that can be done much quieter.

        1. Buffay the Vampire Layer

          This.

          I get almost all of my work done after 5:30 when my loud co-worker leaves for the day. She spends a good part of her day loudly talking with the guy in the office next to hers. I’m down the hallway and hearing those conversations really impacts my ability to concentrate.

  6. Elizabeth

    I worked with somebody, Mary, who was quite lacking in social skills. She would use the overhead paging system and say, “Elizabeth, report to Mary’s office!!” I always felt like I was being summoned to the principal’s office. I was in charge of the new phone system when our company upgraded and we only rolled out paging capabilities to certain staff. Mary wasn’t one of them!

    1. Cath in Canada

      We didn’t even realise we had a paging system until a few months ago, when the head of department’s voice suddenly came on saying “[name], please report to reception. I need you! Everyone else, stop laughing please”.

    2. Sunshine

      This. I had a boss who would page “Sunny please report to your work station!” through the entire building (two floors plus loading dock) if call volume spiked while someone was away from their desk – on break, in the bathroom, didn’t matter. Hugely annoying, because it was so obvious she was just making an example of whoever had the gall to go out for a smoke or take a potty break.

  7. AndersonDarling

    I had a jerk boss who would call out my name like I was a kid in trouble. Like on the Simpsons when Superintendent Chalmers yells, “Skinner!”
    On the flip side, my current boss will call on us the phone and we can hear him in his office and through the phone at the same time. That is a bit silly.

    1. Laura

      It could be totally hilarious, though. I had a colleague who sat on the other side of the cubicle wall from me, and he still would phone me. He’s also the one who, when you phoned him, you’d say “May I speak to Alan?” and he’d reply “just a minute, please…” and brush the receiver against his shirt before talking to you. Little bits of silliness that break up the day.

      In the place I’m at now, the lawyer’s office may be about 10 feet from your desk, so they’ll call you on speakerphone. Then when you answer, you can hear yourself talking out of their speaker. It’s pretty silly, but you have to laugh.

      1. Jamie

        Those are the weird small things that totally do make or break a job – and you can’t screen for that kind of stuff!

        I have a co-worker who I just adore, and he has the weirdest habit of calling and then saying the name of whomever he’s calling, like a question. Jamie? To which I answer, “she’s not here.” And we both laugh and he drops some horrible problem in my lap and I save the day.

        That’s my take on it, he may say he gives me a little easy to fix problem and I take forever…potato potahto.

        That’s why people who really like who they work with have a hard time moving on, even if career wise they should – because you just can’t screen for the someone who will always make you laugh no matter how crappy your day is going, or the someone who hates all the same people you do so you have someone to lock eyes with when they are rambling on in meetings, or the person who has the unerring instinct of when exactly you’re about to break and comes in with cookies to tell you how awesome you are at your job.

        We need a screening tool for that.

        1. Clerica

          The “hating the same people” thing is, like…indispensable. Ever work with someone who always had to say “Oh, well, I’m sure Jane is really a sweet person…” or whatever even if Jane just did something completely disgusting for the fourth time that week? My boss has some issues, but at least I don’t feel like Bella in Gaslight half the time.

        2. tt

          The co-workers thing is so true, many people will stick around longer than professional ideal because they like the people they work with. I know it’s why I stayed in my last job (11 years) as long as I did, even though I really should have left a few years earlier.

      2. Chinook

        “He’s also the one who, when you phoned him, you’d say “May I speak to Alan?” and he’d reply “just a minute, please…” and brush the receiver against his shirt before talking to you.”

        I once worked in a place with two identical twins who sounded similair. One was a clerk who sometimes answered general calls and the other was higher up in the company. There were clients who swore that Sis #2 was answering her own calls and putting them on hold just to make her sound more important than she was – they only beleived her explanation once they saw the two of them in the office at the same time.

        1. adonday veeah

          This reminds me of a friend who started his own company, and in order to appear like he worked for a larger firm he had two personas — the sales guy and the CEO. It was fun watching Sales Guy transfer a client to CEO for the upsell.

      3. Mallory Janis Ian

        I have a couple of colleagues who, when we see one anothers’ phone numbers on our caller IDs, we answer with “Hellerrr?” Yes, it’s silly (and probably nerdy and 5-years-ago), but hey . . . we get through the day.

        1. Cath in Canada

          I’ve answered my phone with “yo, [lastname]!” based on caller ID before, only to discover that it’s my boss’s boss borrowing someone else’s phone… could be worse though.

        2. mel

          hahaha omg… my coworkers say that all the time and it rubbed off on me so badly that I’ve accidentally greeted neighbours in the hallway like that!

    2. Traveler

      It is silly! I hate that too, but if the person is unwilling or unable to get up from their desk I prefer silly to being summoned.

  8. Jamie

    My biggest problem with this is it does feel like summoning – not even giving them a heads up or come see me in a few minutes. Unless the OPs employees aren’t doing anything but waiting to be called it seems like an unnecessary immediate intrusion. But then, so does a phone call which seems more polite, so yeah – some of this is tone.

    I am guilty of seeing someone walk past my door and calling to them if I’ve been needing them for something…and I call their name as I’m trying to get up and catch them. My office is the last before you head into the plant and I’m trying to get a fast answer before they go back where I have to page them.

    And if people answered my emails more quickly this would happen less often, just saying. I’m never badgering you in the hall about something for the first time.

    But I’m still trying to go to them – would not like to routinely be called from another room unless it’s “OMG look how big your raise is going to be!” For that I’ll hop up and down like little bunny foo foo…but yes, has a tone of calling to a dog.

    1. Not So NewReader

      I think there is a difference between calling to someone who is walking past the office (they are already on their feet) and calling to someone who is sitting outside the office. If I am walking down a hallway of offices I would be more apt to expect someone to call to me, if they saw me pass by.

      1. Audrey

        I had a colleague in the office next door to mine who was always calling out to people who walked past. After a while people avoided our stretch of corridor unless they were prepared to be hijacked from whatever they were supposed to be doing.

  9. Laura

    Not that the OP means it this way, but I can definitely relate to how this might come across as disrespectful. My boss will shout out his office at me all the time – it definitely breaks into my train of thought. I hate it most when I’m really busy (not that he cares).

    I once dared to shout out his name instead of approaching his door, and he was VERY perturbed. You see, [in his world] he and his time are important – mine, not so much.

    1. Not So NewReader

      Maybe the time thing is somewhat true, but no need to rub your nose in it. Most importantly, the person who saves the boss’ time, is someone that deserves some “catering to”. (The rest of us would say “respect” instead of “catering to”.)

  10. Katie the Fed

    You have to make sure you give them a Milk Bone when they get there so you keep getting the results you want.

    Or, try for “Jane, if you have a second can you please come by to discuss ____”

    I’ve found when I ask people to come by and give them an idea of what we’ll be discussing they’re less nervous and more collected.

    1. Ask a Manager Post author

      Yes — I much prefer “do you have a minute to talk about X?” Otherwise some people worry it’s bad news, when in fact you just want to talk to them about something innocuous.

      1. hamster

        YES!
        My boss was “hamster, come in “biggest boss” office, NOW!” and i went there all stressed up and there biggest boss was just asking how a particular project was going, how can he better support us , etc.
        I was “would it have killed to brief me? :))” but of course, i realise it’s in my head and I have to give up the ideea that people who ask you in their office want to say something unpleasant.

    1. Dulcinea

      I immediately thought about WW, but I thought about Toby throwing the baseball to summon Sam into his office.

  11. Mister Pickle

    I’ve been in this kind of office arrangement, and – even if you have the best of intentions, summoning people by name like this can make you look like a power-tripper.

  12. Kristen

    At my old job, my supervisor always got up to talk to me or IMed even though she was 5 feet away in another cubicle, and I really appreciated that. At the new place one coworker would yell out “Hey Kristen!”, and it really grated on me (esp. as she’s not my manager and it was never urgent). One day I just yelled back “HIIII JAAANE!!!” and it worked! Obviously not ideal for all situations, but she said it made her realize what she sounded like and she now IMs me. :)

  13. Purple Jello

    I once had a boss who did this… (“Jello, get in here”) but I yelled right back at him, and he didn’t mind. Some of our coworkers were horrified, but it worked for us. We did NOT however, have a messaging option at that time. Otherwise I would have trained him to use it. Come to think of it, most of the time when he yelled for me (or anyone else) it was because he was having technical computer problems.

    Anyone else I’ve ever worked with – this wouldn’t have been acceptable. At Current Employer we use Lync to message each other all the time.

  14. Ann O'Nemity

    Eh, it doesn’t seem so bad to call out to people walking past your office when you’re trying to get up and catch them. Especially if it only happens on occasion.

    Sounds like the OP’s summoning is a more daily or hourly occurrence. And it’s not about trying to catch someone. It’s more about laziness and/or entitlement.

    1. Jamie

      I assume this was to me – yeah, infrequent as I usually bang my knee on my desk trying to get up fast because I’m the world’s clumsiest person. Come to think of it I only do it when people are late getting me end of month numbers and are not being communicative….so they bring it on themselves (also the cosmic guilt of my banged up knees from self injury trying to do my job.) Couple times a month at best – but if they aren’t smart enough to use the other entrance to the plant that’s not right by my office they are fair game. :)

  15. Ann Furthermore

    I can see how this would definitely rub me the wrong way, but it would really depend on the nature of the relationship. IM is perfect for this kind of thing…I do it all the time with co-workers who sit nearby. I have a question, so I shoot off an IM asking, “Hey, can you stop by when you have a minute?” It’s when it’s not a pressing issue, and it gives them a few minutes to finish what they’re doing, or if they’re on a conference call I don’t have to hover outside their cubicle.

    Apropos of nothing, this reminds me of what some users told me last year when implementing a big huge ERP system. I was asking questions trying to figure out their close process. They used a very small system without the subledgers, controls, etc that the new system would have. So I asked, “Well, how do you close AP?” And the person I was talking to said, “Well, I call across the room and say, ‘Hey, Jane, don’t put any more invoices in for the month!'” It made me laugh.

  16. Anonathon

    Back in the day, I had a boss who did this constantly. My desk was right outside her office, but I had one of those huge U-shape desks, so I couldn’t just walk straight to her. Often, she also needed something that I had to be physically at my desk to do — so it was this constant stand-up/sit-down operation. Basically, I agree that it can be fine depending on the tone of the office. But for me, it felt a little insulating after awhile.

    1. Mallory Janis Ian

      My boss still does this, and I sit in a U-shaped enclosure right outside his office. It’s kind of like a cubicle, except it’s a permanent structure with dry-wall, its own little roof, and a marble-like reception counter. I get into it through a doorway on the backside of it. So whenever he calls me, I have to get up and go out the back door of my “administrative stall” and go into his office. I’ll answer his question, and almost as soon as I sit back down, he’s all, “Oh, hey Mal!” I go back in there, and he’s all, “I’m sorry . . . I forgot to ask blabbedy-blah”.

      1. Jamie

        I’m really curious – what do all these people need that has to be communicated face to face.

        Some face time is necessary for sure. Performance reviews, some negative feedback, sensitive conversations…none should be done by email, but these aren’t spur of the moment conversations.

        I can see calling someone as they walk past your office is something springs to mind, but calling someone specifically to you to tell them something – I’m really curious as to what kind of thing this is that isn’t better communicated by sending a quick email (which can be used as reference, my favorite thing.)

        Are they lonely?

          1. Jamie

            Ha! Of course not, they are family so they can text rather than email. :)

            Seriously, though, if someone yelled for me to get up so I could go to them and they could tell me something…we might need to visit the old family org chart and see where Mommy ranks. It’s the person with something to say that gets up…unless it’s me and then they get up because – see org chart.

            If only everything could be run like my benevolent dictatorship.

        1. Mallory+Janis+Ian

          @Jamie — I can’t even remember what-all he wants when he calls. He’s not in the office very much (between his other office downtown and his constant traveling on the lecture, visiting professorship, and design jury circuit). So when he is in the office, there’s a huge flurry of activity with him sitting in his university office for a couple of hours and wanting things from people (namely, me).

  17. aliascelli

    I heartily dislike having my concentration broken, so it would bother me for that reason. If someone uses email/IM, I can at least finish a thought before going to answer them.

    And keep in mind, you’re being heard by a) the person you’re calling out to, and b) c) d) the other three employees there. I would bring headphones in after the first day there, just so I could focus.

    1. Katie the Fed

      Me too. and I HATE when people show up at my desk and launch into whatever they came to say, instead of giving me a second to finish typing my sentence or shift gears. It’s the height of rudeness.

      1. Another comment on the situation

        Agreed. A co-worker came into our department and interrupted a discussion we were having about which funeral home in the area would be willing to do a burial service for a newborn child of one of our co-workers. Apparently, there are funeral homes that refuse to do services for the very young because they find it too difficult to do so we were all trying to get a solution. The interrupter just came in and started talking about the best brownies they had ever had. It is best to see what kind of conversation or project you are going to interrupt before you actually interrupt it.

      2. aliascelli

        YES. I have gotten most people to a) knock, because I sometimes don’t realize they’re talking to me and not the next cube-dweller over (and then sometimes they touch my shoulder and that Does Not Go Well), and b) accept a “lemme finish” gesture. They’re really nice people, even if I’d still rather be emailed.

    2. Mallory Janis Ian

      Here’s the thing about our IM: if someone messages me while I’m typing something else, the IM system hijacks what I’m typing, and may end up sending a total non sequitur to someone. It’s really irritating if I’m typing into a spreadsheet, and my response to my co-worker is something like, “15399+1407+635+1200” because that represents a fricking string of numbers that I have to retype. And if they keep IMing me while I keep trying to type into the spreadsheet — arrgh!!

        1. Mallory+Janis+Ian

          It’s called Jabber — and it drives me crazy. We mainly only use it to arrange work-buddy stuff, like lunches or quick walks, or to say snarky things that can’t be put into an email

        2. Bea W

          When my office upgraded to Lync 2013 the damn thing kept popping up in my face every couple minutes without anyone IMing me. I had to turn it off and disable it.

    1. LSmith211

      Exactly Mike. My first boss did this. I though it was incredibly rude and have not done that to anyone since I’ve been in management myself. I am by a child. At least se taught me the kind of boss I never want to (and haven’t ) been.

  18. Anny

    My boss does this all the time. He is usually busy in clinic (physician) or in meetings or behind his computer working on a million things. If he hears me nearby, he will call out my name. I don’t have a problem with it. He also does not ever ‘yell’ my name- he’s soft spoken but our offices are quiet so I can usually hear him. Once in a while hell come into my area and beckon me to walk with him while he talks as he is on the way to something. I’m his assistant, so it feels like it comes with the territory.

  19. Shell

    My bosses sometimes do this, but I don’t really mind, because we are really a warm and informal office. It’s also because it’s such a small office (my desk is in the centre and their office doors are somewhere between 3-5 feet from my desk).

    In all fairness, though, they don’t do this very often–usually only when our accounting software is acting up. And they grab things from the copier and “deliver” it to my desk all the time, so it’s not like they’re pulling rank constantly. :)

  20. QC

    I had a boss who would call across a room, hallway and then into another room my first name. It was annoying, and rather demeaning to myself and the other students who worked in the lab. Plus the rest of the department made side comments to us behind her back. To this day my friends will mimic her accent when yelling at me from across a room because it was just so ridiculous.

  21. the_scientist

    My boss has a tendency to randomly yell into the hallway until someone sticks their head out and responds. She will also specifically call for people by name and has the uncanny ability to call my name while I’m in the washroom. And, I’m sorry, but I’m not yelling through the bathroom door while doing my business.

    1. Laura

      At the last law firm I worked at, the managing partner relied very heavily on his Assistant. It was to the point that she could never get up from her desk, because any time she did he would need her at that precise moment.

      One day she was in the washroom as I was exiting, and her boss was dashing by shouting her name. I told him she was in the washroom and he said, very seriously, “well, can you go and get her out? I need to dictate a letter.” We laughed about that one for a long, long time afterward.

  22. Enjay

    Totally depends on the office culture. There are four offices in my corner and we routinely call out to each other rather than pick up the phone – this includes both manager and minions. I’ve never thought twice about it, but it isn’t done in a rude way. It’s just quick and effective.

  23. jen

    i echo the office culture and relationship comments.

    our team is situated like that, and i’m the one our boss can see. and i can see her (no closed doors). she will generally just call over to me, and i’m okay with that because it feels wierd when she calls me on the phone even though i can literally see her and hear her talking. i can hear the conversation out of both ears but slightly off kilter because the phone’s a split second later. if i don’t want to be called or i’m working on something, i put on headphones and she will email me to request that i come see her when i have a chance. but all of this is what we’ve worked out that fits into our office’s culture as a whole and ours as a team, and i know she respects me. that’s the important part.

  24. Henrietta Gondorf

    I’m in DoD land and people do this all the time. It’s totally normal in the military and none of then think twice about it.

    I’m personally completely unbothered by it, to the point where it just seems routine, not power trippy.

    1. Cath in Canada

      Heh, this made me smile. I used to have a boss who’d occasionally yell out to one of the two of us who sat near his office. He couldn’t see either of us from where he sat, so every time this happened we’d both silently jump up to attention and salute each other before whoever’d been summoned walked into his office. This was not in the military.

  25. ACA

    I had a manager who used to yell for employees – in a call center environment, which meant many of us were on the phone and not able to respond to her, which made her yell louder. It got so bad that we reported it to HR. Her response? “I don’t yell, I bellow!”

    Please don’t be that person.

  26. Lurker

    I find it extremely rude, disrespectful, and unprofessional.

    I admit, I may be a bit biased. The two worst managers I’ve ever had both did that. One of them had an office that was not within eyesight of the rest of the department, about 10 feet away, yet she would loudly yell our names when she wanted us, instead of picking up the phone. I started to pretend I didn’t hear her when she’d yell my name.

    1. Kelly L.

      I must confess, though, I also dislike the phone for when you sit that close. It can be hard to understand when they’re close enough that you can hear their actual voice, and you can also hear their phone-voice on a little lag, so it’s like you’re getting it in stereo but not synced up. IM sounds like a good idea.

      1. Lurker

        Or get up off your a$$, walk over to the person, and say, “I’m sorry to interrupt; do you have a minute?”

  27. Relosa

    I used to have a job at an amusement park where the offices didn’t have ceilings. Doors, yes, but no ceilings. (the office building was real, thank you! Just high ceilings) The back office was far enough away from the clerk that with the door shut, a phone call worked. But the rest of the time we’d just simply speak in our normal voices and ask if someone else was available – you could hear phone conversations so we knew we weren’t interrupting those. Our way to signal to someone to come talk to us after their phone call ended was to do a missed call ringback on their extension, so they’d just hear a little quick beep and their phone would flash, they’d see the extension/name then go talk to that person. There was email but so many people had to move around a lot that the ringback would tie them to their office for five minutes.

    It was a weird setup but it worked – the offices were clustered together by divisions. They went in order of HR, Merch/Games, Park Operations, Foods, then VP/Exec offices had their own closed off area (with ceilings). It was weird but it worked. You could always hear if anyone was on the phone, so there was no worry about interrupting anyone by calling out.

    However it was the only place I was comfortable doing that, and I made sure to follow my boss’ lead on it.

  28. TotesMaGoats

    This happens all the time in my department and at all levels. I will say it only usually when someone is walking past and you need them. We also talk through the walls from time to time because they are so thin.

  29. A Nonny Mouse

    My boss and I are the only ones who sit in my corner of the office. He does this to me all the time, and, while most of the time it doesn’t bother me, there are days where I am swamped with things to do and every time I hear, “Hey, NonnyMouse…” I want to scream, because it immediately interrupts my train of thought. Especially given that we have a company IM system at his disposal, and because it’s usually about something that could definitely have waited for an email response.

    I had another boss who would SCREAM our names from down the hallway when she wanted something – usually when she wanted one of us to bring her a Diet Coke from the fridge. (Eventually we stopped responding to her frequent screams for service, so we started getting emails: “I need a Diet Coke.” You have no idea how badly both of us wanted to respond, “So get up and get one.”)

      1. Lurker

        Ha! Mine would ask if anyone had any gum. A cow chewing its cud would have been more pleasing. One of my co-workers got so annoyed with the gum smacking that she told the rest of us to hide all gum and swear not to give ex-manager any!

    1. SherryD

      “So get up and get one.”

      Hahahahaha! Man, I am lucky I didn’t work there. I don’t think I would be have been able to resist!

    2. Jamie

      It’s a good rule of thumb that when someone is making you cringe at the sound of your own name they need to reevaluate their communication styles.

      My gramma had 7 kids all pretty close together in age and she said that when they were little she’d get so sick of hearing the sound of “Mooooom” that she’d have days where they had to call her “Pete.”

      So they’d spend the day yelling “Peeeeeteeee” at her since she wouldn’t answer to Mom – the kids knew that when Pete showed up grams was getting near the edge…and it was a way of her injecting humor into what had to be pretty stressful raising a houseful of kids without much cash during and after the depression.

      She loved telling the story of how shocked Mrs. Fancypants from down the street was came over and asked one of the kids to get their mom and the kid said, “Hey Pete, there is someone at the door for you.”

      She knew that you do what you have to do to get through the day, and a sense of humor comes in really handy sometimes.

  30. CAS

    I’d put this in the Golden Rule category. I wouldn’t want to be hollered at off and on all day. I’d dislike the interruptions in my concentration, and I’d find it to be disrespectful both of me and my time. Given that, it would be hypocritical for me to holler at others off and on all day. I’ll add that it’s disrespectful regardless of one’s status. At the end of the day, we are all humans who deserve to be treated respectfully.

    There was a time when I worked cubicle environments in which we were all about six feet from each other all the time. I can’t imagine hollering, “Joe!” when I needed to ask Joe a question. No, I’d get up off my duff, walk from my cubicle to Joe’s, and knock on the frame to see if he had a minute.

  31. Rebecca

    No, it is not OK to bellow out names and summon them to the office. It’s disruptive and annoying, especially when said employee is 3 or 4 offices down the hall. And I want to add – don’t appear in the office doorway and say your employee’s name loudly and suddenly and startle the hell out of them and think it’s funny. Yes, it’s hilarious to be startled on a daily basis because you would not allow me to face the doorway when our offices were being built. There are other ways to make your presence known without yelling sharply. I know you think it’s funny. I don’t.

    Are we sure I have to give notice when I leave?

  32. BethRA

    Even if this wouldn’t be considered rude to your assistant in your office culture, it is rude and potentially disruptive to the other people in that work space.

  33. HepHep

    I really like that the LW bothered to ask this question. It shows that s/he bothered to consider “is this good form?”
    I like Alison’s response too, and I agree with the advice given that it is much preferable to approach others with some consideration for whatever they might be in the middle of.

  34. Jake

    Alison hit the nail on the head, it completely depends on the relationship you have with these people. My old boss did this ALL the time, yet it never bothered me because he was such an awesome boss. He made me feel so valued and respected with how he treated me that this one thing never even crossed my mind as being disrespectful.

    However, I’d say this is one of those cases where if you need to ask if it is appropriate, you shouldn’t do it.

  35. Another comment on the situation

    I would just also like to add that you might want to think about whether or not you have clients who would find this bothersome. I went to a specialist for a hearing problem who would go to the door and shout out instructions to his staff at the other end that had nothing to do with my appointment or problem. He had been wondering why he had not gotten any cell phone messages and was trying to solve that while he was examining me. The shouting went back and forth. They finally figured out that the doctor had not paid his bill so he shouted out his information to get one of them to pay it – still while examining me! It made a big difference in why I will no longer see this guy and I will tell anyone who asks my opinion on local doctors to avoid him.

  36. HR Manager

    My manager does this on occasion and it’s never bothered me, so I suppose it’s the tone or context in which the shouting is made. He usually calls me when he’s stuck in the middle of something and needs help, so there is a pleading tone for assistance. If my manager were barking for me to come over, I would be offended. But the “ahhh…help me, pleeeasseee…” tone is ok by me.

  37. SherryD

    Also keep in mind that if you’re just yelling out and can’t see, you don’t even *know* what you’re interrupting. I’ve been listening intently on an important phone call only to hear a boss or coworker yell, “SherryD! SHERRYD!” Or maybe I have a client visiting at my desk.

    And if you think working with ONE yeller is bad, try working with TWO, both yelling back and forth with you in the middle.
    “JANE?!”
    “WHAT?”
    “DO YOU HAVE THE FILE FROM ABC COMPANY?”
    “NO…”
    “YOU DON’T?! I NEED IT BY NOON!”
    “I DON’T HAVE IT BECAUSE I GAVE IT TO YOU THIS MORNING!”
    “NO YOU DIDN’T!”
    “YES I DID!”
    “NO YOU… OH… I GUESS YOU DID! I DO HAVE IT HERE. OK, WELL, I ALSO NEED THE COMPANY XYZ FILE.”
    “OK, YOU’LL HAVE IT BY NOON.”
    “THANK YOU!”
    **SherryD is in the middle, whimpering**

    I agree though, it depends on office culture, and maybe once in a while isn’t so bad.

  38. AnonyMouse

    + A lot to the advice and comments that this depends on office culture. I mean, I wouldn’t just yell out someone’s name with no other comment and expect them to come running. In my current office, for instance, the space and team are small and friendly enough that it seems silly to call or email when the person is sitting right near you. Typically I’ll say something along the lines of “Walter, do you have a minute?” in my normal voice, and the person will either reply “Why sure, Marie,” and head over to my desk, or say “I’m actually in the middle of something, mind if we talk in a couple minutes?” This is pretty much the procedure for everyone, across hierarchies, and it seems to work fine. But if it was a space where you actually had to yell to be heard, I’d rethink the approach. And I do think it’s always more polite to ask people if they have a minute to talk when you need something, rather than assuming they do!

  39. Anon Accountant

    I’m glad the OP is considerate enough to write in to ask about this. 1 of my bosses whistles for you when he wants your attention. I mean literally stands in your doorway and whistles. Or when he passes you in the hallway he whistles at you the same way you’d whistle to call a dog.

    One of these days I’m going to respond by barking like a dog or saying “woof”.

  40. Elizabeth

    I used to be an executive assistant, so this happened a lot to me. I never minded it because my boss and I had an awesome relationship, and it never felt like hollering/yelling/summoning to me (he was the type who described me as someone who worked with him, and not for him – which I think is a huge difference). I was very close to his office, so even if he picked up the phone to buzz me (which he did do sometimes) I could hear him without the phone anyways just fine and it wasn’t loud enough to distract others. If I was busy, I would tell him I needed a minute. We didn’t have an IM system at the time.

  41. FX-ensis

    I don’t see the issue here, or perhaps I misunderstand, I’m not sure.

    But then if there is a guideline for the subordinate to say “I cannot come now, I have something pressing”, then I think it’s normal.

    In my experience, I have worked close-by to managers’ offices, and it was always the case that if it wasn’t urgent I didn’t have to go on the spot. It’s just a simple clarification, or basically just good social skills, which can be pre-defined at the outset.

  42. kobayashi

    My boss actually does this all the time. We have offices, and she’ll just call one of us from her office since the walls are thin, and really, I never took offense. We all kind of do it to each other, and if I’m in the middle of something, I’ll just say, “be there in one minute!”

  43. Not So NewReader

    OP, I would add that it also depends on what is going on at the moment. If I am working with my boss to complete something by 4 and it is now 3:30, I do not care if my boss hollers to me. The context provides the explanation for the hollering. Likewise, if I hit a major snare, I say “BOSS!!!” and she answers me immediately, I feel that it is a reciprocal gesture. I respond to her call outs and she responds to mine.

    If you are still undecided after reading all these comments, I think then your answer is to mix it up. Call out sometimes and sometimes walk out. A good example of when to walk out is if your employee brought you in necessary paper work and you have completed it. Carry it back out yourself rather than calling out to the employee. Employees do notice that little gesture of courtesy.

  44. LV Ladybug

    My office uses instant messaging, and I think it is great! We are also close enough to call each other from other offices and hear each other. It is so much nicer saying “come here when you have a second” etc. I wish a lot more places could be as efficient.

  45. Courtney

    Oh my gosh, my current boss does this all the time and it drives me nuts. She also shouts out when she doesn’t know if someone is in the office or not, so we have to inform her that that person is not in the office. The biggest problem for me is that she’ll call your name and then ask you a question, but you can’t hear her very well so you will have to get up and walk into her office.

    My last boss would call my name, but since all that required was me turning around to face her it wasn’t an issue. But it’s frustrating when I can’t physically see you (therefore can’t hear you very well) and now I’m getting up 5 times in 30 minutes to answer whatever questions you have.

    Also, my previous boss (that I could see) would always ask me if I had a minute before just interrupting me. Really appreciated that.

  46. Militant Intelligent

    I had a colleague who would walk up behind me as I worked at my computer and wait until i turned around in order to get my attention. Sometimes, he commented on whatever I was working on/looking at online. I loathed that. The day he retired was pure joy.

  47. Enid

    It’s normal in our office to call out someone’s name from your desk. It only really bothers me when they aren’t loud enough, so I’m not sure whether my boss has actually called my name or not.

    1. Bea W

      It’s been normal in some places I’ve worked. It really depends on the office culture and how the team works together and to some extent what you actually say. “Wakeen! Come over here!” would probably be considered rude, but just calling out a name or asking if someone has a minute or if they can come over when they have a minute might be fine. I sit in an isolated area with co-workers in the cubes next to me, and we default to calling out unless other people are in the area. We got one non-team member assigned to a cube, and on days he is in people generally refrain from calling out and speaking loudly from the next desk over out of courtesy to someone who is doing unrelated work (even though he is obnoxiously loud and occasionally farty).

  48. C Average

    You know, I’ve realized of late that I just flat-out don’t like my manager, and I’ve been struggling to figure out why and to figure out how to get past feeling this way. We coexist OK, but I love the relaxed, happy, productive way I feel when she’s not in the office, and I’d love to feel that way when she’s in the office. There’s something about being in the same environment as her that just sort of throws me off balance.

    THIS is exactly the kind of thing she does. Such a small thing, but so telling. She yells across the room at people and expects their instant and undivided attention.

    She’ll also start talking in the middle of our open area while people are on task and it will at some point turn into an ad hoc meeting we’re supposed to listen to and/or participate in. She doesn’t keep certain things on hand–phone chargers, snacks, change for the vending machine, pens, etc.–and she’s always asking other people to lend her these things, often neglecting to return or replace them. She hijacks conversations to tell stories about herself, often stories we’ve already heard. She makes up nicknames for people and won’t stop using them, even when specifically asked. She changes plans often and without notice, but dislikes it when other people have to change their plans. She overshares and doesn’t respect boundaries.

    I’m realizing, as I’m thinking about this, that she’s just an inconsiderate person who’s unpleasant to be around, even though she’s very good at certain aspects of her role. I would never, ever be friends with someone like her, and in my day-to-day life I go to great lengths to avoid people like her. Being forced into proximity, and having a power differential added to the equation, hasn’t been a good thing for anyone.

    I never quite thought about it all this way until I read this thread. It’s amazing how a small thing can say so much about someone.

  49. emmbee

    I’m really surprised by this! (Half serious question: do you all work in libraries?!)

    I’m sure there are some people who abuse this, but isn’t part of work culture learning to deal with interruptions? Maybe it’s my background (I’ve always worked in fast-paced communications offices where a million things are going on at once) but part of the fun of work is switching gears depending on who needs what. If my boss called my name from her office (which definitely happened at my old job – I’m too far away and from my current boss) I’d say “One sec!” if I needed a moment or I’d get up and go see her.

    I don’t get how you can be bothered by someone calling your name but not by the phone ringing, or an email or IM popping up. For those of you who think someone calling your name is rude, what do you think of people calling you on the phone? Are they rude, too? What’s your preferred way of being called?

    I actually am physically unable to yell out my staffs’ names (they’re all in offices next to mine, so I have to get up for them to hear me anyway) but if they sat right outside my door I’d totally call their names as needed. I wouldn’t call them every 5 minutes, so perhaps it’s a balance thing?

    I just feel like everyone’s being rather…precious here.

    1. Sam

      I think it’s less about the interruption and more about being summoned. An IM, e-mail or phone call is a request for attention, certainly, but in a different way than being called by name to come into someone else’s space. It’s arguably more polite and respectful to get up and go to the other person if you want something, rather than to sit where you are and summon others to come to you. If the boss needs the person to come into her office for a specific reason, it shows respect for the other person’s time to ask if it’s a good time rather than holler out the other person’s name as if he or she is available to drop everything at that moment.

    2. Diet Coke Addict

      Not every job can easily or readily support switching gears every few minutes. Some can, which is terrific, but some people need a lot of concentration–maybe they’re coding or writing something intensive or doing math equations–and someone yelling their name can be distracting enough to break up their concentration, which necessitates more time for them to get back into the groove. Some people just work that way.

      1. C Average

        Joel Spolsky (one of my favorite bloggers, who unfortunately hasn’t written anything new for his blog, Joel on Software, in a really long time) has written extensively about why developers and other knowledge workers should have offices with doors and shouldn’t work in an open-plan environment. He’s tried to quantify the amount of productivity lost to interruptions and task shifting, and came to the conclusion as a manager and business owner that it’s worth the cost to give each developer an office. Really interesting stuff. There is solid research about exactly what you’re describing–it’s not just an individual quirk.

  50. Omne

    I use Lync to IM them. I also use a code they know. If I say ” got a minute?” it means I want to see them but it’s not a problem or a big deal. If I say ” Please come to my office” they know there’s a problem. It solved a lot of anxiety problems for them. I found it much better than yelling for them or going to look for them.

  51. MsTiddle

    I made the mistake of indulging this behaviour from a co-worker when I first joined my office. She would call out my name, and I would get up from my desk and go and see what she wanted. As my confidence grew, I asked myself, ‘why do you let her treat you like a dog?’ I resolved to stop responding when she called out for me (this woman has her head in the clouds and has little respect for her manager, let alone her co-workers, so I already knew that talking to her about it wouldn’t be very helpful). If I happened to be walking with my back to her and she called out to me, I kept walking. I felt better about myself, and she gradually called for me less and less often. It took a while, but I think she seemed to get the message eventually. Seriously, I think some people only call out to others to prove to themselves that they are able to make other people dance to their tune. It is disrespectful and undermines co-worker relationships. I have since changed units, and I resolved never to do this to another co-worker or to tolerate it being done to me in the future. Lesson learned. Your good upbringing doesn’t mean you have to accept being treated inappropriately.

  52. CB

    I am going through this now, I sit in a cubical with managers in the offices around me. My boss is the only one who sits at his desk and calls out my name for me to come to him. There are other co-workers with different bosses, who get up and walk out to their employees, only mine will sit at his desk and call for me to come there. We are not close, and it does seem like I am being called like a dog.

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