I accidentally woke up a company VIP with an early-morning call!

A reader writes:

I am currently trying to obtain some information from a person who is very high up in my company. It was suggested I telephone, so I took the contact details from the intranet, and dialed the given landline number.

The number was diverted to the mobile number, which is fairly standard. The person answered, I introduced myself and suddenly the line got cut off. Since this can sometimes happen, I dialed again, explained what I was looking for, and was then informed the conversation was taking place in the (very) early hours of the morning due to business travel!

I politely apologized, but what is your take on business mobile phone use? My view is that if your phone is switched on, then expect people to call.

If you were calling during normal business hours in your time zone, and this person normally works in your time zone, then you had no way of knowing that it was early-morning hours where she was. And yes, she should have turned off her phone (or at least her call-forwarding) if she didn’t want to risk that.

You’re not really at fault here. And since it sounds like she set her office landline number to divert to her cell phone, you’re also probably not the only wake-up call she got on that trip.

That said, if I’m wrong about my assumptions above and you were in fact calling at some ungodly hour like 7 a.m., then you’re sort of in the wrong. Although even then, it’s not unusual to call someone’s office landline after hours and not think to worry that the call could be forwarded and wake them up.

My suggested rule: If someone is so important that callers to their office landline must be able to reach them at all times, they should not make that number easily available.

{ 10 comments… read them below }

  1. Anonymous

    If this person is a higher up, there may have been an assistant to contact first. That said – it’s part of life. We all get early morning calls on occasion, and I never hold it against anyone.* Temporarily grumpy? Sure! But then I remember it’s my job, and I make sure everyone has my contact info. A little while later I laugh at myself over it – and it usually sparks a few good in jokes and bonding with co-workers.

    *except my momma. She knows that an early morning call from her means something bad happened, so I give her heck if she calls me early just to say hi! :-)

    1. Emily

      True that there may have been an assistant to contact first, but a frustration at every organization I’ve worked for has been the lack of that sort of info–there might be 5-10 assistants listed in a department, but my company directories have never made it at all clear who is paired with whom.

      Also, if an assistant should have been the contact, te person who recommended OP call could have specified!

      And another thing–OP, are you saying this person hung up on you, not that the call was disconnected? Those aren’t very good phone manners either.

      If this person holds grudges, this is a silly one.

  2. Lentil

    She’ll get over it. If she has a company paid cell phone she should be used to getting phone calls at odd hours.

    7am is hardly ungodly early…

  3. That was my question!

    Thanks for your prompt answer!

    Nothing to really add to Alison’s comments, other than, yes, I do work in the same time zone, and even if I didn’t, I would have taken a time difference into account had I known. The call took place during (my) standard office hours, so not at the crack of dawn either!

  4. The Plaid Cow

    I found out the hard way that a former boss had his office phone transferred to his mobile (and that he didn’t turn it off at night) when I called the office at 3am to leave a voice mail that my wife was going into labor and I wouldn’t be in the next day.

    1. Adam V

      What else are you supposed to do in that situation, though? You can’t guarantee that once 8 rolls around, you’ll have a chance to step away and call the office.

      If you’re going to do this (forward your work number to your cell/home after hours), then you definitely need to make sure your reports & coworkers know about it.

      1. Natalie

        Or definitely turn your cell phone off or silence the ringer when you don’t want to answer it.

  5. Jamie

    I don’t think OP did anything wrong at all.

    The applications which forward from desk to cell can all be set up to give the caller options to go to voice mail before forwarding.

    If they chose to set it up to auto forward with no message about time zone and no options to go straight to VM then that’s their fault.

  6. Amanda H.

    I read this too quickly as, “Accidentally Woke Up with a Company VIP.” Damn!

    The only potentially productive comment I have for the real issue here is: please care a bit less about what anyone, including upper management, thinks of an accidental early phone call.

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