back slowly away from your email and pick up the damn phone

If you’re like a lot of people, including me, you rely far too heavily on email, even when you’d be better served by talking in real time. After all, email lets you carefully think through exactly what you want to say, choose the perfect words, and avoid the risk of accidentally blurting out something you’ll later regret. And it also lets you avoid conversations that might be awkward if they happen face-to-face.

But while email is a perfectly sound tool in many cases, some topics call for a real-time conversation – meaning a discussion in-person, or at least over the phone.

That’s not to say that you need to communicate in real time for everything – you don’t – but you should be thoughtful about what communication mode you choose, and you should keep in mind that email and other written forms of communication are notorious for causing miscommunications about tone and intent.

You should never use email for any of the following:

  1. Giving critical feedback, especially serious or nuanced feedback
  2. Talking about complex projects or tasks where you need to hash out what the outcome should look like, explain complicated or nuanced information, or otherwise have a discussion as opposed to simply assigning
  3. Delivering a difficult, sensitive, or sticky message, such as turning someone down for a raise or promotion, discussing concerns about attendance, or ending someone’s pet project
  4. Anything likely to be heated or conflict-filled, or even just where your tone could be misinterpreted
  5. Any topics where part of the value of communicating at all is in the discussion (such as talking about performance concerns) and where a one-way delivery of information will deprive you of that

And here’s the unbreakable rule of email: If you’re dreading the conversation or it feels uncomfortable to you, you shouldn’t be using email. That’s the sign of a conversation that’s sufficiently delicate, emotionally charged, or ripe for misinterpretation that you should have a conversation, not send an email.

But let’s not give email short shrift. It’s a hugely valuable communication tool (there’s a reason, after all, that most of us have embraced it so heartily). And while email is good for plenty of routine communications, there are two times in particular when email really shines:

  • When you want a written record of what was said – to refer back to later or provide documentation of what was relayed
  • When something is so complicated that you want someone to have details in writing, such as a new procedure for database entries or login instructions for your website

Ultimately, all of this is about choosing the communication tool that best fits the situation – not always picking one or the other, or even then one that’s most comfortable, but being thoughtful about what your context demands.

I originally published this at Intuit Quickbase’s blog.

{ 160 comments… read them below }

  1. Amtelope

    When you say “critical feedback,” do you mean about someone’s performance in general? Because we often have to give each other feedback about our products before they go out to our clients, and I can’t imagine doing that by phone rather than email. “Chocolate teapot #23 has cracks in the handle, chocolate teapot #47 needs a better insulating tea cozy, chocolate teapot #53 is mislabeled as a chocolate teapot when it is actually a caramel coffee mug …” That’s not a process that can happen easily over the phone or even in person — we need the list of problems clearly documented in order to fix them.

    1. Laufey

      I think critical feedback here is more along the lines of “If you don’t start showing up on time, Walder Frey, your job will be in jeopardy” or “your job performance needs to be improved.”

      The examples you gave seem to be more routine, straightforward things.

      1. Kelly L.

        Hahaha, I love the idea of the Late Lord Frey being late to work just like everything else.

        1. Laufey

          I feel like he would also be the one that assures you he has your back on a key piece of an important project, then leaves you hanging when he quits without notice to join a competitor without doing any of the work.

    2. Ask a Manager Post author

      I mean the kind of feedback that’s likely to be more sensitive (“I have concerns about X,” “I want to talk about how we can approach Y differently,” “what happened with this report?” etc.).

  2. Sunflower

    This kind of feeds into number 2 but let me add if you are going back and forth over email with someone over email because the other doesn’t understand what the other is saying- please pick up the phone. Obviously something isn’t going through over the writing ways so please pick up the phone so I don’t have to be basically IMing with you.

  3. BB

    This should probably go without saying but when something is urgent! The only sorts of urgent emails I should be getting are about developments that occurred overnight or a mass notification(like building emergency)

    I work with a lot of people in different time zones and email is both a blessing and a curse sometimes. It’s great because I can send them info late, leave work and because of email, it will be in my inbox in the morning. But sometimes it will take days for a simple conversation to pan out and I kick myself for not picking up the phone and finishing it in 10 minutes.

    1. Brett

      If I truly have an urgent email, I call the person on the phone as I send the email and wait on the phone for them to get it.

      Part of my job is sending out mass alerts by email and SMS. SMS has its flaws, but I have learned that email is definitely nowhere close to reliable for time sensitive information. We always get complaints back that people received the alerts hours after the incident.

    2. Jessa

      Yes, especially if you have no idea the person will get it in time. If it’s time sensitive, call. You can always email the details later.

    3. Shortie

      I have the opposite preference re: urgent messages. I would much rather receive them via email so I can quickly and correctly handle the issue without someone jabbering in my ear for 45 minutes about how urgent the issue is (while I’m thinking, “If it’s so urgent, let me hang up and correct and it for you”).

      That said, if I receive the urgent email and it’s not clear or I realize it’s something that does need to be discussed over the phone, I will pick up the phone. Much prefer to get the e-mail first, though, so I can look up the background and gather my thoughts for a minute or two before getting on the phone.

  4. OriginalYup

    I’ll even add a caveat to your “two times things should be written”: you can use email and in-person conversation together for max effectiveness.

    Have the complex conversation, then send out an email summarizing what was discussed. The email will serve as documentation of what was agreed, so everyone in the conversation can go back to it for reminders.

    Alternately, send out an email with the precise points, and then have a follow-up conversation about it. The email can be the starting point so that everyone in the conversation is working from the same information, and the verbal discussion will clarify anything that’s unclear or ambiguous.

    1. HM in Atlanta

      This – so helpful for larger workgroups (or employees that don’t want to remember conversations about expectations).

    2. JMegan

      Alternately, send out an email with the precise points, and then have a follow-up conversation about it.

      Or when you’re introducing something brand new, or outside a person’s normal work routine. For example, on my to-do list this week is to contact Department B and let them know that my Department A is considering discontinuing chocolate teapot production, and would B be able to take over for A’s clients if we do? And if so, how much would it cost, and how long will it take?

      I will follow up by phone as well, but I figure the email is better than cold-calling this person and interrupting his work with something that he’s probably never considered. This way he has time to look up my name in the directory and figure out who the heck I am, and do whatever research he needs to so we can have a coherent phone conversation when the time comes.

  5. Brett

    Extra rule we have for the public sector.

    Never put anything in email that you do not want to be brought up in court or on the evening news.

    I’ve been relatively lucky, but one of my co-workers has his email sunshine law requested or subpoenaed 3-4 times a year since I started working here (because he is involved in the nasty field of construction procurement). Even though sunshine requests are supposed to be targeted, generally we comply with requests like, “Every email you sent or received for the last 3 months.”

    (By the same token, any time you are emailing a public sector worker at their work email, never send anything that you do not want brought up in court or on the evening news.)

    1. blu

      This isn’t just public sector. Subpoenas work on everyone, so in general if you don’t want it recorded for posterity, don’t put it in email.

      1. Sarah

        I think for public sector employees it’s not subpoenas so much as emails requested under Freedom of Information Act laws. Our emails can literally end up on the front page of a newspaper.

    2. Robin

      +1

      I don’t put anything in my email that I wouldn’t want to see on the front page of the New York Times. That’s my rule. Honestly, I try to apply to my personal email, too.

    3. Sasha LeTour

      That’s a good point. My dad worked for the government for more than 25 years. He’s retired now, but when I did email him at work, we were always mindful of what was said for that exact reason. He set up an AOL account (ah, the 90s), for emails of a more personal nature and it worked out great. I enjoyed a lot of stories about his crazy boss for the last 10 years he worked in the government.

    4. JCC

      As a government employee, one shouldn’t be keeping secrets unless their is a public-approved reason to do so — the public has been pretty clear about this.

      That was one of the things that was a constant annoyance during my time as a government worker — the compulsive over-use of the telephone. Relying on faulty memories of phone conversations from a week ago should not be the norm when a clear written trail can be quickly and easily established — records are a useful tool, not the enemy.

      1. JCC

        Make that “unless there”. Records also make it easier to keep track of minor mistakes. :)

  6. C average

    Do any of the rest of you get downright anxious when you’re required to actually use the phone?

    Not kidding, it’s a serious question. I live and die by email and various shared online tools, as do most of my colleagues. I literally never call anyone other than my mother and sister unless no other contact option exists. When my desk phone rings or the voicemail icon on my iPhone is lit up, I experience an actual physical sensation of dread that I have to talk on the phone. Conference calls are my kryptonite; I’ll do anything on this planet to avoid them.

    As the occasions when I do have to talk on the phone become increasingly rare, I find I go further and further out of my way to avoid even those rare occasions. I know it’s weird to hate using the phone this much, but I don’t think I’m alone based on conversations I have with colleagues.

    1. CanadianWriter

      I’ve always been anxious about using the phone. I worked in a call centre for six months to try to get over this (ha!) and now my anxiety is 100x worse.

      1. Kelly L.

        Are you me? I also hate the phone, telemarketed for a brief time, and hated the phone even worse afterward.

        1. Annie O

          I didn’t hate the phone until after my 3-month telemarketing job. Ever since, I cringe just a little bit at the thought of making and answering calls. And this is true for my business and personal life. So I avoid the phone, but try to keep my avoidance well below the level of full-blown phobia.

        1. CanadianWriter

          I had this crazy idea that exposing myself to more of it would make me more confident on the phone. Major fail on my part.

          1. Mimmy

            That’s not crazy–I’ve considered going back to phone work / large scale client contact to rid myself of phone anxiety. Yet, whenever the chance comes up, I want to crawl under a rock.

    2. Ruffingit

      I don’t have the same level of anxiety about it that you do, but it’s not my favorite medium. I do tend to prefer email. I think, for me, a lot of it comes from having to do the social niceties that come with getting off the phone and that can be kind of awkward sometimes. “OK, well I’ve got to go slaughter the goat in the living room now, talk to you later…” It can be hard to make up a reason to get off the phone when the real reason is that you just don’t want to talk anymore. Also, there are some people that you just know are major talkers and being on the phone with them requires at least an hour. Sometimes you have it to give, sometimes you don’t or you just don’t want to. That’s been my experience anyway.

      That said, I do find sometimes that I dread phone calls, but once I’m talking to the person it’s fine and I don’t know why I dreaded it beforehand. Lots of stuff wrapped up in this issue I guess.

      1. NylaW

        I hate using the phone and have a similar feeling. I suspect that most of the time it occurs when I don’t know who I will be talking to such as when a department’s main line calls me and it could literally be anyone in that department, or when an outside number I don’t know calls, or if we’re having a conference call and I am not familiar with the parties I’ll be talking to. But like you once I am into the call I’m fine and I don’t know why I dreaded it.

    3. Bryan

      I do for outgoing calls. I’m a little bit better with incoming. With regular contacts like my fiance or parents it doesn’t bother me at all. That being said I realize it’s stupid to be fearful of it, I recognize the phone’s important, and I try to just suck it up and get over it.

    4. Laura

      Me! I get so anxious about talking on the phone. I have a phone call later this afternoon and I’m already freaking out. And it’s not that I have no experience…I’ve done jobs that required being on the phone sometimes, my most recent job was cold calling businesses across Canada all day, but it hasn’t gotten any better. So exposure to it doesn’t help me. I think for me I feel uncomfortable when I can’t see someone’s body language, and also on the phone you have to react immediately , while in an email you have more time to think, and reacting immediately has never been my strong suit.

    5. Victoria Nonprofit (USA)

      Yes. Exactly what you’re saying: When the phone rings (home or work), my initial reaction is anxiety, followed by dread. Pretty much the only exceptions are my husband, parents, and sister. This has been true for me since I was a child; I really think it stems from fear of getting in trouble at school – whenever the phone would ring in the evening I was afraid of the bad news whoever was calling would have.

      1. Victoria Nonprofit (USA)

        Oh, and I should say: I used to manage a university research phone bank. So even that didn’t get me over it.

      2. Sharm

        For me, the fear was getting bad news. Ever since my grandfather died when I was nine and we got a late-night phone call, I’ve hated, hated, HATED the phone. Even if it’s my family. I always think it’s bad news. And, I just hate talking on the phone.

        I do it at work, because sometimes it’s just easier. But I never enjoy it, outbound or inbound.

        1. Victoria Nonprofit (USA)

          Sometimes it’s even more true with family! Pretty much whenever my father calls I am afraid that someone died.

    6. Lily in NYC

      Absolutely! I despise phones. I can deal with it better with work calls than with personal ones, but I can really relate to the dread you mention. It goes back as early as I can recall – I remember hiding in the bathroom during big family holidays when it was time to call relatives in Spain or across the country; we would pass the phone around to say hello, which was my nightmare come true. But oddly, in person I am one of those people who will talk to anyone, anywhere – as long as it’s not on the phone. Caller ID was the best thing that ever happened to me.
      One tip: it is worth every penny (I pay $3 a month) to have my voice mails transcribed to text so I can read them instead.

      1. JustKatie

        I’m the same, in that I’m very outgoing, but hate the phone. Transcribed voice mails are a godsend. DOWN WITH VOICEMAIL!

        1. tina

          Is your transcribe legible? When I had it on a trial basis, the texts didn’t make any sense and I had to listen to the message anyway.

    7. KJR

      My 17 year old daughter has this issue too. I’m not quite sure how to help her get through it. She just absolutely HATES talking on the phone. Part of me thinks it’s because she and all of her friends only text/Twitter/Snapchat, etc. with each other. They never HAD to use the phone. Hard to say.

      I, on the other hand, have a mom who stuttered pretty badly when I was a kid (she’s since improved quite a bit), so it fell to me to make phone calls for her, etc. So I have no problem with using the phone. Although, truth be told, I would still prefer to send an e-mail when the situation warrants it.

      1. Laura

        If you figure out something to help her, let me know! I seriously want to get rid of my phone hatred so bad. All people tell me is I should practice more…well I was on the phone constantly at my last few jobs and it didn’t help.

        I heard it’s common among introverts to hate the phone, but I’m not sure why. And I’m not sure how to get over it. Maybe because by nature the phone is intrusive? Not like in a bad way, but you have so stop what you’re doing and suddenly switch gears to answer it, and I’m always bad at that. Which is why I hate answering the phone far more than I hate calling people. When you’re answering the phone you didn’t expect it, you don’t know what it’s about, and you have to drop whatever to be ready to talk to a person. Even if it’s just to say you’re busy and can’t talk, you still have to switch gears very quickly to answer the phone and say that. That’s why with numbers I don’t recognize I let it go to voicemail, and if they leave a message I’ll return the call. Calling people is something you can prepare for.

        1. KJR

          This sounds very similar to my daughter’s complaint. In her words, she just doesn’t like “not knowing what the other person wants.” I guess it’s the thought of having to think on the fly that makes her nervous.

          1. Laura

            It’s a very common reason to avoid the phone! I think I dont react as quickly, or process things as quickly as the average person, so it just gives me time to process , like “ok, here’s what this person said, here’s how I want to respond to that, ok, now here’s how they reacted”. Everyone does that of course, but I feel like everyone does that faster than me – and you have to do that much faster on the phone than you would in email. That’s also why making calls is much easier than answering the phone. Sorry I have no advice! But you can tell her it’s not just her:)

            I’m totally fine with talking in person though, and I don’t know why I hate the phone but don’t mind in person. Maybe because being able to see body language, leave if I want to, and know that the person will talk to me since I see them right there might help? I don’t know. But I get a million times more nervous for phone interviews than in person

          2. Del

            It may mean that she has trouble reading tone and intent when she doesn’t have body language to follow. Using forms of communication that don’t demand an instantaneous response would give her more time to pick through a message and interpret it in a situation like that.

    8. Kit M.

      Yes, I think this is and always has been very common, but that it’s been exacerbated by the fact that now we are all enabling each other’s phone avoidance by sticking to texts and online communication. I’ve never been super comfortable on the phone, but I find myself regressing these days — friends who I used to be comfortable calling, I now feel anxious about calling, because texting has become our norm.

    9. SaraV

      My previous job required using the phone a good bit, but almost all phone calls were in-house, or to one of our major vendors. My current job I BARELY use the phone, and was just asked the other day to make a phone call to a stranger (customer) about a slightly adverse situation that was in no way my fault or had any control over. It took me over 10 minutes to compose myself and compose two different scripts in my head on what would happen. (Live person/voicemail) “Luckily”, the phone rang ten times and nobody picked up. But yikes, I still ain’t too keen on phone calls.

      1. Scott M

        I’m glad i’m not the only one making up scripts in my head before calling. I don’t mind using the phone, but I often have to rehearse what I’m going to say first.

          1. Sissa

            Yes, yes, yes, writing them down is amazing. However, this still doesn’t stop my hands from getting all clammy (and by clammy I mean that I’m sweating buckets) and my voice shaking.

            It’s relieving to see I’m not the only one with a phone hatred. I actually avoid calling doctors and other places where I need to make an appointment, and try to do everything via e-mail instead.

            What helped me at least a little was using voice over IP services like Skype and TeamSpeak (I’m an avid online gamer) with a headset instead of a physical phone. A headset on my head makes me much more calm and composed, and allows me to take notes better (I ALWAYS have a notebook in front of me when I’m making calls, even if it’s just for drawing tic-tac-toes).

    10. Kelly

      I don’t like using the phone too much. Part of it comes from working in a retail environment where we had to answer every single phone call, even though most of the questions could be answered in less than 5 minutes and the answers were on both the mall and retailer’s website. Probably the most inconvenient part was that most of the time you were a distance away from the phone working on the floor and you had to interrupt whatever you were doing to answer it. Most of the time it was actual work, not socializing with others. The average customer who called was older and more tech-phobic. If they wanted to know the price of an item, we had to leave the phone and go back on the floor to find its price, because unlike Macy’s and other retailers we didn’t have limited intranet access to the website on the POS terminals. If we had that feature, that would have saved a lot of time on the price check calls.

      My biggest pet peeve about the phone is that the immediacy of it doesn’t allow you to screen if the matter is important and needs to be taken care of now or if it can wait until you finish up your current task. You have to interrupt whatever you are doing to answer it.

      1. jax

        Yes, the phone ringing trumps everything on my desk and even conversations I’m having with my boss about something important. All to hear a customer say, “I’m going to send you a fax. Watch out for it!”

        Seriously?!? Was does this annoying alarm box on my desk have so much power over my day? I hate phones. I only use it when something has reached crisis level. Otherwise I email or poke my head in their office for a second.

    11. Jennifer

      I do. I just have a harder time hearing and remembering anything said to me over a phone line. And adding to the fun, I get a lot of nasty complaints about how my voice naturally sounds “mean” as well. I have Bitchy Resting Voice. So at work I talk like I am on helium and am so perky you could vomit.

    12. Cath in Canada

      I hate talking on the phone. I switched to texting and email as soon as I gained access to the relevant technology. I write well, and can talk clearly enough face-to-face, but usually sound like a complete idiot on the phone for some reason – I just can’t form coherent sentences.

      My work line comes through on a phone shared with a colleague, which sits just on her side of the divide between our two desks. Every time it rings and I check and it’s her line that’s lit up, I literally cheer out loud.

      1. Cath in Canada

        I should say that while I’m actually an ambivert (i.e. someone with a mix of both introvert and extrovert tendencies), I test as a strong extrovert and am well known among friends and colleagues as someone who talks a lot (some would say too much). This is a hatred that’s specific to the phone.

    13. Not an IT Guy

      Yes! There are several times when I need to talk on the phone I just break down and start spewing nonsense. I try to avoid the phone whenever possible and I’m lucky to be in an environment where I can screen my calls. Unfortunately the flip side of that is i’m pretty sure it’s a medical problem but I can’t get the time off to see a doctor.

    14. VintageLydia USA

      I hate the phone and I think I’ve figured out why.

      In face-to-face interaction you can read and communicate with body language as well as with voice so talking is just plain easier. Even if I’m not using quite the right words (and I’m pretty easily flustered so my more than ample vocabulary regularly escapes me) I can convey what I mean through body language. I can read more easily how people are reacting as I’m speaking (do they look concerned? Happy? Confused? Bored?) so I can adjust my message to react on the fly.

      In text conversation I have time. Time to compose myself. Time to research. Time to think. And I have the option to ignore (not really possible at work, but it is in most social situations.) If someone is being stupid or causing me to be angry, ignoring an email until I’m ready to respond (if at all) is a hell of a lot more socially acceptable than telling someone off on the phone or hanging up on them.

      On the phone my comprehension goes way down. Sometimes it’s hard to hear what people are saying. Background noise is a problem on both sides of the conversation. It’s pretty much to the point I only accept phone calls from my husband, my best friend, my birth parents, one of my step-parents, and my biological brother. If it is an unknown number, I ignore it (they’re usually wrong numbers or telemarketers lately, anyway.) If I were job searching, I’d pick up the phone, but I’d hate it. I do terrible in phone interviews.

      1. Cath in Canada

        I think you’ve nailed it! I’m much worse at leaving voicemails than I am at speaking on the phone in real time – no cues AT ALL from the other person. I can hold it together if it’s work-related and I’m calling for a very specific purpose, but if I’m just calling a friend for a chat my voicemail messages are atrociously long, rambling, and unstructured.

    15. Anonicorn

      I wouldn’t say I have anxiety about it, but I hate talking on the phone too. I was so happy when I learned I could order pizza online.

      1. JustKatie

        I’m at the point now where I basically won’t order from anyplace that doesn’t have online delivery.

          1. tina

            My doctor’s office has an online system that includes option for requesting an appointment, choosing preferred times of day, etc. I requested an appointment and they replied, telling me to call. If I had wanted to call, I would have done that to begin with.

        1. Cath in Canada

          My husband and I both hate calling to order food, so we try to alternate and keep track of whose turn it is. Sometimes the system breaks down though, and we have to play a quick game of cards to decide who has to call (the loser, obv).

          1. businesslady

            for a while our favorite pizza place had some issue with their phone where I could hear myself echoing back to me on like a one- or two-second delay. you think ordering by phone is annoying? imagine that inconvenience, plus the always-alarming sound of your own voice (“oh god why do I have to uptalk when I’m requesting toppings? IS THIS WHAT I REALLY SOUND LIKE?!”), plus the distraction of hearing your order repeated back to you.

            …they do actually have online ordering, but you have to call if you want to use coupons. fortunately the phone thing seems fixed now, but for a long time this was a horrible burden for me to bear. :)

    16. Geof

      I used to have similar problems with phone conversations. I would have trouble understanding what people were saying on the phone, background noise would drown out the conversation – very much like others here have said. Whenever the phone would ring, or I had to call someone, I would be very worried and eventually I found myself trying to sidestep the phone altogether.

      In the office we use a lot of email to communicate, and so I would email back someone I just got off the phone with to make sure I understood what they wanted. In response to faster communication needs, we started using instant message programs, and found that it helped my worry that I would miss something on a conference call or whatnot. But it was exhausting every day, trying to listen on calls or in meetings that couldn’t be handled over text based forms of communication.

      Turns out the problem was that my already poor hearing had just gotten worse over time. I now wear hearing aides and I can understand so much better on the phone, on skype, in person – my anxiety over and exhaustion from verbal forms of communication has /nearly/ vanished. However, I still significantly contribute to the global internet messaging bandwidth on a daily basis.

    17. Sasha LeTour

      I’m the opposite. I am not on the writing side of the agency and always worry that my messages could be poorly written and thus, misconstrued. I feel much more comfortable speaking in-person, followed by over the phone. Email is my least favorite method of inter-office communication.

      I know plenty of people who prefer email, though. They far outnumber me. There is a stereotype about art directors; that they are extraverts who hate writing things. It’s not totally true, even for me – as you can see, I love me some blog comments – but there are shades of truth in it.

    18. BeenThere

      MEEEE TOOO! Plus my current job is in Telecommunications…. it’s not the best fit.

      I love voicemail screening and my friend know they are more likely to get a response via email than for me to pick up the phone.

    19. JustAboutManaging

      I get really anxious when I use the phone too. but I have to do it fairly frequently for my job now so I am getting better but it’s still hard. I find it’s the beginning and end parts of the conversation that I’m not good at – I can handle the actual meat of the conversation fine but I have panics about how to introduce myself when making a call and my blood pressure goes way up when the phone rings.

  7. amaranth16

    I think these are great points. I will say, though, that I think people sometimes use phone instead of email because it feels more personal to them… and that drives me absolutely nuts. I do work that often requires some time with uninterrupted focus, and I generally prefer to receive new requests either through our project management software or through email. But I have colleagues who think it promotes team bonding or something to call me instead – no matter the reason. This derails whatever I’m working on at the moment, it means there is no written record from the requester, and it likely means that I will need to follow up when I actually start the project to get more details anyway. (And it certainly doesn’t end up being good for team bonding, either!) I wish more people understood, as your piece suggests, that neither phone or email is a superior medium, but that the medium has to follow the message.

    1. Jamie

      I agree with all of this – I find it totally bizarre that people need a personal connection enough to pick up the phone and interrupt someone for a non-urgent/ not sensitive manner.

    2. Tax Nerd

      Are you allowed to let things go to voice mail? If I truly don’t want to be interrupted, I will let people go to voice mail until I finish what I’m working on. Ok, I probably don’t do this if it’s my boss that calls, but I will for clients. If I’m very lucky, they will leave a message regarding what they wanted, so I can call back with the asnwer, rather than have them take the time to listen to me pull up the file, review it, and then answer their question.

  8. Ruffingit

    Had a discussion about this not long ago with some people. I’d add these to the list although these are personal things, not work-related:

    1. Do not break up with someone via email if you’ve been seeing the person for awhile, you’re an established couple, etc. Yes, you can and should break up via email sometimes if there’s a reason you can’t see or talk to the person (they’re unstable mentally, etc.). But basically, that’s a conversation you need to not do over email in my view.

    2. When you’re backing out of a major promise. You should not be a coward and send an email. Call and face the music.

    1. PEBCAK

      Good stuff.

      And if you’ve been out with someone three or fewer times, PLEASE do it via email and save the other person any humiliation.

        1. some1

          I agree, but if you disappear you need to Stay Gone or if you try to make contact again, acknowlege that.

          I’ve had more than a couple guys that I went out with a few times and have them disappear off the face of the earth for no reason. I’m old enough now that I get bummed for about a day and forget about it — only to have the guy text/email/call a few months later and act like A) we’ve been communicating the whole time; or even worse, B) like I stopped communicating with them!

          1. AVP

            Ugh, those guys are the worst! Particularly if they’re texting at 4am. “Sup? u out?”

          2. Ruffingit

            Yes, that should just not be allowed by the forces of nature or whatever. Something should prevent those curtain calls because they really can be irritating at best and hurtful at worst.

    2. Victoria Nonprofit (USA)

      So confession time: I used to write a relatively popular (anonymous) dating blog. I met a guy, went on two dates with him and didn’t quite feel it. Then I met my husband and knew right away I had to end things with the first guy. I chickened out from a phone call and sent him a breakup note by email. When I wrote about it on the blog the commenters let me have it – they were furious that I had treated him badly, told me that if I wasn’t mature enough to handle a breakup appropriately I wasn’t mature enough to date at all, etc.

      I ended the blog after that, although not as a result of the comments. It just stopped feeling good to write about my dates when I was falling in love with my husband!

        1. Diet Coke Addict

          No kidding. Two dates barely even registers, and an email is more than sufficient. That’s not a breakup! That’s declining to see someone further! Which is totally OK to do by email and would actually be WORSE in person.

          1. Ruffingit

            I agree. You can do that by email. Two dates doesn’t require in-person break-up and it could be argued it doesn’t require notification at all, although I think it’s nice to say something and I’d say that something could be sent via email.

        2. some1

          +1. Unless you were replying to him asking you out again, I don’t see the point in breaking up with someone when you only went out twice, unless he was already a good friend to you or someone close to you, or he’s your neighbor or something so you’re likely to run into him again.

          That being said, if I was breaking up with a guy for someone who was a better match (especially after only two dates!), I’d find it much less awkward to tell him, “I met someone out of the blue and we just hit it off like gangbusters” because that happens then because I’m just not into him.

          1. Victoria Nonprofit (USA)

            He HAD asked me out again, so I definitely felt obligated to respond. But the funny thing is, when I did respond he told me he had also met someone else. I assumed he was bluffing but years later we ended up in the same friend network and all hung out together. We’re both married to the people we met days after our second date.

    3. Kristen

      With #1, don’t do it by IM either! Not much more annoying than patiently waiting to see someone (who you’ve been with nearly a year) in person to tell him it isn’t working, only to have him g-chat you the same idea. What are we in middle school here? Grumble.

      1. some1

        Ugh, this happened to a friend of mine. She and her BF had been together a year and a half and had been living together.

    4. Phone phobic

      I think the break up one depends on the people involved. Personally, I’d always rather it come by email, and if someone has dated me long enough for this to be relevant, I’d hope they’d get that!

      1. Ruffingit

        Yeah, I agree. When I say in-person, I include the phone in that because it’s more the idea of a real conversation vs. email. I think if you can see them to do it, you should. But if you can’t see them without major traveling or whatever, then the phone is fair.

        1. tina

          Personally, I never understood doing the dumping in person. I was once dumped unexpectedly after seeing someone 4 months. Sitting in my own living room, wanting him to get out and wishing he had just called, instead of wasting my time. I would have even been ok with email.

          1. Ruffingit

            It is a personal thing I suppose. I just feel that if you’re going to deliver bad news, you should do it in person. Your story illustrates the need to be brief though I think. If it’s a break-up, then do it and leave because lingering just makes it hard.

  9. Samantha

    I am a huge proponent of using email to provide a written record, especially if you are dealing with someone who will tell you something in person, then later deny any memory of that conversation. I learned this after working for someone who would verbally approve something, then later claim she’d never even seen it, let alone approved it, etc. etc. etc.

    1. Anon For This

      This. So much this. I love email, because I work for someone who forgets instructions I was given within a week of giving them. If I have to do it verbally, I want an email followup.

      Also, I’m prone to lots of interruptions and changes of schedule. Email records mean I can revisit what I was doing without having to have the same conversations with everyone again, when I pick the task up again a month or three later.

    2. EM

      Yeah, this is the main reason I don’t like phone conversations. There is no real way to CYA. I guess if I really needed to have a phone conversation with someone I didn’t trust, I’d send an email in writing after the fact listing what was said and agreed to.

      1. Jennifer

        A lot of the time, the only reason to have a phone conversation is to sneak things by that you don’t want on the record.

    3. NylaW

      +1

      I often need a written record of what was discussed or what someone’s answer was. If I do talk to them on the phone or in person, I always have to make sure to send a follow up message and get a response so that I have it in writing.

    4. alma

      Oh boy, you just gave me a mini-PTSD flashback to a coworker who did this exact thing. Actually what she liked to do was suddenly move up a deadline (“no, it was due at 3:00 *today*, not Wednesday”) and then swear that had been the deadline the whole time. I reached to the point where I refused to have business conversations with her except by e-mail and IM, and I had a folder on my desktop where all IM conversations were saved. I know that sounds extreme but the workplace was THAT dysfunctional.

    5. College Career Counselor

      Remember, Jerry, if you BELIEVE it, it’s not a lie…
      /George Costanza

    6. Sharm

      Same. For me, I don’t necessarily have a great memory, but for complex projects in general, I want as much documentation as possible. Not even for CYA (though that’s a good reason too), but just so I have a sense of context, next steps, and key people.

  10. BadPlanning

    Using the phone to call someone directly is not the norm at my work (we have a lot of phone conferences meetings, of course). If a phone call is necessary or will help expedite a problem, people will usually ping each other on our instant messenger app and ask “Hey, can I call you to talk about X, is this a good time?” and then the call can proceed. “Cold calling” a coworker is almost never done. Usually when my phone rings unexpectedly at work, it’s a wrong number!

  11. HAnon

    I would also say (although it should go without saying), don’t put anything in email that would reflect badly on you if someone were to pull it up at a later date…that’s one of the reasons I will never “vent” over email about my boss or anyone else. I don’t want a written record of my frustrations.

    Also, I don’t know if this is particularly good practice (maybe some people find it annoying) but I often send a follow up email after a discussion recapping what was discussed and the takeaways/action steps. Sometimes I’ll send the email before the discussion, depending on the timing, just so there is a written record of what the main points were…I don’t trust my memory enough to not write things down.

    1. Ann Furthermore

      I do this sometimes, to document critical discussions and/or decisions. If I did this for everything though, it might probably drive my co-workers and colleagues nuts.

  12. Chrissi

    I prefer the phone most of the time, but I think that’s due to the nature of my job. Most of my communications are discussions, and are persuasive discussions. I think of it as a “choose your own adventure” book – your answer informs my next question or comment. If I try and write an email explaining everything it is ridiculously complex.

    Also, I take forever to write emails – you make a good point that you can pick and choose your phrasing very carefully, but that’s a slippery slope for me. I end up spending 20 minutes writing an email that should have taken 5 (and would’ve taken 2 minutes on the phone).

  13. A Jane

    I actually used this as an area of weakness during interviews. One of the challenges I know I have is that I knew I felt too comfortable hiding in my cubicle and I prefer chat and email versus in person conversation.

    I made it my mission to at least once a day, get up and respond in person. A good gut check for me was that if I had to rewrite my first email sentence more than three times, I needed to try an in person response. It initially sucked because chances were that I was putting myself in an internally uncomfortable situation. But typically after I went an talked to the person, the nervousness went away.

  14. Kelly L.

    I love email for situations where the other person has established a precedent of “forgetting” what they’ve agreed to do. It saved my bacon dealing with a really disorganized hotel once at a previous job.

    One more situation to not use the phone–if the other person is so close that they can hear you anyway! I had a co-worker once who would never talk across the office (understandable, if she didn’t want to raise her voice) but also wouldn’t email and wouldn’t walk over. She would always, always call. And she was close enough that I couldn’t make out a damn thing she was saying, because I heard two of her, one a little behind the other so the voices garbled each other. I’d always end up walking over.

  15. Laura

    This is such a timely post for me!
    So I do some freelance work, and every single time I submit anything, the boss asks to call me. Last time it was just to say “You should take out this sentence, and could add x information. Oh and we want y information closer to the beginning. ” That was all it was, and it was somewhat similar every single time. I have a call like that this afternoon that I’m dreading because I hate the phone. Isn’t that sort of information better via email? Might be my hate of the phone talking, but just random edits are weird to get over the phone. But now I’m worrying about this phone call, because obviously I don’t know for sure what it will be (she just said can I call you), and who knows, maybe this time I did something horribly wrong. The phone when it’s not 100% clear why it’s necessary makes it seem serious.

    Also one thing I hate is “Can I call you?” without any explanation. It just makes me worry.

    1. Annie O

      Oh my, I just got a “call me at your earliest convenience” message from a VP this morning. Scared the crap out of me because there was no context or explanation at all! Thankfully, he just had some system-related questions that would have been hard to articulate in an email.

      1. Laura

        At least you could get it over with!

        The person I’m talking about asked if it was ok to call at 3:30, and I got the email at 9:30, so I’ve been panicking about this all day trying to figure out what I did wrong.

      2. CC

        My previous boss would do that to me all the time. Eventually I figured out a reasonable way to make him (mostly) stop: I told him that if he let me know what the subject was even with minimal detail (such as, call me, it’s about project ABC) I can start the call with the correct context in my head and the relevant information at hand, which will save his time.

  16. Betsy

    One scenario where I rely on email is when there are language gaps. If I need to explain something to someone with limited English skills, or in my extremely mediocre French, I will always opt for email. Most international folks I’ve worked with have much better English comprehension when it’s in writing, possibly because they can ready it slowly and repeatedly, if necessary.

    1. Betsy

      When I said most international folks, I should have said “most international folks who have limited English proficiency”. The reality of most international folks I’ve worked with is that they speak English better than some natives. I am only talking about a specific subset.

  17. Lily in NYC

    I think all of the items in that list should be in-person and not by email OR phone – unless the person you are calling doesn’t work in the same physical location.

  18. Except in California

    And the first thing you should say when they answer the phone is, do you have time right now to talk about x?

  19. Tax Nerd

    Wow. All these phone haters. I’m the odd one. I hate email. If they could un-invent something, email would be second to nuclear weapons on my request list.

    People think that because they can make their message appear on my computer instantly they are going to get an instant response. (That’s not how it works, especially when I’m busy.) I note when someone is doing CYA emailing over a non-issue. I’ve seen email get more and more contentious because more and more people are getting cc’d, and that has become the most important part of the email.

    If someone is confused about their taxes, I almost always pick up the phone. No way in seven hells am I going to all possible questions via email, or have a back-and-forth.

    I might send them a list of “We need X, Y, and J to finish your taxes”, to try to preclude getting sent Q and Z instead, or so I can follow-up if that is what they send me. But I could still do that in person/on the phone/etc.

    A friend of mine, in all seriousness, wondered out loud why phone screen job interviews couldn’t be held via instant messenger. She happened to be one of those that hates the phone. I decided to make more phone calls, and not let myself get to that point.

    1. Jess

      People think that because they can make their message appear on my computer instantly they are going to get an instant response.
      I don’t think that’s true of most people. I think most people expect a response to an email within a business day or so. Plus, couldn’t you say the same thing about a phone call?

      1. Laura

        IMO you could say it even more about a phone call, because when the phone rings people expect you to pick it up if you’re there.

        1. Tax Nerd

          I think I am just used to the notion that people can let me go to voice mail (or I them) if that particular moment isn’t good.

          I do tend to either schedule a specific time to talk on the phone, or tell clients “I am available between __ and __ if you want to call at your convenience.” A big part of my day is simply subject to interruption for questions, and I accept that. But if it’s really a bad time, people go to voice mail until I can get back to them.

          With email, though, people will ask a complex question, and want an instant response. I had one person follow up because 22 minutes had elapsed since she emailed me, and I hadn’t responded yet. My experience is that people on the phone are much better about “I’ll have to do some research on that and get back to you.”

          1. Heather

            I had one person follow up because 22 minutes had elapsed since she emailed me, and I hadn’t responded yet.

            I love email, and I despise those people. If you do that to me, I will delay my response to you by another hour for every follow-up email, call, or IM you send me (unless you marked the email “urgent” and it’s urgent in reality, not just in your head). Otherwise it just reinforces the behavior.

            Hmmm. Someone should write a book about the similarities between training coworkers and training animals. :)

    2. Steve G

      I think email is only a problem if the user makes it into one, just like alcohol:-/. If you know when to use it, great. My email is a treasure trove of exchanged spreadsheet, customer information, etc., much better than any database.

      However, I notice that obsession with email is going to stunt many a young people’s careers. My job requires complex conversations quite often, everyone wants to do the transaction work, but doesn’t want to do the difficult follow up/conversation/convincing customer to do things and give us information, etc. part. It is endlessly annoying to have someone who wants to do the excel work but doesn’t want to do phone works, it dimishes their usefulness as an employee greatly…..

      1. Heather

        Isn’t that why companies have both account reps and pricing/finance-type people? I’d think a reluctance to convince people to do things has less to do with preferring email and more to do with not wanting to be in sales.

        I used to do RFP responses, and I was just fine at translating the proposed pricing into salesy language for the document – but no way in hell would I have been able to stand in front of the customer and persuade them to give us the business. The company would have gone bankrupt in a week :)

        But if the people you’re talking about knew from day 1 that they were taking a sales position, that’s totally different.

  20. LittleT

    How about another one?

    If you have a question for the person sitting in the cubicle beside you, please go over in person & ask the question, don’t email it. I have a coworker who does this all the time & it drives me nuts. Just come over & ask me: I’m pleasant and will answer you right away.

    I find that kind of behavior very passive-aggressive and I swear it’s done deliberately, because the only people she wants to talk to in person are the managers.

    1. andy

      I, on the opposite side of that coin, have a co-worker who pops into my office for email appropriate questions all day and it is distracting as whatnont.

    2. Annie O

      I’m probably your annoying co-worker. I get so distracted when people stop by my office, even if it’s just to ask a quick question. Without really thinking about it, I probably assume my co-workers share my preferences.

    3. C average

      This is sorta me, but the rest of my team does the same thing.

      Due to the nature of our work, we’re pretty regularly questioned about why we took a particular action or made a particular decision, and having a digital trail is critical to our ability to answer these questions. So we always err on the side of getting EVERYTHING in writing.We’ll literally talk to each other face to face, hash out a difficult topic, and then say, “I’ll shoot you a few CYA bullet points on this conversation by email.”

      1. B Plus

        same her. For legal reasons everything we communicate needs to be fully documented, not just summarized. We thus email each other all day long, almost never touch the phones and wouldn’t dream of have an un-fully documented conversation with the person on the other side of the cubicle wall. The only things we actually communicate outside of email are not-work related (i.e., How the Sixers do last night? Oh they lost again. 26 times in a row. That must be some kind of record).

    4. Betsy

      Yeah, this is a definite YMMV. At my last job, I started telling everyone who came by, “email me and I’ll get back to you,” because otherwise I got interrupted every 10 minutes, and never really got my train of thought on the right path. Just making people decide to email me instead of stopping by cut down of question volume, and I could look at the emails at convenient pause points.

      Now, I’d usually answer the questions in person, but sending initial contact through email streamlined the process enormously.

    5. Phone phobic

      I’m probably that person. It’s not because I think you’re not pleasant, or helpful, it’s because it’s so much more disruptive to my workflow to do that than to shoot off a quick email.

      1. LittleT

        @Phone phobic: and sometimes, this makes sense, depending on the situation. But this particular coworker will insist on sending an email for what would have been a yes/no question if she’d just come over & asked me in person and could have gotten the answer more quickly than sending an email!

        Also, she has no problem going to our boss or other “higher level” people that requires a 30-second walk down the hallway to ask questions in person, so I don’t think it’s due to disrupting workflow!

        1. Phone phobic

          That may be the case with your specific situation and that co-worker, but it doesn’t mean it’s bad practice generally. I’m not gonna start walking over because you find a colleague’s behaviour passive aggressive, you know?

          1. LittleT

            @Phone phobic: You’re right and I agree – I wouldn’t expect someone to change just to suit my preferences.

            I was just venting about how it’s annoying when the coworker is willing to do the in-person chat for so many other people, but not for me. But, that’s my problem to deal with, I guess!

        2. tina

          But if it’s a simple yes/no question, isn’t email just as easy? Take more effort to get up and walk over…

    6. Ann Furthermore

      Hee, I got teased at work this week for doing this very thing. But I just did it so that the person sitting beside me could have a record of what we were talking about, since she needed it to process an invoice.

  21. Annie O

    I hate the phone and prefer email. That said, I need to stop using email messages in cases where one phone call would take less time. There’s been a few recent exchanges where DAYS have passed between the first message and the last, but all that info could have been gathered in a 5 minute phone call. Does this ever happen to anyone else?

    1. Diet Coke Addict

      God, yes. Constantly. It would take five minutes to call, and I repeatedly ask people to call me or if there is a better time to call, because I know damn well the conversation will be better, instead of:

      “I’m interested in chocolate teapots.”
      “You’re interested in chocolate teapots! What kind of budget do you have? White chocolate, dark chocolate, milk chocolate? We have caramel spouts now, too. Do you need the chocolate teapot or a full chocolate teaset?”
      “I think I need a brown one. How much is that?”
      “Well, what kind of material are you looking for? White/dark/milk/swirl, or a combination? How big of a size? Tempered or molded chocolate? With handle or without?”
      “Dark chocolate.”
      “OK! Do you know what size?”

      And then it’s weeks later and they’re frustrated because I can’t give them the information they need because they won’t answer my questions, and this would take five minutes on the phone.

  22. Jess

    I agree with everything on this but, that said, I think 90% of communication is better done by email. You aren’t interrupting people and the information you send can easily be pulled for reference later on.

  23. AndersonDarling

    I used to work somewhere where email chains never died. Complex items that should have been settled in a meeting would be put in an email with 20 directors/managers and the reply-alls would flood everyone’s mailboxes. It made a culture where 50% of the workday would be spent typing and reading emails.

    To contrast, in my current position, I have never seen an email that was replied to more that 4 times (an that included the final “Thanks!” reply). The folks here know when to email, walk over and talk to an individual, or to set up a meeting. But they have time to talk to individuals because they aren’t reading emails all day!

    1. CEMgr

      I still work there, but it’s more like 50 directors and 10 VPs. Email is so out of control here.

    2. Steve G

      I’d hate this. Some people have a need to have the last word, which is alot more annoying in an email vs. a meeting. And did you ever notice that on those dramatic email chains, everyone loves to spout their wisdom, but no one takes ownership or responsibility of anything, or volunteers to do actual work, to stop the chains?!?

  24. Robin

    Like a lot of people here, I’m not a huge fan of using the phone. All other things being equal, I’d rather write an email. Before I make almost any phone call I tend to spend a lot of time thinking about what I want to say, what things could come up, etc.

    But every time I have picked up the phone (usually because I didn’t have a choice, or because after thinking hard it was really the right thing to do) I am almost always glad I have done it. The thing is, I think most people prefer email to phone when possible, and as email has become more and more of the culture, a lot of people hardly ever make phone calls if they avoid it, but the number of emails has exploded. I think hundreds of emails a day is pretty much the norm these days. So when you do call, it says to the person: Pay Attention To Me. I don’t do it for job hunting, for reasons Alison has explained better than I, but for almost every other circumstance, I get much better responsiveness when I have taken those 30 seconds to actually talk to someone (often followed up with a brief email).

  25. Ann Furthermore

    I love the guideline pointing out that if you’re dreading a conversation about something, then that probably means that it’s something that needs to be done in person.

    1. Sharm

      Yes. I think I knew this intuitively when I was starting out in my career, and it definitely makes sense to hear it articulated this way.

  26. LaSharron

    I’ve seen the people who are extremely sensitive so when a sentence says, “No, that’s not how it works here”, they read it as ” Nooo, that’s NOT how it works here!” Or “NO, that’s not how it works HERE!” Then they get upset and have to call the person to make sure it wasn’t a problem end up causing a problem anyway.

    On the other hand, I’ve seen the insidious employees and supervisors who use email to get away with smarmy comments, like sending a comment, “What college did you attend?” On the surface and upon investigation will look innocent, but the recipient knows it was a smart aleck comment.

  27. Sara

    This article from the NYTimes is quite relevant to this conversation: http://www.nytimes.com/2011/03/20/fashion/20Cultural.html?pagewanted=all&_r=0

    This quote in the article, from Miss Manners, hits the nail on the head (for me): “Thank you for noticing something that millions of people have failed to notice since the invention of the telephone until just now,” Judith Martin, a k a Miss Manners, said by way of opening our phone conversation. “I’ve been hammering away at this for decades. The telephone has a very rude propensity to interrupt people.”

    This is why I don’t like the phone. I’m expected to drop everything I’m doing to answer this person. Often I’m in the middle of something else and am not prepared to switch gears. With email, I can see what is needed and respond on my own time.

  28. Steve G

    my pet peeve is when someone delegates the part of the project that has to do with talking to outside people but does the other 90% of the work. They usually come up with a nice sounding excuse for this, but it is usually because they are shy or don’t want to have a tough conversation…..but then I end up spending way too much time prepping what I need to say since I’m not discussing my own work. Yes, this happens regularly, at least at my job…and I expect it to happen more as more people grow up on the internet

  29. Laura

    So phone call I was dreading all afternoon that all I got was “Can we talk?” – Totally could have been done by email. All it was was “Can you take out this line and replace it with a line about x, and also can you come up with three creative titles for this.” That could have been an email, easily. The rest was small talk. I feel like the person who called is the type to bring absolutely everything to a phone call even when it’s unnecessary

  30. Stephanie

    If it’s a networking contact (i.e., you don’t know or barely know the person), is email or phone better?

    I could see it both ways. Email allows the person to respond at his leisure and really think out a response to the state of the chocolate teapot market (or whatever). However, people definitely do hide behind email. Plus, tone gets lost pretty easily.

    Phone gets an immediate response (even if it is just “Can we chat on Thursday?”) and it’s a lot easier to impart tone. However, it can be interruptive and disrupts thoughts. Plus, at OldJob, it was awkward for me to talk on the phone since my office was pretty quiet.

    I tend to prefer email, but this might be a generational thing. Talking on the phone also became negatively associated with OldBoss calling to complain or an attorney questioning work product (I worked in a legal research services firm). I also have trouble (but am working on it!) finding a balance between verbal diarrhea and curt answers (“Ok, sure. Yes, sounds good.”).

  31. Matt

    As a big email person and phone hater (I absolutely loved this one: https://www.askamanager.org/2013/04/can-i-stop-taking-phone-calls.html), I think that phone calls should be treated the same way as in-person meetings – scheduled in advance, with both participants prepared beforehand and with some reserved time frame.

    My pet peeve are those phone people who just call about every minor question they have, and if you are not reachable, call and call again, and if they ever drop an email (usually after 5 unsuccessful calls), it’s just “call me back” … And there are a lot of them where I work. I think it’s a question of respect for the other person and their time and priorities to always choose the least “intrusive” medium available, and that would mean phone only for truly urgent matters, or as a scheduled “meeting”.

    1. Sara

      This is a HUGE pet peeve of mine. People who don’t leave voice messages, but call repeatedly every five minutes. I make a point of not answering them. It’s incredibly rude.

  32. Wayfair

    One thing I want to add, just because I’ve not seen it addressed before, is that sometimes the person who hates the phone is deaf or hard-of-hearing. As a deaf employee, phone calls are extremely difficult for me to use well, whereas written communication of any kind – Skype chat, email, whatever – is the only way I can guarantee I understand 100% of what is said. I’m sure there have been times my colleagues would have just liked to pick up the phone and finish a conversation, but that’s when I usually suggest either an in-person visit or a Skype chat.

    In general, there may be employees who are hard-of-hearing (even younger adults!) who, for several reasons, aren’t forthcoming or accepting of their hearing loss. Some people I know are reluctant to openly identify as having a disability as it can lead to all kinds of discrimination, including age-related discrimination if the person is older- but then, of course, they risk coming off as just people who hate phones and are “uncooperative” about using phones. Just my two cents. :)

  33. Nusy

    So what do you do when the would-be conversation partner is simply unavailable by any other means?

    I have been trying to catch someone for weeks now for a phone conversation (face-to-face would be difficult due to physical distance/transportation issues), but they’re just never available. I had to resign to e-mail over a conversation that would be best handled in person.

    Any tips for future occurences of this?

    1. Ruffingit

      There’s really not much you can do except ask them to pick a time for a phone chat that fits in their schedule. If they don’t do so, then you have no other choice than to deliver whatever message via email or text or whatever is appropriate.

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