my manager is ignoring my girlfriend’s request not to call her when he’s looking for me

A reader writes:

After some miscommunication about whether or not I was to work a shift in a snowstorm, my boss called my significant other on the phone in order to find me. She is not listed as an emergency contact, nor did my boss have access to the number anywhere else regarding work. (He had her number because I once had her call management while I had been driving in another snowstorm. There had been accidents that could have affected my ETA, and I wanted to alert them. He apparently kept the number.)

Obviously, I was a little peeved, but thought nothing of it, until said significant person made a complaint to me and asked me to request that she not be called for anything other than an emergency (like if I were hurt or too sick to call my office myself).

Naturally, I composed a formal and professional email to all of the other members of the management team (I am a supervisor myself) expressing the request, specifying that it had been made by my significant other. The upper management took it as passive aggressive, when in reality it was as direct and polite as possible. The following day, I was issued a written warning about sending out passive aggressive emails and was ordered to forget about my significant other’s request, as my manager saw the circumstances of my phone silence and lack of showing up for work as an emergency.

I feel that my presence is my own responsibility, no one else’s, regardless of the consequences. Was it appropriate for them to contact anyone other than me regarding scheduling? And more so, to take disciplinary action for contacting them in this way?

I wrote back to this letter-writer and asked what the email had said. Here it is:

“Hey all. In light of events yesterday, I would like to both update my emergency contacts, and discuss the proper uses of these contacts.

I would like my emergency contact numbers to be:
(Contacts here)

The second reason for this message is to ask everyone, as politely as possible, to please not contact any of these people in regards to me in the workplace unless it is absolutely an emergency. One of these people had been contacted as an alternative way to speak with me, and was not okay with it. They requested me to speak of this to the management team in order to avoid misunderstandings in the future. I hope everyone understands this request.”

Well, it’s weirdly formal, but I wouldn’t say it’s passive aggressive since you’re pretty direct about what you’re asking. I suspect your manager is reacting to the fact that it reads like an odd mix of overly deferential (“as politely as possible”) and a little scolding (“I’d like to discuss the proper uses of these contacts”). It also probably came across strangely to send it to your entire management team, rather than just to the one person who made the call (and who sounds the only person on that team who has this particular number anyway).

I would have just talked to your manager and said, “Hey, Jane asked that the office not contact her in the future about where I am. Can we take her number out of any contact sheet for me?”

But regardless of that, giving you a written warning for “sending out passive aggressive emails” is weird. Refusing to respect the request of someone who doesn’t even work for your company is weird too.

Is there other weirdness going on there? This all feels off enough that I’m wondering what the broader context is. Is your relationship with your manager or others above you already strained? Or might there have been other problems with scheduling you or communications over your schedule, and this could be frustration from that? Absent something like that, I’m left thinking your manager just really overreacted and is being wildly unreasonable about your girlfriend, but it’s worth taking a look at the broader situation and seeing if you can find answers in there.

{ 312 comments… read them below }

  1. Joey*

    The real problem seems to be that your boss can’t get a hold of you when he expects you to be at work. Why not just call him back instead of waiting for your SO to hunt you down?

    1. madge*

      This. Your SO is who called your company on your behalf during a past snowstorm, so it seems reasonable that she is the contact when you don’t show during the current snowstorm.

      Did they attempt the other number(s) on your emergency contact list before trying her? Did they try your cell and you didn’t answer? If not, I can understand your frustration.

      1. Another Ellie*

        It sounds like the contact during the previous snowstorm was in the very constrained context of “I was driving and I couldn’t safely use my cell phone” though (I assume she was in the car), not just her randomly being the one to call in during a blizzard. Frankly, if my husband or father (my emergency contacts) were called just because I didn’t show up on time to work during adverse weather conditions, I would be pretty annoyed. Of course, I am very proactive about communicating my whereabouts if I’m delayed, so it would feel extra un-warranted to me.

    2. Evan Þ*

      As I read it, OP wasn’t supposed to work at all. (“miscommunication about whether or not I was to work a shift in a snowstorm”.) In that case, it’s probably still a good idea to answer if practicable, but I could understand why he might not – he might be sleeping, showering, shoveling, or any number of other things.

        1. JMegan*

          That’s my read too – because if the OP wasn’t expected at work, the boss would not have called looking for him.

          1. LBK*

            He could’ve been incorrectly expected, though, if there was a shift swap or a schedule change and the boss was looking at an outdated version. I don’t think it’s completely fair to assume the OP was in the wrong here.

            1. JMegan*

              Oh, there may be valid reasons for the miscommunication, for sure, and it’s possible that OP really wasn’t supposed to be there. But even so, I can’t picture a scenario where the boss is expecting OP to be away, and OP is planning to come in, and the boss would be trying to get in touch with OP about it.

              Which is why I think the boss was expecting OP to be at work, and he wasn’t there, regardless of how the mixup happened. Which means that this was the second time OP was away unexpectedly, giving the boss a valid reason to wonder what was up.

              1. Kelly L.*

                I think it was only once. The first time, OP says the accidents “could have affected my ETA” but it doesn’t sound like they actually did. OP was on the way and keeping the boss apprised.

                1. Laufey*

                  Then that actually makes it even more concerning from the Boss’s perspective. “Last time Jon even thought he was going to be late, he had someone call to tell us. Now he actually is late/not here, there’s another snowstorm, and I haven’t heard from him, and I can’t reach his cell phone – what if he’s in a ditch somewhere? Maybe his SO can tell me if she’s heard from him. I hope he’s okay.”

                  I really don’t think calling someone who has functioned as an emergency point of contact in the past (even if it was only once) when you think there might actually be an emergency is so bad. If the boss had called six or seven times on different occasions or for non-emergencies, then we reach the point of problems. But just once? I’m kind of willing to let it slide.

                2. fposte*

                  @Laufey–agreed. I wonder if the girlfriend’s annoyance, which could be from any number of reasons, fueled the OP’s annoyance when otherwise the call wouldn’t have been a problem.

                3. tesyaa*

                  I wonder if the couple has been arguing and the OP would rather that his GF not know that he’s habitually coming in late and/or not showing up at work.

                4. fposte*

                  In fact, looking back at the post, the OP states “I was a little peeved, but thought nothing of it” until the girlfriend let it be known that she was annoyed. And I’m a little confused why then “Naturally” the OP emailed everybody–it makes it sound like the girlfriend’s annoyance required that communication, and it really doesn’t.

        2. Evan Þ*

          Hm, perhaps. I thought it was that he wasn’t listed on the normal schedule but Boss still thought for some reason he was scheduled – but your reading’s definitely possible too.

        3. Queen Anon*

          Non necessarily. Last year I took a scheduled vacation day and my officer manager thought at first something was wrong when I hadn’t called in or showed up. Turns out she’d completely forgotten to put the day on her calendar. I can see the same thing happening in any office.

    3. AnotherHRPro*

      Yes. If you don’t want your boss to feel the need to track you down, you should be at work when you are supposed to be and call in when you are not able to get to work as scheduled.

      1. AnotherHRPro*

        Honestly, if I didn’t show up to work on time without notice, I hope my manager tries to track me down because something must be wrong!

        1. Joey*

          In a weird way the op should be glad the boss is trying to track him down. Frankly, being at least the second time the op didnt show/call I probably wouldn’t bother and would be questioning whether I should find someone more reliable.

          1. LBK*

            But he did call/show the first time? That’s how the boss had the OP’s SO’s phone number, because she called on his behalf to say he was going to be late.

            1. Joey*

              oh cmon, unless you’re unconscious and in the hospital most managers expect you to call in not your SO, your mom or anyone else.

                1. Zillah*

                  I agree in general, but we don’t know the specific situation. If the issue was traffic in a snowstorm, pulling off may have been impossible and/or unsafe for the OP.

                2. A*

                  +10000 to Zillah’s reply. At least in my area and with my commute it is (literally) impossible to pull over for large stretches at a time (currently due to the snow). If I’m running ten minutes late it would make zero sense to spend twenty minutes getting on and off the main hwy so I can find somewhere to pull over.

                  That being said I don’t often have to worry about this as I leave 1/2-1 hour earlier than usual on days with inclement weather so I wont have to worry about being late.

              1. LBK*

                Whether the method of it was inappropriate or not, the manager still knew that he was going to be late, and he did show up eventually (from my understanding at least, it doesn’t say he ended up turning around and going home).

                I don’t see how one excusable weather-related tardiness is basis for seeing a pattern of unreliability, so much that you would write the OP off the very next time he didn’t show up as expected.

        2. Suz*

          Exactly. This just happened to a friend of mine last week. He went to a coworkers house because the guy missed 2 days of work but hadn’t calling in sick. My friend found him unconscious at the bottom of his basement stairs.

        3. the gold digger*

          There was a man at my work who didn’t show up on a Monday. His boss was really worried. He couldn’t reach the guy, so he called the man’s sister. The sister went to the man’s house – he had died over the weekend.

          (And then there was the local man who didn’t show up for several days. Perhaps no emergency contact, which might be why the employed called the police. Again, the man was dead, but had been stuffed into the closet by two hookers after they’d had a cocaine party. I might not be remembering the part about the cocaine properly.)

        4. Marzipan*

          Me too! Frankly it would be a loooong time before anyone else noticed they hadn’t heard from me, so I really hope my work would wonder where I’d got to.

          And actually, I did have a colleague in a previous job who didn’t show up one day and wasn’t contactable, and when we contacted her daughter she found the lady unconscious and seriously ill. Fortunately, this happened in time for her to be got to hospital and she eventually recovered, but it was a close-run thing.

        5. Oryx*

          This happened to the guy who lived next door to me. He worked for our building and when he didn’t show up and didn’t call, someone popped upstairs and found him dead.

      2. a*

        Some workplaces make it really difficult to show up when you’re scheduled.

        At an old job I had (in food service) the schedule for the next week went up on Sunday. So if you were scheduled on Monday, you wouldn’t know unless you came in at 5 pm the day before to check (and sometimes it still wouldn’t be up.)

        Sometimes they would change the schedule during the week and not call the employee affected. Once I made plans for 7pm on a certain day, when I was scheduled to leave at 5pm. The day before, the schedule still said that I was going to leave at 5. When I came in to work the next day, I mentioned when I was leaving to my coworker and she said, “No, you’re leaving at 8.” I checked the schedule and they had whited it out and changed it without contacting me.

        I can easily see a similar miscommunication happening with the OP, even if his workplace isn’t as disorganized as mine was.

        1. V.V.*

          That is downright evil.

          Every once in awhile my husband’s workplace will change the start time of the next day, at the end of the day – while everyone is clocking out and walking out the door without really mentioning anything to anyone that the schedule changed, you know, in the last five minutes – or after people have already gone home for the day.

          The time that took the cake, happened one morning when everyone arrived 30 minutes “late”. Not being one to entertain excuses, the manager chewed the entire staff and spent half the morning documenting the tardiness, before discovering the new schedule sitting in the copy machine (where the assistant manager had apparently left it) rather than on the board.

          The part I find (sadly) laughable was instead of admitting what happened, he doubled down and harped for a week about employee responsibility, and how magnanimous management was being for “letting this incident slide.”

          Fortunately they have gotten better about posting and notifying employees of updates, but it still happens occasionally.

    4. illini02*

      I disagree. I think when you start saving people’s numbers, that is a problem. IF she was emergency contact, that was one thing. But really, who gets a call and that is essentially “Hi, this is Pam, Jim’s girlfriend. he is driving, so can’t talk, but he’ll be in”, and then SAVES that number for later use? Thats a bit much to me, and I don’t blame the OP or girlfriend for getting angry. Thats why there is an emergency contact. If he wanted management to have her number, he would have given it.

      1. Joey*

        You’re right, manager definitely shouldnt have to try to track down op. But that’s more on op than manager

        1. Anna*

          Noooo…the manager saving a number and using it as a contact when it wasn’t originally given as a contact is really about the manager and not the OP.

      2. Elizabeth the Ginger*

        The exception might be if the previous call happened recently enough that it was still in his “recent calls” list.

        1. Ann without an e*

          Also, if he is in the north east not showing up could be a real emergency if his car broke down, or if he got in a wreck he could be stranded in the cold. His boss assumed he wasn’t coming in his SO assumed he was at work and nobody knew he needed help for 8 hours, that would be terrible.

          1. Zillah*

            But even in that situation, it makes sense to call the OP first, which it doesn’t seem like the boss did – and, if the OP’s girlfriend isn’t an emergency contact, it would make most sense to call the emergency contact and ask, “Do you know anyone who I could get in touch with to make sure OP is okay? They aren’t picking up their phone, and I’m worried.” Many people don’t live with their significant others, particularly when those significant others aren’t spouses.

        2. HR Waiting 4 Reply*

          Exactly. I have a work cell phone and most of the calls coming in are from the same contacts. It would be simple to find that number and find it hard to fathom how it would be seen as violating any perceived boundaries.

          1. Marcy*

            Plus it isn’t like she is required to answer if she doesn’t want to. I don’t answer any calls I am not expecting. Send it to voicemail.

      3. jag*

        I once tried to reach someone at a bunch of numbers we had in our contact database.

        Turns out one of them was a jail – he’d called us from there a few years previously.

        True story.

      4. Brandy*

        Youre correct here, I agree completely. I know this is a way around and doesn’t confront the issue, but the next time the manager calls the SO have her say “wrong #” and hang up. And tell the boss she has changed her #.

        1. jag*

          If the manager is asking for the girlfriend when he called, it’s not a wrong number. Don’t lie.

          And if the girlfriend hasn’t change the number, saying so is a lie too. Don’t lie.

    5. Vicki*

      “After some miscommunication about whether or not I was to work a shift in a snowstorm, my boss called my significant other on the phone in order to find me.”

      Nothing in this sentence says that the OP couldn’t or didn’t “just call him back”. I read it as the boss couldn’t reach the OP immediately and jumped to another number inappropriately.

  2. AMG*

    Have her block his number. End of that issue. But as Alison said, it is circumstantial and not addressing the dynamics of what’s really going on.

    1. Brett*

      My provider charges $60 to block numbers.
      More importantly, the significant other does still want to be reachable if there is an emergency.

        1. BeenThere*

          Yep, this is the best feature. My Crackberry failed after 8 months and was replaced with a shiny new iPhone (yay). The first thing I did was disable location services and enable the do not disturb setting. I’m not on call and did not sign up to be on call, I haven’t been called yet and don’t ever want to be.

    2. AnonEMoose*

      It also might not be that simple depending on how the phone system works at the OP’s workplace. For example, if when I place a call from work, the number shows on Caller ID as 123-456-7000, even though my direct line is 123-456-7777.

      So if the girlfriend blocks the boss’s direct line, it might not work because Caller ID shows something different, and if she blocks the main number, she might not be able to receive calls from anyone at the company. And if there is an emergency, that could be very bad.

        1. Zillah*

          But I don’t see how that solves anything – she’d still have to check her voicemail and deal with it, probably sooner rather than later (in case it is an emergency).

          1. tesyaa*

            It’s way easier to check a VM, realize it’s not an emergency and ignore, than to deal with someone on the phone trying to explain something that, almost definitely, is not an emergency.

    3. Lyssa*

      Considering that this only happened one time, in fairly reasonable circumstances, I can’t understand why she can’t just deal with it. The boss calls her, she has a 30 second conversation with him, she moves on. This is not a major imposition. Phone calls are a fairly normal part of life.

      1. Lily in NYC*

        This this this! I think the girlfriend was being ridiculous in expecting him to talk to management about not calling her again.

        1. JB*

          I disagree. I don’t want to have to be the person tracking my boyfriend down or explaining why he’s not a work. I certainly don’t want his boss to think he can call me any time he wants to talk to my boyfriend but can’t get a hold of him. And I specifically have a land line so I can that out to random people so that the only people I give my cell number to are people I’d actually want to talk to. Is this the worst thing in the world that could happen to me? No. But if his boss called me, I would ask him to try to make sure it never happened again. The alternative would be for me to tell him not to call again, and my boyfriend might want to say in a more polite tone than I would probably use.

        2. A Reader becoming QAT Contractor*

          I disagree completely. There is no reason for the boss to contact the SO in this fashion. She called in one time to management while he was in a snow storm. The way I would read the situation is, he didn’t have the number to call management himself, was driving in bad conditions, called a person he knew could lookup the number to management and had her call rather than tell him the number to call himself.

          I have been in this sort of situation before and did not have the number of the person I was reporting to because it was a new client. I did have a friends number who was able to look up the number for me to call, but they texted it to me so I could make the call.

          It was technically wrong to have pulled up the text while driving and I wouldn’t have remembered the number otherwise, so having them call would have been the better option technically.

          The SO in the OPs case has every right to not be contacted by the employer/manager unless it is an absolute emergency. Now if this was a one time contact I’d say let it go, but if it has happened several times since, then she is justified in being upset.

          As for how to handle the situation, I don’t totally agree with the email wording. A simple conversation with the one manager could have been enough, but updating emergency contact information would be the second part of that. If other managers were calling as well, then the more global email about updated contact info would make sense.

          But passive aggressive? I don’t think that phrase means what the sender of the write up thinks the phrase means…

      2. Kyrielle*

        There’s an assumption that she had a short and reasonable conversation with him, though. We don’t know what her conversation with the OP’s boss was like. If the boss was expecting OP in, and OP wasn’t there, depending on boss’s personality it could’ve been substantially more obnoxious.

        We don’t have the data to assume that, of course, any more than we have the data to assume that didn’t happen. It is possible that the boss was horrid to the OP’s girlfriend. It’s possible she tried to ask him not to call again and he told her to shove that.

        It’s also possible that it was a short, sweet conversation in which she gave him the info (or lack of info) she had about where OP was, he apologized for bothering her, they got off the phone, and she went to OP about it demanding it not happen again over…basically nothing.

        Without more data, we don’t know – but she _could_ have had a legitimate reason. (On the other hand, if she did have a legitimate reason for minding that one call, trying to address it with the boss was probably always going to be messy. And copying others wouldn’t likely have helped.)

  3. AdAgencyChick*

    Did this happen only once? Because sending an email worded like that does seem like an over-the-top response. Why not just go to the boss and say, “Please don’t call my girlfriend unless it’s an emergency — she doesn’t like it”?

    Then the girlfriend should stop answering the calls. Done.

      1. Cold in New England*

        Agreed. This is a prime example of using e-mail when a quick/casual face-to-face request would have been better and there probably wouldn’t have been as much misinterpretation of tone. Though it was unintentional, turning to e-mail escalated the situation, esp. since it was sent to the whole management team.

        I do think that the boss’ reaction isn’t right, though, especially the strange insistence on continuing to hold onto the significant other’s phone number.

  4. Snarkus Aurelius*

    Chiding someone in front of his peers will bring out defensiveness in anyone.

    I’m not saying I agree with him or you, but it explains the pushback and nose thumbing over refusing your request.

    1. Leah*

      Yes, this. I get where the passive aggressive perspective comes from – emailing a bunch to people to say that one person did something you don’t like (doesn’t even matter who the wronged party is) is passive aggressive. I think refusing to abide by the non-employee’s request is too much, but I kind of get where the manager got “passive aggressive” from. OP should have reached out just to the person who called.

    2. INTP*

      I agree, and that’s probably what the manager was calling passive aggressive. It’s a little passive aggressive to send an email to an entire team rather than addressing the person who actually did it, though the OP may not have meant it that way.

      1. KarenT*

        Totally agree with INTP and Leah. A formal reprimand may have been over the top, but I can see how the manager arrived at passive aggressive.

  5. CrazyCatLady*

    “I feel that my presence is my own responsibility, no one else’s, regardless of the consequences. Was it appropriate for them to contact anyone other than me regarding scheduling? And more so, to take disciplinary action for contacting them in this way?”

    But during a previous snowstorm, you gave that responsibility to your significant other so I don’t think it’s completely crazy that they’d contact her looking for you. I’m also interested to know what the “miscommunication” was regarding whether you’d be working a shift during a snowstorm.

    I’m not saying anyone is right or wrong, but it feels like there is some background information and context that we’re missing.

    1. some1*

      Right. You probably shouldn’t have anyone else call in late for you.

      Also, it probably would have been better to say something like, “It’s not practical to try reach me on my GF’s cell because she is at work /we don’t live together, or whatever” instead of saying that she doesn’t like it.

    2. Beth*

      “But during a previous snowstorm, you gave that responsibility to your significant other so I don’t think it’s completely crazy that they’d contact her looking for you.”

      It was ONE time. His girlfriend has a life of her own. She isn’t his keeper, and it’s insulting to her to assume she is because she was nice enough to do this for him once.

      1. Lyssa*

        How is that insulting? Boss asks how he can reach employee, she either says “He’s at ____ and you can call him at ____,” or she says “Sorry, I can’t help you.” There’s not really an opportunity for an insult there.

        1. Tiffy the Fed... Contractor*

          Maybe what Beth finds insulting is that often women are expected to keep track of all schedules in the house. For example, my husband stays at home with our son, so when we were selling our house, it was obviously easier for him to work with the realtor to schedule showings. However, the realtor refused to call him and schedule. Instead she would call me. I had to tell her that I wasn’t his personal assistant and to stop calling me during work hours.

          This isn’t the only instance I’ve had like this. It’s annoying, and yes, borderline insulting.

          1. fposte*

            Right, that sucks. But if somebody’s a no-show at work and doesn’t answer the phone, I think the SO is a logical next step if you’re worried, and I don’t think the gender really changes that.

            1. JB*

              I think if the boss was worried, that would probably excuse a lot. But I’m not sure the boss here was worried so much as just trying to track the guy down.

                1. JB*

                  I guess I should rephrase it. What I mean is–there’s nothing in what the OP said to give us a reason to think the boss was worried. People are just assuming that because that’s why *they* would call. All we know is that the boss was trying to track him down.

            2. Zillah*

              But there’s no indication that the OP even lives with their girlfriend. I think a spouse is a logical next step, because spouses generally do live together, but especially if a boyfriend/girlfriend hasn’t been provided as an emergency contact, it definitely comes off as presumptuous to me.

              1. fposte*

                This is where I think the OP kind of opened the door–if they’re partnered enough for her to call in about the OP, they’re partnered enough for her to be a reasonable call when the OP fails to show.

                1. Nerd Girl*

                  I disagree. I can very easily see a situation where he’s driving to work with her in the car. (Perhaps they met at his workplace for their date, took his car, and the date ended up with a sleepover?) There’s traffic, snow, poor road conditions and his phone is stuck in his pocket. I can see a situation where he asks her to call his work. She does. She says “Hi I’m SO. I’m in the car with OP and there’s an accident on the road. He asked me to let you know that he might be late.”

                  I’ve had people call others for me from another phone while I sat there driving. Sometimes it’s not safe to pull over. Sometimes you’re running late. Sometimes there’s a weird reason we do things we normally wouldn’t do in these types of situations. It doesn’t mean that you’re opening the door to have that situation repeated.

                2. Not Here or There*

                  I don’t think that’s anyone’s decision but the OP’s, I don’t think the boss gets to make that call. If the OP had his girlfriend call one time because his calling presented a potential safety hazard, I don’t think it gives the boss carte blanche to call the girlfriend. It would absolutely tick me off if I got a call from my SO’s boss unless my SO was hurt at work or hadn’t shown up and a significant amount of time had passed between when he tried to contact my SO and when he contacted me (probably nothing short of several hours).
                  I can’t stand it when my mother-in-law calls me when she can’t get my husband, I would no patience for it if it was his boss and even less patience if I weren’t his wife.

                3. fposte*

                  I think you’re talking about rights; I’m talking about logic.

                  I think it’s okay for the girlfriend not to want to be called, and she has that right. But I think it’s not unreasonable for the boss to have made that call, either, presuming the OP’s phone was tried first; it doesn’t mean the boss was invasive or creepy or out of line to call the person who’s previously been employee rep, and the post makes it clear that call didn’t actually bother the OP.

                  And I would be pretty weirded out to be called by a random person with an employee, even if they are in the passenger’s seat–which we have no indication is the situation here. If you’re calling me about my staff, I’m assuming you’re seriously involved in that person’s life. Otherwise I really don’t want to talk to you.

            3. Book Person*

              I’d say the next logical step would be whomever OP designated as the emergency contact. It sounds like the boss skipped right over that and went to the SO, which rather defeats the purpose.

            4. madge*

              Agree that it’s logical in this situation.

              Having been in Tiffy’s position, I empathize and agree that it’s insulting for people to assume that I am my husband’s secretary. But in the OP’s case, I would absolutely not mind, because my husband is punctual to a fault. If he misses an appointment, there’s a reason to worry. If the OP *isn’t* punctual, that’s a separate and serious problem.

              All OP needed to do was pop in to the manager’s office and say, “hey, in the future, please use XX, who is listed as my emergency contact. SO can’t/won’t keep tabs on me.”

          1. fposte*

            But who else do you want the workplace to call when the OP’s a no-show? It’s not unusual to call home or family when somebody doesn’t turn up as planned. Currently the OP’s list seems to be “no one”–the message was not to call the girlfriend or emergency contacts, so it’s not clear what work is expected to do–just go straight to firing? Assume that the cops will eventually let them know if their employee is dead?

            I just don’t think calling the girlfriend was a big deal. I think it’s okay for her to have her reasons to be annoyed, but I don’t think that translates to the office having made her her partner’s social secretary.

            1. Not Here or There*

              Or…. give it some time and try to call the OP again, maybe try emailing him and if the OP doesn’t answer for several hours, then you can think about contacting someone else. But that someone else should probably be the person on the emergency contact list, not some random person who may have called one time, on a one off event.
              You don’t call next of kin just because someone hasn’t answered your phone call right away, and if you do you may want to consider not doing that.
              You may not think calling the GF is a big deal, but that’s not your decision. Clearly the GF does, and that is her call to make. If the OP didn’t list her as his emergency contact, then it is ridiculous that the boss would presume it’s alright for him to call her.

              1. fposte*

                I think some of your suggestions are reasonable, but I can’t agree that it’s ridiculous to call somebody about an employee who’s previously called *you* about that employee.

                1. Not So NewReader*

                  Choosing between a screaming SO and an employee who died, but could have been helped- I will deal with the screaming SO.

                  I had a boss that refused to do a safety check call. Flat out refused. “We are not babysitters.” It never once occurred to her that she could be the first one to know that something was desperately wrong with an employee.
                  You could not explain this to her, either. “No, that would never happen.”

            2. Jay*

              I agree. A lot of this depends on the OP’s job as well. There could be many issues if a supervisor doesn’t show up. Many posters have said that the manager should have waited an hour or so until trying something else. That would not fly in retail especially if that supervisor had to open a dept or pull the register banks. Many health facilities must have an RN present for a specific set of hours within a 24 hour period. Many upper level positions require that you have some way of being reached any time outside of work due to a crisis at work unless you are on vacation. I’m not stating these “ifs” in order the come up with a hypothetical job for the OP but merely to point out why a manager may be anxious about a shift in a snowstorm. What we do know is that the manager called the SO of one of his employees who was also a supervisor about whether or not he was working a shift in a snowstorm. Having a higher level employee unaccounted for 8-12 hours during that kind of weather kind of gets a free pass for the phone call. He’d then have to call someone else to see if they would stay late or come in on their day off in the snow.

              I am also wondering if the OP had a poor relationship with the manager mentioned. We are missing many details but I’m quite sure that all of the others that received the email went naturally around asking “Well, I never called his SO. Did you?”. That was over the top and could have been handled with a quick statement and a smile.

              Once again I have to mention that we must look at the OP’s job in regards to the manager still having access to his SO’s number. I’m not saying that it should have been called but my coworkers and I often transfer our work lines to our cells. I easily receive over 1200 calls weekly. I will save a number immediately because I have to prioritize calls from client 2’s 2nd cell, client 1’s office number and employee 12(who is probably calling because they can never remember when they work). Then again, healthcare is a world of its own. At many of the facilities that I have worked in, we call whatever we have on hand because you could show up hours late but right in time to be fired. I’ve had an SO give me an alternate # because the employee had 7 on file and none were in service.
              I’m just stating all of this so that we don’t naturally assume that he just had an office position and the manager was blowing up his SO’s cell in order to have the OP come in and do some stapling.

      2. CrazyCatLady*

        I was saying that just to point out that it’s going against what he said: “I feel that my presence is my own responsibility, no one else’s, regardless of the consequences. Was it appropriate for them to contact anyone other than me regarding scheduling? And more so, to take disciplinary action for contacting them in this way?”

        We don’t really know the whole story and without it, it’s hard to know who was more out of line.

        1. fposte*

          And you know, it doesn’t have to be a contest; nobody wins anything for being less out of line than somebody else. There’s no changing the past anyway, so it’s going to be more useful to find a way toward working better in the future than standing judgment over the past.

        2. Not So NewReader*

          The OP could look into what happened that caused the boss not to be able to reach him.

          I am baffled by no mention of OP’s own phone. What happened there?

          1. tesyaa*

            The OP mentions his own “phone silence”, implying that he didn’t respond to his phone, whether intentionally or not.

  6. sittingduck*

    I’m a bit confused as to why your boss didn’t just call you? Also I’m inclined to say that you kinda opened the door to her being contacted by having her call in for you. To me that sends a message saying she is willing to help out and be an in-between contact when needed. Although again, I’m not sure why you didn’t just call in to say you would be late – seems like you would have had to call her to ask her to call, so why couldn’t you just call the office?

    I feel like a part of this story is missing, or maybe your boss is just a bit over the top.

    1. some1*

      The letter makes it seem like his boss did try to call him before he called the GF, though,
      “I . . . was ordered to forget about my significant other’s request, as my manager saw the circumstances of my phone silence and lack of showing up for work as an emergency”

      1. Not So NewReader*

        I don’t understand what was wrong with OP’s phone.

        With many people, if you can get them on the phone and they do not show up for work, that could mean that something is very wrong.

        1. Zillah*

          There doesn’t necessarily have to be something wrong with the OP’s phone. They may just have not heard it, either because they were in another room, napping, at a movie, etc.

  7. Annalee*

    I find it really weird that they’re not willing to stop calling someone who has asked them to stop calling. It’s one thing if an employer calls an employee’s home number and another member of the household picks up. Calling someone else’s mobile (this is what they did, right?) to reach an employee is not okay.

    Your girlfriend is not their employee, and it frankly doesn’t matter whether they considered it ‘an emergency’ or not. She should not have to specify that ‘unless it’s an emergency’ means unless it’s an emergency for her (like needing to meet you at the hospital because you’ve been hurt on the job).

    Your girlfriend shouldn’t have to be the one to shut this down, but in the interest of maintaining boundaries, I’d recommend she refuse to communicate with them about you. If they call her again, she should say something like “You’ve been asked not to contact me about Khaleesi unless they’re in mortal peril. Please contact them directly.” Repeat as needed. “This is not Khaleesi’s number. Please contact them directly.” “I can’t help you. Please contact them directly.”

    1. AdAgencyChick*

      “I find it really weird that they’re not willing to stop calling someone who has asked them to stop calling. ”

      I’m not clear from reading the letter that this is actually the case — I read it as follows: OP’s girlfriend called once, at OP’s request. Boss now has number stored. Next time snow hits and Boss wants to know whether OP can come in, Boss calls girlfriend (it’s not clear to me whether Boss tried OP first, as Boss should have), girlfriend is annoyed, asks OP to ask Boss not to call her again. OP does this by sending an email to Boss and all of Boss’s colleagues.

      If this is indeed what happened, I don’t think it’s that the company is continuing to call the girlfriend despite her requests. But if I’m reading it wrong and they are, the girlfriend has every right to be annoyed…but OP should have taken it up quietly with Boss instead of copying the entire team on an email.

      1. Chocolate lover*

        I think Annalee is referring to this line:

        “was ordered to forget about my significant other’s request, as my manager saw the circumstances of my phone silence and lack of showing up for work as an emergency.”

        I also interpreted it to mean that they would call her whenever they deemed it was an emergency, regardless of her request to stop calling unless genuine emergency.

        1. JMegan*

          as my manager saw the circumstances of my phone silence and lack of showing up for work as an emergency

          This is actually not an unreasonable thing for the manager to do. At minimum, he needs to know if OP is planning on coming to the office that day. And if he’s a halfway decent person, and the OP is maintaining “phone silence,” he’s also going to be worried about the OP’s safety, and calling to make sure he isn’t dead in a ditch somewhere.

          Sorry OP, I think you’re in the wrong. A miscommunication that results in you not showing up for work when you’re expected, followed by phone silence on a second occasion when you were not showing up as expected, followed by your comment “my presence is my own responsibility,” suggests to me that this might be an ongoing issue with you, and the boss had reason to not give you the benefit of the doubt. I agree that he overreacted by writing you up over that email, but it does seem to me that you two probably have bigger issues to sort out.

          1. Lyssa*

            ITA. If there were bad weather, and someone was expecting my husband somewhere and he didn’t show, I would definitely want to know. Maybe it’s just a miscommunication, but maybe there’s been an accident and it is a true emergency.

          2. RoseTyler*

            I agree. The way I read the OP is that the boss expected the OP to be at work during a snowstorm, the OP didn’t show, and the boss reached out to what they thought was their next contact. Giving the boss the benefit of the doubt, they certainly could have been concerned about the OP’s safety.

            In a perfect world the boss would have taken the time to go into their new-hire paperwork and ferret out the official next contact, but given that it was unusual circumstances (snowstorm) unlikely to repeat I don’t think this was worth making a big deal over.

          3. LBK*

            A miscommunication that results in you not showing up for work when you’re expected, followed by phone silence on a second occasion when you were not showing up as expected

            Where are you getting this from? There were only two incidents: the first one where the OP was running late and had his GF call to say so, and the second one where he didn’t know he was supposed to be working and didn’t answer the phone. The miscommunication incident and the phone silence incident are one single occurrence.

            1. JMegan*

              Oh, gotcha – I did read that as two separate incidents. I still think it’s reasonable for the boss to call around looking for the OP, if he was not showing up as expected and also not answering his phone.

              Like Ann O’Nemity says below, it’s a series of events that are both relatively minor and relatively unusual, with an escalating scale of overreaction from everybody.

          4. Zillah*

            I think there was only one time that the OP didn’t show up – the miscommunication about the shift and the phone silence seem to be part of the same incident.

            That aside, I’d agree, maybe, if the girlfriend was listed as an emergency contact – but she isn’t. They only have her number because she called them once. I think that it is wrong to call someone not listed as an emergency contact, and I feel like it is disrespectful to take a single point of contact from them as permission to call whenever the boss deems it necessary. (It should rarely, if ever, be necessary.)

            1. tesyaa*

              The OP doesn’t even want work to call his ACTUAL emergency contacts when he’s a late or a no-show.

              “to please not contact any of these people in regards to me in the workplace unless it is absolutely an emergency”

              It sounds like the OP only wants work to call his contacts if it’s an emergency for HIM (e.g. he’s bleeding on the stockroom floor), but not if it’s an emergency for work (no coverage).

              1. Zillah*

                Yes, that’s definitely weird. I think the manager acted pretty poorly here, but there are a lot of ways in which the OP isn’t coming off well, either.

              2. Chocolate lover*

                I can see that point of view. But I think it’s also true that to the girlfriend, her only concern IS her boyfriend, she has no obligation to the employer or their shortage at work. She’s not responsible for responding to the employer’s emergency.

                1. Jay*

                  “After some miscommunication about whether or not I was to work a shift in a snowstorm, my boss called my significant other on the phone in order to find me…I once had her call management while I had been driving in another snowstorm. There had been accidents that could have affected my ETA”
                  The OP sounds a bit hypocritical to me. Perhaps I read the situation incorrectly but it seems like the manager was calling to see if the OP was coming in for the shift in the snowstorm not if he wanted to pick up a shift. I tell all of my staff that they need to call me. Not their mom, SO or the cab driver(I’ve had that happen) unless they are seriously hurt not sick with a cold. The OP states that he has been unable to call work himself and that his SO had the power to inform his manager of his current status. The cause for this transfer of power of communication was a snowstorm. Another snowstorm has hit and the manager is still unaware if the OP is coming in. It was already established in one instance that the OP wouldn’t(couldn’t?) use his cell in bad weather and it wasn’t an emergency. It isn’t stated if the manager called after the start of the shift in question. Was it an hour later and the OP could have been out in the storm? The OP set a precedent for calling before/during a storm even if he was going to be late. Sounds like a casual call turned into something bigger than it was. The OP stated that the SO wanted to be an emergency contact so I don’t see what the issue is aside from the manager calling her cell instead of her landline.

                  The SO was within her rights to be upset. I was in a check out line behind a woman and she had given the cashier a $10 and wanted to pay credit for the remaining balance. She couldn’t find her card and asked for the $10 back and handed over a $20. The cashier just added another $10 to the total since she’d entered the first amount. The woman had a fit because her receipt showed $10 twice instead of the $20 A supe had to come up and void the entire transaction because the customer did not want to do a refund. Was the woman within her rights? Heck, yeah! Was it a bit much? Definitely.
                  (p.s. she tossed the receipt into recycling on the way out. The cashier looked like she wanted to go after her. The supe looked like he wanted to allow her to go after her.)

        2. AdAgencyChick*

          Whoops. I totally missed that.

          In that case…the girlfriend has every right to stop answering the boss’s calls, but the OP needs to return the boss’s phone calls.

      2. Mackenzie*

        “[I] was ordered to forget about my significant other’s request”

        To me, that sounds like his boss is saying “I don’t give a fuck what your girlfriend who isn’t my employee says, if I want to call her about you, I am damn well going to call her about you.”

        1. fposte*

          That’s how I read the OP’s *take*, but I don’t think there’s a lot of mutual understanding here, so I might have a different opinion of the actual text the OP received.

      3. fposte*

        I think the ambiguous phrase is the OP “was ordered to forget about my significant other’s request.” I don’t know if that means the management didn’t think it applied in this situation or they plan to ignore it going forward.

        1. Annalee*

          I read it as “they plan to ignore it going forward,” because they think they get to decide when something is ‘an emergency’ worthy of violating the girlfriend’s stated boundaries.

          I agree with folks saying the request not to call her could have been communicated better–but once they had that request, the appropriate response is “okay, we won’t call her anymore,” not “but we couldn’t reach you!” Their ability to reach the employee is between them and the employee, and it’s not okay to make it the girlfriend’s problem–even if she willingly contacts them on the employee’s behalf at other times. The fact that she’s willing to do her significant other that favor doesn’t make it okay for the employer to treat her as a point of contact when she hasn’t explicitly volunteered.

          If they want to separately say “in the future, please raise concerns like this directly instead of emailing the whole team,” okay. That’s their call. But appointing the girlfriend as the employee’s unpaid scheduler is not.

            1. tesyaa*

              They’re not thinking girlfriend. They’re thinking that this is the best emergency number to reach him at. Doesn’t matter if it’s his girlfriend, sister, brother, nephew, grandfather. They had a working number for a guy who’s not reliable, and they used it. He has the right to tell them it’s not the correct emergency number (and to provide a different emergency contact), but no one here is thinking “girlfriends exist to manage my employees’ lives.”

              1. the_scientist*

                But still, though. The OP is an adult, and neither his girlfriend nor any other relative/roommate/whatever is OP’s keeper and personal secretary. It is a little bit out of line for the OP’s boss to be continually calling OP’s girlfriend to get OP’s whereabouts. If attendance is an ongoing issue with the OP (and it sounds like it is), it’s the boss’s responsibility to take disciplinary action to fix it, up to and including firing the OP if that is warranted. Calling the girlfriend to ask “hey, where’s OP at today?” is not a long-term solution to OP’s attendance problems.

                Honestly, if I was driving somewhere with my boyfriend and called his boss to say “boyfriend is going to be late due to weather, I’m sorry to be making this call but he’s currently driving and can’t safely use his phone” I’d be mightily peeved if the boss called me two weeks later because boyfriend slept through his alarm and is late for work (hypothetically). My response would be “honestly, I’m not his secretary, so I have no idea. Please stop calling me on my personal cell phone while I’m at work” followed by refusal to answer any more calls. The issue would be between boyfriend and his boss; there would be no reason for my involvement in that scenario.

                1. fposte*

                  They called once, though; it’s not continual. (There are two phone calls total, and the first was placed by the girlfriend.)

              2. Zillah*

                They’re not thinking girlfriend. They’re thinking that this is the best emergency number to reach him at. Doesn’t matter if it’s his girlfriend, sister, brother, nephew, grandfather.

                We don’t know that they’re not thinking girlfriend, though. I suspect that she identified herself when she called (e.g., “Hi, this is OP’s girlfriend – OP is stuck in accidents because of the snowstorm, but will be in”), and if that’s the case, I can absolutely see them contacting her where they might not contact a sibling or a grandparent. I also feel like a lot of people would be quicker to call a girlfriend than a boyfriend, which is based in sexism, even if it isn’t an overt conscious example of it.

                I mean, at the end of the day, they have emergency contacts for the OP, and they didn’t use them. They used a number that they only had because she called from it once, and they wrote down the number unprompted. That’s hugely presumptuous, IMO, and I can see why she’s annoyed.

                1. Zillah*

                  I’m not as sure about that – if it was just in the manager’s phone as a recent call, how would they have identified it as the OP’s girlfriend? They might not have literally written it down with a pen and paper, but they clearly noted the name and relationship somehow.

            2. fposte*

              I don’t think it’s necessarily sexist–we don’t know the gender of the OP or the manager, and we don’t know how the employer would treat a boyfriend. I do think there’s quite likely some frustrated pushing around involved, in that I suspect the subtext is “If you don’t want us to call other people, answer your damn phone.”

              1. AW*

                we don’t know the gender of the OP or the manager, and we don’t know how the employer would treat a boyfriend

                I agree that this isn’t necessarily sexist but none of that would be relevant if it was.

                1. fposte*

                  Well, I do think the SOs as social manager thing is a more established sexist trope in heterosexual couples, but I agree that gender isn’t enough to disprove sexism.

                2. Zillah*

                  @ fposte – But I also think that it’s more common to find people willing to impose on women in the way the OP is describing than men – which, while subconscious, is rooted in sexism. We don’t know that that’s the case with the OP’s manager, but if it was, the genders of the people involved wouldn’t make a difference.

                3. fposte*

                  Right, I agree that it happens more often to women. But I’m not seeing this being about women here–I think it’s about going first to the person who called in for the OP in a prior situation.

            3. A Dispatcher*

              Where is the sexism? I don’t see it. Are you thinking they’re ignoring the girlfriend’s request simply because she’s a woman? I doubt it and I definitely don’t think there’s enough context to support that. We don’t even know OP’s gender…

            4. Annalee*

              I think there is a definite pattern in our society of treating wives and girlfriends as the keeper of their significant others’ calendars.

              We obviously can’t say for sure that that’s what’s going on here, but sexism is a structural system, not an individual act, so the gender of the manager doesn’t determine whether or not it’s sexist.

              1. fposte*

                Sure, but there’s also no indication from this specific action that it is sexist, either. And that’s not something I’d recommend the OP raise in a situation that’s already unnecessarily high-friction.

              2. LBK*

                I think sexism is way, way, way down the line of feasible explanations for this situation, the most logical and likely being that it was the most readily accessible number he had for someone who might know where the OP was (because it was already in his recent calls). There’s nothing in the letter that suggests this was a factor here and it’s not helpful to inject it into every scenario that involves a woman.

              3. Zahra*

                This. I would bet that a roommate, a brother or a sister wouldn’t be called so readily. And a roommate’s request would more likely be respected. On top of that, the girlfriend is not an emergency contact. They have contacts for emergencies. They should contact those and forget the girlfriend’s number until further notice.

                1. fposte*

                  I don’t think it’s kosher to decide what the manager would have done in a different situation in a way that makes the manager worse, though. Maybe the manager was driven by sexism and maybe s/he wasn’t, but the information we have isn’t enough to create a character that then proves our point in a hypothetical situation.

                2. LBK*

                  We expect SOs to be aware of their SO’s whereabouts in general, moreso than any other type or relationship, whether that SO is male or female. I really don’t think this is as specific to calling a girlfriend because she’s a woman as you’re making it – I can easily see a boyfriend being a point of contact in a reversed scenario.

                3. Chocolate lover*

                  Until my now-husband and I moved in together, I wouldn’t necessarily know where he was on any given day. The same for any of my former boyfriends. We didn’t talk every day, and the husband’s work shifts, even when dating, were so varied, I didn’t bother keeping track of where he was. If he wasn’t actually with me, then my response would likely be a shrug and say your guess is as good as mine.

              4. tesyaa*

                Full disclosure, I have called a female nanny’s boyfriend on at least one occasion when she didn’t show up and didn’t answer her phone.

              5. the gold digger*

                wives and girlfriends as the keeper of their significant others’ calendars.

                Don’t forget also the Keeper of the Sunglasses and the Keeper of Anything Else The SO Does Not Want To Hold when you are at a music festival together.

                1. Nerd Girl*

                  Keeper of the Sunglasses and the Keeper of Anything Else The SO Does Not Want To Hold when you are at a music festival together.

                  LOL! I say this all the time!!! My family will go out and I’ll have a shoulder bag with my wallet and phone in it. We’ll come home and suddenly there’s all this stuff in there and none of it is mine! Normally 50% of it belongs to my husband. I’ve started making him take a backpack with him. I’m tired of being the family mule. Happily, he’s gone along with it with no complaints. :)

                2. Cath in Canada*

                  I turned the tables on my husband when he wore a kilt at our wedding. I didn’t want to carry a bag around all day, so I got him to put my wallet, phone, keys, and other sundries in his sporran. He did say that it was nice not to have a bunch of stuff in his pockets for once, but unfortunately the kilt and sporran have not become part of his regular attire.

          1. Oryx*

            Why is this being read as being appointed as “a scheduler”. To me this reads like the boss was showing genuine concern. An employee of his didn’t call. In my mind if one of my coworkers just randomly didn’t show up in a snowstorm I’d definitely be calling or texting their family members trying to make sure if they’re ok. I don’t give a flying flip if they’re not supposed to be there, I do care if they’re in a ditch on the side of the road bleeding out of their head in whiteout conditions.

            1. JB*

              Eh, I think “showing genuine concern” is as much of a stretch as the negative motivations being attributed to the manager here. I’ve experienced and seen managers trying to track down a shift no-show with a total absence of concern about the worker’s well-being. They just wanted the shift covered and an explanation for the no-show.

              1. Oryx*

                That’s fair – I attributed it as concern because it was a snowstorm and the LW had already had some difficulty with traffic in a similar storm.

      4. John*

        Right to be annoyed? What kind of hardship is taking one phone call?

        If this were a pattern, then yeah. One phone call. These are first-world problems, and even bothering to address it at work would not reflect well.

        I mean, isn’t there a presumption of good faith in making the call?

        1. RVA Cat*

          I am guessing it was more than “just a phone call” – given the boss writing him up for sending a “passive aggressive email” and the girlfriend being vehement about not being contacted, it would not surprise me if the boss got hostile with her.

        2. fposte*

          I think “first-world problems” is unnecessarily dismissive. Most things on this blog are, on the surface, first world problems. You’re still entitled to be annoyed by them, though, and if nobody was, what would be left on AAM?

          And I suspect the answer to your second question, in this case anyway, is no. Neither the OP nor his employers are assuming good faith on the side of the other at this point.

          1. Zillah*

            This. And, I dislike the term “first world problems” because I think it’s (often unintentionally) really othering and dehumanizing to people in these “third world countries” (because apparently, people living in “third world countries” are completely destitute and have no thoughts other than WAR! and STARVATION! and DISEASE! and maybe a little NOBLE SAVAGE! thrown in there) and really diminishing of people in “first world countries” (because apparently, they face none of the problems that people in “third world countries” face, and always have enough to live comfortably).

            1. Helka*

              There was a really good piece I read a while back about how “third world” countries can still have plenty of “first world problems” — citing a cell service outage in Nigeria. I’ll see if I can dig up the link.

              1. Helka*

                Ah, I can’t link it because it was originally on Twitter, and I’m not sure about the ethics of copy/pasting the entire thing here without a link back to the original source.

                1. nonegiven*

                  On the web:
                  Locate the Tweet anywhere on
                  Click on the Tweet (you can click anywhere in the Tweet). …
                  Click on Details next to the Tweet’s timestamp. …
                  Copy the URL that shows up in your browser’s address bar.
                  Paste the URL in a message to anyone with whom you want to share the Tweet.

            2. Cath in Canada*

              YES! Same thing as those annoying Facebook statuses saying “people with cancer want just one thing”. You can’t have cancer and ALSO want it to be sunny tomorrow or for your team to win its next game?

              (sorry, pet peeve!)

        3. Colette*

          The impact of the one call depends on when and where the girlfriend received it. If it was right before a job interview or a big presentation, it could legitimately unnerving.

          It also depends on the circumstances – was the manager trying to drag the OP in to work on her approved day off? Had the OP been up 6 times the night before with pager calls? Did the manager call 10 times in a row until the girlfriend answered?

          I’ve certainly worked with people who have no judgement about appropriate boundaries, so I don’t think we can presume good faith, either.

        4. Nerd Girl*

          My mother and sister live together. There’s one friend who calls for my sister all the time. She thinks my mom gets too easily annoyed when taking calls for my sister. I didn’t have an opinion until I happened to answer the phone when this friend called while I was visiting my mom.

          Me: Hello?
          Her: Hi. Is Dork Girl home?
          Me: No. Sorry. May I take a message?
          Her: where is she?
          Me: Excuse me?
          Her: she didn’t tell me she was going out.
          Me: I don’t know where she is. She’s not home. Can I take a message?
          Her: do you know when she’ll be back?
          Me: No. I don’t. Do you want to leave a message?
          Her: did she take her overnight bag with her?
          Me: Seriously? I don’t know where she is. I don’t know when she’s coming back. Do you want to leave a message or not?
          Her: Wow! You don’t have to be a jerk. Just tell her Annoying friend called.

          Yeah…I was annoyed. And based on that call I had a right to be!

            1. Nerd Girl*

              My point is that we don’t know how that call with the SO played out. Did he insist on asking a lot of follow up questions and not take her “I’ll give him the message” as enough information? Did he keep her on the phone with a bunch of information that wasn’t important “We are trying to get in touch with OP. It’s not like him to be late. You know, he’s normally reliable except that time he was late last week. Can you believe all the snow we’re having? Did your company close?” and on and on. Did the act of using the SO as a emergency contact push the SO into uncomfortable territory in her relationship with the OP?
              Whatever the reason, the fact is the call was bothersome to the SO and the OP’s manager has taken it upon himself to rewrite the emergency contact list and include her number even when the SO has requested that she be removed from that list. The Manager has overstepped himself.

          1. The Strand*

            I agree, that sounds like a dynamic of someone who has a more intimate relationship with your sister. Is that possible?

        5. maggiethecat*

          It also seems like the manager is *setting it up to become* a pattern. He saved the number and has no issue calling the girlfriend again despite OP’s request not to.

            1. Kyrielle*

              Enh, numbers yes, tying of numbers to people, no. Knowing later to use that number for the OP/OP’s girlfriend implies that either the manager doesn’t take many calls, or that he saved that number under a contact labeled as the OP/related to the OP in some way.

              1. Elsajeni*

                Or most of the people who call him are already in his contacts/otherwise recognizable numbers. If I got a call from someone I’d never spoken to before, and then wanted to call them back for some reason, it’d be easy to find them in my “Recent Calls” — they’d be the one that isn’t Mom Cell, Boss, or Husband Cell. I don’t think that’s that unusual.

  8. A Dispatcher*

    I think part of why Boss may have taken this as passive aggressive is not so much the wording as the action of sending it in general. From what I can tell, this was a one time issue that could have (and I’d argue should have) been addressed directly with the person who made the call, either in a casual conversation, or I suppose an email (again though, more casual than what OP did send). Boss probably feels like emailing the entire team was OP’s way of calling out his/her actions, and that’s where the passive aggressive part comes in. “Discuss the proper use of…” also strikes me as fairly condescending, even if OP didn’t mean it that way.

    Regardless, I think a written warning for this is pretty ridiculous. However, I get the feeling there is more context to this, like Alison said. The fact that OP felt the need to send a formal email versus having a quick conversation and the written reprimand over a nothing issue makes me think relationships are definitely strained already.

    1. Evan Þ*

      +1. “Discuss the proper use of these contacts” is going far beyond the immediate issue. Unless there’re other occurrences you haven’t mentioned, you don’t need to “discuss” anything; you just need to tell Boss not to call your significant other.

      1. Amber*

        Agreed this was borderline inappropriate for a peer relationship, and very inappropriate if writting to your manager. The wording ” “Discuss the proper use of these contacts” I would only expect to see from a higher up correcting a group of employees after a chain of problems. This was a 1 time occurrence that should have been handled by you talking to your manager in person stating the request. Pointing out the problem to all managers was overkill which I think resulted in your manager reacting as he did. Doesn’t mean that your manager’s reaction was correct, but I do think he was right that it was passive aggressive (he probably viewed it as your attempt to make him look bad in from of his peers).

      2. fposte*

        It does seem like chiding them. And maybe the OP felt like chiding them, but it’s bringing in stuff that isn’t necessary. Their response seems weird too, so I think they may just be locked in a battle of personal feelings creeping into business communication. OP, maybe you can be the person to break that practice and lead the way.

        This is also an example of how treating something more formally and lengthily may feel like you’re being correct and thorough but can feel to the recipient like it’s making an issue bigger. Maybe this relates a little to the cover letter issue, where people feel they have to be very formal in work communications. But often it’s better to say “Hey, sorry about the mixup, but please don’t call Jane in future; just get me on my cell at xxx” rather than writing three paragraphs to multiple managers.

        1. Anonymous Ninja*

          I agree. Perhaps it’s the OP’s normal writing style, but I found it very formal, and at times, hard to understand.

    2. JB*

      I don’t think the email makes it passive-aggressive, though. Just because he sent it to more people than just the manager doesn’t make what he said any less direct. I think the boss was right to be irritated by both the wording and the sending to so many people, but the boss used the wrong words to describe what irritated him. Maybe if the boss had articulated it better, the OP would understand better what he did that was irritating.

  9. Not a rocket scientist*

    Huh. That email does strike me as horribly passive aggressive, because 1) it’s addressed to the whole team instead of the person who made the inappropriate phone call and 2) the tone is totally wrong for any kind of professional communication. It’s overly deferential, and just creeps me out reading it. You’re not a peasant and your management team aren’t dukes or counts or whatever. You’re peers, and so the over the top “reverence” reads more like parody, and snidely mocking your manger.

    Lastly the writing advice “show don’t tell” applies: don’t say you’re doing something as politely as possible. Let the message itself demonstrate your politeness. When you say something like “as politely as possible” or “all due respect” or whatever, what it says to me is that the next thing to come out of your mouth is going to be the opposite of polite or respectful.

    1. Charles*

      I agree. By definition, if you state that you are doing something “as politely as possible,” you probably are NOT doing it as politely as possible. You are using that phrase as a band-aid on an email that otherwise comes off a bit haughty.

      Same thing as “No offense intended, but…”

      1. JB*

        Yeah, that was weird. Maybe he meant something like “I respectfully request” but that’s not how it comes across.

        Like you said, if you have to tell people you’re being polite, you maybe aren’t.

    2. Green*

      Sending something to the whole team when only one person made the phone call was probably viewed as passive aggressive and it could have been resolved with a quick face-to-face or informal email just to that one person.

      The passive aggressive CC is a thing.

  10. SlickWilly*

    Is anyone else puzzled about the “written warning” having to do with (perceived) passive-aggressive e-mail? It’s not a great e-mail but it is miles from what any reasonable person would find offensive. Are they going to send him to sensitivity training for the next six months to be sure he does not write any more messages that could be perceived by delicate flowers as passive-aggressive? What’s going on here?

    1. Not a rocket scientist*

      Yeah, the write-up bit was weird. I wonder if the OP has been spoken to before about their communication style, or maybe has had previous “miscommunications” with their manager about whether they would be working a shift or not. I found the email off-putting to be sure, but nowhere near write-up worthy, so that leaves either something else going on that the OP didn’t say in their letter, or the manager just being a loon.

    2. AnotherHRPro*

      I’m guessing there is more to the story. It is possible the OP was written up for not being reachable, not showing up to work, not providing advance notice for absence or something else related and they also discussed the odd email he sent.

    3. Oryx*

      This is just my reading of the situation (and is probably reading too much into it, admittedly :)) but it seems like the type of person who’d email blast all the managers in the company because his girlfriend was annoyed may be someone who’s got a pattern of not making sound interpersonal judgements in the workplace. I would say this is doubly so for a situation where it appears that management was concerned about the OP’s wellbeing instead of trying to set up a series of harassments. (But that may also be me reading too much into it)

      I’d be pretty taken aback if I tried calling a coworker’s SO when they didn’t show up in a snowstorm and then later got sent a weird, stilted email about not bugging their partner. [heck this morning before it was even time for work one of my managers had texted me asking about today because he already thought the roads were going to be gross] My partner kind of wants to know if I just randomly don’t show up to work in an adverse situation….. you know, in case I’m stranded or injured.

      1. JB*

        I don’t know, the whole work place sounds weird. And I’ve known plenty of managers who would write someone up for the act of questioning (or appearing to question) anything they’d said.

  11. Brett*

    A few posters have noted that the significant other called in previously for the OP.
    But that was a circumstance where the OP was _driving_ in a _snowstorm_. The OP should not have been on the phone with anyone in those circumstances, hands-free or not. (Though I wonder how the significant other received that information to relay in the first place.)

      1. AdAgencyChick*

        Or that he ran out the door and yelled, “Love you, honey, can you call my boss and tell him I’ll be late? I gotta run!”

            1. nonegiven*

              I can’t get my phone out of my pocket, the seat belt buckles over it. Plus, if it’s a snowstorm, I’m not taking either hand off the wheel if I can help it.
              My SO is required to have a cell phone at work. He still refuses to answer it while he is driving at work. He will wait until he can pull over and call them back.

  12. Pete*

    My response to the “passive aggressive” slight would not have gone well:

    “I’m sorry, I was trying to be polite and professional. Instead of bringing up this massive breach of privacy and personal boundaries with HR, I politely reiterated my expectations and the correct way to reach me. Let’s try this instead: If you want to find me, call *me*. Don’t call my girlfriend unless I am injured, killed, or on fire. Is that clear? She’s not my babysitter, and I never gave you her number, or told you to call her.”

    1. HR Waiting 4 Reply*

      “Instead of bringing up this massive breach of privacy and personal boundaries with HR”

      The HR response? This incident is not a massive breach of privacy and personal boundaries.

      1. illini02*

        I think it is somewhat of a breach of privacy. If my manager’s phone is dead or he loses it, and calls from his wife’s phone to tell me that, I don’t think that it give me the right to save her number and then call her at a later time because I can’t reach him, unless she is his emergency contact.

        1. LBK*

          Is it any different that the girlfriend is the one that actually made the call, not the OP on his GF’s phone? To me, that’s slightly different from using someone else’s phone to make the call because it doesn’t just establish that it’s a number at which you might potentially be reached, it’s establishing that this person is a reasonable proxy for you in attendance-related matters.

          1. illini02*

            I think it is different personally, but I get what you are saying. But if we are assuming he was driving in a snow storm and was trying to be safe, then to me its pretty similar.

    2. RoseTyler*

      “massive breach of privacy and personal boundaries” feels like a very, very big stretch. I get that the OP is irritated but situations like this can spiral out to seriously impact someone’s future at a company.

      1. HR Waiting 4 Reply*

        Exactly. “Massive” by definition is a very big word and elevates what many consider a small annoyance to emergency acts of Congress.

        1. JB*

          Well, in some cases it is an act of Congress. There’s a difference under the law on how certain calls are treated depending on whether they are made to a cell phone or a land line. Making a sales call or a collections call to a cell phone without express permission to do so is a violation of the law. I realize that’s not what’s going on here, but I’m just pointing out that we treat cell phones and land lines differently (assuming the call to the GF was to her cell phone, which it might not have been).

          1. HR Waiting 4 Reply*

            Great, we agree this single phone call doesn’t mandate an emergency act of congress. Now lets see if we can scale it down from “massive breach…”

            Seriously, if an employee came to me using this language for a concern of that level I’d be providing some employment law education and counseling. Followed by a scheduled meeting with his manager to discuss the real problem(s).

            1. JB*

              Are you being ironic? Because it seems like your proposed reaction to the situation is as extreme as the OP’s response. Employment law education and counseling and a meeting with his manager? A simple conversation would be a good place to start.

              1. JB*

                I wasn’t trying to be snarky, by the way. I don’t read irony or joking very well in blog comments, so I didn’t know if you were trying to point out the hyperbole used by the OP by using some of your own.

    3. Anonymous Ninja*

      I don’t get the massive breach of privacy either. And how did his manager know he wasn’t injured, killed or on fire? He was supposed to be somewhere and he wasn’t. I’m unclear if the manager tried calling him first, but assuming the manager did, the next logical step is contacting someone who can confirm that the OP is not in the hospital.

      1. John*

        I agree. And if OP wants this to stop, the way to do it is by being friendly about it and doing it face to face. “Hey, boss, can I ask you a big favor? When you called, Girlfriend got all worked up thinking something was wrong with me. You got a wife, so you probably know where I’m coming from. Plus, she has a job where they only let her take real emergency calls, like your mom is on life support. I’d appreciate it if you didn’t call her the next time. I always have my phone with me, so if you leave me a message or text, I’ll be sure to get back to you as soon as I have a signal and it’s safe to do so. Would that work okay for you?-“

        1. Zillah*

          Wow, this goes really overboard the other way. It’s ridiculously deferential, overly familiar, and a little sexist.

          It’s not a big favor. The OP’s girlfriend didn’t get “all worked up,” and that presentation is making some pretty big assumptions about the boss’s wife and their relationship with her. It doesn’t matter what the OP’s girlfriend job is, and this is not something where “No, that doesn’t work okay for me” is an acceptable answer.

          How about just, “Hey, boss! I know I asked my girlfriend to call in when I got stuck in the snowstorm, but in general, she’s not the best way to reach me – my emergency contacts are. In the future, can you call them if something comes up?”

          1. tesyaa*

            He goes on to say that even his real emergency contacts should only be contacted in an “absolute” emergency, whatever that is (presumably involving 911 or similar). I don’t get that. It’s not like his phone silence only impacts him. It impacts the workplace.

      2. nonegiven*

        I’m assuming he called and left word that he wouldn’t be in because of the snowstorm (because of all the accidents that happened on that road the last time there was a snowstorm) and the manager didn’t get the message. The OP turned off the phone to get some sleep or left it in another room to take a shower or whatever and manager called GF instead of leaving a voicemail when he didn’t answer his phone.

    4. Not So NewReader*

      Maybe the manager did think OP was injured, killed or on fire and maybe that is why he called.

      I guess the manager should use his ESP before calling? How do you know when there is a problem and when there isn’t?

      Not saying it’s right. I am just thinking there isn’t anyone in this letter that could not have done something to prevent the situation from escalating. It took all three participants to bring this to a head.

  13. brightstar*

    While I feel the written warning was over the top, and that likely there are dynamics at play here that we don’t know about it, the wording of the actual email struck me as somewhat formal. OP, if this is your usual manner of communication, it may be that the written warning was more about that than just the instance of emailing to ask them to stop calling your girlfriend.

    What struck me in particular was :“until said significant person made a complaint to me and asked me to request that she not be called for anything other than an emergency (like if I were hurt or too sick to call my office myself).. It just strikes me as more formal than My girlfriend complained to me about the calls and asked if I could tell them to call only if I’m hurt or ill.. You’re saying the exact same thing, but the tone is different. And particularly in written communications, tone is very important.

    So that has me wondering (and I hope I don’t come off as critical) if they misread your tone and this has been going for a while.

    1. Not So NewReader*

      I think OP’s email helped to escalate things.

      It could be that the manager is embarrassed because he was concerned about OP and OP got upset instead of saying “thanks for being concerned about me”.

  14. TL -*

    If you’re in Boston or another place that’s being hit with unreasonable amounts of snow, I’d really try to let this one go because while it definitely sounds weird, everyone is kinda on edge with the weather. I doubt calling the girlfriend is going to become a habit anyways.

      1. Nerd Girl*


        I’m usually one of those people who live in the moment and tries hard not to let future events rule my present but OMG I am all about spring right now: I talk about it, I think about it, I dream about it… it’s become an obsession. I actually started crying yesterday on the way home at just the thought of grass. As a native New Englander – born and raised – I can assure you that I have never felt like this about winter. I hate winter with a passion this year!

        1. I'm a Little Teapot*

          I almost started crying last week when the T was shut down and I had to walk a mile and a half to a doctor’s appointment in the snow with holes in my boots (often in the road with drivers right behind because the sidewalks weren’t plowed).

    1. JB*

      I would agree except for the fact that he saved her number, and she’s not listed as the OP’s emergency contact, but he called her anyway.

      1. Oryx*

        A lot of smartphones these days do that automatically. I’ve got calls from all the way back to September of 2014 just hanging out in the call log. :)

      2. Marcy*

        I agree with Oryx that phones save the number now without you having to do a thing. The other point I would make is that perhaps the boss wasn’t where he could get to the emergency contact list (which the OP also said was off-limits). The boss may have been away from where the list is kept because he had to fill in for the OP who wasn’t there to do the job and was calling between customers or something.

  15. tesyaa*

    Slightly related, I wish my family dentist’s office wouldn’t call my cellphone when they want to confirm or reschedule my husband’s appointments. (I think he was too smart to give them his own number.)

    1. some1*

      I wish extended family would stop sending cards and invitations to my parents’ and get huffy when I don’t acknowledge them (I moved out of my parents’ house 13 years ago) :)

    2. Van Wilder*

      That’s so annoying. I would give them his number and have them update the file. Husbands and wives should help each other out but it’s enough to organize my own schedule without memorizing someone else’s!

      1. Meg Murry*

        This was the straw that broke the camel’s back for a mediocre dental practice for me. I could not get them to change their records correctly to have them call my husband himself for his appointments and reminders – after the 3rd time I asked them to change, they changed the kids records to his number (and maybe even mine) but not his. Since the place was already on my list of mediocre and annoying, that was the thing that put me over the edge to find a new office vs just staying with them since we had gone through the hassle of getting our records transferred there when our old dentist wasn’t in our new insurance network.

        They still try to call every 6 months to remind one of us we are due for checkups – I’ve just put them in my “straight to voicemail” setting since I can’t get them to take us off their call lists either. Never thought my dentist’s office would be my biggest source of spam

        1. tesyaa*

          Sounds very similar, but at least we love our dentists! If not, the constant calls would have sent me packing long ago.

    3. JC*

      Ha, this would drive me crazy, especially since my husband and I don’t have any shared numbers (i.e. don’t have a home landline) and so I am not used to getting calls about his business at all.

      In my last job, I had a phone number that used to belong to someone else in the office and would get calls confirming her son’s pediatrician appointments. They usually were voicemails, and just said the kid’s first name, so I didn’t realize they were intended for my coworker for a long time and assumed they were wrong numbers. When I finally realized who they were for, my coworker tried to change the number on file with the doctor to no avail. And she hadn’t had that number for a decade!

    4. NJ Anon*

      OMG! My husband gave his dentist my cell number because he can’t always have his cell on at work. What a PITA! Next time I am giving them his number. They can leave a freaking message!

    5. The Cosmic Avenger*

      This is why I only use my Google Voice number for everything except my nearest and dearest now. Most calls will be sent right to voicemail, but I get a text and an email whenever there’s a call to that number, so chances are extremely good I’ll see it right away. In fact, the only time I won’t is if I’m driving, or if I’m immersed in a very demanding task. Either way, I’ll still always check it within minutes.

      Calls from family and friends get forwarded to all of my actual phones.

      Except my dad. He always calls every number he has for me and leaves a message on all of them, even if he’s just calling to tell me something completely non-urgent, so I’ve given up trying to get him to call just one number.

  16. skepticalacademic*

    At my workplace, there’s a staff person who, rather than talking with people who do something wrong (like closing a service desk improperly), will send out an email to a larger group as a “reminder.” The emails do two things: 1) confuse many of us who aren’t always sure if we were the ones who messed up; and 2) make us wonder who, in fact, did the thing wrong. Sometimes a big reminder is warranted, but sometimes it feels like issues should be addressed directly.

    This email might have provoked a similar response — I imagine an email chain or conversation along the lines of, “What’s OP talking about?” The use of “they” and vagueness is a bit odd, too. The email seems like calling someone out without being willing to do so directly.

    I wonder if the OP is trying to avoid the conversation and conflict?

    1. AnotherHRPro*

      Yes, to me that is what is passive aggressive about his note. He wasn’t direct to the individual who had called his girlfriend. By sending out a group message and not directly addressing his manager, he is being a little passive aggressive.

  17. DrPepper Addict*

    I didn’t see anything wrong with the email he wrote at all. Obviously when using email, the emphasis and tone are all subjective that someone could read pretty much anything and take it offensively.

    I’m guessing whoever took exception to the email has a bit of an ego and doesn’t like being told (or in this case asked) what to do and completely overreacted. My advice is just take it in stride unless it starts happening frequently.

    1. LBK*

      I think there are several comments here (plus Alison’s response) that note odd things about the email that would easily rub people the wrong way. This doesn’t strike me as a wild misread or overreaction.

      1. fposte*

        I think being rubbed the wrong way isn’t an overreaction, but I think writing somebody up for the email is. I think they’re bugging the crap out of each other right now. (TL may be right about the weather being a factor in making people generally cranky.)

        1. Meg Murry*

          I think writing him up for the email is an overreaction – unless he had already been warned about passive aggressive emails, or about sending unnecessary messages to the whole management team. In that case, sometimes the thing that winds up tipping over to write-up category isn’t necessarily all that large, but it is if it happens more than once or twice.

          Especially if this person is a supervisor – is he also sending out emails that could read as passive aggressive to his subordinates? OP, please take to heart that while you didn’t intend your message to come across as passive aggressive, it can be taken that way, and consider having someone else you trust proofread for passive aggressiveness in future or help you re-write.

          1. fposte*

            That’s a really good point about having somebody else look them over–sometimes this kind of overformality comes with people who don’t do a lot of written communication, and that makes it harder to keep possible reception in mind.

        2. LBK*

          Eh, the severity of a “written warning” is hard to judge. This sounds like retail/service industry, and IME in that field any kind of performance conversation with a manager can constitute a “write up” insofar as the conversation gets documented on a form. Certain types of offenses may also be escalated by default – at one job I had, it was normally 3 verbal warnings (which were still documented on paper) followed by a written warning, but in cases of insubordination or no call/no show it automatically jumped to a written.

    2. LCL*

      I see a whole circle of overreaction. Girlfriend started it by complaining. OP compounded it by sending that email. Where I work, when someone has an issue with me and handles it by a group email/CC all, I perceive that as a big FU, and it is intended that way by the writer, and it makes me much less inclined to work with them on whatever the issue is. Then boss finishes the circle of overreaction by writing up the employee, instead of just telling him not to be such an !@#$.

      Everybody involved in this seems very tightly wound. I wonder if they are caught in that horrible weather in the US midwest/East coast. That would make me cranky.

      1. fposte*

        Yes, this is the kind of situation where Carolyn Hax suggests that somebody just “drop their dukes.” “Hey, sorry about the scheduling mixup and the email, but Jane was really freaked out by getting that call.” “Yeah, we were just worried that you might be stuck in the snow and wanted to make sure you were okay; we’re really not expecting her to be your secretary.”

  18. tesyaa*

    “I feel that my presence is my own responsibility, no one else’s, regardless of the consequences.”

    If you were in an accident on the way to work, wouldn’t you want your family/SO to be aware that you might be lying unidentified in a hospital somewhere?

  19. LBK*

    I find it kind of weird that you positioned it all as “my girlfriend asked me to make this request”. Even if you don’t personally care if they contact her and you’re only making the request because she wants to (although it does seem that you concur with her), it’s weird to me that you wouldn’t position the request as coming from yourself. Presumably your work colleagues don’t really care what your girlfriend wants – they don’t have any kind of relationship with her.

    If a coworker asked me to do something because his girlfriend asked him to, I probably would just to be polite as long as it wasn’t crazy, but I’d definitely raise at eyebrow at his personal relationship influencing his work like that.

    (Note that I’m not at all judging the nature of the relationship – I’m not saying she’s controlling or anything. This doesn’t strike me as one of those letters with an extremely overbearing SO overstepping boundaries, just an odd misstep that brings too much personal stuff into the office.)

    1. A Dispatcher*

      This is one of the very rare situations where I don’t really have an issue with OP bringing up that it was the girlfriend’s request because the original behavior extended to the girlfriend in the first place. I actually kind of think it would seem a little more odd to simply have OP request “Jane” not be contacted without throwing in a mention that she requested that herself. Maybe that’s just me though.

      1. Colette*

        I think it would have come across better if the OP had said “If you need to get in touch with me, you can reach me at 555-555-1212. Please do not contact Girlfriend unless it is an emergency.”

        However, I also think “usually reliable employee didn’t show up this morning” could be an emergency, so depending on the circumstances, this may not have been over the line.

        1. fposte*

          Yeah, that may be what the response was trying to say about its being construed as an emergency. I would check (and have checked) around with whatever passes for known associates in a situation like that.

  20. Blue Dog*

    Not sure it was handled the best on your part, but it was handled worse on their part.

    I think some of the weirdness was in the phrasing of “One of these people had been contacted as an alternative way to speak with me, and was not okay with it. They requested me to speak of this to the management team in order to avoid misunderstandings in the future.”

    I think if your girlfriend had a problem, she should have been the one to say so rather than sending you in to do it. Probably a better response would have been, “I don’t know where he is. I’m work and really can’t talk right now. Please don’t call me again unless it is an emergency.”

    1. fposte*

      I actually think it’s appropriate for the employee to say “Please don’t call my girlfriend/mother/children.” That doesn’t mean Jane can’t say “Dude, I don’t work for your company, don’t call me again” as well, but the employee gets to say this too. I think the OP’s message unfortunately split the difference poorly between the two and that makes it a little weird–it’s like conveying Jane’s message through the employee rather than either Jane saying it or the employee saying directly not to contact the girlfriend.

      1. Colette*

        It also reads to me like borrowing authority. I think this is similar to the “is it legal” questions we see here – someone doesn’t feel like they have the authority to object to something unless someone else is backing it up. Regardless of whether the girlfriend likes it, the OP (who is the employee) doesn’t like it, and that’s enough reason to object.

  21. TotesMaGoats*

    So maybe I have much lower boundaries than everyone else but…unless your SO is being called on a regular (i.e. daily) basis, is it that much of a problem? If it is daily or weekly even, then yes they should stop. And ideally, they should stop calling if that’s what she asked for. However, being an SO kinda of means that you do get called in emergencies or non-emergencies. I wouldn’t bat an eyelash at my hubby’s boss calling me to ask where he was or something like that. I’d answer the question and move along.

    Yes, your email was kinda weird OP. Like AAM I can’t quite put my finger on exactly why but it was weird. Writing you up for sending a passive aggressive email is also really weird.

    So, I think that your boss shouldn’t call your SO anymore because she asked him not to.
    I think that your SO probably shouldn’t be surprised to get another phone call from the boss from time to time and should answer politely and roll with it.
    I think you, OP, should be on the look out for other weirdness where you work and double check the tone of your emails.

    1. Not So NewReader*

      The boss probably did not know how to react to the email. As Alison said, there was a bunch of mixed messages in that email. So OP sent a confusing signal to the boss.

  22. Ann O'Nemity*

    It’s funny how these types of things just escalate.

    Employee skips normal conventions to call in and asks GF to do it instead.
    Manager assumes GF is Employee’s keeper and an acceptable contact method.
    Employee sends weirdly formal/chastising email to Manager and the rest of management team.
    Manager formally writes up Employee on a trumped up charge and doubles down on his assumed right to contact GF against her wishes.
    Now everyone is pissed.

  23. Chocolate lover*

    My husband’s job is such that he often can’t answer his personal phone at work, for me or anyone else. If he does manage to answer my call, he sometimes answers it “Is someone dead or dying? If not, I’m hanging up.” Though I don’t think he’d answer it that way for an unknown number (I hope) lol. Not ideal for an emergency contact situation, but it is what it is, and he’s the one that would need to know.

    Given the state of Boston weather and the MBTA lately, if my job called him and said they hadn’t heard from me, he’d probably shrug and say she’s probably trapped on the Red Line somewhere, your guess is as good as mine.

  24. H*

    I do not think the manager was out of line in this situation, as I think “doesn’t show up during awful weather” is a reasonable reason to reach out to the employee and emergency contacts. I am wondering if the manager went straight to the girlfriend or if he first tried the employee and the designated emergency contacts. If he couldn’t get a hold of any of those people, I can see how calling the girlfriend would be justified.
    That her number was pulled from a one time phone call and kept all this time does feel a little odd to me, though.

  25. remarkable*

    I definitely see a bigger problem here. The op is a supervisor and should take more responsibility than having his s/o call his job to indicate he’ll be late. I’m a supervisor and if I even think I may be late due to weather or traffic, I immediately call my manager.

  26. Iro*

    OP, you may need to decide if this is the sort of place you want to continue working. It sounds like you may have been “tagged” as a trouble maker (considering you were written up for an email that, while not great, certainly wasn’t terrible) and the formality of your email leads me to believe that you have been burned before for casual emails you’ve sent out and now you are overcompensating by being formal which causes the friction to grow.

    I’ve also worked with a manager who thought that all of his managers should be available 24/7 (Cause, you know, managers are technically neurosurgeons) and if you didn’t answer your cell he would immediately start calling your family and emergency contacts.

  27. Cube Ninja*

    So many questions here…

    Did boss call you first? If not, why not? If so, why didn’t you answer? Even if you’re driving, it’s typically going to be a fairly trivial matter to pull over somewhere for a couple minutes to either return the call or call in anyway if you aren’t going to get to work on time/at all.

    The SO issue is just odd – a singular phone call triggering ‘please ask them to stop contacting me’ is a little out of proportion to the situation in my mind. Also slightly confused about having the SO call in the other instance – you say you were driving – was she riding shotgun at the time? It’s weird that the manager saved the number, but not out of the realm of reasonable.

    Composing an e-mail to your entire management group, on the other hand, isn’t something that comes “naturally” in my mind. Why not just address it with the one person who crossed the boundary, especially when it’s your direct manager? I’d be pretty annoyed if one of my staff put me on blast to all of my peers for something as minor as one errant phone call. I think a write-up for that issue alone is overreacting, but if there have been previous discussions about communication style or similar e-mails, it’s probably a good time to re-examine how you’re interacting with your boss.

    Lastly, I’m very curious about the circumstances of the shift. If there isn’t clear communication about when you’re expected to be at work, I’m much more inclined to think that there are some other things going on here.

  28. hildi*

    “After some miscommunication about whether or not I was to work a shift in a snowstorm”

    To me, this piece seems pretty important. I think the entire rest of the conversation is predicated on how each party perceived this particular issue. When I was in the military one of my guys just didn’t show up one day. Didn’t call; didn’t show. Unusual for him. So me and the superintendent called his numbers several times – nothing. At this point we were honestly worried for him – just wanted to make contact to ensure he was ok. So….we drove to his house (this was the military and you can do different things in the military than you can do in the civilian world). We show up and he comes sauntering to the door looking all confused like he was vaguely annoyed we came all that way to check up on him. It was so bizarre to the Super and me because it was a normal work day; we didn’t do shift work in our particular office; the weather was perfect; and neither of us had a leave request on file or could recall him saying anything about him taking some time off that morning.

    I realize the circumstances are a bit different here because of the snow storm and some other factors I may be overlooking….but I don’t think it’s crazy that if a supervisor was expecting you to be working a shift they’d want to make affirmative contact with you or someone close to you. I’m thinking mostly to make sure you’re ok and then to figure out why you’re not in to the office.

    Then to get a “reprimand” for trying to make contact would probably piss me off a little bit, too. Because that’s my job to figure out where the hell you are when I’m expecting you to be into work.

    Each party thinks they’re in the right here and until you figure out what each party was expecting in terms of this particular shift during snowstorm, I’m afraid both sides are going to hunker down and dig their heels in on why they took the action they took.

    1. fposte*

      I agree with what you’re saying, but I’m also dying to know why the guy in your story didn’t show!

      (I’ve hunted down housemates when a reliable staffer didn’t show as expected. Schedule mixup.)

      1. hildi*

        I know!! To this day I cannot recall what the excuse was. I should get a hold of the Super and see if he remembers that. It wasn’t something that happened often so it really stuck out in my mind.

        This Airman also turned out to have more behavior like this. And I was really young and not a good communicator (wish I had known then what I have learned from AAM!!) so my whole leadership over him was botched. I’m sure if you talk to him he’d probably say I was terrible. :)

  29. Student*

    The OP’s girlfriend clearly has some reason for not wanting to be called by the OP’s boss. What is it? There are many plausible explanations. She probably has a good reason to react strongly to this. This point is also worth clearing up with the boss, too, because the OP can’t force his girlfriend to take his boss’s calls, no matter what the boss says; the boss shouldn’t hold that against the OP.

    1. Joey*

      I’m sure the boss could care less about his girlfriend or her request. All he’s worried about is the op ‘s reliability or more accuartely lack thereof.

    2. soitgoes*

      If the OP isn’t showing up for work and the boss can’t call the person that OP lives with, that’s asking for a whole lot of lenience that most of us don’t get from our jobs. OP needs to get better at answering the phone.

  30. some1*

    I feel like the LW is glossing over a lot with his words — if you read the letter a couple of times it becomes obvious that whatever the “miscommunication” was, the LW was expected at work and didn’t answer his phone when his boss called to ask where he was
    “I … was ordered to forget about my significant other’s request, as my manager saw the circumstances of my phone silence and lack of showing up for work as an emergency”

  31. AndersonDarling*

    I’m just glad the OP and girlfriend were still in a relationship. It would be terrible if my boss called my ex looking for me. Ick.

    1. Cube Ninja*

      I’ve… had that happen. It’s amazingly awkward. Broke up with girlfriend, neglected to change emergency contact info, slept through my alarm one day. She was amused, but emergency contact was changed within an hour of arriving in the office. :)

    2. Jozie*

      That’s what struck me…I’m assuming the manager knew the relationship between the person being called and OP. Unless there’s some sort of legal attachment to their relationship – marriage, domestic partnership, etc. – where changes to it would be likely known by manager, such as in divorce, I wouldn’t assume the two are still together. Could even be a situation of abuse (on either side) that would make it inappropriate to contact a SO not listed as an emergency contact. I’m thinking of it more from the SO’s perspective, I suppose.

      Personally, I am very socially anxious but generally pick up calls that appear to be not telemarketing and in the same area code, so ignoring it would be confusing. Unless I’m at work. Anyways, guess I could always save such a contact in my phone reminding me to not pick up, haha!

  32. Parfait*

    I had an ex who moved out, but didn’t tell his job that we’d broken up. Then he started showing up to work erratically. His work kept calling me to find out why he was late, etc. I had no idea and told them so, repeatedly, but I wasn’t about to tell them his personal business if he wasn’t. It was pretty annoying there for a couple months until he got himself sorted out better.

  33. soitgoes*

    There’s a lot of weirdness all around here, and it’s coming from everyone. First of all, if someone called me to ask why my mom/boyfriend/brother/sister hadn’t shown up to work, I wouldn’t think that was strange. That’s what emergency contacts are for, and I don’t think a lot of us ask permission before listing our loved ones as those contacts. OP’s girlfriend doesn’t want to be the emergency contact? If they live together….I just don’t get it. Who else would be the better choice? Unless the OP is the sort of person who’s generally hard to get in touch with. That’s the only logical reason for why the girlfriend would put her foot down and refuse to field any more of these calls.

    It’s also incredibly weird that the OP’s employer held onto the girlfriend’s cell number even though she (the gf) wasn’t listed as an emergency contact. Did the OP not provide his/her boss with any emergency numbers?

    The OP needs to get a better grasp of what constitutes an emergency in terms of the workplace. If you don’t show up and no one can reach you, that is exactly what emergency contacts are for. Is the OP his/her girlfriend’s emergency contact? They should be, IMO, and it’s strange to resist that.

    1. the_scientist*

      I don’t believe there is any indication that OP and girlfriend are actually cohabiting, though, and it also sounds like OP’s girlfriend is specifically *not* listed as an emergency contact, which makes boss *saving her number without asking and calling her later* all the more weird. At least to me.

      There are number of reasons why OP may not want his girlfriend listed as an emergency contact. Perhaps they don’t live together, or this is a new(ish) relationship. Maybe the girlfriend has a job where she can’t answer her phone. Maybe the girlfriend works an hour and a half away from where they live/where the OP works and his parents/brother/aunt/childhood babysitter live close by and are therefore more able to respond in an emergency. Maybe the boss called and woke the girlfriend up after a night shift, and that’s why she was peeved about it. Frankly, I think playing “your relationship must be broken because your significant other is not your emergency contact” is silly and distracts from the real issue, which is the boss’s weird behaviour of NOT calling the listed emergency contact (apparently, although it’s difficult to tell from the letter) and the OP’s stilted, overly formal email follow-up.

      1. soitgoes*

        The underlying reasoning behind my train of thought was that no employer would pull a random girlfriend’s number from his phone unless the employee hadn’t listed any other emergency contacts. And honestly, if the girlfriend is at work and can’t answer her phone, then the call doesn’t get answered. Simple as that. I genuinely don’t understand all of the shock and awe over “How dare the boss call the girlfriend when the OP failed to show up for work and never listed any emergency contacts?” I don’t want to get too far into speculations here, but the OP is the one who needs to clean up his act, and the girlfriend needs to be okay with people realizing that she’s in her partner’s life, which includes tangential work stuff. Unless she regularly has to pick up the slack for the OP, in which case it’s telling that the OP is writing in to AAM instead of dealing with his life on a basic level.

        1. Not So NewReader*

          This. When we take on an SO, we take on all the trappings of life that come with the SO.

          Of everyone here, I find the GF concerning. The boss cannot find her SO and she does not care? wow. Just wow.

          I see people are pretty upset with the boss, but he could have been sincerely trying to help an employee that he thought was in trouble. The GF did not seem worried in the least. Hopefully, there is a logical explanation for that.

          1. tesyaa*

            Maybe she’s tired of covering for him or making excuses for him. Who knows? There could be a lot more to this story that the OP isn’t telling.

          2. soitgoes*

            Exactly. Does the gf plan on never attending her partner’s holiday office party? Even people who maintain a strict separation between their work and home lives will still talk about their significant others with their coworkers. It’s okay to dislike being contacted by your partner’s boss, no matter what your reasons are, but I think it’s important to understand that most people don’t consider this to be a huge breach, and berating them for committing an “offense” isn’t appropriate, since that isn’t what happened.

    2. nonegiven*

      I would think an emergency contact would be next of kin, who could give permission for medical treatment when OP wasn’t able to give consent. Not an unrelated person he may or may not live with.

  34. Artemesia*

    I have been on both ends of this sort of passive aggressive email and learned my lesson. I think a general rule of thumb is that NOBODY likes to be scolded in front of an audience and that blasting an email to everyone when the issue concerns one person is guaranteed to deeply piss off the target. No matter how you phrase it, this sort of use of a sledgehammer for a gnat will infuriate the person whose behavior you want to change. ALWAYS handle this sort of thing directly and not by email. And if by email for some reasons, only deal with the person involved.

  35. Tracy*

    Am I the only one who is curious as to why the significant other was so bent out of shape about receiving that phone call?

    1. Swarley*

      Agreed. This is a really weird thing to be so bothered by. It makes me wonder if these phone calls happen more frequently than the OP mentioned.

    2. JAL*

      Currently I would be annoyed because I don’t know how the heck to turn off vibrate on my new iPhone and I have been woken up severs times by the vibration but other than fhf I wouldn’t be annoyed.

      1. A*

        Set your phone to night mode when you are sleeping. You can schedule it to do this automatically while you are normally sleeping.

  36. Amy*

    My very reliable coworker (as in, she texts us if her bus is running 5 minutes late) just didn’t show up for work one morning. We gave it a couple hours, thinking that maybe she’d show up or she’d communicated to someone else in the office that she wasn’t going to be in, but after calling her several times with no response we started to get worried. We actually tracked down her boyfriend’s work number through the internet and called him. He seemed startlingly unconcerned about the issue and so my boss and other coworker were actually considering driving by her house on the way back from a planned meeting. Thankfully, she called before that — turns out she’d taken some pain medication the night before and it completely knocked her out. Did this cross boundaries? Maybe, but we’re a small office with a friendly feeling and we were simply concerned for her well-being. I mentioned it to my boyfriend and he was shocked, but honestly, I’d hope my work would do the same for me if I randomly didn’t show up one day, because I might be seriously injured or in trouble.

  37. AW*

    Why the girlfriend doesn’t want to receive what she and/or the OP considers non-emergency calls is irrelevant. People are jumping to some weird conclusions and bad assumptions about the status of that relationship but that doesn’t help the OP.

    OP, if your manager is generally reasonable, you should apologize.

    There are enough comments here about how your email could have come across as passive-aggressive and condescending that it’s a good chance that’s how your manager saw it, especially the bit about including all the other managers on the email.

    Say something like, “I’m sorry about the email I sent the management team about emergency phone calls. I only intended to let my girlfriend’s wishes about when she’s contacted be known but I see now that my wording was poor and that I should have addressed that with you directly.”

    If necessary add, “I am making {New Person} my emergency contact. They understand that they may get phone calls from my work. I will make sure that I can be reached during inclement weather in the future.” (Don’t forget to actually update this info with HR.)

    It sounds like the girlfriend wants to know if something happens to you but doesn’t want to be contacted otherwise. Find someone willing to take calls when your job is trying to figure out if something happened to you be your emergency contact, like your closest relative. Let them know they should tell your girlfriend if something comes up.

    Hopefully an apology that shows you understand why they were upset will smooth things over. Making it clear your girlfriend is not your emergency contact should prevent this from happening again.

    If your manager is unreasonable to the point where trying to apologize will just cause them to bite your head off then just update your info with HR and tell your girlfriend to block that manager’s number (whether that shows up as their particular number or a generic number for the company). If they complain your girlfriend doesn’t answer their calls say, “{New Person} is my emergency contact, their number is {Number}. Please call them instead of my girlfriend.”

  38. Dawn88*

    What Tracy said. Why is the SO so upset, making him create a stink at work over it? Then he gets “written up” over it?

    I guess 2 wrongs don’t make a right.

  39. Emma The Strange*

    OP, something confuses me. You say that your girlfriend was not an emergency contact when your boss called her. Okay, fine, then your boss should have called your actual emergency contacts first, and your girlfriend has reason to be annoyed. But then you say in your email:

    “The second reason for this message is to ask everyone, as politely as possible, to please not contact any of these [emergency contacts] in regards to me in the workplace unless it is absolutely an emergency. One of these people had been contacted as an alternative way to speak with me, and was not okay with it. ”

    Does this mean that you are now listing her as an emergency contact? Because (part of) the whole point of having emergency contacts is so that your employers have someone to call if you no-call/no-show, and they can’t contact you directly. As other commenters have pointed out, for all your boss knows, you could be dead/dying on the bathroom floor, so they are absolutely right to consider a no-call/no-show an emergency. It really is not reasonable for you to say that your boss can’t call ANY of your emergency contacts under those circumstances (which is what you were asking for in your email).

    (Of course, if that’s what your employers are upset about, then they should have come out and said so. I don’t think a reprimand was really called for here).

    So if your girlfriend really doesn’t want your boss calling her if you no-call/no-show again, then you have two options.

    1) Take your girlfriend off your emergency contact list, and maybe emphasize to your employers that only the people on the list should be contacted.

    2) Leave her on the list, but add a note that says something like “[Girlfriend] should only be contacted in case of [circumstances]. In all other situations you should contact [person].” Because again, if they can’t contact your girlfriend if you no-call/no-show, then you have to tell them who they should contact instead.

    Depending on how your company stores emergency contact info, they may not be able to do option 2, in which case you’re stuck with option 1.

    1. Not So NewReader*

      I think the word emergency needs to be defined. Because as it stands now, if OP is missing that is NOT an emergency in the minds of OP or his GF.

      If I go missing, I hope someone around me thinks that is an emergency. Just sayin’, for the record.

      1. tesyaa*

        He doesn’t think anything can happen to him, and if it’s something that disrupts work, well, that’s not an emergency on HIS part.

      2. Kelly L.*

        I think it kind of depends on the timeframe. If somebody’s 5 minutes late to work, I think it’s overreacting to consider them “missing” or call their emergency contacts; I think the probability is low that it’s an emergency. Millions of people are 5 minutes late every day, and while a few of them turn out to be emergencies, the vast majority do not. I think the next step would be another attempt at calling the LW, before resorting to emergency contacts. The chances are good that they’re just on their way and can’t pick up because they’re driving. But I can’t tell from the letter whether it had been 5 minutes or 2 hours since the boss thought LW was scheduled to be there, nor can I tell whether there were other attempts at calling LW.

        I guess I can see the annoyance because I’ve definitely run into people who thought I was my SO’s keeper. This was not for urgent situations, and they didn’t think he was missing. They just would start blowing up my phone if they couldn’t get him, and sometimes get huffy if he wasn’t with me at that moment.

  40. EvilQueenRegina*

    There’s a lot that’s confusing here. I can see where, in the moment, girlfriend may have panicked at getting the call. On the spot, she may not have immediately remembered that OP wasn’t meant to be in and thought something had happened. Or it may be that the boss was rude, and again I can see where she’d be angry at that. But to say never to call again does seem a little excessive.

    I remember my uncle once rushed home from work after my aunt got a call to say my cousin never showed up for her holiday job, and it turned out she’d been there the whole time and it was someone with the same first name who had no-showed. Another time, this guy at my old job didn’t turn up one day. It happened that he had actually spoken to one of our managers about it, but that manager happened to be out himself for whatever reason that same day and he hadn’t told anyone else. So our other manager called the house to find out where he was, only for his nephew to pick up and say that it had been a family member’s funeral that day and Boss had just interrupted the wake.

    Did the boss actually try and call your other emergency contact first and get no reply?

    The write up does seem excessive – had there been other incidents and that was just the final straw? Having said that though, I don’t know why all the other managers needed to be copied in on that email.

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