accidentally ending a work call with “love you, bye” and other work questions

I was on public radio’s Marketplace this weekend doing “ask me anything,” where the show let people call in with any work-related questions they wanted. Some of the questions I answered include:

  • How can you tell a coworker who keeps saying “I love you” to cut it out?
  • What if you accidentally say “love you, bye” on a professional call?
  • How do you ask for a raise without sounding entitled?
  • How should you handle a coworker who wants to talk to you about religion?
  • What can you do when your company won’t authorize high enough wages for you to hire anyone?
  • How can people find work after being in prison?

The segment is about 10 minutes and you can listen here:

{ 119 comments… read them below }

  1. Hey Karma, Over here.*

    Yeah, well, I’ll see your “love you, bye” phone call and raise you a, “love you, Karma” E MAIL. To the IT support person.

    1. Science!*

      Not exactly the same, but when I was a young grad student I joined a new lab for a 3 month rotation. At the time I was in the middle of planning my wedding (with my now husband) and we tended to email each other a couple times a day about little things that needed doing. Also at that time he started every email with “Hey Princess!” One email I needed to use for a phone call, so I printed out. Then realized I didn’t know where the printer was in the new lab. I searched around and then heard someone call out “Hey is there a princess here? There’s something on the printer for you!”

      I was mortified!

      1. Cedrus Libani*

        As a baby grad student, I also realized too late that I didn’t know where the printer was. I had printed a draft of my NSF proposal. I’m one of those people with an over-active internal editor; one way that I deal with this is by preparing truly awful first drafts, just to work out the structure of the piece. It was almost entirely composed of four-letter words and lolcat-speak. “Broader Impacts: this broad will be impacted plenty, **** this and **** u2, gimmeh DOLLAZ!!1 nao plz.”

        I followed the trail of laughter, and eventually located my document. Didn’t live that one down for awhile.

          1. Cedrus Libani*

            I did. The final application was lolcat-free, however…

            And this broad was indeed impacted. My PhD was rough – if you ask me, I disproved one of the boss’ pet theories, but there’s…a difference of opinion on that subject. But I was free labor, so he didn’t bother to kick me out. I graduated, and am working in my field.

    2. Jersey's mom*

      While working for a Fortune 500 company, I applied for a federal permit. Called the regulator for a long discussion and ended it with love you, bye. Yeah, one of my more “professional moments”.

    3. WellRed*

      Not a phone call, but in response to a question from my boss, I said, “What, hon?”

        1. Christmas Carol*

          Then there was that time my newly-wedded boss replied to my request with a “”Yes, dear.”

      1. Farrah Sahara*

        I used to have a boss who called himself my work dad and I was his work daughter, a private joke between us.

        One day, after getting some signed documents from his office, I said, “Thanks dad” , while the President, CEO and CFO were all sitting in there. They looked confused, I was turning several shades of red and my boss was laughing his head off.

    4. Juli G.*

      To be fair, if I was going to profess love for anyone at work it would be IT or the barista in the building.

    5. Temperance*

      I once had the below experience, talking to my boss’s husband:

      Me: Hi David! (his name is not David)
      Husband: Did you just say I love you?
      Me: punches myself in the face with the receiver and drops the phone
      Me: No, but I just hit myself in the face and dropped the phone after calling you David

      (My coworker David walked by at that exact moment.)

    6. TiffIf*

      Kind of on the same lines but not quite the same–I was about to say grace over dinner when the phone rang and I picked it up. Mouth was on auto-pilot and I started saying grace into the phone. Luckily it was my Dad who started laughing.

  2. Amber T*

    MY BIGGEST FEAR (accidentally ending a call with “ok thanks, love you.” Nearly did it to a minor workplace crush. Dear god.

    1. SometimesALurker*

      Oh god, yeah . Personally, the idea of accidentally ending a work call with “love you” doesn’t twig my anxiety (although I’m sure I’d be embarrassed if it actually happened! It hasn’t, although I definitely still remember the day I called a teacher “mom”) but I’m terrified of accidentally saying it to my work crush — not as a Freudian slip, just because I think everyone ends a work call “I love you” by accident at least once in their working lives.

      1. Amber T*

        It’s one of those vendors I’ve never met, we just work a lot together via email and phone. For all I know he could be a rotten person (or, maybe married), but he makes great puns via email and has a nice phone voice, and is overall pleasant to work with (a lot of the other vendors in his profession I work with aren’t). So yeah… can’t wait to make it awkward.

      2. Dr Wizard, PhD*

        >I definitely still remember the day I called a teacher “mom”

        When I was ten years old our teacher for the year was actually the mother of one of the kids in class. She handled it beautifully by declaring on the first day of the school year that he had to call her “Ms. Carlos” and everyone else had to call her “Mum”.

        Nobody did, of course, but it broke the ice on the topic and it wasn’t an issue thereafter.

      3. Khlovia*

        Fourth grade. My favorite teacher. Much nicer than my actual mom. She was talking with another student and I was interrupting. “Mom? Mom? Hey, Mom?” She finished with the other kid and said exasperatedly, “Yes, Daughter?”

    2. SarahTheEntwife*

      I am genuinely surprised I’ve never done it. I don’t make a lot of phone calls, but one of these days I am going to tell the night staff I love them as I leave at the end of the day. :-b

    3. Ali*

      I unthinkingly said “Thanks, love you!” to a 15 year old kid at a KFC drive-through window who came back immediately with “Love you too!” and then we both broke up laughing.

  3. Science!*

    I absolutely said “Love you, bye” when I called my daughters pediatricians office about making an appointment. Luckily not a professional call, but still. She laughed.

    Though to be fair, she was getting me an appointment for my sick daughter for that day, she deserves a little love now and again.

    1. Elizabeth West*

      I’ve said it on purpose, though in an exaggerated fashion, when someone manages to squeeze me in at the stylist or does me a favor. As in, “OMG THANK YOU I LOOOOOVE YOU” It gets a laugh but I don’t usually do that with coworkers.

      OldBoss at Exjob used to say “I love you more today than yesterday but not as much as tomorrow.” She was awesome generally.

  4. Anon Marketer*

    Ha! It happens sometimes!
    My first job, my supervisor (who was three years my senior, so we were both fairly young) accidentally called me mom, and two weeks later I accidentally called him ma’am. Most people know it’s an accident and will laugh about it if they’re good people.

    1. MCMonkeyBean*

      I called my fifth grade teacher mom once and am still occasionally mortified by the memory 19 years later.

    2. Tongue Cluckin' Grammarian*

      My boss was calling my extension internally, and as I went to pick it up, the owner of the company was calling from an external line (though I didn’t see it at that moment).
      My phone prioritized the external line, and I answered with “Yes’m?” (my usual response to boss calling me). Owner responded with something like “Um, hello?” and then I saw the ID on the phone and apologized profusely and explained what happened. Fortunately, he then just laughed about it.

    3. Avalanche Lake*

      I once introduced myself as “[my stepmother]’s son,” though I am in fact “[my father]’s daughter.”

  5. Astute Assistant*

    I once called a retired Navy Admiral “sweetie” as he was leaving our office. I was mortified, but apparently he didn’t hear me. When I saw him a few weeks later, I apologized profusely, but his reply was, “I’ve been called worse!” Bullet dodged.

    1. Sunny Day in the ADK*

      I feel your pain! I called my boss “Honey” the other day. It was in an office full of people and everyone heard. We had a good laugh about it, but I was so embarrassed.

    2. Southern Ladybug*

      When I was in college I called a state trooper that responded to an car crash I was in “ma’am.” He was a sir. In the South where such things matter. (Everyone was fine – a car pulled in front of me and stopped suddenly, causing me to rear-end it. I was a mess. But found not at fault.)

  6. LG*

    Aw, the “love you, bye” is a pretty innocuous and sweet mistake to make, albeit temporarily mortifying. I had a lot of students accidentally call me “mom” over the years and always thought it was pretty cute (and got that it was coming from brain autopilot). I think most people will get that and chuckle and forget it!

    1. Jess R.*

      My mom is a 4th grade teacher and tells the kids she’s their “edumom” so they don’t feel embarrassed when they accidentally call her mom. She says when they slip up, they now go “Mom — I mean Edumom?”

      1. Lissa*

        That’s adorable! I decided to google “Called teacher mom” to see if there’s articles about this, and sure enough the first suggestion for “called teacher” is “called teacher mom”. It’s a thing I hadn’t realized was so widespread!

      2. Jaydee*

        My son occasionally calls me Ms TeachersName. He’s in 1st grade, so it’s cute and usually when he’s excited to tell me something. I asked him if he ever calls his teacher Mom. He said yes. Said as long as it’s equal we’re good.

    2. libraryfrong*

      My favorite is when my kid calls me Ms. Mama…. because they started to say their teacher’s name first…. :)

      1. PhyllisB*

        This reminds of when my daughter married her first husband. He had a five year old daughter who didn’t know what to call me. My one grand-child called me Gram. But she would call me Miss Gram and Aunt Gram. She settled on Aunt Gram. I thought it was so cute I just let it go.

  7. Winifred*

    I have a coworker named Wakeen. I am very close to a nephew named Wakeen whom I just call “honey.” I once said “thanks, honey” to coworker Wakeen and of course apologized profusely and explained, and he laughed. However, now I have to consciously stop myself from addressing coworker as honey!

  8. Kittymommy*

    I actually have this happen to me a lot for some reason, but the funniest was a while ago at another job. One of the bosses (like The Boss) was leaving after chatting for a bit (I was very low on the pole at that point) and as he was walking away started to say, I think, See you around, but instead said “see you, love you”, while looking at his phone. He turned around and looked at me with the most mortified expression. If its possible for someone to vomit and cry at the same time, I thought he was going to do so. Turns out he was talking to me, and reading a text from his wife.

  9. Another Lauren*

    I’d love to hear more about what we can do on the hiring side to encourage people with conviction records to apply for jobs. Are there ideal ways to phrase language on applications?

    1. Rusty Shackelford*

      Go to the source. Let parole officers and those involved in helping prisoners make that transition know that you’re willing to hire those people.

      1. Triple Anon*


        And kudos to you for making that effort. It’s really admirable. We need more people like you in the world!

    2. Glomarization, Esq.*

      You can write something general like “Candidates under court supervision are encouraged to apply. If you mean to invite applications from people who have actually been incarcerated, then try “Returning citizens encouraged to apply” or “We welcome applications from returning citizens.” These are affirmative ways to bring up the subject.

      Less directly, if you’re not already in a ban-the-box jurisdiction, you can make sure that you leave any question about prior convictions off of the application materials.

      1. Another Lauren*

        Thanks so much for this! Luckily we are in a ban-the-box jurisdiction, so that’s one less battle I have to fight. I’m also trying to get my org to eliminate drug testing (which is making the HR team reach for their clutching-pearls). Both you and Rusty had great ideas, so I’m very grateful! Once I’m further along in the process, I’ll update everyone on an open thread.

        1. Glomarization, Esq.*

          People under court supervision are probably already watching their drug tests, so (although personally I find them offensive invasions of privacy that do not actually predict poor job performance) “drug-free workplace” may not be as much of a deterrent to applications as you may fear.

          But definitely get your job opportunities to re-entry programs, as Rusty Shackleford suggests. They will share among their networks, which will include other programs, community centers, churches, and so on.

          You may also want to inquire at a re-entry program and ask them the most effective/respectful way to word your outreach. The preferred language can vary by region. Where I practice it tends to be “returning citizens” but it can be “re-integration” or something else elsewhere.

          1. bonkerballs*

            I second checking on the language with people actually working in reentry in your area. I spent several years working at a reentry program and have never used the phrase “returning citizens” and if I saw it in an ad like that I would never connect it to people who had been incarcerated.

    3. Bea*

      Speak with your local jails about work release programs. My old boss had much of his crew that way. It’s usually helpful to just never ask about convictions or allude to it, it’s illegal in my state thankfully but I know other places still get away with that check box about criminal history.

    4. Hobgoblin*

      The jail where I live holds job fairs inside the pods (common areas surrounded by cells). It’s not something people would think to look for so it’s worth checking into something like that. Having a job waiting for you when you get released is such a wonderful thing.

    5. Khlovia*

      I’d also get my contact info into the mitts of groups like The Innocence Project, The Innocence Network, The Exoneration Initiative, Jeffrey Deskovic Foundation for Justice, Equal Justice Initiative, or whatever such group exists in your area. Their client base ought to satisfy many of your staffing needs!

  10. kible*

    luckily i don’t need to speak to this person ever, and i have a “thing” about calling out people’s names, but one of my coworkers has the same name as my cat (tho spelled differently). I typically tack on “-banana” to the end of my cat’s name because she’s a silly thing and it rhymes, and i’m so glad i haven’t done that to my coworker yet.

    1. Rusty Shackelford*

      My dog has a person name. My sister works in a medical field and had a patient with that name. She called the patient by my dog’s nickname.

      1. paul*

        “We named the dog Indiana!”

        honestly though, that seems like one of those mildly awkward faux pas that just happens on occasions. Yeah they’re not great but if someone can’t understand that, I’m not sure how reasonable they’d be overall.

    2. Can't Sit Still*

      I ended up with a co-worker with the same name as my kitten, Jane. Which wasn’t a problem until co-workers overheard me talking about Jane (the kitten) being treated for chlamydia and assumed I was talking about co-worker Jane. That was super awkward and the kitten was called Jane-the-Cat forever afterwards.

    3. Avalanche Lake*

      Ha. My cat and my landlord are both named Howard. (Had the cat before we had the landlord.) It’s a small building, so when LL is around I try not to yell at the cat too much.

  11. I Wrote This in the Bathroom*

    Not a professional call at all, but I was once on a receiving end of an accidental “I love you”, followed by a save. Sharing in case anyone would want to use this in some fashion. It was actually an SO. But it was a VERY new relationship, we’d just started seeing each other and he was walking me to my car after I’d spent my very first weekend at his place. We get to my car and he says “Okay, drive safe, love you” and STOPS. I swear I could hear the gears turning in his head. About maybe a 1/2 second awkward silence, he said “loved this weekend, bye!” and RAN AWAY. (We were both in our 40s and had adult children.)

    So… yeah… maybe that’s reusable. “Love…d your proposal at today’s meeting, Boss. Bye!”

    1. ReanaZ*

      The latter happened to me. :D

      The CIO (boss’s boss when I worked in IT) ended a conversation with “Okay, thanks! Love you…r work! LOVE YOUR WORK! Right.” *hangs up*

  12. KC*

    I worked at a huge, Fortune 500 company. Our campus has over 5,000 employees at one location.

    When big news happened (good or bad), the C-suite would send out an all-employee voicemail with an update. They had to record it all in one take, and there were no redos.

    We had great news as a business, and it was our Chief Marketing Officer’s turn. She was notoriously shy about public speaking, so she must have practiced the voicemail a thousand times.

    She got through it flawlessly. She was professional, polished, and confident. But, at the very end, she said “As a company, this is a huge step forward for us all. Thank you for all of your contributions. I love you!”

    The voicemail had a brief pause, then an “AHHHHHHHHHHHHH!!!!!!!’ shriek at the end. All 5,000 employees heard it, shared it, and played it all day. It was at once awful, but hilarious and relatable.

    1. LaSalleUGirl*

      I am cringe-laughing. That poor woman! I hope the incident at least got the Powers-That-Be to revisit their “no redos” policy.

    2. Apari*

      This is gold. Ah, that poor woman! But at least people were listening to the important company message ;)

  13. Parenthetically*

    What a lovely speaking voice that caller from Hawaii has! I hope he works in radio.

    My mother once said, “Okay, love you, bye!” to my dad’s secretary. Honestly I’m surprised it only happened that one time!

        1. Parenthetically*

          My husband’s brother is not what one would call classically handsome, let’s just say, and yet has never had any trouble dating — his wife is gorgeous! Before I’d met him, I once idly wondered what attracted her to him, and then I met him and heard him speak and instantly got butterflies in my stomach. It was like the Platonic Ideal of a sexy voice — low, smooth, confident, resonant, expressive.

  14. Lou*

    Oh god, I used to write for an intense guy’s website and I see him as a friend but he’s said ‘I love you’ multiple times. He knew I was in a relationship for a lot of that time and has never made any other moves. This was a big reason why I gave up on the site – it’s hard to deal with this suitably when you’re 90% text/email communication.

  15. What's with today, today?*

    Lol! Doesn’t everyone do this once in a while? I’ve done it to my boss on the phone and in PERSON to a coworker. He asked me a question as I was responding to a text from my husband, my response to my coworkers question was ”OK. Love you!” Then we both busted out laughing.

  16. Harriet2*

    I’ve done this, and been on the receiving end. I think knowing that all I did after receiving an accidental “Okay, love you, bye!” was have a little giggle to myself then get on with my day made me feel better about the time I signed off a text message to my plumber with “xx” (because I was also messaging my mum at the same time, and my brain just went rogue with it).

  17. Yams*

    Oh god. I did something worse a couple weeks back. I was about to say it, but bit my tongue in time and avoided it. I was so relieved I texted a friend: “Oh goodness, I nearly said to a customer “kisses bye” (common expression in my country) but bit my tongue, I’m so relieved.” Unfortunately I wasn’t paying attention and I texted it to that customer. I nearly died of embarrassment.

    1. Ask a Manager* Post author

      If it makes you feel any better, a doctor once texted me a sentence that was absolutely filthy and pornographic, in the context of a longer message — it was clearly an auto-correct and I thought it was hilarious. I have no idea if he noticed it and was too embarrassed to say anything or if he never even saw what his phone had typed.

        1. Wherehouse Politics*

          I have a job where I have access to my clients homes. Part of my routine is to leave a report in my job app, and I always mention l locked up. Phone always wants to change it to licked up with a tongue emoji added for emphasis.

      1. Ralkana*

        I had a customer text me once and ask if I could get him a delivery on short notice. I said yes, and he sent back “You’re the best!” and ended it with a kiss emoji.

        IMMEDIATELY, I could see he was typing a response and then I got “oh my god I’m so sorry that was just supposed to be a happy face I hit the wrong one!”

        1. PB*

          I can’t tell you how many times I’ve typed the wrong emoticon, especially in the pre-emoji days. When you send someone a message that says, “Great. Thanks :(” they start worrying.

        2. Parenthetically*

          GOOD GOD, I’d forgotten that I once texted my boss two kiss-face emojis after a “thanks” type message (I’d also been texting my fiance and was on autopilot) — I had to quickly cover by saying I’d meant to put some other kind of smiley face. The embarrassment!

        3. Yams*

          Honestly, this is like 60% of the reason I love having a business phone. That way my emoji/autocorrect history stays with me and I can hopefully avoid these embarrassing situations.

        4. Ali*

          My friend used to use the winky face emoji on business messages because she thought it was just a fun emoji, like “we’re all sharing a joke here”. A couple of us had to let in on the fact that it’s more of a saucy little come-on emoji and she’s like “I’VE SENT THAT TO MY BOSS SO MANY TIMES”

      2. Yams*

        I think that if I did something like that I would just flat out quit my job or have the customer transferred to someone else. I just couldn’t handle that level of embarrassment.

  18. Manager-at-Large*

    I’ve never closed a call with “love you, bye” but I when I worked where I had to answer the phone with a phrase I answered at home with that phrase *all the time*! Ooof.

  19. Bibliospork*

    My husband once ended a phone call with “Amen”. We used to pray a lot, yes, why do you ask? ;-)

    1. GG Two shoes*

      haha I love this one. I’m sure you meant it as a private conversation but I thought you meant on a conference call or something. “…and Bill will update the spreadsheets and send them out. Amen.”

  20. Somniloquist*

    When my personal phone was used for work, I was texting a coworker while flirting with a guy I was dating on another text. Yes I mixed them up on two very embarrassing texts. No, I have never simultaneously done that again. Luckily, my team was really close and we all had a good sense of humor.

    1. Pebbles*

      I recently did something similar with my husband and two realtors (husband-wife team). I was texting the realtors and my husband at the same time. Mixed up the two threads and texted “See you tonight cutie! [kissy emoji face]” to our realtors. So long as they don’t bring it up I won’t either!

  21. Cheeky*

    I solved this problem by not telling anyone I love them on a sign off, haha. (I’m joking, but also serious. I don’t say “love you” very much, even to my spouse.)

  22. Annie Mouse*

    I don’t know that I’ve ever used ‘love you bye’ inappropriately but I use a radio daily for work. I have on several occasions left voicemails or had conversations where I finish a sentence with ‘over’. Followed by a pause as we both take in my brain fail!
    I did come close to the ‘love you’ fail when I got halfway through telling the dispatcher that their last instruction was ‘lovely’ and forgot how that word finished leaving me scrambling and ending up with ‘that’s love…y…. lovely’ and shutting up quick! They found it far too funny!

    1. PB*

      My spouse is in a customer-service position, and tends to end every conversation with, “Have a nice day.” Generally, this is fine and people appreciate the courtesy, but sometimes it reads a little weird. Like, we’re in a restaurant, the server refills our water, and spouse says, “Thank you. Have a nice day.” The server will, of course, be back at our table within five minutes.

    2. Ktelzbeth*

      I don’t dictate as often as I used to, but I’ve left more than one voice mail along the lines of, “Hi comma this is ktelzbeth period can you give me a call when you have a chance question mark”

      1. Elizabeth H.*

        My phone is really difficult to type on so I dictate most text messages and emails and stuff this way. I now foresee doing it in a voicemail imminently . . .

  23. LadyKelvin*

    Not at work, but I used to belong to a religous group in college and at the end of our meetings we prayed. When it was my friend’s turn she ended the prayer,” Ok, thanks, love you, bye.” (pause) “amen.” It became the thing to do for the rest of the year.

  24. SheLooksFamiliar*

    I once ended a phone call with my great-grandboss with ‘Thank you, sweetie.’ I have no idea where that came from, but thank goodness he had a sense of humor. He laughed and replied, ‘You’re welcome, Peaches.’ Never held it over my head or against me. Gah.

  25. CMart*

    I can only expect my auto-pilot embarrassment to grow exponentially over the next few decades now that I have a kid.

    Last week my cubemate bid me goodbye as she was leaving for the day, and I absentmindedly chirped “night night!” and did the same cutesy little wave I give my toddler at bedtime. Oi.

    1. Avalanche Lake*

      Lol. I had a friend who was toilet-training her kid and realized that she was saying “I have to go potty” to her coworkers.

  26. Cotton Headed Ninny Muggins*

    I used to work in a call center, and 99% of the callers were angry. So on the rare occasion that someone would tell me that they loved me (accidentally or on purpose), I would always respond with, “I love you too, Sir/Ma’am. Thank you for calling XYZ.”

  27. Hannah*

    My coworker (who had young kids) once absentmindedly asked an executive if he needed to pee before they went to lunch. Worse, IMHO.

  28. Seven If You Count Bad John*

    I’m a call center agent, and I have on numerous occasions closed a customer service call (one where I was the customer) with “is there anything else I can help you with today?” It’s a spinal reflex at this point.

  29. Lady Phoenix*

    For the first letter, I would tell the dude to kbock it off because of how weird it sounds. If he pushes back or contibues, document the yime you told him to stop and take it to HR. Once is just a dude being a bonehead. Twice is a dude being a creepy meathead. Anymore so or escalation to bad behavior and/or violence means he is a f*ckhead.

  30. Office Drone*

    I habitually say “love you, bye” at the end of phone calls. In fact, I had it on the end of my company voicemail for TWO YEARS before I listened to my outgoing message and realized what I had done.

  31. PhyllisB*

    This isn’t an “I love you” story, but I used to be a telephone operator. We had had a natural disaster (tornado probably) and we had to work tons of overtime. One morning I was in a deep sleep and the phone rang. I picked it up and said, “South Central Bell Operator, can I help you?” Luckily, it was someone who knew me and thought it funny.

    1. PhyllisB*

      Also, when my children were small, I was going to a PTA conference with friends in another city. As we drove down the highway, I said, “Look Mary, (the driver) there’s a cow!!” After they all laughed uproariously the ladies asked if I was going to try to cut up their meat at lunch.

  32. Just Peachy*

    I know I’m a couple days late, but I wanted to share my biggest “saying the wrong thing on the phone” fear.

    I serve communion at my church, and in doing so say “This is Christ’s body, broken for you.” When I answer the phone at work, I say “Good morning (company name) this is (my name)” but I’ve come SO close to accidentally giving my communion spiel. Alternatively, at church, I’ve come so close to accidentally giving my “answering the phone at work” spiel.

    Also, I once had an acquaintance who told me that she’d been doing some calculations on her 10-key at work right as she was answering the phone. Instead of saying “hello” or “good morning” or whatever spiel she was supposed to say, she read off the number she’d just calculated. :)

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