how to get coworkers to stop texting after-hours

A reader writes:

I originally wanted to take a position at my current company because it seemed like a friendly work environment. And it is. But I regularly receive multi-recipient texts after work from my coworkers! Sometimes it’s about work, but never anything urgent, and often it’s purely social.

I’ve never had this problem before, so I don’t know how to stop it. If I tell them not to include me on their message list, I will look insensitive. But I really don’t want to receive so many messages after hours. I don’t even talk to my family that much!

I answer this question — and four others — over at Inc. today, where I’m revisiting letters that have been buried in the archives here from years ago (and sometimes updating/expanding my answers to them). You can read it here.

Other questions I’m answering there today include:

  • Hiring when you only have one candidate for the job
  • Can I leave my phone number off marketing materials?
  • My employee keeps inviting himself into my conversations
  • No-show employee wants a bonus

{ 158 comments… read them below }

  1. Sleepy*

    This is why I’ve started giving coworkers a Google Voice number that is not my personal cell phone number.

      1. Sleepy*

        If you’re working with HS students, is a great resource for communicating with them as well.

      2. Didn't realize that's an option*

        Oh, is Google Voice included in GApps for Education these days? I didn’t realize Google had added that for teachers…
        (And if not, then I’d be interested to hear how you’re getting your students to reliably transition to a secure channel any time sensitive stuff like grades comes up?)

    1. Valegro*

      I wish I had only given my previous toxic boss one. He likes to randomly check in by phone or text despite me never responding once my COBRA was over (I needed to communicate with them directly due to it being a small business- nightmarish).

    2. TiffIf*

      Most of my coworkers don’t have my personal cell number and those that do are either 1) personal friends who I DO exchange texts with socially 2) people who may need to contact me on work related items outside of regular business hours but would only do so in an emergency.

      Do people regularly exchange personal numbers with all their coworkers?

      1. HoHumDrum*

        Eh, I have. It’s definitely been useful, especially now when we’re out of the office permanently. Plus I like being social, my team is small so I don’t get too many texts, and I just ignore the thread when I don’t want to respond.

      2. Blaise*

        Teachers do. Almost every school I’ve worked at compiles a list of everyone’s phone numbers.

        1. just a random teacher*

          Before the current era of automated text alerts, every school I worked at had a phone tree we’d use for things like snow days. Back in the day, I’d usually keep it tacked to the wall somewhere near my main landline phone so I could easily look up the numbers for the people I needed to turn around and call after getting called. I think my current job only stopped distributing one last year or maybe the year before.

          I’m glad my district switched to the text alerts. There were quite a few days this spring where I got a text about 10 at night that basically said to check email for the latest covid info, and I can’t imagine how much worse it would have been to try to listen to that information by phone, take notes, and then call 2-3 more people to pass it on. It probably would have taken until after midnight for the phone tree to relay it all the way down, things would have gotten garbled in the passing-on, and I’m so glad I didn’t have to call multiple people late at night for that.

          I still have a few co-worker phone numbers for various reasons (I live near the school, so it makes sense for me to be able to call the principal if something, such as tagging, happens to the building over the weekend and I see it before she would), but now it’s more case-by-case.

          1. Quill*

            I remember the days when my mom had to call multiple numbers at 5 AM to see if there were any substitute teaching spots that day.

      3. Jennifer Strange*

        I do, but I also work in fundraising, and during special events it’s handy to be able to contact someone on my team while amidst a sea of 200+ people.

      4. Black Horse Dancing*

        I have several because we need to call or text now and then if someone can’t make it in, need a fast answer from someone working at home, etc.

      5. Koalafied*

        It’s common for jobs with shift work, where mgmt usually foists off the responsibility for finding subs for a sick employee onto the sick employee, though that’s not what this OP’s job sounds like. A lot of my coworkers have my cell at this point, but I’ve been at my company a long time and it was a very gradual process of occasionally putting up and out of office with my cell number, or traveling out of town with a colleague and exchanging numbers to meet up for lunch/drinks during free time. I didn’t just distribute it to everyone right away.

      6. Anononon*

        I think a lot of it depends on how often people are out of the office (but still working). I’m in court often or traveling, so I need to text and call with coworkers often.

      7. WorkingGirl*

        I have all my coworkers’ numbers – small company, only six of us – but that’s because even pre-lockdown, we all had rotating remote days, so we’d call each other on our cells if needed. But a Google Voice would’ve been totally fine.

      8. Rachel in NYC*

        In my office you have the option of providing it for our office phone list. (In case you are out of the office and someone needs to reach you. Obviously really useful right now. My office number is theoretically forwarding to my cell phone but I’m sure no one is assuming that is set up.)

        I’ve never had an issue with anyone misusing it. But I’m gonna knock on wood now.

      9. The Man, Becky Lynch*

        I’ve always been places that regularly exchange numbers and have a contacts list. If someone didn’t want their personal number on there, they’d come up with something. But I’ve literally only one colleague that didn’t want to give over a phone number to contact them at.

        But we’re small always and we have to be able to contact people in case they don’t show up for work. I wouldnt’ dream of texting unless it was urgent and work related, unless we were true buddies.

      10. MsLipman*

        I’m close personal friends with at least half my co-workers, and socialise outside of work with probably at least 90%. It’s been that way in every job I’ve ever had. Very rarely do I have co-workers I’d never go for a drink or lunch with. It’s just not the culture in my industry, which is a very huggy touchy feely, very social industry where going to the pub together after work is the norm.

      11. ACM*

        This sounds like a WhatsApp problem to be honest – it’s been a couple years since I worked in the US and two years can be huge when it comes to tech adoption, but when I was there it wasn’t used. Essentially, what often happens in many parts of Europe (and maybe the rest of the world?) is that whenever you, I dunno, get a new job, or start at a new school with your kid, or practically anything, you’re often invited to join the WhatsApp group that’s been set up. Or maybe the group was set up to organize the Christmas party and then stuck around for years. Basically you’re only giving your number to the admin of the group (and not exchanging numbers with all your coworkers) but you may as well have. Then you’re kind of stuck in it. Ideally they’re only used for communicating important things, but frequently they’re used as semi-social semi-important channels. If you leave the group it sends a very public “ACM has left the group” which is annoying AF. Of course you could always decline initially, but it’s such a common thing that it might look a bit weird (though that weirdness might totally be worth it).

        You can actually mute these groups, and I’ve definitely muted my coworker group because they stress me out 9 times out of 10. I wish you could completely hide it from your list though because sometimes I go in to access other conversations and I see the little message bubble and curiosity gets the better of me.

    3. Lucy P*

      I have a Google Voice number too. I am WFH on an as needed basis (otherwise not working at all), and I had to set up interviews for a new position we’re adding when we reopen. I didn’t want to put my actual mobile number on Linkedin when I messaged someone, so I used my GV#.

    4. MistOrMister*

      I tried google voice but got so tired of having to choose between my real number and google voice number that I took it off my phone. Now google keeps emailing me trying to get me to turn it back on.

    5. T2*

      About 11 years ago, I got hired at a new place. They wanted to start teapot consulting to external clients and that was my bag. But they were primarily providing teapot services to two sister companies. The sister companies thought nothing of texting at all hours of the day or night.

      So after 3 weeks, I decided to change the job or leave. I put up the following sign on our office door: “the normal working hours for this office are Monday – Friday from 8:30-5. All afternoon hours requests will be resolved on the next business day. Emergency requests will be billed at double the usual rate. Being in the hospital is an emergency. Being dead is not. Emergency requests will only be accepted at this number: (google voice). Any other emergency request to any other number will not be answered.”

      To my surprise, it worked. To this day a copy of that notice is now in our MSA for each new client.

  2. Cordoba*

    For #4, it’s not entirely clear to me what the office layout is, but it seems like this person might sit right next to the desk where these conversations are happening without any intervening cubicles or such. I can’t imagine he’s rolling his chair down the hallway and through the office door to join into the conversation.

    Isn’t the whole idea of open offices to promote “spontaneous collaboration” rather than only specific planned/scheduled/invited input?

    You don’t want me to participated in a conversation happening so close that I can just spin my chair around and join in? No problem, either give me some walls or go find a conference room. Otherwise I’m going to use your open office concept as you intended.

    1. fposte*

      I think that’s risking manifesting your annoyance with open offices in a way that hurts your career, though. The OP likely doesn’t have any power to give people private offices, but she can opt not to promote the person who doesn’t seem to grasp the notion of privacy even in their absence.

      1. Rusty Shackelford*

        Yeah, as much as I love a bit of malicious compliance, “but I thought this is what you wanted!” probably isn’t what’s going on here.

    2. Gina*

      The idea of open offices isn’t to blur everyone’s job duties into an indistinguishable mass, though. If people a couple of levels higher than me are speaking to each other I’m not going to automatically assume that I can add value to the conversation or that it’s any of my business just because I can hear it. If coworkers are chatting about a totally unrelated project I’m not going to join in for the sake of it.

      1. I'm just here for the cats*

        Yes. The LW is the other person’s boss. If you saw your boss and the director talking in the hallway you wouldn’t go up and start spewing ideas. The only thing I could say is if he overheard them talking about a project or something that he was directly involved with and there was something said incorrectly, I could see saying something then. Like actually I just got off the phone with client x and they said they needed 13 total items not 13 dozen of products. I was just going to update request.
        But that doesn’t seem to be what’s happening it seems like he’s butting I with everything, which is totally annoying.

    3. I'm just here for the cats*

      I’d have to disagree with you. Open concept I think is supposed to make it easier to have spontaneous collaboration but it’s not the only reason and you should still be able to have one on one conversations.
      Sometimes it’s not possible or feasible to go to a conference room. At a previous job we had only 2 or 3 conference rooms and that often times were being used for other meetings or one on ones that had private info (think performance review). Also if director is just comming over for a quick 5 minute chat, why would you walk all the way to a conference room?

      Also, speaking from experience, even with cubicle walls there will always be that one person who pops his head over the wall or walks over to join a conversation. LW needs to address this as it’s not professional to butt in unless asked.

      1. Artemesia*

        Open concept is all about saving money by jamming as many people into the space as possible and has nothing to do with improving efficiency or communication — the argument it does has always been faux justification for inflicting this misery on people.

        I don’t understand why after the first time this happened the OP didn’t have that talk — it gets more awkward the longer you let this sort of thing go on.

    4. juliebulie*

      The whole idea of open offices is to save money. Any benefit or detriment to employees is secondary.

      1. MCMonkeyBean*

        I don’t know about that; the place I just left was preparing to spend a stupid amount of money converting to an open office even though no one I knew wanted it. (Not sure if they’re going to scrap that plan after the financial impact of the current pandemic).

      2. pleaset AKA cheap rolls*

        We have a pretty spacious open office plan that our staff larger designed.

    5. MistOrMister*

      In my office the admins sit at desks across the walkway from the professionals’ offices. Big Boss might go into Boss’s office, and Admin A who sits outside Boss would be able to hear and scootch over to join if the door was open. That could be similar to what is happening with OP. In which case it would definitely not be appropriate. But really, even if it is an open floor plan, if someone is having a conversation without including you, it’s rude to jump in. And them doing it every time would be horribly annoying.

      On a different note, I notice how Allison always talks about regular checkins. Where are these mythical offices that have regular checkins?? In my long term office jobs I pretty much can expect a yearly evaluation. Maybe some meetings with the rest of the team. Possibly getting called in once in a while because of something specific. But I have not once had a manager or team lead do checkins. My last evaluation, I didn’t even talk to the manager!!! I just came in one day to find the printout on my desk and that was it.

      1. Snark no more!*

        We have regular check-ins! My director meets with her high-level managers every week. Those managers also meet with their staff at least twice a month. We’re in Pittsburgh at a large university. Actually a research arm in that university.

      2. curious cat*

        I have regular check-ins, every other week with my boss and every 2-3 months with my boss’s boss. Everyone at my workplace has these check-ins but the frequency may be different. My previous group had weekly check-ins with the boss but yearly ones with boss’s boss.

  3. Bookworm*

    I like Alison’s answer a lot. I haven’t quite had this problem but rather my co-worker kept texting me on my “weekend” (I had a slightly different schedule). I’d tell her simply I don’t work that day and left it that. She kept persisting and I stuck to my answer and that I’d answer the next “business” day I worked. It seems she probably went to our manager (with whom I coordinated this arrangement) and she stopped, because I would guess he didn’t care all that much and it was never an emergency.

    It should have been a sign for the job in retrospect but whatever. So in addition to Alison’s answer, it might be worth seeing how they respect (or don’t) your boundaries. Good luck!!!

  4. Gina*

    OP #4, I sympathize with how tricky it can be to say “Please exit this conversation, it doesn’t concern you” in the moment without coming across as too harsh. I also know what it’s like to go on for too long, hoping that your employee picks up on subtext or eventually sees the light. But if someone is that oblivious to workplaces norms that’s not going to happen, and Alison’s wording was perfect.

    If you still want to go the indirect route, you could act as if Kevin had asked you a question, and when he walks over say some variation of “Oh hello Kevin, we’re just talking about X Y Z matter. I don’t need anything from you for this, thank you though.” Or “Hi Kevin, I was just speaking with Director Smith. I’ll circle back if I need to speak with you afterward, thanks.” Or “I can’t talk right now, I’m speaking with the director, but I’ll touch base with you after.”

    1. Mr. Shark*

      I like the last few ideas you put out there. Basically, cut him off from the conversation without explicitly saying that, which would come off as rude or harsh.
      And then you can have a side conversation later about him keeping out of it with higher ups unless asked to jump in.

  5. Katrinka*

    For the last one, I would add that if she didn’t return the key, you should probably change the locks. It’s a bit of an expense, but it’s probably a lot less than the potential damage she could cause.

    1. Sara without an H*

      +1. And make sure her online access to any internal systems or databases is cut off.

    2. New Jack Karyn*

      Re-keying can be really expensive. I’d avoid that unless she indicates that she might really be going over the top.

  6. Thankful for AAM*

    I honestly do not understand when people dont want to get texts or emails after work hours. Or i mean, I know why you don’t want to work after work hours, but why not just ignore them until you are at work again?

    It does not seem like anyone is getting upset at no response, so why not just ignore them?

    There must be something I am missing here, maybe the volume of texts or the sound (I do have all my notifications turned off so nothing on my phone yells at me)?

    1. Sara without an H*

      I think a lot of people think of text messages as something that requires an immediate response. Really, if you don’t mind waiting until the next day to respond to work-related emails or voice mails, why treat texts differently?

    2. Cordoba*

      Especially with it being so easy to selectively mute or otherwise disable notifications from specific sources or servers etc; or even set up a rule that you don’t see them until 8AM the next day.

      ~15 minutes of effort to set it up and you never have to see any work texts or emails after 5PM ever again.

      1. Traffic_Spiral*

        This. Do these people just not understand how to use smartphones or something? Mute the chat.

        1. Me*

          Yes some people are in fact not aware of how to do all things. It’s not cool to be rude about it.

          1. Traffic_Spiral*

            Are you also unaware of how to use google, and how to go to the phone shop and ask one of the clerks to help you do a thing? That goes past “unaware” and goes into “unwilling.”

            The thing is, if you want to be semi-illiterate when it comes to a basic piece of technology, that’s your choice. You can do that.

            However, you don’t get to complain that other people are being rude to you when they’re really just assuming you understand how your phone works. *They* aren’t being rude – *you’re* choosing to not use your phone properly and suffering mild inconveniences because of said choice. That’s on you. It’s no one else’s fault that you refuse to learn how a phone works, so you don’t get to blame other people for the consequences of your own actions.

            Either learn how to properly mute things, put your phone away entirely, or accept the inconveniences of not understanding how your phone works. But don’t go blaming other people for it.

            1. MistOrMister*

              This is kind of snarky…. If someone doesn’t know that muting texts is an option, they are not likely to go to the store to have the thing they don’t know is an option done for them. I didn’t see that OP was complaining about their coworkers being rude, they just wanted to know how to politely extricate themselves from the group chat. They are within their rights to not want to get the texts at all as opposed to only muting them. Regardless, it’s not necessary to be snippy in response here.

              1. Traffic_Spiral*

                If you refuse to take basic responsibility for your own actions you deserve a bit of snark – and yes, refusing to learn how your phone works and then complaining about it counts as refusing to take responsibility for your own actions.

                1. Mr. Shark*

                  I disagree. Work is for work hours. Why is that so hard to understand? I get sending e-mails, because they are a passive form of communication. But text is not passive and shouldn’t have to be muted, because unless it’s an immediate concern, no one should be texting someone about work after work hours.

                2. Traffic_Spiral*

                  [sigh] fine. Continue to refuse to learn how to use your phone and expect everyone around you to accommodate your deliberate inability. Assuming the main thing you want is just an excuse to complain about your self-inflicted problems, I’m sure it’ll work out great for you.

                3. Tabby*

                  Yeah, your attitude towards this is very snarky, and childishly refusing to understand that not all people instantly delve into the least, tiniest detail about their phones. Some folks simply do not need to do that — they’re not attached to their phones to the point where all these tiny things are going to be known. It takes two seconds for a more knowledgeable person to simply show a less knowledgeable person how to do a particular thing. I’ve done it a million times, and it’s not a problem.

        2. MsLipman*

          If someone has the cognitive ability to be able to hold form a job, they should be capable of using a cell phone, which has been a basic part of every day life for as long as I’ve been alive. Unless someone is elderly or has a learning disability, there’s no reason they can’t google.

          There was a thread here recently where people were bitching about other people using Facebook in a way they disliked but could easily avoid, because they had no idea how to do something incredibly easy on Facebook and didn’t want to have to go to the effort of actually reading a post before replying to it.

          It’s astounding that some people think others need to change their behaviour to spare them doing a minimum amount of effort in terms of their own behaviour.

          If you don’t like something, the onus is on you to do something about it, whether that’s taking 5 minutes to learn how to use a cell phone, or Using Your Words to ask them to stop.

      2. Mpls*

        Not all phones can selectively mute like this. This is a specific type of function that not everyone has, or everyone has the expertise to set up. And 15 minutes of effort on your phone settings is a lot! The most I’ve ever spent fiddling with my settings is 5 minutes.

          1. Curmudgeon in California*

            No, not really. It takes about 5 seconds.

            Plus, some chat/sms apps don’t have the ability to set quiet hours.

            Plus, if you’re on call, you need to be available by SMS, but you don’t want people testing you about non-emergency stuff after hours. So then you have to change your settings twice for every week you’re on call.

            You shouldn’t have to become a phone app power user to manage people who don’t respect your boundaries.

            The proper response is “Hi. I work 9 am to 6 pm. Please don’t text me outside of those hours unless it’s an emergency.”

            1. Anonymous Librarian*

              And that text has already interrupted you during your off time, maybe during dinner or family time or whatever you want to do–uninterrupted–when you aren’t at work. Email is different. You can turn off alerts associated with email and not see it till the next workday, but a lot of us keep notifications on for texts because we want to be reachable for important things. It’s not cool to use a co-worker’s personal cell number without their permission. If you wouldn’t call them at home for it, don’t text them about it.

            2. MsLipman*

              It’s only “proper” if you work in a very formal work environment where socialising or being on friendly terms with co-workers does not happen, and with a strict 9-5 culture.

              I work in an extremely social and touchy feely industry, where the cultural norms are that anyone not socialising with co-workers would be considered very odd and would not progress, because they simply would be a very poor fit for the corporate culture. The same industry doesn’t do 9-5 as standard, and it’s common to send and receive emails or do work during evenings and weekends.

              The suggested response would work in some corporate cultures, but be the kiss of death in others.

        1. Cordoba*

          Fortunately, any smart phone with internet access can also be used to research how to set up selective muting. If a person does not have the expertise they can obtain it very readily, for free.

          If the phone does not natively have the function to selectively mute conversations, there are many apps that will *give* it that function for free.

          Investing 15 minutes (or even 30 minutes) and zero dollars to permanently solve the problem sure seems like a better solution to me than just continuing to rage forever at the colleagues who dare to send you emails or texts at 5:01 or later.

          Whether or not these colleagues *should* change, they probably aren’t going to – so it if bothers somebody they should solve it on their end if possible.

          1. MistOrMister*

            I will say that google is not the answer for everything. I’ve looked up some stuff, received the same instructions from multiple sources and then lo and behold, when I go to do it on my phone it turns out I don’t have the capability for whatever reason (older phone, etc). Maybe OP could find instructions that would work, but maybe not. And if I have spent 30 minutes trying everything I found online and it doesn’t work, I know personally I will be annoyed and just give up. Also, I assume many people don’t want a ton of apps. I hate the fact that phones now come pre-set with so many apps. I do not need or care about the NFL app or whatever radio app and god knows whatever else they programmed in that I am stuck with unless I want to do a whole re-set. I absolutely hate it and I add as few other apps as possible because I already have more than I want. OP did not seem to be enraged to me…I read it as bemusement.

            1. Traffic_Spiral*

              “I will say that google is not the answer for everything.”

              so walk into the nearest phone shop and ask them for help.

    3. Me*

      If the phone keeps pinging – that’s annoying. Nor is turning your phone off or on silent an option for many as for example I may want texts from my actual friends, but not my coworkers.

      A lot of people like keeping boundaries between work and personal time. These people are intruding on personal time and OP doesn’t like it or want it. That’s not unreasonable.

      1. A*

        There are other options, liking muting the convo. I don’t think this is as black and white as keeping work/personal time separate because OP went out of their way to note that it is sometimes work related, but often just social chat. Just as some people do not want interaction with their coworkers outside of work, there are plenty of people that form social relationships in the workplace that also exist outside of it.

        For the most part I only text one-on-one outside of work hours with my coworkers that I am friends with, but at my last place of employment we had an ongoing group chat with most of the members of the dept. I muted it because I hate the amount of notifications from any group chats, but the chat itself was just in good fun. We’d share thoughts on tv shows we all were watching, funny commentary throughout the day – just casual stuff no different than any other social convo.

        Absolutely nothing wrong with not wanting that kind of relationship with your co-workers, but I do think this is a different situation than if OP’s coworkers were contacting her outside of business hours about work all the time. At least in my age range, and the four cities I’ve worked in, this has been extremely common – also not unusual for people to opt out or make it known that’s not their preference – but it’s not some strange and unusual behavior on OP’s coworkers part.

      2. EH*

        I’m a big fan of using priority designation to selectively mute things. Most of the time, unless I’ve already whitelisted the number, my phone doesn’t ring/vibrate when I get a text/call because I leave it on “priority only” mode. Took me a bit to figure out, but it saves me so much annoyance! I get waves of calls/texts from recruiters whenever a senior llama specialist position gets listed. I don’t want to take those calls, but I don’t want to miss a text from my partner or close friends.

      3. Tabby*

        Exactly. It’s perfectly reasonable to expect work to stay at work. I’m not available when I clock out, period. The only exception to this is scheduling-related, and management knows this. They email me things like this, knowing I may not see it — and I have only been called once, by a manager, to come in to cover for a sick coworker. I do not give fellow co-workers my phone number, because I don’t want the chatter. I have yet to mute my texts, because you know what? I don’t have to do that. Work needs to not ping me at all hours of the day or night. It’s that simple.

    4. Fikly*

      I think it’s a people pleasing thing.

      Like, just knowing that someone has texted them makes them feel like they HAVE to read it right away, and then respond, even though they know that 99% of the time, there’s nothing important in these messages, and if there were an emergency, they are available via actual phone call, if it’s that type of job.

      But yeah, mute notifications is a beautiful thing.

      1. Cookie Monster*

        But all you have to do is turn off notifications from a group text. They’ll still be there when/if you want to check them but you won’t get sound/vibration, etc. every time a new text comes through while still leaving your phone on.

        1. Fikly*

          Sure. But if you have this mentality, you can’t turn off the notifications, because you’re not actually rational about it.

      2. fhqwhgads*

        It’s also a boundary thing. I don’t have my work email or slack on my phone. Intentionally. If they want me to get a message but don’t need/want/expect me to touch it until I’m working, there’s work email and slack for that. Texting me is going outside the work communication channels and into personal communication channels, so I’d prefer my coworkers not do that – even if it is possible to mute them or ignore it. I realize for some workplaces it’s very common to use texts throughout the day, which would muddy this a bit. But for me it’s the equivalent of saying “don’t call me at home unless you REALLY need something”. We have tons of work-specific communication methods, and I prefer work communications come to me that way (and that’s consistent with how my office operates 98% of the time).

        1. Anonymous Librarian*

          Exactly this. My off time is mine, and I don’t want it interrupted by co-workers unless something urgent has come up. I shouldn’t have to mute conversations or turn off alerts for everyone to have some peace when I’m not at work.

          1. Alice's Rabbit*

            And I don’t want to turn off alerts for them in case an actual emergency arises. They do need to be able to get hold of me in that case.

            1. Traffic_Spiral*

              They can call you if they need you in a emergency – phones still do that.

    5. I'm just here for the cats*

      Because getting multiple texts throughout the evening is extremely annoying, especially if there may be people you actually want to talk with. And she might not want to mute/block everyone because there could be an actual work related message that she needs to see, i.e don’t come I. Tomorrow because there was a gas leak and we can’t get in the building.

      And really, why should she have to go and block or mute everyone. They should just remove her from the group.

      1. A*

        Muting was just mentioned as an option in case OP doesn’t want t handle it directly. Of course that’s the best option, but given that this is another ‘we use our words’ letters, it seems likely that OP is looking to avoid such a confrontation.

        We certainly shouldn’t stop mentioning valid options just because they might not work for everyone in every situation. OP will decide what options work for them.

      2. ...*

        There is also the ability to “leave” the text group. You just press 1 button that says leave conversation. She hasn’t told them she wants to be removed, so if its bothering her so much she can mute or leave.

      3. Fikly*

        You can mute individual groups or people.

        She doesn’t have to block or mute everyone.

        She can ask them to remove her. She can block the texts/leave the group. She can mute. Or she can continue on as is.

        We’re not telling her what she must do. That would be rude and obnoxious. We’re simply giving her an option that she may not have thought of.

        If there is an actual work related message, well, it can be seen in the morning, or if it’s a true emergency, see other actual means of communication.

        You can spend all the time you want thinking about should and being outraged, but I generally find it much more productive and helpful to my mental health to focus on actually solving the problem.

    6. sofar*

      We have a group work text that’s for “emergencies.” Like, serious fires such as “An embargoed thing went live early. Someone set the go-live time wrong. Fix it NOW.” A lot of folks don’t check email/Slack on weekends, so this text chain is the only way to contact people for once-in-every-six-months emergencies.

      If people were to abuse it (and text social, non-emergency stuff, or dumb questions), it would be so annoying. Because I’d *have* to check it. And be reminded of work on a weekend.

      There are certain members of my team who like to brainstorm on Slack over the weekends and often @ me to see if I think something is a good idea or not. I mute that channel because I’m the sort of person that, if I see something, it’ll invade my brain until I can handle it — and it ruins my days off in the meantime.

      1. Julia*

        We had an emergency group like that, for issues from “my train is delayed, can someone cover my first assignment?” to “I’m out in the field and need to be relieved”, but then some people started using it for chat and sending albums worth of photos (!), and I muted it, so if there was an actual emergency, I would have missed it. That’s the problem with muting convos or people.

        1. allathian*

          Yeah. Texting to me feels invasive because it’s so often used for emergencies. If some people want to chat with coworkers during the weekend or in the evening, fine, but don’t use the means of communication you’ve agreed is for emergencies to do that.

    7. EPLawyer*

      I don’t get why people have to text social things to ALL coworkers after work hours. Work is over. If we aren’t friends enough to hang out together after work, we aren’t friends enough to text after hours. Not everyone wants to socialize with coworkers after hours. The person who doesn’t want to socialize should not have to jump through hoops to avoid it. the socializers should be self-aware enough to be selective in who they include in the social messages.

      1. A*

        It’s also possible though that the group chat isn’t all employees – it could just be all that didn’t opt out, or that are known to be disinterested in this kind of social relationship with coworkers outside work hours. And given OP’s reluctance to address it with them directly, my guess is they are fully unaware of how they are feeling.

        I’ve had several social group chats at previous employers (never that I started/ran), and they always comprised of those in the dept/company/whatever that interacted socially. If OP is social in the office, they could have included them having no clue how they feel about it outside of work.

        I truly do not think the coworkers are doing anything wrong, or unusual here. Unless it truly is a company wide reply-all kind of thing.

      2. Fikly*

        Well, for the same reason you HAVE to avoid communicating with your coworkers outside of work.

        It makes both of you happy.

        Muting a notification, or asking to not be texted is not jumping through hoops. How are the socializers supposed to know who doesn’t want to be included if the person doesn’t tell them? Mind reading is not actually a human ability.

        1. MsLipman*

          If it was opt-in Alison would get a thousand letters about the mean girls in the office bullying the poor LW by excluding her from the group chat.

        2. allathian*

          I think the bigger problem is that the social channel is also used for work issues at least occasionally.

    8. Important Moi*

      In my experience, too many people, even the reasonable ones, get offended if a text is not responded to in a timely manner. So polite people tend to respond.

      1. Fikly*

        In my experience, I have never had a person get offended if a text is not responded to in a timely manner.

        Something being common does not actually mean it is reasonable.

    9. Shallot Pasta*

      For me, it’s a mental health thing. Feeling like people have access to me at all hours is draining. I’m sure others can ignore it with no problem. I don’t mind someone texting me about a work emergency that is *actually an emergency*, but most things in my work are not.

      With that said, I’ve taken the steps I need to take to not get notified about work emails at night, and I blocked the one coworker who was abusing text messages (she asked to talk work on my day off, I said no, and she kept asking). My other coworkers respect boundaries just find.

    10. Governmint Condition*

      There was just a story in the news yesterday where a Wall Street banker got upset at his employees for not responding to a 3 a.m. e-mail. Most people don’t want to be the employees in that situation.

    11. Artemesia*

      They may also want to get texts from friends or relatives and so leave the notification signal on — the constant dings from text fluries that don’t concern you is always annoying.

        1. Alice's Rabbit*

          And if there’s a legitimate work emergency? What then?
          Sorry, no, this is an abuse of OP’s private cell, which should only be contacted outside work hours if it’s truly urgent.

            1. allathian*

              Depends on the emergency and how many people need to be reached. If it’s just a few people, voice calls are fine, but more than a handful, texting is easier, especially if there’s already a group convo for the purpose.

              1. Traffic_Spiral*

                If your work has the sort of emergencies that could legitimately require a company-wide urgent notification for more people than you can reasonably call on the phone (which is highly unlikely) your company can (or, let’s be honest, already has) set up a specific process for said emergency-only notifications.

    12. Mx*

      What I don’t understand is why people give their private mobile number to coworkers ?
      This 21st century lacks boundaries !
      I declined sharing my number with anyone but HR. Got a work mobile phone for clients visits (before the lockdown). When I am off, the phone is off too. It’s that simple !

  7. Me*

    Most texting apps have a beautiful mute conversation function. The texts still happen, you just don’t get a notification for it.

    1. Hula-la*

      I love that mute conversation function. I have an acquaintance who lives overseas, so when she sends out messages on her time, it’s the middle of the night for me (I don’t turn on the do not disturb overnight feature of my phone, because I have never needed to).

      1. MAC*

        I only just learned how to mute individual text threads when I started working from home in mid-March. And it was a godsend!

        I had the opposite problem as the LW – family texts during work hours. I was actually busier than normal because my agency was rolling out a COVID response – while my 2 sisters, SIL, mom, and aunt (teacher, dental assistant, teacher, retired, retired) were all at home and not working. So they were group texting ALL. THE. TIME. And much of it was stuff I’d want to see later, but my phone dings twice for every unread text message … as do both my watch and my iPad.

        6 dings per message x up to 50 messages/likes in the span of an hour or two was not-so-slowly causing me to lose my mind. Learning to mute an individual thread while still being able to receive work messages probably literally saved my sanity and possibly a couple of windows since I did NOT pitch any of my devices through them after 300+ dings.

    2. sofar*

      Yep. I have multiple group messages muted. If my coworkers tried this, I’d mute it too. And if anyone asked, I’d say, “Oh, I don’t check work communications after hours.” What’s annoying is that it does become another channel you have to check up on at some point and remember to catch up on those texts during working hours. But, based on LW’s letter, it doesn’t seem like these texts are even important. So I’d mute it and never ever check, probably.

      1. ...*

        I do the same thing. My Best friends convo is muted and so is my family one. Because I don’t need alerts for 150 texts all happening in rapid fire if I’m not there. But I still want to hear from these people, this is the beauty of modern technology! In all honesty, speaking of muting, I never keep my phone on any volume setting that makes any type of noise and I don’t know anyone co worker, friend, or family who does. They just look at it every so often.

        1. Artemesia*

          I didn’t realize I could mute only texts from one source — I am soo going to use this.

    3. Mpls*

      Most? Or just some? I have the option to either mute ALL text notifications, or none. I can’t mute individual conversations. So this is not a universal option.

      1. Jen*

        On iPhone you can mute individual texts. You click on the name at the top of the text and slide the toggle to “MUTE”.

          1. Cordoba*

            How about just using one of the dozens (hundreds?) of free apps that accomplish the same thing?

            1. Red Wheelbarrow*

              I’m seeing a surprising number of comments here that seem to me to express mild to moderate contempt for people who are less fluent with their smartphones than the commenters. What is easy and obvious for one person is not necessarily easy or obvious for another.

              1. Cordoba*

                It’s not contempt for people who are less fluent with their smartphones, but rather a genuine lack of patience/understanding for people who are seemingly more focused on explaining what *should* be than they are on actually resolving the problem.

                Here’s how I see the breakdown:

                Problem: My communication preferences do not match those of my colleagues.

                Option 1: Change the settings on my device so that my communication preferences are enforced on my end. This may require some amount of time and effort, but will very likely work.
                Solution 2: Attempt to change the methods and times that multiple co-workers choose to communicate, and presumably enforce this change on any new colleagues that I have throughout my career.
                Solution 3: Change nothing, and just rage forever about “Why can’t everybody abide by my Objectively Correct* Communication Preferences that I also decline to tell them about for some reason?”

                I don’t get people choosing #2 or #3 while dismissing #1 out of hand, but it seems that many people are going this route.

                *Note: not objectively correct

                1. Curmudgeon in California*

                  IOTW, it’s better for the person inconvenienced to have to become a power user and make multiple changes on a device than to ask their coworkers for courtesy.

                  Because heaven forfend that people be asked to be courteous.

                  Is this really your take?

                2. Traffic_Spiral*

                  Yup. This is like refusing to learn how to park properly and then complaining that all the other drivers are jerks because they don’t leave you the 3 car-spaces you need (cause you can’t pull up into a single parking space) and then when people go “maybe you should just learn how to park,” going “well we can’t all be neurotypical, KAREN – some of us find spacial awareness difficult! What is easy and obvious for one person is not necessarily easy or obvious for another.”

              2. Lora*

                Smartphones have been around for over a decade and their prices have dropped so much that they’ve become more common than PCs. From what I’ve seen, not knowing features about your smartphone is today’s equivalent of not knowing how to copy/paste, how to convert a Doc file to a PDF, or how to attach files to emails.

                The generations of people who grew up with smartphones are entering the workforce, so these attitudes are only going to become more and more common over time. I have to make an effort to play around with my phone every once in a while to keep up with my younger colleagues. I don’t want to end up being *that* technically incompetent coworker.

                1. Curmudgeon in California*

                  It’s not “technically incompetent” to not want to have to adjust your phone for every person who texts you. I’d rather spend my time playing games that farting with settings because of rude people.

                  I once worked for a guy who was a PhD in Chemistry. Very smart guy. Had absolutely zero interest in becoming a power user on his Mac. It wasn’t his focus in life. He used the tool, but wasn’t interested in the tool itself and all its bells and whistles.

                  I consider anyone who isn’t competent at a Linux command line to be the equivalent of “not knowing how to copy/paste, how to convert a Doc file to a PDF, or how to attach files to emails.” in my field. I work full time as a sysadmin. I deal with Doc files maybe once a month, if that, and convert them less often. I rarely attach files to emails because many recipients strip them off. Your perception of minimal competence with a smart phone is ludicrous.

                  My smart phone is a tool. I have no interest in rooting it, or even being a power user. I would want my coworkers to be professional, instead.

                2. Quill*

                  The problem tends to be that people are locked into a specific brand of phone and a specific phone provider, so there’s no universal way to set up your phone… and half the time settings can revert when the phone updates anyway.

                  Not knowing a specific application isn’t technically incompetent, but not knowing that you should at least google “how to turn off notifications iphone 8” is.

              3. MsLipman*

                For me it’s because I see far too many people with massive entitlement complexes, who use performative helplessness as a way to foist personal responsibility onto others.

                I’m always willing to help others. I help with tech advice all the time, even though my job involves no tech aspect. But there’s a difference between someone who finds tech hard to grasp (IME those people tend to be pretty apologetic and want to learn), and those who positively revel in their own obstinate ignorance.

                And of you are of average intelligence and neurotypical, you should be able to use google. People with genuine medical issues that prevent them from doing so are obviously an exception, and should be provided with extra help to meet their access needs.

                1. MsLipman*

                  And being able to mute texts isn’t being a “power user”, it’s basic.

                  And like other posters have said, no one HAS to learn how to mute. It’s the second choice after “just tell them.” It’s being offered as an option because so many people seem incapable of actually using their words and would rather martyr themselves so they can continue to sit on their high horse feeling put upon because, as Cordoba said, others aren’t psychically doing their “objectively correct thing.”

            2. New Jack Karyn*

              Your comment reads as snarky and condescending. Are you interested in helping people, or insulting them?

              1. Alice's Rabbit*

                Agreed. The technological snobbery is quite insulting.
                Also, there are valid reasons why someone might not be able to mute their coworkers. Like they need to be reachable in an emergency.
                Asking for basic courtesy is not too much.

      2. Kiki*

        It’s not universal, but I think it’s pretty widespread at this point, at least in my demographic. We should all try to be cognizant of the ways our actions may impact those around us, but if LW hasn’t spoken up yet, it’s most likely the texters don’t realize it’s creating this much of an issue for LW because most of them can and do mute conversations or have Do Not Disturb hours set.

        Just curious, what phone/texting app are using?

  8. White Peonies*

    In my experience you have to choose here to be friends and co-workers and ignore the texts after work or to be just co-workers and tell them to stop texting you. You work with them and know their personalities and your work dynamic, so account for that when you make your decision.

    1. whistle*

      This is a great point. This really is what the dilemma boils down to. There is no wrong choice, but this is the choice that must be made.

    1. TiffIf*

      Yes but if a legitimate work issue comes up that you need to be notified of you would also miss the notification.

      1. ACR in Manhattan*

        You can make exceptions so that important notifications/calls come through. For instance if any of my friends or family call me at night, or if anyone calls twice in a row, that call will go through. I don’t think that’s this person’s problem though.

        1. allathian*

          A text convo for purely social chat would be much easier to opt out of. They do occasionally talk about work stuff, but “never anything urgent”.

  9. SusanB*

    I confess I’ve been using the pandemic as my excuse for those kinds of requests. I have some friends who were constantly FB messaging about politics. I couldn’t deal anymore. I hated it normally but now I really really hate it and I wrote “hey, guys, this whole pandemic is giving more more anxiety than I am normally dealing with so I’m trying to limit reading about politics and discussing it as it kind of adds to that anxiety. So if you don’t mind, I’d love to hear from you about anything else, just not politics.” and they were like “OK, cool” and I’m now off those e-mails.

    In the immediate shelter at home and remote operations I had co-workers texting non-stop on a group text. I was hitting my limit with that too but fortunately it seems to have died down. They tend to ramp up in late night texts so I’ve waited until the next morning and said “Hey, I go to bed pretty early so I missed these until now. Sorry” and then once or twice I’ve had to say “Hey, you guys, I’m on a zoom meeting would you be able to take me off the chat because the alerts are going crazy” and they understand and stop. A few times of that and I’ve noticed that the texts have decreased drastically. No more 11 p.m. flurry of texts about the plot points of Tiger King and I appreciate it.

  10. Kiki*

    I’m really concerned about the last letter! I know it’s an old letter so whatever was happening is likely no longer affecting anyone, but that behavior is just so concerning and bizarre. Maybe I’ve just watched too many crime shows, but, like, was this employee kidnapped or held hostage or otherwise in trouble? Because they already did a wellness check, there’s not much the company could do besides changing their locks and making sure all access to their systems are cut off for the employee. But gosh, this is so bizarre and scary!

    1. Patricia*

      I think employee just quit going to work and then realized she needed a job/money and got a friend to come up with the accident story and request for bonus story. I’m skeptical by nature but it seriously sounds like a bs story.

      1. Kiki*

        I could see that, but the follow-up demands for a bonus that was never agreed to is just so out there. Maybe drug use is involved? If I were a manager dealing with this, I’d be worried this may escalate in some unexpected way because what’s included here is so bizarre.

    2. MCMonkeyBean*

      There’s so much weirdness in that letter. It sounds like maybe she was just trying to scam some money out of them, but it’s such a weird and odd plan that it’s concerning.

      But I am also confused about a wellness check that just results in “it looks like they’re home but not answering the door.” If it looks like someone is home but not answering and no one has heard from them in days isn’t the point of the wellness check to make sure they are not dead or dying on the floor of the living room or whatever? How is that the end of that wellness check?

      1. MistOrMister*

        I figured they meant it as in they could see her moving around inside the house but she wouldn’t come to the door. Like me and people I can tell are selling things….I will drop to the floor to hide until they leave because I already know I don’t want whatever it is.

      2. The Man, Becky Lynch*

        Wellfare checks from colleagues or those not related to the person are pretty toothless. They can’t just knock down the door if nobody answers.

        The police is very clear that they respect people’s rights to just disappear if they want to. They didn’t have any cause for alarm when they visited, so they dropped it and gave the info back as “Looks fine but no, she’s not interested in answering her door/talking to anyone. No signs of foul play.”

    3. The Man, Becky Lynch*

      Don’t be too concerned!

      This has happened in similar ways where I’ve worked as well. The best one was the guy who called after getting fired for failing a drug test after getting hurt, to see if he was getting his Christmas bonus. We just responded with a “No. You are not.” and he pushed a bit and got another “We aren’t discussing it with you any further. If you show up here, we’ll call the cops.” and never heard from the person again.

      And I watch so much true crime, I get why it would worry you. But as a person who’s been in that situation, these people are usually just lowkey bums who make up stories.

  11. My2Cents*

    #3 – Have you considered getting a mobile phone specifically for work? You could probably write off the expense. I’m just a lazy consumer, and if I can’t find a phone number for a business, I usually go with a different business.

    1. TiffIf*

      I’m even lazier–If I can’t find a functional website with the information I am looking for (and NOT a facebook page–NOT THE SAME also, I don’t have a facebook account) I go with a different business. Don’t make me call you to find out information that could easily be put on a website.

      1. ...*

        I wouldn’t really consider any business without a functioning website even a business? Are those a thing?

        1. whistle*

          The number of companies whose only website is facebook is staggering. I’m with TiffIf – I don’t use facebook and I’m not gonna try to get business info that way.

      2. Lady Heather*

        I’d do that – but I can only reach my police department through 911 (which is for emergencies), a phone number that gets you an extra bill (the way phone sex operators work – I’m not sure what it’s called in English), Facebook, Twitter, or a lenghty form that needs your full name, address, date of birth, etc.

        So reporting non-emergencies requires you to either pay with money or pay with your privacy.

        (Although the time I used the surcharge phone number to report a tree that had fallen across the road, I spent a minute (= 1 dime) telling them about the situation, and two minuntes (= 2 dimes) giving them my personal details, because they needed to know where I lived before they would hear me out about the tree. Which was not at my house. The fallen tree was in the next town.)

        (And then when my neighbour called the police to report a hazard a year or so later, they somehow got us mixed up, and called me back about it.. four times.. with their phone numbers at anonymous.. but I did pick up twice. So I thought I was being stalked by a police impersonator. I tried to contact the police through the online form to ask whether they had been calling me or a police impersonator had been.. but I left out the information I didn’t consider relevant, namely my date of birth. They emailed me back asking my date of birth. I gave it. They didn’t reply with an actual answer to my question.
        Fortunately, my roommate ran into the neighbour and realized that the neighbour’s story about calling the police about a hazard, and my story about the police calling me saying I had reported said hazard, sounded similar.)

        TL;DR: yes, it sucks when you can’t reach a business through normal channels (an actual email address, a normal-rate phone number, or if you’re very very lucky a free phone number).


        1. TiffIf*

          …That’s a remarkably terrible setup for communicating with the local police. I’m really sorry that’s what you have!

          1. allathian*

            Yeah, I agree. I wonder how many people are actually calling 911 because they can’t get through on the non-emergency number? Or have to jump through hoops to do it.

  12. Anonymous at a University*

    If you’re going to leave your phone number off anything you send to other people, please make sure the e-mail address is accurate! I was part of a hiring committee where the only method we had to communicate with someone was a G-mail address, and we sent them multiple requests to set up an interview but never heard back, so we moved on with other candidates. A couple months later I, and everyone else on the committee, got an angry e-mail from someone whose name seemed vaguely familiar demanding to know why we’d never contacted them. Their e-mail address was pretty different (as in, three or four letters different) from the one on the CV when we looked at it. The committee chair explained that we couldn’t reach them because of the typos in the e-mail address, and got a bizarre response that among other things accused us of “knowing” that this person had phone anxiety and wanting to force them onto the phone. Uh, no, we just need you to be accurate about your chosen method of communication.

  13. General von Klinkerhoffen*

    For #3, phone numbers, is it different for D/deaf/HOH people? We may not wish to out ourselves at very early stages because we don’t live in an ideal world and people do discriminate.

    1. Lady Heather*

      I think you have to pick your risk then – either you run the risk of being discriminated against because you don’t offer your phone number, or you run the risk of being discriminated against because you’re deaf.

      At least – I don’t see a way to avoid both.

    2. Alice's Rabbit*

      You should be able to set up an voice-over-internet phone, that does voice-to-text. Don’t worry about answering it, just have a friend record an auto-response asking callers to please email you at (easy to remember email address) or leave a message, thanks.
      So then you get all the advantages of having the phone number on your card, but you don’t have to worry about it.

  14. WorkingGirl*

    Re: the text messages – I think it really depends on the job you’re in. My current role, thankfully nothing is ever really that pressing that it can’t wait till 9am Monday. My previous role, I had to be on-call pretty much 24/7. I’d get plenty of texts all days and hours – some important and some not important – and had to have a chat with my boss to say, “yes I will of course handle all important/time-sensitive issues ASAP, but otherwise if a message comes in after hours, I’m going to wait till I’m on the clock to read/answer”.

  15. Amethystmoon*

    I usually set my phone on DND at night and only favorites can call me, who are family members. I turn it back on during the daytime. Of course, this works only if your primary phone is a cell phone and not a landline.

  16. ACR in Manhattan*

    Re: texting – If your coworkers are conscientious they shouldn’t mind accommodating you. If it helps, make up some excuse about how you have lots of new responsibilities at home and you need to focus on taking care of your family after work hours.

    You could also ask if they could move the thread onto a platform that’s accessible through desktop, especially if typing on a phone is (conveniently) difficult for you. WeChat, for instance, has excellent security and has both mobile and desktop apps.

    But if nothing changes, you could try customizing your phone settings to mute text notifications, but still get the texts. A riskier approach would be to create a contacts group for people in the chat and block everyone on it after work hours, but you wouldn’t get any of the texts sent when the group was blocked.

  17. Alice's Rabbit*

    You should be able to set up an voice-over-internet phone, that does voice-to-text. Don’t worry about answering it, just have a friend record an auto-response asking callers to please email you at (easy to remember email address) or leave a message, thanks.
    So then you get all the advantages of having the phone number on your card, but you don’t have to worry about it.

  18. JustaTech*

    I guess my question about the texting would be; is there a polite and friendly way to say that you don’t like to socialize by text? I do text with a couple of my coworkers, primarily about work (“hey, your thing arrived at 7 and expires at 9”), but one coworker will occasionally go on a meme-sharing spree that really bugs me, because my phone is in my pocket and I don’t want to mute this person because 75% of their texts are work-related and timely.

    It’s not a generational thing, it’s clearly a personal preference thing, but I haven’t figured out how to say “I don’t mind work and work-adjacent texts, but could you please not text me like it’s Facebook?” without sounding like a huge jerk and damaging our relationship.

Comments are closed.