can I ignore my coworker’s calls and only communicate by email?

A reader writes:

I work for a state corrections/law enforcement agency. We have state-issued laptops and cell phones. Our schedule is very flexible and self-directed: we work in the field, from home, and in the office. Our hours are set, but where we are working and what tasks we may be doing vary. I prefer to communicate by email or text with my clients, coworkers, and community partners whenever possible for multiple reasons: 1) I am often unavailable by phone due to working in the field in high-risk situations (think: police-related activity, warrants, arrests, searches), 2) I prefer to have correspondence in writing to refer to in the future and to avoid miscommunication, 3) I dislike talking on the phone. I worked in a call center previously for over a decade and that experience created much disdain for taking calls. I am neurodivergent (ADHD) and struggle to stay on task throughout the day. One unnecessary phone call can disrupt my work process for an hour or more.

I don’t flat refuse to answer the phone, and I realize sometimes it is necessary. However, in a situation where it is not, I am wondering if my approach is inappropriate or unprofessional.

I have a colleague in the same agency with a more specialized position that requires that I consult with him occasionally. The process to ask him questions is to be done in a specific referral format, via email. He then is to complete the request, update the system, and respond advising he’s done it. He can email any questions or clarification. I am thorough with my requests and respond quickly if clarification is needed. Inevitably, every time I submit a request, he calls me. I might be able to tolerate this, but this individual is extremely condescending and difficult. He over-explains things (once, he explained to me how C-section births work), and has a very short-sighted/hard-lined approach to his work. I find his calls exhausting, unnecessary, and unpleasant. I have begun ignoring his calls and responding by email. I feel as though his behavior is intrusive and presumptuous. I have discussed with my immediate supervisor who is already aware, and my coworkers have the same experience with him. Since the odds of having a productive conversation with him are low, is it inappropriate for me to not take his calls unless absolutely necessary?

From a purely logic-based standpoint, absolutely. Your logic is sound. The call are unhelpful, unnecessary, and unpleasant to boot. Email makes sense.

But from a political or relationship-based standpoint … maybe not. I can’t say whether it’s true with this guy or not, but in many cases there are benefits to occasionally getting on the phone with someone like this. Not every time, but occasionally. He’s obviously a phone person, and letting him have some of the communications on his terms (rather than only on your terms 100% of the time) can be an investment in the relationship.

You might figure you don’t care about the relationship, but sometimes investing even just a little in relationships at work can pay off in ways you don’t expect — things like the person being willing to prioritize an important request from you even though they don’t strictly need to, or being willing to stay late to get you something you need, or including some extra detail that helps you do your job better.

In other cases, the need is political. If the person is higher up than you are and clearly prefers the phone, that might just be the way it needs to go; their position gives them the prerogative of doing it their way. Sometimes that’s for good reason, like that it’s faster for them and their time matters more in real dollars to the organization. Sometimes it’s not for any good reason, but the hierarchy means you’re going to have to do it that way anyway.

It’s also worth considering that to people who love email, it’s easy to feel like obviously email is the superior method and everyone should be using it in these situations, end of story. It’s useful to remember that to people who prefer the phone, they often feel the exact same way about the phone. To them, the phone is more efficient and it’s faster for them to get what they need. So insisting on email every single time — even if it’s because you’re sure it’s the better method — can be too strong of a stance. You’re basically saying you’re going to prioritize your communication preferences over theirs every single time … and that can make you look difficult, prima donna-ish, or just out of touch with how business still gets done in many offices. (You might not care if he thinks that, but it can look that way to outside observers who you do care about too.)

To be clear, I am not saying that your solution isn’t the right one for this particular coworker. You might weigh all of the above and still decide that his behavior on the phone is enough of a problem that he belongs in permanent email jail, regardless. If your boss is fine with that, so be it. But sometimes investing in an occasional phone call with these people — again, not every time, not even half the time, just occasionally — will pay off.

{ 222 comments… read them below }

  1. bunniferous*

    Altho Alison is right, there are some jobs (like mine) where having the actual paper trail is important. I don’t mind phone calls, in fact as a Boomer I prefer them BUT I have learned to switch my preference to email/text as much as possible

    1. Dust Bunny*

      My job needs a paper trail, too, and we usually have to send links to stuff online, so if someone calls I ask for an email for return communication.

      1. Dust Bunny*

        I prefer emails myself, but in this instance I really do have a good reason to semi-insist on them. But I don’t tell coworkers from other departments to only email me–they don’t necessarily know that I have email open all day and will call when they need an immediate answer (as in, they are face-to-face with a client). That sounds like it’s not the case with this guy, but I still wouldn’t insist on emails only.

      2. KofSharp*

        I had a coworker who’d only call if he thought he could bully you into changing your answer. So he called everyone but me because he learned it’d work, but if if he called me I’d give the same answer as if it were in writing, then follow up with emails with that “per our conversation… here is the instruction from X person that says this is the process”.
        I didn’t want to do it like that, but it ended up being a good CYA with that specific person.

        1. The Cosmic Avenger*

          I had a client I knew for ages, and they often called me when they needed something because they found it easier. I usually got requests via email from most people, and reinforced that by not answering the phone if I was busy, but for this one client I always picked up. But I still followed up with an email recapping the request and action to be taken just in case, because when you’re working for the Feds you need to make sure you dot all your i’s and cross all your t’s.

          1. KofSharp*

            Sure, and when you’re not busy, picking up the phone and confirming something is more efficient. I’ve just also learned that sometimes that one person either genuinely misunderstood what was agreed on, or lied about it to throw you under the bus.

    2. Hlao-roo*

      One thing to keep in mind if phone calls are easier/faster for reaching a decision and the paper trail is important is that you (general you, not specifically bunniferous) can do both! Call the person, have the discussion, and then send a follow-up email along the lines of “per our phone call on 8/10, we will order Basmati rice for the rice sculpture. The order will be placed by 8/12,” so both/all parties can easily reference the decision later.

      The phone call + follow-up email is not ideal for all situations, but it can be a good tool under the right circumstances.

      1. Ellie*

        Yep, I do this as well. And if it won’t work as an email, I have a spreadsheet which I update with the date and the person, and what was decided, so I at least have my own records to fall back on.

        OP can probably limit the phone calls quite legitimately by explaining to him about the police related activity. Would it help at all if you gave him a specific time/day where you could take calls? Maybe at the end of the day, if you find them derailing?

      2. bunniferous*

        In some circumstances it is actually an ideal way to handle things, at least in what I do, yes!

    3. to varying degrees*

      This is where I was leaning too. It sounds like the LW is in a job where records retention and supported documentation may be needed at some point and that is why there is a designated process, via email and written word for these referrals and he, for whatever reason, is circumventing that. I wonder if there is a way to occasionally feed his need to have phone conversations but continually pushing for the actual work be done through email/

      1. Amaranth*

        It might also help if LW just mentions that they need to focus on fieldwork during the day so please email until…3pm? Then they can have a set meeting time, perhaps for a phone call to go over any questions. If those issues are urgent, though, I think they might have to just call back more frequently. I’m curious, though, would this fall under an ADA accommodation? Maybe LW doesn’t want to go that route, but could they tell their boss that these calls are distracting and need to find a way to consolidate them?

    4. MigraineMonth*

      Yeah, it sounds like the times LW needs to communicate with this person are times when the paper trail is necessary, so I’d lean hard on that. Wrapping every phone call with “please update the ticketing system/email that information to me for the records” might nudge him in that direction.

      I have some colleagues who schedule “office hours” when they’re happy to answer questions and “do not disturb” hours when they cannot take phone calls.

    5. Moonlight*

      One of the things I used to do with people who communicated by phone was to make them email me “for back up”. There were several reasons why

      1. Sometimes it was something I legitimately needed to review, but they’d call and try to describe it to me and I’d say something like “this sounds like something I might need to review before giving any input; can you email me the document and I’ll let you know when I’ve reviewed it, it may be something that I can resolve with an email response, but we can follow up with another phone call if needed”

      2. Even if we had the phone call, because a lot of things I was handling legitimately involved a lot of back and forth that was more effective by phone (vs having a ridiculously long email chain), I’d let them know that I would be following up by email so that there was a record of what was discussed, and then typically either follow up by email myself to be like “here is the summary of what we discussed and how situation X and situation Y should be handled” or have them send a similar email to me.

      So if there are those legitimate reasons to need email documentation, you can typically lay out those reasons and go from there.

      There may be other ways to handle those interruptions in your day, as I’m assuming this colleague isn’t the only one calling you where it may be difficult for you to refocus (re: adhd), this just happens to be the one person you want to ignore because they’re interrupting you for things that are unnecessary and they’re unpleasant to deal with. For example, is there some sort of mindfulness thing you can do? I know a lot of people loath meditation, but it’s not all hokey “stop your thoughts from happening” stuff. I mention this as a fellow ADHDer who has a small arsenal of things that help me refocus within 5 minutes or less, let’s say, vs being thrown off for an hour; I don’t feel comfortable posting them here though, because I don’t want to imply that what works for me will inherently work for you just because we share a diagnosis. However, you could likely do some research and there are many therapists who specialize in helping people with adhd develop skills to thrive. And maybe you think you’re good because you can get by “if only this person would stop interrupting me”, but if it’s not this person, something or someone else may disrupt you, so while it’s ultimately your choice as to how to proceed, as you weigh your options I just wanted to introduce this as one of the options you might have :)

    6. Asenath*

      The paper trail was always important for me, too. I wasn’t as distracted by phone calls as OP is, but when I got them, I always followed them up with an email confirming whatever arrangements we had agreed to the phone. At the time, I thought of that as a necessary backup for my not always reliable memory, but in retrospect, it may have encouraged others to use email since they always ended up getting one anyway. But irrelevant phone calls, that’s something else, and it sounds like these aren’t really necessary. Normally, I’d just say something like “Was there a problem with my request? No? I’ll have to let you go. I’m so terribly busy right now. Bye.” But of course, there are often office politics in play, making it that much harder to get off a call from someone you report to, or someone whose cooperation you know you’re going to need later.

    7. AnonInCanada*

      I’m definitely in the “prefer E-mail” boat as well. For this exact reason. It’s difficult to deny something that’s in a tangible form, isn’t it? And while my line of work isn’t necessarily a requirement to have correspondence done this way, it sure comes in handy when you can refer to a email thread rather than having to try to remember things or take notes.

    8. quill*

      Yeah, I’ve never had a job where there wasn’t a portion for which email was necessary. (Paper trail, it’s searchable, if you give me a 18 digit tracking number verbally instead of copy-and pasting it I should be legally allowed to hunt you with a nerf gun… you get the picture.) But for some types of communication (needing to walk someone through a process in real time, needing an answer that won’t be relevant if it takes you 1 hour to get back to your email) a phone call is better.

    9. Trawna*

      “As a Boomer” I far prefer email. However, not being neuro-divergent (to the best of my knowledge!), segueing back and forth between communications forms isn’t an issue. The combined caveats being when it is important to document interactions and/or when it is important to limit my exposure to difficult/needy colleagues.

      In this case, OP gets a complete pass from me.

      1. GythaOgden*

        As neurodivergent myself (autism/dyspraxia) I prefer having spoken directly to someone if there’s a real problem. I’ll follow up or ask someone to follow up if we need a record (mostly it’s me asking them to send an email for our records) but it helps to get things sorted out in a timely manner. I’d liken it to my struggles with keeping my house clean — sure, I can just say that my dyspraxia exempts me from cleaning the kitchen or bathroom, but (a) both places present safety risks when dirty, and (b) I don’t like cleaning, but I like it when things are clean and overcoming the challenges posed by neurodivergence are key to enjoying a clean bathroom and kitchen.

        OP needs to set some boundaries given the nature of her work in the field, but phone conversations are still an integral part of the office environment, and as such, I don’t think it’s productive to lean on her neurodivergence or trauma to say why she won’t take them full stop.

        I don’t think it’s a ND thing; it’s a person thing. I’m totally flexible, and I think it’s important to get used to being flexible to function in an work setting with complex demands on your time. Hiding under an ND label as to why you won’t go for a phone call (or wait for an email/text in an asynchronous situation in my personal situation) is…not an excuse, exactly, because I totally get there are things that my autism imposes a handicap on, but perhaps an unwillingness to face up to neurodivergence and trauma to resolve things and go forward.

        I understand the traumatic issues OP faces, too. As a temp I was sacked from one few-days-long gig because they expected me to cover phones but never trained me on them, but I’ve had to deal with those to progress in my own career and personal life.

        Having been through some awful personal situations where I had no choice but to deal with my own demons in order to be fully there both for someone I loved deeply and then during the all-hands-on-deck situation of being in public healthcare during a pandemic, sometimes you do have to suck up personal issues and learn to deal with them. It sucks, and in my case was helped enormously by medication and now by therapy, but it really feels good to have looked trauma in the eye and stated it down, rather than using it as a crutch. (As someone who uses a physical crutch, I can tell you, crutches are cumbersome and awkward and make life difficult in their own special way and they’re not fun to have to depend upon. I can’t shed the physical one but I can shed the emotional ones.)

        It’s hard to overcome it, and I understand where OP is coming from. It isn’t easy; sometimes you can ease yourself into a new way of thinking; sometimes you just have to bite the bullet.

        I just don’t like it when people equate neurodivergence with ‘not going there this time of night’. We can’t opt out of all neurotypical society, and part of wanting to integrate with it is learning how to adapt to them as well as asking them to make accommodation for us. We’re not helpless (to imply so to me would be ableist in itself); overcoming issues is a part of therapy and that’s probably a route OP should go down to wean her off the coping mechanisms she’s developed for herself.

    10. Worldwalker*

      Late boomer here, but also neurodivergent. I overwhelmingly prefer emails. I don’t have to worry about trying to parse tone of voice, I can back up a few sentences and reread something if I need to confirm it, and I can focus a lot better on an email than a phone call. Plus I can answer an email in a few minutes, after I’ve reached a stopping point in what I’m doing.

    11. Sleepless KJ*

      Every time I have to communicate over the phone I immediately follow the conversation with a summarizing email. CYA always.

    12. Snoozing not schmoozing*

      I’m a fairly early boomer, and I hate talking on the phone. When I was still working, my voice mail message was, “please email your request to abc@xyzdotorg; include your name, contact information, and the details of the information you are seeking.” I still had to talk to some people, but it cut down on annoying note-taking.

  2. Pool Noodle Barnacle Pen0s*

    What is he usually calling to say? This might have some bearing on whether or not it’s a good political strategy to take his calls occasionally. If he’s just calling to berate your spelling, or rehash things that are already answered in your email as some sort of power move, let him roll to VM.

    1. Anonym*

      Also, it sounds like you’re legitimately unable to take calls a lot of the time. You certainly shouldn’t be disrupting other aspects of your work (or endangering yourself or others!) to take calls. So if you do decide to take some of his calls occasionally, it could only be during a subset of your time and activities, giving you a pretty damn plausible reason not to answer very often.

      1. Not that other person you didn't like*

        You can also control when and how the calls happen, which from my personal experience can help alleviate both anxiety around calls and the concentration disruption they cause. You already have a good reason to sometimes be unavailable! In your situation I might try making my phone message “… I’m sorry I can’t take your call right now. I’m frequently in the field and unavailable, but will respond to your call (within 24 hours or on Thursday afternoons or by 4pm — whatever works best for you and your job). Text or email me at (address) if you need a response sooner.” Then block out your schedule for PHONE TIME and do your call backs then. And yes, follow up with an email for a paper trail. And if mister ‘splainer needs a call back you can say “I have three more calls to make in the next hour, so if we could get right to…”

    2. Warrior Princess Xena*

      It also sounds like he’s frequently calling to circumvent/supplement a process that’s already in place – and if there’s an existing process in place where this sort of question has to be documented by email, then it might be a good option to push back based on that need.

      1. Data Bear*

        This, I think, is really important. The fact that there’s an established process that uses a specific referral format via email *and* that the guy is kind of a dick rings alarm bells for me. It strongly suggests that he wants to avoid the accountability of a paper trail. Maybe not all the time, maybe not even consciously, but it sounds like on some level he’s aware that having his words written down can cause trouble, and his instinct is to avoid that.

        Accountability is absolutely essential in a corrections / law enforcement context, which makes even a whiff of secret under-the-table dealings 100% unacceptable. (The fact that it still happens all the time just heightens the issue.) I think OP is not only justified in forcing this guy to stick to email, but has a positive duty to do so, and would be doing society at large a disservice by accommodating his preference. Screw the optics and relationship-building. Make him write everything down. The fact that he doesn’t want to makes it all the more important to follow protocol scrupulously.

  3. L-squared*

    I fully believe OPs experience with this guy. That said, I also don’t think you get to decide to only communicate in the way you want. You are an email/text person. he is a phone person. Neither is right or wrong, better or worse, just different preferences. But that doesn’t mean that you should just get to decide that what you want goes and damn anyone else. You need to learn to compromise and meet in the middle. So maybe you don’t answer every call, but you text him, answer his questions, and if he still needs/wants to talk, maybe give him a time that you can do that.

    1. The Prettiest Curse*

      People should respect your communication preferences and you should also make your best effort to respect theirs, with the understanding that everyone’s preferences are different and no one method of communication is inherently superior to or more efficient than another. People have different working, learning and communication styles – don’t expect other people to respect your preferences if you won’t respect theirs.

      Also, for all of us who prefer to communicate in writing (me included) – we should make our best efforts to keep up with email. If I’ve emailed you several times, haven’t received an auto reply or other response and you have information that I urgently need, I will have to call you or find some other way to communicate with you to get the necessary information.

    2. Cait*

      If the OP is female, I wonder how much of the problem is mansplaining. Like, he thinks the OP couldn’t possibly understand the nuances of X, Y, and Z so he needs to call her to make sure she understands.

      Regardless, I still think, whenever OP ends up on the phone with this guy, they have every right to say, “Dave, I know how parallel parking works. All I need to know is the dimensions of the parking lot. Do you have that?” or “Dave, what you’re explaining is fine but I’m only concerned about X right now. Can you please focus on that?”. If Dave wants to wax poetic about something, I think it’s fine to cut him off and reiterate that you only need his input on X. Hopefully he’ll start to understand that if he starts over-explaining he’s only going to be interrupted and redirected.

      1. Foley*

        I second this. But it takes a strong stomach. My first job was as a litigator, so I learned this skill very early.

        If it’s only *one* person who’s like this, I might push back for email – especially as he seems like he could be the type to misremember what she says if it doesn’t fit his narrative.

        1. OlympiasEpiriot*

          Strong stomach? It is just meeting management. Set limits, stick to the agenda, get a forward action to take or resolution.

          1. Eldritch Office Worker*

            This isn’t a natural skillset for everyone and can feel very confrontational, especially without practice.

    3. Koalafied*

      One potential compromise might be to pre-arrange phone calls. There’s not enough detail to know how well that would work with this particular coworker and whatever he’s calling to talk about, but I’m also ADHD and have to be really ruthless about staying on task, so I too strongly dislike spontaneous phone calls. There’s a world of difference between the phone suddenly ringing and demanding that I get on the phone now, with no warning, and having a 30 minute block on my calendar reserved for “phone call with Charlie about Project Zeta needs.” You can plan your other work around the latter so that the call doesn’t interrupt your focus.

      If these calls are always coming in immediate reaction to an email being sent, maybe the LW could start including in the emails something like, “I have a free block at 2:00 today if you’d like to hop on the phone to talk through any questions,” so then it’s an appointment on your calendar that won’t feel as intrusive. You could also throw in something like, “I check my email [every hour, throughout the day, whatever is true] so if you have any quick questions that’s usually the fastest way to get a response from me,” if you want to subtly nudge them towards that option instead of the planned phone call, especially with someone who’s particularly obnoxious on the phone.

      I definitely encourage anyone who has anxiety about the phone or problems with focus/concentration to try this approach, though – even people who are comfortable just calling others out of the blue still don’t mind being told, “I’m a little tied up right now, but I have some free time at X if you’d like to talk then?” And a pre-planned phone call that you’ve cleared your schedule for and have time to prepare yourself to receive can be much, much easier for some of us to accommodate – even if it’s only planned an hour or two ahead of time.

      1. Just Your Everyday Crone*

        ADHD myself, and I was going to suggest this, also. Either have Condescending Guy schedule a call, or don’t pick up but call back when it works for her.

        While I think we have to meet people halfway or part-way, I also resist equating a preference for the phone with an ADHD-driven need not to be interrupted. They are not preferences of equal weight if one is a preference and the other is a need.

        1. I.T. Phone Home*

          A person who prefers the phone could have disability/need-based reason for that as well. You can’t just assume that your needs are real and nonnegotiable and everyone else just has a soft preference, and you can’t force someone into disclosing to you before you take them seriously.

        2. GythaOgden*

          Yeah, but as ND myself, that can become a crutch if done badly. Accommodations are good, but sometimes you do have to face and relieve your traumas and anxieties just to not compound the problem in your mind.

      2. Loulou*

        I agree with this suggestion. Besides what you suggestion, it could even be as simple as not taking the call, but then sending a quick email saying “I saw I missed a call from you. I’m out in the field but will try you at 2.”

      3. Nesprin*

        Also ADHD- my voicemail message says: “you’ve reached Nesprin. The fastest way to reach me is my email If you insist on leaving a voicemail, I’ll get back to you eventually.”

      4. Amaranth*

        This sounds like the kind of guy who, once you are on the phone with them, you’d basically have to hang up on them to cut it short because they won’t acknowledge the request. If LW can be firm with “I have only 10 minutes then will have to cut you off” then follow through that might work though.

    4. Hannah Lee*

      I agree with you in general L-squared. Best, and more fair, to mix up the communication channels if it’s two people with obviously different preferences.

      But in this particular case, I’d cut the LW a lot of leeway, because:
      1) the internal process set up is that requests/communication should be done by email – he is circumventing that by calling (no matter what his personal preference is)
      2) LW often is in sensitive or inconvenient situations where talking on the phone is not advisable or even possible
      3) He’s not an effective telephone communicator … either mansplaining or derailing or whatever else he’s doing that’s not necessary to the job.

      If I were LW, I might do a quick check in with my manager, something like “I typically default to communication by email, for (reasons 1 and 2 above) I monitor my email frequently and typically respond to time sensitive emails ASAP and others within xx hours. Is that an okay way to operate?” And see what they say. And then, if needed, you can bring up that Mr Talky tends to call instead of emailing and how should you handle that … is using your standard practice with him fine (given reasons 1 and 2)? But personally I’d focus on more on “standard day-to-day work practice because of policy, logistical reasons” than any interpersonal issues with Mr Talky.

      I do have one supplier who is a very *telephone centric* communicator, which is fine for quick questions, but since I wear a lot of hats and can’t easily drop what I’m doing to dive into whatever’s on his mind, so I’d rather in-depth things be by email. He also is weird about the fact that since my name is “Hannah Lee” I prefer to be referred to as “Hannah Lee” and NOT “Han” or “Lee” … even though, as he’s told me in a ‘back in my day when only menfolk were in the workplace and all the girls were secretaries” way even though we’re basically the same age, everyone else he’s ever known named Hannah Lee goes by those nicknames.
      When I need something quickly from him I’ll sometimes call. But every other communication I do in writing, and I internally role my eyes when he responds to my emails by calling me and basically asking me to repeat to him whatever was in my email, to which his says “hmm, I don’t know, let me check and get back to you” leaving me thinking why on earth he didn’t already check and at least have the answer, next steps if he was going to insist on calling me. He took over our company’s account from another rep I had no problems dealing with; and the fake-folky condescension combined with phone-calli-ness is almost annoying enough that I’m thinking of changing providers for this service.

      1. Amaranth*

        Is he the top person there or could you request a new contact? You’re the paying client so that doesn’t sound unreasonable. Frankly, I’d probably spell out that the guy won’t use your proper name despite being repeatedly asked and that you have to repeat messages multiple times. You can soft pedal it as ‘communication differences’ if you want, but I’d bet they know what he’s like. If he is a favorite and they get resentful, well…they don’t want your business that much.

    5. Murph*

      Unilaterally using email also prioritizes OP’s workflow over the caller’s. It can be extremely frustrating to work on a task, need something additional and instead of getting it easily have to stop Task A, start Task B, and get a response hours later and have to figure out where you left off with Task A again.

      And if he’s calling you *every* time you submit a request, it might be worth double checking how thorough you actually are. As others have suggested, is there a common request in between the venting/overexplaining?

      You can also answer, but be on the way to a situation/meeting/etc. and request he keep it brief, or email you instead. This way you don’t seem unavailable by phone but it demonstrates that you’re too busy for regular phone calls.

    6. OlympiasEpiriot*

      This isn’t about the letter writer’s preference really. See this part: “The process to ask him questions is to be done in a specific referral format, via email. He then is to complete the request, update the system, and respond advising he’s done it. He can email any questions or clarification”

      There is a system. The dingbat is violating the system. Why? Boredom?

      There is a system and for some reason, his manager isn’t pushing back on it so it is left up to the people who need his services.

      1. L-squared*

        Eh, I mean some of these systems are just set up to be as inefficient as possible. We have things like that at my company. There is a whole complex system for getting very basic questions answered, when I can easily slack someone and get an answer pretty quickly. Its not boredom, its that I may be talking to a client now and if I can get an answer in 30 seconds vs. 2 hours from now, I’m going to try that.

        1. allathian*

          That’s obviously possible, but this person is working for a state corrections/law enforcement agency, i.e. government. Such employers usually require employees to use either email or a ticketing system for documentation purposes. The doofus is trying to circumvent that, and I wonder why the manager won’t intervene.

      2. MCMonkeyBean*

        I think in the general discussion of email vs phone there are a lot of points in this thread that are important to remember.

        I think in this particular case it sounds like the OP has both the intended process on their side *and* their boss is okay with them handling things this way, so I vote to go ahead and stick to email! With I guess one caveat of how often is this coming up? If you have to interact with this guy like multiple times a day then ignoring every call might be a bit too conspicuous, but if it’s like every few weeks at most I think it’s fine to act like he just happens to keep catching you when you’re busy and emailing him back.

  4. Amber Rose*

    Can you mentally schedule a few days a month where you’ll be willing to take his calls? You already know this guy is exhausting and unpleasant, but not actually any kind of threat, so at most you’re just budgeting some wasted time into your schedule. Treat it like cleaning something sticky. Unpleasant but important.

    Also if you can re-orient your own attitude to amusement, it might be easier. Assuming you can. I’m aware the ability to find humor in dealing with unpleasant and ridiculous people is not something everyone can do.

    1. Slow Gin Lizz*

      Can you mentally schedule a few days a month where you’ll be willing to take his calls?

      Seems like a great solution to me! Or even actually schedule a call with him? That way you won’t be interrupted by a call from him and you can mentally prepare for the call ahead of time. You could email him at some point and say, “Hey, my schedule is quite full and I’m in un-interruptible situations a lot of the time (which is true!) so I can’t often take calls, but would it work to do a call next Thurs at 2?” or whatever. I’d say do this often enough and maybe he’ll get the picture, but you might even need to spell it out further for him by telling him directly that you just aren’t available take his calls all the time. (I’ve noticed that my friends who are more phone people not only prefer phone calls to texts or emails, but they also don’t really read a lot of what I write to them but are much more likely to hear what I tell them on the phone. He might be the same way.)

      And is there a way you could practice getting him back on target when he starts to get off-topic or condescending? I’m not saying this is easy to do but if your boss understands and has given you your blessing, you can see if you can head him off at the pass to make the calls more bearable (it could be a fun challenge, even; lately I’ve embraced this as a fun challenge for myself): “Yes, Fergus, I am aware that someone needs to be under local anesthesia during a C-section; now, how about item 2 on the request?” Since it’s part of your job, it’s totally understandable to try to get him to stay on topic. Seems like your boss would support you in this as well.

      I feel you, OP. I am also an email person and HATE phone calls. I had a colleague years ago who was supposed to edit a document I was putting together and instead of emailing me his edits he would call me on the phone to tell them to me – a TWO HOUR phone call. It was ridiculous, but because he was senior to me I had to put up with it, though I did mention to him more than once that it would be a lot easier if he would just email them to me. I guess for him it wasn’t easier? Luckily this only happened a few times but it absolutely drove me nuts.

    2. Hannah Lee*

      “Also if you can re-orient your own attitude to amusement, it might be easier.”

      Ooh, conversations with this guy might be fun to have with a Annoying Phone Call Guy Bingo Card handy.
      Like if he has certain verbal tics or conversation ruts he always goes to, how many can you hit in a single call? And can he make a BINGO?!

      I mean, obviously don’t put his name on them, or share them with anyone. But BINGO crib sheets you keep yourself could make it more amusing. And depending on your particular ADHD tendencies, having something meaningless you’re ticking off while he’s blathering may make it easier to concentrate on the conversation.

      1. Slow Gin Lizz*

        Hahaha, Annoying Phone Call Guy Bingo Card sounds like a very fun game!

        Although maybe OP will need to not play it depending on the nature of their work. OP could get in trouble for it if found out.

        But I full endorse this game!

  5. Lacey*

    If I had a coworker who insisted on following up with a phone call every time, we would be having a serious conversation.

    I’ve had a few clients who would do this even when it made no sense to. One would often call while driving even though he would need to be able to look things up or write things down during the course of the conversation!

    I do have some coworkers who are clearly phone people. If they could always talk on the phone, they would do it, but they’re at least aware that it really wouldn’t be workable. Instead they occasionally ask for a phone call if they need further clarity. I don’t understand why it GIVES them clarity. I’m saying the exact same words to them over the phone as in the email, but for whatever reason, they’re better on the phone.

    1. WhatAmIDoing*

      Information processing is a real thing.

      I’m a written person. I would *much rather* read and I can process things written down better than listening. I get bored/distracted with the rate of information that can happen at verbal speeds and then I miss things. (Thanks ADHD) When I can read at my own pace, I pull everything in.

      My boss, however, is the exact opposite. Reading, especially blocks of prose, is not his best way to receive information. If its more complicated than can fit in a tweet, and I want him to absorb it, it needs to come out of my mouth. The words are absolutely better over the phone.

      This leads to me literally writing down what I need to tell him so I can make sure it comes out of my mouth, because I won’t remember unless its written. Writing for me, verbal for him. Brains are fun.

      1. Eldritch Office Worker*

        Similar at my org. I NEED things in writing – and frankly I think others do too more than they would like to admit because they forget verbal conversations a lot more frequently and it’s harder to prove they happened or pull the relevant data back up. But I think a lot of folks here are verbal processors so they’d rather have a conversation. I just have to keep my own notes of every single conversation, which ends up being double work for me a lot of the time but is the only way it sticks, and then I have the record in the future if others need it. Work would be so much easier if everyone had the same brain lol

      2. emmelemm*

        Yeah, I’m the same way. I prefer everything to be written, all the time. But I do get that for some people, the exact opposite is true.

      3. allathian*

        Yeah, I’m the same way as well. Fortunately my job is written comms adjacent, so those coworkers I work with most often have the same preferences as I do, as does my manager. Sure makes my life a lot easier.

        My employer also has a culture where a request isn’t a request unless it’s delivered in writing, so verbal requests, whether in person when I’m at the office or by phone/in a Teams call get a cheerful “drop me an email/put it in chat/submit a ticket and I’ll get back to you.” I work for a governmental agency with all the paperwork that entails, and I’ve learned the hard way not to accept verbal requests, not even very short ones that I should be able to deal with off the cuff, because more often than not those lead to misunderstandings. This does mean that people who don’t do well with written communications tend to self-select out of working for us. It has to be said, though, that video trainings have become more common in recent years, much to my dismay. I’d far rather read the same material. If the video is captioned, I’ll just mute the sound and read the captions, if I can’t simply read the script/ppt presentation with notes.

        I don’t work directly with the public, but our clients can contact us by visiting one of our service points, by phone, using our online service, and for simple questions there’s a chat function on our website.

    2. Rocks are neat*

      I’m some situations I am very much a phone person. Sometimes it’s hearing tone and emphasis, being able to quickly clarify a detail and sometimes it’s hearing the same info again in a different format that makes it stick in my brain. I find the time invested in calls pays off by allowing me to complete a task with more confidence and hopefully less pesky questions along the way.

    3. Anon all day*

      Just last week, I had a couple back and forth emails with a coworker where I had no idea what they meant. Finally I was like, can I call you? And within thirty seconds on the call, I was able to get the full explanation and understanding of what they wanted. I’m sure they thought their emails were completely clear, but the explanation just wasn’t coming through.

      1. Le Sigh*

        Yeah, I tend to work mainly over chat or email, but the value of verbal conversation is real! I can’t count the number of conversations that got tangled up and confused over email, but were solved in 5 min via phone — in addition to the fact that everyone processes info differently and that needs to be respected.

        But also…I have coworkers who would tell you, with absolutely swear-on-the-bible-in-court certainty, that their email communications are clear and that they say the same thing over the phone. But it at least two cases, it is widely known that they’re terrible at written communication (leaving out important details, not realizing their tone is off, making things more confusing) and getting them on the phone usually gets to the issue much, much faster (and frankly, with everyone in a better mood).

    4. Bagpuss*

      I had a client who would do this. He would e-mail me, then he would telphone to make sure I had the e-mail. If he phones me, he would follow up with an e-mail. If I emailed him he would phone up to discuss it to ensure that he had understood and if I phoned him he would ask that I email to conform what I ‘d told him (and would then usually call or email again to tell me e had the email and understood it.

      Since I bill by the hour and by the call/ email I did have a conversation with him where I explained that this was a very expensive way for him to do things, and did also remind him tht I have lots of clients so it would usually be sensible to wait at least a few hours before following up to allow time for me to have actually seen and respoded to his messages, but it didn’t make any difference (and henever complained about any of his bills)

      I think he was just an extremely anxious person and needed the additional reassurance.

      I personally prefer things in writing in most situations, but I try to go with what my client prefers.

      1. My Useless 2 Cents*

        At my old position I had some customers like this only, they would call immediately after having sent the email and ask if I had any questions. There were times I would answer the call before the email came thru. “Uhmmm, no I don’t have any questions on that email I haven’t received yet.” Most of the time I would have to skim thru his email while he was on the phone to respond with “No, this is pretty straight forward, no questions.” I believe he thought I would get to his work quicker when he called but that is not how I work. Everything went in the queue to be worked on in order. But if he called me up at the wrong time on the wrong day (which was more often than not, I did not like that position and hate phone calls) it actually delayed the work as I passive aggressively rearranged the queue to put patient customers ahead of his work. (A few hours delay, we’re not talking week long delays here)

    5. RB Purchase*

      I had a client last year who called after every single email I sent. Even if my email was for very simple Yes/No questions. She called me once after I emailed her and asked specifically to please respond *by email* for tracking purposes since I was planning to share the policy she was trying to convey to me verbatim to my staff. The dumbest part of the whole thing was that instead of calling me and leaving a voice message with just the answers to my questions, she would call and leave a message asking me to call her.

    6. I went to school with only 1 Jennifer*

      > I don’t understand why it GIVES them clarity. I’m saying the exact same words to them over the phone as in the email, but for whatever reason, they’re better on the phone.

      There are many different learning styles – some people learn best thru reading, some thru listening. A lot of people learn best by doing — doing the physical actions (like for physical work, or like in computer classes), or just doing some small physical thing while listening (like taking notes or doodling or walking). This has been made clear in the education sphere, with actual science and stuff, and the concept needs wider exposure in the general world.

      So, there’s the “why it gives them clarity” – they learn best by hearing and speaking. Some people even think best by talking — you know that phrase “thinking out loud”, right?

  6. Smithy*

    Overall I agree with AAM and also have a preference for resolving certain questions via talking vs writing.

    However, I do think the strongest area where you can likely pushback is if the calls are unscheduled. As you noted, you’re not always available, and even if you are available – you might have a hard stop in 15 minutes and its an issue that requires 30 minutes which puts everyone in a more awkward position. Therefore, making the request for the calls to be scheduled so that you can guarantee the proper amount of undivided time can perhaps neutralize some of the frustrations around this specific individual.

    First, you’ll know in advance exactly when the calls are happening and can put yourself in the best headspace. Second, with a set meeting you’re also in a better place to set an agenda that supports note taking so that you can follow up with notes in writing. Either to share between the two of you and confirm mutual understanding in writing – or to share with your boss to show that over the course of a 30 minute meeting, 20 minutes was spent explaining non-work related issues despite pre-setting an agenda.

    My third point that if the larger issue is with poor professionalism…..this colleague will likely miss a high number of these scheduled meetings and thus give you greater opportunities to respond in writing.

    Asking for the meetings to be scheduled and not spontaneous is a good way to show accommodating their preference and hopefully making it a little less miserable for you.

    1. sb51*

      That was exactly the thing that sprang to mind for me, too. I have a colleague who vastly prefers phone and is exhausting over the phone to me (although the past two years of remote working means that instead of calling and trying to read text on a screen (that is not english prose, but technical/numeric data) he’s calling and screensharing, where the call format might actually be useful rather than me repeating “please copy-paste this into an email rather than trying to describe this in words and I’ll call you back once I’ve had time to investigate” over and over again).

      But I built up a comfort level saying “not right this second, let’s do this at X time” (it was the kind of “quick question” that wasn’t actually quick but I couldn’t quite convince him that it was at “schedule a meeting pleast” level.) And I’d find a stopping point, save my work, make myself a nice fresh cup of tea or something to have during the conversation as a treat, and THEN do the conversation.

      1. Smithy*

        Yes – also if the person on the other end of the line can ramble, having a formal meeting time helps you out with having a formal ending time and the pretext to set an agenda even if it’s just two or three points. That way you have some built in structure for “we only have 15 minutes left, and have yet to talk about Llama brushing and shampooing – are we set on Llama trimming?”

        Or they’re calls that you’re told *can* be done in thirty minutes, but probably genuinely need an hour to adequately get through everything – there’s more opportunity to identify that in advance. So even if everyone insists on setting the meeting for 30 minutes, you can choose to do it at a time where if the meeting goes over by 30 minutes that is ok. And then at that point say you have a hard stop.

        I always refer to this as bringing in aggressive bureaucracy as a defense. When more informal methods of communication aren’t working or other people just aren’t being professional and management is just being slow or not addressing those challenges, then this is how I’ve worked to protect myself and my sanity.

    2. doreen*

      That is very much going to depend on the culture of the agency and the specifics of the OP and the colleague’s positions – I also worked for a state corrections agency and trying to schedule phone calls in most cases would have been a mistake. Conference calls got scheduled but that was it – any other phone calls were unscheduled. There were too many things going on on any given day – if I had tried to schedule every phone call, I would have had to reschedule somewhere between 50 and 75% of them , at which point it hardly seems worth it to schedule them.

      1. Insert Clever Name Here*

        I don’t think OP needs to schedule *every* phone call, though, since it seems they can mostly deal with the majority. It’s just the (unnecessary!) ones from this guy.

      2. blood orange*

        doreen is speaking to a specific kind of culture and work environment, which I think is helpful because a lot of professionals have been in environments where scheduling discussions is the norm. For people who have been in industries where accepting unscheduled calls is a big part of the gig, it’s super normal for them to make a call, expect it to be answered, and expect to check that thing off their list immediately. It would be pretty strange to a lot of those people to be asked to schedule calls (not unreasonable, but something you’d have to explain).

        I work in an office environment, but a lot of my colleagues have worked for decades onsite in worksites. They are very used to picking up calls, even while in meetings (which is a little disruptive), and I think it’s rare that they let it go to voicemail. Thankfully, both sides have been understanding about working around the other’s circumstances (me who prefers to schedule being more flexible, and them being really understanding that some things need to be on my calendar!).

  7. Uncle Boner*

    Easy solution for most situations like this: If your preferred method of communication is email over phonecalls, respond to emails in minutes and calls in days. You can train people like dogs. People, like dogs, want instant gratification. They quickly learn that, if they email you, they get what they want faster. Amazing how quickly it cuts down on calls.

    You sent an email. Who’s a good boy? Who is? you. You’re a good boy. Here’s a treat!

        1. Eldritch Office Worker*

          You can say that people learn from how you react to them without comparing people to dogs. The last line is fully uncalled for.

          1. Uncle Boner*

            I hear a lot of “you hurt my feelings”…or more likely “you might hurt someone else’s feelings so I’m indignant on their behalf”…but not ONE person is saying “this won’t work.”

            As for the last line…it sticks, doesn’t it?

            1. Anon all day*

              It wouldn’t work on me. Either I wouldn’t pick up the pattern or, if it’s something urgent and time sensitive I’m always going to call first.

              1. Anon for This*

                Yeah, pretty sure if I was a caller and someone wasn’t answering for days I wouldn’t assume “oh e-mail is better”…I would ask their manager why they were so non-communicative.

                1. Seeking Second Childhood*

                  Shrug. I’ve been on the receiving end of this in the other direction …”no, he never reads email, just call him. From his manager.

                2. rosyglasses*

                  This ^^

                  And if I had someone repeatedly doing this on our team which would be going against our stated collaborative/people first values, as well as our expectations on responsiveness, there would be managing out happening.

            2. Loulou*

              Uh, I’m saying it won’t work! Taking days to respond to phone calls will make you seem, well, unresponsive. It might work to get people to stop calling you, but very much at the expense of your reputation.

              1. miss chevious*

                It can absolutely work, without negative impact to your reputation, but it depends on the culture of the organization. In mine, for example, all forms of communication are fine (we aren’t a “phone first” or “email first” culture to any significant degree). As a result, I deployed the strategy of being very slow to respond to voicemail and phone calls and I very rarely have to deal with people via phone if it’s not scheduled in advance because, simply, I don’t want to.

                I find unscheduled calls disruptive and annoying and the people in my office who tend to make them are the ones that want to take a 3 minute question and turn it into 30. I lead a team and get very high performance ratings and have a strong professional reputation and have been promoted several times in the last few years and I generally don’t check my messages and I don’t answer the phone for unscheduled calls.

                YMMV, of course. It depends on the job, and the culture of the office, and all sorts of other variables that can change. But it can work.

                1. Koalafied*

                  I think the concept of being slower to respond by methods other than your most preferred, to nudge people towards your preferred method, is sound. But “email in minutes, phone calls in days” is going to be too extreme in many workplaces. “Email in minutes, phone calls in hours” would be more appropriate.

                2. allathian*

                  Out of nesting, but yeah. A delay of several days is uncalled for, and should rightly be called out as unresponsive behavior.

                  When I started in my current job, my former coworker was willing to accept requests verbally, even though she wasn’t supposed to do this. I wasn’t. So when someone called me, I just asked them to send an email to our joint role email address, and I’d get back to them. The key is in being consistent. If you ask them to do that even when it would, for once, be simpler to just give them what they need over the phone, they’ll eventually learn that the fastest way to get what they want from you is to use email/IM/the ticketing system. My former coworker and I didn’t really get along for various reasons, but even she eventually admitted that she was impressed by the way I’d trained our internal customers to use email (at the time, we started using the ticketing system a few years after she left).

                  Years ago, there were a few employees who thought that they’d get their requests done faster if they kept calling for progress reports. It worked for a while, the calls were annoying and I just wanted them to stop, so I did as they asked to avoid the calls. Eventually I realized that I was rewarding poor behavior, and stopped. One particular client, who was my peer in the organization, was calling me daily for progress reports on a task that took me about a week to do. I finally got them to stop by saying that calling me won’t get the request done any faster, rather the reverse. Luckily the most anxious employees who started working for my org when the alternative to a phone call was either an in-person meeting or an interoffice memo, and who never got truly comfortable with email, have all retired years ago. I ran into the last of the memo folks when I first started working for my current employer 15 years ago. By then, my employer had been using email for at least as long.

    1. Grouchy Millenial*

      hahaha You’re going to get a lot of pushback on this advice but I think it’s brilliant if a little passive-aggressive.

    2. Antilles*

      That’s also an easy way to get marked as “difficult to work with” or uncommunicative – especially if the other person has an urgent enough need to immediately follow up with others and/or you’re doing it to anybody whose preferences matter more than yours (boss, client, etc).

      1. Uncle Boner*

        The OP will likely get labeled that way ANYWAY .. . and to be honest, in this day and age, is worrying about a “label” really that big of a deal in the workplace?

        If you have marketable skills and a pulse – and are diligent in your assigned duties and effective in your role, there’s absolutely ZERO reason for OP to bend on this. Slow your roll on calls, respond quickly to emails. DONE!

        1. SJ (they/them)*

          Hey bud, your privilege is showing in a pretty icky way here.

          To be clear, yes “in this day an age” plenty of people still need to worry A LOT about how they are perceived or labeled at work. (Cishet white able-bodied straight-sized neurotypical men maybe not so much! but that’s my point.)

        2. Loulou*

          What do you mean “in this day and age?” Yes, in this day and age, having a reputation for being easy to work with is important, why would it not be?

        3. Generic Name*

          In my experience it’s the opposite. In this day and age, people are less likely to make excuses for and work around the “brilliant jerk” types. Most people are more willing to work with someone who is “ok” but is polite and professional than with someone who is highly skilled but also a raging asshole.

          1. Antilles*

            It’s especially true if part of your job involves working with clients, senior management, different departments, or other outsiders – basically anybody who isn’t in the same technical weeds as you.
            Someone who’s not an expert in your specific task often can’t tell the difference in technical proficiency between “brilliant” and “good” – but everybody can tell the difference between “pleasant professional” and “pain in my rump”.

      2. Frankly*

        This is how I view it, too. This is how you get e-mails with your boss cc’ed beginning with “Hi. I tried reaching out x times, without response. May I follow up on. . . “

    3. irene adler*

      Mike, below, suggests indicating that email/text will garner a speedier response.
      My suggestion would be to also add that email/text are one’s preferred modes of communication.
      Less passive-aggressive than what you suggest, but also gets the point across-discouraging the phone calls.

    4. Prospect Gone Bad*

      Other things to consider.

      Not to do the oppression olympics but sometimes my wrist pain trumps someone being “uncomfortable” talking to someone. Sorry. Not spending 20 minutes writing an essay when my arm hurts because someone is afraid of people in an office

      What is the question being asked? I’ve gotten too many emails that require a lot of back and forth and “that depends on X” or “we can do it but we should figure out if it’s a big deal or not or worth it” answers and no matter how hard people try to shove them into email format, it doesn’t work

      Some people don’t realize they have errors or missing data or missing logic in their emails and you email them “you are missing A, B, and sort of need to know about C” and they only respond about B.

      1. toolittletoolate*

        I appreciate you bringing this up. There are some things in my office that we would spend all day sending 50 emails back and forth when a 10 minute call would take care of all of it. Email isn’t the best problem solving medium.

        Not saying this is the case for the OP’s situation, but I think it’s important to recognize that some issues need an “in real time” interactive communication process.

        1. Retired (but not really)*

          In general I prefer text or email unless it’s a situation where I’d really prefer they were looking over my shoulder and telling me what I’m doing that isn’t working the way I think it should!
          A software provider that we had for a specific purpose at a previous job would only communicate by email. Unfortunately they also only responded overnight. There were times when I really needed them to walk me through an issue that wasn’t easy to explain on my part as it was a conditional thing that seemed to work sometimes and not at others. And of course I only encountered the issue when on a deadline. And since it was a software specific issue anyone else on our end who was IT knowledgeable couldn’t help either. I was quite glad when we moved our focus in another direction and eliminated the need for that particular software!

      2. Anon all day*

        Yeah, at the end of the day, I think flexibility has to be the key. I probably use email 85% of the time, but the remaining 15% phone calls are also crucial. If I tried to avoid the phone completely, my job would be infinitely harder. (Through law school even, I had massive phone anxiety and shyness, so I do get the struggle. I am lucky I was able to get over most of my anxiety.)

        1. allathian*

          I’m not afraid of the phone, nor am I particularly anxious about using it, although I do get anxious about other things. I just resent the effort it costs me to process verbal information, or having to take notes when I’d far rather just read and process what other people have written. That said, for some things phone calls or even video meetings are much better than a long email chain. But even video meetings and calls need to be followed up with something in writing, either by me or the other person, to ensure that we’re on the same page. Luckily my manager is great about providing written documentation on our 1:1s. It’s simply her style of working, she isn’t doing me any particular favors by doing that, it just happens to match my preferences perfectly.

      1. Reluctant Manager*

        Yeah– I actually really love the initial message (picking up the phone trains him to keep calling), but I wasn’t really excited to say, “Yes, I’m with Uncle Boner on this…”

    5. Anne Elliot*

      That wouldn’t work in my agency. Sure, we can talk about communications preferences, but anyone who slow-played something time-sensitive because they didn’t like the way it arrived, would find themselves in a manager’s office for a serious conversation about their own performance and why they are a process bottle-neck. We work at speed in my office and nobody has time for that.

      Regarding the OP: I would never recommend ignoring someone’s call, but I don’t think it is actually ignoring their call to send an email that says “Got your call! You asked X and the answer is Y. Hope that helps!” If the message they leave specifically requests you call them back, you can text: “Hey! No time to return calls today. If you could email me what you need I think I could get right back to you.”

      The other thing is: It doesn’t seem like you’ve discussed this with the guy. I would suggest telling him that your preferred method of communication is via email because you’re not great at talking on the phone and it’s better for you to have a record of what is requested. Unless something is time-sensitive, you’d appreciate it if he just emailed or texted the issue and you’ll get back to him promptly. I’m of two minds on this: I get respecting others’ communication preferences, but if I have something on my desk and to move it off my desk I just need to know if it involves the Scranton branch of Dunder Mifflin or the Akron branch, I’m personally going to think it’s dumb that I have send you an email instead of picking up the phone to ask. But if you can offer texting as an alternative for those very simple/quick exchanges, that would address that issue, at least for me.

      Lastly, I will point out that at the highest levels in any agency or company, there may be times when a lack of a document trail is fully intentional. As an attorney, I understand 100% that documentation is important, but sometimes if I’ve called you instead of emailing you it’s because I explicitly do not want that conversation to be documented. I’m not sure the OP works at that level or in that type of space, but it seems worth pointing out.

      1. allathian*

        Yes to your last paragraph. That said, will that get the employee in trouble, or would it be more prudent for them to document it themselves, just for CYA purposes? I’m glad that I don’t have to make those decisions, and that in my org, at least on my level (senior SME), if it’s not in writing, it’s not a request, and I can ask for written confirmation of the request.

  8. Mike*

    I’m also not a phone person. OP, perhaps your outgoing message on your voicemail could explain that you’re often unable to answer the phone when out in the field, and if the caller is hearing this message, the best way to get a hold of you is through text or email which you may be able to address more quickly on the go than a voicemail. Perhaps being faced with a legitimate reason why those communication methods work better in your situation, he (and others) might adjust a bit over time.

    That said, I agree it’s worth picking up his calls at least occasionally (when you can!) so he isn’t feeling ignored or thinking to himself “OP can’t always be in the field, can they?”

    1. skippy*

      One time I set up an out of office message; when I got back I tried to reset it but the system was too advanced to actually work. After a couple tries I moved on and forgot about it. I got almost no voicemail after that–people got the idea that I wasn’t keeping up with it and emailed me instead. I did return the 4 voicemails I got a year after that, and I tried one or twice more to fix it but it wasn’t a priority.

      My favorite was someone who left me a message in November saying sarcastically that she hoped I wasn’t really out until February 5. If only she had known it was the February 3 years earlier. (She didn’t actually need to talk to me.)

  9. Luna*

    This advice contains ableism. ADHD is a recognized disability and telling OP to essentially suck it up for office politics is upsetting. If they make exceptions to the no phone call rule for their colleague, that colleague will keep calling. You give them an inch and they’ll take a mile. These phone calls disrupt OP for hours sometimes and they shouldn’t have to bend in order to appease a colleague. That said, they also shouldn’t have to disclose their disability. I don’t believe OP’s need for accommodation (emails only) is at the same level as their colleague’s preference (phone calls) and I’m a little irked by the idea that they’re being compared.

    1. Pool Noodle Barnacle Pen0s*

      The calling coworker could have some reading-related disability as well though. If you’re going to flag ableism, you would be remiss not to acknowledge that.

      1. This*

        I was going to say the same thing. I have diagnosed ADD and dyslexia and I sometimes prefer the phone because I get confused by some email chains with too many pieces of information scattered around. Sometimes I just need to speak to someone and ask “youre saying the llamas will be prepared by Tuesday at 11 by the oompa loompas? good.”
        OP – I totally understand why you prefer email, but I think Alisons advice is good here

        1. Le Sigh*

          +1 ” I don’t believe OP’s need for accommodation (emails only) is at the same level as their colleague’s preference (phone calls) and I’m a little irked by the idea that they’re being compared.”

          How could you know this? I’m painfully familiar with the trials of ADHD — and until five years ago, I would have just assumed my communication style was a preference, albeit one that created challenges for me. But I went most of my life not realizing I actually had a diagnosable reason for how I process information — which, for the record, often needs to be written, but sometimes needs to be verbal. It’s entirely possible the same is true for OP’s colleague.

          People, even neurotypical ones, process information differently, and taking info in verbally is just as valid as written. But that also doesn’t mean the OP can’t set boundaries, nor do they have to tolerate obnoxious behavior from their coworker.

    2. KatEnigma*

      If you want an accomodation for a disability, yes, you legally and morally have to disclose that disability and ask for the accomodation.

      1. Luna*

        Yes, to HR. I meant not to the colleague. Might be the way for them to go, depending how much it distracts them.

        1. Warrior Princess Xena*

          OK – so I do not know how this works legally. But if I have one coworker for who I have to use a custom channel of communication, separate from what all my other coworkers need, it’s going to be hard for me to remember that and also be a little irritating. I’m not saying that if you’ve got a disability you need to furnish everyone in the world with medical documents, but if you’ve got a reason to need everyone to communicate in text rather than phone calls, please give at least some sort of reason. “Hey, I find it hard to hear phone calls right – please send me anything important by email” is going to come across far better than simply saying “Oh, I don’t do phone calls”.

          1. oh geez*

            It doesn’t even have to be that much (“I find it hard to hear”). I have a colleague who is Deaf and uses an interpreter for calls. Cold calls don’t work for them. So they have their availability set to “busy” all day and have their status set as “Available via IM & email” – no inherent disclosure, but the necessary path to connect is clearly laid out.

            1. allathian*

              Yes. There’s also the matter of visibility. People with invisible disabilities have the option not to disclose, which people with visible disabilities lack. If an employee is profoundly deaf and needs an interpreter for phone calls, it’s a visible disability.

              My coworker who sits at the other desk in our 2-person office uses hearing aids. He compensates by lipreading, so you don’t usually notice his disability when you’re face to face. But even when we’re at the office at the same time, we tend to IM rather than talk, simply because it’s so much easier for him. And any Teams meeting he’s at, our cameras are always on so that he can lipread. Needless to say, he really doesn’t like when people cold call him. I’ve heard him on the phone, and it’s a constant “excuse me, could you repeat that? What did you say again?” even when the volume is turned up as high as it’ll go and I can hear both sides of the conversation.

              That said, when the environment is noisy and he needs to focus, he just takes his hearing aids out.

      2. Tracy Flick*

        No, you don’t have a “moral” obligation to disclose your disability to your employer if you are asking for an accommodation. It is ableist to argue otherwise. People with disabilities are entitled to privacy; they don’t have to reveal information about their disabilities to their employers if they don’t want to. Employers also have legal obligations to respect that privacy, and they cannot demand information about your health except in very limited circumstances. Employers are frequently ableist, and it is not morally responsible to ignore that reality.

        You can simply ask for an accommodation on the basis that it’s a preference related to personality, efficiency, a business interest like documentation, your role, etc. “I prefer to communicate via email” is an excellent example. If it’s reasonable, and not unduly burdensome, it falls within ordinary variation in working styles. A good employer will be flexible and responsive where possible.

        Legally, you do have to disclose if you are requesting an accommodation *through* the legal process for requesting an accommodation *for* your specific disability. It is also wise to disclose if you want to later fall back on legal protections for people with disabilities, like if you have focus issues related to ADHD and you want your employer to work with you rather than penalizing you for being unreliable. (There are common-sense exceptions to this rule. For example, if you use a wheelchair, you don’t have to show that you disclosed to argue that your employer knew that you had a disability.)

        But even then, you can disclose based on that narrow interest. For example, if you need to wear noise-blocking headphones to prevent sensory overload because you are autistic, you do not also have to explain that you have been diagnosed with clinical depression or arthritis if you are not requesting accommodations for any needs related to those medical problems.

        You do not have to disclose otherwise. You are not breaking the law if you choose not to. And you certainly aren’t violating some moral standard.

        1. Me ... Just Me*

          You have no legal standing to request an “accommodation” based on a personal preference. That is ableist thinking at it’s height! Those with disabilities don’t simply have a preference for something, we have a legitimate need to be accommodated in order to be on a level field with our co-workers. This is some elitist idea that preferences = accommodations. Not cool, at all.

          1. Tracy Flick*

            You’re reading a bunch of stuff into my comment that isn’t there.

            I’m not saying that accommodations are merely preferences.

            I’m saying that it is perfectly legal and moral to request an accommodation on the basis of preference or for some other reason.

            You do not need to disclose that you have a disability if you do not want to, and you are not limited to accommodations that can only be justified on the basis of your disability or specific related needs.

            It is okay to simply request an accommodation as something you prefer – “I prefer to communicate via email” is a perfectly legal and moral strategy to use to get what you need. You have the right to involve your employer in your accommodation process, but you don’t *have* to – you can maintain privacy. That is your absolute legal and moral right.

            You absolutely do have “legal standing” to request an accommodation for reasons unrelated to disability. Your employer doesn’t have the same legal responsibility to accommodate you, but there is nothing wrong with asking for something you need, either with an alternative justification or with none whatsoever.

            In general, I find that it is unhelpful to draw clear bright lines between people with disabilities and people without disabilities, or to cordon off “accommodations for people with disabilities” from “accommodations that many people find useful, or that are in general use.”

            It tends to pathologize people with disabilities, and it casts accommodations for people with disabilities as extreme and unusual when they are often as simple (and universally appreciated) as “less severe lighting” or “noise-canceling headphones” or “a chair.” It also forces people with disabilities into a medicalized hinterland – and it creates all kinds of unhelpful ideas around who counts as “really” disabled.

            It also leads to assertions like the one I was responding to: a commenter argued that it is wrong (!!!) for someone with a disability to not tell their employer that they have a disability if they are angling for some level of accommodation. Even one as minor and common as email > phone! That’s dangerous misinformation. It is also ableist as heck.

    3. ThatGirl*

      Except that sometimes you do have to bend in order to appease a colleague. It’s just a fact of the working world. Unless you’re determined to make people hate you. Contrast your reply with Lynca below you.

      1. Anonym*

        Yeah, the advice is a realistic assessment of the situation as OP has described it. I disagree that it’s ableist. I also have ADHD and despise unscheduled phone calls for similar reasons (wildly disruptive for me), but on the whole I don’t need/want an official accommodation, which would be necessary for me to draw such a hard line. Even if I had one, there could be subtle and not so subtle costs for absolutely prioritizing my own needs 100% over those of others. Other commenters note that the coworker may have his own parallel challenges/needs (jerks can have valid needs too). We don’t know.

        OP has been given good perspective with which to assess their situation and make their own decision.

    4. Student*

      In order to get an accommodation for a disability at work, you do actually have to disclose it. If the OP explains why emails are necessary instead of phone calls as they have here, it makes sense to accommodate that in most work situations. If the OP does not explain it, then it just looks like they’re unwilling to work with other co-workers to compromise a bit on communication methods.

      And, much as you don’t like it, sometimes an hour of disruption is very much worth building better relations with your co-workers. It’s not clear that this is the case here, but I’ve certainly dealt with much longer work interruptions for the sake of building relations with co-workers and had it pay off.

    5. Eldritch Office Worker*

      The OP doesn’t frame this as a need for an accommodation, they frame it as disruptive. That can be true if a phone call interrupts your workflow with or without ADHD, and the OP has not indicated that this is a formal accommodation they’ve requested or been granted. “You have to find a way to work with other people and there are political realities to handling things in different ways” is true advice that is not ableist.

      I have ADHD and physical disabilities. I have to work sometimes in situations that aren’t ideal or preferable, but that’s different than the hard lines I draw as disability accommodations. Different people with the same disabilities will have different lines and the advice of “IF you can handle this occasionally it might be worth it for XYZ reasons but you don’t have to and that’s your choice” is a far cry from ableism.

      1. The Prettiest Curse*

        Phone calls from a chatty colleague can be disruptive regardless of whether or not you have any type of disability. And there are plenty of people with disabilities who can’t easily absorb written information!

      2. Just Your Everyday Crone*

        My understanding of neurotypical people is that a spontaneous phone call would not disrupt them for an hour or more after the call ends. I may be wrong about that and NT can enlighten me.
        I think the LW can probably accommodate her disability by scheduling calls or calling back when it works for her, but she doesn’t need to pick up the phone on the spot for nonurgent requests.

    6. Less Bread More Taxes*

      And email-only communication is severely unfair to people who are dyslexic.

      My understanding of the letter is that OP is already ignoring his calls when they are inconvenient but wants to know if it’s reasonable to ignore his calls 100% of the time.

    7. Azure Jane Lunatic*

      Intermittent reinforcement! If OP answers at all, and it’s not on a schedule that’s explicitly laid out to this colleague, the message is not “don’t call” or “only call on Mondays after 4:30”, it’s “keep trying, sometimes there’s an answer!”

  10. Lynca*

    Alison is right you need to judge how much of a political/relationship issue is actually at play. For reference I also have ADHD and work at a state agency. The phone vs. email thing is a big polarizing argument in my workplace.

    You have to put aside your personal preference somewhat. I work in a field where we have time sensitive issues that have to be decided on quickly and you can’t have asynchronous communication like email. So calls happen and I respond to them timely even if they’re really disruptive/draining. It’s part of my job to also be available via phone and not just through email, messaging, etc.

    Given your description of the conversation and assuming he’s more like a co-worker/on another team with very little pull, what I would have done is told him that I really don’t have time to hash this out over the phone if he goes into something that isn’t necessary for work or condescending. Being polite doesn’t mean my time gets to be monopolized by things that aren’t necessary or that I have to listen to someone put me down.

    If ignoring this person is going to burn your capital you need to weigh that option carefully and be prepared to compromise in order to not completely ruin a necessary work relationship.

  11. Delta Delta*

    A few things: it doesn’t sound like OP is necessarily opposed to ALL phone calls, just calls with this particular guy because reasons. It also sounds like everyone knows this guy is a jerk on the phone. And here’s the most important part: this is a government agency, so this guy likely isn’t going anywhere unless he quits or retires or changes departments. It sounds like you’ve hit BEC with this guy.

    That said, there also actually are times when a phone call achieves a result more easily than a thread of emails so you do need to take/make occasional calls. I can think of at least 5 instances this week where there were multiple emails or texts that went back and forth to clarify things when a 3 minute phone call would have done the trick.

    Maybe only take his calls if you have a hard stop in 5 minutes or so and you know the issue can be resolved that quickly. Additionally, lie, and say you have another call or you have an appointment, and then say “I really gotta go” and hang up if he’s still talking. That way he has a boundary and knows when you say you have to go you mean it. Just a thought.

  12. Dr. Rebecca*

    While I absolutely agree with the OP, I also think the OP is at Bitch Eating Crackers level of annoyance with their colleague. And I get that; some people just rub you the wrong way. But it may make sense to take a breath and see if you can separate the annoyance factor from the practicality factor, just for the sake of giving grace, and see if that doesn’t help a bit.

  13. kiki*

    It also might make sense to tell the colleague that because they’re in the field, it makes the most sense for their workflow to email most of the time. Because they could be interrupted during or after the phone call, it’s better for them to communicate via email so there’s a paper trail to reference. That way, this colleague won’t take it personally, even though it is kind of of personal

  14. Grouchy Millenial*

    Phone people legitimately exhaust me. I try to be accommodating, because as AAM points out, it’s not fair to insist on your preferred method of communication 100% of the time and tell everyone else to suck eggs, but man. It disrupts my workflow and my mood for hours when my phone rings. I have never had a work instance where someone actually NEEDED to call me instead of emailing me or chatting through Teams, so it’s hard not to feel irritated at the frankly old-fashioned urge to jump on the horn every time you have something to relay.

    1. BohoBoohoo*

      I find that there ones still sticking to the phone calls are the ones that are often attempting more manipulation and they’re better at verbal manipulation. It exhausts me too. I have a client who will request a call when he has a suss situation to explain and I’m pretty over it. But, don’t feel I can overtly say “send this in an email”

    2. Antilles*

      There are plenty of situations where a quick phone call can address something quicker and more efficiently – especially with deeply technical issues, a quick “hey, let’s jump on a share-screen call and talk through” can accomplish in five minutes what would take dozens of back-and-forth emails or messages to explain.

      1. allathian*

        Yes, this. But how often are these situations so urgent that they couldn’t be handled by a scheduled meeting over Teams or Zoom, even a short one and scheduled at fairly short notice?

        In spite of my verbal processing issues I’ve no reason to believe that I’m not reasonably NT, but in my experience a short prearranged meeting to share screens is much less disruptive than a call out of the blue.

  15. Christmas Carol*

    If there’s one thing I’ve learned from watching Law and Order, or maybe it was the Congressional Hearings, it’s that sometimes it’s better not to leave a paper trail.

    1. Anon all day*

      Honestly, as an attorney, I will often make phone calls explicitly because of this reason. Not for any malpractice type things, but I often want to float a settlement offer/resolution proposal to the other side and I’ll want to feel them out before putting it in writing. A lot of times it’s something where I don’t yet have authority from my client to offer something but I call and say something like “hey, I might be able to get something like this – do you think further conversations on this are worth it?” Tone in these conversations is also super important that is difficult to convey in emails.

    2. Sola Lingua Bona Lingua Mortua Est*

      Conversely, I have a list of people who I simply refuse to communicate with absent a paper trail.

  16. CTT*

    Does it make sense to schedule a kick-off call or regular check-in with this guy when you do have to consult with him? That way you are getting that phone time that he likes but then can switch to email afterwards. (And if it’s a standing meeting, I feel like it’s easier to say “I have a hard stop” to either keep him on task or cut him off at the end of the call even if he doesn’t.)

    1. ferrina*

      Yes! I was thinking that LW could try setting a time limit with this guy. At the beginning of the call say “Hi, I need to go in 10 minutes, but I can talk to you until then. Does that work, or should be schedule another time to talk?” It protects your time while being very considerate of the other person (so they aren’t annoyed later when you need to get off the phone). You can answer the quick questions, and defer the longer questions for later (when you are in the mindset for that).

      It may or may not help with the ADHD- my brain often has a low-focus gear where I can answer minor questions and politely defer more focus-intensive questions, but I have no idea how common that low-focus gear is (or how easy/difficult it is to engage for different people)

  17. Carol the happy elf*

    How about “Emergencies that require a phone call MUST be followed with an email for paper-trail/ validation/ confirmation of details. Non-emergencies that will require a future phone call must have an email sent with salient points PRIOR to the phone call.
    Since I will be extremely busy, I must have the key points directly in front of me so that nothing of importance is overlooked in the follow-up phone call.”
    This is the model we use in my work. It also makes sure that phone lovers have to slow down and think first.

  18. Academic Librarian Too*

    I am a “three texts-is- a -phone-call” person. After a three text exchange, I pick up the phone.
    I also pick up the phone if it is a sensitive conversation as all e-mail in my position are “discoverable.”
    That said- in this situation it is not the phone that is the problem.
    It is the individual.
    I let the phone call go to voicemail.
    I look at the clock-
    I return the phone call announcing that I have ten minutes until my next commitment, we have to make this fast or could you put it in an email.
    I give a one minute warning at 9 minutes.
    At ten minutes, I then say sorry, I have to go and HANG up.
    I then send an email, recapping the conversation, stating my unavailability for the rest of the work day and the ball is now in the other person’s court.
    Phones are for clarification not requests.

    1. Eldritch Office Worker*

      I think this is a valid and actionable approach. I don’t necessarily follow the three-texts-is-a-phone-call rule but the rest feels very reasonable and realistic to me.

      1. Double A*

        I find that if I’m fumbling or struggling to convey some time of nuance in text and I realize I could explain in two minutes what it’s taking me half an hour to write, that’s when I propose a phone call.

    2. quill*

      This is a good system! Obviously tweak for your workplace / tolerance but as someone who has been playing email tag for two and a half weeks with someone always out of office in the group I need answers from, this very much helps clarify the line between using a phone call to get someone’s rear in gear and get answers some time this century, and email because I WILL not remember your exact words within half an hour.

    3. Academic Librarian Too*

      the three texts then a phone call isn’t set in concrete but most people who know me, I don’t have patience for the back and forth. They usually answer the phone with “I knew you were going to call.”

  19. Double A*

    I would recommend a voice mail recording that mentions you’re often not able to answer calls immediately due to being in the field, so please leave a message or send a text to set up a specific time. Then, email or text your colleague to schedule the call. Also, do you share calendars with colleagues? That can be another way to set up a time.

    His phone calls sound annoying, but if the timing can be on your terms (like maybe at the end of the day), then they really shouldn’t be as disruptive.

    I work in an organization where spontaneous phone calls never happen, but it’s very normal to propose to jump on a call if the issue is getting complicated or is too sensitive for chat. It would be really inappropriate to never hop on those calls, but it would also be really unusual not to schedule them or at least check first that the other person is available.

  20. Banana*

    I did this with a coworker years ago, but only after there was a pattern of “misunderstandings” about what was said or committed to on the phone (uncharitably – he was twisting my words and lying to make me look bad after a reorg shifted his favorite work to my team). He also started being verbally abusive on the phone, and my coworkers experienced the same. Email only for Tom, and lots of documentation of the issue and making his boss aware.

    But absent that degree of toxicity – sometimes there is value in specifically developing relationships with difficult people. I work with Danielle – she is condescending and very exacting and has impossibly high expectations for people and is merciless at assigning fault for problems in public in a way that is very at odds with our culture. She is notoriously difficult to work with, she has no warmth and doesn’t display kindness. But I’ve found that she is tenacious and she doesn’t allow people to ignore her, and she’s good at managing up. She also doesn’t allow people to ignore or railroad women in meetings. She’s not well liked here, but I’ve grown to respect her, and I’ve cultivated a relationship with her, because there are times when I need to be heard or draw attention to a problem in her area of expertise, and if I can get her on my side, she can be helpful (and also the threat of involving her can make people more cooperative sometimes.)

    1. KoiFeeder*

      I mean, the question here is the same one that I would have about politics- does this guy have any of the benefits and leverage that would warrant cultivating a relationship with him? The context that email is part of the process makes him come across as trying to circumvent the process (or avoid the paper trail), and someone who doesn’t respect the state-mandated process (or, less charitably, has reasons to not want that paper trail) is probably not someone who is valuable to cultivate a relationship with. It doesn’t sound like he would have solid political capital or beneficial qualities that would make him a valuable relationship, and he might be a sneak. It may in fact provide more political capital to insist on making him stick to the dang process!

      1. RB Purchase*

        I think the benefit to a relationship here is that occasionally acquiescing to him might make it easier for LW to get the information she needs from him to do her job. Particularly since they’re in government and he’s unlikely to be canned. Which, yes, sucks.

    2. Anonym*

      You make an excellent point about the potential value of building (or at least improving) relationships with difficult people. I can think of one in my own experience who didn’t particularly share the virtues of the colleague you describe, but controlled certain aspects of our operations, and was defensive and obtuse as hell over email. I actually went to a mutual senior colleague for advice on dealing with the person – turns out they were MUCH more flexible and reasonable by phone one on one. Not great, but not impossible. I made the exception and called her anytime there was an issue to sort out, and managed to build a solid, only occasionally hair-pulling-out relationship with her. I would still avoid unnecessary interactions, but was able to get things done.

      Not sure how much value can be pulled from OP’s jackass colleague, but perhaps there’s a universe in which he can be made more tolerable by actively pursuing a stronger relationship.

  21. WonkyStitch*

    It depends on the culture of the organization too, IMO. My company is very Teams-driven; we do all of our calls via Teams, Zoom, and other video-conferencing apps. 99% of the time, no one shares camera; we just talk. But if someone wants to call someone and there isn’t a call already scheduled, the common protocol is to Teams chat first and ask if someone’s available for a call.

    I do work with vendors and clients who occasionally called me because I had my Teams phone number in my email signature. I personally do not like calls either due to a similar neurodivergence. A phone call is jarring to me and stressful when someone’s asking me questions I haven’t prepared to answer ahead of time. So I got approval from my manager to take my phone number off of my email signature as a reasonable accommodation. It has only affected me one time when a cranky client demanded I get on the phone with their clueless vendor. I scheduled a call and all was well.

    So perhaps when emailing the request to the cantankerous coworker in this case, the OP can schedule a follow-up call for a specific time.

  22. H3llifIknow*

    I’m not a fan of phone calls either, but if your agency is providing you with a work phone, I would suggest that you answer every call, because you won’t know if it’s important until you do…and they’re paying you to answer that phone, like it or not. Now, once answered and you realize it’s not a productive call, you can say, “I have to jump. We can finish this up via email” or something, but no, I think you need to be answering your work phone.

    1. Eldritch Office Worker*

      ” I am often unavailable by phone due to working in the field in high-risk situations (think: police-related activity, warrants, arrests, searches)”

      The employer is well aware OP won’t be answering every work call

      1. H3llifIknow*

        I would think the employer would also presumably be aware if the person is engaging in a hostage negotiation or a drug raid and wouldn’t call….

        1. Eldritch Office Worker*

          We don’t know enough about OPs line of work to know if it’s clear when they should or shouldn’t be called. And the employer clearly isn’t the only one calling, so regardless OPs phone may very well ring at inappropriate times. The point of the employer being aware is only that constantly answering the phone wouldn’t be an expectation due to the nature of the work.

          And as other’s have pointed out that’s not necessarily a reasonable assumption for an employer to make in the first place.

    2. JSPA*

      If work gives you a flip phone, that only rings…then you have to answer the phone.

      But a smartphone is not (or, no longer) primarily a calling device.

      Especially so in this scenario (which seems to be something probation or ex-offender or drug testing or home assessments or some other compliance thing).

      The point of having a phone may be logging visits on an app, emailing, texting, scheduling the next visit, OP using GPS for wayfinding, and/or work tracking the OP via their phone (for safety and/or accountability).

    3. Banana*

      My work provides me with a phone but there is absolutely no expectation that I answer every call. The expectation is that I do my job, and the phone is a tool to do that. The phone itself is not my job. I let calls go to voicemail when I am in meetings, busy, on vacation, or simply don’t want to be interrupted, because doing my job permits that.

      1. allathian*

        Hear, hear. My work phone rings maybe once a month, or less. Most of the time it’s a robocall or live CSR. I just interrupt their spiel to say that this is a work phone and hang up. Maybe once every 6 months I get a relevant phone call, but now that I have Teams on my work phone as well, it’s becoming less and less likely.

  23. OlympiasEpiriot*

    Up front disclaimer: I am, by nature, a f2f or phone person.

    HOWEVER, aside from the personality issues that loom large in this letter, I agree that there are many situations where written correspondence is best.

    This one is numbered “one” for a reason:

    1) I am often unavailable by phone due to working in the field in high-risk situations (think: police-related activity, warrants, arrests, searches)Once I got a BlackBerry back in the day, lots of calls became e-mails because if I am in the field, it is likely that I am somewhere very noisy or even with poor cell service. I won’t be able to hear a call and you might not be able to hear me over background noise AND usually the amount of bandwidth needed for the “packet” of data for an e-mail is less than that needed for a voice call. In a situation like the letter writer describes, it might be important NOT TO HAVE ANY NOISE. (Imagine eye rolling here. Honestly.)

    If political kid gloves are needed, I would schedule a social call or visit about once every 2 weeks with this person and otherwise demand e-mails.

    1. OlympiasEpiriot*

      Ok…I checked before posting and I *swear* I had a properly written block quote closer.

      The quote ends at “…searches)”

    2. doreen*

      I suspect I did similar work as the LW and yes , there are plenty of times where you do not want noise. But there are also times when that is not an issue- after all, they won’t be responding to texts or emails while they are arresting someone or conducting a search and you can’t really use “I’m unavailable to speak on the phone because I’m in the field” during the time period when you would be replying to the email.

      1. OlympiasEpiriot*

        From my experience in construction, there’s absolutely plenty of times “I’m unavailable to speak on the phone because I’m in the field” would be appropriate.

        I could imagine the same in law enforcement. Maybe not when actively rushing a door, but, if in a group where multiple conversations would be distracting, where an arrested person might be w/in earshot, on a stakeout, basically any time someone talking might be more of a liability than an asset.

        Even if the above scenarios out of my imagination aren’t relevant, just because “there plenty of times” when it wouldn’t matter, it doesn’t mean this archivist (?) should think it is fine to always call in response to an e-mail. They don’t know what the LW is doing at that moment. It isn’t for them to decide.

        1. doreen*

          I think I wasn’t clear – there are loads of times where “I’m unavailable to speak on the phone because I’m in the field ” is appropriate because you are in fact unavailable. ( And if you don’t want the phone to ring you turn it off rather than depending on other people not calling you ) But the OP says they work in the field and at home and from the office – when they are home or in the office , they shouldn’t say they are unavailable because they are in the field.

          I do , however, have an issue with the idea that “it isn’t for them to decide” to call in response to an email – because absent information that isn’t in the letter , it isn’t any different for the LW to decide to ignore his calls and only communicate by email. If one outranks the other in some way , then that person’s preference will generally rule but the letter doesn’t say the OP outranks this other person.

  24. JSPA*

    The magic is to choose your time, e.g. lunch, or the end of your day. Let it be known that for safety reasons and problems with signal, you often miss calls, but are happy to circle back at the end of the day in case there are loose ends not covered in your email.

    My guess is, phone calls are this person’s procrastination tactic, or entertainment outlet. Once your calls to them hold them there for 30 seconds past their clock-out time, the appeal of calling you will drop significantly. And at the same time, if they’re merely yearning for the sound of a human voice (no matter how badly they handle that need), your call back will scratch that itch.

    (Oh, and on the call? Don’t pass along any essential information which can then be lost or misconstrued. Just promise to email it over. And if you get told something substantive, confirm it in an email, for CYA.)

  25. Sparkles McFadden*

    I totally agree with your logic LW, but I just want to add one thing. Email does not impart tone and that can make a difference. My rule has always been that if a thread goes back and forth twice, and there are still questions, talk to the person and wrap it up verbally. I always send a summary after the phone (or in person) conversation to sum up and have a written record.

    I’ve seen things spin out of control because someone took something in the email the wrong way. Some people can get offended by a bullet-point item, others can be offensive in the simplest emails without realizing it, and some people just don’t communicate well in writing. Sometimes, you need to communicate in the way that’s easier for the other person.

  26. Helvetica*

    I like phones and taking calls, but I find the difficulty for both e-mail and phone people is recognising when something should be a call and when it should be an e-mail. There are times when 5 minutes on the phone is quicker than a day of exchanging e-mails back and forth. And there are times when you need to prioritise the content over efficiency and one e-mail can solve more than a call (or many calls).

    I have a colleague whose calls I do tend to ignore because she is just so longwinded. I know whenever she calls, it is never a quick question but something, which will take up to 30 minutes of my time, and should really be an e-mail. However, I do occasionally allow the calls for the reason Alison notes – this is her style and middle ground is possible to find.

  27. Doctors Whom*

    Here is what I do:

    Let all calls from certain people go to VM. Then I can choose when to call back (schedule the interaction) and also I know exactly what they are calling about and so I can have the info on hand ready to go direct to the specific topic.

    And sometimes I respond over email – “Got your VM; here’s the lowdown and let me know if you have other questions and I’ll schedule a call for us.” Sometimes I prep an email and then quickly call back in order to meet that person at their preferred means of communication – “Hi Jane, I got your VM. I have notes drafted up on XYZ that say LMNOP – did you need more details about PDQ too? If not, I’ll just send this along.”

    I am with the others who think that some things are best resolved in talk, and that I can’t insist on my own preferred means of convo 100% of the time because it is neither realistic nor appropriate in a workplace. But what I can do is make the set of interactions as meaningful as possible. If that means letting someone go to VM so that I can prepare a call back – even if it’s 5 minutes later – then I do that.

    And, you need to know when to adapt your comm styles to different people. My boss NEVER calls with nonsense – she knows exactly what she needs or needs to convey and she only calls if it is IMPORTANT. I answer those calls and will even break many kinds of meetings to do so. I have a neurodivergent coworker who struggles to manage conversation flow and social signals, but still prefers the interpersonal action of a call. I let those calls go to VM so he can get what he needs said however he needs to organize it, and then I can organize what I need and call him back to close the loop and give him the personal interaction. I used to think I was being a bit mean by letting those calls go to VM, but we have more productive and positive conversations if I do it this way and it actually gets him what he needs faster!

    1. 653-CXK*

      I do this too. I always try to return phone calls within 24 hours, so having that option of letting it go to voice mail is very helpful.

  28. WhoKnows*

    OP, I work in a job where a lot of “old school” people in the profession are big on calling for every little question, whereas I only prefer to do that for sensitive conversations/to break news. I have found success with Allison’s approach to the kind of person who calls for everything – answer only sometimes. When you truly just absolutely can’t be disrupted or can’t mentally take another annoying phone call, I would suggest rejecting/letting the phone ring out, wait a few minutes, and then text or email them and very simply say “Hey, sorry I missed your call, I am actually unavailable to jump on the phone for the next few hours, is there anything I can help with via email or text?” If they truly need to talk to ask you an important question, you can answer it there.

    The important element is to find as best a balance you can for your sanity and for the politics of the relationship.

    1. Mewtwo*

      I work with a couple of these people too. I think what also makes it hard to deal with is these people don’t always seem to have a point to their phone calls. I think they’re kind of lonely and just want to converse, and they pointlessly prolong the conversation even after I answered their questions. Which like, I don’t mind conversing for fun but not when I’m trying to get something done.

  29. Mewtwo*

    Yeah, it comes down to compromise. I sort of equate work communication styles to “love languages” in relationships, except the key difference is you can’t self select out of work relationships the way you do with romantic ones. If you don’t have compatible work communication styles, you have to figure out a compromise. Power dynamics play a role too. I’m kind of at the mercy of whatever my higher ups want to do regardless of preferences.

    However, I do encourage people to get with the times and use messaging service (Slack or Skype for Business or whatever) for quick turnaround questions. It really eases efficiency. Anything more complicated than that, schedule a call or meeting.

    1. D'Arcy*

      I think it’s perfectly reasonable to expect compromising when it’s a matter of preference only. In this case, it’s also a matter of workplace safety, proper procedure, and documentation with a coworker who gives at least a strong appearance of acting in bad faith. As such, compromising should be out the window except to the degree required by office politics, and even then the letter writer should be reassured that she is completely in the right.

  30. learnedthehardway*

    From the OP’s letter, it sounds like the colleague is SUPPOSED to be providing emailed responses in a specific format. I think the OP is fine to insist on getting the responses in the format that is mandated by the organization. I’m sure that there are good reasons for documenting the answers, given the nature of the work being done. I would make sure that your manager is on side with insisting on the policies being followed this way. If you find that you have to have some phone conversations or if the colleague just won’t fill in the email form – well, then you may have to fill it in while talking to them and email it to them for confirmation / CYA purposes.

    OP, you might want to put on your voicemail that the best way to connect is by email. A message like “As I am frequently in the field and unable to take calls or check voicemail frequently, the best way to connect will be for you to email me. I will respond to your email within X hours.” (Obviously, your colleagues should have your email, so don’t put it on your phone message.) That may cut down on the phone calls generally.

  31. JHC*

    Like OP, I don’t like phone calls, and they interrupt my work flow. I do find them necessary sometimes, as Alison said – and in those circumstances, it helps me get through them if they’re scheduled. It helps me get into the right headspace for it, and make sure I’m not in the middle of a project.

    When I had a client who would call at random times (and who, like OP’s phone guy, was often condescending or difficult), I would let his calls go to voicemail. Then, at the next natural break in my workflow, I’d email him, saying, “Sorry I was unable to take your call. I’m available to talk at these times. Do any of those work for you?” He got what he needed, I got what I needed, and eventually he got into the habit of emailing first to schedule phone calls.

  32. Anele*

    I recently had to deal with this. I am very much an email person, but I make it clear that I’m always happy to schedule phone calls if desired. One senior colleague of mine loves to chat on the phone about work related things and non-work related things. For awhile she would call me daily out of the blue, regardless of whether I was marked busy on Outlook and/or in another meeting.

    During particularly busy periods, I would therefore be unable to answer her unexpected phone calls. She didn’t take kindly to this, and it got to the point where she would directly confront me about not answering her phone calls—even though I always followed up about setting up a meeting when I saw that I had a missed call. I think this was generally indicative that she didn’t realize that I had a busy schedule and that I was expected to be on call for her at all times, despite my communicating to her that I am reporting to many other supervisors and balancing many priorities.

    What ended up working better was a sort of compromise—she would send me an email asking if had time to chat, and if I did, I would call her. If I didn’t, I would propose a time later that day to chat. I don’t think she was thrilled about the compromise, but at least that way we could chat over the phone without my having to drop everything to speak with her, even in the middle of a meeting. It can definitely be hard to deal with your time and workload not being respected, but sticking to boundaries helped me a lot.

  33. Three Cheers for Root Beers*

    I’m with you OP; phone calls, especially unscheduled ones, are the worst, and calls with certain people fill me with dread. One customer I got particularly frustrated with would call me with extensive engineering changes, and he would rattle off dimensions and things over the phone that I did my best to write down, but when he was sent updated specs inevitably there was something I missed or misunderstood. I practically begged him to send changes like that via email so everything would be clearly written down for our engineers. Show us photos or redline the drawings so we know exactly what you mean. And he just wouldn’t do it!

    I’m the type who likes to read and reread messages to make sure I’m fully understanding everything and can formulate my response. Being put on the spot via phone when I can’t carefully craft my answers is a nightmare!

  34. Pink Marbles*

    I actually worked for an organization that expected every communication to be via email for the purpose of paper trail. As in, if you passed someone in the hall and asked a work question, you were expected to immediately email them and confirm whatever was said. If your manager came to your office and commented that your project was great, they would then return to their desk and email you that your project was great. It stemmed from a highly distrustful, toxic culture. The organization had gone through a lot of leadership turmoil a few years prior to my time, and apparently there was a lot of shady stuff that was proven through emails, so the (incompetent) HR made it mandatory to track all communications. It was honestly ridiculous. I appreciated having a paper trail for stats/dates/etc, but I spent so much time typing up minute comments that I think it actually negatively impacted my communication skills. I left after a year for many reasons. I still prefer email, but I definitely pick up the phone when it makes sense.

    Obviously the LW is dealing with a specific situation where email makes sense, but I do think it’s wise to understand that others may view communication channels through a different lens.

  35. Original LW*

    LW here! Some clarification:
    For context, I manage a caseload of 130 clients. Of that 130 clients, 25 are “Special Clients”. My co-worker (Special Client Specialist) works exclusively with that population. When I receive a new Special Client case, the SC Specialist completes a case review to ensure that the case plan addresses any unique needs/requirements. He reviews written information from various sources that he has access to (court documents, case notes, prior cases etc.), and documents his review/recommendation in the case. Secondarily, if a Special Client requests permission to do something permission is required for, SC Specialist must agree to the activity. These requests are submitted by me and require a specific set of details every time (i.e.: I’m providing all required info on the initial request because I know what information is required for him to make a decision).
    I agree that back and forth email communication can be tedious and inefficient when a quick chat can clear up confusion. However, that is never the nature of these phone calls. SC Specialist does not ask clarifying questions. He quite literally repeats my request, provides his answer/thoughts, repeats that several times, over explains his reasoning, provides extensive history or background on agency policy/law and eventually wraps up the conversation by saying he will update the case with his opinion/recommendation. I cannot recall a conversation with him that actually required any input from me. In fact, two recent requests of mine resulted in back to back phone calls from him which I did not answer. He did not leave a message or follow up via email. By the next day, he had completed the requested task with no input from me whatsoever. Clearly, he did not require anything in order to do his job, he just wanted to hear himself speak. Also, he is not in my chain of command- I am not subordinate to him in any way.
    It is also worth noting that I almost never receive phone calls from co-workers (I receive phone calls from clients on a daily basis) which speaks to the culture of my organization and how we generally do business.

    1. Eldritch Office Worker*

      Keep doing what you’re doing, OP. I think you’re handling everything just fine.

    2. KoiFeeder*

      Ah, this guy sounds crazy-making and I think if the phone calls add no value for you (or, frankly, for him!) you don’t have to take them.

    3. NotOP*

      Thank you for the clarification, that helps to understand your problem! With that in mind, I must say that I think that AAM is absolutely right, and you should consider her points on relationship-building carefully.

  36. teensyslews*

    A couple suggestions:
    – if you need a paper trail for whatever reason – to refer to later, because form X needs to be submitted, etc and coworker is not willing to send you those in writing then that’s inhibiting your ability to do your job and it’s a discussion you need to have. “Hi Bob, I can clarify X for you over the phone but I will need you to respond to my email as I need your response in writing.”
    – you can’t take the calls on the fly (either because you are busy or because it disrupts your workflow unnecessarily). In this case I think the best approach is to schedule a regular touchpoint at whatever cadence makes sense and direct all phone conversations to that time. If coworker calls, let it go to voicemail and then email him after the fact with a “I was not available to take your call, please add what you were calling for to Tuesday’s agenda and we can discuss then”. As long as the meetings are frequent enough that work is not falling behind, this could give him the communication style he wants on a schedule more productive to you.
    – Another option would be to set “office hours” where you are available by phone and prepared to interrupt any work to take those calls. So say, every day from 3-3:30 set aside time where you are available to take calls, make sure coworker knows that is the only time to contact you, and then set aside that time to do “interruptible” work.

  37. Generic Name*

    I think Alison’s advice is spot-on. I also want to point out that you do not have to (and in some situations should not!) respond to a phone call when it is inconvenient/unsafe for you. If you are literally arresting someone, and your phone rings, don’t answer it! If you are driving, and the phone rings, let it go to voicemail. If you need 3 hours to push a big report out, put your phone on DND.

    I think one of the reasons why many people dislike phone calls so intensely is they feel compelled to answer, even if it’s a really bad time. I assume you have enough boundaries to never answer the phone when you are on the toilet. You get to place boundaries around when you answer the phone. That’s why voicemail exists! Maybe have your phone on silent most of the time, and set an hour or two a day where you tell yourself you will answer the phone if it rings. You can set aside other time to respond to the phone calls you got when your phone was on silent. That might help.

  38. Janeric*

    If you work for a state agency and someone who completes a specialized process for you wants to clarify issues on the phone, you gotta answer the phone. He could e-mail you, wait for your response, clarify those responses — but that means that your stuff is not going to be a priority. If anything he does for you is at ALL time-sensitive, he’s following best bureaucracy streamlining practices here.

    I do think it’s worth looking at what questions he has for you — if it’s things like corner cases, you’re stuck, but if it’s a lot of small corrections/clarifications, it might be worth doing an extra review. And like, you gotta get friendly with this jerk — part of that could be saying that you often can’t answer the phone, is there a time that he’s generally free to take calls? (If people do you favors at little cost to themselves and get thanked profusely, they like you.)

    1. Janeric*

      If you work for a bureaucracy and someone is a bottleneck on your work working with them to find the most efficient way to use their time is essential — and usually bottlenecks have a pretty high workload, so small delays from you can naturally result in significant delays from them.

  39. Ihaveaheadache*

    As someone with a mild reading disability, forcing me to read long blocks of text is only going to result in endless back and forth questions. Sometimes a phonecall is the only way to explain things, not that it has to always be that way but reading can be a bit of a problem for me at times.

    1. Green Tea*

      Not related to this letter but if you haven’t tried it, text-to-voice has been really helpful for me.

  40. An Australian In London*

    I was 100% “email is better; what is wrong with people; I can read at 750+ wpm but people only talk at 100-150 wpm so they are asking me to waste most of my bandwidth to accommodate their preference”.

    Then about a year ago someone pointed out that very few people can type faster than they can speak, and asked if I could. And no, I can’t, I’m a competent typist but only in the 60-70 wpm range. This simple question opened my eyes to most people probably feeling they were getting a two or even five times speed boost by talking instead of typing.

    I’m still annoyed and greatly prefer email but I’ve realised there’s no legitimate reason to favour my preference over theirs. And so I answer the damn phone now, and when someone says “it would be faster to have a call” I grit my teeth and say “sure!”.

    I’ll end up putting anything important in email anyway that can’t be trusted to stay in someone’s short term audio memory.

    1. Eldritch Office Worker*

      I’d argue I can type *eloquently* faster than I can speak, if either involve any amount of on-the-feet thinking or real time corrections. And that way I’m sending the wording I mean to send once and not spending time reclarifying things I didn’t say perfectly the first time.

      But depending on your role and what you’re communicating that might be less of a concern.

    2. KoiFeeder*

      I can type eloquently, clearly, and precisely far faster than I can speak haltingly and inaccurately. In a situation like that, I suspect email is actually better for everyone, not just me. :p

  41. Veryanon*

    I’m another one that prefers email for many of the reasons OP describes – I work in a job where I need to keep copious documentation on different projects or issues I’m working through, so it’s just easier to dump all the emails about that particular topic into a dedicated Outlook folder and then I can scroll through them as needed, rather than trying to hunt down my notes from a particular conversation I might have had with someone about that topic a month ago (or longer). Also, I spend a ton of time in Webex meetings, and sometimes the thought of frankly makes me want to run for the hills.

  42. KelseyCorvo*

    A former co-worker of 20 years – and a good friend (still) and good good guy all around – is very much a phone person. I’m fine with the phone but I prefer an email for efficiency (I’m a super fast typist), “paper” trail, and easy access to links and other info not easily conveyed by voice/phone.

    We were working together side-by-side (our team worked together in a big lab) on a project and were talking through an email to a remote co-worker who had some material and answers that he needed when my co-worker said, “Forget the email – there’s an easier way. We can just pick up the phone and get the answers now!” (as if I hadn’t thought of that). He made a big show of calling and the co-worker, but the guy wasn’t there so he left a detailed message.

    Near the end of the day comes and our boss asked how the situation was resolved – because we needed an answer before the next day. My co-worker again called our remote co-worker and it turned out he had never checked his voicemail and hadn’t seen that we called.

    We now had to get him to scramble, so my co-worker told the guy what we needed, but it required logging into a website so we had to send a long URL and access info – by email, of course. The guy did what he needed to do and there was no issue, but really – the phone isn’t the end-all answer some think it is. I don’t like telling stories where I’m right but in this case, he really made my point for me in a very visible way.

  43. Curmudgeon in California*

    If the phone calls are from a condescending, mansplaining jerk I would say push it to email. Why? Because over the phone it can be difficult to document the microaggressions, but in email there’s a paper (electron) trail.

    If someone is a jerk to me on the phone, I try not to talk to them on the phone.

  44. Julia*

    I’m convinced that a decent amount of the phone vs. email preference disconnect is that there are some people who are veeeery slightly less comfortable reading and writing than other people. It takes them a millisecond longer to process information that’s written down, and most of the time that millisecond makes no difference and isn’t even detectable – they aren’t illiterate, they’re perfectly happy to digest written material and may even be big readers. But over time the fatigue builds up and makes them ever so slightly more reluctant to confront a long email than to talk something out on the phone.

    We talk a lot about phone aversion, but I don’t think we talk much about text aversion. For example, when you see text accompanied by an image online, is your instinctual first response to read the text, or to look at the image? Mine is always to read the text – images take me longer to process. Some people look at the image first because text takes them very slightly longer. Or for another example, when you’re watching a movie do you find subtitles annoying? I love them because they help me process what’s going on (might also be some auditory processing issues I have), but some people find them distracting – possibly because the time it takes for them to read the text is ever so slightly too long to fit it comfortably into a movie, and timing matters a lot with movies.

    I think this one factor affects a lot more of our lives than we realize.

    1. Weaponized Pumpkin*

      A bit tangential: If I have captions on, I stop watching the movie entirely! It’s so weird because I read incredibly fast and could easily glance at the text and still watch the scene, but my brain homes in on the caption and just gets stuck there and I end up impatiently waiting for the spoken dialogue to catch up. (I watch a lot of reels /stories with volume off and my god it takes people so much longer to talk than it takes me to read.) So I turn them off to slow my brain down and actually watch what I’m watching.

    2. allathian*

      Yes, and the text aversion is double or triple for people with dyslexia, and with good reason.

      I’m a fast reader, and for me, visual media is for entertainment. If I need to actually retain information rather than just experience entertainment, I vastly prefer to read it, because I’m a fast reader. I’m in Finland, and foreign movies are usually subtitled in Finnish and Swedish. I normally have the time to read both, and follow the movie perfectly. I have audio processing issues and I suspect a slight hearing loss, and without subtitles I often can’t follow a modern movie even if I’m fluent in the language. Movies made in the 60s or earlier are usually fine even without subtitles, because the acting style was so different then.

      I can’t follow talk radio, podcasts, or audiobooks at all, I tend to lose focus very quickly. The only thing I enjoy listening to is music, with or without lyrics. For some reason I don’t lose focus listening to music, probably because music engages a larger part of the brain and not just the speech centers.

  45. Ewesername*

    I’m not phone people, but often have contact with coworkers in our other office, in a different province. We’ve kind of developed our own system of communication. Absolutely urgent, need an answer immediately things get a phone call. Urgent, but the roof isn’t on fire yet, get a text or IM. (Usually “hey, I sent you an email I need you to look at as soon as possible”). Everything else is email. It’s just a routine we fell into without really talking about it. Does it work for everyone? Nope. We have one person who insists on long winded phone calls. 90 %of the time, I let those calls go to voice mail. Then I follow up with a polite email that starts with “ sorry I couldn’t take your call. I’m swamped with x project. Are you able to email me back with details of what you need? If you’d prefer to call, I’m available at x time.” If they don’t email me back, I make sure I have a cup of tea ready and 15 min blocked off at the specified time. Seems to keep everyone happy.

  46. ZucchiniBikini*

    As someone who hates unscheduled work calls with the fiery passion of a thousand dying suns, I am in furious agreement with OP’s stance – while still acknowledging the wisdom of Alison’s more nuanced response. A planned phone meeting is the same as a planned Zoom meeting to me – fine if needed, can work with them no problem. But random unplanned calls disrupt the flow of my work, create a problem with recordkeeping that I then have to solve another way, and discombobulate me. My work is primarily writing and research-based, so interrupting a thinking or writing block with a 10-minute call is a much bigger deal than it probably looks like on the surface – it pulls me out of flow and it usually costs me a considerable amount in productivity.

    So, like Ewesername above, I usually let unplanned calls go to voicemail, but I do it for pretty much everyone except my kids, my mum and my spouse (and even they will get voicemailed if I’m in a meeting already!) I am diligent about listening to the message promptly and responding appropriately – whether that’s via email, text, Teams, or calling back (my least preferred but I will do it if the situation warrants it). Generally this has been OK for almost everyone I work with.

    1. allathian*

      Yeah. My gripe is that I don’t even like voicemail much. I’ve never used it on a personal phone, and I haven’t recorded anything on my work phone, so if someone calls, they’ll get an auto message with “you have reached number… please leave a message”. Few people bother to do so, they’ll either email or message me on Teams.

      When I’m busy in a meeting, I’ll only accept calls from my son, but even he usually prefers to text me on Whatsapp unless it’s an emergency. I’m usually available for calls from family members even when I’m working, but if they call, they have a good reason to, and the calls are short.

      My work is also primarily writing based, with some research, so I hear you on the unscheduled interruptions.

  47. gsa*

    If it’s something I should be short and sweet, I do pick up the telephone.

    If they don’t answer, I text. That helps me remind myself why I called in the first place.

    If I know the number, I generally return phone calls and sometimes they don’t remember why they called in the first place. Most of the people I work with, understand the phone calls missed send a text to remind everybody.

    Other than that, I email. Particularly if it’s a lot of things and it doesn’t need to be answered immediately.

    I work with enough for different people with enough for different preferences, I tend to use their preference.


  48. Luna*

    “once, he explained to me how C-section births work”
    Wasn’t there a segment of Hillary Clinton on the Tonight Show and the host was so-called ‘mansplaining’ what mansplaning was?
    “Do you know what mansplaining is?”
    “Yes, it’s when a man talks to a woman in a patronizing way.”
    “Actually, it’s when a man talks to a woman in a condescending way, but you were close.”
    I feel like this coworker of yours needs to watch that scene. A lot.

  49. Slackbot*

    As a data point:
    I have pushed for email/Slack communication only with a colleague the way the letter writer suggests and was successful. In my case, I’m unclear who was technically more senior, but I had a longer tenure. Other factors that worked in my favor:
    – The norm in this company was Slack. If you wanted to call someone, you slacked them to see if they were available.
    – I was often in the field/with clients, where taking a phone call would have looked odd.

    The caveat to this is if the person you are talking to is obviously confused and will likely make a mistake with what they are doing, I do suggest to them that we do a call.

    I also have kept my voicemail box full since about 2005 and it’s been working fine for me. I occasionally end up letting people know that I don’t take voicemail, and they can text me as an alternative.

    (I want the no-voicemail approach to be normalized, since it’s not a very useful way to transfer information. Why make me take notes when you could have texted me? If you leave a voicemail I don’t even have your number saved automatically)

    1. RebelwithMouseyHair*

      I agree with voicemail being discontinued, it’s inefficient. I don’t see why, given how smart our phones are, there isn’t a “call-back” feature and a little document showing who called and when. It’s very infuriating to be listening and trying to note the number, except that the caller rattles it off too quickly, or someone coughs in the background so you’re not sure of one digit.
      But there’s no point introducing such things because yes, it is ridiculous to have to listen to someone rambling and waiting for them to get to the point. The same goes for the record feature in WhatsApp. My son used it for a week or so after he had an operation on his hand and found typing difficult, so that was useful, but I find that some people just do it systematically. These tend to be the kind of person who likes to include all sorts of friendly remarks. OK they’re friendly, but damn, I like text because you can just write “hi, could you let me know what time you’ll be in?” whereas they’ll be rambling “thought you’d be in by now, hope nothing’s happened, but maybe I got it wrong because last Tuesday you were off in the morning too, sorry I didn’t think to check the schedule, but after all you’d forgotten to update it last week so it wasn’t clear, anyway I’ll assume you’ll be in this afternoon unless I hear back, is that OK with you? sorry to have bothered you if you took the morning off!!”

  50. RebelwithMouseyHair*

    I love email for all the reasons OP states, plus I’m an introvert, and I am rather admirative that she managed to work for so long at a call centre despite the ADHD and natural aversion to calls.
    My partner the extrovert hates writing and much prefers to call.
    Thing is, this colleague won’t put his mansplaining in writing, but needs to do it to feel good. He needs to convey his condescension with his tone of voice, he probably doesn’t have the writing skills to do that by email.
    But also, he may need to just shoot off a couple of quick questions, the answers to which will determine his later course of action.

    In my volunteer work, I help young mothers. The only way they can contact me is by email, no way am I putting my number on the website! But then as I read their email, very often I’ll respond asking them to call me. Because there’ll be half a dozen yes/no questions I’d need to ask to be able to help them appropriately, and depending on their answers, there could then be half a dozen more questions to ask, to make sure I’ve understood correctly, and left no stones unturned. It’s much more efficient to do this by phone, and then often I will follow up with an email sending links and contacts and summarising the plan of action envisaged, so there’s still a paper trail in case of any problems. I can quite well imagine the guy feels that a phone call is necessary to ask such questions.

  51. Yellow Flotsam*

    LW I note you say he could ask follow up questions via email. Do you have an office SOP that requires he follow up via email? Because things must be in email is different to email is available as a tool to use.

    If he is calling every time – is this because every time he needs to ask follow up questions? If every Time you put in a job request he needs to clarify things, then I do wonder if your job requests are incomplete (either because of you or the system). That’s the first thing to address. If he is calling but not really asking questions, then I think you have a good reason to not take calls. But if he has questions that need answering it is entirely legitimate for him to call you and get those answers.

    You have legitimate reasons for not wanting a phone discussion (even outside of the you don’t like him aspect ). He likely has equally legitimate reasons for wanting one. Unless you are going to formally or informally request a workplace accommodation your preferences really don’t come before his.

    I would also question how responsive are you and your colleagues to email follow up? How much does waiting for responses and going back and forth prevent him from getting his work done? I completely understand why colleagues of mine who provide services internally prefer phone with follow up notes. It is quicker, allows for easy follow up and clarification, tends to mean you are focusing on them not doing three things at once, plus you actually know when the conversation ends so nobody wanders off unintentionally mid way through.

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