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Kwitcherbitchin: Personal Phone Calls at Work

Published 12 September 2006 2:43 pm

I’m amazed at some of the things people have to put up with at work, especially when it comes to misguided policies designed to boost productivity when in fact all they really do is hurt morale.  Too often, people are resigned to accepting these policies as a fact of life and mindlessly obey them for fear of getting fired, being passed over for promotion, missing out on a raise, or just upsetting the delicate corporate socio-culture.  But sometimes you find a hero in the corporate mist who is willing to give a hearty hell no to the status quo. 

Jeff, a friend of mine, was working feavorishly on a project whose deadline was looming.  It was a Friday afternoon, and he knew he was going to have to stay late that night to get a few things done before the weekend, so he called his wife to let her know not to expect him at his normal time.  He was in the middle of chatting with her when his manager walked up behind him, tapped him on the shoulder, and condescendingly told him “We don’t make personal calls at work.”  Jeff told his wife good-bye and hung up, but certainly not in defeat.

Jeff got an email that weekend from his manager saying that there was an issue with something and that he needed to come in to the office and fix it right away.  When he failed to respond, the phone calls started.  His cell phone, his home phone, his pager, his blackberry.  Everything was going off in rapid succession all weekend long because his manager desperately needed him to fix something that only he knew how to fix.  But over the course of the weekend those calls went unanswered.

Jeff showed up to work early monday morning and promptly started working on the issue.  Soon thereafter, his irate manager stormed into his cube and demanded to know why he was unreachable that weekend. 

To which he calmly replied, “Sorry, we don’t take business calls at home.”

6 Responses to “Kwitcherbitchin: Personal Phone Calls at Work”

  1. Bart Read says:

    Oh how I wish I’d seen that!

  2. Phil Factor says:

    The trouble is that nobody would have seen it. As an act of vengence it comes nowhere, and merely lays Jeff open to the accusation that he can’t be relied on in an emergency.

    Today’s youth seems to have lost the art of house-training their managers. You can never rely on a newly-appointed manager to be trained to your ways, and a keen new manager, with ambitions to make his mark, can cause all sorts of unpleasantness until he is properly trained. There is a vast palette of splendid public humiliations one can heap on a manager who is throwing his weight around, and it used to be part of the skill-set of the Programmer/Analyst to undertake this essential training program.

    Different parts of large IT departments often take pride in showing off how well their manager can perform ‘tricks’ such as taking their team off to the pub for Friday Lunch, and ordering the pizza when they were working late. They take pride in their training skills.

    I am a great believer in firmness, mixed with compassion, when dealing with a newly-appointed manager. Consistency is the key with an emphasis on reward. There is always a glow of pleasure when the first signs of success are shown, as when a manager, for the first time, suggests that everyone knock off for an hour or so to watch the footie.

  3. Damon says:

    Under most circumstances, I would concede that such an act was definately not wise, prudent, nor advisable. Knowing the man, however, I can say that the problem his manager was experiencing was not really a crisis and his reputation for being an excellent developer and committed team member were never in danger.

    And, as a punch line three days in the making, it was extremely funny to those around him who overheard the exchange.

  4. Phil Factor says:

    Yes, it was very funny, I agree. Most apposite. I loved the story. I was only pointing out the possible hazards in case anyone else wanted to try it!

  5. Conformist says:

    Kudos to Jeff.
    My friend, Diana works for a similar style of bosses. This week her boss has been telling everyone NO PERSONAL CALLS and NO CELL PHONES. There was an emergency call for Diana, from her daughter, telling Diana’s boss that she had an emergency. Her boss told her that “sorry she is in the office,” to which her daughter replied, “It is an emergency.” She said sorry and hung up. SHe never told DIana her daughter called. The emergency was that her daughter just got in a car wreck (17yo) and the nose of the car was in a creek and the car was filling up with water. She was stuck for 30 minutes before anyone noticed her. Her cell phone had died otherwise she would have called 911. So there is a definite regard for idiots in the workplace.

  6. Conformist says:

    My point in saying that, is that bosses need to back up at some point and allow a call here and there. What if it was an emergency call he was handling at home? Furthermore, isn’t there a privacy issue here? I guess it all depends on the policy and monitoring abilities.

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