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Steve Crescenzo’s side-splittingly funny post about people with Bluetooth headsets glued to their ears reminds me of the huge divide between those who cannot function without mobile phones, and those who treat the little buggers as a necessary evil. I fall into the second camp. The first group craves constant contact. The rest of us like to control our schedules as much as we possibly can. I’m really busy, and if I had to respond to everyone all the time, without a break, I think I’d lose my mind.

Last Friday someone requested a meeting with me at four o’clock. When I told him I wasn’t unavailable at four, he asked for my cell number. HUH? When I say I’m unavailable, what makes him think that I would like to accept his call – when I’m not even in my office?

The only people who have my cell number are my kids, my kids’ schools, and my partner. That’s it. I don’t give it to clients, I don’t include it in my email sig, and it ain’t on my business card.

Here’s why I don’t give out my number:
1.I don’t want to talk to you when I’m driving my car. (As a pedestrian, I’ve almost been run over by cell-phone users at least half a dozen times.)
2.I don’t want to talk to you while I’m inhaling my lunch.
3.If you call me while I’m walking down the street, how do you expect me to answer your questions? I don’t have my calendar, my files or my computer with me. Can’t you wait a few minutes until I return to the office?

Where is it written that we have to be accessible 24/7? After all, I’m not carrying the president’s nuclear launch codes, and I am not waiting for a kidney transplant. I am grateful for both of these facts.

If you ask my clients and colleagues, they’d tell you that I am a responsive person who returns phone calls and emails promptly. What I never want to become is a person who has to have her phone in her ear while she shops for groceries, enjoys a walk on the lakeshore or eats dinner with her kids. No thanks.

What’s YOUR cell-phone policy?

14 COMMENTS

  1. Donna, I can certainly vouch for your responsiveness! My policy is the same, and I try not to call someone’s cell phone either unless they specifically request it. Are we a dying breed or renegades?

  2. I freely give out my mobile number, but I feel no more obligation to answer it than I do my Skype phone (I’ve given up land line).

    If I am on deadline, in a meeting, or in traffic — or enjoying a walk — you can pretty much forget being answered. But that’s what voice mail is for. And its the same policy I had 20 years ago, long before mobile phones.

  3. Kevin, thanks for your comment. I hope you’re not interpreting my cell policy as arrogance. I’m just trying to manage my time best while meeting my clients’ needs. They know I will get back to them promptly when they send me an email or leave a voicemail for me. As for success, well, I am grateful every day that I can do work that I love with terrific people.

    Allan, thanks for commenting. We agree about the voicemail. I’m glad to hear that you’re not a slave to your mobile phone.

  4. I’m not one to drop tools when receiving an unknown call and I don’t interrupt my coffee breaks for cell phone calls.

    Most people who have my cell know I prefer text anyway and I tell people that when exchanging personal information.

  5. You raise a good point, Bernard: that it is important to communicate with clients and colleauges about HOW you and they like to communicate. If we know their preferences and they know ours, communications issues will be less likely. For example, I have one client who definitely prefers phone over email. And he won’t leave a voice mail. I have another who never ever calls. Thanks for commenting.

  6. Donna: I consider the cell phone a necessary evil, but I give out my number liberally. Not to mention, I tend to make outgoing calls on it more than anything else.

    I am really obsessive about turning the ringer on and off and if I don’t want to answer it, based on what I’m doing when I get the call, I don’t.

    The headset/ear tumor thingies? They have GOT to go. I had lunch with a friend that recruits engineers and she told me two of her candidates gave interviews without taking off their headsets. Are you kidding?

  7. Kevin, I am always aghast when I see someone with one of those headset thingies in a meeting. The message is: “I am waiting for a call from someone more important than you.”

    IN AN INTERVIEW? AMAZING! Maybe they wanted the recruiter to know how indispensable they are!

  8. I have one phone number. If I’m out of the office, it rings to my cell phone, if I’m in the office, it goes to the office phone, etc. And I usually answer. But if I’m busy, or otherwise engaged, I’ve got voice mail.

    Since I live in a different time zone than most of the people I work with, I’m often communicating with people through email or voice mail. I think it’s a fact of life and most people seem to accept it.

    I don’t think it’s arrogant to not give out your cell phone number. But I do think it’s arrogant to expect that your call will always be answered.

  9. I like my phone a lot but I have maybe 10 people on my contact list. When I’m watching TV, sleeping or at concerts or anything that I don’t want to be bothered at, it’s on silent mode. I’ve only given my number out once to non-family members/friends. I’m already regretting it so I’m never doing that again.

    I prefer texting too.

  10. An executive with our company keeps urging me to give out my personal cell number to clients (I’m a mid-level manager). Some other employees have company-provided cell phones. My thought has always been that if the company wants me to be accessible they will provide me with a phone or offer to pay my bill. Am I expecting too much, are employees footing the bill for business communications these days?

  11. Yikes, I’m no HR manager, Joe, but I think that if the company wants you to give your cell number out, they should give you a WORK cell phone. You shouldn’t have to use your personal phone and pay the bill!

    I would love to hear a comment from someone employed by an organization. (I am my own boss!)

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