Day: May 29, 2017

Call Me. Not


Who has your cell phone number? And whose number do you have?

My family hasn’t had a land line for years. DH, Eldest offspring, and I have cell phones; Middle Boy will get one once he starts middle school and starts walking home alone. My cell phone serves as de facto home phone on all forms related to the kids.

Not that long ago, a colleague from another department got upset with me and it escalated unexpectedly fast and seemingly without provocation. Recently, I found out that the origin of their irritation with me was a text message; the colleague texted me something that they thought I would be pleased to hear (nothing unsavory, get your mind out of the gutter!) but that wasn’t exactly work-email material; I never responded because I’d never received the text, and the colleague was hurt and angry. The reason I never received the text is that three months prior I had changed cell phone providers (now happily an Android and Google Fi user) and I also got myself a new number, because I had been getting spam calls on the old number too frequently. I sent the new phone number only to the people who I thought should definitely have it. I honestly didn’t think that the colleague ever even had my cell phone number; I certainly didn’t have theirs. I think whatever we had of the friendship is now gone, as the conflict had spiraled out of control, but it’s interesting to ponder the alleged trigger: an unanswered text message, because someone didn’t in fact have the recipient’s cell phone number. (As an aside, I will never understand why the colleague hadn’t followed up by email shortly after the unanswered text to see what happened; that’s what I would have done.)

When I host a visitor in a professional capacity, I usually give them my cell phone number for emergencies, but I don’t expect that they keep it and would be freaked out if sometime later, without a reason, I received a call from such former visitors. It’s understood that this information is temporary and for emergencies only. Similarly, when I visit, the host usually shares their cell phone number; I would never presume that it’s okay to ever call them after the visit and I never actually save any of these numbers.

I have the cell phone numbers of several colleagues from the department and they have mine. These are usually close professional ties. I have the cell phone numbers of my chair, chief department admin, two close collaborators in the department, four other close/friendly colleagues (two of them next door), and four close collaborators outside of the department. I also have the cell phone numbers of several out-of-town collaborators. With these colleagues, I usually communicate via email or in person anyway, and only use the cell phone if something is really urgent, cannot be done via email, or we actually schedule to talk over the phone.

Other than that, I have the cell phone numbers of the parents of my kids’ friends. Aside from DH and Eldest, these parents are the people with whom I text and talk most often.

I also technically have the cell phones of my grad students and they have mine (we have a web document where everyone shares their phone number), but I have never had to use these numbers for a vast majority of people. These numbers are most useful when several group members are somewhere at a conference together and have to coordinate meeting for dinner or similar.  (I have no idea how much the students interact via phone among themselves, presumably a fair bit.) A couple of times someone really needed to get a hold of me, talked to some of my students, and then the students called my cell.

Basically, I try not to disturb the others with whom my relationship is mostly professional. Email is good for most things, most of the time. I don’t assume I can text or call someone’s cell at will, unless it’s very clear (which generally means long history) that it’s okay to contact them outside of a very narrow set of parameters.

Wise and worldly readers, what’s your cell phone etiquette, especially with work associates? I am curious how you feel your answer depends on whether you are a native of the country of residence or you have moved a lot (like most academics) and don’t necessarily have a vast network of local friends.