Communication, Opinion

Why I’m Not Answering My Phone

At work, you can get hold of me in a number of different ways

  • You can send me an email
  • You can send me a message on Slack
  • You can even send me a message on Lync (when it’s not crashing)
  • You can actually come over and talk to me

And yet, with all those methods above, I am still told at times that I am ‘hard to get hold of’.

That’s because most people don’t understand that calling me (or anyone really) is actually the worst way to get hold of someone.  Chances are I won’t pick up, I probably won’t get your voice mail and if I do ring you back it’ll probably be the next day (if you’re lucky).

But when I see your name flash up on my phone* why don’t I pick up?

I’m Probably Speaking with Someone

Here’s my calendar for this week alone (blurred out to protect the innocent)

Calendar View

Chances are that when you call it’s not in one of those slim 15 minute ‘free’ blocks I have dotted around my week.  Chances are I’m in the middle of discussing something with someone who’s taken the time out to speak to me, who needs my input or I’m speaking with a group of people who are tricky to get in the same room at the same time.

It’s not they are more or less important than who’s on the call, it’s that I have made a commitment to the person I am speaking to right now to focus on them and the problem at hand.  By calling a halt to that conversation because someone more important has called sends the worst possible message.

Maybe they are not ‘more important’ but that’s exactly what you’re silently telling them.

If you really need to speak to me on the phone, arrange a time to call so it doesn’t interrupt those I’m working with right now.  And if it’s super urgent, send me an IM to tell me to answer because a ringing phone doesn’t express urgency.

I Don’t Recognise Your Number

People I speak to regularly are in my phone book.  People I expect to speak to at some point in the future are also in my phone book.

If your number comes up as just a number, it’s not getting answered.

If only all unknown calls were this pleasant
If only all unknown calls were this pleasant

When I’m actively recruiting (which is quite often) I can get a call from a recruiter on an hourly basis.  Some I’ll know and they will be in my address book but you can guarantee I don’t want to speak to a cold caller to explain my recruitment needs and processes for the 10th time that day.

Or it’s probably a PPI call.

Either way, if you’re not in my phone book then I can’t guarantee that I know who’s calling.  If you think I should know you, send me a text or an email with your number and we’ll arrange a call in the future.

I’ve Been Called 50 Time Already

As with point 2, I get a lot of calls.  If I miss your call and it’s in the middle of 50 other calls that day that I have not taken, my notification drawer is not smart enough to pull out the calls I might actually be interested in.

You drown in the middle of cold-calls and unrequested approaches.

It’s unfortunately quite easy to miss a call you care about because the device I use isn’t built to serve that may calls intelligently.

Again, if you’re not getting through a quick text or email saying you just tried to call (again including your number) and a call can be easily arranged.

I Actually Hate Talking on the Phone

Honestly, who enjoys phone calls?

Unless I am very familiar with someone or have spoken to them a lot I actually find phone conversations incredibly tiring and quite difficult.  Speaking ad-hoc to people face to face I have no problem with, but on the phone it’s a different story.

No body language cues or facial expressions, tonal differences and bad signals make for difficult conversations.

Depending on who’s on the other side of the phone, I might need a period of preparation before speaking or making sure I have everything I need because speaking while scrambling for information nearby isn’t my strong point.

Again, if you need to speak to me, especially about something tricky or detailed, a quick mail or text arranging the call means it’ll go much better and we’ll both get something out of it.

I’ll Forget Half of What We Spoke About

As soon as I finish the call with you, someone will pop over for my attention.  If the call was unplanned I probably didn’t have the right equipment with me to note down everything we discussed and just thought “I’ll remember that later”.

Unfortunately I probably won’t though not through a lack of trying.

If we do have a call, follow it up with email clarifying the points we discussed.  This is also great for tracking what people have actually said and having a written record of it (something which has bitten me in the backside a couple of times).

Voice Mails Are So 2000

I once left my phone unattended for two days.  That’s only 15 work hours.  In that time I received 38 voice mails.


I then have to painstakingly listen to every one because if you try to delete it early you get a nice patronising “You have to listen to 3 seconds of this message before you can delete it” voice over and there’s no ‘Delete All’ button.

Of those 38 voice mails, I cared about 1.


I’m going to actually disable my voice mail (when I can figure out how…) because it’s a seriously antiquated communication method that should not exist next to Slack and other powerful communication tools.

And I don’t seem to be the only one thinking about it.

If you leave a voice mail, it would have been just as quick to mail or voice dictate a text to me.

The Are So Many Better Methods of Communication

The phone is old technology that is still incredibly useful when two people need to get to the bottom of a problem, but with the amount of communication technology we have available to us today, it shouldn’t be the first and only method you use.

If a call is needed, arrange one so everyone is prepped and available.  Make sure you have the information you need and the time is right for everyone.

When speaking to a recruiter recently (face to face) he said “the best way to get you on the phone is to send you a great CV” and that sums it up really.  Give us a reason to talk, and make sure we know what we’re talking about and when we need to talk.

And then a phone call will be the best communication method we have.

* For a time I did wear a Moto 360 to help me know when someone was calling and to try and improve my answer rate. Unfortunately, it vibrated so often during the day it actually started to make my wrist quite painful.

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in: Logo

You are commenting using your account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s