My New Scourge: The Telephone

Maybe it’s because I’m a bit of a taciturn, but I really hate phones as a technology, and I get annoyed with vendors at work who prefer to handle things through phone calls rather than e-mail. I consider phones to be a total productivity killer in the workplace. Not that I have any particular love for e-mail — as technology goes, thanks in part to spammers, it’s fast becoming another obnoxious medium of communication, but it’s still better than a phone. These days my preferred method of communication is Instant Messaging, but it’s hard to get anyone over forty to use it.

Why pick on the phone though? Alexander Graham Bell didn’t invent it, after all, with the sole purpose of annoying people in the future, so I should be grateful. But the phone is like a crying child. It demands attention. Most of the time I ignore it, but shortly after, the dreaded blinking light indicating a message. Nine times out of ten this is a sales goober trying to sell me something I don’t need, so a quick key to delete it fixes the problem. But to get there I have to pick up the phone, hit the voice mail button, enter my code, go through the menu, and delete the message. If it’s something I’m currently dealing with, call back. There’s a very high probability that person will not be at their desk or otherwise able to answer the phone. Leave a message on their end. Get a call back. Rinse. Repeat. It amazes me there are still people who are fine with wasting time and energy in this manner all to avoid sending an e-mail.

I suspect they do this because people often don’t respond to e-mail. I know I am guilty of this sometimes, often not intentional, just forgetting to get back to someone. Other times I think there are some people that just like talking to a person via voice, because e-mail seems impersonal. But I find e-mail easier and less stressful to deal with than a ringing phone, or blinking message light. And that’s not even counting the amount of time it took to write this blog post complaining about it.

What’s your office pet peeve?

22 thoughts on “My New Scourge: The Telephone”

  1. Woman that worked for me once would print my emails, write her response on it and fax them back. I shit you not.

  2. Hopefully the voicemail approach of Google Voice will become more widespread. With that, Google does their best at transcribing the voicemail so you can read it. While it’s far from perfect, you can usually get a good idea of what the message is about. And at the very least, you can look at the information about the call using your computer without having to go through the “call voicemail” rigamarole, and even delete it. All without having to pick up a phone.

    Or do all of that from your smartphone. Your choice.

    And you can set up Google Voice to serve as your voicemail provider for your cellphone without having to go whole-hog and getting a separate GV phone number.

  3. People that can’t understand why I don’t bother answering their calls when they block caller ID.

    People that get annoyed when I don’t answer my office door when they knock. The door is closed and locked for a reason. I don’t work for you, I work for my boss (and the boss’s boss).

  4. Came here to say ‘Get a GoogleVoice account,’ but was beaten to it.

  5. People that call for one of the attorneys, but won’t leave a message, saying “I’ll just call back later.” Chances are he won’t be available then, either, because attorneys spend a lot of their time out of the office or in meetings.

    People that do leave a message, but call back first thing the next day saying “I left a message yesterday and haven’t heard anything back yet!” See above about attorneys – it may take a day or even two before they have a chance to call you back.

    Unsolicited sales calls. Why would you call a lawyer’s office that’s on the Do Not Call list? That’s either very brave, or very stupid.

  6. “What’s your office pet peeve?”

    People who insist on dealing with other folks via e-mail!


    Seriously, while in the Corps, the battalion HQ element insisted on using our technical and tactical computer to send notes back and forth to junior units. I ignored them all. Maybe that’s where I get my distaste of e-mail.

  7. My pet peeve is the general computer illiteracy of attorneys over the age of 30.

  8. My pet peeve is people who send me an email and then leave me a voicemail that says “Hey, I just sent you an email….”.

    I’m with Sebastian on phone-hatred. It’s very disruptive and it requires everyone’s schedules to match. Email messages can be handled asynchronously.

  9. I almost never use voicemail. If getting someone’s immediate attention is valuable, I’ll call, but if they don’t answer, I send an email.

  10. That’s why I forward all my calls to my iPhone. Love the visual voice mail.

    As for pet peeves, it’s staff assistants and office managers under 35 who believe anything a sales guy or customer service person tells them – or otherwise pull crap out of their ass – and don’t realize the over 35 but still under 40 lawyer – is not only going to fact check their ass but that he’s been playing with pc’s for 30+ years and probably knows more about them than anyone in the office save for the outside IT consultant.

  11. Post your phone number. Then I’ll call you and tell you. Oh, and my phone number is blocked, so answer all your calls.

  12. If the flashing light bothers you, a strategically placed file folder will usually handle it.

    As far as voicemail goes, if someone has an important message for me, they can text or call my cell. If they don’t have the cell number they CERTAINLY don’t have anything important to tell me.

    I’m in the process of shopping around for new home/vehicle insurance. I’ve called several brokers, and spoke to what I thought were responsible people. Turns out they have to call me back (generating a cycle or two of phone tag) and REPEAT everything I’ve already told someone who works for them.

    People who do leave voicemail, who think I know (or give a crap about) who ‘Bob’ is. If you have a name, use all of it. Slowly. Spelling works too. Same with your phone number, asshole: You want me to call you? you better tell me your number so I don’t have to hit repeat on the voice mail or looking up the number on the net – And convince me that calling you back is in my interest.

    But the thing that REALLY pisses me off? A patient has been waiting in our Emergency Department for (at least) several hours, and finally gets into a room. I go in to take care of their problem, and they’re on their cell phone. If they’re well enough to ask/tell me to wait a minute, they’re well enough to go to the very bottom of the ‘who’s next’ queue, and STAY there, for at least a cycle. I don’t have the time or inclination to wait around for them to finish telling Bobbi-Sue what they had for lunch or what they saw on the Vue.

  13. I don’t have a phone in my room. On one hand, it’s a safety hazard, considering that I have no way to contact anyone without leaving 25 elementary kids alone. On the other hand, no one can call me. Win.

  14. At my previous job we had our voicemail linked to Outlook. Whenever someone left me a voicemail it would be recorded as an mp3 and e-mailed to me. I would then be able to listen to and delete voicemail without ever having to pick up the phone. Often, I also knew the person’s e-mail and could just respond to their message that way.

    Not a peeve, just a somewhat solution.

  15. …What’s your office pet peeve?…

    Co-workers, subordinates, and superiors.

  16. I hate the office phone. And the store calling me to ask me when I am going to fix something that I fixed a month ago. It posts at month end close. And, no, I am not available to answer the office phone at 3am.
    Oh! And the guy in the office that simply must come tell me about each and every witty thought he has throughout the day. Especially when they aren’t all that witty. I really don’t give a flying flip what you are planning to do to your Facebook status when you get home. If you simply must share random snark with me, shoot me an email. I don’t need you standing around in my cubicle.
    Cubicles. That’s my office pet peeve!

  17. I like to use email so I have a record of the conversation, but in some cases, especially where I have questions for the other person and each question depends on the answer that I got from the previous question, then I want to speak over the phone.

    My office pet peeve? When I call or email a company and explain that I would like to purchase or evaluate one of their products for our company to use in the production of our products, and they don’t respond. You’d think that the economy was going like gangbusters the way people ignore potential sales.

  18. “At my previous job we had our voicemail linked to Outlook. Whenever someone left me a voicemail it would be recorded as an mp3 and e-mailed to me. ”

    That’s how I get my voicemails at work now. It’s actually pretty sweet: It allows me to telecommute from home effectively. I don’t think I’ve picked up the phone to get a voicemail in several years now.

  19. In my job, we commonly have to transfer encrypted files to and from clients. I often get emails such as this:

    Can you send me a new encryption key?

    There are a fairly large number of reasons that someone who knows very little about public key encryption (as is the case with a majority of our clients… scary, I know) might send this in an email, none of those reasons really fit the email text.

    My peeve is when said person insists that e-mail is the proper media for me to figure out what the hell their problem really is and then impart enough knowlege to successfully fix said problem. Especially when they don’t want to take enough time to actually type out any details other than “I can’t get this to decrypt” (in which a key FROM ME would be useless) or “I don’t know if I have this file encrypted right” (how should I know, I’m not there, and what makes you think that a new key from me would make you any more competent?) or “It gave me an error” usually without any error text, not that it would tell me much, but it’s better than digging up the #2 mayonnaise jar under Funk and Wagnall’s porch a la Carnac the Magnificent.

    Sometimes e-mail is way too limited Insisting on using it exclusively because you don’t like phones or whatever reason is madness.


  20. My pet peeve isn’t that cold-calling salesmen use the phone, but that they are cold-calling salesmen.

    My other, oddly enough, is when people think it’s more efficient to send one-sentence e-mails back and forth for hours, when the entire exchange would amount to a 10-minute conversation face to face.

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