I don't mind giving my personal information to the HR staff, but they want to publish my residential and cell phone number in the office directory.

I don't have a residential phone, and I am not interested in all my colleagues getting my cell phone number. How can I avoid giving out this information without creating problems for myself at work? How can I approach this with HR?

They say it's in case of emergency (if they need me to come into the office outside of regular hours), but the job I have has no valid "emergency" reason to be called (job-wise), ever.

Edit: We are talking about my private cell phone (not on contract), nothing was provided by the company since I do not need a cell phone for my job.
There are 2 other programmers who are "always" on-call. I'm not on that list (we democratically choose to be on that on-call list or not, two out of 15 chose to be and we don't need more).

  • Edited to make this more answerable. "Must I oblige?" is going to depend on your specific work environment. That is, whether you would be fired or disciplined over it would depend on company policies, etc. It seems like what you really want to know is how to go about refusing in a way that doesn't hurt your career or your relationship with HR. Jan 20, 2015 at 20:35
  • I don't understand why they have to publish it. It's reasonable for the company or its HR department to have your contact information, but why can't they keep it to themselves ? Jan 21, 2015 at 8:34
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    If you are to be on-call; then the office should provide a phone for you. Jan 21, 2015 at 8:40
  • Are you sure this information can't be divined simply by looking you up online? Are you really protecting anything that isn't already potentially in the public domain? Jan 21, 2015 at 13:48
  • FYI - an "emergency" can encompass a lot of things beyond just needing you for some office thing. A simple example would be some type of serious altercation occurs at the office and HR wants to tell everyone not to come in...
    – NotMe
    Jan 21, 2015 at 15:01

10 Answers 10


In the UK, personal contact information is subject to Data Protection Legislation and companies need to be able to show that they collect only what they need, use it only for the purpose it is supposed to be used for, and take appropriate steps to make sure it is only available to people who genuinely need it (typically only HR and perhaps one or two other people responsible for business continuity planning, i.e. floods etc.).

I'm guessing you're not in the UK (as you call it a cellphone number) but there may be similar local legislation: discuss this with your union rep or whoever else you normally go to for advice about legal matters.

Even if there are no similar local protections, those are good principles. You don't want some disgruntled employee taking a whole company's contact book when they leave. Nor do you want to create a channel for bullying. Any personal data the company stores is a liability.

If you're concerned, you can preface your response with something like:

I'm not necessarily against sharing that information if there's a genuine need, I just want to know there's a good reason for storing it and that my personal info is being kept responsibly.

Questions you might want to ask would be:

  • Why do you need contact details other than the landline?
  • What sort of circumstances would be an emergency?
  • Who will have access to this number?
  • What would happen if I didn't have a mobile 'phone?

Be open to the possibility that they may have legitimate answers. Just remember, it's probably not worth losing your job over, your employer clearly also has quite a lot of other pieces of personal information about you.


I agree, it seems unnecessary to publish your phone number in a directory like that. If they are very insistent that you provide a number, or it would be awkward not to do so (some people just don't 'get' the notion that not everyone wants their personal information public and will actually be offended if you balk at the idea), you might sign up for a Google Voice number and give them that. You can even set that up as voicemail if you want, and it will email any messages to you. Then if you leave the job, disable the number.

  • Dangit - you were about 20 seconds quicker than I. I'll delete my answer. :) Jan 20, 2015 at 20:38
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    lol, the trick is to post first then edit :-) Jan 20, 2015 at 20:40
  • It would be an amazing alternative if Google Voice numbers were available in Canada. As soon as it's available here I'll register for one.
    – Jeff Noel
    Jan 20, 2015 at 20:43
  • 1
    Google Voice is very nice, but there may be similar services from other companies that are available in Canada. You might look around online. Jan 20, 2015 at 20:46
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    I'd add to that, you can buy cheap prepaid and cheap secondary phone, which you may switch off outside working hours.
    – user1023
    Jan 21, 2015 at 10:37

A phone number is personal information and you have no obligation to share it with coworkers.

The argument from the accepted answer of you don't have to take the call is BS. If the phone rings at 2 AM it took away from my personal life. I am neither female nor attractive but but that is private information. If you are harassed by a coworker because that number was published the company has exposed themselves to a lawsuit.

If there is a business need for emergency response then a business cell phone should be issued and published callout process.

I am IT and no way my personal phone is a business phone. I barely have a personal life as it is.

Would the NFL or NBA require a player to publish a private phone number?


Tell them what you are telling us (I don't mind HR having it, but I don't want it published publicly) and see what they say, and if it's unsatisfactory come back here. It's possible they'll be fine with not publishing it, and if we know they aren't we can give you better answers. If they come back with a non-answer ("We do it for everyone, it's not that big a deal"), reaffirm your position and ask if it is a company policy or just a thing HR has decided to do.


"Must" is pretty wide.

In most places, you are not obligated to provide this info - but they are also not obligated to employ you.

In my personal experience, HR will protest, but not too strongly if you decline to provide the info or make up some obvious lie. They might push to have the contact info on file (but unpublished), which is a good compromise since sometimes emergencies do come up.


You aren't obligated to share your cell number -- not everyone has a cell phone. On the other hand, there are good reasons to give them a_some_ phone number so they can contact you in emergencies -- for example, to tell you that there's been a hazmat spill and you should stay home for your own safety, or because they critically need you to help rescue a multi-megabuck sale, both of which I think you'd rather hear about, and arguably both of which you'd want to be informed of even if not at home.

If you're really worried about abuse -- extremely unlikely unless you have bigger problems than stated here -- talk to your manager and/or hr about making this visible only to management.


Refer to your company's HR policy (if available) to get more information about this. In my company, they provide you a company mobile phone so at least you can keep your personal contact information away from business.


Instead of giving your personal cellphone numer, you can also buy a (very cheap) prepaid cellphone or use a dual-sim smartphone and give out this number. When not at work you can then disable the device rendering you unreachable for anyone outside work hours.

  • without knowing more about what "emergency" HR referred to in their request, this may be not very wise decision. Consider adding a more solid explanation why you recommend this, see Back It Up and Don't Repeat Others
    – gnat
    Jan 21, 2015 at 10:11

I've worked for companies that published personal mobile numbers and home addresses. Usually, these were made available in a directory to the IT department I was working in. In one case, the number was supposedly restricted to my manager and my manager's manager, but I would get called by colleagues who were provided the number in some way or another. By giving the number to your manager, you are also placing it in the hands of their administrative assistant, and one admin can call another to ask for the number.

If you do get called, then I would log the calls, indicating when the call was received, who called, and for what purpose. If you get called often enough, I would ask my employer to issue me a phone, and to rotate on-call duty within your section.

I would not agree to share my personal mobile number if I have been issued a phone by my employer. My employer may demand that I be reachable, but that is satisfied by having the number of the phone the business has issued me.

I've known of home addresses being used in cases of a transit strike. This helps managers decide who could possibly walk to work if needed. Otherwise, I don't see a business need for their knowing where I live.


What do you gain by refusing to let them publish the number?

You don't have to oblige, nobody at night is going to come and take you away if you refuse, anyway. But you are going to stand out as the guy who won't give his number. Is winning the battle to keep your number private something that is worth that? I don't know, only you do.

On the other hand, I don't know about publishing the address - I typically wouldn't let anybody publish that info, and I cannot think of a valid reason for them to publish it.

There isn't much wrong with publishing the phone number. In most every company I've worked at, that is typical practice. If the job you have has no valid reason to get called, then you're probably not going to get called.

It is extremely rare for a colleague to just call you out of the blue. I've never heard of it -wait, not true. There was one question here on the workplace - oh, i guess it was deleted - where some loon wanted to call up a random colleague he found attractive and ask her out.

It is not like if they do call you, you have to jump to it, you could be anywhere when they call you on the phone (hint, anywhere not near a computer), unless you've already agreed to do some work. And then, well, they'll probably have your number anyway.

In some countries, an old mobile with a sim card (with no cash on it) will still accept calls. This can be useful (not so useful if you're in the states, sadly). If you really don't want to get called, just get a pay-per-minute number and give that in.

But at the end of the day, you're making a pretty tall statement over something that you mention has no reason to impact you.

  • 4
    At least for me, having my personal phone be off limits is a key element of work-life balance. That and I've known places where the contact info was sold by disgruntled employees.
    – Telastyn
    Jan 20, 2015 at 20:21
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    @Telastyn yeah, the work life thing can be fair - the OP seems to think he's not going to get called though. The contact info being sold is wild though... any maybe lucrative too... huh. ahem. I'm, um, just going to browse the corporate directory now, ok?
    – bharal
    Jan 20, 2015 at 20:23
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    If it is my phone number and if I don't want to take a call on it from a business college (emergency or not) is my business. Would the NFL require a player to publish their personal phone number so a fan could call (in the case of emergency)?
    – paparazzo
    Jan 21, 2015 at 4:31
  • I have never heard (or worked for) a company which published personal phone number in a directory (office phone numbers, of course, are published).
    – dirkk
    Jan 21, 2015 at 8:25
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    @Konerak oh man oh man, you should have read the question i am referring to (but it is gone so you cannot). the guy was insistent that why would the company publish this number if not for him to try to date his attractive coworker who had never met him. "Some loon" is actually the professional term under those circumstances.
    – bharal
    Jan 21, 2015 at 11:15

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