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A few months ago I started a new, typical 8-4 job. Since I started, my boss has called me at usually once a week outside work hours to ask me what I did at work today and what I'll be doing in the next coming days.

The first couple times he called, I was able to answer. Since then, he's called maybe 4-5 times and I have been unable to answer the phones at the times he called. One time was on a Friday night at 7:30 pm. Sometimes, he's even texted me.

He doesn't leave a message if he doesn't reach me and I don't call him back. But to be honest, I don't want to call him back and I don't want to have work-related conversations outside working hours. Should I just call him back to have him ask me questions about how my work is going? How should I handle the situation?

  • 53
    Is he phoning on your company-supplied phone? Are you expected to be on-call out of hours? – Andrew Leach May 3 '16 at 11:35
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    He calls me on my personal cellphone. It's an office job so I only work 8-4. – user48683 May 3 '16 at 11:45
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    Maybe you could try sending the status update before you leave? And include a reminder that you'll be in the office at 08:00 the next morning if he has a question. Then don't touch your phone until the next morning. – Brandin May 3 '16 at 12:04
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    @Brandin It sounds like the OP forgot to give status updates to the boss and the boss noticing this tries to call him. I would question my boss if a status update is a required item and by when he/she would need it. Then I would ensure I do it during working hours. – Dan May 3 '16 at 16:42
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    @gnasher729 Why torture the wife like that? ;) – cst1992 May 4 '16 at 13:49

11 Answers 11

199

The symptom here is that you get calls outside the working time. The issue however is that your boss isn't getting the level of updates he wants on what you've done/are going to be doing. So I won't touch on ways to avoid his call.

The answer therefore is simple, make sure you leave your boss with an update (email, or verbally if you see him) before you go.

If the issue is trust, it might be better to over-communicate with him (at least initially) until the trust is built up.

Once he gets the level he needs and trusts you, the follows-ups will stop.

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    Your last task every day at 3:55pm should be an email to your boss containing a status update/progress report. Next time he calls, simply refer him to your email. – DLS3141 May 3 '16 at 12:29
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    Just give your boss no reason to call you and he'll... not call you. It's not like he's bored and chat with you about his private life. He's calling you to ask you about what you did at work and what you will be doing. – Nelson May 3 '16 at 13:29
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    I agree with this answer as a first approach. However, "the follow-ups will stop" may or may not be true. The boss has already demonstrated a lack of respect for boundaries, and may still want contact outside of work hours for requests that can't be anticipated ahead of time. – user45590 May 3 '16 at 15:07
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    I've been in this situation and I found that a combination of status updates and not answering the phone works 99% of the time. One employer instead wanted to give me a cellphone, until I pointed out that my contract specified average hours of work and of course time spent dealing with the work phone would be part of my working hours. Suddenly it wasn't so important after all :) – Móż May 4 '16 at 5:19
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    @DLS3141 "Your last task every day at 3:55pm should be an email to your boss" This would only be a "should" if the boss had asked you to do this. Many jobs don't require this, and/or "keeping track" should happen during office hours. It should have been the boss's job to tell OP this was expected, before calling at home. – TripeHound May 4 '16 at 12:43
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The other answers seem to be suggesting action before you have information. How about asking him? Something like

"I've noticed you've called me a few times for updates. Would you prefer me to email or phone more regularly with my progress?"

I would say is a good entry point to a conversation where you can both communicate and doesn't make too many assumptions.

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    +1. This puts the onus on the supervisor to explain what he's trying to achieve with the calls, without coming off as confrontational. – dpw May 3 '16 at 20:21
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    This sounds a lot like Clippy. – Mehrdad May 4 '16 at 8:33
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    @Mehrdad Oh my it does! As long as you don't say it looks like your boss is writing a letter, I suspect it'll be fine ;-) – Michal Charemza May 4 '16 at 8:36
  • @Mehrdad Clippy was great and very polite. I still don't get why he's so reviled - probably clicked wrong with frustrated people or something. – Luaan May 5 '16 at 7:31
11

There is a deeper issue here then just that your boss fails to respect your boundaries. It's happening because your boss feels like he must be better informed about your progress.

You can take two routes to mitigate this:

  • Tell him that out-of-work hour calls are unacceptable, and that you will not be answering them from now on. This is the hardball method and can generate lots of anger and, in rare cases, even get you fired. Try to avoid this if possible.

  • Try and independently give him more updates on your progress. Try to anticipate what we wants to know, and tell him in advance (during hours). If he feels that he is sufficiently informed he will most likely no longer feel the need to call.

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    Telling a boss that something is unacceptable may escalate this unnecessarily and may put you in a worse situation in case of layoffs. I would recommend against it. – Thorbjørn Ravn Andersen May 4 '16 at 8:30
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    @ThorbjørnRavnAndersen It says that right underneath the suggestion "This is the hardball method and can generate lots of anger and, in rare cases, even get you fired. Try to avoid this if possible." – mag May 4 '16 at 8:33
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    Sometimes it is necessary to call people after work not allowing it is unpractical. What you want to do is mitigate the need for it. – Martin York May 4 '16 at 15:04
  • Instead of outright telling him that out-of-work hour calls are unacceptable, it'd be preferable to start getting them billed (eg. ask your boss how should you report them to HR for billing). I'm quite sure he'd refrain (or be asked to refrain from that from higher-ups) if those calls are going to be treated (and payed) as extra hours. – Ángel May 4 '16 at 23:41
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    @Ángel: not necessarily. If the reason he's calling at 7:30 is simply that this is more convenient for him than it would be to catch the questioner before they leave at 4pm, then he might be perfectly happy to say "sure, count this 15 minute conversation as a quarter-hour worked". As long as he has control of some overtime budget, asking for 15 minutes of extra work from you is better than blowing his schedule apart, and by asking how to bill it you've in effect agreed to go ahead with it. "That will cost you money" works as a sneaky blocking move against misers but not against everyone. – Steve Jessop May 4 '16 at 23:58
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I'm surprised no-one has brought up the obvious - let it go to voice mail. If "he" doesn't leave a message, well, you can't answer what wasn't asked.

It's your off-hours - there's no requirement for you to even have your phone on hand. Maybe you're at the movies. Maybe you're at the pool. Maybe you're in the middle of sexy-times. Get back to him when it's convenient for you.

If he needs a status update, that should happen during work hours. If he's expecting a status update and you're not providing it, that's a conversation that should also be happening during off hours.

Now, reality time - I don't get the impression that you're in a position that you can manage your manager by sitting them down and saying "dude, why are you calling me off-hours?". So, sending your boss a quick status update email at the end of the day might be a good thing to try in case that's all he's after. Another would be to proactively book a weekly meeting with him to give the update. If the problem is simply that the boss needs to touch base with you but is having some time-management issues, this might be enough.

The alternative is that your boss might be one of those types that just likes having his employees at beck and call when a thought occurs to him (I used to have one). Forcing a delay between his call and your returning it lets you control the timing (if you've got five free minutes before dinner, call him back immediately; if you're about to go into a movie, hey it can wait two hours) and discourages the habit (since he's calling you when it's convenient for him, getting calls back at inconvenient times for him makes it less desirable).

Now hopefully it's not this bad for you, but since it was for me I'm going to bring it up just in case: until you know for sure what kind of boss you have, make sure you're only calling him back from numbers he already has. I had a boss who obsessively collected any number I called him from, so when I didn't answer the cell, then ten seconds later the house phone was ringing... and a minute later my wife's cell was ringing. It gets a bit nightmarish.

4

If your boss needs to know what you've done in order to let others work on similar projects and to make sure the work doesn't overlap. Then I understand why he tries to call you. It'd be unusual but not unheard of.

If your boss simply calls you outside work to ask what you've done. Then this is very weird. Outside working hours you do not have any obligation to work unless it is expected from your job.

In order to handle this, you could simply update your boss before leaving. You could write down what you've done and leave that at your desk. Basically a working log.

Most companies tend to "schedule" these things in either a weekly or bi-weekly fashion. They simply get together for 5 minutes and talk about what has been done since the last time you got together. In my own case, this is every other Friday. This would fall under "monitoring progress".

If you don't want to leave an update every time you leave the job, you could ask him to schedule these monitoring progression meetings. If for some reason you or him missed one, you should simply have one on the next available day.

If he keeps calling you after working hours after all these suggestions. Then you should talk to him about it. You should tell him you don't mind being called, however it's not something that should become the norm.

2

If it is mostly the same questions every time, I would make a template that I can use everyday and at the end of each day, send him the email with what you have done that day, what are the open items and things like that. You can improve it overtime with more information. This might reduce his calls without much friction.

1

I realise you’ve already accepted an answer, but thought I’d contribute my own.

Personally, I don’t like bosses or clients to have my number. If I’m an employee, then I’m only on the clock for so many hours of the day. I’m not paid to be ‘on-call’ 24/7. To this end, I hold out on giving out personally details to my employed until explicitly asked for them. I’m four months into my current role and my boss still doesn’t have my mobile phone number. He hasn’t asked, and I’ve not offered in an effort to avoid the situation you find yourself in.

Back to the actual problem, an update call isn’t really urgent. It can be left until the next day where your boss can ask you first thing if he really needs to know what you worked on the previous day and what you’ll be working on in the upcoming day. If your boss really wants to know these, you could organise daily stand-ups. These are quick meetings in which every member of the team participates (including your boss) and answers three questions:

  1. What did I accomplish yesterday?
  2. What will I do today?
  3. What obstacles are impeding my progress?

These gives each member of the team visibility into each others’ progress, and the “standing up” portion if meant to keep meetings short and to-the-point in order to avoid discomfort from standing for a long period of time. This would give your boss insight into what he wants to know: what you’ve done and what you’re going to do.

0

Most of the answers take one of two positions:

  1. Communicate more with your boss in advance (assumes that regular status is a job responsibility)
  2. Set your boundaries (assumes these calls are outside your work requirements)

These are both reasonable answers, but I think a more general answer may help.

While it's important to realize that you do have some sort of a personal relationship with your boss that needs to be maintained, it's also important to realize that this relationship is based on a contractual relationship first and foremost.

So the question to ask first is, what is your contractual obligation in order to do your job?

If you are giving your boss the status reports that are required, and you are not expected to be reachable outside of work, then you have no obligation to answer the phone. From a personal relationship perspective, you're probably best off either:

  1. Setting up your phone so it doesn't ring when your boss calls you off-hours (there are apps for this)
  2. Politely asking if your boss is calling just to check up or if he's worried about your work - and if it's just to check up, see if he can checkin with you at work instead, because it will be difficult to know if he's ever calling because of a work emergency if he regularly calls.

But on the other hand - you may be not completely fulfilling your contractual obligation to the company/your boss regarding keeping them up to date.

That's best for you to figure out on your own (or with your boss).

But in the end, I think people spend way too much time being afraid of their employment status and not realizing that their company needs them just as much as they need the company (else they likely won't have a job for long anyways :) )

0

Should I just call him back to have him ask me questions about how my work is going?

A better option is to maintain a 'time sheet' where your boss can run through it to track the work that you did. The time sheet should account for all the work related stuff you did over the work day. At the end of the day, you could leave a status mail to him with the details of when the specified update would be completed and notified.

0

I had a couple of bosses that albeit often calling for valid reasons, did not respect my time.

I was working a very demanding job, and putting lot of hours at work, so often the calls were not justifiable.

Another one who was a (micro)control freak who called out of hours - often asking the doorman to warn him when I left and call me 5-10 minutes later - just to show who was really the boss.

Using common sense to know when to ignore calls pretty much worked and/or saying I was in the beach/sleeping/having sex/driving pretty much worked out ok.

0

A lot of other people have pointed out that you may want to consider giving him more regular updates. I agree with that completely. There's no reason that he can't get the information he's asking for during normal working hours. The usual expectation for calls outside of normal working hours is that they'll occur only in the case of emergencies (which his calls clearly aren't), but these still reflect an issue that needs to be addressed.

One thing I'd suggest process-wise: do you know if other people get similar calls? It wouldn't surprise me at all if so. If this is the case, you might want to consider suggesting regular "stand-up" meetings that your boss is invited to where people answer the exact questions he's asking you. Specifically, the traditional questions (at least for those that are following the Scrum development methodology) are: what did you do yesterday, what do you plan to do today, and do you have any "blockers" or obstacles?

protected by Community May 4 '16 at 9:20

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