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My Boss Acts Like I'm On-Call Day and Night

My Boss Acts Like I'm On-Call Day and Night

Before you lose your cool, think it through.

Alison Green | Ask A Manager

In response to an earlier post about calling coworkers at night or over the weekend, I wrote that (a) it can be okay if you know they’re fine with it, which some people are, (b) you should avoid doing it if you’re a manager, even if you know/think they’re fine with it, because most people will be less comfortable telling you “no,” and © it’s never okay if you’re not sure where they stand on receiving such calls, unless it’s an extreme emergency. One commenter wrote this in response:

While I agree with everyone who said “just don’t pick up,” what about working with coworkers and managers who just don’t get that? My boss and a coworker (who has been with my boss for a long time and modeled his behavior after hers) have a nasty habit of calling at ALL HOURS. I’ve gotten calls at 3 a.m. on a Friday, midnight on a Tuesday, 6 a.m. on a Wednesday, you name it. And if you don’t pick up, they just keep on calling and calling until you do! In fact, I once had to field calls from my boss, who was in a complete tizzy, one weekend day when the part-time employee who I supervise wasn’t picking up his phone, despite the fact it was his day off. Turns out he’d gone to the beach, again as it was his day off, and his phone was out of range — but our boss was livid (how dare he not pick up).

It’s never an emergency, but the culture in my office is EVERYTHING is urgent. Seriously — I was lectured once because, after working till 9 p.m. I mentioned to my boss that I was glad we’d finished that project, even if we had to stay so late, because I was hosting a Thanksgiving dinner at my house the next day (a weekend). And she asked me what made me think I could have a party on a weekend — she might need me.

Same goes for vacation: I was on unpaid leave at home when my grandmother died, and received almost hourly emails, texts and calls. When I was unable to answer or reply, as I was in the hospital while she was dying unable to use my cell, I was berated for having my priorities out of wack. However, god help the person who calls my boss on her weekends or vacations: even if we need approvals from her to continue the work, if we interrupt her we’re going to be screamed at.

So my question for all of you: if office culture is so important, how does one change it?

There are two different issues here: the question of how to change an office culture, and the question of your crazy, out-of-line boss.

Because let’s be clear: Your boss is completely, 100% over the line, unreasonable, deluded, and a jerk. You were berated for having your priorities out of whack when a family member was dying? You were told that you couldn’t have a party over a weekend because she “might” need you? What is this job exactly, member of the president’s cabinet?

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