Tuesday, September 6, 2011

Are Phone Calls Rude?

Back in May I published a post entitled “eMails Are Hurting Us”.  The essence of it was that it was important for executives to actually talk to each other. This post is an extension of that one.

The other day, I published a comment on Facebook, “Heard something scary the other day. The 18 year old daughter of a friend of mine was trying to set up an appointment via email and commented to her father that she was not getting a response.  He told her to call.  Her response, ‘Calling would be rude.’  OMG, it is a whole new world.”  My Facebook feed generated a vigorous discussion, both pro and con.  I thought it worthy of posting to see what my friends and readers think.

No question that the twenty-something’s see the world differently than we do.  They may be right.  Technology has changed everything. 


Let me put the father-daughter conversation in context.  She was trying to get an internship. I think that if the company did not respond, he was perfectly justified in telling her to call.  Context is everything.

As my daughter, Liz Gumbinner, suggested on Facebook, it depends on context. Liz does not like getting calls for solicitations.  Her attitude is that if someone emails, she can ignore it, delete it or file the note and answer it at her leisure.  A call, especially one on her cell, may come at an inopportune time and is intrusive.

One of my friends commented that she does not like calls at all. Another commented that, “…in advertising, a candidate who didn’t call would concern me that they would be afraid to call a client or to be aggressive enough to survive.  This is a candidate I would have…doubts about.”

I have had clients who prefer emails to set up appointments; I have others who like phone calls.  I guess it depends on personal preferences.  One thing I know.  I like calls to set up appointments.  The human touch and hearing a voice is a great way to start. If they get voice mail, smart callers speak slowly; leave their phone number, repeating it twice (cell phones all too often break up just at the critical time in the message) and they also leave their email address so the person who gets the call has a choice of response. 

I agree that solicitations are now often best done by email.  Solicitations on my cell and via text are verboten. Phone solicitations, depending on their nature, are mostly not ok, but, these days with voice mail, can either be deleted or answered later.  I sometimes answer my phone in the office; when those calls are solicitations, I get really annoyed, especially those trying to get me to switch my phone carrier or real estate brokers trying to get me to move (I am on a bad list. Somehow commercial brokers are always trying to show me space, but my lease runs through 2015.) The volume of these calls is astounding.  There is one exception, stock brokers.  Once upon a time, they did a lot of cold calling; I miss those calls because, occasionally, they had good advice.  Anyway,  I have a policy of returning all calls or emails, except solicitations.

One thing for sure, five or eight years ago, I would receive six or eight calls every hour.  Today, these are all emails and I am lucky to receive eight calls in a whole day.  I find this rather surprising.  People send me emails with their résumés.  If I have not met them, I barely read the cover note but go right to the résumé to see if I want to meet them.  But I prefer those who I do not know to call me so I can hear their voice and make a judgment about their demeanor.  And of course I always like to hear from my friends on the phone.  In business, there is no substitute for human contact. 

As for social media, everyone users them differently.  Some people use Facebook only for personal friends.  I use LinkedIn only for people I actually know; If strangers want to know what I am cooking, I am happy to have them “friend” me.  But receiving correspondence on LinkedIn, especially from friends who I know have my email address, is annoying.  It simply requires me to take extra steps to respond rather than just pressing “reply”. 

However, I don’t consider social or real business calls or emails to be rude.

How do you use email versus the phone?


  1. I Received this email from a friend. Thought it worth posting:

    Paul: this is a huge issue and one that would make a great paper/study in psychology.

    I just returned from being out for the week. I had four voicemails. Three client calls and my mother. All of which I spoke to during the week anyway.

    Email is the thing—especially for first time reach out, then phone calls are acceptable.

    Regarding my kids—and this is social not business— they will facebook email or txt their friends and then wait for responses as opposed to simply calling someone live. It makes me nuts. But they tell me the same thing: “Dad, that’s not the way its done”

    As far as what’s rude, The only thing I think is rude is continuous calling/solicitation and that rarely comes from my social or business community. The rudeness only comes from timeshare sellers or others in that ilk. And that is the same as it ever was...

    In conclusion, “to each, his own.”

    Your observations are fun

  2. We have reached the bombardment era of e-mail. A phone call offers a personal touch. Employment is personal. Call. But, the office phone, not the cell phone! One is business, the other is personal.


I would welcome your comments, suggestions or anything you would like to share with me or my readers.

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