Advice: "Prospects keep calling me after hours. How can I politely tell them to stop?"

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Dear Quota Team,

I have a (mostly) great job as an Account Executive + New Business hybrid role with a non-profit. Overall I am happy at my job, I have a large degree of autonomy, and I am performing well.

One of my only complaints is that my employer does not provide a dedicated work cell phone. There is an option to get an employer-specific line, but it involves a hefty, unreimbursed personal expense up-front that I am not willing to incur. (gotta love that non-profit life) When I first started pre-pandemic this wasn't much of an issue, but with COVID and the proliferation of remote work most of my clients now have my personal cell phone. Most days this isn't a problem, however I'll admit I don't love it when they call my personal cell phone before they call my office line. For what it's worth, I do forward my office line to my cell on days I'm working remotely. Where this does become a problem is when I have clients and coworkers calling my personal phone outside business hours, on the weekends, or when I am on vacation. This happens with such frequency it has now also become an issue with my spouse.

I am a staunch believer in separating your work life from your personal life. I grew up with a family member that was a legit workaholic, and I vowed to never become that. I also grew up with two extremely successful family members that have both drawn a firm boundary between work and personal life that has been kept for the most part. One of them is responsible for 300+ people as the owner + President of the business. If they can draw that line, I should be able to also draw a similar boundary.

My question is - is there a tactful and respectful way to ask my clients & customers to please refrain from calling my cell phone? And is there a tactful and respectful way to inform my boss and colleagues that I should not be contacted on my personal phone unless it's a true emergency?

Frustrated in Utah   


Dear Frustrated,

After-hours phone calls can be annoying, unless it’s a prospect calling to say they’re ready to move forward, in which case it’s a great way to end (or start) your day.

Nevertheless, this is something that’s not working for you, or your spouse (which might be even worse). You could try Google voice, which is a very cost-effective way to have a separate dedicated phone number and voicemail for future business calls. 

But to answer your question, the most tactful way to ask people to stop calling your cell phone is to be mostly honest, without being too direct. You should also reframe your statement so that it’s for your customer’s benefit, not just your own.

Try something like: “I just wanted to give you a heads-up that I’m going to be moving all of my professional conversations to my office line. This will help me stay organized and ensure you get everything you need from me.” 

One thing to keep in mind, however, is that it’s a bit of a stretch to expect people not to call you back on a number that you gave them, or on a number that you called them from. You can ask, but conversations move quickly these days, and most of us are just used to hitting the green button on the number we have. So our suggestion is if you want to keep things separate, then actually keep them separate. Good luck! 

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