Monday, March 12, 2018

Should You Ignore Weekend Emails from the Boss?

I once had dinner with a friend who worked for a telecommunications company. In the middle of our conversation, she stopped talking and looked unhappily at her phone.

"I'm sorry," she said, looking at her vibrating phone on the table. "But I've got to deal with this if it's my boss."

She checked her phone.

"Give me a second," she said to me, frantically tapping at her phone.

When she replaced her phone on the table, I asked her if such messages on the weekend were common.

"Oh, you'd think we were curing cancer, the way he demands we answer his messages immediately," the woman told me. "It's awful."

I asked her if she ever thought of ignoring the messages even for an hour, and she burst out laughing.

"I need this job too much," she replied.

I then asked her if she ever thought about talking to her boss about the issue.

"No. I can't. I wouldn't know what to say," she said.

For my friend, and all the other people out there who may be putting up with a boss that bugs them endlessly when they are away from work, I have a few suggestions:

1. Make sure you're right. Are you sure that your boss really wants an answer right away? Or, did you just reach this assumption based on information from others or because there was one or two instances that demanded such a reaction time?

2. Communicate clearly. I hear from bosses all the time that they get frustrated when employees believe they are mind readers. If you want to know the protocol for weekend emails, then you need to ask your boss directly. "I know that you send emails on the weekend, and I wanted to ask if I need to respond right away if it's a non-emergency issue. I like to take the time away to really recharge so that I'm energized on Monday. Sometimes that means that I don't have the ability to respond right away."

3. Monitor your own behavior. You may be part of the problem, and not even realize it. For example, do you send an email to a colleague on the weekend? Perhaps that colleague then feels obligated to send an email to another co-worker -- and cc's the boss. Bam! Now the boss has to send out an email, and that means you have now triggered receiving emails from the boss on the weekend. If you do feel like you've got to send the email before it slips your mind, use a tool like Boomerang to send it Monday morning.

Finally, if your boss does expect you to respond on weekends to non-emergency emails, then it's not likely you can ignore them. That's when you have to make the decision on whether the company's culture is a good fit -- or you need to find an employer that respects your time off.

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