DEAR MISS MANNERS: At my company, we have our personal cellphone numbers on our business cards, which is fine. Nowadays it would seem like burying our heads in the sand to pretend that it’s impossible to reach us outside the office.
However, I think it should be an unwritten rule that business acquaintances should only use that number when there’s a time-sensitive issue and they can’t reach me at the office.
The vast majority of people who have my card do treat it that way. However, there are a few who simply call my cell number freely, for reasons that aren’t urgent. (For what it’s worth, I don’t work in medicine or any other field where reaching me is actually life-or-death.)
To me, it’s like giving a neighbor an emergency key to your house. You want them to have it in case there’s ever a need, but you don’t want them using it to drop in for a midnight snack.
Is there a polite way to let people know that for ordinary business, they should really only call me at the office? Or should I just accept that since I’ve given them my cellphone number, they get to use it?
GENTLE READER: How would they know any better?
With the lines blurred between business and social situations and their respective calling cards (social cards being virtually nonexistent -- or existent only virtually), callers have no choice but to use the number that they are offered.
Miss Manners recommends that you create new business cards with only your office phone number listed. Then, if you find yourself with clients who will need more direct access to you, you may invite them to use your mobile telephone number and scribble it in by hand.
A conspiratorial “I only do this for clients I trust with my personal information” can be added, if you can muster it up without sounding creepy.