3

I have been had several experiences in a professional environment where contact is initiated by e-mail or via some form of social media (LinkedIn, WhatsApp, ...), where the person on the other side asks for a phone discussion. The reason they give for wanting to have this phone discussion is to ask some trivial questions that I feel could easily be asked and answered through a single e-mail or via the same chat where the contact was initiated.

In general I usually prefer text communication since I can't always speak freely over the phone, especially during work hours when I have to avoid bothering coworkers. Another factor is of time zone differences and then there's the fact that I often can't really understand people very well over the phone. Often, the sound quality on a phone call is too low for me to discern words well.

I sometimes get the impression from people that they are bothered by the text exchanges. I personally reserve the phone discussions for subjects that need an expedited response.

Is it generally seen as unprofessional to have a conversation over text messages? Is it less ergonomic for these people to type their questions instead of speaking them over the phone?

  • Do you already have a working relationship with these people? or more importantly... are they asking you these questions as a form of interview? – Jesse May 18 '18 at 0:48
  • @Jesse, sometimes it is a recruiter, however I'm not looking for a job and the recruiters seem to be in a bigger pressure to hire than to me to get a job. The situations happened with: recruiter (cold calling on me several times); upper manager; consultant; school supervisor; costumer support. Never with a client. The reasons vary, but they often are issue solution and in many instances across time-zones. I agree that some of them would not need a discussion if the e-mail inviting to have it had the questions written on it. – Gabriel Diego May 18 '18 at 1:50
5

Granted that communication medium is a personal preference, here are a couple of reasons why some prefer to conduct professional communication over the phone:

  • Information security. Depending on the company and nature of the communication, some things being documented outside of a company's network (e.g. public email or text) is against policy.
  • The possibility of new important subjects coming up during a real-time conversation that otherwise would never be discussed in an asynchronous conversation.

Regardless of the reason, though, in many cases it wouldn't hurt to tactfully express your preference and inquire about the reasons behind the other person's.

4

You need to set expectations properly every now and then, on every conversation you detect an appropriate time to deliver, so no one on your circles gets confused, let that be professional, personal, public circles, whatever boundaries you've established for your life.

Your millage may vary, but as an example, I try to remind my family about my personal view of this from time to time, my take on telecommunications arranged by response priority or urgency:

  1. Real time feedback = In person conversation (This is a really sensitive matter)
  2. Urgent response = phone call.
  3. Important to have an answer anytime today = text message.
  4. I just want you to know and have an answer maybe this week = email.
  5. I really felt like adding a personal touch and for you to think about it deeply = Hand written letter.
  6. I want to make fun of technology and send a memorable joke = Telegram

Time spans can be adjusted to suit how fast and stressful is your life's rhythm.
And of course, text messages are more versatile, if I already paid attention to the thing you might as well bring other topics and start a brief conversation.

And if the other party has an accent that I can't figure out, I'll be prompt to invite them to bring the conversation to text messaging too, being very careful not to come out as xenophobic, I just want to avoid misunderstandings.

3

Impolite? No, but if this is an interview I seriously recommend against.

"professional environment where a contact is initiated by e-mail or via some social media (LinkedIn, WhatsApp, ...) and the person in the other side asks for a phone discussion to ask some trivial questions"

This sounds like an interview to me, or an early conversation with a potential client and that changes the dynamic a lot. If this is the case, receiving these answers to the questions is only a small part of why they want to call you. Really, their goal is to have a conversation with you and try to decide if they think you would get along well or are the sort of person they are looking to work with. These things are often left up to intuition, and if your goal is for them to hire you as an employee, or contract you for a job, or start a partnership with then rejecting the phone call would severely hurt your chances. Consider it from their perspective, they have 20 solid candidates and they aim to have a phone call with each to get a feel for how well they think you would fit into the team. If they had the call with 19 candidates and not you, no matter how nicely you put it, I would say that it is likely you would not even be considered without the phone call.

Secondly, I would even give a word of warning about pressing them to explain "why" they want the call. Technically it is an innocent question, but they may not perceive it as such. Insisting someone explain why before you agree can imply distrust, professionally you should always be cautious when doing things with legal ramifications, but this is not that. Instead you can come across as argumentative, unwilling or even just plain annoying.

Admittedly, this answer depends entirely on what sort of dynamic this is. If you are co-workers, or they have already had conversations with you before then it all becomes a mute point. But in a professional environment, having a proper conversation where you can hear someones voice for the first time is likely to have a large impact on their related decisions and although rejecting their proposal for a call is not in any way "impolite" it may risk seriously hurting the prospects of what I suspect is your actual (professional) goal.

  • Thanks for the tips. When people ask me to have a call, I usually imply that a denial is not an option. It is not a recruiter all the time, although I get some cold calls by my LinkedIn. One particular occasion the person who wanted the call was giving me directions on how to use a machine including text commands via voice in a language that I'm not very proficient and in a different time-zone. I felt that the call requirement was almost a disrespect to me given my burden to accommodate it. – Gabriel Diego May 18 '18 at 1:58
1

In my experience, the pros and cons for different methods of communication differ from person to person.

A phone call has the advantage that you can get answers now and react to those answers immediately by asking the next question or clarifying your first statement.

In my experience, business(wo)men prefer phone calls for exactly these reasons. Email, on the other hand, takes time to fomulate, has no immediate response time and can drag out conversations over several days. Someone actually told me

"Why should I waste 15 minutes to formulate an email when I can convey the same information and much more in a 5 minures call?"

You already stated your reasons to prefer email over calls, so inform the person requesting a call of those, especially if you think the matter is trivial. Or propose a time frame for a call, clearly stating your time zone and that you'll gladly answer via email if the time is inconvenient for the other party.

Your Answer

By clicking “Post Your Answer”, you agree to our terms of service, privacy policy and cookie policy

Not the answer you're looking for? Browse other questions tagged or ask your own question.