Do You Want Your Boss Calling at 3AM?

Boss calling middle of the night, late call

​June 26, 2018 — By Jerry Roberts

Some useful definitions for this column:

3 a.m. – A time when nobody wants to receive a phone call.

Deep sleep – Something most workers don't get much of.

Rolodex – Think "contact list" in card form, running from A to Z, attached to a circular filing thingy.

The scenario is this: You're tired and all you want to do is sleep. You crawl into bed and in just moments you drift off. Ahh, your body is going to get the rest it needs and you'll wake up feeling like a million dollars.

Your last thought before losing consciousness is, "Tonight I'll get seven hours and it will be magnificent."

You descend into that REM sleep, the deep sleep. You're going to feel wonderful when you wake up. And then ...

BRRRIINNGGGG. ... Your bliss is shattered by your phone going off. You spring out of bed because at 3 o'clock in the morning all kinds of thoughts race through your head.

"It's gotta be long distance, it's gotta be family. ... They wouldn't be calling at 3 a.m. unless ... oh, good Lord, please ..."

You can't make out the number on the caller ID, so you answer, "Helloooooo."

Then you hear, "It's me, I couldn't sleep. Did I wake you?"

It's the boss, so you don't yell into the phone, "No, I'm always up at 3 o'clock, just in case you call!"

Instead, you say, "Oh, hi, boss, what can I do for you?"

You hear, "I'm worried about something and I wanted to run it by you. Have you got a minute?"

By now maybe you're approaching wide-awake status and aren't likely to get back to sleep anyway, so you resign yourself to your fate, saying, "Sure, boss, I'm all yours."

Love it or hate it?

So, would you be OK with the boss ringing you up at a strange hour, when he or she is worried about something? Do you love the idea or do you hate it?

​I wanted the first position in my boss's mental contact file. If something is worrisome and they want help, let the first face that pops into their mind belong to me.


I've asked these questions in training workshops for about 20 years and the initial reaction is always negative – 90 to 100 percent adamant that they definitely do not want their phone going off in the middle of the night.

After I explain the reasons why they should reconsider their decision, we usually see a few people change their mind. Let's see how that goes with you.

First, I need to establish that I loved it. Why? Because the boss was calling me, thinking I was capable of helping in some way.

Second, I know the boss wouldn't be calling at that hour unless he or she had a legitimate concern and it was time-sensitive. Otherwise, it could wait until I came into work later that morning. Given those factors, this is an important call and, in my humble opinion, worth every minute of sleep I may lose.

Third, I've taken a number of these calls in my life and to me, it was validation, because I wanted to position myself as a "go-to" person for my employer. I wanted to be the one consulted in a crisis. Back in the day, contact lists were assembled on a contraption called the Rolodex, and I wanted the first position in my boss's mental contact file. If something is worrisome and they want help, let the first face that pops into their mind belong to me.

Yeah, I'll be a little tired that day, but that's my investment into a stronger relationship with my employer and organization.

Rewards outweigh negatives

If my personal agenda includes earning the unofficial position as this "go-to" person, then I have to be willing to go above and beyond the normal call of duty. That will eventually include some inconvenient moments. In the long run, I have seen that the rewards far outweigh any negatives.

To learn ​how to ​bring the powerful values in this post to your organization, click here.

So, will you at least consider it?

Look at it this way: If it's 3 a.m. and the phone rings, and it's your boss with a problem, smile through your bleary eyes ... they think you might have the answer.

​Originally published in the Guam Daily Post, where J​erry Roberts' column, The Work Zone, appears each Tuesday.

Spread the word — Thanks!
>