Can my boss call me at 2am?
October 16, 2011 8:43 AM   Subscribe

My boss called me at 1:45am to ask me to come in early the next day. Is that as outrageous as I think it is?

I'm not a cop or a doctor--I work in a restaurant, so nobody's going to die if I don't pick up a shift. And it's a large restaurant--there are probably 50 people on staff. Last night, at 1:45am, when I was asleep, I got a phone call from my job. I answered because I thought there was some kind of drama (missing money! disastrous fire!), but it was just one of the managers asking me to work a double shift the next day instead of my scheduled single shift. I said no, I have plans (plans to sleep in and then browse MetaFilter in my jammies, hah) and they didn't push it, and then I turned my phone the hell off and went back to sleep. But... isn't it beyond the pale to call an employee literally in the middle of the night? The restaurant doesn't even open until 11, so it would have been 100% possible to call me at like, 9:30 this morning. I get along fine with this manager, who doesn't seem weird or nutty, so I think it might be company policy that this is OK. I do need this job, but might be able to find another one in a month or so... I would love to hear from people with more restaurant experience if this is semi-normal, or if it is, in fact, seriously obnoxious.
posted by Nibbly Fang to Work & Money (34 answers total)
That's pretty nutty for a service gig. In the future I'd just tell him that you don't answer calls after 10 or whatever. Aside from the fact that it's inconsiderate, it's also unprofessional. He may have just been in a bind, so I wouldn't fly off the handle. I'd just set some ground rules.

But yeah, pretty weird.
posted by GilloD at 8:50 AM on October 16, 2011

This is ridiculous. I would ask they not call me that late ever again, if possible. Early in the morning is fine.
posted by two lights above the sea at 8:50 AM on October 16, 2011 [1 favorite]

Phone calls for anything other than death, mayhem, arrest, or some other kind of emergency are the only ones that are okay at 1:45am unless you have a prior arrangement with someone. Seriously? That's 12 kinds of crazy. If it was that pressing, a text would have been ok - you aren't necessarily going to be disturbed by that but you will see it as early as possible the next day - but calling? For a non-emergency? No. Crazeballs.
posted by Medieval Maven at 8:51 AM on October 16, 2011 [5 favorites]

Yes, completely wrong.
posted by roomthreeseventeen at 8:51 AM on October 16, 2011

Yeah, pretty lame. But, I would consider the fact that this may have been a moment where your manager felt desperate. In those cases, people often want to find a quick resolution, rather than worrying about it during the night and not knowing if they will be successful the next morning. If this isn't typical of your job, personally I wouldn't say much more about it. If it happens again, though, I would set some boundaries.
posted by SpacemanStix at 8:52 AM on October 16, 2011 [6 favorites]

But... isn't it beyond the pale to call an employee literally in the middle of the night?

There's what you think on the matter and what your boss thinks on the matter. There's a disagreement, so you need to resolve it. My point here is that whether you think it's wrong isn't the issue, the manager found it ok and will continue to think so unless you tell him.

In the future, remember that it's ok let 1:45am calls from work go to voice mail.
posted by Brandon Blatcher at 8:53 AM on October 16, 2011 [12 favorites]

Yes, that is beyond reasonable. Given that the restaurant opens at 11am, I think 8am woould have been when I started making calls to fill the shift if I thought I was going to have problem getting someone to come in. I might tell him that when you got the call at that hour you thought the restaurant had burned down, then I'd ask why didn't he call in the morning? I'd really want to know what his thought process was on that. I'd also toss in that you're more likely to take the shift if he calls in the morning, rather than responding with "WTF? No!"
posted by ThatCanadianGirl at 8:55 AM on October 16, 2011

As with any other work-related activities, what is "OK" and what is "outrageous" depends entirely on the context you have, for what you'll put up with for the amount of money you make. I've put up with treatment that other employees refused to put up with (and seemed reasonable to me), and I've walked off jobs for things that other employees took in stride (and seemed way over the top to me.)

Also: what if the boss got a phone call from another employee at 1:30am in the morning, saying they couldn't work their shift, and that's why your boss thought it was okay to call other employees at 1:45am to fill in the shift? Perhaps he or she couldn't get back to sleep because they were stressed about it. Or they were out and drunk, and not thinking of the hour, when they got the call. Since you are on good terms with the manager, and since they didn't push it when you said no, you can probably get away with asking "So what were you doing up at 1:45am, anyway? Is that when you found out the shift wasn't going to be covered?" Then you can hear them vent about what happened, or hear their apology for the drunk phone call, or whatever -- just so you won't have to wonder if this is going to be a normal thing.

And of course, if their response is "I'm on the job 24-7 and I expect you to be, too" -- even though you haven't complained at all, just asked what the circumstances were -- then you will be better set to judge whether this is something to be concerned about.
posted by davejay at 8:55 AM on October 16, 2011 [1 favorite]

I could see that this wouldn't be completely weird if you closed the restaurant that night and that meant that you were there until an hour or so before he called.
posted by Houstonian at 9:00 AM on October 16, 2011 [2 favorites]

Houstonian makes a good point, but I'll make another...

Closing usually ='s Shift Drink.

So when you broach this, be kind. Better, don't mention it all unless it happens again! You've already shut him down once on this, and I think that was enough. You're in control already.


Restaurant = Big Ego's. Tread lightly. You haven't lost anything here.
posted by jbenben at 9:05 AM on October 16, 2011 [1 favorite]

Aha! I thought so. Thanks everyone. davejay, my boss called me from the office, so she was still there working, not out drinking. I understand the stress factor (we were unexpectedly busy this weekend), and I wouldn't have been bugged by a Sunday morning phone call--and yes, I would have been way more likely to consider a double shift if I'd been contacted this morning. I didn't close the restaurant last night--I was done by about 10:45. I mean, it was a Saturday, but that doesn't mean I'm necessarily up at 2am. Oh, and I forgot to mention my shift yesterday was 10+ hours. So I was asleep after putting in over 10 hours on a busy Saturday night.
posted by Nibbly Fang at 9:07 AM on October 16, 2011

As a long-time restaurant employee, I wouldn't consider this unusual. It's pressing against my personal margin (2 AM), but I really don't think it's beyond the pale. Many restaurant people are night owls.

Of course, I was the guy who'd show up on his day off, find the server with the crushing hangover/paper due/sudden fit of laziness and pick up their shift, so I had management trained to call me whenever anyone flaked.

Mo' tables, mo' dollars.
posted by BitterOldPunk at 9:22 AM on October 16, 2011 [5 favorites]

Calling early the next morning would have been better protocol. Perhaps your boss was expecting Voicemail and just wanted to get all that could be done completed before heading home if it's been as busy as you say. Still kind of tough, but if it wasn't my mother, father, brother, etc. calling, I wouldn't have answered it. Just another perspective.
posted by getmetoSF at 9:31 AM on October 16, 2011 [1 favorite]

Yes, if she knew she was calling a cell, she may have expected that you'd just turn it off when you went to bed and she'd either get awake you or your voicemail. My friends and co-workers know that I turn my phone off when it's inconvenient and I have a setting to automatically silence it overnight, so they don't have to worry about calling at a bad time -- which, since I have an infant, they worry about a lot. (Some of my frequent callers are shiftworkers so it can be hard for them to find a convenient, normal time to call me.) I think that's becoming a more normal protocol, expecting people's cells will be off in the night and so calling them to leave a message. Though I wouldn't do it unless I *knew* it was okay with the person I was calling.
posted by Eyebrows McGee at 9:42 AM on October 16, 2011 [3 favorites]

I would take the manager's attitude into account. I've been a manager with a problem. Did the conversation start out "I'm very sorry to call you at X am...?" Is this a common thing? Benefit of the doubt. In fact, I'd be tempted to pick up the shift even if I didn't want to if I thought that managers gratitude for solving a problem was worth something.

She should have waited, but stressing out over it for 8 more hours before she could do anything sucks. (been there)

Where I work now, calling about work at home means you're on the clock for that phone call, so they have to decide if it's that important. Often that means my boss had to get permission from his boss to call me. On the other hand, I'm expected to ANSWER it when they do think it's important enough. I'll get in trouble if I don't.

If I were you, I'd let it go. Lesson learned: let calls from work go to voice mail.
posted by ctmf at 10:02 AM on October 16, 2011

I think the boss felt somehow that you would not be asleep at that time. Perhaps in the past you've shared stories of your long weekend nights, or she has some notions about waitstaff and kitchen workers that indicated a 1:45 AM call would be less of a burden than an early-morning 9 AM call. I wouldn't make a thing out of this one-time occurrence. I'd just make a note to myself to stop answering calls between 11 PM and 9 AM. It turned out to be inappropriate, but I could easily see a scenario where a reasonable person in the manager's shoes might mistakenly think it was fine to contact you then.
posted by jsturgill at 10:24 AM on October 16, 2011

No, this is not ridiculous. You work in a restaurant, the hours are crazy, especially if there is a bar attached to the restaurant that stays open later than the kitchen. 2 AM for this kind of work is not uncommon. If you don't like it, you can always look for a job with different hours or a different take on work/life balance.

If you keep your job, but don't like being called at 2 am, turn your phone off.
posted by TheBones at 10:51 AM on October 16, 2011 [4 favorites]

Always screen your work calls. If it's important, they'll leave a message.
posted by hermitosis at 11:11 AM on October 16, 2011 [1 favorite]

Long time restaurant worker here! I don't think it's that unusual. Managers close late, and often need to fill morning shifts the night before.

NEVER answer your phone if it's your job calling you! That's like, rule number one of restaurant industry. They will always leave a message, and you can listen to it and decide whether or not to call them back.
posted by katypickle at 11:37 AM on October 16, 2011 [1 favorite]

I imagine they thought it would go to voicemail.
posted by mleigh at 11:46 AM on October 16, 2011

"outrageous". "beyond the pale" and "obnoxious" are words I would use to describe more troublesome issues--this seems seems to be confusing, possibly irksome/inconsiderate or perhaps even helpful depending on what double he/she wanted you to work and when you worked your last shift. You have a job, you need this job, you get along with your boss so step back. If this is really important to you turn off your ringer and let future calls go to voice mail.
posted by rmhsinc at 12:25 PM on October 16, 2011

Normally I wouldn't have answered my phone. I wake up pretty muzzy though (especially when I've only been asleep for an hour), so I answered it more or less automatically. I will definitely be turning the ringer off at night from now on.

I didn't say it was obnoxious--I asked if it was. This is my first restaurant job, and I've never worked anywhere else where they would even think of calling me at 2am, so it seemed weird to me.
posted by Nibbly Fang at 12:50 PM on October 16, 2011

We live in an age where technology has made most of us totally connected all the time by default, which means the emerging etiquette appears to be that the receiver is now responsible for filtering lines of communication, not the sender. Back in the day, before voicemail, making a phone call implied an attempt for direct contact. Now, it's often much more of an archive function: Boss wants to go to bed with some peace of mind, despite the scheduling problem in the morning, so by calling, she's "done her part" and left a request in your system, where it will be available when you choose to access it. Since you chose to pick up, she probably figured you were fine with chatting. FWIW, I have several friends who will do this quite often, but the times when I've happened to pick, they're like, "umm, so sorry, just wanted to leave a message." And even if I say, at that point, "okay, let's talk," usually they don't have much to say. All other things being equal, bottom line, I suppose, turn off your ringer after hours and dump to voice mail.
posted by 5Q7 at 1:02 PM on October 16, 2011 [7 favorites]

I'd keep the ringer on if I were you for true emergency calls. Just make it clear to your boss that morning calls are better for the non-life-or-death stuff.
posted by Rhaomi at 1:12 PM on October 16, 2011 [1 favorite]

It's outrageous, but if you want to keep working there, and get ahead, you'll do such things once in a while. The boss probably needed another body, and he had to call someone. Also, he may have called you in as a test of your willingness to go the extra mile. He owes you one now.

If it gets to be a regular thing, and you can't take the extra hours, you'll need to decide whether to move on. If it's just once, I advise putting down the load of resentment and walking away,
posted by KRS at 2:15 PM on October 16, 2011

One of my rules in life is that the phone is on silent at night. Most of my nearest and dearest live quite far away and thus even if something happened that requires me to help there is little I can do remotely at 2am. So don't answer the phone.

The real question is why you would answer the phone - they are entitled to try to reach you but there is no need for them to be able to reach you.
posted by koahiatamadl at 2:47 PM on October 16, 2011

Yeah... don't answer your phone for work calls afterhours unless your goalphone is toa be trained to sleep on the prep table before big days - whether you are scheduled or not...

I kept my phone on vibrate and learned not to drink with the sous chefs - unless we needed to rescue another linecook from Chinatown...
posted by Nanukthedog at 3:42 PM on October 16, 2011

Since you said this is your first restaurant gig -- I guess you should know that the service industry is not big on protocol, etiquette, standards, etc. Most people thriving in the biz are just this side of nuts. It's demanding work with flaky people and your boss probably didn't think two thoughts about it. All you can do is manage your own reactions and try not to get too rattled.
posted by amanda at 4:00 PM on October 16, 2011 [2 favorites]

The only people I know that allow for work-related phone calls at that late an hour are on-call support folks who—and this is the important part—are heavily compensated for it.
posted by Civil_Disobedient at 4:22 PM on October 16, 2011

My first insticnt was to say 'yes, this is nuts' but my dad's a longtime restaurant manager and he's usually working until around 1am so I guess it kinda makes sense.
posted by Lovecraft In Brooklyn at 4:37 PM on October 16, 2011

I know for sure I got "please help us" calls at crazy times like that when I was a server (admittedly, I tended to work at 24-hour places - but I never really worked overnight.) It's a different world. You have to guard whatever "me time" and "me space" you want like it's meat and your world is full of hungry dogs - I honestly think it's even worse than being a salaried tech consultant in that way.
posted by SMPA at 5:16 PM on October 16, 2011

All of my restaurant-y friends are guaranteed to be awake at 2am, and guaranteed to be asleep at 9am. I would just gently nudge her with the fact that you're different. "Sorry if I didn't make sense on the phone last night, I turn into a zombie at [11pm] sharp."
posted by anaelith at 6:34 PM on October 16, 2011

This is unreasonable but not completely uncommon for the service industry. The service industry is full of nuts and egos. Sometimes you will find ones run by more professional-type bosses, but many have nucking futs people in management who view restaurant people as all-night party types like themselves or that once you start working them you are two steps above slave. It's not acceptable, but it's not uncommon. The way restaurant people handle this is to let the phone go to voicemail and if it's not an emergency and call at noon in the morning saying "Oh gee golly, I just did not get your call, hope you found somebody!"*

*this does not work if you work in the kitchen or are in management
posted by schroedinger at 8:29 PM on October 16, 2011

I consider it unacceptable. My response the nbext time I saw her would be would be "Boss_name, you scared me by calling at 1:30 a.m. I was afraid there had been a catastrophe of some sort in my family. Good thing I said No; if I said Yes in my sleep, I wouldn't have been sure of showing up. I'd really appreciate it if you could limit phone calls to [insert preferences]. thanks so much."
posted by theora55 at 9:07 AM on October 17, 2011

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