Workzone: Turning a deaf ear to boss' phone call

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You've left work for the day, and your phone starts buzzing. It's the boss.

The likelihood of you answering that call might just depend on how much money you make.

A recent survey revealed that employees who make more than $100,000 per year are more likely to ignore a boss' after-hours phone call than employees who make less than $25,000.

The survey, conducted by digital telephone service GetVoIP using Google's consumer survey tool, found that 36 percent of all employees who earn six figures annually said they "never" answer a boss' after-hours phone call, compared to 27 percent of employees earning less than $25,000.

Among other things, it's a sign that low-income workers fear more for their job security than their high-income peers, said James Craft, a professor of business administration at the University of Pittsburgh's Katz Graduate School of Business.

Those low-income earners, Mr. Craft said, are hypersensitive to their boss' requests for fear that they easily could be replaced.

They are also less likely to ignore those calls because most employees who earn less than $25,000 are hourly employees, and after-hours calls often result in overtime opportunities.

"People who are low paid, and they're nonexempt, tend to be more interested in overtime opportunities," Mr. Craft said. "A phone call from the boss might mean more bucks."

He noted that the majority of workers earning less than $25,000 are women, and research shows women also are more concerned than men with participation, collaboration and interaction.

Though workers earning more than $100,000 were most likely to never answer a boss' phone call, they were also the most likely to "always" answer such a call, according to the survey, at 54 percent.

Workers earning less than $25,000 had the highest percentage of responders who "always" or "sometimes" answered a boss' after-hours phone call.

Regardless of income level, the majority of responders say they either "always" or "sometimes" answer those after-hours calls -- proof that it can be hard to ignore the boss.

And that raises the question: Should that time spent talking to your boss on the phone count as time on the clock?

The U.S. Department of Labor says that nonexempt employees must be paid overtime if they work more than 40 hours a week -- and that can include time spent talking about work with a supervisor during a phone call.

But for some workers, taking that call is part of the job. Some, for example, may be required to answer such phone calls if they are on-call or are "engaged to wait," as deemed by the labor department -- meaning they are paid to be available should their work be required.

Michael Sanserino:, 412-263-1969 and Twitter @msanserino.

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