A reader asks:

I currently have an older cell phone (not a smart phone) for personal use. I have texting and voicemail. Although I am under 30, I am comfortable with this decision and I have never had the need for a smart phone. I enjoy this phone because it’s durable, cheap, and convenient. It makes calls, receives them, and works as an alarm clock, and that’s really all I need. I do have my phone on me at all times like the next person, but I don’t hear it ring when I am out walking my dog or at the store. However, I do return calls promptly after I see I’ve missed them.

A few months ago, I was promoted and moved to another department. Recently, after a vacation I took, my manager brought me into her office to mention her belief that I need a smartphone. She said her and other employees are aware that I have an outdated phone and said it is necessary that I have a smartphone so I can be available to check emails at all times and be reachable.

She asked if it was a cost issue, which I said that it was (although it is also the belief that I don’t really need one). I didn’t specify, but in my head I thought how my phone costs $30/month and a data plan/new phone plan can cost around $100/month, and would also require a case for durability and possibly other phone accessories. She said there is another manager in the office who has an old iPhone available for me to have, and would only require the new plan hookup. She said she’d talk to corporate about getting the phone plan paid for, but she said it would probably be difficult, since I am still fairly entry-level and “if we get yours paid for, other employees will want theirs to be paid for as well.”

I don’t believe I need a smartphone. I have internet at home and a cell phone with text and voicemail. Worst-case scenario, an employee can contact me to let me know an important email chain from a client needs to be responded to.

I also am concerned that having this work phone would make them think I am available 24/7, even on weekends. On weekends or on vacation, I would love to be able to leave this phone behind or off, but I guess that would defeat the purpose of them providing it to me.

My worry is that she will come back to say “corporate won’t let us pay for it.” I don’t think it will come to this, as I’ve been recently been promoted and (hopefully) am in good graces, but I would hate for them to fire me over my refusal to increase my cell bill by $70/month to get a smart phone. My medical bills recently increased and I am not making very much, so this would definitely impact my budget.

I work in the media industry where there are tight deadlines and occasional weekend work. I am not in the level that directly contacts clients, so the concern of meeting their needs is filtered through my managers, then to me. Since I occasionally work weekends or very late nights (had a 70-hour work week last month), I enjoy having weekend time to myself and vacation time when I request it. What are your thoughts?

I answer this question over at Inc. today, where I’m revisiting letters that have been buried in the archives here from years ago (and sometimes updating/expanding my answers to them). You can read it here.

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