Not too long ago I was in San Francisco in a reception lounge, waiting for my lunch partner. I was lucky enough to be a witness to the following chain of events which were so to the point of this book, I immediately knew I would like to share them with you.
A man walked in and barked out, in an unfriendly and demanding tone, “Any messages” The female receptionist looked up and smiled. In a pleasant tone she answered, “No, Sir,” He responded in a nasty, almost threatening manner, “Just be sure to call me when my twelve-thirty appointment arrives. Got it?” He stormed down the hall.
No more than a minute later, a woman entered the room who apparently also wanted to know if she had any messages. She smiled, said “hello,” and asked the receptionist if she was having a nice day. The receptionist smiled back and thanked the woman for asking. She then proceeded to hand the woman a stack of messages and shared with her some additional information which I could not hear. They laughed together a few minutes before the woman thanked the receptionist and walked down the hall.
It’s always shocked me when I’ve seen someone who isn’t friendly to the receptionist or who takes him or her for granted. It seems like such an obviously short-sided decision. Over the years I’ve asked many receptionists whether or not they treat everyone in the office equally. Most of the time I receive a response such as, “You’re kidding, right?” Indeed, it seems that receptionists have a great deal of power-and being friendly to them can make your life a lot easier. Not only does being nice to your receptionist all but ensure a friendly hello and someone to trade smiles with a few times a day, but in addition, your receptionist can do a great many tangible things for you-protect your privacy and screen calls, remind you of important events, alert you to potential problems, help you prioritize and pace yourself, and on and on.
I’ve seen both ends of the spectrum. I’ve receptionists protect people they work with from variety of unnecessary hassles, even save them from major mistakes. I once saw a receptionist run down the hall and all the way down the street to remind someone of a meeting she was sure the person was going to forget. I later asked the person who was chased to tell me what had happened. He verified that the receptionist had been his “hero.” He went so far as to claim that she may have even saved his job. When I asked this receptionist about their rapport, she informed me that they weren’t really friends, but that he was an extremely nice person. I asked her if that had anything to do with her willingness to run down the street in the hot sun to remind him of a meeting. She just smiled and said, “you get right to the point, don’t you?”
Sadly, the opposite can occur when a receptionist feels taken for granted or resentful of someone. I’ve heard stories of receptionists who have mysteriously “lost” messages, or who have failed to remind someone of a meeting, because it was inconvenient to do so.
Obviously, there are plenty of great receptionists who are able to set aside their personal feelings and do what is best, most if not all of the time. But think about this issue from the perspective of the receptionist. He or she might answer the phone, and have a number of other important responsibilities. Some of the people they work with are really nice, most are moderately so, and a few are jerks. Isn’t obvious that being friendly to your receptionist is in your best interest? Aside from the fact that it’s their job, what possible motivation does a receptionist have to go the extra mile, or do something they aren’t officially being paid to do, if you aren’t nice to them-or at very least respectful?
In no way am I suggesting that you make friends with your receptionist just to get something in return. Primarily, you want to do so simply because it’s a nice thing to do because it will brighten the workday both of you. After all, your receptionist is someone you see on daily basis. But aside from that, it’s just good business and it takes so little time or effort. My suggestion is to think of your receptionist as a key partner in your life.
Treat them as you truly value them-as you should. Be kind, genuine, patient, and courteous. Thank them when they do something for you-even if it’s part of their job. Can you imagine the stress and other possible consequences of missing just one of those important phone calls-or a single important messages? it’s your receptionist who prevents that from happening. Wouldn’t seem wise to include your receptionist on your holiday shopping list? Incidentally, the janitor, housecleaner, manager, cook, and so on. I think you’ll find that making friends with your receptionist is a wise thing to do. Its great way to brighten your day-to-day work life, as well as an effective way to make your life a little less stressful. If you haven’t already done so, I encourage you to give it a try.