Yeah, yeah…..we are all familiar with the stereotype of the ditsy receptionst who sits at the front desk “looking pretty” but really fulfilling no function other than filing her nails and looking pretty. “Lobby candy”? But in all my years of working, I can honestly say that I’ve never seen one of those. I’ve run into receptionists who probably shouldn’t have been in that position — they were rude, lazy or somewhat surly — but I can’t ever remember seeing someone sitting there just flipping through a magazine and/or filing their nails.

I once worked at a law firm where the main receptionist was also responsible for helping select summer associates, the law students who came in to “intern” during the summer, among other duties. She was most definitely someone to respect! Many years ago, I had a job as receptionist as well as the office manager. Towards the end of my tenure there, I was visibly pregnant with my last child. One day, I stepped away from the reception desk to take care of business in one of the other offices. When I returned, there were two men in the reception area that I hadn’t seen before. So, as receptionist, I politely and professionally asked, “Have you been taken care of?” And one of those men answered, “Yeah, and it looks like you have, too.” Now, understand that, at the time, our office was evaluating copy machines in order to get a new one, and I had some serious input as to what copier we would get. These two men were sales reps for a copier company. Needless to say, they didn’t get the sale.

I currently own and operate a business center which has several different kinds of businesses in it. Part of renting an office here is that you also have a receptionist who can greet guests, answer your phone, and be a professional face to your business. A receptionist also “runs interference.” keeping people from simply wandering the halls. And, since it’s my business, I assume the receptionist duties, which I mostly enjoy. (Why “waste” an office that could draw rent?) This way, I can also keep an eye on who’s coming and going, become more familiar with my tenants’ businesses, and generally be aware of the day-to-day affairs of the center.

Since I’ve been doing this for 14 years, I’ve made some observations:

  • Too many people are too involved in their cell phones and conversations. (My pet peeve!) I know this has been said many times before, but if you’re going someplace to conduct some business with someone, PUT YOUR PHONE AWAY! Finish your conversation before you get out of your car. As a receptionist, I need to know who you’re here to see. I shouldn’t have to wait for you to finish your conversation — or interrupt it — to get that straightforward and simple information. In addition, if I were the person at the other end of the phone, I would want you to call me back when you’re done and I can have your undivided attention.
  • People still underestimate the receptionist! I am the business owner! I’m not just a mature woman who needed a job and landed as a “simple receptionist.” I’ve had people be downright rude to me, and I’ve had to speak to the tenant(s) about how I was treated. In one case, an employee was let go because (among other reasons) he had been so rude, presumptive, and dismissive of me.
  • I have a sign requesting visitors check in with the receptionist for a reason! It’s to maintain traffic control and make sure the person you want to see is available (or even here). There might be people working on confidential material, having an important phone conversation, or holding an important meeting with someone, and they won’t want to be interrupted — or even overheard! There is a receptionist and a reception area — again — for a reason! If the receptionist isn’t at the desk at just that moment, wait! That person will return.
  • Too many people don’t seem to know how to conduct themselves in a business manner. When you come into a place of business, please act accordingly. I’ve seen (and heard) too many people who don’t seem to recognize the difference between being at home, out with friends, out shopping — and being in a business establishment. Please use appropriate language! It’s not that I’m a prude; I simply don’t need to hear vulgarities coming out of people’s mouths while I’m at work!

So, the long and the short of it is, respect the receptionist. You really don’t know that person’s (other) function/capacity at the business.