Etiquette Hell recently made a post about salesmen trying to get past secretaries by grandstanding and lying.
Reading the comments on that post reminded me of a conversation I had over the telephone during the speaker invitation stage of my last conference.
Me: Hi Secretary, it’s Cooler Becky. Is Mr Bossman available at the moment? I’m just following up on a previous call I made regarding the conference and he mentioned that he was keen to be a speaker for it.
Secretary: No, he’s actually in a meeting right now.
Me: Could I just leave a message with then?
Secretary: No, you can’t. Can you call back tomorrow instead?
Me: *Taken aback* I… can’t?
Secretary: No. Can you call back tomorrow?
Me: Okay! I can do that! Can I just grab an E-mail address for him so that he knows what I’m looking to discuss tomorrow?
Secretary: *Wailing* You don’t understand! My water just broke! I really have to go! *Click*
Funny stories aside, rudeness to a secretary, receptionist or personal assistant is a really big telephone no-no. Where I work, we’re always reminded that such people act as gatekeepers for their bosses and it’s ultimately their decision whether you get to speak to the executive or not.
The way people act towards others who are perceived as “lower” in the business food chain is a really telling sign of their attitude towards others in general. In fact, many businesses even give weight to their receptionist’s impressions of prospective employee prior to hiring said employee.
Long story short, it never pays to be rude to a secretary. Burning bridges with gatekeepers not only reflects badly on you, but reflects badly on the company that you’re representing and ruins your chances with the executive or company that you’re trying to build a business relationship with.
Some smaller offices even employ family members to mind the front desk or telephones, so be very careful – the person whom you insult today might just be running the business tomorrow.