It’s all about how you treat the receptionist, or the waiter, or cashier, or the cleaning crew, etc.….

I had a couple of interesting encounters last week. They’re telling. Sometimes you don’t have to look far for the truth.

Here are two stories. See if any of them sound familiar.

Story # 1: The Receptionist

I was on my way to a meeting last week and walked by the Receptionist’s desk. The phone was ringing and the receptionist was away. Many, many years ago I started out my career after college as a receptionist. I do remember that sometimes a receptionist needs a little help. They can’t be in all places at all times. So, I picked up the phone and in my best phone voice, I answered – pleasantly and professionally. I saw the company name on the caller ID and it was from a vendor. Funny thing is that just the week before, I personally told them we were not going to change to their service and I’d phone if we wanted to change.

Here’s how the call went down.

Caller: “Bob Smith, please.”

Me: “I’m sorry he’s not available right now. May I take a message?”

Caller: “Just put me through to his voice mail.” (Okay, his tone set me on the wrong path. No please, but just a stern directive to put him through.) 

Me: “I would be happy to take your message and have him call you back if he is interested in your service.”

Caller: (Annoyed with me and thinking I am a receptionist that he can bully) “I don’t have time for this. Just put me through to his voice mail.”

Me: (Now, I’m pretty annoyed at his tone and his complete disrespect).   “And I don’t have time for this either. Thank you for calling.” (Hangs up phone)   

Story # 2 – Oh, the Irony

This story happened a while back but it has a very similar theme. Many years ago, I moved to a new area. One thing that’s always worked for me was to register with temp agencies until the job I wanted came through. While I was in my job search mode, I applied to a temp agency to carry me through.  They called me within the first week telling me about an assignment. It wasn’t a great assignment but I wanted to work. I can survive anything on a temporary basis. They told me they would call me back within two days with the details (who, where to go, when to show up…etc.).

So, I waited. And waited…and waited. No call. I called them several times and it took a while for them to call me back. Finally, someone returned my call and said “I’m sorry. We couldn’t make contact with your reference so we couldn’t send you out.”

Well, that was odd. My reference was waiting on them to contact her and even offered to phone them. I thought it was going to be a pretty simple fix and I tried to get to the bottom of it. But, it was clear they had already written me off as a candidate and kind of rudely written me off at that.

Long story short – the person who was trying to obtain the reference entered an incorrect email address for my reference and when there was no returned response, that was it. I was done from their perspective. They didn’t even try to phone them with the number I provided and they did not attempt to ask me for help in contacting them. Nothing. They just wrote me off. Their job was done.  They found another candidate and moved on.

Now here’s where the story gets good!

Soon after that, I found a job and guess who was in charge of the vendors (which included temporary staffing agencies.) I’m raising my hand here because that would be me.

One morning, I got a call from the temp agency — from the very woman I tried to have help me. She had no clue who I was and she didn’t remember my name. I didn’t say a word. I gladly set up the meeting with her and her boss.   When we met, they started by off telling me how great their agency was and how they could help me with all of my temporary staffing needs.

And then it happened….

I told them that I was already familiar with their agency. And, I told my story.   Yep, they were pretty embarrassed. Maybe it wasn’t so nice of me to do it that way but it felt great. I was not rude about it but I professionally told them my story and offered suggestions on how they could improve.  (I’m sure they loved that.)

How often do we get the chance to do that? I mean why they would think that a person who needed a temporary job would EVER be in a position to make decisions. (And, if they would have read my resume they would have understood… Ah, assumptions. They get you every time.) 

I never used that agency and I got a beautiful bouquet of flowers the next day. I felt great!

The Bottom Line? 


Everyone Gets Respect – People are not there to be bullied by someone who believes they exude more power and privilege over them.   I’ve always made it a point to ask my receptionist how they are treated by candidates, vendors, and anyone coming into the office.

It tells me all I need to know.

Stop Making Assumptions – You never know who you are speaking with and how they can influence decisions. I can already tell you that I won’t be using the vendor that phoned last week because:

-I told them that we were not going to use you at this time. You tried to go around me and speak with another person to see if you can get them to use your services. That’s not going to happen. When I tell you something, believe it.

-You treated the “receptionist” like garbage.

Forgive any “preachy” type of behavior in the article. That’s not my intent and I really do understand that we all have bad days. I’m not a saint but I won’t tolerate rudeness and disrespect and I will speak for those who feel their voice is squashed and feel intimidated to do so. This behavior is an accurate predictor of character.

There’s an old quote that says: “The true measure of an individual is how he treats a person who can do him absolutely no good.”

Very true but in the back of your mind, remember that the receptionist may one day be the CEO.  And, that temp that you didn’t want to hire? Well, they may one day be making decisions that impact your agency sales.

All people deserve respect.

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