Receptive receptionists

I did not realise that this was a thing or that I did it. But I’ve just read a productivity article that advises being nice to receptionists. We need articles? Why wouldn’t you be nice?

Except I am being a bit disingenuous there: I’ve seen how some people are with receptionists or, I don’t know, bar staff perhaps. (I’ve been bar staff. I’ve seen it close.) It is shamefully common to see someone come in to a firm and be rude to a receptionist then all smoothly polite and conscientious to whomever they were coming to meet.

The only difference with me is that I know receptionists have a crazy-mad job. They get gits like that for a start. But they’re also juggling a lot of work – I once saw someone answering calls for several companies at the same time; depending on which light lit on her equipment, she’d say a different hello spiel and would know entire staff directories for each firm. It was fascinating and impressive and I said so.

I’m getting uncomfortable here, like I’m either claiming to be a fabulous human being or that I’m about to advise you to suck up to receptionists. Just be normal like anyone else and if they have time to talk to you, talk to them. Why wouldn’t you? People are so interesting. Everything is so interesting. (Except football.)

That productivity article – gimme a second, I will get you a link to it – argues that receptionists also know a huge amount about a company so you should ask them. I think there’s a fine line between polite chat and the receptionist phoning for security, but this truly is a time when being naturally pleasant and not pressing for anything from someone so busy will often benefit you.

Being who I am and thinking what I do, I’d say that the number one first benefit is that you have a nice chat.

But yes, you can also find out more about the company you’re visiting. I don’t think I’ve ever learnt anything as useful as the one day that I saw a rival’s name in the sign-in book on the reception desk. Or the day when I leafed through the magazines that had been left out and so learnt all about a new project the person I was coming to see was behind.

If you want to weaponise all this, here’s that productivity article. It’s from Lifehacker: Ask the Receptionist These Questions While Waiting for a Job Interview.