Friday, 10 January 2014

Do receptionists learn Etiquette?

Many times when we go to the people’s offices for meetings or to drop into see someone for a quick chat, we underestimate how upbringing impacts and affects our life when we are full grown.  I would like to share my experiences that I had while at 2 different corporate company offices within Kampala.

 Office 1

This was a well-known Ugandan telecom company that has stood the test of time where I had gone with my finance manager to see someone in the finance department who had been asking us to come and sort out some discrepancies in billing for our services. I went through a glass door which had a disclaimer that read “unauthorized personnel should not enter the finance department.”

The discussion between me and the receptionist went something like this,
Finance Manager: “Hello, good afternoon?”

Me: “Hello!”

Receptionist: “………… hihihihi Are you serious, ehhhh let me call you back there is a person at my desk. Good afternoon!” (Youthful and fresh faced lady with a good command of the English language who sat behind a desk and only looked up as she responded after concluding her call)

Finance Manager: “Hello, may I see Mr…….... of commercial section or Mr………. of billing section please?” (I responded playing dumb to the fact that I was sure that the conversation I had cut short was not work related …… but I decided to give her the benefit of the doubt)

Receptionist: “Do you know where they sit?”

Finance Manager: “No!”

Receptionist: “Ahhhh wait and I see…….(She said this as she rose from her desk and moved away from it to take a better look at her pool area where all  the number crunching professionals sat. Only when she stepped away from the desk did she step in full view of us so I was able to see that she was not wearing any shoes on her feet.)

“I cannot see them - both of them are not in,” she responded.

Finance Manager: (Eased his way behind her desk next to the receptionist and peered into the distance at the entire expanse of the room and interrupted her) “Ahhhh I can see Mr…….. He can assist me.”

Receptionist:  “If they can help you…… ” (The finance manager did not wait for her to fully respond as he walked off in the direction of the pool area)
I stood there in shock that my boss had not noticed that the receptionist was bare foot right next to him as he moved past her and made his way to the middle of the pool area.

Me: “I will take a seat here as i wait for him.” (She did not even look in my direction as she sat down and picked up the receiver of the pone and punched in a button and continued her call.)

Receptionist: “Eh so you wama, what was I saying. Yes so how are you going to get in, did you find the key? ……. If my land lady is not there then ………..” (As she listened)
“Yeah just under the rug………..Naye that guy is not serious, is he with the other chic also- two timing…. All men are like that.”

Finance Manager: “Joyce, come here I would like you to meet…..”(She did not even look up at any time and I was very amused at how invinsible she made me feel and yet I was seated only 2 feet from her)

The entire time I was at her desk I had been privileged to listen in on her conversation as she caught up with her girlfriend for over 5 minutes. Yes it was the company phone – I made sure to take note and then when we were leaving she stepped on the top of her shoes and dragged them next to the dust bin which was a distance away to thrown litter into it. Her motion reminded me of the way a duck would slowly wade across the compound to a pond as she was took no notice of me at all.

Office 2

Me: “Good morning, how are you? I am here to see Mr……..

Receptionist: “Who are you?

Me: “Joyce ….. from ……….. I have an 11:00 am appointment with him.” (There are many ways to ask this question in a polite manner but she chose to ask me – who are you?)

Receptionist:  (She made a call on the intercom)Mr………, Joyce here to see you. Have a seat and give him 5 minutes.”

3 minutes later - I sit down next to another lady I found waiting in the reception area.

Me: “Good morning Madam.”

Lady waiting: “Good morning to you.”

Receptionist: (Receives a call on the intercom and then actions to a lady going in to the pool area) “Teddy, help me and take this lady to Mr……’s desk.”(She gave this instruction without even looking up as she had preoccupied herself with her mobile phone at her desk)

Teddy: (who has no idea who has come to see who responds) “Ok”

Lady waiting: (Gets up and follows Teddy past the reception and as she begins to enter the pool area she is called back by an abrupt and shrill voice)

Receptionist: (Finally looks up to see the wrong lady going into the pool area) “Teddy…... not that one the other one!” (She pointed at me using her nose.)

Me: (I stood up and pretended I had not seen what she had done and as I walked past her I said “Thank you.”

Let us just say that in that minute my impression of her changed and that is not something that she will ever change. Be courteous to people, no matter who they are or what their status is you never really know who they are.

Keep that in mind.
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