Secretary/Office Manager Etiquette

October 27th, 2016

Front Desk Receptionist | Voice of Company

As times changes and businesses learn new ways to operate, the position of “Secretary” or ‘Office Manager” can take on many different roles. As businesses grow, call centers are now the ones answering phones, eliminating the need for a personal secretary. Many things are also taken into consideration, like the size of your business. Maybe you just starting out and can’t afford someone to be in an office, let alone pay for an office, and what ends up happening is that phone calls go directly to your cell phone. This article pertains to a person answering the phone in an office setting or workplace.  Office Etiquette or Office Manners is about conducting yourself respectfully and courteously in the office or workplace. Whoever answers the phone be it the office manager, secretary or owner, you are the first impression to your company. As secretary or office manager you are the gatekeeper. No one passes through any doors without your permission.  Phone calls do not get transferred without your permission and messages are transmitted at your discretion. Get on the bad side of the gatekeeper and there is a good chance you won’t make it any further than that. Also as a secretary or office manager you also need to know your limitations. Customers you may not approve of may be the bread and butter of the company you work for and the reason you have a paying job. There is a fine balance in doing what you do. Not only is there a fine balance on a personal basis, but there is also etiquette that is expected on the business side of things. Here are a few ideas that may help both personally and for the business side of running the office.  These ideas/rules apply to both male and female secretary, office managers and owners.


Always act with honesty and dignity.

Chewing gum and popping bubble gum in the presence of co-workers is neither cool nor dignified.

If you smoke, quit smoking. If you can’t quit, smoke only on breaks, off site and if you wreak of smoke you will need to take care of that, big time!

Wear appropriate office attire, for example correct footwear, not thongs (flip flops) - they are strictly casual or beachwear. Men, do yourselves a favor and buy some slacks and some nice dress shirts. Woman, no tight fitted clothing that exposes every curve of your body.  No low cut tops that may expose cleavage. Shoulders, back, stomach and legs above the knee should be covered. It’s bad enough getting employees to show up to the office, but having a woman dress scandalously with tight clothing and Daisy Duke shorts will not get your techs out the door and your techs will end up showing up late for appointments. The woman at the desk in the picture of this post is a great example of why men show up late to their appointments, taking up HER time talkiing with her and causing personal problems within a business setting. Trust me on this, been there done that!  

As tattoos are becoming more common, hiring a person with tattoos will have to be at your discretion and how you want your secretary or office manager to carry your business and show as a first impression.

We are put off by smelly people. So, be sure to shower regularly and use a suitable deodorant. There is nothing wrong with smelling good. Just don’t over do it.

The essence of good manners and etiquette is to be respectful and courteous at all times and with everybody no matter how much you dislike them. I had a secretary who couldn’t wait to cuss out one of my customers on the phone. After she nicely said “good bye”, before she put the phone down, my customer heard her say “*sshole” just before she hung up the phone. I was fortunate enough to have an understanding client and let's just say that secretary didn’t leave on good terms. Potential damage like that is not worth losing a $75k dollar a year, bread and butter account.

Keep your interruptions of others to a minimum and always apologize if your intrusion is an interruption of a discussion, someone’s concentration or other activity.

Show respect for each others workspace. Knock before entering.

Be helpful and cooperative with each other.

Aim to improve your other workplace skills and attributes.

Do not become buddy buddy with techs. Keep your personal life to yourself, and keep business, business. This leads to favoritism and collusion. Again, been there, experienced it.

Speak clearly without shouting. Say, “Please”, Thank you”, “You’re welcome”, “Yes Sir”, “Yes Ma’am”, “Mr.” or “Mrs” as part of your everyday courtesy  unless told otherwise. It shows that you have respect. .

Wait to personally text or phone anyone until your break or lunch. Your company does not pay for you to personally text or take personal phone calls on their dime.

Take responsibility for your mistakes, apologize and go about correcting the mistakes. Apologize if you are clearly in the wrong. If in doubt, apologize anyway. It’s no big deal.

If your boss criticizes your work, enquire about what precisely is wrong with it. Consider the comments, discuss them amicably if you disagree with the comments but defer to the boss's opinion if he/she is adamant. The best question to ask you boss is, “Help me understand what just happened and where I went wrong so this doesn’t happen again”. This shows concern and sincerity for the position you hold and that you want to make things right. You can either learn from mistakes or let pride find you another job.

The boss always gets the benefit of the doubt. Don’t argue with the boss. You may ask you boss if you may give an opinion, hopefully you have an understanding and respectful employer.

Keep your work area tidy. Try not to be messy.

If there is conflict, do not get personal in your remarks.

Your elders are generally more mature in judgement and life’s experiences and this deserves your respect even in the workplace even if they are below you in rank. You’d be surprised what you might learn by listening to a sage.

‘Mute’ your cell phone in the office. No fancy ring tones.

Never answer the phone on the first ring. 2nd or 3rd ring is always best.

Depending on how serious you take your position as secretary or office manager, you need to show up a minimum of 15 minutes early. If you're concerned about getting paid for the extra measly 15 minutes, you are not there for the business, you're there for the money and that is going to show.  Think of it this way, you show up 15 minutes early and leave 15 minutes late to tie up loose ends, this will get noticed the very first day you show up late or come in late. It’s good business practice and shows a moral responsibility on your end.  

Smile when you talk on the phone. As the owner of the company it would be best to put a mirror, if possible on the wall directly across from their desk so they can view themselves talking.

Never argue with a customer, even if they cuss you out. Apologize and sympathize with the fact that they are having a bad day. 75% of the time they will either apologize to you for their anger or call you back to apologize.

When you answer the phone, don’t say “Hello”. Facepalm!  

Secretary Etiquette

The customer has to now ask questions, “is this ABC Company”, “Who is this”, “Do I have the right phone number?”. You work for a professional company for Pete’s sake!! This is how to answer the phone. “Johns Plumbing, this is Perry, how may I help you this morning”, or “Thank you for calling John's Plumbing, this is Perry, how may I help you”. You need your name and the name of the company when you answer the phone. Keep in mind this is the customer's 1st impression of this company. And always say it with a smile!

Never, never, never, NEVER give out prices over the phone. That is not your job, that is why you have technicians working for the company. That is their job. Tell the customer, “I would be more than happy to send out a technician to give you a price”. And I really hope your company doesn’t charge a diagnostic fee. That is the biggest rip off and diservice this side of the solar system a company can impose on people. You're really losing site of the bigger picture charging a diagnostic fee. Now that I’m all fired up, guess my next blog will be about diagnostic fees.

The flat rate price book does 75% of the work selling the job and you don't have to shoot from the hip or rely on your employees to tell you how much profit, you as the business owner, should make. Finish jobs in confidence knowing that both you and your employee made a profit.

Check out our price book and start using yours today!


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