“He is not on seat.”
“I said, Oga is not on seat!”
If you have visited any offices in Lagos, you must have, at some point, had this conversation. It’s even funnier – or more frustrating – when the person you came to see walks right out of the office, just at the moment the receptionist told you he or she isn’t “on seat”.
You stare at the receptionist, look at the person you came to see, and then look back at the receptionist and she’s staring right back at you like,
You’re like, “Isn’t that…?!” and she replies you with the confidence of a thousand gods, “Like I said, Oga isn’t on seat.”
In some instances, people walk right into the office to see the person you’ve waited to see for the past hour, with cheers and hails from the same receptionist who kept you waiting.
At this point, you probably think it’s what you wore… but, nah, it can’t be, ‘cause today was one of those days you nailed it. You look at the receptionist once again: this is the 8th time you are making eye contact with her. You hope she senses the plight in your eyes and speeds up your meeting with the person you came to see, but it doesn’t work. She will attend to you when she’s ready.
Finally, she calls you up.
“What’s your name again?” she asks, ignoring the fact that this is the third time you will be introducing yourself and you’ve already filled a visitor’s form with your name written in all caps on it.
“Hello sir, a Mr Tunde is here to see you… Okay, I’ll tell him.”
Then she looks right at you and says, “He said you should give him 5 minutes.”
I’ve had my fair share of these interactions with receptionists and secretaries. You may not admit it, but right after the CEO, they are unofficially next in charge. They are the gatekeepers, the fictional Heimdall of Asgard, the guardian of the Office, defending the office personnel’s doors from any intruders, and some of the most trusted staff of the CEO.
And if like me, you’ve been stalled by numerous secretaries and receptionists, I have good news: there’s a cheat sheet for getting past them! I’ll share a few:
BE POLITE. It’s really that simple. Being polite and courteous actually gets you extra points with receptionists and secretaries. Often times you might encounter slightly rude receptionists, but the trick is keeping your cool and constantly throwing in “please”, “thank you”, “ma” and “sir” where appropriate, and watch it get you past that door faster than you think. Trust me, it works.
FURNISH THEM WITH COMPLIMENTS. I remember rolling my eyes and sighing a lot when my colleague and I walked into a lobby, and he immediately started complimenting the receptionist on her looks, dress, etc. I was like, “Can we just do what we came here for and bounce!” – but it turns out those compliments got us favourable responses from them.
Try it out: express gratitude and give compliments constantly in the process of interaction and watch doors open. It’s kinda like how foreplay… nah, ignore that. But if you know, you know.
TIPS AND GIFTS I don’t think they’re allowed to accept gifts or monetary offers… officially, but who has ever said no to a lovely tangible or monetary gift? Especially the way the economy is set up these days. They might not accept cash, but branded gifts and office items might work. Trust me, you will be remembered and in the words of Adam Levine, you will be loved.
FOLLOW-UP (Off the job) If it’s convenient and appropriate, maintain off-the-job relationships with receptionists and secretaries, especially when you constantly interact with them on-the-job. A healthy off-the-job relationship will encourage more goodwill.
And if none of these get you past the front desk with ease, look for an interesting app or engaging game on your phone and get comfortable on that couch as you wait. I may be the one seated next to you. Say hi!