How Do You Treat A Receptionist?

I have been working as a receptionist throughout these years, at several firms. Most of the colleagues (previous and current) regard(ed) me as one of them and are(were) pretty nice to me. Ironically, it is, and was, always those supposedly my teammates who take(took) me for granted, as if being a receptionist means being less of a human.

In my first job in this position, I was with a consulting firm, small and local. The salary was meager, though the little amount of daily work justified it. I was in my late twenties, and holding such a relaxing job made me feel bored and contemplate a more exciting work life. In additional to that, my so-called senior colleague who was guiding me, was not making my life easy. Though she had been promoted to a consultant level, and she had no business in my jobscope any longer, she still wanted to have a say in everything I handled. No, she was not my superior. My immediate superior then was not any better either. She was the Human Resource and Finance Manager, unmarried, in her fifties. She was an oddball, with no sense of etiquette, and the way she spoke put people off. I left the company after eight months of employment.

My second job in a similar role was with a project management company. The office was big and nice, housing just over thirty employees, and an Indonesian boss, who had never worked under someone else in his whole life. He was born rich, thus, smug. I did not get it from him, though I had heard him raise his voice at his Executive Assistant, as earsplitting as thunder. I was reporting to, again, the Human Resource Manager. All went well initially, except for the fact that the tea lady kept commanding me to do her tasks, such as cleaning the rooms after meetings, bringing out the glassware to soak in the sink at the common corridor, and such. At first, I helped her, out of respect, as she was an elder in her fifties. But as time went by, I realised how unreasonable she was, and that she was nice to others, but me. In my early thirties, I still felt young and arrogant. I complaint at least thrice to my immediate superior, who told me that she could not simply ask the tea lady to leave, without giving her chances to change and make improvement. Thinking back now, I miss this manager. She was really nice and lenient. If it was not for the fact that I was fearful of the active-volcano-alike boss, and that I could not understand and accept that I was reporting to two bosses – the other was the boss’ Executive Assistant, who was demanding (at least that was how I felt at that point of time), I would not have resigned. I got fed up with the tea lady and Executive Assistant finally, and left the company after six months into the job.

My third job in a front desk position was with a media firm, owned by an American and an Australian. I was reporting to the Financial Controller (better known as CFO elsewhere), who was a mean and immoral superior, in her fifties. She liked to be respected, which she did not deserve at all, and liked to be reported to on every single and little task, even when there was no progression and nothing to update her on. She was a control freak, who wanted to be the “third boss” and control every staff in every department in the company. She forbade interactions between employees from different departments. She would join different groups of employees for lunch and try to find out what they usually talk about (ya, insane, I know). She wanted to be in control of the recruitment process, though she was a Finance person, not Human Resource, and knew nothing about the requirement of the right candidate for each position. She forbade office romance, though there was no black-and-white. The office lovebirds were having underground relationships, and acting like strangers while in the office. The staff turnover rate was absolutely high, thanks to her. In three months, ten employees were laid off, four others resigned. I was one of the four. Of course, this horrendous culture did not stop after I left. She continued to torture every one of them mentally, be it her subordinates, or not. She was in the company for at least three years, but she was not trusted by the Australian boss. Though she was “in control” of the company finance matters, she was not even aware of information such as his Australian driving license number, and his previous local accommodation address. He clearly needed a personal assistant, but he was unwilling to spend extra in recruiting an extra headcount on “occasional ad-hoc tasks”, while forgetting how much his wife spent each month on luxuries in daily life. (Fine, it is not up to us to judge how he spends his money, but trust me, spending a few thousands on a personal assistant is a necessity for him.) I refused to take on his personal matters as part of my job, merely because I hate to have more interactions with the Devil than my job required. Being called to her room was enough to make me stop breathing. Seriously, I do not understand why she loves to torture others. She kept telling everyone how busy she was, and yet she had the time to mess with people’s life. My predecessor was driven away by her too. And the Human Resource Manager, who advised me to learn to manage my boss (aka the Devil), resigned too, not long after me. I was there for only three months, and I already felt life shortened by a decade.

My fourth job at the reception, is my current one. I am reporting to the Human Resource Manager, a Hong-Kong-born Canadian, in her early forties. She is not a HR person, nor a good manager. Why do I say that? As a HR person, you take into account of employees’ welfare and benefits, and you have a good listening ear, with patience. As a manager, you look after your team members, shield them from arrows from all directions, take the blames for them, counsel and guide them as and when necessary. She has been in this company for two years, and she still chooses to protect herself, if she has to make a choice between herself and her subordinate. My predecessor was on good terms with her, and was into the job for barely nine months, and was “sacrificed” by our superior several times. When my predecessor got chided by the boss’ Executive Assistant, many times, our superior failed to defend her. I think I am a little more fortunate than my predecessor, as in right from the beginning, my superior kinda protected me, by telling me not to help other departments in their tasks. They used to bully my predecessor by dumping their work to her. Though each was no tough deed, she did not have to be that busy with other people’s responsibilities, and not being appreciated afterwards. My superior always tell me, that she is very flexible, if I need to go off early for lunch, if I have something on, they are always around and willing to help cover for the reception. However, from today’s incident, I see a different thing.

I had scheduled a dental appointment at 11.30am, and had to leave the office fifteen minutes earlier. I informed and checked with them in the morning, but they had a meeting, which would last beyond 11.30am. In the end, I had to reschedule my appointment to a week later. They are always having meetings. And I am always stuck to the reception. Even at times when I have to fulfill my other tasks, away from the reception, I have to wait for one of them to come to relieve me, only then can I leave my workstation to carry out other tasks. If none of them are able to relieve me, I have to put off everything else, simply because “someone has to be at the reception, at all times.” Is this not insane? Is this not unreasonable? I am really pissed this morning, so pissed that I went to have Burger King for my lunch (I usually have cravings for fast foods and junk foods when I am upset), and took fifteen minutes more than my one-hour break (I usually take less than an hour each day). They were waiting for me to return from my lunch break, before they went off for theirs. They always go for breaks together. But I am used to having my breaks alone. I cherish the time by myself, in the middle of chaos. I usually have my lunch break after they come back from theirs. They would go for long breaks most of the times, as long as two hours at times, sometimes more. They know that I always bring sandwiches, and would eat at my desk whenever I feel hungry, hence, they always take their own sweet time. Though I get to have my one-hour break after they return. Sometimes I would take a nap in the store room, and other times I would go down to the mall for a walk. Today, I went to Swatch shop to change my battery, after I had my lunch at BK. The battery replacement was free, to my delight. And during the wait there, the salesperson tried to close a deal with me, showing me the new range and models and jewelleries. He was new, I could tell. I have no intention of getting a new watch, though I wish that he could clinch many deals with his sincerity. It took about ten minutes to replace the battery, and I took another ten minutes or so to walk back to my office. My superior looked unhappy, ever since this morning. I am uncertain if it was because my temporary HR personnel told her of my pissed face upon having to reschedule my dental appointment, or because their meeting did not turn out well. I do not care. I have been so annoyed myself, and thinking back on the past three months here, and whatever I have seen and heard, I have been contemplating my next move.

Anyway, is it simply because I am a receptionist, that these people think that they can mistreat me as they wish? Most people have been nice, I would say. However, it is the people whom I have to work closely with that make me sick.