Just Passing Through…

Several times each day, as I walk through the building at my place of employment, I pass the kind receptionists who work at the front desk.

At once, I feel both admiration and sorrow for them. They sit at the desk, day after day, and represent our company to all visitors who wander through the doors. Their work is open for all to observe.

The pressure is on.

They must look professional. Even when the rest of the company is enjoying a casual day, they must take their casual attire up a notch.

They must smile. Even when people they might not like personally walk through their “office” or approach their desk to ask for assistance, they just keep smiling.

They must remain friendly. Over 400 people walk by their desk in any given day. I imagine that when each of those 400 individuals say hello to the people at the desk, they expect to be greeted warmly in return. These receptionists manage to learn most or all of the names of these people, laugh at their jokes, and treat them as a friend.

They must be knowledgeable. Because they are positioned in the open, at the front of the building, they are asked for absurd knowledge expected to know far more than their job description requires.

They must be prepared. People frequently ask them for supplies – pens, notepads, markers, hand sanitizer, etc. I have to imagine that they cringe inside when someone, coughing and sneezing, approaches and asks for a box of facial tissue. However, see the rules above concerning smiling and remaining friendly.

Which brings me to my dilemma.

As I mentioned, I must pass their desk several times a day. What should I do to acknowledge their presence? And at what point do I become a pest to them?

If occasionally I need to walk through a smaller office of an executive in the building, it becomes very obvious that I am “in their space” and so a word of greeting is certainly appropriate. The front desk is, in a sense, the largest (and least-private) office in the building. Whether I am going to the restroom, crossing the lobby to the other side of the building, or headed to the stairs, I am passing through their space. They are living, human beings, and deserve some sort of recognition, right?

Since I must pass this way several times a day, should I extend a “hello” or prepare a witty comment for each stroll? If I did, would that not quickly put me on the list of people that annoy them? Or quite the opposite, would they consider me to be one of the friendliest workers and delight each time I came along? I’d never really be sure, because – remember – they are expected to keep smiling all of the time.

So, to attempt to gain perspective, I reverse the situation in my mind. I wonder if, for some reason, they needed to come to my desk to ask something of me, how it would play? Would I smile and greet them as a treasured friend, and give them everything they requested with a smile and a song? I’m sure I would try to do so. But what if they randomly came through my workspace and said “Hi, Ryan! Hope your day is great!” as they continued on? After several occurrences, would I start to feel like that was disingenuous? Or creepy?

Yet if as a coworker they always passed my desk without speaking, would I start to wonder if they were upset, unkind, or simply unimpressed with me or my work?

And so, I’m left wondering – what is the proper greeting or acknowledgement of the hard working people who act as the public face, and work to make the company look good?

I have not yet decided what is right. If you figure it out, will you let me know?

You can leave a message for me with the front desk.

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