Your phone manners are an essential aspect of your professional image. Poor phone etiquette can offend clients or colleagues, possibly costing you business or damaging your relationships with co-workers. Every time you answer your phone at work, remember that following basic etiquette rules can greatly enhance how others see you.
Face-to-Face Interactions Take Precedence
If your phone rings while you're talking to a client or colleague, let it go to voice mail. If you answer, it indicates you value the call over the conversation you're having with the person sitting across from you. Also, try not to place calls when you're in the company of someone else, unless the call involves that person. Wait for a time when you're alone at your desk to make or return calls. However, in the "Forbes" article "Peggy Post on Workplace Etiquette," it's acceptable to take or place emergency calls.
Answer the Phone Professionally
Create a standard greeting for answering the phone, such as "Accounting, this is Jenny Smith" or "This is Jenny Smith. How may I help you?" This puts the caller at ease, because she knows whether she has reached the person or department she intended. It also establishes a positive, professional image both for you and for your office. Also, answer calls as promptly as you can, ideally letting the phone ring no more than three times. However, if you can't talk, let the call go to voice mail. It's better to return the call when you can give the caller your full attention. If you're distracted or rushed because you're trying to meet a deadline, the caller will likely pick up on that and feel that her call is not important to you.
Don't use the automated greeting standard on many voice mail systems. Record a personal greeting with your name and title, and offer callers instructions for contacting someone else in the organization if it's an urgent matter. Give callers an idea of when you'll return their calls. If you'll be out of the office for several days, record a new message advising callers when you're leaving, when you'll return and what they should do if they need to speak with you while you're away.
Cell Phone Manners
Many professionals rely on their cell phones as much as they do their computers and other business tools. However, if you don't practice proper phone etiquette your cell phone use could distract clients and co-workers or create an unprofessional image. Use a standard ringtone instead of a customized ring, such as your favorite song. Turn off your cell phone before meetings and business lunches or dinners and never check your texts, emails or voice mails in the presence of others. If your co-workers count on reaching you by cell, call them before the meeting to let them know how long you'll be unreachable. The "Bloomberg Businessweek" article "Cell Phone Manners" notes one exception to this rule: If you're expecting a call from a doctor, let your associates know you're expecting a medical-related call and then excuse yourself before answering.