Sylvia Henderson

Providing the people, programs, and resources that build knowledge, develop skills, and shape attitudes on professionalism, work ethics, and leadership in a diverse workforce.

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Olney, MD.

SL Column: Leave A Message

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If You’d Like to Leave a Message…

     When you walk up to a motorcycle to admire it … look at it, walk around it, and exclaim within earshot of anyone who can hear you that that sure is a magnificent piece of machinery. Never, however, actually touch the bike without asking for permission from its owner. This is a piece of motorcycle etiquette that will keep you in good health.

     When you make a telephone call and reach the message that tells you “If you’d like to leave a message…”, leave a message. This is a piece of telephone etiquette that will keep your communications with the called party in good standing. Use these guidelines to leave an effective message so that the called party returns your call (if needed) with the information you need.

  • Know what you want your called party to do before you make the call. Write it down if you have to so that you are clear with the purpose of your call. If you want specific information, ask for that information. If you want them to take action, ask them to do so. You can make your requests whether you have a live person or an answering machine on the line.
  • State your name, organization, phone number and best time to reach you in person. You have a better handle on your own schedule (I hope) than you do on theirs. Avoid more than one round of “phone tag” by providing alternatives for when they can reach you in person. If reaching you by e-mail, text message, or instant messaging is more appropriate within your schedule, leave this information early in your message.
  • Speak your contact information slowly and succinctly so the person listening to your message can write it down without having to replay the message.
  • Leave a full message after your contact information. This is my biggest annoyance when I listen to phone messages people leave me. I can do nothing with “I’ll call you back later.” I can get the information you need, take the action you want me to take, and be prepared to give you what you need when I return your call if you leave me a complete message. If the answering machine cuts off, at least I have your contact information and can reach you.

     Follow appropriate answering machine etiquette and you get just as much – if not more – productivity from waiting for the sound of the beep than talking to a live person at the other end of the line.

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