Being passed through


In my small office myself and a male colleague do a similar job for the same wage and we’re both in our twenties. One day recently when he was out of the office, I answered his phone. It was a client trying to rearrange a meeting with my colleague. I took the message and told him my workmate would ring him back. Standard office practice.

That afternoon, when my colleague returned, he rang the client back. The client told him “I spoke to your secretary earlier today…” in passing. Instead of correcting him, my colleague continued the conversation and took great joy out of relaying the story to me afterwards.

This has now been a running joke in the office since. Apparently if I answer his phone, that automatically makes me his secretary, not his equal. Even though I don’t find this funny, its #MFIF

Helen S, UK


18 Responses to “Being passed through”

  1. K. Liske Says:

    Maybe next time, answer his phone “This is supervisor”, I sent him to get coffee/tea. How can I help you?”

  2. K. Liske Says:

    Oops…the brackets blocked out the “colleague’s name” part.
    It should read ‘This is “colleague’s name” supervisor’

  3. Chibi Says:

    If I were you, I wouldn’t answer his phone anymore. Don’t go out of your way to do anything for him. And if he asks why, then inform him that your job is to be his colleague, not his secretary, and that you don’t do favors for those who treat you like the latter.

    • shoutingwoman Says:

      This is my story – we all have to answer each other’s phones as it’s our boss’s policy. She’s also actually been in the room when I’ve been teased thanks to this phone call.

      As for my colleague, I’ve started avoiding doing anything nice for him, which has just resulted in more teasing that I’m too thin-skinned. Time for a new job methinks 🙂

  4. Goodbye_Kitty Says:

    When he answers the phone he can be your secretary…

  5. Jessica Says:

    If he’s going to be an ass, let it go to voicemail or just let his calls go unanswered.

  6. bluebird Says:

    There is a national administrative support appreciation day. You could always send flowers to him, your favorite “manceptionist.” 🙂

  7. Nadine Says:

    Then next time tell your clients when they call you to call your sexy little male secretary who will schedule the meeting for you and make sure to let them know that he’s not that bright so they should talk slow.

  8. Cruella Says:

    Years ago I worked in an office where the only two women were myself and a graduate trainee who worked for me. Every time we got a delivery the delivery guys would try to bring it over to me and C (the graduate) despite having to walk past 20 guys to do so. I would leap to my feet, hand them my business card and say “Head of Strategy, how can i help?” and if I was out C would say “Acting Head of Strategy, how can I help?”. If they persisted with trying to deliver a package I’d ask if the package was addressed to the Head of Strategy and if not I’d just say I was really sorry I couldn’t help then turn back to my computer and ask a really inane question to the rest of the team loudly like “Is anyone else getting really slow internet? I can’t watch these cartoons…”

    The best plan with your colleague is next time you’ve got a client on the line halfway through say “sorry [client’s name] my secretary’s asking something … oh [colleague’s name], thanks, milk and two sugars for me and try not to fill it too full, you’ll only spill it on yourself like last time … sorry [client’s name] where was i?…”

  9. Jacob Says:

    I understand being upset by the teasing, but I can’t blame your colleague for not correcting the client on the phone.

    • Kate Says:

      How does that work? The teasing is part of the not correcting. He’s allowing a client to believe something that isn’t true. Something that is based on sexism.

      • Matt G. Says:

        But the “customer is always right”. I don’t fault the colleague for not contradicting the client; I fault him for not apologizing to her for not correcting the client.

  10. Sally Says:

    When I was at university, my tutor was on sabbatical, so another member of the teaching staff stepped in. We still had tutorials in the original tutor’s room.

    So, there we were, being taught by one of the world’s leading scholars on 20th century Germany, and the phone rang. This is what we heard.

    ‘No, I’m sorry, Professor [Name] is on sabbatical at the moment.’
    ‘No, I’m afraid that even though I’m a woman, I don’t have the right qualifications to be his secretary.’
    ‘Apology accepted. Bye now.’

    I loved Dr S.

  11. Dude Says:

    Usually when you call someone’s office, and someone other than them answers the phone, it’s a secretary. Also, you don’t correct customers over things like that which are probably not important to the transaction.

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