How’s your deskside manner?

Jun 15, 2017 | Career Development

You’re probably familiar with the term “bedside manner.” It’s typically used to describe how a healthcare professional interacts and communicates with patients. A doctor with good bedside manner is likely a good communicator, a great listener, empathetic to their patients, and attentive to making the patient feel at ease. A doctor with poor bedside manner may come across as arrogant, abrupt, rude, and likely isn’t a great listener or communicator. As admins, how we interact with customers – internal and external – defines our “deskside” manner. So how is yours?

We’ve all worked or interacted with the “crab in the corner” – the admin who instills fear and trembling in every soul who approaches her desk because she’s short, abrupt, sometimes abrasive, and generally unpleasant to interact with. You avoid her corner at all costs…doing everything you can to figure things out without her until you absolutely must approach her to ask a question or seek additional information.

Then there’s the “considerate caretaker” – the admin who makes every person who approaches her desk feel warm and welcome because she smiles, makes eye contact, and she’s truly interested and engaged in helping you get the answers or information you need. You find yourself feeling more upbeat and satisfied when you leave her desk because she was pleasant, positive, and genuinely helpful.

Your deskside manner is key to how you are perceived and treated within your office. Your deskside manner reflects on you, your executive, and the entire company. It’s something you control. It’s something you can change if it isn’t what you’d like it to be. It’s something you can continually improve upon even if you’re already doing a great job. This isn’t a course you can enroll in at your local community college, but there are some questions you can ask yourself to evaluate your deskside manner.

Are you an emotionally intelligent admin?

Emotional intelligence (EQ) is defined as the ability to perceive emotion, integrate emotion to facilitate thought, understand emotions and to regulate emotions to promote personal growth. Studies show that IQ attributes to 20% of life success, however EQ attributes to 40% to 60%!

How you respond to situations at the office is very important. You must be able to accurately define the emotions you are experiencing, know how to productively process through them, and then respond appropriately. You must display the ability to be persistent, be motivated, control impulses, delay gratification, and choose your attitude.

Companies typically hire individuals for their IQ’s and experience. They fire them for a lack of EQ. (Doctors with poor bedside manner are usually lacking in EQ also!) The good news is you can change and improve your EQ when you specifically focus on doing so over time.

Do you have a positive attitude?

You know if you do or don’t. Are you a glass half full or glass half empty kind of person? Are you always seeing the positive or negative side of things? Do you energize, inspire, and lift people up, or do you sap their energy and suck the life out of them? Your attitude is a key component of your deskside manner. But there’s good news here, too. You can change your attitude…if you choose to. It can be a permanent change for the better. I’ve watched the evolution of a person in my life who proactively pursued making an attitude change over an 18-month period. It has truly changed how this person thinks, acts, responds to others, and lives life. One of the tools this person used to facilitate this change in attitude was a book called Attitude is Everything by Jeff Keller. I’ve read it and highly recommend it.

How do you handle stress and pressure?

It’s much easier to be pleasant when everything is going well. But what happens when you’re under pressure, trying to meet a deadline, or working in a stressful environment? I once had an executive comment to me that I didn’t hide my emotions well under stress. That was a trigger that I needed to pay more attention to my body language, tone of voice, facial expressions, and overall attitude when conditions in my environment were not ideal. I never wanted those who approached my desk to feel like they were a bother or inconvenience…even if I was really busy. Yet during stressful times, I was giving visual indications to “approach with caution.” I made some immediate changes.

Are you a great listener?

Listening is also a skill you can develop and improve. Admins are typically conditioned to anticipate the needs of others – after all, it’s what we do. But anticipating what someone is going to say can sometimes cause us to not listen as closely to what is actually being said. If a doctor doesn’t listen attentively and empathetically to their patient, they can miss significant clues as to the diagnosis and best means of treatment. It’s the same for us. When someone approaches your desk, train yourself to push the pause button and fully engage as an active listener to what they need. You’ll make them feel like a million bucks, and you’ll be certain you captured all of the important details because you weren’t multi-tasking with a partial ear.

Are you a good communicator?

There are a lot of factors that go into becoming a good communicator. There are basic communication skills, such as writing and speaking. We can all write and speak to a certain degree. But when you mix in different communication styles, personality types, and the everyday workplace situations, it becomes much more complex.

Start by becoming very clear about your personal communication style and preferences. There are numerous assessments available to help you figure this out. Then become a student of observing and learning about others’ communication styles. How do you need to adapt to work and communicate more effectively with other types? The more you study and immerse yourself in becoming an effective communicator, the better communicator you will be.

I read that a doctor with poor bedside manner may actually cause a patient to perceive more pain if the patient is wracked with fear or anxiety. Think about it in your own experience at the office. When you are anxious or nervous about approaching someone (e.g. the “crab in the corner”), you build it into something even worse than it truly turns out to be. This is likely because of your perceptions of their deskside manner. There are businesses I have called and been greeted so poorly or incompetently that I hesitate to call them again unless I absolutely have to. I’ve even gone online to find other contact points or email addresses I could try so I wouldn’t have to deal with them again. One person’s deskside manner can impact a customer’s first impression and reflect poorly or positively on the entire organization.

Admins with good deskside manner stand out! They are much easier to employ. They are more widely utilized within their organizations. They are offered more opportunities. They have raving fans throughout their companies and beyond. They’re easy to refer and recommend to others. They make everyone they interact with feel valued and appreciated.

So how’s your deskside manner? I hope you’re the “considerate caretaker” with raving fans far and wide!

Recommended resources:

© 2017 Julie Perrine International, LLC


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Julie Perrine, CAP-OM, is the founder and CEO of All Things Admin, providing training, mentoring and resources for administrative professionals worldwide. Julie applies her administrative expertise and passion for lifelong learning to serving as an enthusiastic mentor, speaker and author who educates admins around the world on how to be more effective every day. Learn more about Julie’s books — The Innovative Admin: Unleash the Power of Innovation in Your Administrative Career and The Organized Admin: Leverage Your Unique Organizing Style to Create Systems, Reduce Overwhelm, and Increase Productivity. And request your free copy of our special report “From Reactive to Proactive: Creating Your Strategic Administrative Career Plan” at


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