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How to Take Messages for a Boss

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Administrative assistants' days are filled with multiple tasks including scheduling, sending emails and managing projects. In addition, it's sometimes necessary to take a message for your boss when she's unavailable. An unclear, poorly written message can frustrate your boss. If you want to impress her, provide a detailed message summarizing the nature of the call and the requested response. Even if you're not an administrative assistant, you may occasionally have to take messages for a boss who's unavailable.

While on the Phone

Ask the caller if he would like to leave a message. If the answer is "no," take a moment to encourage a message. Tell him that your boss will be in meetings all day, so calling back may not be the best option.

Ask the caller to give a detailed message. Some callers will answer with, "Just have her call me back." Unfortunately, your boss may not be satisfied with such a vague message. In this case, reply with, "Sure thing. What can I tell her this is regarding?"

Request a full name from the caller. First names may cause confusion for your boss. Simply ask, "Can I have your full name?" when taking down the message.

Ask for the caller's phone number. Although this may seem obvious, it's easy to forget the number when focused on other aspects of the call. If the caller prefers to be contacted by email, write this down as well.

Write down all of this information on scrap paper as you ask the questions. Write down the date and time of the call as well.

Relaying the Message

Organize your notes for the call on a small slip of paper. Each message should fill just one piece of paper. Avoid writing more than one message on each slip.

Write down the date and time of the call, followed by the first and last name of the caller at the top of the paper. If she also gave her position or relationship to your boss, such as an accountant or a supplier, write this here as well.

Summarize the purpose of the call in one short sentence. Write this underneath the name of the caller. Be brief and specific so your boss doesn't have to wonder what this is about.

Write the caller's phone number at the bottom of the message.

Write "URGENT" in capital letters at the top-right corner of the note if the call was very important. Most phone messages won't fall under this category. Urgent messages refer to family emergencies or business problems that could have a large adverse effect on the company.

Relay the messages to your boss as soon as he's available. As you hand him each message, read it aloud. This way there's no chance he'll miss an important message.


Know when to speak up. If a message is truly an emergency, especially with the boss's family, interrupt her and tell her about the caller immediately. Some things in life are more important than a business meeting.