How To Get Me To Hang Up On You

The Gotham Gal told me a story this morning about picking up the phone yesterday and hearing an assistant say:

So and so is calling for you, please hold and I'll get him

I've experienced this kind of behavior over the years and I have to say that it is one of the most irritating things a person can do. I have and will hang up on the person when they show up on the line. I would not hang up on the assistant however.

This behavior basically says to the person being called that their time is not as important as the person placing the call. I really don't care if its Barack Obama calling, I don't think this kind of behavior is acceptable. It is plain and simply rude.

I can promise you that I would never ever consider having someone place my phone calls for me (unless I was handicapped and couldn't physically do it). And if you do it to me, don't be surprised to hear a dial tone when you show up on the call.

#Random Posts

Comments (Archived):

  1. ewiesen

    Fred – I cannot agree more. And in the category of “ways to get early information about a person” this is among the best indicators of the level of self-importance a person feels. I recently spent several months working on a new investment that ultimately didn’t happen because of some seriously personality issues that emerged around the company as we dug in deeply. One of the best and earliest signs (and one to which I should have listened more closely) was one of the critical people around the company doing exactly what you describe to me multiple times during my diligence process. Lesson learned.

    1. fredwilson

      Did you hang up on him?

      1. ewiesen

        I didn’t. But in retrospect, I probably should have.

  2. ErikSchwartz


  3. chris dixon

    I find it similarly irritating when people hand off basic email scheduling to an assistant.

    1. fredwilson

      I do that chrisAnd here’s why.I am currently looking at 700 unread emails in my inboxIf I’m lucky I’ll get that cleaned up by sunday nightBut during the week, my inbox piles up and scheduling stuff sits there unattended toIt is simple to schedule something but if it requires some back and forth, it will inevitably get stuck in my inbox and the meeting won’t happen

      1. lazerow

        I agree with Fred on all accounts. Phone calls are one things. Email scheduling is another. I spent 14 years scheduling my own meetings. Between 100 emails and many meetings that needed to be scheduled, I finally hired an assistant, who is awesome. I didn’t realize how much time I was spending going back and forth and back and forth. Had to be an hour or more a day. This has helped my productivity a ton. I get valuable time during the day back, and for that I — and my investors — are grateful!

      2. Paul Kedrosky

        As do I. With hundreds of emails, many of which are about meetings and/or interviews, if I tried to get in the middle of it odds are a much lower percentage of them would ever happen — as I’m actually the one in the meetings and interviews. It is one of the main reasons I have an assistant.

        1. Dave Pinsen

          What tip would you give someone who is trying to contact you via e-mail and hasn’t gotten a response?

          1. paramendra

            Just because you have my email address does not mean you deserve my attention. I only have 24 hours in my day. I skim and skip at wanton. Sorry.

          2. Dave Pinsen

            The problem with skimming at wanton is that you end up misreading, as you have in this case. Nowhere did I write that I deserved your attention, or that of anyone else.

      3. chris dixon

        The phone guy might live on the phone the way you live in the inbox and might have similar justification in his mind (I assume it’s usually a man btw).

        1. fredwilson

          I don’t think so. Phone is a synchronous medium. You can’t have 700+ calls going at the same time

          1. Andrew Hyde

            Setting up meetings is really one of my least favorite things.Have you seen Tungle? Almost is the perfect “yes, let’s meet up, here is my available times, you pick” app. ex:…It prevents the six email back and forth that happens with setting up a meeting.

          2. fredwilson

            I may try that. Does the other person have to be on tungle too?

          3. Michael Lewkowitz

            nope – tungle works without requiring signup. been working really well for me they’re responsive and iterating quickly.

          4. Sean Tierney

            Fred, I’ve never tried tungle but a microapp that I do use is This lets multiple people easily overlay their availability to see the windows of time that line up. It requires no acct registration and is intuitive (and i have no affiliation with them, I just find it useful).sean

          5. dorothy_mcgivney

            I love I use it for planning group vacations, dinner parties, and yes, meetings (the original intent). No sign up and super easy to use.

          6. marcgingras

            Hi Fred, as some of our users indicated, nope, no sign-up required for people visiting your page. Let me know how it goes and don’t hesitate to reach out directly to me with questions or feedback.

          7. alexismichelle

            Great suggestion, I love tungle. Its especially great for multi-party calls or meetings.

          8. Ari Herzog

            I started using Tungle about two weeks ago and I echo its success for asking others to plan events with you.

          9. davduf

            The comments up there, around back and forth scheduling e-mails, remind me of the first few slides that Marc (Tungle’s CEO and founder) showed us the first time he came to pitch (during which I didn’t glance at my BlackBerry once, I swear). So I’m delighted to see the value prop validated once more. That, plus a few happy users recommending the product. Sends tingles down my spine.Would be crass of me to plug it some more, but everyone with scheduling overload, please don’t hesitate to try it and send feedback, requests for features, etc.

          10. MikeSchinkel

            “SendS tingles down your spine?” You sure those weren’t tungles? ;-)Also, I’ve been using it too. Great service.

          11. paramendra

            I knew there was an application of this sort somewhere.

          12. scott

            fred, you’re wrong – its exactly the same. you can have 700 people you need to call back (or even 1/10th that, and you have the same level of problem you have with email). the phone tag could be crazy.not saying its right, just that it is the same lame justification. and its why i generally won’t talk to people who use either approach. usually when someone intercedes on behalf of the person i’m trying to meet with, we can’t get a reasonable meeting time proposed unless i can just accommodate whatever time they feel like offering me, and so usually the meeting not only doesn’t happen, but i don’t even care that it didn’t happen.all people are equal fred. email schedulers are lame too.

          13. paramendra

            All people are equal. But are all emails equal? I don’t think so. When you attain a certain level of visibility, it is not possible for you to meet everyone who wants to meet you. Correct? But there are people who want to meet you and who you want to meet. But there are many people like that. Efficient scheduling, and old school phone etiquette could help.

      4. ShanaC

        O_o Wow. Now there is some sort of business in there, but even I’m not sure what it would be.

      5. WA

        I would think Obama could make the same case for having an executive assistant place the call to you…after all how insulting could it be to be placed between Nikolas Sarkozy and Shimon Peres in an outbound calling day for the C-in-Chief?

    2. Mark Essel

      It is a little different though, there it’s asyncronous and some may have OVERLOADED inboxes (like Seth Godin, Chris Guillebeau, and Fred)

      1. paramendra

        I have received email replies from both Seth Godin and Fred. Both are two of my very favorite bloggers. I probably like Fred’s blog more. I mean, Seth does not even have Disqus. Go figure. …. And I treasure those emails. I have emailed Fred more than once. But I try to keep that to an absolute minimum. I only send over email what I can’t say in his comments sections. That is very little.

        1. Mark Essel

          Fred may parse comments by email as well (Disqus mails me when folks reply to my comments, or comment on my blog).

    3. Austin Bryan

      Chris – I get your point, but having a bit of insight into the volume of emails and calls coming across Fred’s desk each day, I can tell you that managing all of it is a full time job. You might find it irritating or impersonal, but the corollary is that it allows him to take more meetings and be more generous with his time. Given the options of Fred scheduling the meeting or Fred having time to meet with me, I’ll take the latter.

      1. fredwilson

        Few people have the insight into that austin. But you suire do

      2. ShanaC

        I’ll even take just a personal email. Sometimes a real email is a good thing.

        1. paramendra

          Shana. I know the feeling. A few days back I got an email from the Zynga CEO. (I have been hooked to Farmville for weeks now. I came to the game late but strong.) I told him getting an email from him was like getting an email from Fred Wilson: exciting. He said he was flattered by the comparison.

      3. paramendra

        “Given the options of Fred scheduling the meeting or Fred having time to meet with me, I’ll take the latter.”An obvious but good, sweet point. 🙂

    4. msuster

      I’m afraid I do this as well. The phone things is super annoying. Meetings via email – often my assistant will handle because:- It often requires many back-and-forths and scheduling multiple people- I’m too disorganized to follow up on all the details- People often need to change times / locations due to changes in other meetingsIf I handled it all myself I’d do less than half the meetings I do (and I keep a very busy schedule of entrepreneur meetings) and I’d probably bugger up half of the logistics.

    5. rajatsuri

      This isn’t a big deal to me

  4. kidmercury

    lol, great headline…..fantastic click bait boss

  5. Mark Essel

    Why ad more of a delay than is necessary. Direct contact should be the primary method between known or unknown people.If you don’t know me, shoot me a tweet, email, or even better leave a thoughtful comment on my blog. Cold calling is terrible, even worse is middle man calling. Foolishly arrogant of anyone, to think so highly of themselves.Feels good letting off a little steam on your blog though doesn’t it. Ahh, blog catharsis.

  6. missmanners

    Although probably rare these days, I would disagree is in the case of flakey telecoms in 3rd world countries, where you may have to dial many times to get through (I remember it taking 30=60 minutes to get through to a person years ago when I lived in Indonesia).

    1. ShanaC

      I have to ask, are you the real Judith Martin, because if you are, that’s awesome!

  7. davidblerner

    In my early days as an entrepreneur in the healthcare space (working with a lot of physicians) this type of behavior was par for the course. Though I come from a family with a lot of physicians, I must say that I have never again encountered a class of professional that feels so privileged and behaves so imperiously. How many times did I receive a call like this… “Hello, I’ve got Dr. So and So on the line for you….”. I think I’ve enjoyed the transition to tech a great deal in part because for the most part people in the tech community are so much more down to earth.

    1. Amin

      As a physician, I never have my assistant call patients to have them hold for me. However, I often have my assistant call patients to deliver phone messages to them. While I would love to make all the calls myself, they are often necessary to make a single point (eg, “the prescription you requested has been called into your pharmacy”) and end up taking a lot of time unnecessarily (“Hi Mr. X, I called in your prescription.” “Thanks doctor, I was wondering, do you think I should get a flu shot? my primary care physician thinks so, but…”). If I were to have a single phone call per year with every patient for whom I provide care, I would never have a chance to read a bedtime story to my kids or attend a parent-teacher conference.

  8. zerobeta

    zerobeta is about to comment. He’ll be right with you.

    1. davidblerner


    2. fredwilson


      1. vincent

        ” I really don’t care if its Barack Obama calling, I don’t think this kind of behavior is acceptable. It is plain and simply rude.” – Fred, if Obama, did indeed call you, this is exactly how the White House Operator would call. It is a sign of humility when accept that there are indeed some people more important than you are. And the truth of the matter is that, there is always someone in the world more important than you are.

        1. fredwilson

          there is nobody more important than you or mewe are all equally important

    3. howardlindzon


      1. paramendra

        Exactly my reaction: that emoticon.

    4. JLM

      Pretty damn…………………………..funny! Great wit! Thanks.

      1. fredwilson

        Nothing like humor and wit to get the folks here going

    5. Elie Seidman


    6. Volker Hirsch

      zerobeta is the man. ‘Nuff said! 🙂

    7. ShanaC


  9. chrisdorr

    You have just perfectly described the entertainment business in a nutshell. This type of behavior is rampant from the top to the bottom. What is even better is this–late in the day you receive a call from an assistant at a major talent agency–if you answer they tell you their boss will call you back tomorrow–if it goes to voicemail the assistant will tell you their boss is on the line returning your call–in both cases their boss is nowhere near the phone. CAA actually trains its assistants to do this. It is so absurd, you just have to laugh. Somehow it is supposed to make you feel good.

    1. fredwilson

      wow. i can’t even respond to this. it’s nuts

      1. chrisdorr

        It surely is.

        1. jsrand

          Self-importance is the name of the game in that industry.I typically get calls like that from one of four sources: recruiters, stock brokers, insurance salesmen and older people who grew up in a generation where handling a telephone was “women’s work” and don’t want to change (people like that often don’t use computers either, and have assistants communicate on email on their behalf). I indulge the last category because I understand the reason for it. But the other three types share a common attribute (other than trying to sell me), and that’s that they don’t know me, which makes the practice even more irritating. I’ve typically courteous when I get those calls, but I think I’m with Fred on this one going forward. Maybe we can start a Jason Calacanis-type movement here!!!

          1. paramendra

            If you think Fred ccing his assistant his scheduling emails is an issue, how about this college president in Kentucky I knew who would get his assistant to print all his emails for the day. He would take the folder home in the evening. 🙂

    2. Aaron Klein

      what would be great is if one of these people had Google Voice and was monitoring the voice mail, dialed the code to pick up and said “no worries, I’m here! put him on!”I personally never use that feature because it projects an ambivalence and lack of respect for the person calling, but in this case, I would consider it quite justified. LOL.

      1. chrisdorr

        Actually a few years ago, I did pick up a call when it was going to voice mail–and said not to worry I am here–and the assistant informed me that he had picked up another call in the mean time and they would have to try me back! Every assistant at CAA has it all scripted out for every contingency.

      2. ShanaC

        I have to say, that feature gives me a great deal of security when going out. I can give out my number and not be afraid about the person calling back…plus I can block people I really dislike. Actually have needed that feature once. Getting hit on in real life is very complicated…

        1. Aaron Klein

          It’s very useful. I’m not saying I’ve never monitored a voice mail with it – just saying it feels odd to break in like you have a 1980s answering machine.So the couple of times I have, I’ve always tended to call the person back as if I missed the call. 🙂

          1. ShanaC

            I can tell you one guy has been blocked for wasting my time while I am in a crisis mode to complain about certain feminist stances. Further, having listened to the call long enough, he would have realized I read feminist texts, and biology texts, and to argue about the subject for two hours is not the way you go about attracting someone who has actually sat and read Simone De Beauvoir and Betty Friedan for fun, and likes perusing the science times. It just doesn’t work. (You have been warned…If the lady reads, and you are looking to date, particularly for a wife figure, humor her politics. She can hold a conversation, at least….)I see the larger discussion of the entire thread here as a HCI issue (human-computing interaction). People are busy, we use productivity tools to theoretically help, it in fact makes us more productive and more busy, we feel overwhelmed, how do you cope while still acting like a mensch. It’s how do we choose to bypass or help the computers in our lives run interference. We need some to get stuff done, and we don’t need to much, or we get ourselves angry. It’s a question of balance.

          2. paramendra

            Like you said Shana, there is a business idea or two in here.

    3. Taylor Brooks

      CAA is not the only guilty party – it’s every major talent agency! (WMA, Endeavor, Gersh, etc.) They all train their assistants that way.I’ve gotten so used to it that I just laugh whenever they call.

      1. ShanaC

        I’ll pass this on to a friend of mine who works at a talent agency in New York.

    4. markslater

      i believe it – massive fan of Ari gold me!eveyone needs a lloyd.

  10. Keenan

    Straight up old school, 1950’s, 60’s, 70’s (maybe 80’s), style. It’s straight out of Madmen or something. You can read a lot into who this person is by this action.I got 10 bucks this cat,doesn’t listen well, berates his employeeshas a short fusenot open to others ideasnot very progressiveI can’t imagine doing business with this type of person.All the better to hang up.

    1. JLM

      I agree with your insights however this behavior would have been recognized for what it was even in the Old School.Remember we did not have e-mail, faxes, cell phones, text messages — so phone contact was much more important.I can recall vividly scheduling phone calls and I used to take a specific hour in the morning and an hour in the afternoon to ensure I returned ALL of my phone calls.Another oddity is that folks used to routinely meet for a cocktail after work. You could often catch up with someone who you otherwise might not have been able to speak w/ during the day.Good manners have always been in fashion.

      1. Keenan

        I love your coments, they are a window into a world I have only read about.It’s like talkin to a social archiologist. :)//keenan

        1. JLM

          While I may from time to time provide the cautionary tale, make no mistake that today is the absolute best of times. There is more information available and the ability to conduct business remotely is beyond compare. I would not trade today for yesterday. I only wish I were 22 years old.There is a chronological age, an age of wisdom and a perceived age. Young folks are much smarter and cleverer but they do not have the benefit of enough time to really understand themselves and others — they are in too much of a hurry.The corollary of that is that some “old” folks are so far behind the technology that they are almost functionally illiterate.Young folks should actively look for mentors to get the wisdom at the Sam’s Club prices. Old folks should just suck it up and learn the technology.

          1. Keenan

            I make that same wish often. And it is not always because of technology.Chronological age 41Wisdom age 38Perceived age 28 ( it brings down my wisdom age)

          2. theslingster

            Don’t forget physical age (or is that percieved)?

          3. Elie Seidman

            Several years ago, I had a CFO who did not know how to use Excel or know how to type. He was in his early 50s at the time and since my father – in his early 70s now – is excellent with email, typing, computers, etc. I made the mistake of not testing the guy on his tech skills prior to hiring him. Needless to say – he did not last. An executive who can’t make use of a business technology is like a farmer still using an ox to plow his fields.

      2. ShanaC

        100% good manners are always in fashion. There is a reason that Emily Post still remains popular to this day.

  11. David Smuts

    Fred, how very crass of them. Did the Gotham Girl hang up on the guy?

    1. paramendra

      I believe the blogger’s name is Gotham Gal.

  12. Chris Hamoen

    Ivory Tower BS.

  13. chrisdorr

    I would make one exception on the hang up rule. If it were President Obama calling, I would be happy to hold. He and I just don’t get to talk that often.

    1. fredwilson

      you’ve got a point there

      1. Michael Lewkowitz

        had that from a former prime minister – didn’t hang up but should have. no matter who it is it clearly says how the interaction/value exchange will go – 1-way. there’s always a better use of time than taking those calls.

        1. paramendra

          I had a scheduling issue with my Prime Minister when he was in town for the UN thing. We emailed back and forth and ended up not meeting. The dude went to see the Statue Of Liberty, and then the Empire State Building that morning. And I am glad. I had already met him twice in the past few days.

    2. davidmit

      and arguably he is one of the people whose time is probably indeed more valuable than most of us 🙂

    3. Ro Gupta

      Granted this was before he was POTUS, and you could argue this was just clever PR, but even Obama seems to understand proper phone etiquette (not to mention ‘bro-etiquette’):

      1. obscurelyfamous

        Obama would make an excellent wingman.

        1. ShanaC

          *snorting in laughter* now you make me worried for the secret service when they go to chicago….

      2. MikeSchinkel

        Heck, if Obama called and didn’t have an assistant call for him I doubt I’d believe it was him! 🙂

        1. paramendra

          As for Fred’s mention of Obama, if someone said she feels like a million dollars, would you take that literally? Would you be like, Show Me The Money!

      3. fredwilson

        i can’t get that mp3 to play unfortunately

  14. GraemeHein

    I can see this being legitimate in in certain situations – near the closing of a deal, a hard deadline for submitting a proposal, etc where a group is working in a boardroom and an assistant is asked to patch you in on speaker. Not too likely that this would involve you too often, more often for lawyers or bankers.It’s legitimate for the Pres too – he’s constantly overscheduled, hasn’t made a phone call of his own in years, doesn’t know anyone’s number, and doesn’t have his own phone. Totally classless outside of these limited circumstances.

  15. greggspiridellis

    Hanging up is a missed opportunity, Fred. It’s more fun to forward the call. Here’s a good one: 650-388-1117.

    1. fredwilson

      I’m afraid to ask what that number is

  16. Earl Galleher

    This is a great point from Fred. Refreshing to see that kind of concern. Other common practices some Venture Capitalist should re-consider to re-enter the world of the polite (not directed at Fred. He has always been professional and polite with me):1. Don’t cancel a scheduled meeting day before or day of meeting.2. Don’t text your assistant to come in meeting to tell the room you have to go to another meeting.3. Don’t project overt self-importance in a meeting with an Entrepreneur (we are all people)4. Don’t say you will follow up with someone then never call or email them back.5. Don’t read your emails from your blackberry during a presentation from an Entrepreneur.6. Don’t come across as though were it not for you, the company you are considering an investment in would not have a chance (in most cases, it is your money that is the critical factor, not your management skills ;-)Entrepreneurs and VCs need each other. All should be polite with one another…..

    1. fredwilson

      excellent advice. all VCs, including me, can learn from this

    2. PC

      All businesses can learn from this.The last 2 companies I’ve interviewed at (reputable ones in Silicon Valley that everyone has heard of) either did not contact me back at all (when they said they would) or it took a considerable amount of effort on my part until they did.Granted I can understand that they don’t care about me because since they’ve decided to not make me an offer, it still is pretty bad business in my eyes. Personally, it gives me a poor reputation of their business and I will pass that one to my other friends who may be looking for new opportunities. In fact, I’ve had warnings from friends who’ve interviewed at companies before me from the ones that are notoriously bad about getting back to you.I think companies should keep this in mind, especially considering how fast they want to move (interview ASAP if the phone screening is successful) and how much time and effort the candidate puts into each interview.

    3. VJI

      I’d like to add # 7Don’t bring your laptop to read, respond to emails and use IM during meetings. I’ve only had this happen once in a VC meeting and was so pissed off that I almost called out the VC. It’s fair to say I will NEVER go back to that VC firm.oh, ya, Almost forgot that firm is Happy Holidays!

  17. mfeinstein

    I agree, Fred. It’s one thing for an assistant to communicate with me to set up a time to talk. Or, for the assistant to answer the phone when you call someone’s office. But, for the assistant to call me to see if I am available for ‘the boss’ is too much. If the boss has time to talk to me, they should have time to dial the phone.As a donor to The Carter Center, I occasionally get thank-you calls from former President Carter. And, he calls me himself, sometimes just leaving a message on my home answering machine. One time, he called my house, and I was on a Board phone call for a start-up. I actually had my wife tell President Carter that I wasn’t able to come to the phone! He took it in stride.

    1. fredwilson

      that’s great to hear about Jimmy Carter though I have to say that i am notsurprisedhe has humility

      1. JLM

        Trade school grad!

    2. chris dixon

      In my experience, the most senior people tend to do stuff like this. it’s usually people in the middle rungs who are insecure who pull power play moves like having someone call for them etc.

  18. Pascal-Emmanuel Gobry

    I love how having an assistant place your calls is rude, but brutally hanging up on someone who’s calling you is appropriate business behavior.

    1. fredwilson

      Fair point. I guess that’s called adding insult to injury

      1. Pascal-Emmanuel Gobry

        It’s the point Christ Dixon made re: your using an assistant to go throughyour emails. Everyone has different reasons to do different things. If youwere to say to the caller at the end of the call: “I’m sorry, it’s just asmall think, but I think you should know I don’t appreciate your callingthrough an assistant, I think that’s rude”, it would be more straightforwardand productive.If you hang up and the person thinks the call was disconnected, do you waitfor them to call back and hang up again? And again? Who does that?

        1. fredwilson

          Just to be clear, I don’t think having my assistant schedule my meetings is wasting anyone’s time. I’m not asking the person to hold for me or anyone else when I do that

          1. Pascal-Emmanuel Gobry

            Right. But whether or not it’s justified, some smart people still think it’srude. My point is that there’s room for reasonable disagreement here andthat hanging up on someone is a brutal response to someone who may have nobad intentions.

          2. Aaron Klein

            But you can’t disagree that when someone of Fred’s influence does it, it may well be a good behavior correction strategy! LOL.Case in point, Fred was also going to tell Schumer he was pandering to voters, and then Schumer appears to have overcorrected on that count by calling that flight attendant a “B”.So you may want to realize your power and find something short of hanging up, Fred. 🙂

          3. Pascal-Emmanuel Gobry

            If it’s Larry or Sergey calling to buy one of Fred’s portfolio startups, arewe sure he’ll have the cojones to hang up? 😉

          4. Aaron Klein

            If they want it badly enough, they’ll call back and apologize. And he’ll get a higher price. 🙂

          5. Pascal-Emmanuel Gobry


          6. fredwilson

            They don’t make those calls unfortunately.

        2. theslingter

          I agree. This behavior is not neccesarily being done by rude people. My Doctor does this accasionally to me and I know he is a fair and humble guy. I always take the call (who wouldn’t when its your doctor?) I don’t know why he uses an assistant, but assume he is overwhelmed with treating patients, and combine that with the fact that most phone calls seems to go to voice mail, combining that with perhaps the need to get in touch with 30 patients a day by phone, this may explain his behavior.I would suggest taking the call, explaining you opinion on assitant placed calls, and if it persists, then you have reason to hang up on him/her

          1. Pascal-Emmanuel Gobry

            Exactly. Great example.

          2. JLM

            Business rules do not apply to doctors. I wish my doctor would call me — regardless of how the call is placed — more often.

  19. marko

    insecurity and ego are a dangerous cocktail. this video made my laugh this morning….…there was a time not so long ago that homo sapiens were solely defined by our ‘unique ability to use tools’ …..thats kinda like us calling the entire animal kingdom and putting them on hold 🙂

  20. JLM

    The larger subject here is simply the style with which each of us conducts our business and personal affairs. Being “polite” costs no money but pays huge dividends. America ultimately does business with its friends in almost all things.I do not suggest that there is a “correct” way of conducting ones affairs or that how I view the subject is correct but I do think there is a keen insight to be gained by observing how others conduct their affairs. You learn something about them.The only real equal asset in the entire world is TIME. We each get 24 hours and no more. Therefore how we allocate our time is a very discerning vision into our psyche.I am just a bit older than most folks on this blog — though I intend to live forever, never stop working (tried it and it didn’t work) and eat out of your chili bowls for a long time — and I am frankly amazed at how rude and distracted young business persons of all types are today.I have a tiny advantage having been in business before the invention of the PC, cell phone, Internet and e-mail. There was a time when business was conducted in a more courtly person to person manner.I see a huge opportunity to harness the efficiency of changing technology while learning the way to conduct your business in a manner that people want to do business with you — not because you inventory a bit of somebody else’s $$$ in the closet but because you are calm, confident, thoughtful, supportive, encouraging and pleasant.Thinking about just meetings — avoid them at all costs, is my real view.Go to meetings and politely greet everyone, turn off your cell phone, thank the folks who set up the meeting, have an agenda, take notes, summarize what was discussed, acknowledge all unresolved “parking lot” issues, document all decisions and then drop a handwritten note or two to certain members.Can you imagine the thrill it would give a budding young entrepreneur to get an encouraging note even if you were passing on his deal? Find something to tell him that leaves him feeling better. Do you think he will pitch his next deal to you or a stranger?Calm, down, relax and conduct your business in a courtly manner. Make our Mommas proud of us.

    1. fredwilson

      I think you are ideally suited to write a primer on business manners in the digital age JLM

      1. JoeJoomla

        I also agree. When that primer on business manners in the digital age is written I would like to send it to a few people.The rudeness of what people do on telephones is only surpassed by what people do with cell phones. The message that is being sent is ‘I’d rather be somewhere else right now because you are not as important’.

        1. JLM

          The lowest hanging fruit we can ever pluck in business is giving our undivided attention to the people and matters at hand while making them feel perfectly comfortable. It sets the tone for everything that follows.

          1. JoeJoomla

            Excellent advice. It’s funny how many people don’t get it. I took a lot of business away from competitors early in my career doing simple things such as this.

          2. Elie Seidman

            great advice

          3. ShanaC

            That is good motto of a starting point. Always stand in the other’s person place too.

  21. reece

    Reminds me of my time working in production on a Hollywood film.It’s accepted out there, but that doesn’t mean it’s right and it is still a power struggle…

  22. Aaron Klein

    I agree 100% with what you wrote.That being said, I think the underlying principle here is “respect other people’s time.”I’ve had my assistant call to tell people that my last meeting is running over and I’m 10 minutes behind schedule…call to schedule a time when we’ll both be available for a phone call…call to schedule a good time for both of us to meet…etc.If you note, the common thread through all of those calls is a respect for the value of the other person’s time.Having your assistant dial the phone so you don’t have to wait while it rings is a demonstration that your time is more important than someone else’s and that’s where the fail is.Great post.

    1. Aaron Klein

      UPDATE: I have to update this and say I agree 99%. I’d probably hold for the President. The poor guy probably doesn’t even have an outside line in his office. The law requires him to place calls that way so they can be “logged” so that congressional committees have something interesting to subpoena.

  23. LIAD

    I think your position is a bit worthy. Being made to wait a second or two whilst the call is transferred isn’t really the end of the world. I’m sure all forbes 500 CEOs have their calls placed and then they jump on the line once connected. It would only be offensive if there was a significant delay between answering the call and being connected to the principle.Could there be anything cooler than answering the phone and hearing “I have the President for you Mr Wilson”. – me thinks you would stay on the line.

    1. fredwilson

      I probably would

  24. Morgan Warstler

    Just happened to me (yes an agency call). I don’t really mind though, because the assistant stays on phone call with us, and then after the main guy dropped off, he stayed on the phone to get me all the info I wanted. If it had been done any other way, I’d have had to wait for them to close the loop.

  25. Geoff

    I’m going to disagree with Fred on this one. It may or may not mean the person has an ego problem. You are assuming that’s the case. Some people just suck at making phone calls. I don’t really see the difference between doing something like that and getting your assistant to filter your mail except that most mailers won’t know that it’s not you taking the first look.The frustrations of business are practically infinite and everyone has pet peeves. I would argue that tolerance is a two way street.(disclosure: I have no assistants doing f-all for me)

    1. fredwilson

      I don’t believe in assistants filtering email either. When someone wants to meet me, I reply myslef, copy my assistant, and she takes over. But I read and respond to alll my mail personally

    2. Dave Pinsen

      If you are not handicapped and have trouble dialing a phone, you shouldn’t be in any position of importance.

      1. Dan Grossman

        That’s a naive position to take.

        1. Dave Pinsen

          Feel free to explicate.

    3. msuster

      I’m with Fred on this, Geoff. When somebody calls me and says “Bob Jones wants to speak to you – let me put you through” I think to myself, “why should I wait around on the phone for Bob?” I think it’s discourteous.On the other hand, I never have my assistant read my emails (she doesn’t have access to them). I read and respond myself. The only place she really gets involved is coordinating meetings.

  26. David Gehring

    Wow, given the volume of comments, I guess this happens a lot to some people. I think I’ve received a phone call from an assistant asking me to hold on for the boss maybe twice in my life…? Not enough times to really care about the encounter all that much. Maybe I’m so unimportant that I just don’t even get these kind of calls enough for it to be an annoyance. Hmm, I wonder what else I’m missing out on…

  27. RichardF

    I’ve had this happen a few times and actually I think it comes down to how the assistant handles the call.If the assistant is polite and perhaps explains that “the boss” has tried to phone you a few times but hasn’t managed to get through then I don’t think it’s a big deal.If you have a pompous assistant phoning you then you probably know that so is is the boss and that it is an ego thing rather than someone who is just trying to maximise their time.

    1. JLM

      I am an old school “every phone call gets returned the same day even if it is after business hours” kind of guy. Every call coming in is logged in in writing. Every day. Kept in a looseleaf binder for all time. Missed calls are queried for number, cell phone and e-mail.Having said that, it depends almost entirely who the party calling or being called is — Board member, CEO of another company, lawyer, accountant, golfing buddy, acquisition target, etcIn addition, it depends on your assistant.In 35 years, I have had 2 assistants. For the last 20 years, I have had a single assistant. She is quite good. I have made it very clear to her that she does not speak FOR me and that she wields no power that belongs to me. She is also an astute judge of horseflesh and knows who has my and the company’s interests in heart.I do not tolerate pretensions or pomposity and there is nothing that irks me more than somebody calling me “Mr. xxx”. I will not stand for it.If I am speaking to someone’s assistant, I always ask their name and thank them by name. Remember these are the gatekeepers.I have an “open door” policy and literally my door is open for most of the hours I am in the office. Anybody can walk past her and come talk to me though I am not reluctant to send them away if it is not convenient. I often spend days at a time at home on my computer directing things as I operate in four different states.I am always available for anybody at 7:00-7:30 AM for a cup of coffee and a chat.

      1. ShanaC

        I would call you Mr. XXX unless specifically told me not to. I was raised that was the polite way of addressing people who are older than you unless you know them well. So I have an above age 35 rule- if you are not my friend you are Mr./Ms./Dr. XXX.It’s an arbitrary bright line sort of test, and I realize the world has changed somewhat, but I also realize that I am generally not the person in charge, and it is better to show humility.Granted, I also had it drilled into me that you stand for your elders during my first three years of schooling…young people don’t respect wisdom as much anymore. You may call it BS, but you keep some of those formal lines, you earn respect, and you learn from the wisdom. You don’t know much when you are my age.

  28. Sally

    Wow, is this really that serious? Or is this arrogance meets arrogance.

  29. mcenedella

    Good point. Officious and pompous behavior in this world is unwelcome.On the other hand, it reminds you of just how powerful politeness and personal warmth can be in an increasingly cold age.For example, we’ve hired 5 new sales people in the past week. I called them all personally to welcome them on board. If I got their voicemail, that was OK, I could leave a message. The point is made — you’re important to our success, welcome on board, let’s start conquering the world together immediately!Or extending the idea from the personal to company behavior, how irritating is it when you go into voice menu hell when you call a company? That’s why we have real, live human beings, working at TheLadders (right here in Manhattan!) answer your call directly when you dial our toll-free number. Isn’t that what you’d prefer?When many others are jerks, the positive benefits to being courteous, for yourself and your business, are just that much larger.

  30. jpmarcum

    Was the caller from LA?

  31. Dara Bell

    Absuluetly right unacceptable in New York or Edinburgh. It is unpersonal and there is enough of that going round this time of year. (fake Christmas sentiment aside)DaraBell

  32. mmmmm

    chill out dude.

  33. zaid2001

    Understandable. But as a startup it can be tricky. You can pick who you’d like to talk to. Startups, in early stage, have fewer options.Story: we were trying to reach an ad agency overseas. We tried for a long time just trying to call up the secretary and get us in touch with the right contact. Didn’t work. The contact was always out or busy.I had a hustler friend of mine take up the challenge. He called up the secretary, and said he is calling from the CEO’s office(me) and that the CEO had met her boss at a conference. She had new found respect for the same CEO who had been calling the secretary directly for weeks trying to get to her boss…all because I put my bud in the middle. Within minutes my bud had our contact’s cell number and much more. Soon after we closed a deal.

  34. Justin Smithline

    This also drives me nuts. Glad somebody said it. Based on my own experience, 100% of the time these calls originate in L.A.

  35. dabent

    I’m honestly surprised anyone does that anymore. I thought that came from the days of “Mad Men” when people had a secretary doing their bidding all day. I don’t blame you for hanging up.

  36. Alan Laves

    I have a few law partners and clients who have their secretaries place their calls. It is annoying, but I try to keep my focus on the goal – getting our collective jobs done in the most efficient manner possible. If I can spare the extra 15 seconds, I take the call and don’t let my pride get in the way. However, once I know someone does this regularly, when I see them calling, I tend to let the calls roll to my secretary and then I call the offending party back at my convenience.

  37. Guest

    Ha! 106 comments and nobody has linked to this yet:“…explain to these motherfuckers that Steve Jobs does not get on the line first, ever.”

  38. Ari Herzog

    Do you truly expect the President of the United States to call you direct from the Oval Office, or will you truly hang up on the next White House aide who calls you because the big man wants to wish you greetings?

    1. ShanaC

      I don’t think anyone expects much of anything here when it involves the president. Wrong crowd, try a DC based Politics blog. He’s a good example because he is the president. Marginal rules proving the example, etc.

  39. Rogel

    Well said!

  40. OMA

    There are times I’m glad the secretary calls to transfer the call, there are certain people it’s so hard to find (real airport warriors) you really need someone to spend an hour on the task.My lawyer is one example- He still uses a paper rolodex, and will phone all my numbers at the wrong order for $200/hour, since it’s a paper rolodex my google voice number that does all this simultaneously is last. It takes him 15 minutes. I gladly save the $15 he charges me for the 5 minutes.I never had a secretary I actually used, but at times, when calling some VCs for example, it’s a real waste of time.One of my former investors is a real “airport warrior”, You never know what time zone he’s at, so you call the office, he is never there but she thinks he is the the west coast, you may try his US cellular in a few hours.Calling the US cellular later that day, you get to the voicemail. You get an email saying, I heard your voicemail, it was late at night, please call me back.When google voice starts transferring calls abroad, it will eliminate a lot of these problems with scheduling options and transferring the call to multiple lines, I will still have to make my lawyer call that number first.

  41. katrinanyc

    I do think that in most cases, ego is involved, but in some cases, avoidance of getting the wrong person, or just wanting to get the person intended, may be a factor. Remember — when then-President-elect Obama called himself, he was hung up on twice by disbelieving congresswoman Ileana Ros-Lehtinen. I once received a call that began, “Hello. This is fwah fwah fwah. Are you available for Donatella Versace?” I thought that done *this* way, was actually considerate of my time, if perhaps I was running out the door, if I needed to shoo someone out of my office so that I could speak to her, or if because of the time difference between here and Milan I felt like cursing at the phone slave for interrupting breakfast/sleep/afternoon something. On this call, my time was deemed just as important as hers. And there was absolutely no wait, no “Please hold while I get her.” She was ready, and on the line immediately when I said “Yes, I am.”Would I use the ego-slave-announce-me call method myself? Absolutely never. Not my style. E-mail is convenient enough to warn the receiver of my coming call.

  42. Prokofy

    This is merely an old-fashioned mainly male habit left over from the days when there were no cell phones or even direct lines and it could be hard to get a person. I remember when I was a secretary, the boss would say “Get so-and-so on the line for me” because that would take time — I’d have to call, not reach that other important boss of course, reach only his secretary, she would say “He’s in a meeting,” I would say, “But it’s Mr. Important on the line,” then she’d try to get him, etc. It was a dance.To be sure, in the era of not only easily direct-dialed cell phones that also can enable you to screen calls, it seems unreasonable to have secretaries doing this sort of thing. But it is still done all the time because people are even harder to reach and get on the line. They have an answering machine answering, so some people want the secretary going through that chore of hearing the answering machine and leaving the message.

  43. Patrick Allmond

    I never stopped to think about it but I subconsciously do this too. Same thing when it comes to recording or anything else automated that rings my phone. You get about 2-3 seconds with me going “Hello? Hello?”. If I don’t hear a real person or the person that is supposed to be calling. Buh bye.

  44. mattmaroon
  45. sigmaalgebra

    “Click”?Entrepreneur E sees a reference to Billy Bob VC, checks out their Web site, sees a ‘fit’, reads “Send to [email protected]“, personalizes the PDF file of foils, writes a short, custom cover note, sends (reluctantly since too often INFO = BIT_BUCKET), a week later calls for follow-up, gets the office assistantA: Billy Bob.E: Good morning! Noticed your firm’s interests cover our work and calling to follow up on our submission.A: When did you submit?E: A week ago today!A: Please send to “Send to [email protected]“.E: Did that last week, got back my BCC copy and no message about failure to deliver, and here’s the subject line and time and date stamp. A simple e-mail search should find it.A: I can’t find it. Could you send again?Now E is thinking, “I need also to spend time on ASP.NET, etc., didn’t like having to send to INFO anyway, and, since this firm’s having trouble learning to use e-mail, do I really want someone from there on my Board?”Option 1: “Sure, thanks for the help. I’ll send again right away.”. SURE he will, maybe a couple of years after his exit.Option 2: “Click”.

  46. Nancy King

    Moves like this always remind me of the Dog Whisperer. Using an assistant to place a phone call to save a few seconds just seems like someone trying to assert themselves as the pack leader. Your right Fred, the key is mutual respect.In my business, recruiting, if the front desk person or exec assistant is treated poorly by a candidate, no matter what they bring in talent is overshadowed by the lack of mutual respect.A true power play or even the appearance of a power play won’t work in a long term relationship.

  47. Joe Dixon

    In general I agree with this, but your stern approach is hardly believable. I’m pretty sure that when you were fundraising your first fund, you were more than happy to have a potential LP call via their assistant. And, I’m 100% certain that you would not hang up on that potential LP. Whether we like it or not, there are food chains, and you have to work with people who you don’t necessarily find “acceptable.” We can choose to not like them and we can do our best to avoid people like that, but in many/most instances in business, avoidance is not possible (especially for your readers of this blog who have to deal with arrogant VCs on a regular basis). If you can find a way to only work with people who play by your rules, then please do share.I do hope that one of your LPs has their assistant call. And, for your sake, I hope you keep your word and hang up on them. I’d love to hear how that plays out.

    1. fredwilson

      now that i’ve promised the entire blog world, i’ll have to do it

  48. markslater

    this is near and dear -my dad (from another era admittedly where assistants would essentially be the PBX’s) would have his assistant call me and i would get “please hold for your father…” like it was supposed to intimidate me or something as i knew the call was about grades etc…… We all 4 boys used to make this a running joke….anyway he continued this through our early professional careers. It took several years of ‘dial tone’ when he picked up for him to realize that it did not work….his response today (trying to be cool) when we are chatting at family events is to give us a quarter and tell us to ‘call someone that cares’ when we make remarks……ofcourse the comeback is….’dad – payphones went out with ultravox”its obnoxious to do this. Assistants in general are major red flags for me – who honestly needs one? with all the tools available to us today if you cant manage your attention and comms properly – whays to say yuo are going to work smarter for me or with me? its a bygone marker of someones self importance thats all.

    1. fredwilson

      I need one. I really do

    2. fredwilson

      I need one. I really do

  49. rajatsuri

    is hanging up really the right response? it seems passive-aggressive and puerile in some ways. Surely the right response is to just tell the person face to face that I’d prefer if you called me yourself next time.Hanging up seems a little childish

    1. fredwilson

      You are not the only one to chide me for that. I accept the critical feedback

    2. fredwilson

      You are not the only one to chide me for that. I accept the critical feedback

  50. GargaMelvin

    Why is “don’t be an ass” such a difficult concept to embrace?Fred, have you considered publishing a book entitled “Don’t Be an Ass: How a NY Nice Guy Succeeds at Life and Business”. Seems like a lot of your posts make for fitting content. Use the proceeds to invest in more startups where management embodies the “don’t be an ass” mantra to close the loop 🙂

    1. fredwilson

      I don’t think I’ll write a book because a book has an ending and a blog doesn’t (until the blogger ends)

    2. fredwilson

      I don’t think I’ll write a book because a book has an ending and a blog doesn’t (until the blogger ends)

  51. Adrian Palacios

    unfortunately, i think a lot of us are not in the position you are fred. there are definitely some people i’d like to hang up on when this happens. but then either the client or my boss would fire me…it’s hard confronting people when you are only on the second or third step of this metaphorical corporate ladder.

  52. Helen Kurukulasuriya

    I don’t see your problem with someone connecting the call – phone tag is really annoying and with different timezones etc. it can be difficult.

  53. Rocky Agrawal

    This story reminds me of an immature manager I worked with way back. We shared an assistant. By virtue of re-orgs, our assistant was a ways from where we sat. Once she saw me faxing a document and chided me for not having our assistant do it for me. Never mind that we sat closer to the fax machine than the assistant — it was all about the power play.

  54. paramendra


  55. paramendra

    It is amazing to me how much discussion this simple blog post has generated. Obviously this is an issue many of us struggle with. How to better manage our phones, emails and time: that perhaps is an ongoing challenge. The best part would be if some entrepreneurs saw some big opportunities here. Some already might have.