Whose responsibility is it to provide back up coverage for a front desk receptionist when she is scheduled for vacation or doctor's appointments? As a rule of thumb, most companies have the admins rotate lunch and breaks, or some kind of arrangement. At my company, management has not designated anyone as a backup. They expect the receptionist to go around asking people in the company if they'll volunteer to be her scheduled backup, which puts her in an awkward position.

I think it's not her role and she's not in a position to assign someone within the company. Management needs to decide how critical front desk coverage is, and come up with a working permanent solution. Am I right?

  • I'd guess the department head/mgmt or HR..
    – iLuvLogix
    Dec 2, 2019 at 16:59
  • What's the size of the company? Dec 3, 2019 at 10:00
  • "I think it's not her role and she's not in a position to assign someone within the company." It depends. Who is the next admin after her that will take a vacation? It may be in someone's personal interest to volunteer for her job, as a way to make sure they themselves get a volunteer or two when it's their time for time off. If I were her, I would just send out a quick email to all the admins that she personally knows outlining her dates and the responsibilities that will need to be covered while she's away. That email could ask for volunteers or advice on how to deal with the situation. Dec 3, 2019 at 12:42
  • @JoeStrazzere I don't think this is about the actual asking around, it is about whose responsibility the result of the asking around is. Is the task just to ask around or is the task to find a replacement as a precondition to be allowed to leave?
    – quarague
    Dec 3, 2019 at 14:35
  • @JoeStrazzere She asks around and everyone says no, What happens? Can she still leave? If the answer is yes, your comment is a complete answer. If it is no, this is more complicated and jurisdiction dependent and still very awkward for her.
    – quarague
    Dec 3, 2019 at 14:42

4 Answers 4


You're right, but the question you really have, is how to convince management to do their job?

You may or may not be successful in that, but here is one method to try. Explain that since you have no authority to assign a backup person, or even require a rotation, you are left asking each time, and only those who are willing are going to say yes. That alone makes it less fair. But over time, those who say yes are going to see the unfairness of that as well, and are going to be less and less likely to say yes, leaving you with fewer and fewer people to cover.

At the same time, those fewer people are going to be spending more time covering for you, and less time doing the more highly paid work they are supposed to do. That also means that some departments are getting less work done, simply because they have someone who is willing to help co-workers.

All of that is inefficient and mostly ends in bad feelings and an uneven workload. Suggest that a better option is for them to find a process that makes the backup process more equitable, and since they also have authority, they can make it happen.

Don't hold your breath - management that is unwilling to manage doesn't usually correct itself just because that is pointed out, no matter how well it is done.

  • What happens if she asks someone making three times her salary and that person says “yes”?
    – gnasher729
    Dec 2, 2019 at 20:08
  • @gnasher729 I suspect that most everyone she asks does make more, and the company has decided that it makes more sense to pay a lot more for reception work at some times, rather than hire a backup person. But a company that isn't willing to manage often seems to not really care when they aren't using their money well either. Or not be able to recognize it. Dec 2, 2019 at 21:09
  • Not to imply that it is wasteful to have someone cover rather than hiring a backup person - an additional person comes with a lot of costs too. But if the CEO ends up being the only person who usually says yes, and isn't willing to delegate it to others, that's showing a lot of fiscal ignorance, as well as an inability to manage. Dec 2, 2019 at 21:17

Welcome to the site!

It seems like you're answering your own question:

Management needs to decide how critical front desk coverage is, and come up with a working permanent solution.

I would suggest the receptionist talk to his/her supervisor about this. Perhaps when requesting the vacation or sick leave, also ask: "Who will be covering for me while I'm out? I would like to meet with them to be sure they have all the detail needed to step in."


You have answered your own question

Management needs to come up with a solution depending on how critical coverage is. The receptionist has no formal authority.


If management asked the receptionist to go around and ask people to cover for her, she should do that, simply because management gave her this task. However, I feel this is not the actual question you are after.

Does this task from management come with the indirect implication that if she doesn't find anyone, she can't go on vacation/take the doctors appointment? Or does it simply mean, there will be no replacement in this case.

In the latter case, she does what she is told and that's the end of it. In the first case this is a legal issue with depends on jurisdiction. In most European countries vacations are a legal right and doctors appointments take precedence over work, so this kind of implication would be invalid. If she can't find anyone to replace her because she has no authority to compel anyone, she can still leave. The consequences are not her problem. This may be very different in the US but I don't know the law/ interpreation there.

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