How to Politely Keep Someone Waiting

Julie Shenkman
Posted by

People working in administrative and clerical roles often have to communicate with many different people within an organization. One of the hardest aspects of managing this communication is knowing how to deal with having to keep someone waiting. Fortunately, there are techniques that you can use to politely keep someone waiting without angering that person.

Perhaps you have to wait for another team member to get back to you with a response, or you are trying to quickly finish a report for your boss. Whatever the reason for having to keep someone waiting, you need to make sure that person doesn't feel forgotten. Sending a quick email to let the waiting person know that you are dealing with the issue and will get back in touch soon is a good way to make sure everyone knows what is going on and avoid causing annoyance.

No matter how busy you are, you should set aside a few minutes at least a couple of times a day to send out emails that keep your colleagues updated. Keep these communications brief, but make sure you explain the reason for the delay. There is no need to go into detail about the difficulties you are facing or write lengthy apologies; simply summarize the reason for the delay in a sentence or two.

When you have to keep someone waiting, it is important to let that person know how long he or she can expect to have to wait. Always try to give the most accurate estimate you can so that the other person can plan accordingly. Many companies have implemented a standard response time policy so that people know how long they can expect to wait for a reply when they have a problem. This kind of predictability helps organizations to run more smoothly.

If part of your role involves dealing with clients or customers, then you need to be especially polite when keeping them waiting. However, the same principles apply: Let them know that you are aware they are waiting, explain the reason for the delay and try to give an accurate estimation of how long the wait will be. Effective communication can help to ease the interaction and keep the waiting person calm.

If you have to keep someone waiting in person due to an unavoidable delay, then you should do everything you can to make people comfortable while they wait. Direct waiting people to a place where they can sit down and always offer a drink. Deliver regular updates to let them know how much longer they will be waiting. If they have additional requests, such as wanting access to a power outlet so they can do some work while they wait, then try to meet these demands as far as possible.

No one likes to be kept waiting, but sometimes delays are unavoidable. By being as polite as possible, you can minimize the awkwardness that can arise when you have to keep someone waiting. Remember that good communication is the key to dealing with an unavoidable delay, as it keeps everyone up to date with the situation.

(Photo courtesy of Ambro at



Become a member to take advantage of more features, like commenting and voting.

Jobs to Watch