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Early in my career, I had a manager that expected to be addressed as Mr. LAST NAME. I thought it was
sexist, elitist, insulting, weird. But after that one boss, I never experienced that again. Until recently.
I was trying to schedule an appointment with someone. Their administrative assistant was coordinating the meeting (not unusual) but the admin was referring to their manager as Mr. LAST NAME. It seemed weird. Especially in today’s work environment, where organizations are focused on building workplaces that are inclusive and welcoming.
Since that interaction, the whole “how do you address your manager” thing has weighed on my mind. I found an article on Ask a Manager titled “Office insists we refer to higher-ups as Mr. or Ms.” from a few years ago. It’s a good read if you want to check it out.
But it got me thinking. We spend a lot of time talking about the importance of the manager / employee relationship. People regularly say, “Employees don’t leave companies. They leave bad managers.” The way people address each other could set the stage for the work relationship and the company culture.
So, I thought it might be helpful to learn more and I’m very interested in your comments. I hope you’ll take a moment to respond to this HR Bartender completely anonymous one-question poll. If it did not come through via email, I hope you will click through and share your thoughts.
I know I don’t have to say it, but I’ll say it anyway. Let’s resist the temptation to share those colorful names that might be used between coworkers or found on the Reddit Anti-work sub. In other words, serious answers please. As always, I appreciate you taking the time to respond. We’ll share the answers in a couple of weeks. Thanks!53
I use my boss’s first name when talking with him. And he is fine with that. He’s an amazing leader and a respectful and considerate boss. However, when talking with customers and prospective clients, we generally refer to him as Dr. [Last Name] out of respect. While we have made a lot of progress, we have also let go of things like respect, and often, common sense. As usual, the pendulum always swings too far one way or the other. We seem to take an all-or-nothing approach to everything.
Sharlyn Lauby says
Thanks for sharing. I’ve worked with PhDs who were very cool with calling them by their first name. We often called them Dr. FIRST NAME to acknowledge their title and still keep it casual.
Kim S. says
Always first names. I would feel too obsequious calling anyone I worked with by Mr. X or whatever. We are equals, referring to me by my name is not disrespectful.
Those sorts of honorifics are also gendered, which feels gross to do at work (my gender isn’t relevant to my work at all!).
I *have* referred to people as Mr. X in rare cases when I’m in an assistant-type role (aka, representing someone else professionally) addressing someone I’ve never spoken to before but is of some prominence. I feel gross doing it but as an assistant it can be part of the job.
Sharlyn Lauby says
Thanks for the comment Kim!