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The Magic Cafe Forum Index » » Not very magical, still... » » Use of Social Title and Surname in the Workplace... (0 Likes) Printer Friendly Version

WilliamWHolcomb
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I recently posted a question about using e-mail to send follow-up/thank-you letters after an interview. Doing so just seems a little informal to me.

Now I'm confronted with another uncertainty: the use of social title in the workplace. After spending 10+ years in the military and then working for a large German company (where formality is expected) I find it very uncomfortable to address other senior managers by their first name. Smile

Even if requested to do so, it takes such an effort on my part to overcome my tendency toward formality. For the most part, I think that today's business environment is too informal - wearing shorts and sandals, blue jeans, etc.

Am I just not getting it? Smile
William Holcomb
ChrisZampese
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I would have to agree with William. Even though I am only 22 and an IT person (the classic type of person to go to work in jeans and a Hawaiian shirt!) I think a certain degree of formality should be present in an office.

Although I think it is good to get along with your workmates, including your boss, it can be difficult when there is a personality clash. It can also be difficult when friendships are too strong and a hard decision has to be made.

In today's business world, a community approach to the workplace seems to be the order of the day. I was introduced to the CEO of the company I work for as "John" and that is what everyone calls him. However, when he says jump, everyone says "how high". The respect for the position is still there regardless of the title that we use.

If everyone else in the office uses first names, then I would suggest that you do the same, but this does not mean that you should change the way that you treat the person. The only thing you need to change is the words, not the actions.

Sometimes I think it would be a lot easier if I could walk into my bosses office and say "excuse me, sir..." instead of "excuse me, Stuart..." as using a title already implies that I am aware of my position/his position whereas I feel like I have to get that across in the way that I speak to him, which does not leave me as free as it would if I called him "sir" or "Mr."...

It's funny how the things that were meant to make us more comfortable and workplaces nicer can have the reverse effect sometimes!
The most beautiful experience we can have is the mysterious. It is the fundamental emotion which stands at the cradle of true art and true science. Whoever does not know it and can no longer wonder, no longer marvel, is as good as dead, and his eyes are
Steve Friedberg
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As always, here with an opposing opinion...

If the corporate culture is more informal, I heartily recommend going with the flow. Your value to a company is based on your ability to help them meet their goals, and not necessarily on your ability to refer to your superior with a title.

It's the same thing with ties; I refuse to wear ties when meeting with clients or at work; as a contractor, I can get away with it, and I tell people I have yet to meet the person who could do his job more effectively simply because he was wearing a tie. (Exception to the rule: I did wear a tie when organizing a Congressional briefing.)

William, I will say that your concern about sandals and jeans are well-taken, IMHO. While I won't wear ties, I won't wear jeans to my clients' offices, either. As a professional, I believe I should look professional...for me, jeans don't do it.
Cheers,
Steve

"A trick does not fool the eyes, but fools the brain." -- John Mulholland
Peter Marucci
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No, William, you've actually got it right.

There are certain people who, by dint of their position, should be deferred to by certain other people.

And the best way to do this is by what may be considered "titles" -- that is, calling a man "sir" or "Mr. ---".

The same applies to a job; the best way to show respect is to dress the part.

I recall one time, in the newspaper where I was working, a top reporter invariably showed up in cutoff jeans and a T-shirt. That is, until one day -- being the top reporter in the place and the only one available at that moment -- when he was sent to cover the funeral service of a very senior politician. Needless to say he looked and felt like a fool and never dressed that way for work again.

"Casual Fridays" and other such forms of sheer sloppiness have led away from what they were supposed to do and towards more slipshod and careless work.

Remember: If it looks like a duck, and walks like a duck, and quacks like a duck -- then, chances are, it's a duck!
hkwiles
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Howard Wiles
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Peter and William.

I agree totally. Not wanting to "go with the flow" and adherring to "good manners, politeness, smart dress" is called being old-fashioned. Here's to us "old 'uns" then.
There's a (now old) lady, who was a neighbour when I was a little tot and though I am nearing my sixties I still find it hard to address her other than "Mrs" X.

Howard
Margarette
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Well, referring, once again to the fact that I work in a church, the work atmosphere around here is quite casual. I dress in jeans most of the time, and address the pastor by her first name. Now, when the current pastor is eventually moved, if the new pastor requests that I address him/her by a title, I will do so. Or, if I am requested to dress a bit nicer, I will do that, also...provided that I don't have to wear a dress every day! So far, no one has complained about how I dress or how I address people. Although, it seems like every time I dress rather nicely, I end up doing some type of manual labor. Like today, I was re-stocking the soda machine, and several cans of Diet Sprite attacked me (they exploded on me before I put them in the machine), and sprayed soda all over me and all over the floor. Of course, I had to clean the mess up!
Oh well, keeps life interesting!

Margarette
The only stupid question is the one not asked.
Cheshire Cat
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In January I took my eldest son for a job interview (age 17, doesn't want University - wants money instead!). Obviously, with him being so young, I went to the front door of this huge residential house that is used as an office, with him.

The owner, Mr. W. opened the door and said: "Hello, come in William, I'm J." When William got home, complete with job, he told us that the boss wants everyone to be on first name terms, and said: "you can dress as you want, William, as we don't meet our customers, but just speak on the phone and by e-mail."

This guy also frequently opens a couple of bottles of wine and insists that everyone has a glass, and takes them all in the local pub for company meetings! He also just casually told William he was having a pay rise from April!

Now, I've been a self-employed musician and then kids entertainer since 1976, - but when I started work in '65 I had to call my boss Mr., and the Editor In Chief (worked at a paper) had to be addressed as 'Sir'. It seems it's a whole different ball game these days doesn't it?
Smile Smile

I was a compositor and Linotype man in newspapers. What did you do Peter?
WilliamWHolcomb
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When I was in college, every once in a while I'd get a Prof that would address students as Mr. of Ms.

For those classes everything seemed more serious and (maybe I'm way off base) I honestly think I learned more because of it.

Thanks, all, for the input! Smile
William Holcomb
Peter Marucci
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Aceparties writes: "I was a compositor and Linotype man in newspapers. What did you do Peter?"

I was on "the other side of the door" in the newsroom for more than 30 years.

Over half a dozen newspapers in Canada, I was reporter, copy editor, news editor, assistant city editor, and editorial board.

I even did a stint as sub-editor in London on the now-defunct Daily Sketch (wow, that was about 35 years ago!)
Dave Scribner
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I believe a lot has to do with the particular company's attitudes and policies. In any environment, there are those that will push the envelope to extremes. My company, which is one of the largest in the communications industry, strives to create an open environment and partnership between management and employee. To do this, they expect a first name basis and allow casual dress.

There are some that think that means cutoff jeans and flip flops but for the most part, decent jeans and shoes are the norm. In the actual "Office" environment, a little higher level of attire is seen but still casual.

Would I expect to go into an accountant or lawyers office and see cutoffs and sandals? Absolutely not, but in most other environments, I believe jeans and sneakers are commonly accepted.

The world is a changing environment and the work place has to evolve with it. In the 50's and 60's, most office workers wore suits and ties. If they had shown up in jeans, they'd be an outcast. In todays's world, if they show up in a suit and tie, everyone thinks they're going on a job interview.

In my opinion, it's not the clothes or the name that determines or demands respect but the person themselves. If the manager conducts himself in a professional manner and dresses in jeans, he usually gets the same respect for the position as the one that wears a tie. Maybe even more so as he appears to be part of the team rather than just someone in charge.

I'm a manager and when someone calls me "Mr." my immediate response is "my father was Mr. my name is Dave". This seems to put everyone at ease at creates a much better working environment.
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Peter Marucci
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Dave Scribener writes: "In today's world, if they show up in a suit and tie, everyone thinks they're going on a job interview."

Hmmm, that makes for an interesting double-standard.

You wear a suit to a job interview but not once you get the job!

If I were hiring someone, I would expect they would look, act, and be as qualified as they were during the job interview.

If you plan on wearing sneakers and jeans on the job, then wear them to the interview and be honest!

Smile
Reg Rozee
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I think the real key here is not to use a hard and fast rule to determine your behaviour. I have been in the military, I have worked for a company where "Mr. J____" and "Sir" were required, and I now work for a company where I feel completely comfortable calling everyone by their first name, including the president and owner of the company. You have to determine what approach ensures the best two-way communication and working relationship.

If I had called my old Master Warrent Officer "Joe" at work, you can bet further communication would have been only one way, and the relationship would not have been good! On the other hand, in my current job if I did not use the first name of other people at the company, they would feel I was not comfortable communicating with them and did not fit into the corporate culture, hence not an ideal employee.

One thing many businesses have figured out is that you want your employees to communicate up and down the hierarchy. Back in the 60's maybe everyone avoided calling their boss anything but "Mr. / Mrs" or "Sir / Ma'am", but they also avoided telling them things that probably would have headed off problems earlier or made the business more efficient because they did not feel comfortable communicating with them (I'm sure this is the origin of those anonymous "suggestion boxes"). If you constantly feel uncomfortable fitting in or communicating with your bosses, chances are they feel the same thing about you and may cut you loose because you don't fit the corporate culture.

Usually adjusting to something like this is just a matter of time. After you have been making an effort for a while and have been around others doing the same thing, it should start to feel natural.

-bigwolf {*}
Reality is what doesn't go away when you stop believing in it. -Phillip K. Dick



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hkwiles
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Howard Wiles
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Peter,
I work for a Contract Service provider in the pharmaceutical industry, essentially carrying out analytical work for many of the well-known major players in the industry.

Obviously in a laboratory environment, casual clothes are worn and it is the company policy that casual wear is acceptable-similarly with all the clients in their own labs.

So here we have it; two sets of people dealing with each other on an on-going basis dressed as described, but, as soon as they have to meet face-to-face for whatever reason, both parties don their Sunday best!! Why?

Howard
Dave Scribner
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Peter writes: You wear a suit to a job interview but not once you get the job!

If I were hiring someone, I would expect they would look, act, and be as qualified as they were during the job interview.

If you plan on wearing sneakers and jeans on the job, then wear them to the interview and be honest!

Peter, qualification is a different subject all together. When going on a job interview, most people don't know what the dress code of the prospective company is so being honest and dressing down really doesn't come into play. They put their best foot forward and come in dressed as best as they can?

I interview quite a few people and they don't show up in jeans but once they get there, I make it clear that suit and tie is not required both because of the nature of the job and the company policy.

I don't think there are many companies that insist you wear casual clothes. It's a matter of preference to fit in with the team. If the accepted company policy is to be casual or wear jeans, then why would anyone want to be a "misfit"?
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magician_carter
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The company I work for has the first name basis policy from the CEO down. On my first day, I was introduced to the 4 owners by their first name. All but one was around my age, the other owner was older. I have no problem calling three of the four owners by their first names, but the the 4th owner is older and I have always respected my elders so for him it is Sir and Mr.
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WilliamWHolcomb
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Not my intention to keep this thread going but I wanted to mention one thing.

Ever since I began B-school I've been a faithful reader of the Wall Street Journal. In every one of the articles people are referred to as Mr. or Ms.

Not really important but just something to think about.
William Holcomb
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