Discussion Thread

  • 1.  Addressing Your Name

    Posted 01-18-2021 08:51 AM
    I'm looking for people's opinions and thoughts about addressing other people in the workplace.

    • When is it appropriate to start calling coworkers by their first name instead of their surname? Is it ever appropriate to call a manager/boss by their first name, even if they ask?
    • If someone is pronouncing your name incorrectly, or abbreviating it (such as Chris from Christopher) should one correct them?
    • Lastly, how does one address someone with their Doctorate in the engineering field?
    Looking forward to learning from other peoples ideas and options,

    Daniel Bressler EIT, A.M.ASCE
    Project Engineer
    Brooklyn NY

  • 2.  RE: Addressing Your Name

    Posted 01-19-2021 08:43 AM
    I suppose it would depend on the culture of the individual workplace, but generally calling people by their first name is the norm here, including managers and people with doctorates. If they are specifically asking to be called them by their first name, then it is even more important. They probably feel uncomfortable having staff call them Ms./Mr./Dr. so-and-so.

    If it's a client or someone outside of the immediate workplace, it's useful to take some cues by what others are calling them. If in doubt, you could always start more formal and have them ask to be called a less formal name. Official written communication and introducing people for a lecture or conference presentation would warrant a more formal title. For example, if I were introducing someone about to present at a conference, I would say "Dr. so-and-so will be presenting on..."

    Everyone should be called by the name that that they want to be called. If someone is pronouncing it incorrectly or abbreviating, the person should be politely corrected. Most of the time the person does not even realize and would be embarrassed to find out years later that they've been saying it wrong for so long.

    Erin Rooney P.E., M.ASCE
    Coastal Engineer
    Metairie LA

  • 3.  RE: Addressing Your Name

    Posted 01-19-2021 08:44 AM

    All of this can depend on the culture of a particular company, but in my experience: 

    • I don't think I've ever called a coworker or boss by their surname. I've called them by the name they introduced themselves to me as, which has just always been their first name. 
    • If someone is calling you by the incorrect name, or abbreviating it in a way that is incorrect, I think it perfectly acceptable to ask them to call you by the correct name. No need to make a huge issue of it, just gently correct them. 
    • In this case, if it is someone that I am just meeting at a conference that I do not already have rapport with, I address them as Dr. surname, unless and until they tell me otherwise.   
    Rule of thumb with any of this: call people the name they would like to be called.

    Lawrence Simonson P.E., M.ASCE
    Senior Engineer
    Bunnell-Lammons Engineering
    Greenville SC

  • 4.  RE: Addressing Your Name

    Posted 01-19-2021 08:47 AM
    My thoughts:

    • When is it appropriate to start calling coworkers by their first name instead of their surname? Is it ever appropriate to call a manager/boss by their first name, even if they ask?

    I would generally use Ms or Mr during the hiring process and a first meeting in a work setting after I was hired.  After someone introduced themself in person by a first name, I would use the first name.  With virtual introductions, it would do the same.  If someone did not introduce themself by first name, I might just ask someone else in the work place how that person prefers to be addressed of if there is a common practice at the company/setting.  Typically there will be someone who shows you around on the first day (in an office setting).  I have no clue how someone is hired, on-boarded, and begins work in a virtual environment. 

    It would be awkward for me to refer to someone as Ms or Mr beyond initially meeting them if I was working in the same office.  Exceptions for me have been company executives, CEO/President - my bosses boss & folks higher up, which at at three different employers years ago over my career, I always addressed as Mr when speaking directly to him, which was not often.  I often referred to these folks by first name when speaking with co-workers and my own boss though, as others in the office did.  One of these exceptions was working in a different country and with government or elected officials. 

    While you may be a subordinate employee to a manager - boss, using a surname for an immediate boss would seem not too common to me after an introduction or first day of work.  Even when I was in college working summer jobs, I used first names with my bosses, who were as old as or older than my parents.   Although thinking about this question, I recall first jobs of mine when I was teenager working as  a high school student, I did address all bosses (superiors) as Ms or Mr.  It would seem graduating from high school garnered some status of being old enough to use first names in the workplace from my own experience. 

    A longtime friend of mine, who I grew up with in northeast Indiana, worked in a southern state early in his career.  He did comment about how people in the office, including colleagues, referred to each other as Ms Hicks, Ms Johnson, etc.  He just mentioned that is was different, not good or bad, something that stood out to him in his work setting enough to share with me.  It was not something that he was familiar with from his work experiences in the Midwest. 

    • If someone is pronouncing your name incorrectly, or abbreviating it (such as Chris from Christopher) should one correct them?

    Yes, if it matters to you. 

    • Lastly, how does one address someone with their Doctorate in the engineering field?
    Similar to above, I would address as Dr. until I met in person.  If this person was a colleague/co-worker, then I would likely use a first name afterwards, unless others in the office used Dr.   If this person was a consultant or someone not in the same office/company, I might use Dr. until that person just said "please, my name is Susan".  Exception for me was when teaching, I used Dr. when speaking with Deans & above level administrators, I did not use Dr. for other faculty colleagues or department chair [I do not have a Dr]. 

    Habits ... I have seen faculty members I had in college, many years after I graduated, such as just running into them at a conference or alumni event, saying anything other than Dr. has never felt comfortable.

    David Devine P.E., P.S., M.ASCE
    Fort Wayne IN

  • 5.  RE: Addressing Your Name

    Posted 01-19-2021 10:11 AM
    Once you're out of high school - use the first name with co-workers, including bosses and principals.  You're a work peer.  If you start by using formal surnames, it later becomes awkward deciding which age to stop using surnames and start using first names.  I have to admit, when I was working my first college co-op positions it took some getting used to calling adults by their first names, though.  On the flip side, at my first company one of the owners would pass in the hall and said, "Hi there, lad"......leaving me thinking 'what the heck, I've worked here 4 years and I'm 25....'.  I think it was a power/authority thing for him, but it had the effect of rubbing me completely wrong.  He was only in his early 50's at the time, not a senior citizen.  Of course, he rubbed a lot of people wrong.  Don't be that guy when you're older.

    Two exceptions - you may want to use titles when you first meet a client if they're in a political position (councilman, commissioner, mayor, etc.) or military (captain, commander, etc).....at least until you know them better and have a relationship.  If their co-workers regularly use the title.....keep using it yourself, though.

    If someone mispronounces your name, feel free to correct it (politely, not indignantly).  If it comes up in the context of a large group meeting,, use your judgment and wait until after the meeting if that seems prudent.  As someone who has always had a 50-50 chance of people pronouncing my name correctly, I got used to correcting it in gradeschool every time we had a substitute teacher.

    I agree with other posters.....use 'Doctor' for someone who has a PhD until they tell you otherwise or you see how other co-workers address them.

    Greg Thein, PE
    Cleveland, OH

  • 6.  RE: Addressing Your Name

    Posted 01-19-2021 05:15 PM
    You opened up a great topic. Coming from a different culture and environment, I personally struggled with addressing other people in the workplace, particularly on a first name basis. Based on my experience - 
    • It is appropriate to call co-workers and managers by their first name, but it all boils down to individual preferences. When in doubt, just ask.
    • My name is always mispronounced, but there are some pronunciations that are way off. In those cases, I just politely say my name is pronounced "Roan-Keh" not Ronnie.
    • By default, I would address someone with a doctorate as Dr. Last Name. However, some don't like it and would ask to be addressed differently. Again, it all boils down individual preferences. If in doubt, I just ask.

    Ronke Osibajo P.E., CFM, M.ASCE
    Lead, Utility Engineering
    T. Baker Smith, LLC
    Houston, TX

  • 7.  RE: Addressing Your Name

    Posted 01-20-2021 12:07 PM

    To echo a few answers already posted:

    - Where I work, first names are normal for everyone.
    - You should be called the name you want to be called, and should always feel comfortable gently correcting someone if they garble your name.
    - In emails and first time meetings, I do usually start more formal, and wait for the person to reply. Whatever name they reply with, I tend to assume it is the name they wish to be called. This applies to those with Doctorates as well. 

    -Finally, in cases where we are meeting with a client or another company, I will occasionally refer to a coworker I am with by their Doctorate if I feel it helps show my respect for them and for their work to the 3rd party.

    Christopher Seigel P.E., M.ASCE
    Civil Engineer

  • 8.  RE: Addressing Your Name

    Posted 01-25-2021 03:15 PM
    Regarding mispronunciations, one thing I have seen and appreciate is when someone with a commonly mispronounced name includes a pronunciation guide in their email signature (especially with new contacts).

    For example, I sometimes coordinate with a woman whose name is written as "Cassey" but she pronounces it "K-C" instead of like "Cassie"
    Including something like that in an email signature can reduce the number of times you have the awkward situation of trying to politely correct the pronunciation.

    Heidi Wallace EI,P.E.,M.ASCE
    Tulsa OK

  • 9.  RE: Addressing Your Name

    Posted 01-29-2021 01:33 PM
    1. When is it appropriate to start calling coworkers by their first name . . .

    It depends. After no more than 3 days or so, once you observe . . .see with your ears, hear with your eyes…the sociocultural environs, follow suit.

    1. If someone is pronouncing your name incorrectly, or abbreviating it . . . .

    Yes, but NOT on the spot. Get to them privately later.

    1. Lastly, how does one address someone with their Doctorate in the engineering field?

    Dr. Hayden. And then when they say "Just call me Bill," proceed accordingly.

    Stay Healthy!



    William M. Hayden Jr., Ph.D., P.E., CMQ/OE, F.ASCE
    Buffalo, N.Y.

    "It is never too late to be what you might have been." -- George Eliot 1819 - 1880