Is it rude for my boss to call me by my last name only?
Dear Ms. Puhn:
Is it rude for a supervisor to address an individual in a professional setting by their surname? I contend that it is. Using my surname as an example, "Abernathy, there's an assignment for you." I would think that proper etiquette requires the statement to be, "Mr. Abernathy, I have an assignment for you," or "Dan, I have an assignment for you." I found the use of my surname objectionable and contend that I am correct. Could you give your opinion, please?
ANSWER FROM MS. PUHN
Dear Mr. Daniel Abernathy,
Your boss is making a communication blunder when he calls you by your last name only, without your permission to do so. Your boss does this without thinking and, in fact, may view it as a sign of friendship. Since this communication blunder is a problem for you, here's the solution:
Use the rule "Complain with Impact" from my book Instant Persuasion. Let your boss save face and present him with your complaint and a solution at the same time. Ask your boss for a few minutes of uninterrupted time. Tell him "I value working at the company and enjoy working you, but I'm uncomfortable when addressed by my last name only. I would appreciate it if from now on, instead of calling me "Abernathy" you call me Mr. Abernathy or Dan. Can you please do that?"
Remember that you don't have to accept anything the way it is. Your words are your power. So if you think someone is being rude to you, speak up persuasively, diffuse the situation, and ask for what you want.
Laurie Puhn, J.D.
Jen, one of our blog readers had this to say:
I work at a retail store where the norm is to call everyone from the lowliest door greeter to the manager himself by his or her first name only. I don't like this. It's always been my understanding that we use each other's last names in our speech as a form of respect. And we should always preface it with the correct form of address: Mr., Mrs., Ms., and Miss. I think it erases the boundaries between employer and employee a little when that reminder to be respectful is left out.
Yes, I'm old fashioned and feel that calling someone by their last name feels rude and disrespectful. It also implies a certain superiority of the person who calls you by your last name. Maybe this is old school?
Calling someone by their last name is done in locker rooms and in college within that context with no problem but in the business and professional world it seems out of place to me.
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