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    dontknownuthin's Avatar
    dontknownuthin Posts: 2,910, Reputation: 751
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    #1

    Aug 28, 2012, 12:36 PM
    First Name Basis in Business?
    My boss asked me to submit a registration form on his behalf for a business related social function. The instructions on the form stated that it should be returned either by email or mail with contact information for each option.

    If mailing it was to go to, "Attn: Jane", with no last name given for Jane. If emailing it was to go to: jdoe@... Other than what could be guessed from the email address - that her first initial was J and the last name Doe, the contact person's name did not appear anywhere in the instructions. One could surmise her full name was Jane Doe from the Attn and email address together.

    My boss wanted me to email the registration so they would have the courtesy of knowing right away that he was coming, and to follow up via mail to include his check for the registration fee.

    I sent a message like this (though I've changed the exact names):

    "Dear Jane:

    Attached please find the registration form for your upcoming golf outing for Dave Johnson and his guest, Steve Wilson. We are placing the original in the mail to you today with the registration fee.

    Sincerely,

    Nancy West"

    My boss was very upset that I handled this poorly. He said that I "should have known" not to address "Jane" by her first name and instead to call her "Ms. Doe" because she is a minority and this is the norm among this particular minority (she is apparently African American) is to address people formally by Mr. or Mrs. with a last name. He said that calling her Jane was very rude on my part.

    I think that since the form from her organization stated to send the information "Attn: Jane" I was correct to use her first name. I was always taught that it is proper to address people by their title and last name until and unless they direct you to use a less formal address, such as their first name.

    I also think my boss is wrong to set different standards for different races of people. In any event, as for the racial argument, I never met the lady - I had no idea that she was African American until he told me that she was - after I had already sent the email. He said that it's not a double standard but rather is cultural sensitivity and respect.

    I also find that in business, calling people by their last names and title is very rapidly falling out of favor unless one is in a subordinate position. For example, I do not address customers on a first name basis unless they ask me to or introduce themselves to me on a first name basis. However, if I meet a peer at a business lunch, I do not address them as "Mr. Jones" because it would be very weird. It's just not done, in my experience, among peers.

    This lady was a peer in job title and her organization is one which we support as a non-profit charitable interest - they are not customers.

    My boss said that by using my full name and only using her first name, I disrespected her. I think that's a bit of a stretch - I included my last name because we had never met and I thought she might need to know my full name if she needed to get back in touch with me about the reservation. As for using her first name, it was an email - had it been a formal letter I'd have included her full name in the address block, then just her first (as instructed on the form) in the salutation.

    Am I off base on this or is my boss, as I suspect, just hassling me over nothing?
    joypulv's Avatar
    joypulv Posts: 21,593, Reputation: 2941
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    #2

    Aug 28, 2012, 01:12 PM
    You are on base. Your boss sounds clueless about various races and cultures. In fact he's stereotyping African Americans.
    Alty's Avatar
    Alty Posts: 28,318, Reputation: 5972
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    #3

    Aug 28, 2012, 01:36 PM
    I think you're right. If Jane had wanted to be addressed as Ms. Doe, it would have said so on the form. It didn't. Since the form stated "send Attn: Jane", then using only her first name was appropriate. I would have done the same thing.

    I would ask your boss to call Jane and ask her if she was offended, and if so, I'd ask her why she asked people to address her as Jane on the form. That should settle this issue once and for all. :)
    odinn7's Avatar
    odinn7 Posts: 7,691, Reputation: 1547
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    #4

    Aug 28, 2012, 02:46 PM
    Your boss sounds like an idiot who is making something out of nothing.
    dontknownuthin's Avatar
    dontknownuthin Posts: 2,910, Reputation: 751
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    #5

    Aug 29, 2012, 05:58 AM
    Quote Originally Posted by odinn7 View Post
    Your boss sounds like an idiot who is making something out of nothing.
    He can be a bulky at times. It's disappointing... he's the fourth attorney I've worked for and the best of the bunch. One was nice but very unreliable and irresponsible and the other three have all been rude. I'm not sure whether the civility, courtesy, humor and fun I used to find in the workforce has just died, if I've just picked bad employers, or if it's just this profession...
    dontknownuthin's Avatar
    dontknownuthin Posts: 2,910, Reputation: 751
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    #6

    Aug 29, 2012, 06:01 AM
    Quote Originally Posted by dontknownuthin View Post
    He can be a bulky at times. It's disappointing...he's the fourth attorney I've worked for and the best of the bunch. One was nice but very unreliable and irresponsible and the other three have all been rude. I'm not sure whether the civility, courtesy, humor and fun I used to find in the workforce has just died, if I've just picked bad employers, or if it's just this profession...
    I meant he can be a "bully"... darned autocorrect!
    joypulv's Avatar
    joypulv Posts: 21,593, Reputation: 2941
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    #7

    Aug 29, 2012, 06:04 AM
    Lawyers, like doctors, can still have stuffy dinosaurs managing to make a living at their profession.
    J_9's Avatar
    J_9 Posts: 40,254, Reputation: 5642
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    #8

    Aug 29, 2012, 06:14 AM
    I'm going to pose this differently. In one of my former lives I was a Secretary to the President of a rather large company, as well as a legal secretary and a paralegal.

    Since the email address was jdoe@... you ASSUMED that you were emailing this to Jane. You probably were, but there was not a 100% surety of this. One of the companies I worked with had one person who handled emails and another that handled snail mail. Also where I live it is common to address people as "Mr. Mike" or "Ms. Jane," but those are reserved for familiar addresses. It is proper business etiquette to use Mr. or Ms. and their last name rather than their first. However, this can be region specific.

    I agree with the others, though, that your boss is coming off as a jerk for setting standards different for different races, etc.

    Formality is always the best route to take.
    Alty's Avatar
    Alty Posts: 28,318, Reputation: 5972
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    #9

    Aug 29, 2012, 12:23 PM
    Personally I think you can never go wrong with "To Whom it may concern". :)
    odinn7's Avatar
    odinn7 Posts: 7,691, Reputation: 1547
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    #10

    Aug 29, 2012, 06:28 PM
    You could have just started with "Yo" or "Hey" or even "What's up?"... then at least he would have had a reason to get mad at you.
    dontknownuthin's Avatar
    dontknownuthin Posts: 2,910, Reputation: 751
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    #11

    Aug 30, 2012, 08:57 AM
    Thanks for the feedback and the humo (odinn... a good chuckle). I guess I didn't put that much thought into sending an email to a secretary to register for a golf outing - I wasn't having tea with the queen, after all - this was just a quick "hey, here's the piece of paper". Too funny.

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