new employee insists we call her “Mrs. ____” even though we all use first names

In this letter, names have been changed for anonymity. A reader writes:

I recently hired a new employee in my 7-person department. I am very excited, as she has a great experience and her references were wonderful. She will be a real asset to the team. She started this week and as I usually do, I took her around and introduced her to everyone as “Catelyn” (as we called her in the interview). At the end of the day, I brought her into my office to see how things were going and if she had any questions. I was slightly taken aback when she said she preferred to be called Mrs. Stark and not Catelyn.

Normally, I am fine with people’s name preferences (e.g., nicknames), but we have a very informal office. Everyone from the receptionist to the CEO are called by their first names here. Her previous employer (whom she was with for over 10 years) had a much more formal workplace and I assume that is the way things were done there. I tried to explain how we do things, but she said it was what she was used to. I told her it’s not the norm but we could try it and see (maybe not the best way to handle it – I was just stumped). She seemed fine with that.

Note that this woman is mid-forties – only a few years older than me – and my team’s ages run from 26 to 54; so it’s not a “respect-your-elders” thing. Aside from this, she’s actually pretty relaxed. Good sense of humor and nice and seems to be fitting in the group.

I don’t want to get off on the wrong foot by making her uncomfortable but I do see this as an issue. We deal with outside clients often who know us as casual. It just seems odd to have a meeting where I introduce the group, “Renly, this is my team: Robb, Bran, and Mrs. Stark.” And I worry she will become a sort of joke and I don’t want that at all. Any thoughts on how to approach this without it sounding like an edict?

This is fascinating. And weird and awkward and all the other things I love.

I think the first thing you need to do is to figure out your goal here. Is it just to give her a friendly heads-up about your culture and to warn her that people are likely to find this really strange — but leave it up to her from there? Or do you really need this to end with her going by Catelyn?

That second option might feel too heavy-handed, but I’d argue that when it comes to interacting with clients, this is very much your business … because clients are going to get a very different feel if she insists on being addressed this way. Some clients, particularly younger ones, are going to find that laughable and/or alienating (and/or hear echos of every government bureaucracy they’ve ever dealt with — which is the only time I can recall another professional wanting me to address them this way), and that affects your business.

So it’s an issue about your culture — both internally and the culture you project to clients — and I’d address it that way. For instance: “I thought more about our conversation about names the other day. I want to be honest with you, I think going by Mrs. Stark is going to strike people as odd. We’re all on a first-name basis here, at every level of the organization, and I’m worried that using Mrs. Stark is going to seem out of sync with our culture and even standoffish. Especially with clients, where we deliberately cultivate a warm, friendly tone.”

If she still says she wants to stick with Mrs. Stark, try to find out more about where she’s coming from. You could say something like, “This is new to me. Can you help me understand why you prefer Mrs. Stark, in a context where everyone else is using first names?” It’s possible that you’ll learn something that will cause you to feel differently about this … although I’m having a hard time imagining what that might be.

But ultimately it’s reasonable to say to her, “We do use first names when we’re interacting with clients. Will you be comfortable with that?”

office insists we refer to higher-ups as Mr. or Ms.

Read an update to this letter here.

{ 714 comments… read them below }

  1. CL*

    Awesome Game of Thrones references! I agree with your advice, since it seems so weird and out of step with what everyone else at the company does.

    1. anon*

      Love the GoT references. Maybe use Joffrey for the bratty, power hungry, less than competent manager, if there is one.

  2. BCW*

    If I was somewhere and the new hire demanded I call her Mrs. Stark, it would probably become a joke, and also I probably wouldn’t call her that. I’d just avoid using her name at all. But I think its extremely pretentious to demand people address you like that. I may also tell her I’ll call you that if you call me Master Jones, since I have a Master’s degree.

    1. Anonymous*

      There are a few people who I just don’t address or talk to directly anymore because they insisted I call them Mrs. Lastname WHEN I WAS AN ADULT. LOL NO!

    2. Dan*

      You beat me to the punch. I was going to write in to say that the OP need not worry that the new hire will find herself to be the butt of jokes. Instead, she should take it as a given, because if I were in that office, I’d be cracking jokes in no time flat.

      1. Jen*

        For sure. If someone was like “Please call me Mrs. Stark” I would instantly reply “You can call me Janet. Or Miss Jackson if you’re nasty.” and then I’d sing Nasty Boys and do a little dance.

        I am now completely illustrating why I’ve never been promoted into the director level.

        1. smallbutmighty*

          My colleagues are wondering what I’m laughing at, and I have a 20-something Janet Jackson song stuck in my head now. Thaaaaanks.

          (I, too, am far too much fun to be a director. It’s a cross I bear willingly.)

        2. Dang*

          Lol! I wrote below about that song, too, without even seeing this comment. So funny that the question conjured the same reference for more than one of us.

    3. kas*

      Lol I’ve refused to address many people because of what they wanted to be called – family included. I had a college teacher a few years older than me who insisted on being called Dr. _____. All of my other teachers were fine with their first name so I had an issue doing so and therefore just never called his name.

      I honestly would find ways around addressing her by name.

      1. Jennifer*

        I had a boyfriend whose mom wanted to be called “Mom.” My own mom would freaking kill me if I did such a thing. You bet I never called her anything.

        I usually don’t need to call anyone anything unless I have to get their attention, but avoiding calling Mrs. Stark Mrs. Stark in front of clients would be A Problem, though.

        1. Anne*

          Urgh. When I got married there was a small moment where it seemed that my in-laws expected me to start calling them Mom, Granny, Dad, etc. NOPE. No way. Especially not Dad. My real Dad died when I was a teenager, and my father in law is a right piece of work. No way.

      2. SNK*

        Maybe it’s just a culture thing I’m not getting, but for me … professors have earned their title, unlike wives. If I busted my ass to get a PhD I’d want that acknowledged as well.

        I did go to a uni where we called our profs “Professor LastName,” though, and I would have found it extremely uncomfortable to deviate from that.

        1. Katie C.*

          I agree to an extent, but some professors are obnoxious about their titles. I had one professor who made it a rule in our class that if you addressed him in emails as anything but Dr. LastName, he wouldn’t respond. He applied this rule even before the semester began (when I emailed all my professors asking about textbooks so I could order them on Amazon in time for classes).

          Correct them, fine. Say you prefer it. But don’t refuse to answer student questions because they forgot you have a different title than all their other professors that semester. (Like you, though, I never called professors by their first name. It was Professor LastName.)

        2. Laurie*

          I totally agree. A professor earned the title with a ton of hard work. I don’t see anything wrong with wanting to be called Dr. ___________. I taught online classes and my students usually insisted on calling me Prof Laurie even though I told them I do not have a PhD and I preferred Laurie.

      3. Mike*

        I worked for a large company where one of the long-tenured Admins insisted on being called ‘”Mom”. Made many of us VERY uncomfortable. I always addressed her by her name – and she always corrected me…

  3. Noah*

    I didn’t know my mother found a new job!

    Just kidding, but I could totally see her acting this way. She worked with a physician for 30 years whose office was very formal. I can see such a cultural shift being difficult. However, I would emphasize that it would be even worse to be viewed as an outsider over this. Allison is also totally correct about client-facing consistency being important.

  4. Prickly Pear*

    I have a weird thing that starting with my first job (at 13) I’ve always been called Miss Prickly Pear. It made sense when I was in daycare, but I’m not anymore, and I don’t introduce myself that way at all. I try really hard to steer people from that, because we’re a first-name company too and I don’t want higher up management to think I’m insisting on the title. As for the OP: maybe you could try Mrs Cartoon for a while, to get her used to hearing her first name at work, and quietly dropping the Mrs after a while? I have a feeling she might drop it after being at the company for a time and seeing firsthand how the culture is.

    1. Nichole*

      I have several clients who call me “Miss Nichole” because I’m a sort-of authority figure and they don’t quite feel comfortable calling me by my first name, but in our setting last names aren’t really called for. My Southern roots find it delightful. Depending on the OP’s setting and Mrs. Stark’s concerns, could this be a compromise?

      1. Annie Laurie*

        I love the Southern custom of Miss and Mister (first name). It conveys respect, while acknowledging that the relationship is more than casual.

        1. Southernlady*

          I remember my dear grandmother, whom I was named after, was called “Miz Lizzie” by everyone in our neighborhood. Only her lady-friends called her “Lizzie.” And Grandpa always referred to her as “Sweet Miz Lizzie.” And, now that I’m getting older, I am called “Miz Libbie.” Friendly, but still respectful.

    2. Mints*

      Interesting. I’ve heard Miss Catelyn in childcare contexts, and also with some English as a second language folks (because “don Juan, doña Juana” are the norm in Spanish). I wonder how that compromise would go over. I think I’d still find it weird probably

      1. R*

        True! I think the only reason the “Mrs. Landingham” title wasn’t so weird is that the name carried over from a pre-existing relationship where it made sense.

        So, if a CEO had a former high school teacher whom she called Mrs. Janney, and then hired her, I could see why she, and others may continue to call her Mrs. Janney. [Although if I were Mrs. Janney, Iwould probably say, “Please, you’re my boss now, call me Allison.”]

        1. BeeRice*

          This actually happened in a former office. My boss was renting office space to one of his former high school teachers (lawyers). Boss always called him Mr. EnglishTeacher, so the rest of us did as well. To this day I still think of him as Mr. EnglishTeacher, never by his first name. His wife was always Mrs. EnglishTeacher.

          Amazingly, it wasn’t a joke in the office at all. It just seemed appropriate for him and his relationship with the office. That man could throw out puns for DAYS!!

        2. Twentymilehike*

          Oh just like in Breaking Bad … To the very end I was always yelling at the tv, “WHY are you STILL calling him Mr. White!?!?!?!” :)

          1. Barefoot librarian*

            Is it strange that I found it kind of vulnerable and endearing….doubly so in the context of all the drugs and violence!

        1. Tax Nerd*

          Oh no. The best episode ever was the Season 1 Finale. “Who’s been hit? Who’s been hit?” still haunts me.

          I am flummoxed by this woman’s request to be Mrs. Lastname, especially with clients. I have a lot of clients, and a a general-ish rule, we adapt to the client’s level of formality. This usually applies with dress codes, but it also applies to style and tone of our interactions. (The only exception is when the client is very informal, and we don’t go below business casual.)

    1. What's Next?*

      “All I know is that right now you are annoying a senior citizen, Mister President”.

      “You’re demonstrating an attitude toward vegetables that isn’t at all Presidential.”

      Mrs. Landingham rules!

  5. Ruthan*

    I’ve often wondered whether I’d do a better job at leaving work at work if I had a different name there than I do at home. Kind of like taking off your uniform (or suit) at the end of your day.

        1. Andrea*

          He’ll always be Mr. Rogers to me! I’ve always believed that he was the best person who ever lived.

          I like your name theory, Ruthan. I have a difficult time with that separation, perhaps because I also work from home. I often feel like I’m at work/on call most of the time.

  6. Katie the Fed*

    I’m inclined to say that I wouldn’t go for it. I would probably say something like “I’m sorry, but this organization operates on first names” and leave it at that. I’m all for making accommodations for the good of the organization, but I don’t know that this will be good for the organization at all.

    1. OP*

      This is the OP. I agree that blunt may have to be the option. Since she’s new, I wanted to maybe gauge a bit and see how she would handle it. It was such a weird encounter, I’m still trying to wrap my head around it. She’s very nice in every way and I just want her to feel comfortable. Guess I need to put on my big boy jeans!

      1. Adam V*

        It’s nice to be nice, but on the other hand it’s going to make her stand (way) out, and it’s better for her if you go ahead and tell her that this is how it’s going to work, and let her quit if it’s not the job for her.

      2. webDev*

        Sometimes folks new to a job can be a little tone-deaf as to culture. I would sit down with her and explain that this isn’t a personal choice thing, and yes, be blunt.

      3. Ruthan*

        Could you take a moment to chat with her about (a) why you use first names in your office, (b) why she doesn’t want to use hers?

        It just seems like a super weird thing for either of you to get hung up on (and personally I can’t imagine insisting on calling someone by a less formal name than they prefer without it being condescending.)

      4. Emma*

        I mean, is her full name Romanadvoratrelundar Smith, and she really doesn’t want to be bothered with people butchering her first name? Maybe she’s got a sensitive history surrounding her first name and really doesn’t want to experience it again, so she just goes by Mrs. Smith. It is pretty extreme, though, to insist on being called one thing when office culture is skewed in another direction.

        1. TheSnarkyB*

          I feel like if the first name were the issue, I’d rather just be called the last name (like “Hey Smith, check out the newest trend reports on Chai Teapots!”) instead of “Mrs. Smith”

          1. SomebodyElse'sProblem*

            My first name is the subject of a popular Beach Boys song. Somehow I’ve always been in Customer Service so it always seems to lead to people singing Help Me Rhonda at me all the time….tiresome after 30 years or so, but still better than Ms LastName….

      5. Katie C.*

        I can imagine that being a very awkward situation, especially when it comes out of nowhere. It’s not something I’ve ever encountered in my years of working, so I initially would have been stumped as well. I may have even started laughing. (And now we know why I’m not in management…)

  7. some1*

    My mom has old-fashioned manners in some respects, and when I was little I always had to call all my parents’ friends “Mr or Mrs So-and-so” instead of first names, so I get that some people can be like this socially but at most workplaces it’s weird.

    1. Jubilance*

      That a different though, that’s a child showing an adult respect. That isn’t the case in this office where everyone is an adult and some people are older than the woman who wants to be called Mrs. Stark.

      1. Chocolate Teapot*

        Slightly off topic, but growing up, adults were either Mr/Mrs or Aunty/Uncle if they were close family friends.

        1. LMW*

          I had a childhood incident where my mom privately scolded me for calling her friend “Karen” instead of “Mrs. Judge”…but then when I called her “Mrs. Judge” to ask her a question a few days later, they both burst out laughing. I was so confused! For years I just avoided calling any adults by name at all.

      2. EM*

        Agreed! My mom would have died if I attempted to call a friend’s parent by their first name, it was Just Not Done.

        But I was a child, it was an issue of respect. I don’t address my boss “Mrs. White,” we’re both adults.

          1. Elizabeth*

            In contrast, I had a friend in high school that went by his last name with everyone, even some teachers. It was thus always weird-feeling to call his mom Mrs. Lastname!

          2. Meg*

            My best friend’s dad is “Pops” and her mother is “Ma” to me.

            I remember when I first met her and I called her house phone (oh dear, showing my age), and I asked for “Jessi” – her name is Jessica, goes by the shortened version. I didn’t realize Pops name is also Jesse. Awwwkward.

          3. JDS*

            1) Calling the newbie Mrs. Anything is just wrong. Newbie, get a grip. Growing up, it was Mr. Last Name and Mrs. Last Name or Jennifer’s Mom etc. However, I am dying over here, whoever wrote Mrs. Jennifer’s Mom, you can come clean up the pee that is on the floor. To this day, I still call my parents’ friends, whom I have known for 30 years, “Mr and Mrs. Last Name.” I am a substitute teacher, so I call all the teachers and the principal Mr. and Mrs. Last Name when in the presence of students, when it is just us adults, first names. A couple of my teacher friends call me “Smith”. Others, call be by my full 3 names. That is how my business card is. They are so funny. hahaha A couple people call me by my middle name because they forget which name to use. The students call me everything under the sun. Regular teachers name, other subs, words that rhyme or sort of Rhyme. How the heck to you get, “Mrs. Christmas” from Miss Smith? Swiss Miss? Great now I am hot chocolate.

      3. carolyn*

        Remember your at work not at your backyard Bar-b-que. She isn’t the first employee and/or client to feel this
        way but, didn’t say anything. Talk to her to drop the Mrs. and use only her last name. When she wants to she can choose who to use her first after she knows them.

    2. Jen*

      Oddly enough, in college I got a job at a retail store with a grade school friend’s mother and it was impossible for me to stop calling her Mrs. Smith. She’d be like “PLEASE call me Jane.” and I’d do it about 6 times out of 10 and then I’d accidentally revert to Mrs. Smith because that is what I called her throughout kindergarten through high school.

      1. MaryMary*

        If I run into adults I knew when I was a child, I automatically default to Mr./Mrs., even now. It can be a little awkward sometimes, but I can’t call them anything else. My mother taught for years at the elementary school I attended, and at her retirement party I talked to Mrs. Jones and Miss Smith…and Jenny and Katie, who are only a year younger than I am and were a year behind me in school.

        1. Lore*

          A dear family friend is a retired minister, and his wife is a retired elementary-school teacher. Even though they’ve been telling me since I was about 8 to call them by their first names, “Reverend X” and “Mrs X” still feel way more natural…

      2. DEJ*

        I’ve had this same problem. It’s hard when you still see them as your friend’s parents vs. fellow adults.

      3. Sarah*

        If you’re from the south, you may have called your friends parents Miss. First Name. Even if they were married.

        1. KC*

          This. I grew up in the South and the most informal I EVER got with an adult was my mom’s best friend from growing up. She was married and was always “Miss First Name” to me.

          1. Rae*

            My sister’s three-year-old daughter (we’re in Canada!) says Miss Kristen/Mr. Ryan, etc. Some of my sister’s friends are aunties and uncles. It’s cute :)

      4. Ruthan*

        A few high school teachers told us after graduation that we could call them by their first names. After hours and hours of band/biology labs/English lit discussion/whatever, it just didn’t stick.

        1. Fiona*

          Here, too. I’m several (more than ten) years removed from high school and if I were to run into any of my old teachers, “hey, Mr. Smith!” would probably pop out reflexively.

        2. tcookson*

          One of the retired professors at our university department used to host an annual “Call me John” party for students at the end of senior year. It was the first time that they didn’t have to call him “Professor Doe”.

      5. EvilQueenRegina*

        I’m currently working with someone who used to teach me years ago and it took a while to get used to calling her Sue rather than Mrs Sharp.

      6. anon-2*

        I had a teacher in high school – who was “Mrs. Johnson” to me then.

        Many years later, she moved to another high school – and my daughter was in school there. I dropped by to see her on parent/teacher night. “Ah, Mrs. Johnson, remember me”…

        “Of course I do, good to see you. But let’s get something straight – please don’t call me Mrs. Johnson, OK? I’m BETTY to you now – you’re only four or five years younger than I am and I don’t want to feel old, OK?”

  8. Tiff*

    Would it really hurt to call this woman by her preferred name? My office is pretty casual (even our director goes by her first name), but we usually ask a new hire what they would like to go by, then introduce them to everyone by that name. We only had one woman in the office who preferred her last name (and yes she was hella old school) but no one made a big deal about it.

    I see this as no bigger deal than James preferring to go by Jim.

    1. Steve*

      I don’t know. Personally, if I were one of her coworkers I would not do it. This doesn’t affect just her, it’s attempting to force a change of culture on everyone in the office. And if I’m calling the CEO “C” instead of “Mr. O” I’m certainly not going to do it for one of my peers.

      1. Ruthan*

        I hope you didn’t mean it like this, but it’s hard for me to interpret this comment in any other way than “It’s more important for me to be informal with my coworkers than for them to feel comfortable, and anyone who disagrees is out of line.”

        1. Jen RO*

          But Mrs. Stark is ALSO saying “it’s more important for me to be informal with my coworkers than for them to feel comfortable”, which is just as bad. And she’s going against the culture of an entire office.

          1. Marianne*

            Exactly! You wouldn’t show up to a job at a formal office wearing jeans and sneakers or an informal job wearing a suit and tie. You adapt to your work situation and wear what is appropriate, even if that is not what YOU prefer to wear. If everyone uses their first name at work, then that is what you do too. That would be very weird and uncomfortable working in an office with an employee that you use a format of name that is typically used for showing respect to an elder. Since that isn’t the situation she is in, why on earth would she be “uncomfortable” being called by HER OWN NAME?

    2. Elysian*

      Yeah, I agree. This is weird, and I would want the employee to know that it is not in line with the office culture. But people get to pick their names, and I don’t see this as being much different than “We already have a Dave so we’re going to call you David” (which I think a lot of people have previously said is inappropriate) or a trans employee who wants to be addressed as “her” and people won’t stop using “him” (which I admit is more controversial for some people). The employee gets to decide how they’re addressed, even if you disagree. End of story.

      1. Ask a Manager* Post author

        I’m not sure those are the same, though. Of course employees dictate their own gender, not their coworkers, and it’s reasonable to say you don’t use a particular version of your name.

        But insisting on a particular title, one that flouts an office culture, is a different category. I don’t think we can make a blanket statement that “the employee gets to decide how they’re addressed, even if you disagree,” because what if I wanted to be addressed as Blogger Green? Or Madam Green? A reasonable employer would quite correctly say no, that’s not going to fly.

        1. Mrs. Anonymous*

          It really isn’t just a title though. Not to people who care about it. It’s about “being on a first name basis” still meaning something: it means that I actually know you, have some degree of intimicacy with you, and have invited you to call me by the name my friends use. If we just met today and you jump straight past my surname, it’s like you just triped to jump into my inner circle. I find it very discomfitting.

          Now, like I said in my comment below, I do still think the OP needs to help the new employee succeed and if that means first names only then that’s just the way it is. But I did want to point out that Mrs. is not a title the way Dr. or Officer is. It’s a tier of acquaintanceship.

          1. BCW*

            So if you met a friend of a friend, you would insist that they call you Mrs. X? I’m sorry, thats completely illogical.

            1. Mrs. Anonymous*

              No, as I’ve mentioned elsewhere, I don’t insist on it. I know when a battle is lost. I just smile and nod and my miserly little heart shrinks another size.

              1. Miri*

                Why? I’m sorry, I’m not from a US culture so I’m confused about this – I’ve only ever heard of people in US socially calling each other by first names.

                1. Sarah*

                  Yes, that is the norm. Most people would never even think of that (I’d never heard of it).

                  What Mrs. Anonymous is suggesting is very rarely done. I’ve never come across it, but perhaps it is done in another region of the country.

              1. FiveNine*

                Frankly, it’s almost … archaic to go by “Mrs.” Anything in a social situation, anyway. Seriously. I cannot remember the last time I heard a Mrs. anytime this century.

                1. Observer*

                  Everyone seems to be forgetting that this is NOT a “social situation”. You are Colleagues not Friends or even Acquaintances.

                2. Jessa*

                  The issue in the US is that it’s pretty much been decided culturally, that informality is the way it’s going to be. I too cringe at people going straight to first name, but I don’t say anything because nowadays it’s not the thing anymore. Just as hats and gloves are not the thing anymore. It used to be much more strict who you called what, and it’s just no longer the etiquette to do so, no matter what Judith Martin (Miss Manners,) would like it to be and a lot of people wish it were.

                  I was disappointed because I was ready to go to high school and my father said that in HS because you were becoming more of an independent adult, you got to be called Miss Lastname. Every teacher I had was first naming everyone. I was so down about it. I’d have to wait til I was much older and maybe married. BUT by the time I was older and married, nobody called you Mrs. Anything anymore. And secretaries called their bosses Mrs. and Mr. but were called by their first names too. So I never got to experience what was in my childhood THE level of social respect given to adults.

                  So I get where Mrs. Stark is coming from even though I know that culturally she can no longer expect that behaviour.

                  It kind of reminds me of “Saving Mr. Banks,” and the audio tapes it’s based on. And P.L. Travers insisting on being Mrs. Travers even though the Walt Disney Company at that point, were all first names, all the way up to Walt.

                3. Jess*

                  Part of the issue is the implied statement about your marital status in the “Mrs.” title. And even though it would seem obvious that we could all just default to “Ms.,” some people still take doing so as a radical statement of political beliefs. So if I have to call every new acquaintance by title, it gets awfully confusing (not to mention adding “Dr.” or “Rev.”

                  To my ears, using a title is just strangely formal- in my life it has always been reserved to college/law school, court, and addressing adults when a very young child. And to address the receptionist at my first job. She was always “Miss J” or “Miss Janet” and, come to think of it, I have no idea why.

                4. LJL*

                  I have the opposite problem. Students insist on calling me Mrs. L. Mrs. L is way too formal for me, and I think of my mother every time I hear of it. I’m fine with Ms. L or Dr. L. Or even my first name, but this just drives me nuts.

          2. A Bug!*

            I can understand that it feels presumptuous or overly familiar that everybody defaults to using first names in most contexts these days.

            But that’s exactly where the problem comes in when Mrs. Stark wants to be Mrs. Stark. That company operates on a first name basis intentionally, specifically because it is less formal and more familiar. That is the relationship they want to have between their employees and their clients. If Mrs. Stark is not comfortable with that level of familiarity, it seems like that’s a fairly significant culture clash.

          3. A Cita*

            I have such a problem with Mr, Mrs, or Ms. They all either connote marital status or gender, which my post modern self thinks is weird. None of it is part of a name and all of it is, actually, title in some way or another.

            Therefore, if one wants last name to connote formality and lack of intimacy, I’d probably just end up calling them by their last name, with no title. E.g., “See…people write things for us and then we print out all the pages and make them into what we call a book, Jones.”

            1. Elizabeth*

              I worked at a Quaker school once where all the teachers, male and female, were referred to as “Teacher” + first name. So, Teacher Matt, Teacher Jane, etc. I liked it a lot because it did indicate a difference in position from the students, but wasn’t gender-specific or say anything about anyone’s romantic relationships.

              Now I’m at a school where everyone goes by “Ms. Smith” and “Mr. Jones” and so I follow suit, though, because it would be odd for me to insist on “Teacher Elizabeth” when it wasn’t the norm. It’s a “when in Rome” kind of situation, I think.

            2. Kate*

              I agree that the denoting-a-woman’s-marital-status is weird, especially since personally, I won’t be taking my fiance’s last name. I think it’s becoming more common to refer to all women as “Ms.” (miz) now, as opposed to “Miss” vs. “Mrs.” So I usually do that when I feel the situation calls for me to address a female more formally.

            3. fposte*

              I’m not that bothered by “Mrs.” (to be honest, it seems weird to me for people to change their names on marriage and then stomp on “Mrs.”), but I think you raise a really interesting point about gender determinacy there. I think that’s going to change a lot of our world in the next couple of decades.

              As I’ve said, I like honorifics, and I like distinctions of intimacy; I think the US has culturally backed itself into some unpleasant corners with its tendency to want to pretend to egalitarianism when situations aren’t egalitarian and to avoid doing any serious work on that front. But they’re dying away, and as that movement happens, the fact that fewer people know how to operate them correctly (including the employee who insists on her workform address) is just going to speed their exit.

            4. Jessa*

              Yes, and nowadays it is worse, when you have gender and marital status issues of address, that really weren’t the sort of things people cared about back in the day.

              The issue now is finding a hierarchy of address that doesn’t care about gender identity/presentation nor marital status. However in the US nobody wants to have a hierarchy at all.

              1. Lizard*

                Now imagine if our language had a formal and informal like Spanish or German. I’m so glad I don’t do business in one of those languages, because I had a hard enough time knowing which version to use in school and social situations. I’ve heard it’s universally better to use the formal with people you don’t know until they tell you otherwise, but then I’m thinking that custom is falling by the wayside as well? Anyways, point being, I like the assumption of first names. Makes life easier.

          4. Miss Betty*

            Yes! I don’t go by Mrs. Lastname at work and haven’t for a very long time. In one of my first jobs, though, everyone – from janitor to CEO – was Mr. or Mrs. or Miss Lastname. I liked it. I still like it. If I called another employee by his or her first name, it was because we were friends on a personal level, not just co-workers. I’ve never worked any place like that since and I wouldn’t bother to try to institute it anywhere, but it was so nice.

            We don’t have “tu” and “usted” in English, but using Mr. or Mrs. or Ms. or Miss strikes me as similar. It shows a level of respect for an individual and for one’s relationship with that individual that really isn’t in existence in the workplace anymore. And hasn’t been for a long time – probably much longer than that admittedly unusual workplace. (Although there are remnants of this in the legal field.)

            No, I’m not a snob! I don’t even go by Miss Betty in real life. :-) But I still contend it’s nice to be allowed to choose what level of familiarity you want to have with anyone, including co-workers.

            1. Jen RO*

              I speak a language that does have “tu” and “usted”… and it would still be extremely weird if a coworker insisted to be called Mrs. X. A boss – maybe, if s/he was really old school, but it’s uncommon.

            2. Melissa*

              I have to say that I don’t really understand this preoccupation with the level of “respect” and “familiarity” that people seem to be worried about. My name is Melissa; it’s the name I was given so that people could identify me and so that I could respond when called. People’s respect for me is indicated by the way they interact with me much more than whether they put Ms. in front of my name or not. Similarly, I know who my friends are and who my colleagues are, and them deciding to call me “Ms. Melissa” vs. “Melissa” isn’t what signals that.

          5. Nichole*

            That makes sense as to her reasoning; unfortunately, I think that’s part of the problem. The OP, like many businesses, seems to value a feeling of familiarity between staff and clients, and Mrs. Stark is the outlier. This could create the feeling among other employees and clients that she’s unapproachable compared to other staff. You made good points here about why she might initially feel uncomfortable enough to say something.

            1. Jessa*

              That’s an issue for me as well. If you’re being called Catelyn throughout the interview, you need to speak up. I’m more worried that this was found out after she was hired. She had to know at the start there was going to be an issue. How many other issues does she have that she has not yet brought up, that should have been discussed at the interview stage. Also since she wasn’t willing to speak up at that point, what else is she NOT going to speak up about going forward?

        2. Elysian*

          I mean, I would think that to be symptomatic of other things about the employee that might make him/her a bad fit for that office. But unless the title is misleading — for example, if your employee wants to be called “Dr. Phil” even though he doesn’t have a valid medical license, or “Arch-Empress Green” even though she has no empire — I think people should oblige. If you wanted “Blogger Green” I would think you an odd duck, but I would feel like I had to call you that. Then I would honestly be watching your work, especially your client-facing work, closely.

          I certainly think that the employer needs to mention that this is out of the ordinary for the office, and that it could be professionally limiting. And that if it causes a problem with clients, then it will certainly become professionally limiting. But I think you call the person what they want to be called.

          1. Ask a Manager* Post author

            Yeah, I can see that point of view. I’d still worry about the impact on how they company was perceived by clients, but I can see where you’re coming from.

            1. Anonymous*

              But then it is not just the clients, it is the office culture and the atmosphere at work. I would not call her Mrs Stark just because I would not want other staff to feel alienated. And I do think if you cannot deal with a pretty standard thing you should actively look for a more suitable workplace.

                1. Rayner*

                  Because it steps this lady apart/maybe even above them. What it does is create disparate tiers between the people by their first names – Jane, Michael, Andreas, Jorg – and titled people, Mrs Stark, all on her own

                  It comes across as pretentious, even if that’s not the intention.

                2. Jessa*

                  Because unless you go to Title-Name for everyone else, it makes it appear that she’s of a higher level than they are, or she’s snooty. Because in the US that’s the impression. Title-Name is either for highly earned titles, certain jobs, etc. or people of status over you (elders from youngers, bosses from employees.)

            2. Dave*

              The behavior could become self-limiting. Either the isolation of being the only “titled” person in the office will become uncomfortable for Mrs. Stark, or she will eventually leave because she has less success with the clients than she should.

        3. Bwmn*

          I had a friend that worked at a medical nonprofit where a number of licensed doctors worked. Some still actively practiced medicine, others did not – regardless the culture of the organization was that everyone went by their first names. No doctor was referred to as Dr. First Name or Last Name. During clinics, statements like “the doctor is ready to see you” would be made, but then the doctor would introduce him/herself to the patient with a variation of “Hello, I’m First Name, your doctor today”.

          That was just the culture of the organization, and while in many scenarios it would be very reasonable for a doctor to presume they’d be called Doctor Last Name at work – this was not that place.

          This is definitely not typical amongst medical environments – but that was their culture.

          1. One of the Annes*

            This makes sense to me. I’d always understood that the level of formality of the organization should dictate whether titles are used or not.

            The distinction is between whether titles are used or not used, not between people based on “rank” or degree. So if your organization does not use titles, then everyone, regardless of degree, goes by Firstname. If you expect me to address you as “Dr. X” because you have a PhD, then I expect you to use that same level of formality with me and address me as Ms. X.

          2. Natalie*

            I hadn’t thought us this until now, but I recently switched to Planned Parenthood for my primary care and when they make appointments, they call the doctor by their first name rather than Dr. SoAndSo. The particular clinic I go it is in a generally young, “cool” part of town, so perhaps that’s part of it, or they feel the informality works better for their typical client group.

            1. Bwmn*

              Not that the group I was specifically speaking about was Planned Parenthood – but part of their philosophy was that due to confidentiality issues and such – patients in a waiting area are usually called by their first name. So it avoids any points of referring to a patient in the waiting room by their first name and the doctor as Dr. LastName.

        4. Windchime*

          But I thought we already settled on Supreme Blogger Green? Although I have to admit that I usually forget and address you by your first name.

        5. JCC*

          When did a last name become a title? Last time I checked, everyone gets one when they are born. :)

          I sort of assumed that the resistance towards last names was an exclusively Baby Boomer phenomenon? Not wanting to be like their parents, etc. I can certainly say that while I don’t normally use last names, it is typically at the request of the individual — I have no negative associations with using a person’s last name whatsoever. Is it really that common an issue?

          1. Jessa*

            It’s not the last name, it’s the MRS. Lastname. “Hey, Smith,” is socially not the same as “Hey, Mr. Smith.”

            1. JCC*

              Everyone gets a Mr. or a Ms. when they are born along with the last name. I mean, traditionally you weren’t supposed to use it until you were a grown-up, but is that really a title?

              Last time I checked, everyone becomes an adult by default; maybe not a very good one, but it happens. It isn’t like folks remain perpetual children until the boss summons them into the office and gives them that coveted Grown-Up Award. :-)

                1. JCC*

                  If they are titles, what are they rewarding, other than simply being an adult? Who gives them out? If someone asks to be called Mr. or Ms. LastName, who should I check with to see if they’re really on the winner’s list? :-)

        6. MJ*

          I’m going to address you as High Overlord Madame Blogger from now on and there’s nothing you can do to stop me :P

      2. Anonymous*

        “a trans employee who wants to be addressed as “her” and people won’t stop using “him””

        Whoa, sorry, but I have to argue that this is extremely different. Unless someone might be beat up or killed for trying to assert their right to use the name Mrs. Stark, it’s not even remotely comparable.


        1. Elysian*

          It’s a limited analogy only meant to convey the amount of control one individual should have for how they are addressed by others. I had no intention of extrapolating all the experiences of trans individuals onto those who wish to choose their own name. I certainly don’t think they’re the same, except in the very limited sense that both people could be trying to convince another, unwilling person, to use different language. I apologize if my comment could be read another way, and I hope this clears it up.

        2. Jessa*

          Besides it’s not about want, it’s about fact. A trans person does not “want” to be called x, they SHOULD be, because it’s who they are.

      3. Alex*

        I think it is very different from both of those examples. They’re not assigning a name or nickname to this person. Her first name is Catelyn. If she’d rather go by a different first name or nickname, it seems that this company would be happy to use that. It’s the use of Mrs. Lastname. The only time I use that at work is in the courtroom (where it is necessary for both formality and precise transcriptions) or with clients. Insisting on the extra formality also seems that she wants to not only set herself apart but also almost above the other employees.

        As far as not adapting to a company’s culture, this seems to be one that could really hurt her interactions with coworkers because it will come off as stuck up.

        1. Ruthan*

          There’s a lot more to “stuck up” than “I prefer to go by Mrs. Stark, thanks.”

          Seriously, if people take offense at a grown woman politely requesting her preferred title of address, then yes, there’s probably a cultural mismatch, and Mrs. Stark should probably take her skills elsewhere.

          1. fposte*

            Now I’m curious–what do you think of people who say they’d like to be called “Dr. Stark,” if they’re not medical doctors but PhDs, Ed Ds, honorary doctorates, whatever? People seem to be falling at different places on the “whatever” spectrum and I’m not sure where this one is.

            1. Karen*

              If it’s a context where everyone is Mr/Mrs/Dr/etc, then yeah they can use it, but I’ll follow it with Dr. Lannister Ph.D instead of just Dr. Lannister when I first introduce them.

    3. A Bug!*

      It is a little different, because ‘Mrs.’ is an honorific and not actually part of the name itself. If she’d said ‘I usually go by my last name, please call me Stark,’ then the Jim/James comparison would be a bit more apt.

      1. Katie the Fed*

        That’s exactly it. It’s an honorific, not her name.

        Also, shouldn’t it be “Ms.” in a business setting, not “Mrs.”?

        1. A Bug!*

          I think that’s open to personal preference. I wouldn’t insist on calling someone Ms. Stark if she’d expressed a preference for Mrs. Stark.

          In my view, it seems appropriate to use Ms. in a professional setting because presumably one’s marital status isn’t relevant, but it’s such a personal thing that I wouldn’t judge or begrudge someone the choice.

          1. Jamie*

            FWIW if one is to use honorifics I prefer Ms. in the workplace, because 1. my marital status is irrelevant and 2. I have a thing about using Mrs. with a woman’s first name.

            I know people do it all the time, and I don’t really care beyond a passing cringe, but the whole “Mrs. means ‘wife of'” has stuck with me. So while I’m fine with being Mrs. Myhusband’sname socially I can’t for the life of me figure out how that would work in the office. My husband doesn’t even work here. :)

            But since Ms. can properly be used with a woman’s first name, even by Miss Manners herself, and it doesn’t indicate marital status it’s a perfect option for the office.

            But like ABug – I don’t begrudge other women who choose differently.

        2. Anonymous*

          Definitely, unless it’s a heavy handed symbol of how your marriage both propels and holds back your career, a la Mrs. Florrick in The Good Wife. But somehow I doubt that’s a burden anyone other than a fictional character faces.

          (But in all seriousness, I think the ‘Ms.’ thing is still more modern than people realize. And there are certainly still women who would prefer ‘Mrs.’

          I’m of the belief that if you aren’t able to tell if a man is married from his honorific, the same should hold for women. But again, might still be more modern.)

          1. Jamie*

            I know it’s widespread use in current memory was revived in the 70’s (I’m old enough to remember it being a big deal on One Day at a Time when Ann took her maiden name back and became Ms. Romano.) I found this, which I didn’t know before…

            “Ms.” began to be used as early as the 17th century, along with “Miss” and “Mrs.”, as a title derived from the then formal “Mistress”, which, like Mister, did not originally indicate marital status.

            So really, one musn’t leave one’s Jane Austin sensibilities at the door in order to use it properly. :)

            1. Jen RO*

              I had wondered where Ms. originated from but had never bothered looking it up. Thanks for the history lesson :)

      2. AAA*

        I’d have no problem with it if she were going by “Stark” and not “Mrs. Stark”. I wonder if that would be a solution amenable to the OP and the new employee

        1. Decimus*

          That ought to be the compromise position. “We don’t use honorifics in this office. We can call you by your first name or if you prefer we can call you ‘Stark’ – which would you prefer?

          That would be less obvious too – “This is Jane, Ahmed, Lee and Stark” sounds odd but not so obviously confusing/offputting to clients.

            1. Anon*

              My father loathed his first name (for good reason — his first name was a grandparent’s surname, his middle name was a grandparent’s surname, and his last name was his parent’s surname). He was stuck with it until he served in the army, where he was called a shorter version of his lastname, and he used that the rest of his life.

              It was the equivalent of being called John because his surname was Johnson or Stev because his last name was Stevens.

    4. Jeff A.*

      I think people have a right to be called by their preferred name, when it’s appropriate for the work environment.

      Just because someone is known by a nickname or is more comfortable being called by his nickname doesn’t mean that it gets to fly in the workplace. For example, I have a friend from grade school who somewhere along the way acquired the nickname “Sponge.” Can you imagine him going into a professional workplace and asking coworkers and clients to refer to him as such? This really isn’t any different: it conveys a message that directly clashes with how you want your company perceived.

      1. Judy*

        One of my cousins is dating a guy nick named “Slick”. I had to call her mom before my parents’ 50th party to find out his real name for the invitation. “Jane Jones & Slick” seemed to not be the way to address the invitation.

        1. EE*

          A friend of mine is marrying a man called Chewie! Can’t imagine putting that on a formal invitation card either.

          1. Twentymilehike*

            That’s what I thought! Until I met several people named “Chewie” who actually spelled it “Chuy,” a common shortened name for something else in their culture … Like John for Jonathan, but I can’t remember what it was short for.

            1. Jen RO*

              I was curious so I googled – it’s short for Jesus. I was under the impression that it’s pronounced, well, Chuy, one syllable, not Chewie. (Maybe a native speaker can shed some light?)

              1. Mints*

                Haha I read that first comment about Chewie, and didn’t realize they might have meant Chuy. It is pronounced with the “y” as a long “ee.” It’s two syllables, but I don’t think it’s standard spelling (it’s been a while since I’ve done grammar and spelling rules)

        1. Meg*

          I went college with brothers Luscious (“Lush”) and Cornbread. I was (and still am to some) Pinkie for a while.

      2. Green*

        SO just had someone new come to their office and say, “Everyone calls me ManBear.” …

        … so they started calling him ManBear.

    5. Veni*

      Tiff, I agree with you. If her sensibilities are that she wants to be called Ms, then by all means, call her that. The manager’s job is then to set the tone for the staff accepting that, and not deriding it. It may be cool to be on first names. It is never cool to make a colleague the brunt of a joke. It seems unkind, a bit narrow minded, and even mean. So if dear Ms. Catlyn Starks wants to be called “Ms. Starks”, then be “multi-cultural” by welcoming her culture of “Ms” to your “Johnny, Susie, Sally” culture, and be kind. And actively foster that within your team. Talk to her and decide on a way to make it fun in a way that still includes her. It may be the higher road. Enjoy the ride.

    6. Pat*

      I agree. In fact, it would be so nice if the world were a bit more formal instead of a mishmash of utter informality no matter the situation.

  9. S3*

    I’d love to know what industry OP works in.

    What industries is this level of formality common? Other than education and medicine, I’m not sure.

    1. AnonM*

      Software development is pretty informal. Our general manager is just ‘Barry’. I think I’d get weird looks if I called him ‘Mr. Baratheon’.

      1. Jen RO*

        I’m also in software development, and our CEO Matt is visiting today. Not Mr. Lastname.

        (That being said, if he were a Romanian CEO in a Romanian company, he would probably be Mr. Lastname.)

    2. OP*

      My department is Quality Assurance. My particular company is IT focused and our CEO (and company founder) has a history in the start-up world. My new employee used to work for a very traditional medical company. She was hired for her expertise of some internal software we are implementing. Now, I hope she doesn’t read this blog, because I feel I gave too much detail!

      1. SA*

        OP, it might help her understand what her coworkers would be thinking, even if they didn’t say it to her face and called her Mrs. Stark :)

        1. S3*

          I agree. It might be helpful for her to know that the industry she’s in now operates a bit differently than her former one.

          1. Observer*

            She might know that – and that actually may be an additional incentive. She could easily be thinking “nice folks, and easy to work with, but a bit to apt to cross lines between work and personal lives. I don’t want to go to happy hour with them.”

            1. anony mous*

              I’m someone who doesn’t want to go to happy hours often with my co-workers (I do, because it’s only technically optional) and I certainly share the bare minimum of my personal life with them. But I would never translate that to them calling me “Ms. Mous.” It would seem unnecessarily standoffish, even for someone who is extremely private. Trust me, people can get that you’re not a happy hour person even without referring you to an honorific. The formality of “Ms. Mous” takes it a step too far, in my opinion.

    3. AnonHR*

      When I call help lines for governmental issues (tax support, unemployment, etc), I often will get someone who identifies themselves as a Mr. or Mrs. so-and-so instead of using their first name. I don’t know if that happens with their co-workers, but it’s always so strange to me.

      At our office we tend to call the owner by “Mr. so-and-so” most often, but it isn’t out of the ordinary to use his first name, either. But, that’s as far as that goes.

    4. Cube Ninja*

      If you ever need to call the IRS for some reason, all of the phone support folks are Mr/Mrs/Miss/Ms/etc unless something has changed in the last few years.

      I had one of my business contacts refer to himself as Mr. when answering the phone by default for a while, but he seems to have grown out of that.

      I vote we just start using first name + surname a la Demolition Man.

      Be well, John Spartan.

      1. Kelly O*

        I worked with a guy once who had a very short first name and a short last name, and because the first name was common, we had Joe Blow and Joe Schmoe.

        Everyone called them Joe Blow and Joe Schmoe. I ran into one of them years later at my mom’s church of all things, and before I knew what I’d done, I said “hey, Joe Blow! Long time no see!” – and then we had a laugh because all his friends call him first name last name too. We said goodbye with a “Be well, Joe Blow” “Be well, Kelly Onomatopoeia” and agreed it works better with short names.

        1. NutellaNutterson*

          Geek moment: I remember when Anne of Green Gables would run on PBS during the fund drives. And during those fundraising breaks, they would discuss what had happened in the previous scene. In some scene, Anne is arguing with someone and she calls him “FirstName+LastName.” The historian was saying that this was even MORE formal than just Mr. Lastname, and that it represented a major put-down in terms of their closeness.

        2. bearing*

          My closest friend and I are married to men with the same first name, who are also close friends with each other, and so when we are talking about one or the other of them to mutual friends in our circle we refer to them as Firstname Lastname and Firstname Otherlastname. The result: Sometimes, I call my own husband Firstname Lastname out of habit.

          1. Twentymilehike*

            Haha. My hubby has a very short name and I have called him FirstnameLastname since I’ve known him :).

            FWIW, I feel really odd when people call me Mrs. Hike in a serious manner. Although several people I’ve known a lot longer than I’ve been married do call me that to sort of be funny, I think. And it doesn’t bother me at all. I’m proud to be married to my wonderful DH, and it’s technically my name, so whatever.

            But I can’t think of the last time I’ve referred to or seen one adult refer to an adult as mr. Or mrs. Last name.

  10. Tiff*

    Also, this op is reminding me of the post a few weeks ago where a new hire was told he couldn’t go by his preferred nickname. Feels too controlling, imo.

    1. BCW*

      I don’t see it as the same, in this case, Mrs. X is wanting to go against the entire culture of the company. Its one thing to prefer Jennifer or Jenny or Jen and the manager refusing, its another to want to go by Mrs. Lopez when literally no one else does. Its putting yourself on a level, respect wise, above your co-workers

    2. Jamie*

      That’s different to me, because the level of formality hasn’t changed.

      If it’s the custom where people operate on a first name basis, this ratchets up the level of formality for one person – which is off putting to many people.

      Her preference can’t take precedence over what’s best for the business. Just like a lot of people would be more comfy in jeans and sweat shirts, but they put on business casual for work if that’s what’s expected. A miss match of formality, be it clothing or names in this sense, will be a problem and I don’t see any issue with the business insisting on their level of formality being the standard.

      1. Victoria Nonprofit*

        Taking the clothing analogy further: What if a staff member insisted on wearing suits every day to a casual office? Does that feel parallel to this situation? Would anyone who has commented feel differently about the suit than they would about the name?

        My husband is in an MBA program right now, and one of his fellow students wears a suit every day. Even in the MBA world, where students frequently have interviews, client meetings, and so on, his choice to wear a suit daily is unusual and a little awkward. I suspect I’d have the same sense at work.

        1. Ask a Manager* Post author

          I could definitely see situations where it would be appropriate and reasonable to say, “Hey, I appreciate that you want to dress up for work, but our culture is actually more informal and it’s out of place here.” For instance, if you work with students or specific populations where you’re going to be more credible if you dress down, or even just if part of your organization’s brand is that you’re informal.

          1. majigail*

            One of my employees always dresses up, he always looks really great. But his part time job is in radio. On his first day, one of the show hosts told him not to show up in anything other than jeans and a tee-shirt. (and not quite that nicely…)

            1. Elizabeth*

              I’m amused at the irony of people in *radio* caring what you look like… I once saw Ira Flatow (of NPR’s Science Friday) speak, and he self-deprecatingly joked, “They always told me I had a face for radio.”

              1. Natalie*

                Freakonomics did an episode about online dating recently and they mentioned that trope. I think the specific host was Kai Ryssdal.

        2. Yup*

          Too funny, I was just thinking about the dress code analogy! My take was that if you want to up the dress code personally, go for it. And then I had a coworker who complained vociferously when our formal requirement changed to business casual, and he still wore a suit everyday. That part didn’t bother me. What did bother me was his side-eye at everyone else who was now dressing more casually. Even though were all in total compliance with requirements, we were being ‘unprofessional’ in his eyes. I finally had to tell him to Let It Go because he was ticking people off.

        3. some1*

          Not really a parrallel in my opinion. If you insist on wearing a suit to our casual or business casual office each day, I might think it’s odd (or whatever) but you’re not asking me to change anything about how I would normally interact with you.

          1. De Minimis*

            At offices I’ve worked at in the past, if someone dressed that way people would think they were interviewing for a job somewhere else.

        4. Anonymous*

          Yeah, that’s weird. My husband is also in an MBA program and they even dictate that the dress code is business casual for class. Wearing a suit would make you look like you’re trying too hard to be impressive or like an MBA stereotype. Though it’s recruiting season right now, so you do see more suits since people are going right to interviews. But even then, a lot of people run home to change rather than wearing it all day.

        5. BCW*

          Thats an interesting question. Personally I’d have less of a problem with that than the Mrs. X thing, but I think its because its not just you wearing what you want, but its demanding I address you differently than everyone else.

          1. OP*

            My main issue is if it really will be an issue. Our clients are laid back too so they may not even care or notice. So, I hate to make a mountain out of a molehill but it just seems odd. I guess better to err on the side of caution.

            1. fposte*

              My concern is that even if people agree with the best will in the world to honor her preference, if it’s out of step with org practice there are going to be a lot of glitches. Will those upset her? Will she correct people in a way that upsets them?

              1. Jamie*

                I agree this is an issue. If she’s going to do this she needs to understand that it won’t be an easy transition for most people.

                And, fwiw, I have a strong feeling that most people will use it when there is no way around it but most won’t call her Mrs. Stark. Most will avoiding it and just address her directly with no name, refer to her by her position, and point.

                Like people who haven’t worked out what to call their in-laws have done for ages.

                1. Kelly O*

                  And how long, realistically, will someone last in this environment if they’re not willing to adapt?

                  I mean, I totally get that cultural fit is part of choosing your environment, but if you’re the only Mrs. Stark in the office, surrounded by Neds, and Lyannas and the occasional Bobby B, and you’re insisting you that winter is coming and therefore you should always be Mrs. Stark, when does it cease to be a choice of how you’re addressed, and a big F-U to the powers that be and existing culture?

                2. Not So NewReader*

                  Right on, Kelly O. My thought exactly.

                  When does it a fu.

                  This is why it might be good to know her reasoning. If she says “this is the way it has been in the past” that is not a reason for continuing in the present. And I would wonder if this is a habitual response to different ideas. A possible red flag.

                  I am somewhat amused, because the big society wide shift to first names started before this woman was even born! I thought we made this shift because of numerous things including: abuses, pretentiousness, expediency, etc.

                  I can remember in the 80s rolling our eyes at newly married women who wanted to be called Mrs. as if it were a scholastic degree or a life achievement. That is what I first thought of- the confusion about marriage. Marriage is a part of life but not the sum total of life.
                  (I have always corrected people who call me Mrs. Reader. My bias on this question is showing.)

            2. Dani X*

              My issue would be if I am calling her Mrs Stark she better be calling me Ms. X and waiting for me to tell her she can call me Dani. If she started off calling me Dani but expecting to be called Mrs Stark I wouldn’t want to work with her and would request someone else.

              1. Tax Nerd*

                What Dani X said.

                Is she expecting everyone else to call her Mrs. Stark while she calls them Daenerys or Robert or Tyrion? That gives her an honorific no one else is getting, and implying that she is of a higher status than they are. If she wants the entire company to switch to using last names… yeah, that’s not going to fly, because she wants to completely up-end an established company culture.

            3. Gilby*

              That is the main issue. Will the clients really care?
              I mean all this hulabaloo over a name. If the employee delivers the job well done and everyone is happy is there really a problem?

              And is your workplace culture and employees really going to suffer? Are your workers that inflexible that a name would completely ruin everything? I mean the dept will fail. Your employees will not interact with her. And so on……

              Have you asked your staff if it REALLY bothers them. I mean REALLY REALLY bothers them. I bet you’d be surprised at the answer.

              You have indicated, that so far, work wise, personality wise etc… are all good.

              If you really think it is a problem then yes deal with it how you feel is right. You know your office and what it needs. And I wouldn’t blame you for firing her if that needs to be because you have to do what is best for your situation.

              But….You all might be missing out on a great person who can contribute wonderful things just because of a name choice.

              1. fposte*

                Whoa, but the OP should *not* be taking a poll on this with the other employees. That’s highly inappropriate.

                1. Saturn9*

                  Yes. Nothing alienates a new person like finding out everyone has been discussing something about them behind their back.

              2. Dani X*

                How honest do you think a poll will be? If my manager came and asked me if it bothered me to call a peer Mrs Stark I would feel that the true answer of “yes” will make me look petty and so will say “no”.

        6. Jamie*

          For me the answer is the same, if it’s going to make a client uncomfortable because a certain informality is standard then they shouldn’t wear a suit.

          Full disclosure, I don’t work in an industry where suits would ever be appropriate. Due to safety issues ties, skirts, heels, open toes shoes, etc. are against the dress code. So if you dressed up here you’re signalling that you can’t walk back into the plant, if needed, and that’s a big issue.

          So I do think the analogy holds in that when there is a formality mismatch personal comfort shouldn’t take precedence over business need. Where the analogy falls a little is the impact on co-workers. Wearing a suit doesn’t impact your co-workers in a real way any more than Alex P. Keaton wearing ties and sweater vests impacted Skippy and Mallory. But asking to addressed by a title requires your co-workers to change how they interact.

            1. College Career Counselor*

              Late to the party, but as long as we’re mentioning television references, I’m put in mind of “Are You Being Served,” with its “Mrs. Slocombe, are you free?” [obligatory glance around the obviously empty store for form’s sake] “Why, yes, Captain Peacock, I am!”

        7. Elysian*

          I like the suit analogy – It would be weird, yes, and it might be a sign that there’s a fit problem. But I wouldn’t just bring in another set of clothes and hand them to the employee and say “You have to wear these instead – we’re less formal here.” I would tell the employee “Hey, we’re less formal than that here. You might have trouble interacting with our clients if you keep wearing suits. I would hate to see that be a problem.” Maybe the employee is just more comfortable in suits. Who knows? It’s not for me to decide.

        8. Jen RO*

          I think it’s perfectly fine to tell an employee that a suit is too formal for a particular office.

          Actually, a coworker of mine told me his interview story. It was his first interview ever and he had been told he should wear a suit, so he did. The company he was interviewing for (our current company) is very casual, but of course he couldn’t know that. When he got to the interview, the HR manager was a bit taken aback and asked if he always wore suits. My coworker admitted he didn’t, and the HR manager was very happy she wasn’t dealing with a potential culture clash. Showing up in a suit here would be SO out of place. (It couldn’t even be justified by interviewing for another company, since we’re in software development, where jeans and a shirt is elegant :) )

      2. Leah*

        I worked in a place where that happened! Part of my position included multiple rotations through various departments. I knew the person who was rotating into a position after me and that he liked wearing a suit and tie every day. I’m pretty sure he wore suit pajamas a la Barney Stinson. The department he was rotating into was headed by someone less formal than the other departments and I tried to suggest to this colleague that he occasionally ditch the coat and/or tie because the supervisor was not a fan and it was a very close working relationship. He initially refused but found out that he worked a lot better with the supervisor when he did.

      3. Mints*

        I think this is key. Employers get to decide the level of formality of the work place, but you get options within that level. So you can choose Kate/Katie/Katherine, or your middle name, or last name (like Foreman/Kelso/Hyde on it’s own). But they can limit names that are too informal (Kate Baby or Big Dog or something). I think by that same argument, employers can limit names that are too formal, like the Mrs. Stark here.
        Maybe it’s because I’m young, or new to the white collar workforce, or my upbringing, but there are tons of situations where I cold see myself being alienated by someone being too formal. As a consumer, I’m most comfortable in causal places, and if I’m shopping around, and someone introduced themselves as Mr/Mrs, it wouldn’t be a deal breaker on it’s own, but I would remember feeling uncomfortably formal in choosing where to buy

  11. Brett*

    Is it possible her reasoning could be cultural or religious? I know some cultures view it as extremely rude to use an adult woman’s first name in a business context.

      1. OP*

        Obviously, I don’t know for sure about religious beliefs, but she is from the US and she calls others by their first name.

        1. Ann Furthermore*

          You answered my question. I was wondering if she was from another country where this is the norm.

          My company has an office in Germany, and there, many people address each other as “Herr Stark” or “Frau Lannister.” But when they’re working with the US people, we all call each other by our first names.

          1. Expat in Germany*

            There are a couple of people I address by first name in English and with “Herr” or “Frau” and “Sie” in German. Just abiding by the conventions in each country!

        2. JamieG*

          So she expects other people to call her by her last name + honorific, but refers to other people by their first name? That seems weird.

      2. Andrea*

        I came here to say the same thing—-if this is such an issue for her, she should have addressed it in the interview, when they addressed her by her first name. They could have explained then that they’re informal with each other and with clients, and they could have asked if it was an issue and dealt with it right then. She didn’t say anything about it then, presumably, because it was more important to her to get the job. Well, now she has it and has decided that she is in a position to change some of the culture of the place. She isn’t.

        I’m all for manners and politeness and consideration for others. I’m sensitive to the naming issue because I have a first name (not Andrea) that people often shorten and I don’t like it (so I nicely correct them), and because I retained my birth name after marriage and so I often must nicely correct people who get my last name wrong. As a result, I am pay close attention to people’s names, their preferred name and the correct spelling, because I think that’s respectful and I know that other people appreciate that. But this is something else. They’re all adults. Adding this level of formality in naming practices for one person is odd and could hurt relationships between coworkers and relationships with clients. And again, if it was such an issue, she should have said so in the interview.

  12. some1*

    Even in education, where *students* are expected to address instructors with a title and last name, when I was in school all of the staff addressed *each other* by first name, from the custodians to the principal. Even in college it was still pretty common.

    1. Elizabeth*

      I work in a school, and we are deliberately very consistent. Teachers, administrators, and staff all call each other by their first names, and students call all adults “Mr. X” or “Ms. Y.” We want to send the message to the students that the woman who vacuums the classroom each evening is just as deserving of respect as the principal is.

      Actually, adults will call other adults Mr. or Ms. in front of the students, too: “Kate, can you take this note to Mr. Sanchez at the front desk?” or, “Ms. Frizzle, your second graders did a great job cleaning up the recess equipment today!” (meant for the kids to overhear). But again, it’s consistent.

  13. Mrs. Anonymous*

    If it’s really going to be a problem, then you have to give her a heads up and help her avoid becoming a joke or failing to develop good client relationships. But for the record, I’m kind of on team Mrs. Stark. I HATE that everyone just feels they can address other people by first names all of a sudden, sometimes without so much as an introduction let alone an invitation to do so. It makes me uncomfortable and, if I’m honest, it makes me think less of people who do it. I suck it up at work and in most social situations because I know I’m (almost) alone in my opinion and I don’t want to be “that girl”. I wish I worked somewhere where I didn’t have to. I shouldn’t have to ask for other people to be polite.

    So, anyway, help her succeed in your office culture. She deserves that. But maybe consider letting her be comfortable, because she is not the only one who finds presumption of intimacy grating.

    And in case people think it’s a generational thing, I’m 26.

      1. Mrs. Anonymous*

        No, I don’t expect people to call me Mrs. Anonymous, because I know it isn’t common anymore. I hate that, but expectations are based on what’s likely, not what you would like. And I don’t think I would say it’s a cultural thing. Except in the sense that all manners are an element of the culture in a given place and time, I guess.

        I’m not from some exotic and strangely formal locale, if that’s what you’re wondering. I’m from a very boring medium sized city in the northeastern US.

        1. Victoria Nonprofit*

          Mrs. Anonymous, I don’t mean to pick on you, but I would love to learn more about why you prefer to be referred to with the honorific.

          For me, and in the culture (Minnesota) I grew up in, using my first name doesn’t feel like a presumption of intimacy. It’s the neutral position. Intimacy would be using a nickname I haven’t invited you to use (“Vicky,” which I’ve never gone by, or “Tori,” which only my family and very close friends use).

          1. fposte*

            Not answering for Mrs. Anonymous, but I think that nuances and layers of intimacy are incredibly culturally important (I love languages that have multiple forms depending on the intimacy level) and that the U.S. tendency to erode those has a cost.

            It does make the language a lot easier, though :-).

            1. A Cita*

              See, I find titles that give away marital status is far more intimate. I don’t need to know that much about a stranger’s personal relationships. As I posted above, if someone wanted no first name, I’d simply call them by their last name sans any honorific.

              1. Mrs. Anonymous*

                I picked my username to mirror the letter, but I don’t actually see or hear Mrs. much. The title I usually use and hear is Ms., which does not connote marital status. I do not find Mrs. intimate, but it is less common.

            2. Jen RO*

              I’ve said it before and I’ll say it again – I love working in an English-speaking world because I don’t have to worry whether calling Manager John “tu” is too informal or “usted” is too formal. I personally love the informality of English, because it makes people feel more like peers and less like “boss” and “subordinate” (replace with “elder”/”young’un” etc).

          2. Mrs. Anonymous*

            I don’t feel picked on, so don’t worry. But I’m not sure I can help you understand any better. Saying that it feels like a presumption of intimacy is my explanation, and I don’t think I have a different one.

            Honestly, it seems like you get it already, you just don’t feel the same way. Your example of a nick name seems like a pretty close comparison. Correct me if I’m wrong.

            1. Victoria Nonprofit*

              No, you’re right – I absolutely understand that. I suppose what I’m asking is why the use of your first name feels like a presumption of intimacy when it’s likely that the culture that surrounds you (mid-sized mid-Atlantic city, current day, etc.) uses first names.

              But that’s frankly none of my business, so you needn’t feel free to keep responding! Your preferences and comfort levels are your own to determine. :)

              1. Victoria Nonprofit*

                Whoops – got distracted. You needn’t feel like you have to keep responding. Or feel free to stop responding. Blended my sentences there. :)

            2. NK*

              I think what is surprising to me is that you are only 26, so not only did you grow up during a time where calling adults by first names was more common, but you have had relatively few years yourself where you’d be called Mrs. Anonymous rather than by your first name (since it’s much more uncommon for people to be called Miss/Mr. Lastname as a child). Not picking on you either – that’s just where I think some of the curiosity is coming from.

              1. Mrs. Anonymous*

                When I was a child most adults I knew were teachers, and they called me Miss Lastname. I called them Mr. or Ms., (usually pronounced Miz where I’m from). Other kids my own age and parents of friends did call me by my first name, but most other adults called me Miss Lastname until I said “please, call me Anonymous”. So you’re right, I haven’t been old enough to be a Ms. or a Mrs. that long, but it’s not as though people had been calling me by my first name uninvited for my whole early life.

                Also, I never called an adult by their first name until I was invited to. Most adults did allow me to use their first names and I was perfectly comfortable with that. I am not from a part of the country where children are never on a first name basis with adults, but we did wait to be asked.

                1. Bess*

                  Oh, wow, that’s personally weird to me — I’m 29, and when I was a child, I was never called “Miss” anything, by anyone, nor was anyone I knew ever called anything like that. I think that may be part of the reason? I don’t think a child being called “Miss Lastname” by teachers is the norm in most places in the US. But I can see how going from that to an assumption of everyone calling everyone by their first name can be jarring.

                2. Meg*

                  To Bess: I was always addressed as Miss Surname, and my brother was Surname in school. Especially in high school, when my brother and I shared teachers. Sometimes my teachers would call me Surname also if they didn’t also teach my brother.

                  In college, my professors called me Meg, and many of my professors also went by their first name, unless they had a title. A few of my instructors held doctorates, and I was taught that it was respectful to use the title with their name since they earned it, and it’s an acknowledgement of that.

                3. Ethyl*

                  This idea of being addressed as “Miss Lastname” seems REALLY unusual, and it’s startling to me that you seem to think it’s not only normal but SHOULD BE normal for everyone else. I have to say, that is very much not standard and I have, literally, never heard of that before in my life, and I’m quite a bit older than you.

            3. Leah*

              You mentioned that you’re 26 and I wonder if part of the discomfort is also being used to deferring to authority. People the age of your colleagues have been Mr/Mrs/Ms/Professor for most of your life. It takes adjustment to have a peer group that varies widely in age and experience.

              I had the same issue when I started working in a setting that wasn’t retail or a bar and I think that was why. I suddenly had “peers” who graduated from college the year I was born and that took time to be comfortable with.

        2. fposte*

          I’m kind of with you, but I think it’s more decrying a general societal trend than it is relevant to this situation.

          1. andy*

            I’m a 35 yr. old and I prefer Ms. or Miss LastName. My first name is for my friends and family. and I am married but in this town it is Miss or Ms. regardless of marital status.
            All children in my area are taught to address adults as Ms. or Mr. and you do that past childhood for adults you are not related to or friends with. It is only respectful here in Charm City.

            1. Lizard*

              I am also from The City That Reads ;), and I think it must be because I grew up in Charles Village (so many transplants, maybe?), but I was taught to address adults by their first names. I have to say that some adults throughout my life did NOT react well to this. I’ll have to ask my parents about it some time.

              1. Anna*

                How interesting – my experience is a little different and I am also from the Baltimore area (an awesome, often underrated place, btw).
                I grew up calling teachers “Mrs./Miss/Mr. Lastname” but if an adult was a friend of my parents, one of my friends’ parents, a neighbor, or some other adult friend, they were always “Mr. Brian,” “Miss Jackie,” “Miss Sue,” etc. Also, when these “adult friends” were women, they were always “Miss” not “Mrs.” no matter their marital status (most of the women who fell in this category in my life actually were married).
                I never thought twice about it until after I graduated college and a new friend of my parents pointed it out to me. She told me it was a Southern thing (which was weird to me because I never thought of myself as Southern and don’t identify with other aspects of Southern culture). She also told me that in New England, where she grew up, children always called any adults they knew by title and last name (she was middle-aged but I asked my college friends from New England about this and they confirmed). And–she told me in California–where she raised her children, that kids called adult friends simply by their first names.
                Now that I think about it, calling adult friends “Mr./Miss Firstname” as a child seems a lot like calling my aunts and uncles “Aunt Firstname” or “Uncle Firstname.” I always addressed them that way as a child, but now that I’m an adult (27, by the way) I usually just call them by their first names.
                Whether or not “Miss Firstname,” or “Mr. Firstname” is a Southern thing, I see it as a way children can convey respect for an elder while simultaneously conveying that they are a friend. When I was 20 and someone I grew up calling “Mr. Don” told me to just call him “Don,” it made me a little uncomfortable at first because I wasn’t used to it. But now I appreciate it, because I believe it means he sees me as an adult now, and respects me as a peer.
                Even if you don’t consider your coworkers friends or even acquaintances (I think it’s a little sad if you can’t see them as acquaintances) I think you should respect them as your peers. I work for a pretty formal organization, and still everyone calls our CEO (and everyone else) by his first name. Even my college friend from New England (now working in CT) who grew up calling her adult friends by their last names, calls her coworkers by their first names and would be baffled by anything else. Because they are her peers. If “Mrs. Stark” doesn’t see her colleagues as her peers, I think that’s the problem.

    1. Anonymous*

      “I shouldn’t have to ask for other people to be polite.”

      But the thing is, this has nothing to do with politeness. This has to do with the fact that your personal preferences are way, WAY outside the norm.

      1. Mrs. Anonymous*

        I don’t think I agree. I suspect we have a philisophical disagreement here. I understand the argument that manners are essentially a convention and therefore determined largely by what is done, and that the shifting of the norm therefore represents an actual shift in what is polite. Would this be your argument? Because, again, I do understand that argument. But I disagree.

        Manners are like language. It is a matter of convention, yes, but just as words rise above their status as signifiers to become pieces of our cultural soul, polite acts transcend their status as steps in a routine and become the meaningful gestures through which we communicate our humanity on a day to day basis.

        It doesn’t matter how many people say “literally drowning in work”, it still isn’t correct. And it doesn’t matter how few people wait until they are invited to use my first name, it still isn’t polite.

        In my opinion, of course. About which you may feel however you like.

        1. fposte*

          However, even when that was more the norm, it remained the prerogative of the employer to decide what you got called.

          1. Jamie*

            How many Irish maids in days of old were called Maggie, despite being Molly, Bridget, or Kate – because it was convention.

            And footmen were usually called James (or as it John) regardless of their given names.

            The position was named, the people were interchangeable.

            1. fposte*

              I was thinking of that very thing. Not only was the form up to the employer, the actual name would often be as well.

        2. A Cita*

          If you want to dig that deep into language, though, then honorifics that are marked terms for women (and remain unmarked for men) digs deep into patriarchal traditions. And marked/unmarked terms map very well onto extant power relations. Therefore, one can say they find it intrinsically sexist to use those honorifics. After all, no polite manners or terms were created out of a vacuum from which we pollute their purity of meaning. Meaning is always processual and shifting. What was once considered a polite symbol may actually be an artefact of inequities that now are deemed very impolite.

          All that to say, anyone is free to feel chafed when they feel respect isn’t being properly given, but intentions do matter too.

        3. Emma*

          I just want to say how beautifully/poetically this description of your argument is. That middle paragraph is golden.

        4. Saturn9*

          You seem to be under the impression that language and etiquette are static. They are not. Both of these aspects have evolved throughout history as society has adopted/discarded various conventions of speech and manners. That isn’t a philosophical disagreement: it’s pattern recognition.

          It seems like a horrible waste of time to dwell on perceived slights and make petty judgments about people who are unaware of having slighted you because you’re the one who’s out of step with social convention. YMMV of course.

        5. Bess*

          Actually, the OED just added a definition to “literally” to mean “not actually literally, but said for emphasis”, so…. it is correct. (The OED is considered the arbitrator of official definitions of English words.) Language changes, as does convention.

      2. ya*

        I agree, this isn’t an issue of politeness, it’s an issue of personal preference. For example, you could say you hate the presumed intimacy of a woman initiating a handshake with a man (I believe it was once only “polite” for women to accept handshakes, not initiate them). That’s your personal preference. But other people aren’t rude for adapting with changing social mores.

        1. iseeshiny*

          Because I’m a pedant, I will pipe in to say that no, it was the other way around. Ladies decided whether to shake hands with a gentleman.

    2. Jamie*

      It makes me uncomfortable and, if I’m honest, it makes me think less of people who do it

      We’re all entitled to judge others on our own criteria, but doesn’t this kind of encompass the vast majority of people with whom you interact?

      I cannot remember the last time anyone called me Ms. or Mrs. with the exception of teachers when my kids were younger and the cashiers at the grocery store who read my last name off the receipt.

      At one point in recent history it was common place to use titles and last names, but that’s changed so radically I would think that thinking less of people who do that would even out because almost everyone would be in that category.

      I do think in some ways we’ve lost a little something by becoming so informal. I look at pictures of my grandparents and I don’t have even one where they don’t look like they are on their way to meet the Pope. Suit/tie/hat when outdoors for him and tailored dress, stockings, heels for her. I think she’d have decapitated herself before being seen without lipstick and her hair just so.

      It’s been 20 years since a man has opened a car door for me – but if I thought less of every man who assumes I am capable of opening my own car door I’d think less of every man ever with the exception of my late father.

      I guess I just see people who are flouting social convention differently than those who are correctly adhering to the current convention, even if I preferred the old ways.

      1. Mrs. Anonymous*

        No, I must give off an especially old fashioned vibe or something. I would say this encompasses, perhaps, one-third of the people with whom I interact in a given day.

      2. Emma*

        Although, to be fair, there wasn’t much in the casual wear department fifty and more years ago? I’m no textile historian, though.

        1. Kelly L.*

          Also, people just didn’t take pictures as much because it was expensive. They weren’t going to take pictures of themselves when they were schlubbing around in cleaning-the-house clothes, they’d take pictures when they looked nice.

          1. Judy*

            I just helped my mom scan slides and photos. There’s a photo of my grandfather somewhere between 7 & 10 years old. There’s a photo of my grandmother with her siblings at one of their weddings (Grandma was 16). There’s a photo of my grandparents at their wedding, and another one in their going away clothes. There’s one with them by a new car. There is a family photo when each child was born.

            After WW2, there were lots of photos. And in the 70’s Granddad was not wearing a suit to help me take a fish off the hook.

          2. Editor*

            Yes, remember that that may have been during the housedress era, when women got up, put on a housedress and an apron, cooked breakfast and swept the house and then changed to run errands or go calling or whatever. I was reading a diary from before World War I — I don’t know what the woman was wearing, but she lived in a small town and got up, did chores and cooked breakfast, cleared and washed dishes, swept the house, and then ran errands and visited with neighbors or family members. Sometimes the visiting was late morning, sometimes early afternoon after the midday meal. (She wasn’t on a farm where she had to have dinner ready in the middle of the day.)

            Men did the Fred Rogers thing, where they were dressed in a suit at work and came home and took off the suit jacket and tie and put on an old sweater or something, or they wore work clothes that got dirty and changed into something cleaner or washed up when they came home.

    3. iseeshiny*

      I sometimes feel this way after I’ve gone on a Jane Austen kick, where it’s weird to refer to people by their first names! Do you consume a lot of media where it’s abnormal to use a new acquaintance’s first name?

  14. Mena*

    WOW – we will need an update on this letter.

    I have been in the professional workplace for 24 years and I have had this experience once … with a vendor trying to win work from me and wanting me to meet with his non-American boss, who he referred to as Dr. Somebody. I immediately thought this was off and a bit too deferential to the member of the vendor team seeking work from me. And truthfully, if I am paying this vendor and the work is being performed in laid-back America, no I’m not addressing you as Dr. Somebody. As it was, they didn’t offer what I needed so I declined the meeting.

    But thinking back to my very first job with a very Brooks Brothers, Harvard MBA, IBM retiree who was CEO of his hugely successful startup … we were all on a first name basis!!

    This could be very off-putting to her colleagues and extremely off-putting to clients (see above). I hope she agrees to give it a go your way, in keeping with your office culture. Good luck!

    1. Chocolate Teapot*

      Hmm. Non-American boss? German by any chance, as from experience, if you have a doctorate, you will be referred to as Doktor?

      Although also from experience, the Dr title stays firmly in the email address bar, and I call my Doktor colleagues by their first names!

  15. Anon*

    Lol she can ask to go by it but if I was one of her coworkers there’s no way I would refer to her as Mrs. Whatever.

    In American culture that’s pretty much putting her above everyone else. I’m sorry, but last names get reserved for hiring managers (first contact only) and political figures.

    If she insisted she was called Mrs. Whatever, I would just stop talking to her.

    1. Anon*

      Sorry at how snarky this came across…. but that was really the only response my shocked brain could produce. I doubt I’d be that snarky in real life… but you never know.

      1. Yup*

        Actually, your response clicked the pieces of my brain into place! “In American culture that’s pretty much putting her above everyone else.” This is how a lot of American — and maybe Aussie and Canadian? — readers would experience her request, since using first names at work is intended to remove rank from day-to-day communications. I know this is one of those culture things that varies hugely from (and within) place to place, but I’ll bet a lot of people would find her request off-putting because of that exact reason: there’s a perceived power play in insisting on a more formal address than everyone else.

        1. Viv*

          I am Canadian and concur with your statement. Most people, when introduced in a meeting to Sally, Jim, and Mrs. Stark, would assume “Mrs. Stark” was much higher on the hierarchy. Therefore, it would be quite confusing to clients and suppliers.

          It’s also a strategical error for Mrs. Stark. No matter how casual and fun she is, she immediately becomes older and stodgier in everyone’s eyes.

        2. thenoiseinspace*

          That was exactly my thought! When I first read the letter, I immediately wondered if it were a power-play, and possibly an attempt to get people to think of her as on equal footing with or higher than the manager.

          1. OP*

            I really don’t think so. This lady is just so sweet and nice. Maybe it’s all an act, but I don’t get that from intracting with her and from talking to her references. I think she’s just set in her ways and it’s what she’s used to.

            1. Chinook*

              While she may be sweet and nice, don’t underestimate this as a power play tactic. One of the politest people I worked with would also say please when asking for the return of the knife she stabbed me in the back with.

            2. Bwmn*

              If it’s truly the case of this is just how she’s “always” done it and doesn’t realize how out of place it would be in many places of employment – then look at this as an opportunity to educate. Instead of saying “in the US”, it can be phrased as “within this company”.

              I honestly see it more similarly to questions particularly around interns/new graduates in regards to professional dress. Missing the mark on a place’s dress code (especially around unwritten items) can definitely impact the success someone will have in an organization and an industry. Not cluing someone in isn’t helping them succeed. Because whether or not she’s trying to be Mrs. as a power play or just a cultural influence, it’s not in her best professional interest in this company.

            3. Mena*

              Set in her ways isn’t a good enough reason to rock the office culture boat. This is going to be offensive to some, and humous to others. And clients are going to be surprised and unsure why they are facing such formality.

            4. Editor*

              OP, you said she had worked at a conservative company in the medical field. If there were a lot of physicians on the staff, using honorifics would have leveled the playing field if the doctors insisted on titles. Maybe you can present this to her as a different approach to a level playing field, since honorifics aren’t needed to boost non-physicians upward to equalize levels at your employer.

              In other words, she isn’t losing status by being addressed by her first name, she’s just fitting into a leveled culture — just as at her previous job, her title was used to fit her into a leveled culture. (Although, perhaps, it really wasn’t so level and the physicians and degree holders did rejoice in their titles and treat people with Mrs. instead of Dr. dismissively, and that may be contributing to her unease.)

              I am currently working for a new B2B employer where it is very clear who the people with authority are. Nevertheless, there is an actively managed culture that promotes very respectful behavior. OP might want to think about the first-name culture at the office and make sure that the first-name usage remains respectful even though it is casual. I’m not sure how to convey that, although I can see that at my present job. No one swears or uses offensive language and there’s no shouting from cube to cube, although there are conversations. Maybe you could tell her that you respect her ability, and you’d appreciate it if she could try to get used to the first-name thing BUT to talk to you if she feels people are treating her work results or her professional opinions dismissively, making it clear it is about how her work is regarded not how she feels about losing the honorific.

  16. Jane*

    I work in a conservative law firm where we all refer to each other by first name regardless of position. So i see it as more of what is the standard for a certain company vs formality. That said, I have never heard of a workplace where people go by last names.

  17. KLH*

    I worked at a library once where everyone down to the cleaning staff ( except the teenage pages, maybe?) was Mr./Ms Lastname. It was wonderful–in so many ways it was a terrible workplace, but that was 1 piece of respect we were all allowed.

    1. Not So NewReader*

      I think this is part of why the big shift in our society. There are many ways to show respect. To me, if people are disrespectful in numerous ways, then calling me Mrs Reader does nothing to balance/negate that disrespect. Matter of fact, my thinking turns to realizing that calling me Mrs. Reader is another form of that snark that is running in the background.

      I see a slippery slope here, does Mrs. Stark also expect people to say please and thank you all the time?
      People are who they are. I have worked with people that were profoundly allergic to the words please and thank you. I overlooked that because anytime I needed help with something these folks would be the first ones to lend a hand. I feel that you have to look at the whole picture.
      It concerns me when people say they lose respect for people that do not do x or y or z. That is a good way to end up very lonely, very fast. People will just not conform to what we set inside our heads.

  18. The Other Dawn*

    Is the new employee from the south, where this is typical?

    Coming from an informal office, I would have a tough time calling someone Mrs. Stark. It would make me feel like she sees herself as being above everyone else, that she’s very old school, and is a stickler for the rules. That might not be true, but in this day and age that’s what it implies.

    1. Seal*

      I work in the South. The convention is to call someone Miss or Mrs. Firstname, particularly when speaking to your elders. Lots of “yes, ma’am” and “no, ma’am” going on, too.

      1. Liz in a library*

        I definitely don’t think it is universal. Socially, I was raised to use Mr/Miss/Mrs, but that has definitely not been the norm in any of the work environments I’ve been in (in SC).

      2. Jubilance*

        This isn’t universal. I’ve worked in GA and FL and I’ve never had to refer to coworker using Mr/Ms/Mrs or use “sir/ma’am” in a work environment.

      3. Elsajeni*

        And even that isn’t typical in the workplace, at least between peers or people who work closely together — it definitely carries an implication that “Miss Firstname” is the superior of the person calling her that (unless she immediately replies by calling them with a courtesy title + first name, in which case it just implies that they don’t know each other very well and are being extra-polite and maybe a bit old-fashioned).

      4. Liz*

        But not for *coworkers*. Managers, maybe, but more likely just customers, if it’s used at all. I know a couple of people here who do say sir/ma’am at work (occasionally) but it’s more for emphasis than for any other purpose. (We’re not in retail though.)

      5. cat*

        I’m from the south, and the only time I’ve run into this convention (professionally) was with my first boss, who insisted on calling me “Miss Cat.” I hated it – maybe because my boss was 20+ years older than me and male (I’m female), it made me feel infantilized.

        I never did say anything to him, but 10 years later, I wish I had spoken up.

      6. Kelly O*

        I grew up in the South and live in Texas now.

        I HATE being called Ms. Kelly by anyone over about age 12. When my kids at church do it, I totally understand. When people at work do it, it makes me cringe. I am not your Sunday School teacher.

    2. Samantha*

      I’ve lived in various parts of the South my entire life, and it’s really not common here. I occasionally get an email or phone call from someone I don’t know where I’m initially addressed as Ms. X (after which I’d let them know they can just call me Samantha) but I don’t know of any place of work where colleagues call each other Mrs. and Ms.

    3. OP*

      We are located in the South and she is from the area. We do have people here that go by Miss FirstName but they tend to be the older grandmotherly types. I think it’s more job history than geography.

    4. A Liberrian*

      I have a good friend who is originally from the Deep South and she frequently refers to people (regardless of their gender) by their full names – i.e. Wilma Flintstone instead of just Wilma.

        1. fposte*

          Then there’s the Welsh version where you append an identifier to super-common names so people know which one you’re talking about. Hence “Jones the Bread” for the baker.

          1. Daisy*

            But that’s pretty much gone, and the need for it, for the same reason- that people don’t really refer to others by last names anymore.

      1. Anon*

        Not necessarily inappropriate for her to insist on being Mrs. X (as opposed to Ms. X) professionally, but it would be inappropriate for someone ELSE to insist on calling her Mrs. X instead of Ms. X in a professional setting.

        However, I certainly think Mrs. Stark is in for a lot of very awkward moments, both for her and others, if she insists on using this form of address in her current setting. I do hope she opts to get used to her first name.

    1. A Liberrian*

      I thought the same thing. Does Mrs. Stark seem to use the phrase “my husband” a lot as well I wonder?

  19. SA*

    Mrs. Stark is setting herself up to have to explain this a LOT. Even if her immediate department agrees how is this communicated to the rest of the company?

    In my company’s email address book it’s LastName, First Name – no titles are listed. So she would be Stark, Catelyn and would receive emails like ‘Hi Catelyn, I’m Jane from the Teapot design group. I understand you are working on the new handle project and I would like to meet with you to introduce you to the team.’ Will she respond ‘Looking forward to working with you Jane. How about we meet on Tuesday. Sincerely, Mrs. Stark’?

    I’m early 40’s, been working for 20 years and have never had anyone in a professional environment ask me to call them Mr. or Mrs. Last job that happened I was in high school working at K-Mart. Even then we could call the store manager Mr. V instead of using his entire last name.

    1. EmilyG*

      I’ve been working on a project (remotely) recently with someone who does literally have an email signature that says Sincerely, Mrs. Something Something. But her first name is actually Terry, so I recognized immediately that this was just an easy way to let people know the gender of the person they’re dealing with (to the extent that’s important, which is not really).

      But I’m assuming Mrs. Stark’s first name isn’t Terry or Aubrey or anything like that, or Allison would’ve mentioned it.

      1. Judy*

        Yes, there is someone here with a (Mr) Sidney Smith in his email signature. But I think that’s just to avoid confusion, and he doesn’t want to be called that.

    2. OP*

      This is also a concern I didn’t mention in my original letter. She will be on project teams and have to interact with people from all over the company. It will be frustrating to have to explain her preference everytime she meets a new person here.

      1. NK*

        Well, it should only be frustrating to her. I don’t think the burden should be on you to explain the preference. You can refer to her as Mrs. Stark, but I don’t think you should have the one to have to keep explaining to people, “she prefers to be called Mrs. Stark.” Leave that to her.

        1. NK*

          I responded rather quickly – of course, people are going to ask you about it at times, and that could get frustrating. But my point remains that you shouldn’t be the one to do the explaining up front.

          1. OP*

            Oh I understand. I actually meant frustrating for her (although it may be for me too). Sorry I wasn’t clear!

            1. Not So NewReader*

              If you go back in on this conversation this here would be a key talking point for you. It is going to be time consuming to get everyone in the company calling her Mrs. Stark and not by her first name.

              As others have said, I am concerned that she does not understand the company culture.
              Personally, I would be embarrassed to be asking for something that no one else in the company gets.

      2. Elysian*

        Is this really that different from someone who goes by a middle name, or a nickname? I feel like I interact with people like that all the time, and it always just goes “Actually, I prefer Katie, not Catelyn.” And then I adjust what I call that person and then life goes on.

        If she signs her emails “Yours in the North, Catelyn” and then insists on being called “Mrs. Stark” only in verbal conversation, that would be weird. But I feel like as long as she’s consistent across the board, people will eventually get it, just like they would a nickname.

        1. Whippers*

          Nope, I think it’s still going to be weird. And every time she gets introduced to someone new it’s going to reinforce the weirdness.
          The difference with nicknames is that they denote what someone is called in their day to day life; with friends, family and work colleagues. Requesting you be called by a title is very much differentiating between your work life and your personal life.

  20. Anonymous*

    She needs to work somewhere that’s awkward and formal like her.

    My job is really casual and everybody is on nickname basis (basically you have to be a top boss to not get assigned a dorky nickname) and somebody like this would be laughed out the door.

      1. Jen RO*

        Why is it rude? It’s an informal work culture. A person asking to be called Mrs. X in my company *would* be laughed out the door, because it would be seen as her wanting to be above us mere mortals. Here even the CEO is “Matt”, so why would Jane in Accounting get to be a Mrs?

  21. meetoo*

    It is controlling to just say she has to use her first name but it will change how clients and her peers see her which may be more important. Even if people don’t make fun of her it will change how the team interacts with her.

    As a client if I met a team were everyone was introduced by first names except one I would think that person was some how not a part of the team. Maybe a higher up, consultant or legal counsel basically someone who was there to add to a project but not a team member. This could be confusing if she needs to work directly with clients who are not clear about where she fits. It would certainly make me less likely to contact her if I thought she was not really part of the team.

    Even in a formal environment don’t peers usually use first names? I called my grandmother’s friends by last names but she did not. All of this is very strange and she may figure out that it feels awkward to be the only one using a last name.

    1. Poohbear McGriddles*

      Could be that that is what she wants -a way to distinguish herself from her peers.

      If we are in a meeting and I introduce you to Ned, Ted and Mrs. Stark, who do you assume is the most senior (not just age)?

      1. Z*

        Oooh, tricky. Yep, the sexes involved could affect the perception, particularly in terms of the Mrs. Landingham references above.

        1. Diet Coke Addict*

          This is what stuck out to me–I would actually assume that she was lower status than the others, since I’ve worked and lived in multiple places where John and Mary and Elizabeth work in the office, but Mrs. Saunders cleans the office.

  22. Cat*

    Well, first of all, obviously you should be calling her Lady Stark. I’m assuming you’re all commoners? Of course you don’t understand the importance of proper nomenclature to the landed classes!

    Second, though, this is weird. I agree that were you a government bureaucracy that only dealt with outsiders who wanted something from you, you could get away with it. When I call various clerk’s offices in various courts, the person sometimes introduces him or herself to me as Mr. or Mrs. so-and-so and I go with it because I’m sure not going to alienate court personnel. But if you’re dealing with clients of yours. I don’t see how that will go over well. At best it will be a running joke with them; at worst it will be actually alienating.

    1. Noah*

      “Wait shouldn’t it be Lady Stark,” was actually the first thing I thought when I read it too. Of course, if my last name was Stark I would insist that people call me Lord Stark or even King in the North.

      1. Cath@VWXYNot?*

        I have a (currently single) friend with the last name Snow, and she says she’s tempted to have a baby with some random guy just so she can call her child “Snow, a bastard from the North”

    2. OP*

      LOL Cat! I used the GOT references because I knew there were other fans here. But, you are right – Lady is correct. How foolish of me.

      1. Chinook*

        But is Lord Stark’s a familial honourific or only his? After all, Kate isn’t a princess even though she did marry a prince and will be a queen (though I thinl that may also have something to ddo with not outranking your mother-in-law who also doesn’t bear the title of princess despite being married to the Crown Prince).

        1. Noah*

          Lady Stark was Lady Tully before though because her father was also a Lord.

          I thought Kate was a Princess though, she is just Princess William of Wales or some other thing I really don’t understand. I remember reading something when their son was born that the birth certificate mentioned her job title as Princess.

          1. Diet Coke Addict*

            Kate is styled The Duchess of Cambridge, Countess of Strathearn, and Lady Carrickfergus. “Prince” is a granted title and “Princess” passed through the male, so Prince Michael’s wife is known as Princess Michael.

            1. Kelly O*

              Off-topic tangent — I love you so much right now, even if you are a Diet Coke addict.

              And yes, Lady Stark was Lady Tully first, so she carries that honorific herself, much like Lady Cersei Lannister theoretically should have become HRH, Queen Cersei Baratheon.

              However, anyone else find it odd that both Cersei Lannister and Lady Olenna Redwyne identify with their own House rather than their husbands’?

              1. Ruthan*

                I dunno about Lady Redwyne (lost interest sometime during Storm of Swords), but if I were an old money Lannister married to some nouveau riche Baratheon, you bet I’d be holding on to my maiden name.

                1. Kelly O*

                  What is this “lost interest” you speak of? I get sucked in deeper with every book. (Seriously, my podcast list is ridiculous.)

                  I guess even being ruler of all seven Kingdoms doesn’t buy that Lannister name recognition.

                2. Noah*

                  I don’t know how you lost interest either. I raced through all five books and am now bummed that I’ll have to wait years (I assume) for the final two.

              2. NutellaNutterson*

                I have yet to get into GOT, but there in the real world, many (majority even?) cultures use a naming structure where a woman does not drop her family’s name upon marriage. My favorite example, of course, being Eva Duarte de Peron (La Santa Peronista!)

  23. Just a Reader*

    15 years in the workforce and I have never, ever heard of this. I have had the occasional PhD client who likes to be referred to as “Dr.” and my team followed that (pretentious in this setting) request.

    But Mrs.? In 2014? Huh.

    1. Z*

      I personally don’t think it’s weird to use the title Mrs. in 2014. I know plenty of women who use it, and I’d use it myself if it fit.
      That is, I think it’s an odd request on this woman’s part to want to use title + lastname when everyone else uses firstname, but I don’t find Mrs. at all less professional or more outdated than Ms.

      1. Just a Reader*

        Really? I’m in a stuffy fortune 500 and nobody uses mrs. In what context do people use it, aside from their kids’ schools? IMO it’s incredibly outdated, professionally speaking.

        1. Z*

          Well, I think they’d want their mail addressed to them that way. I’m not saying that they use Mrs. Lastname as opposed to Firstname; I’m saying they use Mrs. Lastname as opposed to Ms. Lastname.
          Maybe it’s somewhat regional. I was raised in the Midwest, and I was taught that Ms. is only for divorced women. Miss is for unmarried women, Mrs. is for married women, and Ms. is for divorced women, or for junk mail addressing when the sender doesn’t know the marital status of the woman.
          Now that I’m outside the Midwest, I know plenty of women who generally use Ms. even if they aren’t divorced, but I think my mom, for example, would be surprised and possibly offended if someone who knew her marital status called her Ms.

          1. Judy*

            My mom said that back in 1990 when I was _mailing_ out resumes to companies. But even my mom now uses Ms., if she’s putting any honorific.

          2. Just a Reader*

            Strange. I don’t actually care how my mail is addressed to me at work but if asked for an honorific I use Ms. I’ve never heard that it means one is divorced.

            Regardless, I think the way junk mail is addressed is very different than verbal communication.

            1. Z*

              Yeah, I know that it doesn’t now, but I’m saying that there are probably still plenty of women out there who make that distinction.

              1. Z*

                Oh, I’m afraid that I may have ended up miscommunicating. I’m not at all trying to argue that this is the *only* reason someone would use Mrs. instead of Ms. I think there are plenty of other reasons why someone might prefer Mrs. (or Miss, of course). In general, I’m just saying that I don’t think Mrs. is outdated in 2014.

                1. TL*

                  I would quirk an eyebrow at someone who choose to use it in a professional context (as in, introducing me to or referencing someone), though not in a social context, especially if they were older.

  24. Poohbear McGriddles*

    If it’s that important to her, it’s interesting that she didn’t bring it up until after she had been hired. Surely she noticed that no one in the office – including those older than her – went by anything other than their first names.
    It’s definitely a good idea to find out where she’s coming from with this request. Perhaps there is some other way to address whatever she is feeling. It would be one thing if she were the manager and was asking her subordinates to call her Mrs. Stark (assuming they’re not calling her boss Mrs. Smith and not Jane), but asking for that formality from her peers can give a bad impression.
    To me, it’s the impression it would give clients that is most important. I’d refer to her as Lord Commander of the High Seas around the water cooler if that’s what she wants, but I don’t want the clients to have to remember that she is the only one in the group they must address formally.

  25. Jenny Wren*

    I’m a big fan of calling what people what they want to be called- I believe it shows people respect to trust them when they tell you their name, even if they tell you it’s “Dragonsmash Brutefist” or “Bing Bong” or whatever. I’d just warn her that she risks coming across as odd, and leave it up to her.

    1. Victoria Nonprofit*

      Yeah, I think this is where I land too.

      But: As others have said, a lot of people will read her name preference as setting her above (or her wishing to be set above) others on staff. I’m not sure that’s acceptable.

    2. Windchime*

      We used to have a guy at work who went by “Digi”….it was short for Digital Dragon, which was a name he used in some online fantasy game. His real name was something like “Rick” or “Jim”. I know it’s IT and all, but it was still kinda weird. Everyone went with it, though.

  26. Jubilance*

    I love the Game of Thrones references.

    I don’t love this woman who wants to be Mrs Stark – is she newly married? Like this isn’t 1940 where women are now Mrs. SoandSo in every context, this is 2014. And there’s no way that I’m going to address another coworker as Mrs SoandSo when everyone else in the office uses first names. If its really that big of a deal for her then she needs to find a new workplace.

    1. Cat*

      This may make me a terrible person, but even if you were using last names in the workplace, “Mrs.” seems questionably appropriate to me. It’s really nobody’s business whether you’re married or not.

  27. Camellia*

    My first thought was this…

    Steed: Under the circumstances, must I continue to call you Dr. Peel?

    Peel: No. You may call me Mrs. Peel.

  28. Fucshia*

    Might she be okay just being called Stark?

    If she is used to being identified by last name then she still gets that, but it becomes less formal and more like a nickname.

    1. amaranth16*

      I suspect that if she’s so formal she insists on “Mrs. So-and-so”, she will find “So-and-so” rude.

  29. KimmieSue*

    The last person who referred to me as Ms. Last Name, was my junior high school history teacher, when I was ten minutes late to class. If anyone called me that today, I’d immediately think I was in big trouble.

  30. Meg*

    If she insisted on being called with a prefix and her surname, more than likely, I would end up just calling her “Stark” instead of “Mrs Stark.” But that’s mostly because most of my work experience have been in instances where the culture was to address us by our surnames. Stark, Lannister, Greyjoy, Baratheon, etc. No “Mrs Stark” or “Mr Lannister.” No “Theons” or “Roberts.”

    While I’m all for favor of letting the employee pick how they want to be addressed, it would be something like that, “We go by our first names here. Do you prefer Catelyn, or is there another name you wish to go by?” Or “We go by our last names here. Do you prefer to be called Mrs Stark or Mrs Tully-Stark?”

    The first part is especially true if the clients will be addressing her by her first name. Catelyn vs Cate, for example.

  31. Elizabeth West*

    I’ve always referred to people at work by first names, unless they were introduced to me as Mr., Mrs., or Title X, or they were way above me (like board members). In that case, I say “Hello, Mrs. Boardmember,” and then let her say “Please call me Evelyn.” At my age especially, it feels weird to call someone Mr. X unless they are really ancient or the Queen or something.

    At Labjob, we had a customer in India who had the most beautiful first and last name; it just rolled right off your tongue. My boss and everyone he knew called him by a nickname. When he visited, he told me, “You can call me Nickname if you like. No need to be formal.” I told him I wanted to call him Mr. Beautifullastname because it was lovely and I liked saying it. He laughed and was cool with it. I think he understood I wasn’t sucking up; I really just liked his name. :)

  32. Samantha*

    I think the issues here are 1) going against workplace/cultural norms and 2) I think many people would perceive her demanding to be called Mrs. as her feeling she is above everyone else, since even the most senior employee at the company goes by his first name.

  33. Ask a Manager* Post author

    Here’s a question for everyone:

    Would you feel differently about this if the employee were much older than everyone else — say, late 60s/early 70s in an office where most people weren’t older than late 40s?

    1. A Teacher*

      No. Maybe its a generational thing but even my parents (baby boomers) and grandparents went by first names with my friends growing up–all of my friends parents did so maybe its because I grew up in a very informal setting but my response doesn’t change.

    2. Jane*

      I don’t think so, but I will say, when I was an intern in college (and even in law school) I felt (at first) really awkward calling people in their 50s and 60s by their first names at work. Even people who were closer in age to me – it just felt “off” because I was an intern and they weren’t. Now that I’ve been in the work force full time for a few years, totally normal to me and it would be so weird to have it any other way.

    3. Mike C.*

      No. Ultimately I believe that people should be allowed to chose how they are to be addressed. If she wants to be known as Mrs. Stark, then that’s the name she should be addressed as.

      Will people find it strange? Yeah, they will. They should keep it to themselves as well.

        1. Kit M.*

          Ah slippery slopes. If her boss wants this employee to go by B-Dub instead of her first name, is that okay?

    4. EM*

      No, my mom is in her early 60s (still working full-time) and it would never occur to her to ask to be called Mrs. Greyjoy. And I think she would find it just as odd if a colleague asked her to call them by Mrs/Mr.

    5. Someone Else*

      I would not, I cant even bring myself to call my future mother in law by Ms. Lastname…. I have taken to calling her nothing… or Mom Lastname…. Once a person is also a professional, the need to give ‘elders’ an honorific title is lost on me, should I suggest that they call me Ms. Lastname, as I am also an adult professional? We have a conservative, semi-casual office, and our President goes by a shortened versionb of his name, no one goes by last names in the business world. I would be offput if someone that wanted my business asked me to call a single employee by their last name. It’s just strange, not to mention the connatation of being owned by your husband still….

    6. Anonymous*

      I think the preference would be more understandable, but I wouldn’t feel differently beyond that.

      1. Chinook*

        Ditto. Being of a generation that saw this as the norm makes it an understandable request but I would still deny it. After all, just because one grandmother insisted on sending my birthday cards to Mrs. D.H. instead of to the name she knew me by for all my life doesn’t mean I am not confused about why DH got twice as many birthday cards and I got none!

      2. Bwmn*

        Agreed. In addition – I think that given that there appears to be an outward facing component of the job (working with clients) – there is the issue of how this impacts that relationship as well as within the office. If the job was strictly internal, then there might be a case of “this is just her idiosyncrasy” and let the chips fall where they may on the internal relations. But to be at a meeting where staff are introduced as Bob, Janet, and Mrs. Smith makes this far more on a nonnegotiable issue for me.

    7. BCW*

      No. If we are peers then in my opinion we should all be addressed in the same way. Now if this were my boss or above me, I could deal, but not if we are on the same level

      1. Mary*

        Yes, I would be quiet happy to call an elder Mrs/Mr X. It does not happen in our industry but if that was the older persons preference then yes.

        My Mum is in her late 70’s and she finds it very frustrating in a hospital setting as a patient that someone will call her Molly instead of Mrs Brown. She feels the lack of dignity as a patient is hard enough to deal with, without the loss of dignity an older person deserves to be called by Mrs Brown until she decides to allow the person to use her first name. But then she was a teacher and had generations of kids calling her Mrs Brown and they still do when they run into her.

              1. fposte*

                And historically, it is, if you haven’t been invited to do so. Think of it akin to a stranger hugging you at first greeting–it’s an intimacy that’s fine when you permit but isn’t something people were supposed to assume. Hospital personnel there are assuming, and they’re doing it with somebody who grew up with this rule in action.

                1. Bwmn*

                  I understand the historic president – but I think that hospital-wise, issues of confidentiality have changed where in any vicinity that is not completely private – it’s common to only refer to patients by their first name.

                  Not to mention that upon seeing a woman’s full name with no chosen honorific doesn’t give much clue what to call someone. Is it Mrs X? Dr X? Ms X (either single or personally preferred regardless of status)? Calling someone “FirstName” only presents the challenge of pronunciation. Choosing an honorific, especially with a woman, opens up far more opportunities to offend, irritate, or make an otherwise less than amazing first impression.

                  Not all historic standards of politeness have held up.

        1. Editor*

          I think the issues of titles at hospitals or medical practices, where the employees have clear hierarchies of titles, is more complicated than a workplace where everyone uses first names. That’s because there is a problem of feeling disrespected by staff members who use titles, and also because the whole experience of being in a hospital can make a person feel diminished. Honorifics help restore some of the dignity that the flimsy hospital gown takes away.

          In my workplace, we aren’t wearing hospital gowns. I work for someone a year older than my oldest child. I think it would be really odd if I wanted her to call me Mrs. Last Name just because when I worked for a school system I got used to that.

    8. Poohbear McGriddles*

      Here in the southeastern US, it’s not uncommon to refer to an older peer or even subordinate as Mr. Jim or Ms. Jane when everyone else is on a strictly first name basis. However, I’ve never seen the older person insist on it, and certainly not with their surname.

      1. HM in Atlanta*

        I’ve only ever seen that in personal/social relationships or when the hierarchical difference was huge (for example, the CIO addressing the 67-year-old receptionist).

    9. some1*

      My mom, who I mentioned upthread, is in her 60’s and thinks it’s rude and disrespectful for anyone in my generation to call her by her first name without permission in social situations, never had an issue being addressed by her first name at work.

      1. EM*

        The only time I’ve heard my mom complain is when a younger co-worker called her, “hon.” It’s not that the person was younger, she just felt it was disrespectful (if anyone of any age had called her that, she would have felt the same way). Some people just have that tic where they call everyone “hon,” and don’t mean any disrespect, buy my mom wasn’t having it, lol.

          1. Meg*

            I apologize in advance if we shall ever meet. I say “hon” all the time, but I’m also from the south, and it was always like a rite of passage of sorts. You felt more adult-like by saying “hon.” You weren’t disrespecting anyone by calling them “hon,” but hearing a child say it just felt weird vs hearing an adult say it (and with other adults too).

            I tend to only say “hon” after “thank you,” (as in “Thank you, hon”), “you’re welcome,” “excuse me” (when I’m trying to pass, not when I’m interrupting), and a few other cases that I can’t think of at the moment.

    10. Adam V*

      I think I’d possibly understand it a bit better (being that it’s a generational thing), but I’d still be telling her “I’m sorry, but we go by first names here, and this may not be the right company for you if that’s not something you’re going to be comfortable with”.

      1. Gilby*

        Do you think a person should really be fired someone for that though? Or push them out of a job, that they are performing well over a name?

        1. Adam V*

          It’s not “you’re going to be fired if you force us to call you Mrs. Stark”, it’s “we’re *not* going to call you Mrs. Stark, we’re going to call you Catelyn, and you can either accept that or you can find another job if it’s going to bother you that much”.

          And yes, especially if you’re that early in a job, you should be willing to tell someone “this may not be the place for you” if they don’t seem to be fitting into the culture. Keep in mind, the door is completely open here to her staying. She just has to agree to be treated the way every other employee is being treated, by answering to their first name. That’s the way this office is working.

    11. Noah*

      Don’t know why I feel this way, but the thing that makes a difference to me is that she’s a new employee. If she had been with this company for years, and had always been referred to as Mrs. Stark, it would feel wrong to force her to be called by her first name. However, she has entered a new company culture and needs to adapt.

        1. Not So NewReader*

          It’s because the shipped has sailed in that instance. If she had been with the company for years, then she would be established as Mrs. Stark. TPTB should have addressed the issue waaay back when, if it was going to be an issue later on.
          I would presume that as a new hire I would see my coworkers addressing her as Mrs. Stark, so I would figure for whatever reason this is what we do here.

          Which brings up an excellent point, OP. Do you see this as working into an issue in years to come? If yes, now is the time.

      1. Adam V*

        Still, imagine she’s been at this company for 10 years and everyone’s always gone by “Mrs. X” or “Mr. Y”. The company gets bought out and a new CEO comes in and says “one thing I want to change around here is that I want us to be less formal. From now on, no more Mr. or Mrs.; I want everyone to be on a first-name basis with everyone, and that includes me. So call me Jane!”

        The culture has now changed. She doesn’t have to like it, but the CEO sets the culture, and ignoring it isn’t one of her options. She can either switch jobs or she can get used to the new ways. I don’t think anyone would begrudge her going to interviews and saying “a new CEO came in and started making changes, and I just wasn’t comfortable there anymore”.

        1. Not So NewReader*

          This is the thing, I cannot see myself having the brass to tell the company “Yeah I know you are doing x but I am expecting y.”

          You just don’t do that. Never.

    12. R*

      No, except in the context of a school, or similar environment.

      I can envision a situation where younger colleagues voluntarily call a much older colleague “Ms. Stark” or another sort of honorific, but it seems especially strange to request it.

    13. Sadsack*

      I have 2 crazy people in my office who are both over 70 years old with no plans for retirement any time soon. They both go by first names just like the rest of us, including CEO. I think if I called them Mr. Suchandsuch, they’d laugh.

    14. Sharm*

      I’ll go against the grain here — I WOULD feel differently. Or rather, I’d probably still feel it was strange, but I’d be much more willing to accommodate them due to their age than I would someone younger.

      1. Chriama*

        I totally agree. I would find it strange but I’d be more inclined to accommodate it. I think it’s because insisting on a title in a casual environment establishes a certain level of respect, and I’m willing to give respect to people by virtue of their age.
        However, I’m a university student still trying to figure out what to call my professors, and I might think differently one day when I’m more used to interacting with people as an equal.

    15. The IT Manager*

      I’d feel that the person’s reasoning was bit more understandable, but I still think that they need to adapt to workplace culture where peers and colleague non-peers (ie CEO) are on a first name basis.

    16. Anon*

      If she has gaudy ’50’s glasses (complete with the little neckchain), wears mid-calf floral dresses with a pearl necklace & gloves, and regularly brings in baked goods, then yes. I would happily call her Mrs. Stark.

    17. LizNYC*

      No. Only if she had already been established at the company and even then, I feel like this woman would probably go by her first name, like Miss Jenny or something like that (totally making up a name).

    18. Jax*

      70+ deserves to have the honorific. It makes me sad to see an elderly man as a greeter or bagging groceries wearing “FRANK” on his nametag. Let him be Mr. Jones.

      1. Windchime*

        Maybe he *wants* to be Frank, though. My dad would never want to be “Mr. Smith”, he would want his name tag to say “Steve”. His full name is Steven, but only his siblings and my mom call him that. Everyone else calls him Steve. (Dad is 74).

    19. Felicia*

      No. I would possibly understand it more, because it seems like wanting to be addressed that way is a relic of the distant past, but it wouldn’t make a difference.

      But then, I don’t come from a culture where addressing one’s elders as Mr. or Mrs , or sir or ma’am is the norm. In fact, it would be considered strange unless they were your teacher.

    20. Kelly O*

      Actually yes, I probably would give a little more leeway to an older person, particularly if she were from an older-school, more formal environment.

      Now, I’ll grant you, most of the older people I meet (meaning 65 and over) introduce themselves with something like “Hello, I’m Hoster Tully. Please feel free to call my Hoster.”) So the initial inclination is to put someone else at ease – at least that’s how I feel about it.

  34. Jane*

    The more I consider this, the more I think I would insist on her conforming with the rest. While there are occasions on which I would refer to a colleague as “Mr.” or “Ms.” (e.g. to a judge in court) I would not refer to anyone that way at my law firm where everyone from the partners on down refer to each other by first name and I would certainly not use “Mrs.” even if I knew the person to be married as I’ve gotten used to the convetion of “Ms.” in a professional setting.

  35. A Teacher*

    I’d get in the habit of not calling her anything, which is probably even more awkward but I’m not addressing a peer in a formal manner when everyone else goes by their first name…even in the school I’m in where a few prefer it, they are kind on not called anything. Instead of “hey Dan” or “Hi Ceila” its just “Hey” or “Hi” with no name attached.

  36. EM*

    I’m curious to know if she will also insist on calling her co-workers and your clients Mr./Ms. ____ also.

    So if a co-worker followed this (odd) request and said, “Mrs. Stark, would you like to join us for lunch today?”

    Would she respond, “Yes, I’d love to, Jane.” Or “No, but thank you for asking, Mrs. X.”

    So odd!

      1. Anonymous*

        Isn’t that rude? I mean if your boss HAS to call you Mrs Start how do you get to call her Jane? But more to the point, I wonder why it is so important to her and whether she realises people will make jokes and/or dislike her? It really suggests you feel superior to them and the reaction may not be pretty.

        1. Jamie*

          Benefit of the doubt she is addressing others in their preference, according them the same respect to determine what they are to be called which is what she wants for herself.

          In reality though? I had a problem as a kid when Alice called them Mr. and Mrs. Brady and they called her Alice…so no way would I call someone Mrs. whatever if they were going to call me Jamie. This has been the convention with subordinates and servants throughout history and just…no.

          If I were to call her Mrs. Stark I suggest she learn how to pronounce Ms. Mylastname as well.

      2. HM in Atlanta*

        That’s a red flag. That tells me she’s not working from the formal mindset of her previous employer, but that there is some difference between how she views herself and everyone else.

        1. Ruthan*

          The difference could be that she views herself as someone who prefers to be called Mrs. Stark, and everyone else as people who prefer to be called by their first name.

      3. EM*

        So she is fine using a more casual format with other people, but still wants the formal used for herself? That seems even odder to me — I think I would feel uncomfortable if I “had” to address a co-worker by Mrs. Stark, but they addressed me as Sansa.

        I’m not sure how SHE even feels comfortable insisting on everyone else calling her Mrs. Stark in an environment where everyone else is on a first name basis and she even addresses others by first name!

      4. Dani X*

        I would have a problem with that if I was a co-worker. Either we are both worthy of going by our titles, or we are both friendly enough to go by first names. You can’t demand to be called Mrs Stark because it is more respectful while calling me Dani.

        1. OP*

          I’m not really bothered by it. I think it’s how I introduced myself and she is respecting that. I don’t see it as a power play or anything other than she is just a bit clueless. Which sounds bad considering I hired her, but I swear she’s a good hire!

          1. Dani X*

            It would bother me because I would feel like we are on different footing. If I had known that we were staying formal then i wouldn’t have introduced myself by my first name. i would think she is trying to set herself as being above me and it wouldn’t sit well with me. It would prevent me from being close to her and I would be second guessing anything else she does. I thought I read that you said you only have 7 employees – with that few having one people don’t trust could cause other issues. Or maybe your employees would have the courage to say “oh, in that case I am Ms. X” without feeling awkward. I guess I would feel like she pulled a bait and switch – get me to say “call me Dani” and then pulled a “but you can’t call me by my first name”

      5. Kelly O*

        Have to admit, that raises a flag for me, at least from the perspective of getting to know a new coworker. If she wants to be called Mrs. Stark but calls everyone else by their first names, I’m going to start wondering what’s up, or why she feels like she needs that extra title.

        And I don’t mean that to sound rude, but it’s honestly what I’m going to wonder.

  37. ella*

    I find myself wondering partly if she’s from the South, if she’s older, and if she’s African-American. Obviously this isn’t universal, but I’ve heard from some older black folks who remember a time when white people formally addressed each other as Mr/Mrs, but addressed people of color by first name (or as “boy/girl,” regardless of age). It was a way of subtly reinforcing racist hierarchy in even the most benign of social interactions. For one gentleman in particular that I talked to who insisted on being called Mr., it was his way of reinforcing the fact that he was just as good as anyone else and deserved the same respect from white folks that they so casually afforded each other–but for him, it’s not casual at all.


    1. EmilyG*

      This is a great point. Not really the same, but when I worked in a very junior assistant’s job, I didn’t really get to use my own last name. I was “Emily from Catelyn Stark’s office.” If I’d introduced myself as Emily MyLast, no one would have known who I was and it would have seemed like reaching. It meant a lot to me to get a job where I was Emily MyLast, not from anyone else’s office. That was just a little bit of my working life, so I could see how the situation you describe could be REALLY meaningful for someone else.

    2. BCW*

      I kind of see that, but for that gentleman, him asking for that when no one else was was then asking to have MORE respect bestowed upon him than anyone else, which is still a problem.

    3. Joey*

      Are you trying to make the point that if she’s black its understandable? Please tell me that’s not your point.

      1. ella*

        I think my point is that people who haven’t had basic respect denied to them don’t always feel strongly about how respect is displayed, while people who have are more likely to have definitive feelings or reactions about specific things (in this case, forms of address). It could be for any variety of reasons, but since I’ve had black people explain to me why it’s important to them that they be addressed as Mr/Mrs, I posited that as a theory. So yeah, I guess that IF she’s black, and IF she’s older, and IF she says that she has had the experience described above, to me, it does make the request more understandable (though on a more basic level, this is probably one of those things that you don’t need to understand in order to abide by her wishes, since it doesn’t take any extra time and is, as another commenter said, no skin off my nose to address her how she’d like to be addressed. How she interacts with clients is a different discussion).

        I guess you’ll have to explain to me why that’s bothersome to you.

        1. Zelos*

          Any respect meant can be conveyed in action and tone of voice, title notwithstanding. Because there’s a lot of ways saying “Mrs. Stark” can be disrespectful (or mocking), honourific be damned. She can demand respect (and she should be respected, as a colleague if nothing else), but I don’t think this is the hill she wants to die on.

          I can see where you’re coming from, but honestly, if she insists upon this I think she’d just be setting herself apart from everyone else for the sake of a title. Her choice goes against established culture, and the points previously made for “sounding like she’s higher/superior than everyone else” and “awkward presentation in front of clients” are very good ones. If I was her colleague, I would find it very offputting, whatever her rationalization is. It sounds weirdly deferential, like a power play.

        2. Joey*

          It would be like me concluding that you might be Chinese because you are a very strict traditional parent. Its chalking it up to a stereotype.

          1. ella*

            If I’d said anything approaching “this is how all African-Americans feel” and/or “this is how all African-Americans were treated and they all reacted to it the same way,” you’d be right, but I didn’t. I’ve had conversations with folk of color who have said this has been their experience and how they feel about it. She may have had a similar experience, or be having a similar reaction even if her personal experience differs. Even if she is black, the OP shouldn’t assume that this is Mrs Stark’s experience, because it’s not a universal one. But there are so many commenters here wondering how this could ever be something that would ever be important to anyone that I wanted to present a hypothesis as to why it might be important to someone.

    4. A Jane*

      I was thinking that the employee was from outside the US. My colleagues in India will sometimes refer to their team by Mr./Mrs. Person.

      1. Windchime*

        I have friends from India. They call me Windchime when we are speaking, but they call me Auntie Windchime when they are talking to their kids about me (“Yes you can pet the kitten, but you must ask Auntie Windchime first”). I think it’s very cool and I love it. :)

        1. A Jane*

          Yeah, I have something similar with my family as well. Family friends are just referred to as auntie and uncle. I barely think about it until someone asks how everyone is related

    5. Anonymous*

      Please do not assume this about the South. I am from the South and although we do use respect in speaking to others the reference to African-American was uncalled for. I am white but I have never heard anyone in my generation refer to another as boy/girl because they were African-American.

      I believe in being respectful to everyone. Also since when has using any form of respect for others wrong? I think that is one thing wrong with the world now days people think anything and everything goes.

      1. ella*

        I’m from the South as well, and I’m not making assumptions, I’m reporting the experience of people of color from the South. I’m not sure how saying that African-Americans and whites had very different daily experiences in the past (and, still today) is somehow “uncalled for,” or that it’s an unreasonable assumption. And just because your generation doesn’t do it doesn’t mean it isn’t still a living, direct memory for a lot of folks that still influences their daily life. If it helps, I know that the experience isn’t unique to the South.

        1. Joey*

          Well it does come across as a bit ignorant. Sort of like when people assume I’m from Mexico because my skin is brown.

          1. AWill*

            I’m sorry but this sort of comment and Anonymous’s above really annoys me. Just because you personally haven’t experienced something doesn’t mean you get to invalidate someone else’s experience. Ella makes a great point about people who were denied respect in a previous experience feeling the need to be assertive about respect in later ones. The point doesn’t become invalid or mean less because it comes with an example that offends you in some way. The reference to the African American man was not uncalled for, it was directly related to his experience and a possible reasoning. Doesn’t mean it is the reasoning, but let’s not dismiss it.

            Also it is crazy annoying to me (and many others of various races that I know) that every time someone mentions a racist instance or behavior that they experienced or someone they know experienced someone has to pipe and say “Well I don’t do that and don’t know anyone who would so don’t go telling tales.” It is so insulting to just invalidate someone like that, and I doubt that is what people are meaning to do, but that is what it comes off as. So please allow people to have their own experiences. The world is a much better place than it was 100 years ago, but it still isn’t perfect and we are nowhere near a post-racial society.

            /end rant.

            1. Joey*

              You’re insulted and annoyed that I disagreed with her opinion?

              To clarify I never doubted her experiences, only the conclusion shes making because of her opinions.

            2. Heather*

              Yes – Ella was very careful to make it clear that she was just thinking of other possible explanations. She didn’t say “hey, this woman wants to be called Mrs. Stark, so she must be black and bitter about being treated badly by white people!”

              Personally, I found it to be helpful in reminding me to think of situations from a variety of perspectives, not just my own.

            3. Anonymous*

              Goodness your rant goes on and on. NO, I do not believe the South is the only place that people acted wrong. NO, I was not invalidating anyone’s opinion. I guess I can pipe up and say my opinion the same as you did.

            1. Jamie*

              I agree. I don’t know if it’s correct in this case, but it’s an interesting take on how we react differently to things depending on our experiences.

              You mentioned pronouns in another comment – people for whom this isn’t an issue tend not to give it a moment of thought regarding our own. We can be sensitive to other people, but it’s not something we address for ourselves.

              There are people for whom it’s a major issue which affects them directly so of course they may have a stronger reaction on the subject.

              1. fposte*

                I wasn’t experiencing what Ella describes directly, but I definitely heard about this in the 1960s and 1970s; I also suspect it’s not limited to this particular historical example, since it’s logical that people who are overinformalized by the privileged would value a corrective courtesy among themselves. Ways to create dignity that cost nothing are valuable indeed.

        2. saf*

          I will agree with Ella here. I live in DC.

          Black folk in my neighborhood, in my church, and in my workplace tend to prefer Mr. and Mrs., rather than first names, for exactly the reasons Ella gives.

          And yes, I have been told this by more than one person – all black, all over 40.

    6. JCC*

      I’ve seen this as well.

      The thing I really wonder is why exactly Baby Boomers feel so uncomfortable with last names? It’s so strange to me to see a 50+ year-old man say, “Please, call me FirstName — LastName is my father’s name”, as though his father was still right there standing over his middle-aged teenage son’s shoulder. :-) Is it discomfort over seeing themselves as adults, or is it something else? Why fight so hard to get rid of something that those who never received the courtesy have worked so hard to achieve?

      1. Editor*

        I have been thinking about this a lot lately.

        I’m a boomer, and I’ve always been addressed by my first name by co-workers except when I worked for a school district. I worked for people who were above me in rank who I always used honorifics with in my first couple of jobs. But when I moved into supervisory positions, I kept addressing co-workers by first name and never received nor demanded the honorific. It was not a conscious choice. I think I felt respected when I was respected, and I didn’t derive respect from a title. I did marry in college, so I could have spent my entire career being addressed as “Mrs. Last Name.”

        My first couple of jobs were at places where the supervisors were probably 25 years older than I was. When I changed careers in my 30s, I was working with people my own age in offices with only a couple of supervisors who were closer to me in age. They didn’t use honorifics, nor did they expect honorifics, so I felt like I was finally one of the adults. Now I treat all my co-workers as adults, and I don’t make them use honorifics because I don’t focus on status, I focus on getting the job done respectfully.

        Recently I have been thinking about telling my nieces and nephews, almost all of whom have graduated from college, that they can use my first name if they want to. We don’t live where we see each other every couple of weeks, so I haven’t heard them call me “Aunt Firstname” all these years. I do regard them now as equals, not subordinates. When I think about why I feel this way, I remember my college graduation, when we were told we could move our tassels and “enter the fellowship of educated men and women.” I feel that my nieces and nephews — whether or not they graduated from college — are now old enough to enter the fellowship of working adults.

        My perspective, as a baby boomer, is not that boomers prefer first names because they didn’t want to grow up. I think a lot of boomers felt profoundly disrespected by older generations who insisted on honorifics and also insisted on retaining power. The Vietnam War was something my father and I deeply disagreed about, and as with many of my peers, my father was dismissive of a college student’s opinions about war. After all, he had been to war and if he said this war was needed, then his daughter and other young people should respect his opinion. He wasn’t out of control like Cartman and his Authoritah, but he did basically tell me I was immature, and he continued to dismiss some of my strong opinions about politics (about respect for women in politics and about gay issues) until his death. The thing is, when he talked about his life at my age, he was working and going to college — as I was — but his parents were not contributing to his education and actually opposed his choice to go to college. I think he felt I hadn’t earned respect yet, but he was paying to send me to college and in fact insisted I not work during my freshman year.

        I received more respect from my father for having married than for having graduated, but I don’t think he ever thought I was his equal in judgement or maturity the way I think my younger co-workers and relatives are my equal in judgement and maturity even if they aren’t my equal in experience. He had had a lot of conflicts with his father, but his father died at age 63 or thereabouts. Then he was the senior male in the family. I was glad my dad lived to be more than 90, but having him there meant that he still insisted he knew better than I did when it came to certain issues, and it also meant my brothers were in some ways waiting in the wings in terms of their roles in the family.

        I have learned some wisdom from my experience, but I don’t think it trumps the opinions of younger generations. I don’t automatically dismiss a new perspective from someone who is 25 just because they are young, although I might dismiss it because it is illogical. I think there was a real break between the World War II generation and the baby boomers over the idea that “older and wiser heads” were always older and wiser, and that grew out of technological change, the Vietnam War, and longer lifespans that made young people chafe for much longer before they became the older generation.

        There was also a big divide between the generations because “youth culture” grew up around baby boomers because there were so many of them and they had more money to spend than their parents had had at the same age. Baby boomers could get fast food jobs and find other work that teens during the Depression and the years before the war could not, and technology really contributed to so-called youth culture. The economy was growing, and that made a difference.

        When I look at the contrast between the generation that lived through World War II and their baby boomer children, I think the big difference was that they did not, in fact, think of their college-aged children as adults even though they thought of their college-aged selves as adults. There was some validity to their feelings, but there was also unwillingness to give up power. I look at the U.S. Senate and see a lot of people who are older than I am being dismissive of the opinions of younger voters. I look at a nearby township where the board of supervisors had some kind of gentleman’s agreement that when one of the 80-somethings died or retired a baby boomer would get to run for office; instead there was a big flap when a retired municipal employee who was one of the 80-somethings got appointed to the vacancy instead of one of the boomers — and forget being in your 40s in that township and wanting elected office, because the party won’t endorse you for the primary. The reason the baby boomer tells you he isn’t “Mr. Fathername” is that his father was always Mr. at work and in the community, and his father stood on that dignity while telling people in the boomer’s generation that they were wrong and misguided and muttering about “those kids!”

        The one area I feel friction between baby boomers and younger workers comes when I read comments after news stories and in other forums where young workers complain that baby boomers have had it all their own way and need to retire and get out of the way so younger people have opportunities to move up. I think some young workers fail to understand that for many boomers, advancement at the end of their careers has evaporated, so they have not been able to save as they wished for their retirement. Moreover, they were not advised to save as heavily because their parents depended on pensions and Social Security. It is boomers who are the generation whose retirements are experiments with IRAs and 401(k) accounts. When IRAs were first proposed, they were just a supplement to the nice pension and the reliable Social Security. Younger workers are also having trouble moving up because there just aren’t as many layers of management to move through, and having boomers retire won’t solve that kind of structural change. A stagnating economy doesn’t help. Young workers who understand technology also sometimes get impatient with older workers who feel they’ve already paid their dues and shouldn’t have to learn yet another new thing. I don’t respect co-workers who refuse to learn new things, but for some workers, adequate training isn’t provided, and boomers’ complaints about change aren’t always specious.

        While there’s a lot of automatic respect for the generations that grew up at the end of the Depression and lived through World War II, I have been pretty disappointed with the performance of politicians of my generation, which perhaps contributes to lack of respect for all baby boomers. I also feel there is less respect for the constant adjustments baby boomers have had to make to changes in the working world, particularly in the way that work is done.I’ve gone from typing on a manual typewriter to working in the cloud, and from my perspective, there have been numerous times I’ve had to relearn much of what I know, because typing wasn’t enough any more, or WordPerfect wasn’t enough, or having film developed wasn’t enough because Photoshop; in college I learned to set type by hand, but now I use InCopy and InDesign. I think some people just run out of adaptability and that if we’re keeping people alive longer, we will see folks who can’t adapt. How to find work for them and how to respect them in the workplace is a challenge that we’ll have to adapt to.

  38. Jane*

    Also, forgot to mention, her reasoning for it seems really flimsy. She wants to be called that because she’s gotten used to it? There are lots of things that certain employers do that others don’t and new employees have to adjust all the time to new environments and different ways of doing things. It’s not good enough to say “this is the way I’m used to doing things”. The point is to adapt (withn reason of course).

    1. OP*

      Great point Jane. Everyone has to adapt to a new job, be it software or procedures. That might help me in my discussion with her. Thanks!

      1. fposte*

        It’s the fact that she’s an expert on software thing really startled me–what’s she going to do with an upgrade?

    2. Whippers*

      Yeah, that’s a point I was sort of thinking but hadn’t fully articulated in my mind until I read this comment.

  39. Jen S. 2.0*

    This falls in the “is this the hill you want to die on?” category for me on both sides, and for me, I think her preference should win because it’s her name. Yes, I think it’s important that the office point out that this likely will be a steeply uphill battle for her, and may affect her relationships with clients. I think it’s reasonable to ask her why this is a thing for her, and to point out that if she doesn’t want her name to affect her work, it’d be to her benefit to bend a little.

    On the flip, I think it’s odd to insist on being called Mrs. Stark, and yes, it will affect how she’s viewed in the office, but clearly that’s how she WANTS to be viewed, and it’s obviously hugely important to her. It costs her colleagues very little to do this, and as noted in the nickname thread a couple of weeks ago, I do think you get to decide what you’re called, even to this degree. I think it’s seriously weird, but that doesn’t make her wrong.

    1. Joey*

      Well you do get to decide what you’re called, but I imagine if she insisted on it in the interview she probably wouldn’t have been hired.

  40. Joey*

    I don’t know why but I’m picturing her saying it in the voice of Kiera Knightly in Pride and Prejudice.

      1. EE*

        Jennifer Ehle was originally cast for Catelyn Stark, so it’s all coming full circle now!

        Since Austen was brought up, I’m thinking of Emma’s shocked thoughts after she meets Mrs Elton for the first time.

        “Jane Fairfax! Jane Fairfax! Imagine if she were to go about Emma Woodhouse-ing me!”

  41. Mary*

    I have a PhD and work in Europe and when I get phone calls asking to speak to Dr. Lastname I know immediately the caller is from the UK. This seems to be the only country where they want to use the Dr if you have it. Otherwise I am always known as Mary, never Dr. Lastname.

    I once went to visit a research institute in Germany and was being shown around, and I was “Hi, I am Mary” and the German showing me around must have decided since I went by my first name he needed to introduce me to everyone by their first name. Except he didn’t know. It was like, Mary, I would like to introduce you to this lady who has been a respected colleague for the last 15 years … and then a pause while they discussed in German what her given name was before they finished the intro. Most weird that you could work for someone so long and not even know their given name. So definitely a cultural thing in Germany.

    I wonder could the OP call the new employee Mrs Stark in non-client facing environments just to demonstrate that they have taken her name preference on board but not use it otherwise. The decision between Jane and John on the office floor and how they call Mrs Stark should surely be a matter between themselves? I have no idea, it could make for a very convoluted workplace.

    I think since you were so taken aback by her request you should revisit the incident with her again and ask her for motivation.

  42. Murrie*

    I find the comments on this fascinating. I don’t really see that she’s elevating herself; some people like to be more formal. There may be personal reasons that we know nothing about. I do think if she wants to be so formal, there may be a question about fit, which we all know is extremely important.

    I worked at one job where there were 3 Murrie’s so 2 used their last name, run together as if it was one name- murriesmith, murriejones, and I was asked to use my middle and last initial murrieab.Everyone else just went by first name. I’ve used my middle initial ever since.

    I think the client aspect is important though and for that reason, her request may not be able to be accommodated. I also think she may decide on her own to either use her first name as everyone else does or to move on to an organization that is a better fit.

    I agree that I hope for a follow up on this one.

  43. Just a Reader*

    I’m curious as to what her references called her. Surely they would have called her Mrs. Stark if she went by that in her previous workplace.

    1. OP*

      I spoke with 2 people from her last job (one a manager and one a co-worker – both former employees) and I honestly can’t remember if they said Mrs. Stark or Catelyn. I know I called her Catelyn when I asked questions. If they did say Mrs. Stark, it wasn’t frequent enough to bother me and they didn’t correct me either.

      1. Anonymous*

        I wonder why she didn’t correct you during the interview :) It seems to be important enough to her. But seriously, with that kind of attitude I doubt she will fit in.

        1. A Bug!*

          She may yet. Coming from ten years in a very formal office, she probably has a mental roadblock, but that doesn’t mean she’ll never adapt.

        2. Whippers*

          Yeah, if she had said to the OP during the interview that she preferred to be known as Mrs Stark what would your reaction have been then?

          Seems to me that she is perfectly aware that this is an out of the ordinary request if she didn’t correct you during the interview.

          1. OP*

            Yeah, it would’ve given me pause at the interview for sure. But, she’s only been here a week and it is an adjustment. She gets along with everyone else so far (I’ve casually asked for feedback) so it may just need some time.

            1. Whippers*

              Well I suppose it’s fair to give her the benefit of the doubt. However, she was obviously pretty flexible about what she was being called during the interview so I don’t see how she can now claim she likes to be called Mrs because that’s “what she’s used to”.

              1. fposte*

                I don’t think that’s quite fair, though. I think this kind of thing happens a lot, like Kates sitting through being addressed as “Katherine” in an interview, because interviewees are really reluctant to feel like they’re correcting an interviewer.

                1. Whippers*

                  Ok, that probably is a bit unfair of me. But seriously to use “that’s just what I’m used to” as a reason seems really silly. Presumably she’s “used to” being called by her first name in other contexts so just get used to it in this context.

  44. BadPlanning*

    This seems like a self imposed adaptability test. The OP mentioned that she came from a more formal environment so you might hope that as she gets used to all of her coworkers calling each other by first name, she might naturally start saying, “Just call my Catelyn.”

    If she does not, but otherwise fits in and brushes off the inevitable jokes or awkwardness…then it will be odd but not bad.

    If she does not and gets upset when someone jokingly calls everyone in the room Mr/Mrs/Ms or tries to impose it on others….then she’s not a great workplace fit.

  45. JBeane*

    I deal with a vendor who insists on being called “Mr. Smith”. It’s weird because his bosses go by their first names and he’s the low man on the totem pole at that company, but I address him as he prefers because it doesn’t take any extra time out of my day. It does mean that I take him less seriously than I would otherwise, and that sort of outcome would bother me if I were his boss.

  46. OP*

    Thanks Alison and all for the comments. I’ll keep checking back in to see what others have to say. I did post some comments above, but it seems I do need to talk to her. She is out today and tomorrow (planned ETO from before she started) so later this week I may bring her in and use some of these techniques to persuade her to the casual side. Hopefully, she will be on board, but at least now that I’ve had a few days to digest it, I can have a true discussion about this issue.

    I’ll definitely send in an update once I have one!

      1. OP*

        No, which is odd. She jokes with others. She dresses conservatively however. She’s kind of a contradiction.

    1. A Teacher*

      I don’t think you need to persuade her, if you’re her manager, I think you need to clearly convey your expectations and then let her decide how she’s going to handle those expectations. Every decision has consequences–good or bad–so if after you say you clearly expect her to understand that you are an informal culture where everyone from the top down goes by first name, especially with clients, then that is the expectation. If she chooses to ignore that then she faces the repercussions of her co-workers thinking its odd or seeing her as the difficult coworker, above them, or whatever their perception is. I’m not even saying to discipline her, but be clear in what you expect and how your culture is–don’t persuade, do tell.

  47. The IT Manager*

    I think the business has the right to tell her that they will not use the honorific “Mrs” because haveing one person being called Mrs. Stark when everyone else goes by their first name/nick name like Tony, Pepper, or Happy it’s confusing. Especially since they’ll be dealing with customers. I mean if you introduce your team and say, “This is Jane, Jim, John, and Mrs Stark” it’s goning to convey a level seniority that doesn’t exist.

    Now just because I was in the military and during certain military training situations my peers and I ended up calling each other by our last names rather than first names, I might offer to call her “Stark” or some other preference.

  48. Jax*

    Mrs. Stark, as a 40-something new hire, is going to come across as entitled and annoying.

    She’s not the First Lady. She’s not the elderly secretary that’s been around as long as the firm. She’s not an adorable grandmother who needs to supplement her social security.

    I would tell Mrs. Stark that “Mrs.” isn’t going to fly at our office, but if she’d like to go with “Stark” we can make that work. Otherwise she will be referred to as Catelyn.

  49. LauraG*

    I wonder if the discomfort is also from timing? She went through the interview process, the offer process, and the first day of work introducing herself/being introduced as Catelyn. At the end of the first day, she asks to be called Mrs. Stark. It feels sort of, rude, in a way. Like after getting to know everyone she wants to be more formal. Our interactions tend to go the other way (after getting introduced, you go to the first name) and feels off because of that.

    1. Sharm*

      Definitely. And as others have said, she didn’t insist on it in the interview, knowing full well it was going to come off as odd at that time and she wanted to lock the job in. Now that she has the job and has gone through all these introductions, NOW she wants to go back to formality? It’s so weird.

    2. The IT Manager*

      I though mentioning it at the end of the day was wierd. Since Mrs. Stark didn;t correct letter writer at the start of the day during the first introduction it already seems like a hill that “Caitlyn” isn’t willing to die on.

      I will note, though, as an interviewee I will be more formal during an interview than once I have the job and get to know my co-workers.

  50. Anonymous*

    Mrs. Stark sounds like the name of a cat….”This is our Admin Asst, Steve, and our CEO, Mary…and oh, this is Mrs. Stark….she just roams around and sits on laps occasionally”

    1. Positivity Boy*

      Ha! And now I’m combining this image with the OP’s situation and imagining a 40-year-old woman prowling around the office randomly sitting on someone’s lap, chewing on a plant, scratching someone’s cubicle wall…

  51. Chinook*

    If I was introduced to your employees and only one of them was goiven a title, then I would assume that they were the one in charge and treat her accordingly. Since this is the opposite of reality, you may have to explain that this does not fit your company’s image, and explain why. After all, if it is good enough for her CEO, then it needs to be good enough for her.

  52. Tara T.*

    As Jax wrote (2/24 at 2:05 pm), if she were really elderly, it would be ok to call her “Mrs. ____.” Making the others call her that when she is only 40 will make them feel awkward and not friendly. Also, there are probably other odd things about her that no one knows yet, and those odd things will emerge later, even if she SEEMS to otherwise “be fitting in with the group” now.

  53. LV*

    This reminds me of how my mother-in-law addresses all mail to my husband and me as “Dr. and Mrs. [Husband’s full name]” and in the rare event that she sends something just to me, it’s “Mrs. [Husband’s full name].”

    (And no, for the record, my husband is not a medical doctor, although he does have a PhD.)

    1. Jamie*

      That’s how I would address something to you, as well.

      I’ve never used Mrs. with a woman’s first name.

        1. Jamie*

          The same reason I set a table with forks on the left and silverware laid in order of it’s use. It’s how I was taught and like with most etiquette issues people tend to follow the conventions with which they were raised until/unless they make a conscious choice to change.

          And my kids slapping silverware every which way on the table because “who cares?” when they were small wasn’t, to me, a convincing argument to change. :)

          But a lot of people we address it that way because it’s correct from an etiquette standpoint and it’s how we were taught. That said, if someone I knew personally told me they didn’t like it I would certainly alter my address for them, because I’m not making a statement.

          But that’s the point, when something is done according to convention it’s really not fair to assume they are making a statement with it – unless you have other reasons to believe it’s the case. Now, if they throw convention out the window and address it to Mr. His Name and That Horrible Woman…that’s not conventional and that’s making a statement.

    2. fposte*

      Yes, that’s etiquette-correct. Unless you also employ the honorific “Dr.” or your husband doesn’t use his.

      1. LV*

        It could be etiquette-correct, but it strikes me as incredibly old-fashioned. It makes me feel like people think my entire identify has been consumed by my marriage. I may have married John Doe, but that doesn’t make me “Mrs. John Doe.” I have my own name!

        1. Jamie*

          Have you told her you feel that way? Because if you have and she disregards your feelings refusing to use Ms. (or Dr.) Your Name that’s another issue.

          But if she doesn’t know you feel this way, she’s just going by convention. Convention comes in handy when you don’t know someone’s personal preference.

          So she should respect your feelings, but it’s fair to point out that most people are not making any kind of statements about your identity when they do this. It’s just custom and I wouldn’t anything deeper into the form of address.

          1. Judy*

            The only person who ever sent me things saying “Mrs John Smith” was my husband’s grandmother. She also addressed my Christmas gifts “To: John’s wife”. They must have told her what I liked, because she did give me a nice box of chocolates most years.

          2. some1*

            Coming from a MIL it could be telling, though, if she’s the “No One’s Good Enough For My Perfect Little Boy” type. “Dr. and Mrs. John Doe” could indeed suggest the MIL doesn’t see her as important, as her son is the only she sees the point in naming.

          1. Jamie*

            No. Etiquette isn’t about how to unfurl your parasol indoors*, it’s purpose is to give us some guidelines for social behavior so as to avoid manners anarchy.

            And it expands and adapts as society changes. 150 years ago you needed to know the rules about turning down the corners of calling cards – now people need to know not to stand too close when in line at an ATM and not to talk on their cell phones in the movies.

            People think of etiquette as the fussy (and fun) stuff like where finger bowls go in a place setting, what those sterling silver grape scissors you got as a wedding gift are for, and if it’s proper for a woman to shake hands while wearing evening gloves.

            Those are the amusing little facts I enjoy, but I don’t use them in day to day life. My grape scissors – still unused, ditto finger bowls unless you count sitting in the breakfront to be of use, and I don’t even own evening gloves.

            But etiquette is really about the rules we go by to live in a polite society. Etiquette is allowing passengers to exit an elevator before shoving on, about not talking through a play, about sending a thank you note when someone was kind enough to send you a gift. It’s gives us rules so we can marry, reproduce, and go through all of life’s milestones without offending people with our rudeness.

            Even those who have never read Miss Manners or Emily Post bridle when people behave in a rude manner.

            Of course we don’t all care about the same things, to the same degree, but if Alison posted a letter about someone who started clipping their toenails in a staff meeting and a wild one hit the OP in the eye there would be few on the side of the renegade toenail clipper. We’d all know that was rude, because there are rules of behavior when dealing with others. That’s etiquette.

            1. Jamie*

              * and that was trick question – there is no proper way to unfurl your parasol indoors. You wait until outside – anything else is uncivilized.

              1. Joey*

                Agreed. But the rules for responding to email and text invitations aren’t pulled out of thin air. They’re based on how to apply old fashioned standards in modern times, no? Please tell me if I’m wrong, I’m no etiquette aficionado so this is a weakly held opinion.

                1. Jamie*

                  I don’t those stem from old fashioned standards, just that the same standards apply as always.

                  I.e. it was always proper to accept an invitation in the media is was issued. In person or over the phone a verbal acceptance was always fine. If you were sent a written invitation you were to respond in writing (and modern RSVP cards are in response to people not responding with a handwritten note so they grew out of a desperation to find out how many plates you needed.)

                  It’s the same now – if you get an invitation in the mail send back the RSVP card. If you get it via email or text respond in kind.

                  It’s like the “new” etiquette of cell phone use…it’s always been rude to be loud and annoy others in a public place. Whether that’s a loud conversation with the person next to you or on your cell – it’s not new – it’s just adapting the old stuff to technology.

                  One of my favorites old but new things is how it’s completely and totally polite to not answer calls depending on who it is. Some find that rude but as Miss Manners has said many times, since antiquity it has been completely proper to be “in” to some callers and not to others. You don’t owe someone entry to your home physically or electronically if they are just dropping in unannounced – so feel free to take the calls you choose.

                  Granted, me rolling my eyes at the number on my caller id and tossing the phone back in my purse isn’t nearly as genteel as asking the butler to tell Mrs. Dropby-Withoutcalling that I am not in whilst I recline in a chaise lounge embroidering a sampler…but it’s the same principle and it works in any century.

                2. fposte*

                  I can’t tell if you’re using “old-fashioned” pejoratively or not. But basically, etiquette is like any theory, whether it be scientific or cultural–it builds on the past and adapts to present needs.

            2. fposte*

              “Even those who have never read Miss Manners or Emily Post bridle when people behave in a rude manner.”

              There’s a QI moment when they’re reading some historical text about men not kissing one another in England because it’s associated with the greatest possible sin. The panel agrees that it must be queue-barging.

        2. A Liberrian*

          Ditto. A women’s organization in my city addresses each married woman by their husband’s name (Mrs. John Doe). If she’s unmarried or divorced, she is addressed by Sally Spinster. So weird.

            1. Jamie*

              Yes! I knew there was one instance where it was okay to use Mrs. with a woman’s name (although I think even Miss Manners kind of equivocated on this) but it escaped me. This was it.

              I never used it because I took my maiden name back before the ink on my divorce papers were dry so I just used Ms. until I remarried.

              1. fposte*

                Well, there was also the era where it made a difference who was at fault in the divorce. Somewhere in there there’s “Mrs. Spinster Doe,” too, but I can’t remember if she’s a widow or a wronged woman.

                1. Jamie*

                  A spinster is an unmarried woman of a certain age. I don’t think you can reclaim spinsterhood.

                  Divorced woman can be many, many things – and I’ve been called most of them – but we just can’t unring that bell.

                2. Kelly L.*

                  I think fposte means Mrs. Maidenname Lastname, not actually using Spinster as a title.

                  I think Mrs. Herfirst Maidenname is if she was at fault, if I remember my old Emily Post correctly. Mrs. Herfirst Marriedname was if it was his fault.

                3. fposte*

                  Kelly L. got it–I was following A Liberrian’s use of “Spinster” as a last name. And I have just checked Miss Manners, and it is “Mrs. John Doe” if you’re a widow (initially wrote “window”) and “Mrs. Maidenname Doe” if you’re divorced.

        3. fposte*

          Sure, but you’re reading a lot of psychology into something that’s not happening for psychological reasons. It’s not like the right-hand car goes first at a four-way stop because it’s a slur against lefties, it’s just the convention. (And very few of us “have our own name”–if we didn’t get a name from our spouse, we probably got it from a parent.)

          I think honorifics are dying out generally except in some weird ways that are to me more unpleasant than general use of honorifics, though.

        4. Fiona*

          This. I can swallow “Mr. and Mrs. Husband’s Name” on rare occasions (wedding invitations come to mind) but MY name is (Mrs.) FIONA Sharedlastname, not Mrs. Husband’s Name.

          On a completely unrelated note, I’ve been married for 10+ years and I don’t think anyone has ever called me “Mrs” to my face, except for at my actual wedding. I just said it out loud as I was typing and it sounds really weird.

      2. Jamie*

        Yes, if her husband prefers Mr. then mom is incorrect (although I’d cut a little slack here to a proud mom.)

        And certainly if LV is a doctor or has a PhD as well then Dr. should be applied unilaterally.

        The Doctors Lastname
        Dr. Hisname
        Dr. Hername

      3. Imsostartled*

        While it may be “etiquette correct” currently, I do have to say that there is a large shift occurring in this thought. It’s like what we’ve been discussing above how Mrs. is rooted in patriarchy, as is referring to a women by her husbands first and last name. Personally it does offend me when I am addressed this way, because it signifies to me as it does LV that my value as a person has been washed away by marriage.

        It does seem to be a generational thing, most of the women I meet in my generation dislike being referred to as Mrs. Hisfirstname Hislastname, so it might be an etiquette rule making it’s way out of common usage as time goes on.

        For reference, I only go by Ms. even though I’m married, although typically I go by just my name without any honorifics.

        1. fposte*

          Our last names are also rooted in patriarchy, though, so it’s not like we’re casting off the shackles there.

          1. Jamie*

            This is not changing fast enough for one of my sons.

            He wants to change his last name to my maiden name – it’s not a political statement he just likes it better than the one their dad gave them. But as his dad has never been around much and I raised him, this is going to set off WWIII in assigning all kinds of emotional angst to what is actually a pretty shallow decision.

            Part of me doesn’t care, he should do what makes him happy and screw people who don’t understand. The other part of me is hoping he changes his mind because this is going to set off all kinds of unintended emotional landmines.

            He’s also open to ditching mine when he gets married and taking hers if it’s cooler than mine. So this is really just about style – no substance.

            I have extensive genealogical research on my family and I’ve always thought we should just be able to look at the list of names and pick the one we like.

            1. fposte*

              Yeah, I think people are doing a lot more exploring of their options now. I run in circles where there are a lot of variants–hyphenations, new names, parents keep names while baby gets new ones. My sympathies to the genealogists of 2200.

          2. Cat*

            Eh, I think it’s more complicated than that, though. Yeah, at some point in their history most people in modern U.S. society are going to have a last name that derives from a paternal ancestor because that’s how things were done. But that doesn’t mean you can’t do things in your generation that changes that meaning for you. The fact that naming conventions have been patriarchal doesn’t mean that you can never object to any patriarchal naming convention ever.

      1. H. Vane*

        I think it’s because a lot of people consider it pompous for a PhD to demand to be called Dr. So and So, but more people think it’s normal for an MD.

    3. Lia*

      Are you me? My ILs do this too. The amusing part (well, I laugh NOW but I was really ticked for a while) is that they send things to me individually as “Mrs. My FirstName HisLastName” — except…I never changed my name.

      My folks caught on right away but the ILs, nope. I’ve given up on getting that part through to them.

    4. Jen RO*

      I have no idea what etiquette in my country says about this, but I would hate it if I were married and someone addressed me as “Mrs John Doe”. I wouldn’t suddenly lose my identity the second I got married! Ugh.

      I do sometimes get addressed as “Mrs. Boyfriend’s Last Name” and I find it funny then, because it’s usually someone being confused (for example, we ordered our furniture in his name, and the lady at the store assumed we were married).

  54. Lanya*

    I can’t tell you how many times I have gotten “Hi, Patty, nice to meet ya!” immediately after I have introduced myself with my full name, “Patricia”. So maybe Mrs. Stark’s new coworkers will have the same disregard for what Mrs. Stark is asking to be called, and drop the honorific on their own.

    1. Katie the Fed*

      I have a friend, Patricia – this happens to her all the time too. But I think it’s very different to want to be called Mrs. so-and-so than to ask that you being given an honorific

      1. Kelly O*

        There is a difference, I think, between informally shortening someone’s name and calling them Mrs. Stark.

        And even then, if you introduce her as Catelyn and someone says “Nice to meet you, Cat” – THAT’s the point where you say “actually, I prefer to go by Catelyn, thanks.”

        1. Lanya*

          I agree totally that they are two different things. I am just generally hoping that Mrs. Stark’s coworkers will completely disregard the honorific.

  55. Gilby*

    I am kind of on the fence with this one. Although I see the issue with everyone being……Becky, John, Bill, Sue and so on and her being Mrs. Stark I am not following or agreeing with the bashing she is getting out of this.

    It is not like she is committing some deviant behavior by requesting this. I don’t think it is WEIRD. I am reading the org post and the responses and I am kind of sitting here going ……really? It is not the norm now and I get that. But it isn’t WEIRD.

    I don’t know if I would really care what she wants to be called as long as she does her job and is a great co-worker. And my guess is she doesn’t care what you want to be a called and will repect that.

    There are a lot of assumptions going on that she is pretentious, going to impose her view on names to others and so on and until that is proved why assume it? You don’t know how any new worker is going to be like until you have worked with them for a while.

    Judging someone by a name choice is really not nice and doesn’t make that person any better than the one they are judging. Ha ha.. she wants to be called Mrs. Stark.. ha ha. Really? But I am not like that….. yeah you are… you just made fun of her.

    OP, will you really LOOSE business because of it? If Mrs. Stark is great at whatever she does, do you think the client is going to dump the OP’s company for a name issue? I think we should give people a little more credit than that. Will they think it is odd? Yes, could be.

    They want their service to be great and if it is performed by “Mrs. Stark” will they really care? I am talking LOSS of business here. I like to give people a little more credit than that.

    Just think this is all a little too harsh for what this is about. Call her what she wants.

    1. Zelos*

      For me, it’s all about the power play (or what feels like one).

      I haven’t called someone Mr./Ms. anything since high school. That marks a clear differential in power, in that one is a child and the other is an adult.

      In a professional world? Yeah, you (general you, of course) may be older than me, you may have more experience, but the culture is that everyone goes by first name (in the company at the very least). You may be a great coworker, I may be happy to work with you and trust that you’ll get projects done…but if I call the CEO Marc and have to call you Ms. Stark because you insist on doing it? And you call me Zelos? I would feel like it’s a power play designed to treat me as a lesser. Maybe my title is lower than yours on the hierarchy, but I don’t like being treated as a child when we’re all professional adults.

      If you insist on it, I’ll go along with it. But I’ll definitely resent it unless you make a point to call EVERYONE, from the receptionist to the CEO, Ms./Mr. XYZ.

      1. Gilby*

        There is a lot of assumptions going on here.

        Unless some had PROVEN to me they are a snob hard to work with and so on, I am NOT going to assume you are any type of person just going by a name.

        1. Zelos*

          Depends on what you mean by hard to work with.

          She can most certainly complete projects efficiently, return emails promptly, and complete tasks without any problems regardless of whether she’s addressed as Catelyn or Ms. Stark. In that sense, sure, she can be easy to work with.

          But if she’s a Ms. Stark when everyone else from the CEO down is Marc, Joan, Steve, and Sara? It definitely implies a certain amount of distance/formality/authority, and I don’t like that. Judging by the comments above, I’m not the only one.

          1. Gilby*

            Well to me it implies nothing. I see where it can. Don’t get me wrong. I see that. But I will not determine that persons personality upon that.

            No matter what the person goes by they have the potenial to be snobby, slackers, blow-offs and so on.

            That is what I am trying to say here. Snobbiness doesn’t come from a name.

            I have worked with bossy, controlling, co-workers ( all of us have ) that were as snobby as heck. All went by their first name. Many had their noses in the air all the time. All going by a first name.

            We can’t sit there is determine a persons worth, snobbines air of greatness and so on based on a name.

            So again as I have said, you will welcome with open arms a guy named Harry and assume he is cool because he goes by Harry and but will be more apt to shun someone named Mrs. Jones because you percieve they are distant/too formal and so on? Because of a name?

            Mrs. Jones might have the key to that program you want to know better. Harry might throw you under the bus if a error occurs. Or visa verca. But I really doubt it was because of a name.

            1. Zelos*

              Starting from a position where I don’t know either Harry or Mrs. Jones? As they’re presented, Harry would make a better first impression to me than Mrs. Jones.

              Harry may very well throw me under the bus the first time something goes wrong. Mrs. Jones may very well be the very best coworker to walk the earth. I’m not disputing that a first name address doesn’t ensure the greatness of a coworker.

              But even if Mrs. Jones is the greatest coworker to walk this earth? Her address is going to make me feel like a child every time I have to talk to her, because in our culture, an honourific goes hand in hand with a power differential. No matter how great she is otherwise, I’d resent that a little (even as I go along with it). Will I outright shun her? No. Will I feel a little more weird/distant compared to all my other efficient, friendly, rockstar coworkers that go by their first names? You bet. If I compare awesome Mrs. Jones to lazy Harry, sure, Mrs. Jones will come out higher in my esteem. If I compare awesome Mrs. Jones to awesome John, Sara, and Spencer, all other things being equal? I’d definitely feel weird about Mrs. Jones, even a little.

              I think many would feel the same way as me. And I think that lingering annoyance will hurt her professionally. There is not much benefit to this practice and possible avenues of detriment, so why is it so important to Mrs. Jones that she has that honourific?

              1. Gilby*

                ” But even if Mrs. Jones is the greatest coworker to walk this earth? Her address is going to make me feel like a child every time I have to talk to her, because in our culture, an honourific goes hand in hand with a power differential…..” .
                You own your own self-esteem. No one can MAKE you feel anyway. That is your problem not hers.

                It it not anyones fault if you feel bad about yourself. If someone is referring to themself as
                ” Mrs “makes YOU feel like a child then I’d check with yourself first.

                1. Zelos*

                  My self esteem is fine, and I don’t feel bad about myself.

                  If Mrs. Jones refers to herself as Mrs. Jones, I’d think it was her quirk and go on my way. But I, and the vast majority of commenters, have a problem with her making the rest of us call her Mrs. Jones.

    2. Positivity Boy*

      But “Mrs.” isn’t a name, it’s a title. There are connotations to being referred to as Mr./Mrs. – a certain level of seniority, formality and authority are implied. To be clear, I don’t think she is doing any of this intentionally – I don’t get the sense that she’s trying to be condescending or snobby, but it’s not unnatural for her coworkers and other commentors to be put off by it. Think about the people you refer to as Mr. or Mrs. typically. Who are they and why do you refer to them that way? Why would you refer to a coworker whom you see every day that way when you don’t do it for anyone else?

      It’s easy to say “as long as they’re doing their job then let them do their thing,” but stuff like this does impact office culture and interpersonal relationships, which are part of the success of an office. If she were dressing inappropriate or had poor hygeine, would you also say “just let her do it as long as she’s not losing clients”?

      1. JCC*

        “But ‘Mrs.’ isn’t a name, it’s a title. There are connotations to being referred to as Mr./Mrs. – a certain level of seniority, formality and authority are implied. ”

        Do you feel the same way when someone is referred to by their first name rather than by their nickname?

        I only ask, because to me, Mr. and Ms. LastName has always just meant that you were talking to someone who wasn’t a teenager; no authority was implied unless you were a kid yourself. :-) It was more that hearing someone refer to someone else by their first name was a sign of junior status, informality or lack of authority — usually something reserved for kids or possibly childhood friends; that’s one of the reasons it was seen as such an insult to African-American adults to call them by their first names.

        1. Positivity Boy*

          I don’t think the reverse connotation you’re talking about (referring to someone as their first name being demeaning or implying they are your junior) applies at all in this case because the rest of the office calls each other by their first names regardless of age, position or seniority. My CEO is about 6 pay grades above me and 40 years older than me, but I’d still call him Craig if I saw him in the hallway because that’s the culture of my company.

          I don’t think this is similar to typical nicknames (like someone named William asking me to call them Bill) but for a truly informal nickname (like someone named William asking me to call him Big Willie) I would be equally put off if that wasn’t the expected level of formality for the office’s culture.

  56. Positivity Boy*

    Echoing the concerns of her fitting with the culture, I also have to wonder if she would still make one of her coworkers call her Mrs. Stark if she became friends with them. Unless she’s not there to make friends (she’s there to win!), but forcing a potentially alienating name on yourself gives me the impression that you’re not interested in becoming friends with anyone at the office. Which is fine, I guess, but still weird, especially in what seems like a pretty casual and friendly office.

    1. Jamie*

      That is a really good point – I didn’t think of that!

      Most people who become friendly over time go to a first name basis (if they didn’t start there.) So in time will she be Catelyn to Jean, Lionel, and Sandy – but Mrs. Stark to Alistair and Judy?

      Talk about an obvious ranking system of who you like amongst your co-workers. If she does this she shouldn’t alter it – ever.

      1. Mrs. Anonymous*

        I concede that many people probably won’t know how to handle this because it isn’t the norm any more, but this is not a tricky problem. In this situation, you are supposed to call your friend by his or her first name when in private or in social situations and continue to call them by the title they use at work while you are in the office or in work situations. You can use different names for different situations even when you know someone intimately.

      2. Prickly Pear*

        As long as she’s nice to Rocky and Madge, she’s okay with me!
        I didn’t think about friendship stratification either. If she has all these grand moments like “you may now call me Hyacinth as opposed to Mrs Bouquet” I could see that becoming a huge problem.
        Not that I wouldn’t giggle my way through that myself, and probably respond with “thanks, Mrs Bucket!” because I’m not nice.

    2. Gilby*

      So you would not be friends with someone SOLEY because of her name choice? You would not approach her the same way you would with Bob?

      ” I really like Mrs. Stark a lot but golly jeepers… she want to be called Mrs. Stark… strike her from my friendship circle”

      Really ??

      You will automatically assume she is……. whatever you are determining because of a name choice? You might be missing out on a really great person.

      1. Positivity Boy*

        That is not at all what I’m saying! What I’m saying is that if she asked me to call her Mrs. Stark and over time we became good friends, I would feel weird about still calling her Mrs. Stark in the office, especially when I called everyone else (whom I might not even have personal relationship with) by their first name. So would she let her friends in the office call her Catelyn? That just seems like it would cause more awkwardness between people she isn’t friends with.

        Refer to my last comment I left you – think about the people you refer to by Mr./Mrs. and why you do that. If someone introduces themselves to me as Mr. Greyjoy, I would assume that person expects us to have a formal, professional relationship and nothing more. Whereas if I called him Mr. Greyjoy and he said “Please, call me Theon,” that would give me a different image, one that means he expects us to at least be friendly and somewhat casual. Using different titles like that does create a certain first impression, and while that can obviously change over time, it just seems like a weird impression to make when it’s something as simple as going by your first name.

        1. Gilby*

          But I have truely never put that much energy and emphasis on worrying about that stuff.
          Hi my name is Mrs. Jones.. Me: Nice to meet you.
          Hi my name is Susie. Me: Nice to meet you.

          So then my next question might be to either one… so where did you get that purse it is really cute. Because I don’t care about her name choice. We have a common bond with purses. ( being silly but you get my point)

          If this person Mrs. Jones is warm and friendly why do I care about her wanting to be called Mrs. Jones?

          The impresssion is the handshake, the eye to eye contact, or lack there of. It is the smile, the warmth or not. You can get a crappy impression of someone named Bill just as easy.

          So if Mrs. Teapot introduces herself as Mrs. Teapot will that bother you even if she has a big smile, warm handshake and it is great meeting you? You will assume she wants formality?

          Forget the name. Observe the person to determine what they are like and if you want to be friends with them.

          And why are we assuming that people named Mrs… are more snobby, unapproachable and so on then if someone was called Harry? How many A-holes have you worked with that you called by their first name?

          Again, too much assuming based on a name.

          And if you are uncomfortable calling her Mrs… that is your deal not hers. It is not her fault that you don’t like it.
          She should not have to change her name to suit you.

          I get what you are saying with the titles. I do. But we as adults and intellegent people should have the ability to look past those things and look for what matter and assess as needed.

          1. Positivity Boy*

            I think we’re just going to agree to disagree, because your view on it is not the norm (as clearly evidenced by the 300+ comments saying it’s weird). It would be great if everyone could make completely unbiased judgments on a person 100% of the time based on extended periods of time together, but that is completely and utterly unrealistic. And again, I’m not saying that she would never be able to make friends with anyone and that the whole office is going to shun her for wanting to be called Mrs. I’m just saying it’s going to give an odd first impression and she shouldn’t be surprised by it when it happens.

            1. Gilby*

              Agree to disagree.

              No my view is not the norm. And I am proud of that.

              I know that when I meet Mrs.. at a job I will not pass judgement and think she is weird.

        2. SA*

          I see your point here. For example, say Mrs. Stark sits next to two coworkers named Jane and Mary. They both start out calling her Mrs. Stark. Over a period of time Mrs. Stark and Mary become friends and Mrs. Stark tells Mary she can use her first name. Now Mary is calling her Catelyn and Jane is still calling her Mrs. Stark. That starts to create a clique.

          The reality is that cliques happen and we likely all know who is in one. So that’s not really a difference. The difference here could be that this creates a more obvious divide excluding Jane and other co-workers and causes tension.

  57. doreen*

    This sort of formality between peers isn’t all that common even in government. Seriously, I work at an agency so formal that I have to stand when someone above a certain rank enters the room (thankfully, we need not salute) and even here, peers use either last name (no title) or first name in day-to day interactions with each other. There is more formality in other situations but it would be a real culture clash if someone wanted to be addressed as M_ McGillicutty by their peers.

    1. R*

      I used to work on the Hill, and even then we called the Congresswoman “Catelyn” when talking to her. It was only when we were around constituents or others that we called her “Congresswoman.”

  58. Poohbear McGriddles*

    While it would be nice if everyone got to be called what they wanted at work, I have never seen “Mrs. Smith” on a name tag at a retail store or restaurant. So I would imagine it is acceptable for an employer to require use of first names when dealing with customers if that is the company’s culture.

  59. Rain and Lemon Balm*

    To me, the big difference between this and “preferred name” question is that the Mrs. is a title or honorific. There’s a few people in my workplace who go by their last name instead of their first–at least one because he considers use of his first name an intimacy (it’s a cultural issue)–but they go by just Lastname, not Mr Lastname or Ms Lastname or Dr Lastname. If someone said, “Oh, I’d prefer to be called Stark,” I wouldn’t blink. It’s the honorific that makes it different.

    And part of the reason it’s different is that… well, if I came into a room and was introduced to Ned, Jon, and Mrs. Stark, I’d make some assumptions about who was the most senior person in the room (in terms of rank, not age). Honorifics and titles are not equivalent to preferred names or nicknames because they very often have social implications of status.

  60. Katie the Fed*

    FWIW, I’ve encountered this with PhDs. We’re a first-name type of organization, but we’ve had a couple people want to be called “Dr. So-and-so.” That’s a guaranteed way to make yourself seem like a pretentious jerk from day 1.

    1. Jennifer*

      Whenever I have to e-mail a professor about anything, I make by-goddamned-sure I say “Professor Whozums” because you never know which of them is going to make a big ol’ stink about wanting to be Professor Whozums. The biggest deal prof on campus does that and I got warned ahead of time on that one, thank goodness.

      Of course, the rest of the campus is all first names, except for the chancellor, but it’s not like any of us ever talk to the chancellor in person. She’s referred to by last name only. I’d probably just not call her anything if I had to talk to her.

  61. Boo*

    Heh. This reminds me of when the Chief Exec’s PA started putting “Firstname Lastname (Mrs)” in her email sig, like it was a Bsc or something. Yeah, I have to say I thought it was weird.

    1. Zelos*

      I actually don’t mind that, because I’ve gotten someone’s gender wrong before due to their names. Sometimes because the name is unisex; sometimes because I just made an error. Having the (Mr.) or (Ms.) helps and saves me from embarrassment.

      1. MaryMary*

        Is there a good way to indicate the gender of someone with a gender neutral name when emailing? There’s an attorney we often refer clients to named Stacy, and I feel obligated to let clients know Stacy is a man before they make awkward pronoun errors reaching out to him. Over the phone or in person, it’s easy to make a comment, but it seems strange in email.

        1. Dani X*

          Use a pronoun when you refer to him. So like “I will refer you to Stacy – he is our best chocolate teapot attorney”.

      2. Boo*

        In this case it just seemed peculiar because her first name is not gender neutral, and we have a very set format for our email signatures which does not include stating whether we are a Mr, Mrs, Miss etc. So the way she suddenly started tagging “Mrs” on the end after about we’d had these very structured email sigs about 3 years (and she hadn’t just got married or anything like that) seemed really odd and did smack a bit of some kind of superiority complex. I was so tempted to add “Ms” on the end of mine…

    2. fposte*

      That’s another thing that’s right by traditional etiquette. You don’t give yourself a title, so you can’t just sign “Mrs. Boo Boomer”–you use the parenthetical bit to identify how you should be addressed.

      1. A Bug!*

        Yup. I found it strange the first time I came across it, but in light of the fact that I’ve accidentally mis-gendered people whose names I mistakenly thought were exclusively one gender or the other, it makes a lot of sense and I appreciate it.

        1. fposte*

          I wonder if the move toward more fluid gender identities will bring something like this back as a way to alert people how we identify and what pronoun we prefer.

  62. smallbutmighty*

    I think there are some inherent problems in having or choosing a form of address that’s not the cultural norm in your workplace/your clients’ workplace.

    If you’re choosing to be addressed in a way that makes others uncomfortable, they’re going to just plain avoid addressing you. You’ll be “hey you” (or just “hey”) in the hallways. I’ll bet people will change their email behavior to avoid addressing you by name in any way, too. I’ll bet they’ll loop in other people so they can write “Hi all” or leave salutations off or even avoid contacting you if they can contact someone else who adheres to workplace norms instead.

    I’ve seen this play out in some interesting ways with our Japan team. In Japan, it’s traditional to address others as [Name]-san, and when we first began working directly with our Japan team, I saw lots of awkwardness and mistakes and “hello everyone” greetings to avoid the whole “san” question. It wasn’t until our leadership actually TOLD the Japan team, “It’s not necessary to use ‘san’ when you’re talking to the U.S. team” and told the U.S. team, “Please use ‘san’ for everyone on the Japan team unless they specifically instruct you otherwise” that we actually became comfortable talking to each other. And once we became comfortable talking to each other, the whole tone of the conversation changed.

    I guess what I’m trying to get across is that yeah, absolutely you have the right to be called anything you want, but when you knowingly choose something unusual, you’re putting up a barrier to free-flowing communication and dialogue that doesn’t really need to be there. Just ask The Artist Formerly Known As Prince.

    1. Ruffingit*

      Such a great point! It really does create unnecessary awkwardness and workarounds that will make people uncomfortable. Mrs. Stark needs to let it go and understand that this is not her formal working environment. She’s in a new place with new norms.

  63. Ruffingit*

    I would like an update on this because it seems like such a silly hill to die on for Mrs. Stark. We don’t know yet if she will choose this hill to die on (that is to say if she would quit because she can’t be referred to as Mrs. Stark), but I am curious as to whether she will just acquiesce and go with her first name and if not, why not. Doesn’t seem like such a big deal to me and it’s about fitting into the culture you’re in rather than the one you came from. If she’s unwilling to let this go, I have to wonder how great an employee she really is since she’s unwilling to embrace the new culture.

      1. Ruffingit*

        Confession: I’ve never seen Game of Thrones so references to the characters and places are lost on me. I just talk about death a lot. ;)

  64. MR*

    No. Just no.

    This isn’t making reasonable accommodations for someone who has a disability. This isn’t someone who wishes to go by Bob when their given name is Robert.

    This is someone who thinks they are bigger and more important than the group/company as a whole. It’s fine to find out what their objections are, but there is no need to change your cultural norms to fit this request. She either adopts or deals with the environment.

    1. JCC*

      Would you say that they thought they were bigger and more important than the group/company as a whole if they asked to be called their given first name instead of by their childhood nickname, even if it was a “fun” company where everyone called eachother Wiggles or Bam Bam or whatever else was popular on the playground?