According to the news website Live Science .com, a new study confirms what many workers already know: Not knowing WHAT to call some superiors can cause employees to clam up, creating what researchers call a "conversational black hole." That's when absolutely nothing gets said. For example, if you were chatting with some of the guys in accounting and the CEO tried to get in on the conversation, things would probably come to a screeching halt if you didn't know how to address him.
David Morand is a professor of management at Penn State. And he says that not knowing whether to refer to power-people by their first or last name can create tension for employees--And women are more likely than men to wallow in the black hole. He says it's probably due to their tendency to rank lower in the company's chain of command, giving them more bosses to worry about. So what can be done to stop this? Morand suggests one of two things.
Because using first names is pretty common in today's workplace, simply muster the courage to address the big-wigs this way--If you don't want to risk it, try this trick: Call them by their title and last name. For example, "Nice to see you Senior Vice President Patterson." I know it sounds awkward, but that's the point. When the person hears it, they'll appreciate the respect, but they'll probably offer up another option "Oh please, call me Jack." And if you ARE a big-wig, you can ease your employees' anxiety by creating a policy that spells out the appropriate situations for using first names. This will make for a much more relaxed work environment.