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Mr, Ms, Mrs – out-dated etiquette or courtesy?

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HC Online | 23 Aug 2012, 12:00 AM Agree 0
In the digital age where acquaintances from five years ago are ‘friends’, and formal written language has fallen by the wayside thx 2 txt, the lines of business formalities have been similarly blurred.

  • Peter Macdonald | 23 Aug 2012, 01:30 PM Agree 0
    Disagree totally with Miss Daly's comments. Australians have always prided themselves on being personable and accessible. As a 54 year old i don't know one person who prefers to be called Mr or Mrs. Gen Y won't have it any other way!
  • David | 24 Aug 2012, 09:18 AM Agree 0
    Agreed in modern business, each person is seen as a professional in their field and of equal stature. The norm in team based environments. However, working in a team with professional titles, heraldic titles, across to the standard Mr, Miss, Ms, and Mrs, we often still use the title and the first name.
  • Tracy Mellor | 24 Aug 2012, 12:30 PM Agree 0
    I have only been in Australia for four years but in that time, not one person has called me Mrs Mellor - which is a good thing as Mrs Mellor is my ex mother in law - the thought of being called
    Ms is equally abhorrent!
  • S.B. | 24 Aug 2012, 12:57 PM Agree 0
    It is not just the matter of being a professional in the field or of equal status. I look at this more a respectful behaviour towards people older than me or women at workplace. It is bizarre for a 60 years old person to be called by his/her first name by a 20 years old guy. As a 43 years old person, I personally prefer to call anyone more than 10 years older than me by their family names, unless they let me call them by their first name. And of course I am more strict on this with respect to older ladies at work.
  • Deb | 24 Aug 2012, 01:05 PM Agree 0
    I was working for Target 18 years ago when the ruling came through that EVERYONE was to be addressed by their first name. Some staff really struggled calling senior management by their first names but it did create a more relaxed atmosphere.
  • Karl | 28 Aug 2012, 11:50 AM Agree 0
    As a 25yo growing up in Australia I've been taught to always address people by their respected titles even as far as to properly address children their title of 'master'. I would never be seen dead calling someone by their first name as it completely disrespectful.
  • Soozy | 29 Aug 2012, 04:07 PM Agree 0
    I'm sure it's Ms Dally-Watkins if you really want to get it right.
  • McKay | 30 Aug 2012, 03:36 PM Agree 0
    These are te little things we let go of, telling ourselves we are "progressive" but we never consider what else we are leaving behind, like courtesy and respect. They have not fallen directly because of this, but this certainly hasn't helped.
  • Peter Ryan | 25 Sep 2012, 07:33 AM Agree 0
    I think June Dally-Watkins is out of touch in modern corporate Australia. Using a first name is no sign of disrespect, it is healthy. That is not to say that other examples ofvcourtesy and respect shouldn't be adhered to.
  • Pete | 25 Sep 2012, 12:10 PM Agree 0
    I guess there is a "change in times" here as my parents (early 60's) always taught me to call an elder person than myself by Mr. Mrs etc unless otherwise told to call them by their christian name. After being in HR for 25 years I can understand that the friendliness of referring to someone with their christian name straight off does provide the thoughts of a level playing field and that is important because as there is too much "them and us" in the world let alone the business. Gauging the situation you are in is also important eg, work as opposed to being with a high level dignitary or even culturally. I guess you wouldn't call the Queen - Lizzy for argument sake!
  • Catherine | 30 Jul 2013, 10:21 PM Agree 0
    I do not want to use a title; and should not be forced to select one, every time I fill out a form. I don't object to other people using one if they feel the need, but they sre irrelevant. Why doe anyone need to know my gender or speculate on my marital status when I fill out a firm? Surely, the HR profession should get the antiquated nature of this relic of the days when nobody addresses each other by their first names.
  • Kris | 11 Jun 2014, 04:30 AM Agree 0
    I totally agree with Catherine's thoughts on this, and for myself, I also don't have any need for anyone to address me using an honorific title as I have a perfectly good actual name that is entirely sufficient for the purposes of greeting and identification.
  • Vera | 11 Jun 2014, 01:31 PM Agree 0
    Thankyou Kris for resurrecting this discussion. I believe that the gender and date of birth are necessary on many documents (especially government or banking) as a form of identification; e.g. there could be many Kris Smiths, but possibly only one male Kris Smith born on 12/09/1975. Whether we need Mr/Mrs/Ms/Miss is the debatable issue. (Surely just M/F is enough?)

    As a rule of thumb, in speech, as distinct from written format, I do use the title and surname (Mr Smith) for those of the "older than me" group; for those my own age or younger, I generally jump straight into the first name.

    I do think it is both courteous and correct etiquette to do so. Usually, the older person then invites me to use their first name.
  • Ronnie | 11 Jun 2014, 02:03 PM Agree 0
    I would find it very odd not to be called by my Christian name. I wouldn't want to be treated differently than my colleagues just because I am 67. I appreciate respect at all times however respect is not demonstrated by addressing you with a Mr Mrs or Ms. Today's working society is more informal and that is a positive. Obviously I have been through the Mr Mrs and heard the Ms scorned at, being 67, however call me by my Christian name always.
  • Sue H | 11 Jun 2014, 02:53 PM Agree 0
    It surely depends on context.
    In my experience in the corporate world first names are most often used when addressing colleagues. In general, it is seen as "old fashioned" to use formal titles, unless it is for a customer/client on initial meeting and they give you permission to use first name.
    That being said at my daughter's high school, the students have to use Mr/Mrs/Ms when addressing their teachers and school staff. I think it succeeds in preventing over familiarity/cheekiness by the teenagers!
  • Delia | 11 Jun 2014, 04:28 PM Agree 0
    Good manners are NEVER out of fashion; and HR professionals are not exempt. Oh, we can say we are modern, or creating a level playing field, or that titles are irrelevant; but we also must be able to recognise when it is appropriate to use such titles.
  • John C | 13 Jun 2014, 01:01 PM Agree 0
    My personal belief is that everyone you meet for the first time should be referred to by their Title and Surname (i.e. Ms Smith) until invited to by that person to use their Christian or preferred name (some people like being called by their middle name and not their first name), most particularly in a business environment. Certainly if the person is older than myself it shows respect to that person. If the person is younger than myself I will ask if they mind if I can call them by their first name. In most cases this will be given and shows respect to that person for asking first and not taken them for granted. The only exception of course to this is where you are dealing with staff members (i.e. Supermarkets) who have just their first name on a badge where you have little option other than to address them by that name.

    I know when I am addressed by my Surname, particularly by a younger person in a business environment, it is most appreciated and acknowledged as a courtesy. They are usually encouraged after this to call me by my first name.

    Call me old fashioned, however etiquette is still appreciated, and we have become lazy. We can take a leaf from the Yanks as even when I deal with someone in the US on the telephone, their use of the word Sir (because they don't know me or have not met me) shows respect. Business is communicating with people and first impressions always count which most importantly is the initial respect you show to the other person whom you meet or deal with for the first time. I agree with Ms Dally-Watkins.
  • Catherine Cahill | 13 Jun 2014, 02:34 PM Agree 0
    I would just like to repeat my request. I do not want to use a Title. I do not want to be compelled to choose one.

    I do not care if other people want to use one, and want other people to address them with their Title and their surname.

    However, I want the choice to not have this system imposed on me.

    I would like all forms to have an additional tick box "no title". Some very forward thinking companies already do this. Let's be inclusive…

    It is my personal belief that as long as males have one choice and women have three - we are imposing some sort of value judgement on the women.
    • Troy | 22 Apr 2015, 05:43 PM Agree 0
      I'm right there with you. I understand it's now illegal in Australia to enforce the use of one.

      I constantly have the conversation with companies who insist on calling me 'Mr'. I am not 'Mr'. There's none on my driver's licence, none on my passport (titles are actually prohibited on passports BTW). Calling me 'Mr' is incorrect.
  • Rebecca | 13 Jun 2014, 03:50 PM Agree 0
    I have been brought up with addressing people older than you as Mr/Miss/Mrs/Ms ... which as a child, unless told otherwise I think still stands as being respectful.
    In the workplace, colleagues and managers are called by their first names, however customers should always be called by their title & surname (unless they suggest otherwise), even after this I would still call people by their title - it demonstrates respect.
  • Rebecca | 13 Jun 2014, 03:55 PM Agree 0
    my grandmother (in her late 80's) has people on the phone say 'Hi Mrs XXX, may I call you Maxine?' and she says 'no'.

    I think it is wrong to ask someone 'can I call you...?' if someone has a preferance, they will let you know.

    I also think calling people by a nickname isn't something people should do unless you know the person really well or they say 'call me...' e.g. I have introduced myself as Rebecca and I have had people at work refer to me as Becki... I hate it!! I makes me feel like I am a 5 year old girl!!
  • John C | 16 Jun 2014, 10:34 AM Agree 0
    Catherine C, your comment is not entirely correct. In more formal times we had the titles of Master or Mr for the male of the species usually related to age and Miss or Mrs for the female of the species. Along came the Women's Feminist Movement (led by our own Aussie Germain Greer) who decided that it was discriminatory to use either pre-fix, so they added the third pre-fix Ms. This just caused confusion. So in the spirit of compliance I suggested to my daughter that the title she should use is Ms! Well that started WW III where she in very strongest of terms advised me that she was not a Ms and as she is not married not Mrs and that her title is Miss! I am confused! However the rest of the posts I am reading would suggest that in the main respectful courtesy is still alive and people do have the choice as to how they wish others to address them.

    Rebecca, if some calls you Becci, which you dislike, then by all means ask them/remind them your name is Rebecca in a firm and polite manner. Usually once enough.
  • Delia | 16 Jun 2014, 11:03 AM Agree 0
    Agree with John C.

    My sons' friends still call me Mrs Surname, even though they are in their 30s. I have suggested that they use my first name, but they do not feel comfortable doing so.

    A title is not just an unneccessary appendage, it is also a convenient "handle" by which to address someone; and it prevents over-familiarity.
  • John C | 16 Jun 2014, 11:35 AM Agree 0
    Delia, I completely get & understand that. Being the mother of their friend they will not disrespect your son & their friendship by disrespecting you. I get this with the friends of my son and daughter all the time. I must say once they have gotten to know me they feel more comfortable then it is easier. The fact that the kids do this shows in my world, that they have been educated by their parents to show respect to others. In my opinion not enough of this is practised today.
  • Cheryl | 15 Jun 2016, 02:22 PM Agree 0
    Not using first names unless invited? What century does June Daly Watkins live in? Next she'll be espousing not talking above your 'station' either...
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