People always call my boss by her first name.
I took a call from a man a few weeks ago who had a question about her view on something–he started out by calling her by her official title and last name, but then interrupted himself: “You know,” he said, “I just don’t feel like I can call her Sheriff Jones. I just have to call her Jessie.”
(Note: No, my boss isn’t a sheriff, and no, her name isn’t Jessie Jones. But she would be awesome at it if she was.)
Then this week, one of my coworkers noticed something. “When did they start writing ‘Jessie’ on our newspapers?” The folks in the main lobby keep our daily newspapers for us when they arrive in the morning, and I pick up our copy on my way up to the office. They write each office’s name on the front page so we know which is ours. When I first started, they were writing “Jones” on the front page, like they were doing for the guys in the office, Senator Butcher, Representative Baker, and Mayor Candlestick Maker. But sometime in the last week or so they stopped writing “Jones” and started writing “Jessie.”
I’ve even heard folks refer to her as Jessie and others by their last names in the same sentence–”If I don’t get a response from Jessie, I’ll be contacting Butcher, Baker, and Candlestickmaker too!”
Now, being, well, me, I was immediately skeptical of all this. Why only use her first name? She’s the first woman from our state to hold her current position, and she was also the first woman to hold several prominent positions prior to her election to this one, and it’s very obvious that she’s popular, at least baseds on the calls I get to the office.
But is it a sign of disrespect that folks call other leaders and politicians in our community and state by their title or last name and my boss by her first?
My boss herself doesn’t think so. The coworker who noticed the newspaper thing told me that she asked our boss if it bothered her. She replied that no, it didn’t bother her–in fact, she loved it. She loves that people feel comfortable enough with her to call her Jessie.
The more I think about it, the more I have to agree with her. While calling her by her title is certainly respectful (I definitely call her that in person), the fact that people call her by her first name does not put her at a disadvantage as a politician–who would you rather vote for, Mayor Candlestick Maker or your best buddy Jessie?
As I’ve said before, this part of the country can be a funny place. I’ve had men call me “sweetheart” on the phone before (and he was not a 90-year-old man thanking me for helping him with something, either–he was a 40-something guy who asked me whether he “needed to repeat his phone number, sweetheart”). And, full disclosure, we’re one of those states that currently has lawsuits pending because of our gay marriage and abortion laws. But at the same time, folks out here have a reputation of being friendly people (if not always the most forward-minded), and I think that my boss is right to take it as a compliment.
In fact, that’s my career advice for the week, folks–if you’re representing people, you need to make sure they like you. A lot. Enough to vote for you and maybe even donate some of their hard-earned money to your campaign. Or, if you’re managing a company, follow you and not despise you. It’s a delicate balance, though–people might not take you seriously if you don’t take yourself seriously. But my boss is really good at striking this balance: people take her seriously because she’s smart, speaks directly, and doesn’t back down from the principles she promised people when she ran for office. But she is also a casual, friendly, smiley person who is as quick to crack a joke with you as she is to hit you with a hard question when she needs to. So if you’re doing your job right, you might as well take the compliment and run with it.
Thoughts, folks? Would you rather be called by your first name or title? Is one more respectful? Does it depend? Have a good week!