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Guy Refuses To Address Coworker Formally Since She’s ‘Several Layers Down The Hierarchy’

man and woman at work
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We seem to live in a much less formal world than we used to.

Largely gone are the days when we would refer to someone we’ve only just met as “Mr., “Ms.” or “Mrs.”.

Even at many schools, children don’t refer to their teachers by Mr. or Mrs, but rather by their first names.

This evolution makes it somewhat surprising when we meet someone who expects to be addressed by Mr., Ms., or Mrs.

Redditor Lucky-Object170 certainly was when they were introduced to a new colleague, who always introduced herself as or addressed herself by “Ms.”.

However, the original poster (OP) was less than eager to oblige her request to address her in that way.

Mainly fro reasons others found to be pretentious and condescending.

Worried that they might have been disrespectful, the OP took to the subReddiit “Am I The A**hole (AITA), where they asked fellow Redditos:

“AITA for refusing to address someone by their chosen form of address?”

The OP explained why it got on their nerves that their colleague wished to be addressed by “Ms.” and their unwillingness to do so did not go over well with others.

“I have been with a company for six years now.”

“We are very informal with each other and have a fairly laid back culture.”

“The company president is Dave, my boss is Lou, I tell employees who call me Mr. Smith (fake name) that my name is Dennis and that there is no need for formality.”

“We recently hired a new employee. “

“The fake name I will give her for this post is Ginny Potter.”

“In coming on board with us, Ginny signed all of her e-mails Ms. Potter.”

“When she answers the phone it’s, ‘Good afternoon, this is Ms. Potter speaking’.”

“When she calls me, it’s, ‘Good Morning, Dennis, this is Ms. Potter’.”

“And my response is always, ‘Good morning, Ginny, how can I help you?'”

“If I send an e-mail to Ginny, the response is signed by Ms. Potter. Emphasis hers.”

“She is three levels below me in a different line of report in terms of company hierarchy.”

“So her supervisor’s boss reports to someone on the same level as me, if that makes sense.”

“It got back to me that she thinks I’m disrespectful for not calling her Ms. Potter when I speak to her.”

“When I spoke to others about it, most state that they just ignore it, don’t use a name to address her, respond to her queries, and let her call herself what she wants. “My boss thinks it’s idiotic and that she’s not at any level within the company to demand that.”

“When I told my wife, she replied that it’s obviously a button for this woman and I’m being an asshole by antagonizing her.”

“My counterpoint to this is that nobody in the company gets addressed formally and if I don’t call my boss or his boss by anything but their first names, I’m not going to formally address another employee several layers down the hierarchy.”

Fellow Redditors weighed in on where they believed the OP fell in this particular situation, by declaring:

  • NTA – Not The A**hole
  • YTA – You’re The A**hole
  • NAH – No A**holes Here
  • ESH – Everyone Sucks Here

The Reddit community was fairly divided as to whether or  not the OP was out of line.

Everyone agreed that the OP should address their colleague however she felt comfortable, regardless of her status in the office hierarchy.

“YTA she’s being very polite about how she wants to be addressed and you’re taking a crap all over it.”

“She wants to be Ms. Call her Ms.”

“Your position doesn’t excuse this behavior in fact it makes it worse.”- joeswastedtime

“Look, unless she’s asking you to address her as something truly awful and unreasonable.. like Hitler for example, just use her preferred name.”

“She is not below you, you are not above her, you’re both human beings.”

“YTA.”- singing_stream


“It’s about boundaries, not hierarchy.”

“Maybe she likes to keep it formal so she can draw a line between private affairs and work related stuff or she simply isn’t comfortable being called by her first name.”

“Absolutely nothing wrong with that.”

“Don’t you have more important things to tend to other than gossiping about coworkers and be a blabbermouth?”

“Honestly you sound exhausting to be around.”- AdmirableAvocado


“Ummm someone once said a nickname to me when I use my full formal name, my parents never shortened it.”

For example, he called me Cindy when he clearly saw my name tag as Cynthia.”

“I saw his name was Rick.”

He kept calling me Cindy.”

“All ducking day.”

“So I started call him Ricky.”

“Cindy this, Ricky that.”

“Finally he said “my name is not RICKY Cindy”

“’Oh I’m sorry, should I call you Dick? Bc Cindy is not my name’.”

“You are minimizing a grown ass woman.”

“Who cares what her position is?”

“Her name is Ms Potter.”

“You don’t know her personally.”

“She has not given you permission to call her by her first name.”

“Agree or not, it’s disrespectful.”

“She’s given you respect, why won’t you reciprocate?”- Notdoingitanymore

“Aside from trying to prove a point that you’re going to disrespect her based on rank, why can’t you call her Mrs. Potter?”

“YTA for antagonizing and using rank in this way as you’ve clearly made it known she is below you and you do not respect her.”- WindlordGwaihir10

“I just don’t think she’s right for the company culture.”

“Like wearing business attire in a place where people commonly wear shorts.”

“She’s not necessarily wrong for being wanting to be addressed like that, but not reading the company and adapting to certain cultures seems like she won’t be there long.”- Orangebiscuit234

“Is it that you want to be informal?”

“or that you dont want to be formal with someone below you?”

“you have to understand what your issue is. being formal with someone is an act of respect, something that should be given freely.”

“if your problem is that she is beneath you and you dont want to give her that respect, well, that seems a failing on your part.”- joanne122597

There were a few, however who agreed with the OP that their colleague was being a bit disrespectful by demanding to be called “ms.”, even if they thing the OP should have still obliged.


“She’s allowed to have her preferences and I suppose you should respect that, but at the same time I find it a bit disrespectful on her part to insist on a more formal address for herself in a work environment where that is extremely far from the norm.”

“It would be one thing if everyone used titles at your workplace and she wished to be properly referred to as ‘Dr.’ because she has a PhD but you insisted on saying Ms or Mrs.”

“But no one in your workplace uses Ms /Mrs /Mr / Dr so it’s just weird.”- SauronOMordor

There were a select few however, who felt that the OP was 100% in the right for being annoyed by their colleagues’ wishes.


I wonder if the people responding have never been in an office setting?”

“Particularly one with clients?”

“If you have one person referred to as Ms. Potter while everyone else is going by their first name, it can very much lead to misconceptions or situations where that person will be deferred to as the one in a position of power.”- JenJenMa

“I can’t remember the last time I called someone mr/ms and I’ve been working for years.”

“No one is going to want to work with her if she acts like that.”

“NTA, she sounds high maintenance.”- beito14159

“I am clearly in the minority but I think NTA.”

“To me this isn’t so much as a chosen form of address but a lack of adjusting to a business setting.”

“Each office/business/work place is different and one should be able to pick up cues as to how to behave within those norms.”

“It’s almost more of a disservice to Ginny that her manager has not discussed this with her in terms of her overall professional development.”- moa1347


“I personally am uninterested in calling others formal titles in the workplace, regardless of hierarchy.”

“You are still addressing her by her name.”

“I just wouldn’t address her by any name at all by name going forward since she’s so picky about it.”- scooter-scoots

“I’m going against the grain with a soft NTA.”

“Who does she think she is to go against the entire culture of the company and demand she be referred to formally by all of her superiors?”

“If she wants to do that, go ahead, but she better be ready to deal with the consequences which are people levels above her discussing how awkward it is, which is the reason for your post.”

“I feel a sense of entitlement here.”- DCBadman17

The OP is certainly entitled to their opinion regarding how he feels about their colleague’s wishes on how she wants to be addressed.

However, seeing as they don’t seem to know why she prefers to be addressed this way, perhaps the OP should reserve judgment and just refer to her that way

As really, what’s the harm in doing so?

Written by John Curtis

A novelist, picture book writer and native New Yorker, John is a graduate of Syracuse University and the children's media graduate program at Centennial College. When not staring at his computer monitor, you'll most likely find John sipping tea watching British comedies, or in the kitchen, taking a stab at the technical challenge on the most recent episode of 'The Great British Baking Show'.