Forum for Science, Industry and Business

Sponsored by:     3M 
Search our Site:

 

Conversational ’black holes’ reveal uncertainty in offices

16.02.2005


The tension created between the supposed egalitarianism and the hierarchical realities of the American workplace can often cause conversational "black holes" during which employees avoid calling their bosses by any name, according to a Penn State researcher.



"Uncertainty over whether it is appropriate to call your boss ’Bob’ or ’Mr. Smith’ can create tension for employees in today’s workplace," says Dr. David A. Morand, professor of management at Penn State Harrisburg. "In today’s organizations, subordinates often address superiors by their first name. Subordinates are at times, however, reluctant to use the first name toward more powerful others due to this form’s presumption of familiarity."

At the same time, employees shy away from the main alternative, which is calling their boss by title, then last name (e.g. Mr. Brown, Ms. Smith, Dr. Lynn). Such a practice may suggest formality, exaggerated deference and even obsequiousness. The result is a conversational "black hole" when it comes to addressing the supervisor.


Morand is author of the paper, "Black Holes in Social Space: The Occurrence and Effects of Name-Avoidance in Organizations," in the current issue of the Journal of Applied Social Psychology. The survey group consisted of 74 students, with an average age of 30 years, enrolled part-time in an MBA program.

Survey participants were asked about the likelihood of using name avoidance if they were to encounter their boss or boss’ boss in a hall near their office. Morand measured naming patterns between employee and boss by having his subjects respond on a scale of one ("strongly disagree") to five ("strongly agree") to two statements: "I am able to be direct and to the point when speaking with this person" and "I can speak freely with this person."

"Respondents indicated that, compared to their boss or immediate supervisor, they were significantly more likely to employ name avoidance toward their bosses’ boss," the Penn State researcher notes. "In turn, they were more inclined to employ name avoidance toward their CEO in comparison to their bosses’ boss. We hypothesized that females – due to socialization patterns and their tendency to rank lower in the organizational chain of command – would be more apt than males to report using name avoidance toward their boss’ boss. This hypothesis was confirmed."

Even in organizational cultures that claim to be egalitarian, differences in status still affect personal interactions, creating the tension between power and equality.

The Penn State researcher says, "Subordinates who feel uncertainty in their relation with a superior, particularly one two or more levels removed, may hesitate to use that individual’s first name. And while title-last-name is theoretically available as an alternative, this option often tends to be perceived as overly formal or conversationally awkward. Employees thus resort to name avoidance as an escape valve of least resistance."

Communicative black holes involving employee and supervisor, especially supervisors on an upper level, can be corrected once both parties realize what is happening.

"When employees experience qualms about addressing a superior by his or her first name, they can either muster the courage to use the first name or call their superior by title and last name, thus verbally letting the superior know that they do not feel comfortable with first names," Morand notes. "Corporations can also resolve the problem of how to address superiors by having an explicit policy that spells out the appropriate situations for using first names."

Paul Blaum | EurekAlert!
Further information:
http://www.psu.edu

More articles from Social Sciences:

nachricht Fixating on faces
26.01.2017 | California Institute of Technology

nachricht Internet use in class tied to lower test scores
16.12.2016 | Michigan State University

All articles from Social Sciences >>>

The most recent press releases about innovation >>>

Die letzten 5 Focus-News des innovations-reports im Überblick:

Im Focus: Breakthrough with a chain of gold atoms

In the field of nanoscience, an international team of physicists with participants from Konstanz has achieved a breakthrough in understanding heat transport

In the field of nanoscience, an international team of physicists with participants from Konstanz has achieved a breakthrough in understanding heat transport

Im Focus: DNA repair: a new letter in the cell alphabet

Results reveal how discoveries may be hidden in scientific “blind spots”

Cells need to repair damaged DNA in our genes to prevent the development of cancer and other diseases. Our cells therefore activate and send “repair-proteins”...

Im Focus: Dresdner scientists print tomorrow’s world

The Fraunhofer IWS Dresden and Technische Universität Dresden inaugurated their jointly operated Center for Additive Manufacturing Dresden (AMCD) with a festive ceremony on February 7, 2017. Scientists from various disciplines perform research on materials, additive manufacturing processes and innovative technologies, which build up components in a layer by layer process. This technology opens up new horizons for component design and combinations of functions. For example during fabrication, electrical conductors and sensors are already able to be additively manufactured into components. They provide information about stress conditions of a product during operation.

The 3D-printing technology, or additive manufacturing as it is often called, has long made the step out of scientific research laboratories into industrial...

Im Focus: Mimicking nature's cellular architectures via 3-D printing

Research offers new level of control over the structure of 3-D printed materials

Nature does amazing things with limited design materials. Grass, for example, can support its own weight, resist strong wind loads, and recover after being...

Im Focus: Three Magnetic States for Each Hole

Nanometer-scale magnetic perforated grids could create new possibilities for computing. Together with international colleagues, scientists from the Helmholtz Zentrum Dresden-Rossendorf (HZDR) have shown how a cobalt grid can be reliably programmed at room temperature. In addition they discovered that for every hole ("antidot") three magnetic states can be configured. The results have been published in the journal "Scientific Reports".

Physicist Dr. Rantej Bali from the HZDR, together with scientists from Singapore and Australia, designed a special grid structure in a thin layer of cobalt in...

All Focus news of the innovation-report >>>

Anzeige

Anzeige

Event News

Booth and panel discussion – The Lindau Nobel Laureate Meetings at the AAAS 2017 Annual Meeting

13.02.2017 | Event News

Complex Loading versus Hidden Reserves

10.02.2017 | Event News

International Conference on Crystal Growth in Freiburg

09.02.2017 | Event News

 
Latest News

Stingless bees have their nests protected by soldiers

24.02.2017 | Life Sciences

New risk factors for anxiety disorders

24.02.2017 | Life Sciences

MWC 2017: 5G Capital Berlin

24.02.2017 | Trade Fair News

VideoLinks
B2B-VideoLinks
More VideoLinks >>>