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 Illinois researchers researchers find tweeting in cities lower than expected
21.02.2018 | University of Illinois College of Engineering

nachricht Polluted air may pollute our morality
08.02.2018 | Association for Psychological Science

All articles from Social Sciences >>>

The most recent press releases about innovation >>>

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

Im Focus: Self-illuminating pixels for a new display generation

There are videos on the internet that can make one marvel at technology. For example, a smartphone is casually bent around the arm or a thin-film display is rolled in all directions and with almost every diameter. From the user's point of view, this looks fantastic. From a professional point of view, however, the question arises: Is that already possible?

At Display Week 2018, scientists from the Fraunhofer Institute for Applied Polymer Research IAP will be demonstrating today’s technological possibilities and...

Im Focus: Explanation for puzzling quantum oscillations has been found

So-called quantum many-body scars allow quantum systems to stay out of equilibrium much longer, explaining experiment | Study published in Nature Physics

Recently, researchers from Harvard and MIT succeeded in trapping a record 53 atoms and individually controlling their quantum state, realizing what is called a...

Im Focus: Dozens of binaries from Milky Way's globular clusters could be detectable by LISA

Next-generation gravitational wave detector in space will complement LIGO on Earth

The historic first detection of gravitational waves from colliding black holes far outside our galaxy opened a new window to understanding the universe. A...

Im Focus: Entangled atoms shine in unison

A team led by Austrian experimental physicist Rainer Blatt has succeeded in characterizing the quantum entanglement of two spatially separated atoms by observing their light emission. This fundamental demonstration could lead to the development of highly sensitive optical gradiometers for the precise measurement of the gravitational field or the earth's magnetic field.

The age of quantum technology has long been heralded. Decades of research into the quantum world have led to the development of methods that make it possible...

Im Focus: Computer-Designed Customized Regenerative Heart Valves

Cardiovascular tissue engineering aims to treat heart disease with prostheses that grow and regenerate. Now, researchers from the University of Zurich, the Technical University Eindhoven and the Charité Berlin have successfully implanted regenerative heart valves, designed with the aid of computer simulations, into sheep for the first time.

Producing living tissue or organs based on human cells is one of the main research fields in regenerative medicine. Tissue engineering, which involves growing...

All Focus news of the innovation-report >>>

Anzeige

Anzeige

VideoLinks
Industry & Economy
Event News

Save the date: Forum European Neuroscience – 07-11 July 2018 in Berlin, Germany

02.05.2018 | Event News

Invitation to the upcoming "Current Topics in Bioinformatics: Big Data in Genomics and Medicine"

13.04.2018 | Event News

Unique scope of UV LED technologies and applications presented in Berlin: ICULTA-2018

12.04.2018 | Event News

 
Latest News

Matabele ants: Travelling faster with detours

22.05.2018 | Life Sciences

Flow of cerebrospinal fluid regulates neural stem cell division

22.05.2018 | Life Sciences

Chemists at FAU successfully demonstrate imine hydrogenation with inexpensive main group metal

22.05.2018 | Life Sciences

VideoLinks
Science & Research
Overview of more VideoLinks >>>