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: Making lightweight construction suitable for series production

More and more automobile companies are focusing on body parts made of carbon fiber reinforced plastics (CFRP). However, manufacturing and repair costs must be further reduced in order to make CFRP more economical in use. Together with the Volkswagen AG and five other partners in the project HolQueSt 3D, the Laser Zentrum Hannover e.V. (LZH) has developed laser processes for the automatic trimming, drilling and repair of three-dimensional components.

Automated manufacturing processes are the basis for ultimately establishing the series production of CFRP components. In the project HolQueSt 3D, the LZH has...

Im Focus: Wonder material? Novel nanotube structure strengthens thin films for flexible electronics

Reflecting the structure of composites found in nature and the ancient world, researchers at the University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign have synthesized thin carbon nanotube (CNT) textiles that exhibit both high electrical conductivity and a level of toughness that is about fifty times higher than copper films, currently used in electronics.

"The structural robustness of thin metal films has significant importance for the reliable operation of smart skin and flexible electronics including...

Im Focus: Deep inside Galaxy M87

The nearby, giant radio galaxy M87 hosts a supermassive black hole (BH) and is well-known for its bright jet dominating the spectrum over ten orders of magnitude in frequency. Due to its proximity, jet prominence, and the large black hole mass, M87 is the best laboratory for investigating the formation, acceleration, and collimation of relativistic jets. A research team led by Silke Britzen from the Max Planck Institute for Radio Astronomy in Bonn, Germany, has found strong indication for turbulent processes connecting the accretion disk and the jet of that galaxy providing insights into the longstanding problem of the origin of astrophysical jets.

Supermassive black holes form some of the most enigmatic phenomena in astrophysics. Their enormous energy output is supposed to be generated by the...

Im Focus: A Quantum Low Pass for Photons

Physicists in Garching observe novel quantum effect that limits the number of emitted photons.

The probability to find a certain number of photons inside a laser pulse usually corresponds to a classical distribution of independent events, the so-called...

Im Focus: Microprocessors based on a layer of just three atoms

Microprocessors based on atomically thin materials hold the promise of the evolution of traditional processors as well as new applications in the field of flexible electronics. Now, a TU Wien research team led by Thomas Müller has made a breakthrough in this field as part of an ongoing research project.

Two-dimensional materials, or 2D materials for short, are extremely versatile, although – or often more precisely because – they are made up of just one or a...

All Focus news of the innovation-report >>>

Anzeige

Anzeige

Event News

Expert meeting “Health Business Connect” will connect international medical technology companies

20.04.2017 | Event News

Wenn der Computer das Gehirn austrickst

18.04.2017 | Event News

7th International Conference on Crystalline Silicon Photovoltaics in Freiburg on April 3-5, 2017

03.04.2017 | Event News

 
Latest News

NASA's Fermi catches gamma-ray flashes from tropical storms

25.04.2017 | Physics and Astronomy

Researchers invent process to make sustainable rubber, plastics

25.04.2017 | Materials Sciences

Transfecting cells gently – the LZH presents a GNOME prototype at the Labvolution 2017

25.04.2017 | Life Sciences

VideoLinks
B2B-VideoLinks
More VideoLinks >>>