The First Name Professionals

Being an Indian, we never get the chance to call anyone, even a senior just by hierarchy, by their first names, traditionally. It is always ‘sir’ ‘Mr. Last Name’ ‘sirji’ ‘seth’ ‘malik’ ‘sahab’ and so on. We, Indians, pride ourselves with this tradition that should be called ‘honor name calling’ in my opinion. I call it ‘honor name calling’ because at most cases, it is ‘name calling’, but with a ‘superficial honor’. The people walking away from calling others by their first names, or endearing nicknames, are considered uncouth, or rowdy at most instances. It works in our traditional setting as we have been taught to respect elders very profusely. I think we do it more than required. Indians, going by this tradition, seem to believe that respect is earned by age, position and power, and not entirely by knowledge. Knowledge and its value is thereby degraded in this setting. We do not call our father or mother, or any family relation by their first names because for them, we have inherent respect of them bearing us until we grew old enough to bear with ourselves at last. I understand that anyone elder in the house has spent more time living and might possess more knowledge than a younger person. However, this does not mean that calling by first name in a Professional setting would bring down the respect towards this person’s knowledge or stature. In fact, it will create a sense of higher accessibility to his knowledge, and vice versa. A nervous young intern with some knowledge that can be very useful, but sounds confusing at first, is most probably going to get lost in translation of this “honor name calling”. This also kind-of binds us not to reason or argument too much with the senior at hand, as we have already submitted to the honor of his/ her name. To further clarify my opinion, assume that we are in an office setting,  and when we give respect to a senior colleague, out of tradition (read: not out of actual respect), we tend to force ourselves to do that, causing visible or invisible emotional imbalance to our mind. This is a big hindrance to how the conversation would go from there. We, sub-consciously, have admitted to a certain authority standing in front of us when we have not even made the point. It is a tool for any Authoritarian to avoid negative feedback. But with the passage of time, this traditional seasoning has led to a lot of sycophancy, or ass-licking or buttering-up as we call it. The original intention of this tradition seems to be keeping an authoritarian happy with respect to his/her superficial honor. At the first look, this tradition is particularly not bad, IF the authoritarians are not egotistically affected if someone calls them by their first name. Jodi Glickman, writing for Harvard Business Review in 2011, noted that calling even the VIPs by first name creates accessibility for both sides. It breezes away the nervous tension that a newbie professional would definitely have while discussing a professional issue with the higher-ups. So, let us break away of these superficial power moves, and be in a more honest professional environment, until we have not done our work on time, then its ‘sir’ ‘Mr. Last Name’ ‘sirji’ ‘seth’ ‘malik’ ‘sahab’ or whatever whets their superficial honor. ☺


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