“Would you mind if we refer to you by your first name?” Employers and business associates ask this question in order to make the formal value exchange less clinical. Think of it as an honest attempt at rapport. After all, few words or phrases are as sweet to us as our name; only “free food” and “yes” come to mind. So what happens when a name changes?
QUEST Cohort 20 juniors Leora Prince, Eric Coraggio, TJ Falohun, Hannah Breakstone, and Mengze Xu are dealing with just that. In their 498 project with Beckton Dickson and Company (BD), their project managers have requested that they address each other on a first name basis. This is an easy task since the associations of Mr. and Ms. have yet to be formed; the trick comes in addressing Dr. Bailey, who acts as their mentor and sits in meetings on occasion.
Sensing that it would be inappropriate to refer to him formally when the client has requested a more casual air, Dr. Bailey has requested that the group call him by his first name, “Joe.” I walked into the QUEST lab to see the students laughing with each other after their brief meeting. Habits are quick to form and slow to change:
“He’s my professor so it’s odd calling him by his first name,” says Junior Marketing student, Hannah Breakstone. “…when I’m with people who are not on my consulting team it’s strange to have the privilege of calling him ‘Joe.’”
There’s wisdom in the practice. By referring to our beloved Dr. Bailey as “Joe,” they avoid creating that dreaded “elephant in the room” when meeting with and presenting to clients. Even so, there’s a consensus amongst the team that the change is “just weird.”