Is it appropriate addressing your directs sweety or darling?

I have asked for their permission and all seem to be fine with it, event flattered.

Only one guy finds it inappropriate...

I know them only for one month.

Many thanks for your advice.

leanne's picture
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I don't know about 'appropriate', though my instinct is to say no, it isn't.

I can, however, tell you this:

I expect to be called sweetie or darling by my Significant Other. *Maybe* by family who've known me since I was a child (that is, my aunts and my grandmother; I don't think I would be comfortable hearing it from my uncles or my father). *Maybe* by very close friends.

I would be profoundly uncomfortable being called that by my boss. Exceedingly, twitchily uncomfortable. The exact nature of my discomfort would vary based on the gender and age (relative to myself).

I suspect this reaction would be different for people who:

a) grew up in an area where that was a routine thing for anybody to say to anybody else

b) were a high S or (probably) high I in the DISC model (if you haven't heard the DISC casts, this may not make sense; listen to them, they will help you *enormously*, especially, I suspect, with your other recent post).

Asking is good. Respecting the answers you were given is also good.

Just don't think of 'no' as a rejection, a rebellion, or anything else. People are different and while it can be easy to think 'I'm calling that because I want to be friendly, this person doesn't want me to call them that and therefore they're unfriendly', that is almost certainly not true. It's just that how they interpret the words is probably different - not wrong, just different - from how you mean it.

As Mark always says, communication is what the listener does - that is, the listener is the one who draws an interpretation, which may or may not be what you meant at all.

Also, in a more general sense, I wouldn't do it in a formal setting (presentation, briefing, possibly not even an annual review), or in front of senior management, because you don't know how *they'll* interpret it either.

Tori_74's picture

 Many thanks, makes sense.

Kootenay_Mike's picture

 Nope. Can't do it. Their spouses might think something is going on as well. 

mark_odell's picture


Tori, I'd be interested to know where you are in the world.  Also whether directs are male or female (assuming you are female).  As Leanne says, that will have an effect.

I don't automatically think it's a problem, it's not that far from "mate", "Buddy" or Mark's favourite, "dude"




Tori_74's picture

Hi Mark,

I am based in France. The female directs are ok with it, the male one finds it inappropriate. But he is an old school too...

Would you also mind to see my other forum topic about my problem with a DR?

Thank you in advance for your advice!




pucciot's picture
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For many folks those are terms of endearment reserved for intimate relationships or Flo and Alice at Mel's Diner.

And, because you asked, I suspect you already have a suspicion about that.


You shouldn't underestimate the sign that over your head (the one that says "I can fire you" ).

Just because you asked each of your directs if it was OK, doesn't mean they really meant it.

Did you ask, " How would you like me to address you ?" or "What kind of address would your prefer ?"

or did you say "Hey, is it OK with you if I call you sweetie?"


Unless I worked at a diner, southern dinner theater,  or some other kind of  "down home like" customer service environment, I would not like it.

And even if I did work at a place like that, I wouldn't like it when we were "off stage", not around customers.

( I grew up, live and work in South Florida, USA )


Many people feel that the work place _is_ a formal place, merely because it is a workplace.

Even if it was my mother I would ask her to be a little more formal at the workplace.


* Other considerations.

Be aware that you are not only interacting with your Directs, but also being watched and perceived by other managers, employees and customers.   What will they think is appropriate ?

I, personally, would, at first glance, not like to see a manager refer to a DR in such an endearing and personal way.  I would think the manager is being disrespectful -- if no other reason -- that I can't be sure if the manager asked the DR if it was OK.


Remember that you, as a manger, represent the company to all of the employees.

And that you, also as an employee, represent the company to the customers.


It's up to you to take a good look at your environment and be wise about what you are saying and how you are being perceived.

* It's not about what you want to do or say ?

* Is it effective and wise for you to be addressing DRs by those names ?

* Does it motivate them ?  Does it make them and/or the customers feel more homey and comfortable - or less comfortable ?

* Could another kind of address be just as effective without the risk of negative perceptions or the possibility of discomfort ?

* Can you go wrong by going the other way and just using other less affectionate addresses ?


Just something to chew on



scblaufuss's picture

My dentist calls me Sweetie. She's from Mississippi and has that southern accent. I figure she can call me anything she wants because she has the drills, needles, and picks.  But, I would never address my reports as Sweeting or Darling. I work in corporate USA and we have our Human Resources departments.

eatafrog's picture
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This is my first ever post to the forums. Here are my two cents: to Mark O, the podcast duo will use DUDE, quite a bit. The podcast if done in a spontaneous way, and Mark is relating to the audience in a way he things will connect with them. Mark also says something along the lines of "you must be smoking crack!" It's his podcast, and Mark is making a point, and driving it home when he says that. However, dude, and you must be on crack just don't strike me as professional in the workplace. I would advise against sweetie, honey, hun, or any term that might come across as endearing. That is the key point others have made: these are terms of endearment, so I would not be surprised of a significant otter felt jealous about her spouse being addressed as sweetie at a company function. One might be ok with terms of endearment in one organization, but should keep in mind certain unspoken rules of etiquette. You'll be expected to act professionally, and if you address your directs in that way, but not others, you are exerting role power over your directs. If you use endearing terms across the board, it is likely to be frowned upon.

lar12's picture
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 only two people call me sweetie or wife and my 85 yr old grandmother.I would find it highly inappropriate to call a direct by that term.



DISC: 7-1-2-4



Every definition of a successful life includes service to others - President George H.W. Bush



jsigned's picture

Simply do not call your DRs by terms of endearment.  It is completely inappropriate in the work place, regardless of how fond of them you are.  I refer to my directs by their name.  If a new hire comes in with a name that has common nick name like David vs Dave or Michael vs Mike I will ask their preference.  I think calling someone by their name shows them respect.

BTW I am awful at names, so if you're calling them sweetie because you struggle like me, I understand.  But, if I can do it so can you.