Ask Laskas: “Is Ma’am Offensive?”

Jeanne Marie Laskas writes our magazine's monthly advice column; now it's your turn to help solve readers' problems.

Ask Laskas: “Is Ma’am Offensive?”

Reader Question: I’m the youngest person at my current job, and I’m naturally inclined to address upper management as “sir” or “ma’am.” However, I’ve received some backlash on using these respectful terms. Whats the big deal? Have people really become that sensitive? I still see nothing wrong with my courteous mannerisms.
—Perplexed Youngster

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306 thoughts on “Ask Laskas: “Is Ma’am Offensive?”

  1. It is offensive because in America, in the South, the term was only to be used by black sleaves and was only to be used to refer to their married slave owners. In fact, there used to be a law in place that white people were not allowed to use that word. Somehow, it has become a sign of respect. However, if you look at it from coming from the French word Madam,

    1. Then only a married woman would be called ma’am. However, the French do not use ma’am, they use madam.And the Queen of England is mum or mom. A sign of respect is to use the name or the title.

  2. They’re just words, who cares? And if you really think about it, why should you be expected to show an elevated level of respect to people who are in a position above you? Really though, what have they done to make them better than anyone else? We’re all just people. In my head ma’am and sir are the same as calling someone woman or man in a more formal way. They just fill space. Do what you want.

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  4. In the upper strata of old southern society, ma’am and sir were only to be used by servants or shopkeepers, in deference to their ‘betters’. It was considered the height of indelicacy for a child to call his mother ‘ma’am’, or his father ‘sir’. My great-grandmother had a conniption fit when one of my cousins called her ‘ma’am’ once. As I had already been fully indoctrinated by my mother (who had been indoctrinated by her father), I was fortunate enough not to make that mistake.

  5. I’m a 43 year old male that served in the US Army and can vividly recall the drill sergeant from basic training screaming at another private “Sir?! You don’t call me sir, I WORK for a living!” He was referring to the fact that the titles “Sir” and “Ma’am” were reserved for officers. However, now at my advanced age I not only cringe when called sir because it makes me feel old, I get downright angry. I feel as though you are implying that I am old. In the workplace try replacing “Yes sir.” with “I’ll get right on that.” if asked to perform a task or “Absolutely.” if asked a question requiring a positive answer.

  6. Depends on your job. I’m an accountant and we just call eachother by our first names.

    I’m not typically a formal person either but if a stranger refers to me as m’am, I realize they are being formal and respond in kind with m’am or sir to them such as “excuse me ma’m” “oh, no problem sir” or “no problem m’am”

  7. Addressing your elders at work or play, as Miss or Sir is  showing RESPECT for that indiviual.  What I HATE is being called “Sweetie”, “Honey”, etc. by a waitress!  Worse is addressing the same to my husband.  He is NOT your “Sweetie”, he’s MINE.

  8. i was 24 and someone called me sir, my stomach sank into my balls .. do i look that old to you? lol

  9. also the main defense I hear of Ma’am is that it is courteous or polite and if people dont appreciate it that is their problem.  Ideally the whole point of politeness is to make others feel good.  In this defense of Ma’am it seems more as if iat is utilised to make the person saying it feel as if they are well bred and polite rather than to actually make someone feel good.  Even if I deem something polite due to my upbringing, however I know that it makes many people feel bad about themselves I think I would let go of my need to make myself feel good that I was polite in that instance.

  10. I find it very offensive.  It actually just plain makes me feel bad.  (most of my friends agree).  It makes me feel like I look older and not cute and sexy.  If someone thinks I happen to look older than them , over 30 whatever I cant control that but it doesnt feel very good to have them point it out. We all have bad “hair, face, skin, weight” days.  Usually if someone notices it is best they keep it to themselves. 

  11. I’d reply that I was brought up with manners and I was expected to be polite to others. 

  12. I’d reply that I was brought up with manners and I was expected to be polite to others. 

  13. Continue to say Ma’am and sir. I is a sign of respect or of authority. If they object, then ask them what they want to be called. It’s hard to undo manners no matter what age you are.

  14. I’m in my 30’s and from the south.  I often say ma’am to women of all ages, even teens.  But I am happy to change it to ‘moron’ for anyone so politically correct as to take offense.

  15. the united states goverment exspects it citizens to report an inbreeding problem to a federal agency. i suggest that the goverment compare population census numbers with crime rates. in 1984 an infestation was found in marshall county min. that county had a population of less than 8500 people.  the city of philadelphia had the same crime rate with more than one and a half million people. 

  16. I too use ma’am and sir as a term of respect,  If someone tells me that they are offended by its use, I explain that I mean it in only a respectful way.  Because the goal is respect, however, I would respect their wishes if they prefer for me not to use it and try to call them by their preferred name. I would also ask for their understanding if I slip up and use the terminology again because it is a part of my upbringing.  Most of the time, people are understanding and appreciate that you make the effort to make them feel comfortable with the way you address them.

    Kathy Babineaux – Southern born and bred

  17. In the October RD, the question about speaking to someone on a cell phone in the restroom: People never cut off saying, I’m busy now.  They keep talking.  If it were me and personal, I would not blab outloud.  If the overheard conversation seems too personal to you, cough or something. If the conversation continues then endure it and say nothing. The dirty laundry is on thier heads.

  18. when europe got rid of its inbreeding problem 80 years ago,first they killed off everyone five feet two and under, and that took care of more than 54%. but then they looked around almost a decade later and there was even more of it. so they probably should have just started with everyone five feet and under.

  19. signs of inbreeding women with deep grooves and crevices on the backs of thier lower calves after age 50, men with four inch hips, club foot, dark blonde hair,brown eyes with peachy colored skin, (thats how its worded on the list the us. goverment has),  pointed ears, u shaped mouth,  children born with dark skin on thier faces but not on thier bodies, women with darkblonde hair and red hair on thier armpits and legs. pernod colored eyes,  (splotchy blue eyes with green& sometimes brown spots in them.)   

  20. im 42 and  i still say ma’am to my childrens teachers. but if its offensive to them you shouldnt call them maam or sir.

  21. This is just petty-picking nonsense really. The Terms Ma’am or Sir are just common courtesy words that have been used in this country for years. Even in professional businesses or conducting business it has been used.

    There is nothing wrong using a neutral and respectful terms such as Ma’m or Sir but there are those out there now for whatever reason who may deem it as a reflection upon their age specifically(?) or some other mentality, rather than common courtesy of a neutral terminology.

    There are a variety of people who work at the workplace that come from all different backgrounds and mannerisms. Sorry to say our country is involving into extreme liberalism that even the terms “Ma’m” and “Sir” are considered offensive by some now.

  22. Then they will always be your superiors. I have recently moved to the south east and even when I am consulting with another professional I am answered with, yes ma’am. I am not looking for a polite answer, I am looking for the best answer. I do not need to feel superior because I have employed this person, I am looking for a professional response and someone who has the confidence to speak in an intelligent and informative way. I even find it annoying when children use this term. I would rather hear, yes Mrs. Mills. How can you ever get promoted if you do not wish to be looked at as an equal. If I had a title, such as headmaster at school, I would rather hear from my students, yes, headmaster Mills as a sign of respect . Ma’am doesn’t show any respect as a word for ones accomplishments, no matter what age.

  23. Then they will always be your superiors. I have recently moved to the south east and even when I am consulting with another professional I am answered with, yes ma’am. I am not looking for a polite answer, I am looking for the best answer. I do not need to feel superior because I have employed this person, I am looking for a professional response and someone who has the confidence to speak in an intelligent and informative way. I even find it annoying when children use this term. I would rather hear, yes Mrs. Mills. How can you ever get promoted if you do not wish to be looked at as an equal. If I had a title, such as headmaster at school, I would rather hear from my students, yes, headmaster Mills as a sign of respect . Ma’am doesn’t show any respect as a word for ones accomplishments, no matter what age.

  24. You’re in a busy adult workforce and you’re expected to relate to your colleagues and upper-level management in a more grownup way as colleagues, not as parents, older relatives or teachers.  Save “ma’am” for the hierarchical relationships in your personal life, not for work.  Dispensing with the “courteous titles” shows that you’re ready to consider yourself the equal of your coworkers.  Remember, too, that your colleagues and management consider themselves as professionals and a case can be made that in some contexts, “ma’am” and “sir” sound demeaning and patronizing and undermines a professional’s competence.  This is an especially sensitive area for women who have had to fight harder than men for professional career advancement and do not appreciate being talked down to.  Remember this when a junior colleague of yours some day addresses you as “ma’am” to be courteous and polite.   

  25. You know, the problem is people use ma’am and sir for those older than themselves.  Ma’am and Sir are not about age.  They’re about showing respect for people in authority and strangers whose name you do not yet know.  I use ma’am for every adult woman in authority or every adult woman I don’t know personally.  Miss should be retired because it is for little girls and has no male equivalent.  Ma’am is a polite form of address for a woman.  Not a woman of a certain age.  Just a woman.  If people used it correctly, nobody would get offended.

  26. Your colleagues may take offense to your usage of “ma’am” and “sir” because of various reasons. In the South, such terms are expected and often the norm. I noticed that “transplants” from other parts of the country often feel uncomfortable being addressed so formally. Others may take offense because they believe that “ma’am” should be reserved for only older women. Either way, I encourage you to continue using the terms. If people react negatively, it would be best to calmly explain that you only meant to impart respect and deference with the terms. It seems that many people today are just not aware of the meaning behind “ma’am” and “sir.”

  27. personally i always find it annoying when anyone feels offended that i’ve called them ma’am.  to me, it is a term of respect, & has NOTHING to do w/age.  i would use the term w/anyone to whom i’m trying to show respect, REGARDLESS of their age.

  28. Using the word Ma’am, in my opinion should be addressed to people who you do not know. But when you know that persons first or last name.  Why can’t you address them as Ms. Dorothy, or Mr. Herbert.  To what their name is.  They are not strangers. 

  29. Dear Perplexed,
    Are you using terms of respect?  Yes.  But unlike Latin, English is a living language and our culture has become more casual.  It sounds like sir and ma’am may be too formal and out of place in your work place, just like it would be out of place to wear a tuxedo to a demolition derby.  Show your respect in what you say and how you say it, and be sensitive to the environment that your company is trying to maintain.  Save sir and ma’am for those who expect and appreciate it.

  30. Times change. Sensibilities change. Addresses change.  Those terms were considered respectful at some time and in some institutions.  Over time they have earned other not so respectful connotations.  For instance, in the military a lower ranking non-commissioned member is supposed to address Officers (commissioned) with ‘Sir’ or ‘Ma’am’ – but there was a ‘joke’ that Officers do not work, so when you address someone with ‘Sir’ or ‘Ma’am’ outside the military you may get the response, “Don’t call me ‘Sir’ (or ‘Ma’am’) because I work for a living”.  I won’t go into what ‘Ma’am’ brings thoughts of to some people.  In the business and professional world it would be more respectful to rightfully call or address a person by their name:  Mr. Jones or Mrs. Smith until they say “Thanks, but you can call me Bob or Jane”.

  31. Some people don’t like to be called ‘sir’ or ‘ma’am’ because they think it implies that they’re ‘older’. All in all, you’re not really wrong here, since you’re trying to be polite. If you can remember who doesn’t like to be refered to by these kind of terms, and only call others these terms, you will be the best off.

  32. Dear Mr. Perplexed,
    Bet the backlashes have come from your peers and not from upper management.  Good manners are slowly coming back to everyday life thanks to people like you.  Also bet, upper management got there by showing respect to upper management during their trip up.  Keep up the good manners.

  33. Good manners is never bad or out of place.  That being said, I grew up in the South, so “yes m’am” and “no sir” were part of our vocabulary.  When I went north, those phrases were not appreciated, but rather “yes, Mrs. Jones” and “no, Mrs. Smith”

  34. No it is not offensive!!! I was raised to say yes/no Mam/Sir. I was born and raised in Ga. moved to Ohio a few years ago and was actually threatened with my job if I did not stop calling a memeber of management SIR. Also ppl always ask me if I’ve served in the military because of the yes/no mam/sir. You know why you say it. If you’re saying it out of respect do not let other ppl. affect the way you show respect. The main reason ppl give u a hard time is because you probably make them feel bad because they probably were not taught RESPECT!!! And remember LET YOUR HATERS BE YOUR  MOTIVATOR

  35. No it is not offensive!!! I was raised to say yes/no Mam/Sir. I was born and raised in Ga. moved to Ohio a few years ago and was actually threatened with my job if I did not stop calling a memeber of management SIR. Also ppl always ask me if I’ve served in the military because of the yes/no mam/sir. You know why you say it. If you’re saying it out of respect do not let other ppl. affect the way you show respect. The main reason ppl give u a hard time is because you probably make them feel bad because they probably were not taught RESPECT!!! And remember LET YOUR HATERS BE YOUR  MOTIVATOR

  36. I think it is a sad day in America when someone is ridiculed for being polite and respectful to elders.  If we had more young people that had the respect this person has, we would not have some of the problems with society.  Encourage that person to not give up.

  37. I am a teacher in a pro nominate African-American school where we teach and insist that our students answer with “yes ma’am and sir.”  We do this so our students can learn these manners and it shows respect to their elders! People do notice these manners and respect!
    S. Rodriguez in Wichita, Kansas

  38. I am a teacher in a pro nominate African-American school where we teach and insist that our students answer with “yes ma’am and sir.”  We do this so our students can learn these manners and it shows respect to their elders! People do notice these manners and respect!
    S. Rodriguez in Wichita, Kansas

  39. I think that sir or ma’am being acceptable or not as everything to do with ones perspective.  I know if I was the youngest person at my job and received some backlash, I would choose another way to address upper management. They are in charge today. Someday when your in charge you can decide how the staff addresses you.  Don’t sweat the small stuff save that for the big issues like whether or not the task your being asked to do is ethical and lines up with your moral values
    BJ

  40. I think that sir or ma’am being acceptable or not as everything to do with ones perspective.  I know if I was the youngest person at my job and received some backlash, I would choose another way to address upper management. They are in charge today. Someday when your in charge you can decide how the staff addresses you.  Don’t sweat the small stuff save that for the big issues like whether or not the task your being asked to do is ethical and lines up with your moral values
    BJ

  41. Im also a Tarheel native. I believe that some people (men and women ) are offended by mam and sir probably because it makes them feel older than they want to feel. At one point several years ago (im 56 now) i felt that way…i actually stopped in my tracks and thought about it. Now i sorta giggle about it….it doesnt bother me…in fact..i admire those who still carry on the tradition.  I grew up using mam and sir and i still do…along with thank-you and please. It is simple courtesy. My advice is to say to the offended “i was only showing respect” apologize and smile.

  42. I have never run into a person who took offense at being called “ma’am” or “sir” so I would be just as baffled.  But if they don’t like it, don’t push the issue.  Maintain your courtesy but let it go.  It’s not worth getting worked up over.

  43. Sir and Ma’am are proper ways to address elders, however especially women may take offense at certain ages. They feel it shows that you are calling them old and they do not like getting old.  You can simply tell them you mean no disrespect to their age, you are simply addressing them that way because of their position above you.  If they are NOT superior to you in position or time at the company, then NO it is not proper to address them as if they are elder. 

  44. Use respectful terms as you have been correctly taught to do. If people prefer to be called something different, they will tell you. From then on use the preferred name, or term.

  45. Use respectful terms as you have been correctly taught to do. If people prefer to be called something different, they will tell you. From then on use the preferred name, or term.

  46. Use respectful terms as you have been correctly taught to do. If people prefer to be called something different, they will tell you. From then on use the preferred name, or term.

  47. Use respectful terms as you have been correctly taught to do. If people prefer to be called something different, they will tell you. From then on use the preferred name, or term.

  48. Dear Perplexed,

    Good for your for having a sense of respect for your elders that is far too often lacking in your generation!  Having said that, if your colleagues aren’t digging the whole “sir”, “ma’am” drill, don’t push it.  There are plenty of other ways to show your respect, than forcing the dated titles upon them.  It’s kind of like the waitress who insists on referring to you as “honey”.  The thought is nice,  but the reality is just a bit irksome.

  49. I’m a military wife, and my children KNOW to call their elders ‘sir’ or ‘ma’am’.  It is a form of respect.  The sad trend in this country is that if a few people don’t like something, or are ‘offended’, than everyone else has to bow down to their wishes.  I do not like that.  How can someone be offended if they are addressed with respect?  It sounds to me like Perplexed Youngster works with people who definitely are too sensitive, which is pathetic.  Most everyone I know, military or civilian, are happy when shown this courtesy.

  50. I’ve found that in the workplace, you need to put yourself on even footing with your co-workers. With your superiors, be respectful, but not to the point of their discomfort. No one wants to feel old, and calling someone “sir” or “ma’am” is one way to do that.

    I’ve always addressed my superiors by their first names. You aren’t a kid anymore.

  51. I use it all the time. I have had a few people take offense to it. I was raised to be respectful and have actually used Ma’am towards a superior at a job who was younger then me out of respect for her authority.

  52. I think your mannerisms are quite refreshing! Whoever is giving you “backlash” for them is totally out of line and probably jealous of you. You keep right on being respectful to your elders and your peers, as well, and it will bring you success in the long run.

  53. I learned early on when I was 11 and started a lawn business.  My ma’am and sir were met with “Call me Curtis…call me Candy…Call me Glen” by my neighbors.  I knew even at that young age that they were age sensitive.  This was Houston, TX in the 80’s.  Don’t call anyone sir or ma’am if they don’t like it; I don’t care how polite you think you are, that is not polite.  That goes for “polite” terminology as much as with derogatory terms.  Here’s a tip:  upper management that dress very nicely and carry themselves very properly/professionally–call them sir or ma’am.  They will appreciate the gesture. 

  54. Call your parents Sir and Ma’am if they insist.  However, at work, these terms signal subservience not respect.   You show respect by actions, not words.  Unless you are in the South or the Military, it is unlikely that you will be seen as management material using these terms.  California women find it particularly offensive to be addressed by the same term that you address your mother.

  55. I was once privileged to be waited on by a young man from the South. I was very pleased to be addressed as Ma’am, something I had never experienced before since I was born in Connecticut. It made me feel respected and important. I told my children about it and how nice it made me feel, and their response was “You’re not going to make us do that, are you?” What has become of courtesy and good manners? the perplexed youngster does not need to apologize for being polite. ( I bet her/his boss has not complained.

    Mary Lu Tosi

  56. I’m 44 and I find it a breath of fresh air when youger people show respect for adults and authority. My children address older people and authorities by sir and ma’am keep up the respect teach it to your children. It’s a reflection of good rearing from good parents.

  57. If it’s not convention or comfortable for the majority in the workplace to address upper management as “sir” or “ma’am”, I wouldn’t suggest choosing this battle.  But you don’t have to surrender your courteous manners.  I will fall back on these titles when I don’t know someone’s name, e.g., when thanking a store clerk, or the person who holds a door open for me, or when asking directions.

  58. Keep it up. It is the ones who have given you abuse who need to be given lessons in manners. Probably they cannot handle the situation themselves, as they are not polite as you, and would like you to stop. They may be jealous of your politeness.

  59. Keep calling them sir or ma’am. When they tell you thats offensive, ask what they would like to be called. It works for all people and everyone is happy. It’s not a big deal, don’t sweat it. 

  60. This is a bit late, but I’m in the same boat as this guy. I’m about to be a junior in college, and I’ve had several teachers remark over my use of “sir” and “ma’am”. Most find it amusing or fascinating, but some get a little annoyed by it. One teacher thought I was raised in the south (i’m a new englander and have been my whole life), and even asked me to stop because “it made her feel old”. Frankly, it was rather confusing to hear that, as I’ve used those terms since childhood out of respect and formality. (The odd thing is, I wasn’t even really raised that way, I just picked it up on my own.) As for the guy, all I can say is that he should use the terms unless asked not to. Don’t make a big scene of it, just roll with whatever they want to be called. If it doesn’t sit right with you (like how I would run into friends’ parents when I was younger and they’d insist on being called by their first names), then try to find a compromise. Instead of calling someone just plain “John”, maybe  “Mr. John” would work.

    -光 ♠

  61. I teach at a university and we are located near a military base.  The military students we have always say “ma’am” or “sir” and I appreciate it although it did take a bit of getting used to.  I think that these terms are a sign of respect so I am all for it.  Not everyone sees it that way however.  I remember saying, “Thank you, sir” for someone who held the door to a stairway for me.  He responded with, “B****”.  I continued on my way and much to my dismay found that he was coming up the stairs behind me while calling to me.  He wanted to apologize.  He said most people didn’t react with a thank you and at first he thought I was being sarcastic, but thought differently and came to apologize.  Sandy Lang

  62. I am “une femme d’un certain age”, and I certainly prefer “Ma’am” to being part of a mixed group being addressed as “you guys”.  I want to say I am not a guy (by any stretch of the imagination).  In the case of a working situation, though, I would suggest that this young person simply ask the older persons involved what they would prefer to be called.

  63. Dear Perplexed,
    In these increasingly non-formal times, it’s refreshing to see people that know how to show respect and act professional.  If a superior asks not to be addresed this way, apologize and ask how she or he would prefer to be addressed.

  64. Dear Perplexed,
    In these increasingly non-formal times, it’s refreshing to see people that know how to show respect and act professional.  If a superior asks not to be addresed this way, apologize and ask how she or he would prefer to be addressed.

  65. Dear Perplexed,
    In these increasingly non-formal times, it’s refreshing to see people that know how to show respect and act professional.  If a superior asks not to be addresed this way, apologize and ask how she or he would prefer to be addressed.

  66. Sir and Ma’am should always be used. Not only with upper management. Treat others with respect if you want to be treated with respect. Everyone will see you as a kiss up if you are selective in the way you show respect. Successful people learn from everyone not just upper managment.

  67. Showing respect is always preferrable. Today it sadly seems like a lost art. One day my best friend (we’ll call him Mr. X) talked to my Son Wayne (who was about 25 at the time) after he addressed him as “Mr.”.  He told Wayne to call him by his first name and Wayne responded with: I’m sorry Mr. X but you have always been Mr X to me and I just do not feel right calling you by your first name. I was really proud of him and pleased that the respect lessons my Wife and I tried to instill in him had made it. My friend was also impressed with his response. It’s sad today when so many show little or no respect for anybody, including themselves.

  68. I think it is an honorable and respectful way to address the management at your job.  It is sad that very little respect is shown to anyone anymore even one’s own peers.  Many older people have worked hard to get where they are and have earned the right to be treated with respect by the younger ones.  It also goes a long way for you when you act in such a manner and someday maybe you will need that older person you treated with respect to show the same gratitude. Keep on doing the right thing.  It may get some others to think about their own behavior.

  69. I tkink it is fine to address upper management as “sir” or  “ma’am”.   It seems that no longer showing respect for someone else is the acceptable thing and those who don’t either criticize those who do.  Innocent children are scrutinized by their peers even when they say something as  “God Bless America” which happened to my grandaugnhter in grade two by her own classmates telling her she could not say that anymore.  What has happened to showing respect for others or acting in a respectable manner.   It seems that only mean and disrespect is becoming the norm.  I applaud that youngster for being a respectful person.  It is hard to do the right thing and think it is O.K. without someone saying it’s wrong.  I more people showed respect for others this would be a much better world. We need to go back to those days and instill that in our young.

  70. Continue to be courteous.  I live in a military town & get this all the time when I use “Sir”, with the reply of “Don’t call me sir. I work for a living”.  When this is said to me, I reply with “Sorry, but my mother taught me to respect others by using ma’am and sir.  I am more afraid of her than you”.  That usually garners a laugh and stops the comments from others.

  71. Your intentions are laudable and appropriate.  However, the number one rule when dealing with people is “Know your audience.”  If someone expresses displeasure at being addressed as “Sir” or “Ma’am,” ask them how they wish to be addressed and remember it for the next time.  If your uncomfortable with their request (if they ask you to use their first name, perhaps), tell them you don’t think you can do that and reach a compromise.  If they don’t say anything, consider your use of “Sir” or “Madam” as welcome.  When it comes to human beings, following a single rule for all people doesn’t work.  Addressing people in a way that both you and they are comfortable with is the ultimate way of showing respect without sacrificing your self-respect.

  72. The workplace is not a social setting.  Co-workers are peers, regardless of age.  Using terms like “sir” or “ma’am” based on age is awkward.  To show additional respect to a CEO or president, try “Mr.” or “Ms.”.  Otherwise, stick to first names.  You’ll make a better impression if you can remember and use the names of all the people with whom you interact.   

  73. I was raised to address someone with the proper “sir” or “ma’am”. I am still only a teenager, but since mant social graces of western culture have changed I listen to how they introduce themselves to me or even just ask them, “What would you like me to address you as? I typically say “ma’am” or “sir”.” Any other disagreement on the part of the other person is not your fault and not something to take to heart.

  74. Congratulations to you (and your parents) for your good manners! If the backlash you’ve received is negative, then good manners dictate that you should respect the wishes of those who don’t like to be referred to as “sir” or “ma’am” when you’re conversing with them. If the backlash is teasing about being “old-fashioned”, then smile, laugh, and respectfully blame your upbringing. There is absolutely nothing wrong with your courteous mannerisms, but it is important to figure out the culture of the organization, the individuals within that organization, and how you will (or will not) adapt to the expectations. 

  75. Congratulations to you (and your parents) for your good manners! If the backlash you’ve received is negative, then good manners dictate that you should respect the wishes of those who don’t like to be referred to as “sir” or “ma’am” when you’re conversing with them. If the backlash is teasing about being “old-fashioned”, then smile, laugh, and respectfully blame your upbringing. There is absolutely nothing wrong with your courteous mannerisms, but it is important to figure out the culture of the organization, the individuals within that organization, and how you will (or will not) adapt to the expectations. 

  76. Young or old, that’s immaterial.  It’s simply a matter
    of common courtesy and respect – a reflection upon how one was raised.  My
    wife and I frequently use both “sir” and “ma’am” throughout the day – with each
    other (married 13 years), with cashiers, servers, and friends.  But we’re
    from the South, not that that should make any difference.

  77. Living in the South, my mama and daddy taught me to always be respectful. That means I always use Ma’am/Sir to anyone older than me or in a position of authority over me. Ma’am/Sir is about as respectful as I know how to be.

  78. Tell whomever gets offensive that you mean no disrespect, and move on about your business. I address everybody as sir or ma’am, even of they are younger than me. You will have more people see it as a sign of respect, than those that will be offended by it.

  79. To Perplexed Youngster regarding “ma’am” and “sir.”

    Dear Perplexed Youngster,
     
    Congratulations to you (and your parents) for having learned respect and good manners.  I think being courteous is always the right choice.  However, today, some people are sensitive to “sir” and “ma’am,” it makes them feel old.  The heart of courtesy is to put people at ease, make everyone comfortable, and be respectful.  I suggest you try Mr. or Ms. Soandso.  If, after that, they tell you to call them by their first names, (or Mrs. or Miss instead of Ms.) then do that.  You will be showing your respect by remembering their preferences.

  80. Respect is so much more than those two words.  When I lived in the South, I noticed an emphasis placed on the superficialities of the words used to address people.  I stand against the notion that not using “ma’am” and “sir” is disrespectful.  Perplexed Youngster’s heart may be in the right place on this.  But is it respectful to address people in a way that they do not enjoy or appreciate?

  81. People think you are being just plain sassy. I can’t even call my parents “sir” or “ma’am”!

  82. Kudos to the young person who still uses manners like “sir” or “ma’am”. I am 60 years old and still refer to anyone who is in “authority” over me with the same type manners whether it is my daddy, boss or pastor. Courtesy and respect are always in vogue!

  83. Dear Perplexed Youngster,

    Manners seem to be in short supply these days and your upbringing is a credit to your parents. As such, you need not forfeit your parents good work just because someone feels the term Ma’am or Sir makes them feel old. As a vet of the US Army, I usually tell people that it’s just the way I was raised. From that point on the issue has seemed to be settled.

    Dan Norris 

  84. Who is giving you the backlash? If it’s the upper management people then you should address them any way they wish! But if it’s your other peer co-workers, I say ignore ’em and continue to use the respectful manners. 

  85. Who is giving you the backlash? If it’s the upper management people then you should address them any way they wish! But if it’s your other peer co-workers, I say ignore ’em and continue to use the respectful manners. 

  86. Who is giving you the backlash? If it’s the upper management people then you should address them any way they wish! But if it’s your other peer co-workers, I say ignore ’em and continue to use the respectful manners. 

  87. Keep the Ma’am’s and Sir’s!!!!!!  I say it all the time to both young and old.  I respond to my children with it.  It shows respect.  And it is so easy to make a good habit.  (Yes, I am a southern gal)

  88. I think it is offensive. I’m from the northeast and current living in the deep south and the way people say ma’am and sir sounds so rude and condensending.

    Also I worked retail for a number of years and with horrible, unreasonable customers my co-workers and I always substituted b*** and a****** with ma’am and sir. Letter writer is an adult working with other adults. They need to grow up and treat their co-workers like the peers that they are.

  89. I suspect the “backlash” is from co-workers not upper management.  It is never wrong to be respectful.  The work place has become too casual in pecking order dialogue.  My bet is that “Perplexed Youngster” will advance while the naysayers stay put.

    Nancy Cameron
    Cincinnati, Ohio 

  90. There is nothing wrong with using ma’am and sir and my advice is to keep using them.  You aren’t going to lose your job by being TOO polite! 

  91. I’ve come across this as well. I usually apologize and let them know that is not meant to be disrepectful, instead it is quite the opposite. I also explain that I use these terms with my children. I basically mention that it isn’t about age, yet about showing respect for the other person. I think deep-down, while the person may say something negative about you using these terms, I bet they appreciate it more than they are willing to admit.

  92. Dear perplexed the “backlash” that you’re getting is not due to sensitivity, but lack of civility.The last generation or so were tauhgt, and allowed to address their elders by thei first name. My ghildren are in their 50’s and unless they are told by the person they’re addressing to call them by their first name, they use proper civil titles as you do Your parents tauhgt you well. Don’t stop!!! Iam so sick of people younger than my grand ghildren addressing me by my first name on a business call, at the Dr’s office etc. If it’s not the first name ‘t’s honey or sweetie which is just as offensive. They seem truly surprised and offended when I correct them.

  93. When I was refered to as Ma’am in the workplace, it made my co-workers and me feel old.  Knowing full well it was a sign of respect or upbring (especially with those raised in the south), the result was the same.  “I’ve been ma’amed” was the expression we used. Workplaces are much more casual now and almost everyone where I worked was on a first name basis.  How do your co-workers refer the your management team?  Take a clue from them or ask the individuals involved what they prefer to be called.  You can still be respectful by your words, actions, tone of voice, etc. at all times, not just when the boss is around.

  94. When I was refered to as Ma’am in the workplace, it made my co-workers and me feel old.  Knowing full well it was a sign of respect or upbring (especially with those raised in the south), the result was the same.  “I’ve been ma’amed” was the expression we used. Workplaces are much more casual now and almost everyone where I worked was on a first name basis.  How do your co-workers refer the your management team?  Take a clue from them or ask the individuals involved what they prefer to be called.  You can still be respectful by your words, actions, tone of voice, etc. at all times, not just when the boss is around.

  95. I raise my children to use “sir” and “ma’am”,and we use these terms for each other in the house as terms of respect, and we also use use them in public. However, in the workplace, people should address each other in terms that all parties agree are respectful, regardless of age. I have been told not to use “sir” and “ma’am” by people who find it offensive because they mistakenly believe these terms are used only for older people. I respectfully inform them that I did not mean to be offensive, and I wouldn’t dream of continuing to use a term that someone else finds offensive. THAT would not be respectful!

  96. I say yes ma’am/no ma’am, yes sir/no sir  out of habit.  Better to be polite and respectful than rude.

  97. I say yes ma’am/no ma’am, yes sir/no sir  out of habit.  Better to be polite and respectful than rude.

  98. I really doubt there is anything wrong with their use. It is a sign of respect and one that does not fade. Ever. But if you find that you are getting some heat over it. Use their last names /surnames or find out from colleagues what they like being called. At the very least you won’t be facing backlash for being respectful.

  99. Your senior managers might be sensitive to what they perceive is being treated like elders.  If they are over 40, they’ve begun to be age-sensitive, and nervous about appearing to be “too old” to do their jobs.  If the managers themselves are the ones providing opposition to your terms of respect, privately ask each one what they would  like you to call them, and then comply without any further comment.  You are definitely to be commended for showing good, old-fashioned manners!  It’s unfortunate that some people are of the opinion that terms of respect are outdated.

  100. I think most people weren’t raised to show respect to their elders, when they were younger.  I wasn’t raised in the South, but my mother was.  She instilled it in me to say “Yes sir…no sir…yes ma’am…no ma’am” as I was growing up.  I’m 49 years old and I still do this…even to folks younger than I.  It’s just what I grew up with.  After telling an older gentleman, “Thank you, Sir!” he had said to me, “I appreciate the Sir.”  He didn’t have to say anything, but it made me feel good that someone actually noticed.  So, I say, continue with your courteousness, and let them deal with it.

  101. The new employee doesn’t specify if the complaints are coming from the senior manager whom he’s calling “Sir/Ma’am” or from peer workers who maybe feel they’re not being respectful enough.  If the former, then he’ll just have to accept that these superiors don’t want to be addressed that way; if the latter, then I would think the peers feel somewhat threatened that they’re not measuring up.

  102. Dear Perplexed Youngster::::Hats off to you for apparently being raised by parents that taught morales and manners.  This seems to be a thing of the past.  My four adult children and I were raised to respect ALL our elders regardless of age, sex or race.  Thank God they still say Sir, Mam, Thank You and Please.  The Grandchildren slip sometimes as in school the teachers teach them that it uses up too much time to say these things.  They have taken the Bible and prayer out of our public schools and now they even try to teach against morales and manners and they wonder why so many of the pupils don’t show them respect.  Stick to your guns and continue to be courteous to your elders…it is a great thing.  I know your parents will be proud of you!!!!!! Joyce Johnson, Macclenny, Fl

  103. I hate being called ma’am or Mrs. It makes me feel old. I especially hate it when my kids’ teachers call me it – they are usually older than me!

  104. I’ve been in your position as the youngster at work especially after I was promoted into a supervisor position as the youngest ever to hold that position in the organization.  I ask you first, is it the upper management people that give you backlash about your addressing them as sir or madam?  If so, then I’d heed their suggestion.  If your coworkers give you the backlash about how you address upper management, I would tell them that it is a term that is as much about their position in the organization and/or respect as it is about age.

    I personally don’t believe that politeness ever goes out of style and further believe that most people appreciate a polite person over an impolite person.  Good luck with your dilemma.

  105. Someone wants to show a little respect and they are getting backlash.  That is very sad.  Our society needs more “youngsters” with this type of attitude.  

  106. Addressing someone as Ma’am or Sir is not disrespectful, but if the people you are addressing don’t like it because they aren’t used to it or don’t want to feel old, then the only thing to do is to stop addressing them respectfully and call them bu what they want to be called.

  107. I think you show your respect for people in many ways, and “Ma’am” or “Sir” are still accepted ways to address people you don’t know, or to address even those you do know in deference.  It’s important not to forget the other things, like punctuality, attire, hygiene, eye contact, listening, choice of language, smiling, silencing your cell phone and so on.  There will always be a few people who can think of exceptions, but most appreciate your efforts to offer them respect.  

  108. Using your manners shows that you were raised to respect your elders. There is nothing wrong with saying Ma’am and Sir. You are doing the right thing. I agree with Brenda that people no longer have respect for others. It makes me feel good that there are still young people out there who are still taught to be courteous and respectful.

  109. I’ve never heard of someone being insulted by being called “sir” or “ma’am,” although some people may not like to hear any reminders that they are getting older. You could say something like, “I did not mean any disrespect at all! I was raised to address people in positions of authority, such as bosses and professors, as ‘sir’ or ‘ma’am.’ Its an old habit.” 

  110. It’s not offensive to me, mainly because I use the same terms at work with customers (mainly because it’s a historical park and often, there is no way to know people’s names unless they tell us). I can understand both sides though-you were likely raised to use those terms as a mean of respect, but on their end, there are some people who, for some odd reason, think that being called ‘sir’ or ‘ma’am’ makes them seem old.

  111. It’s not offensive to me, mainly because I use the same terms at work with customers (mainly because it’s a historical park and often, there is no way to know people’s names unless they tell us). I can understand both sides though-you were likely raised to use those terms as a mean of respect, but on their end, there are some people who, for some odd reason, think that being called ‘sir’ or ‘ma’am’ makes them seem old.

  112. Dear Perplexed Youngster,
    Respect is still alive somewhere–so glad to find it in you!  You don’t say who is giving you this backlash.  If it is the upper management themselves, I would ask them how they prefer you address them.  If it is your co-workers, I would continue to use the respectful terms.  They could be upset that your respect will “show them up.”

  113. I find “sir” and “ma’am” to be impersonal and cold and I resent it when I’m addressed as ma’am.  It’s not so much that someone is inferring that I am old as it is the connotation it brings up……being forced to address hated teachers, feared military officers, or stern elders as sir or ma’am.  Rather than a form of respect, the tone of voice can turn these words into an insult.

  114. As a military family ma’am and sir are staples in our family’s vocabulary. I have noticed a few people who take offense to it so I simply try not to say it to them. I find it extremely respectful and I think your parents raised you right to address people older than you in this manner, however, if certain people seem bothered by it just attempt to avoid using it when addressing them. Or take a moment and relax them a little by explaining why you say ma’am and sir. Once they realize that you address everyone that eat it may relax them a but.

  115. Dear Perplexed Youngster, In a job situation, Upper management calls the shots. They may have created a more relaxed atmosphere. If they are in charge and they say using sir and ma’am are not necessary, then it would be disrepectful to continue to use them. It has nothing to do with age. It is all about respecting the management team and how they want to be addressed.

  116. I’ve come across the same problem in the past.  A lot of people think (wrongly) that calling them sir or ma’am is another way of saying they’re old, even though your goal is to be respectful.  I came to the conclusion that it’s more respectful to call a person by their name if they don’t like being called sir or ma’am.  Most people just prefer being called by their name these days.

  117. Go with what people want. Among my colleagues some demand
    equality “Call me Mike, I insist.” Others are comfortable with a differentiation
    between peers, superiors, and subordinates. In the US there are no standards so
    everyone gets to pick their own.

  118. Often these titles make most middleaged persons feel old and/or ananymous. At the high school where I work I ask students not to refer to me as “mister” or “sir” because, like them, I have a name. I don’t say to them, “Hey student!”. I know that some students might be uncomfortable calling me by my first name so I allow for Mr. followed by my last name or inital of my last name. I also use this tact with my collegues who are not comfortable using first names around students.

  119. You are on the right path my young friend. DONOT CHANGE just because others say so….it wil be appreciated always…

  120. Dear Perplexed,
                                The “big deal” is your exemplary manners, which might make those with less than stellar behavior feel uncomfortable. Keep on being the respectful person you are and thank your parents for doing a fine job. I’d be delighted to work with you.
                                                                                                                        Not-So-Youngster

  121. Courtesy is in the eye of the beholder.  Some people hear terms like ‘sir’ or ‘ma’am’ and instantly feel 100 years older.  Even though you are trying to be respectful, if it offends it has to go.  Ask those who are anti ‘sir’ or ‘ma’am’ how they prefer to be addressed and go with that.

  122. I was born in the 40’s, and it was considered to be disrespectful if you did not use “sir” or “ma’am” when addressing an older person or someone in authority.  It appears to be an issue with some people at your workplace.  It would be disrespectful to use that form of address to someone who has asked you not to.  If the backlash is coming from office mates who do not use forms of respect such as “sir” or “ma’am,” “please” and “thank you,” and “excuse me” and “I’m sorry,” try to be strong enough not to lower your values.  It would be great if they would rise to yours.

  123. I was born in the 40’s, and it was considered being disrespectful when “sir” or “ma’am” was not said to an older person or someone in authority.  However, at your workplace, it appears to be an issue when you do say it to someone who has asked you not to do it, and disrespectful if you continue to do so.  If the backlash is coming from office mates who don’t say “thank you” or “please” much less “excuse me” or “I’m sorry,” try to be strong enough not to lower your own values. It would be great if they would rise to yours.

  124. I’m originally from the South, where ‘sir’ and ‘ma’am’ are forms of respect. However, after moving to New York and working various jobs for the past few years, I’ve been met with the same disgusted reaction (I am in my early twenties). It frustrates me sometimes, but recently I’ve just decided to go on an individual basis. Some people accept it, some don’t. And if it goes as far to affect the way your superiors treat you, unfortunately you’ll have to bend to their ways.  

  125.  

    “Sir” and Ma’am” are salutations which historically
    showed respect. The use of them – like please and thank you ­– is a courtesy
    that respectful individuals extended to others. In situations like yours, it is
    helpful to remember that the function of manners is to make other people
    comfortable and facilitate smooth social interaction.

    Our culture has changed and with it the expectations of what
    is considered good manners. Respectful individuals, such as yourself, don’t knowingly
    or deliberately offend people. If you know that the formalities of sir and ma’am
    are offensive to your coworkers, and continue to use them, you are showing poor
    manners. As a person of culture and respect, it is up to you to make your
    coworkers comfortable around you. They have given you permission to be informal,
    and stated their desire for you to do so. Show respect by honoring their wishes.

  126. Yes, a lot of people are that sensitive.  There is some kind of implication that you are calling the person “sir” or “ma’am” because they are old and incompetent.  Remember, the whole point of courtesy is to honor the person you are speaking with; the most “courteous mannerism” you can develop is to address people the way they want to be addressed.  As the youngest employee in your workplace, you can also demonstrate your maturity by being willing to adapt to the needs of the people around you.

  127. Yes, a lot of people are that sensitive.  There is some kind of implication that you are calling the person “sir” or “ma’am” because they are old and incompetent.  Remember, the whole point of courtesy is to honor the person you are speaking with; the most “courteous mannerism” you can develop is to address people the way they want to be addressed.  As the youngest employee in your workplace, you can also demonstrate your maturity by being willing to adapt to the needs of the people around you.

  128. Yes, a lot of people are that sensitive.  There is some kind of implication that you are calling the person “sir” or “ma’am” because they are old and incompetent.  Remember, the whole point of courtesy is to honor the person you are speaking with; the most “courteous mannerism” you can develop is to address people the way they want to be addressed.  As the youngest employee in your workplace, you can also demonstrate your maturity by being willing to adapt to the needs of the people around you.

  129. Observe the culture of your organization i.e. how people address each other. If they simply call each other by their first names, go for it. You might have heard that do in the rome as the romans do… Moreover every organization has a dufferent culture and you don’t want to be the odd one out by addressing people differently. It will also help you to blend in the culture of your company, Another thing you can do is to ask somebody in your company about this with whom you are comfortable talking about this issue. They can advice you what to do.

  130. How old are the members of “upper management”? Where is the “backlash” coming from?
    From your peers? Ignore them. From “upper managers” : ask them what they prefer? Respect is always good, when it is sincere.

  131. It’s refreshing to read that respect for others isn’t quite dead yet and I commend you. Unfortunately as well, we live in an anti-old society and some people have more of a problem with it than others. I once ran into an ex-boss whom I hadn’t seen in years and while introducing her to my friend, I said, “This is my old boss…” I truly meant to say ex-boss, but as the words came flying out of my mouth, this woman flipped out on me and said, “OLD!, I’M NOT OLD!, HOW COULD YOU SAY I’M OLD?” All I could do was apologize and tell her that I meant no disrespect because it wasn’t my intent to hurt her feelings. I truly meant, “ex-boss.” So anyway, with that being said, I would tell the co-workers who give you backlash, that you mean no disrespect and you were brought up to respect others as well as authority. Then ask if there is another respectful term they perfer to be addressed. Keep the peace, while keeping your job :-)

  132. It’s refreshing to read that respect for others isn’t quite dead yet and I commend you. Unfortunately as well, we live in an anti-old society and some people have more of a problem with it than others. I once ran into an ex-boss whom I hadn’t seen in years and while introducing her to my friend, I said, “This is my old boss…” I truly meant to say ex-boss, but as the words came flying out of my mouth, this woman flipped out on me and said, “OLD!, I’M NOT OLD!, HOW COULD YOU SAY I’M OLD?” All I could do was apologize and tell her that I meant no disrespect because it wasn’t my intent to hurt her feelings. I truly meant, “ex-boss.” So anyway, with that being said, I would tell the co-workers who give you backlash, that you mean no disrespect and you were brought up to respect others as well as authority. Then ask if there is another respectful term they perfer to be addressed. Keep the peace, while keeping your job :-)

  133. Dear Perplexed,
    While sir and ma’am are commonly seen as a sign of respect they are also commonly seen as a sign of age.  People forget that they are infact getting older and everytime you say sir or ma’am reminds them that they are not as young as they last remembered themselves being.  Another thing to note is when in the work place you are all peers, short of your boss, thus if you adress them using their names you would actually be showing more respect by treating them as an equal.  But lets face it who really wants to go physically beyond the age of 25?  Long story short if you truely wish to show respect use their names.  That also indivualizes them amongst all the other sirs’ and ma’ams’ you may have in your life.

  134. When you are out in society, polite use of sir and ma’am is just fine.  However, when you are in a work environment, you take your cue from management.  When I started my first real job at a Fortune 500 company, it was made clear to me that EVERYONE in the company was on a first name basis – you called the CEO Bob when you saw him.  NEVER, NEVER, NEVER go against this kind of directive.  If you want to make a really bad political mistake and ruin your chances for advancement, keep up the sir and ma’am when you have been told otherwise.  In this instance, it is massively DIS-respectful.  Management has determined they want to set a particular tone in their work environment.  Just imagine how they would appreciate having a young, new employee negate their efforts.   If they want a collaborative, “we are all peers” environment, stop the sir and ma’am right now, or go find a company where it is appreciated.  Keep in mind that for the first time in the history of mankind there are 4 generations of employees working side by side.  They are now your PEERS, not your elders.  If you are lucky – someday you will manage people younger than yourself.  But, not if you ignore the import of equality regardless of age.

  135. I went back to school to further my education as a teacher, and was the oldest student in the class by 30 years. Several of my co-students insisted on addressing me as “Miss Carol” rather than Carol. I understand they meant this with respect, but it made me feel like an outsider. I wanted to be a part of the class, but by being addressed in this manner I felt uncomfortable. On the other hand, I was one of a very small minority who addressed the teacher as “ma’am”, and said “please” and “thank you”. I applaud your good manners, but also feel if someone requests you drop the “sir” or “ma’am” title, you should oblige.

  136. Dear Perplexed Youngster,

    First I would like to commend you on your obvious respect of your elders.  With that being said I suggest that you adapt to the accepted form of addressing your co-workers, peers and superiors.  A professional work place will tend to think of all employees as team members regardless of level or age. The Sir and Ma’am could possibly send the message that you do not feel as if you as valuable as you are.  Or it could make the persons feel as if you are setting them apart from the team in an age order.  I urge you to be a part of the TEAM, conform to the team’s way of addressing others,  and their processes.  Make the team your team by reaching for the team goals and I suspect you will be quite respected and successful!  

  137. In answer to the question about “sir” or “ma’am”, I do not know who the backlash is coming from.  My dad bought a small retail pharmacy in a small town when I was 12 years old (they are almost extinct now!) and he taught me how to wait on and address people.  I was an employee for 10 years and an employer for about 45 years.  I was taught that you will never be in any trouble calling anyone Mr. or Mrs. or Sir, etc.  Then if that person says please call me Jack or Jill or Flash, it was my job to remember that and address them as such!  It has worked very well for me and my children for many years now.  Thanks for the chance to reply….Anson Johnson in Palmyra, New York

  138. I have had this same discussion with a recent temporary employee. Although there is something to be said for respectful speech and behavior, I don’t think it is necessary to use those words all the time. Occasional uses of it are appropriate, but most adults in business don’t address one another that way in every conversation. This one employee in particular would place the word “Miss” in front of my name every time she addressed me or one to others about on the phone. Honestly, It made me feel uncomfortable; and frankly, old. It really sounds immature and unprofessional to overuse it, in my opinion.

  139. I believe this is a cultural issue. My husband is white and taught middle school math in NJ for 13 years. Eight years ago we moved to Texas. His first day teaching 8th grade he had what he thought was a smart-mouthed African-American teenager giving him a sarcastic, “Yes, Sir.” My husband lectured him for 5 minutes on respect and threatened to send him to the office. Finally a brave young lady enlightened him that in the south, students address their teachers and all adults respectfully with the title “Sir” or “Ma’am.” My husband and the class learned a lot about each other that day! I suggest Perplexed Youngster ask how her comments are being perceived by those whom she is addressing. She may be sending the wrong message unintentionally. If they approve, it doesn’t matter what anyone else thinks.
    Texas Transplant

  140. I’ve always been taught that the point of displaying good manners is to show respect to people and make them feel comfortable in social situations.  So, try to use whatever term of respect your superiors deem acceptable.  Most people are OK with being addresses as Ms. or Mr. So-and-so, or replies of ‘Yes, ma’am’/’No, sir’.  If you are unsure, use the name they gave when you were introduced, or just ask.  The words you use shouldn’t be so important as how you use them.  Be known for being courteous, kind, and respectful and it won’t matter if you call your boss ‘Bob’ or ‘Mr. Roberts, sir’.

  141. I too was the youngest person in the “datacomm” company i worked for back in 1986. i was the youngest and the only “buppie”! now i have retired and started my own restaurant but i realized that
    alot of “older” people either take being called “sir” or “ma’am” as you flaunting your youthfulness or
    other people just dont want to admit that they are simply old. perplexed youngster you have a career not just a job and you obviously are a youngman and not a kid now. since it is offensive to your bosses to be called sir or ma’am then just drop it. stop calling them sir and ma’am (believe me i know how hard it is to do) now that im older when i hear a young man or young woman call me sir
    it does sting a little bit but im not sensetive! i realize that it is a form of respect but that’s me. good luck in your career and put yourself in their shoes until you start getting called “sir” or “ma’am”. only then can u understand what a  problem it is. like Mick Jagger said “what a drag it is getting old”  

  142. Being respectful is very important.  My mother taught me to respect my elders.  Later in life I realized I should also respect those in authority and those who have earned a title.  I work with doctors and would never address them by first name even though most are younger than me.  They earned the title of Doctor so that’s how I address them.  As far as calling someone Sir or Ma’am, I feel it is appropriate only when you don’t know the person well or don’t know their name.  If you work with these people everyday address them with Mr, Miss & Mrs and last name.  If they want you to address them by first name, they will invite you to do so.  Addressing them by Sir or Ma’am on a daily basis makes them feel you don’t care to know them by name.  Be respectful in other ways.  Use their names when addressing them and the backlash you are experiencing may go away.

  143. In an age where rudeness, disrespect and dis-courteousness seems to be the norm, someone with good manners is a breath of fresh air. With “Political Correctness” shoved down our throats daily, we’ve been taught to take umbrage at anything and everything said to us. “Perplexed”, stay the course and keep doing what you’ve been taught to do by some obviously wonderful parents…treating others with respect and simple courtesies.

  144. In an age where rudeness, disrespect and dis-courteousness seems to be the norm, someone with good manners is a breath of fresh air. With “Political Correctness” shoved down our throats daily, we’ve been taught to take umbrage at anything and everything said to us. “Perplexed”, stay the course and keep doing what you’ve been taught to do by some obviously wonderful parents…treating others with respect and simple courtesies.

  145. I don’t get it either! I thought being respectful was a good thing! I think the person on the receiving end of the “maam” or “sir” think it means they are old. That’s the way it is perceived, even though I don’t understand it or agree with it. I believe it shows respect for your elders.
    On another note, I’ve been seeing a lot of “we don’t respect anything here in America” comments.
    I totally disagree with that! I see respect from young and old every day, and love growing up in rural America, where good manners are still practiced.   

  146. Don’t let society change who you are and the morals by which you live by. We have enough of THOSE people in our society. Explain that manners matter to you, and that’s how you were brought up.

  147. There are a lot of people that take offense to the slightest thing and in this youth-centric world we live in anything that makes you sound old has good odds to cause offense.  Take your cue from your co-workers. Your office culture will have more to say on the issue than how you were raised or what part of the country you work in.  Your going to make a lot of social errors in your professional life, just remember to rise above them and keep an open mind. 

  148. In over 25 years of Human Resources and almost as many in management, I think opening with Ma’am and Sir are always safe and respectful. When someone invites you to call them by name or says, “That’s what they call my dad,” then that person has asked you to change it. In that case follow the Platinum Rule and treat them as they want to be treated. If the “backlash” you’re getting is something you’re getting from others, thank them for their feedback and offer to call them whatever they like to be called. You should probably not call them what others call them, though, as people who offer that kind of feedback are often not called nice things…

    And – don’t limit sir or ma’am to age – I call people younger than me sir or ma’am from time to time, too!

  149. The younger person should respect the requests not to use sir or ma’am. Even though it is used out of respect, some people feel that they aren’t old enough for the title or they don’t want to be considered “that old” to have the title. It still comes down to respecting their wish of not using the term. It’s such a small thing, so maybe use their name instead, like “OK Sue, I’ll do that”. That way it’s also more personal.

  150. Dear Perplexed,  Nothings wrong with having courteous mannerisms especially in todays’ world; however in a work environment you are seen as a “Team Member”, one of the group.  The use of “sir” and “ma’am” are more commonly used within the family or by those we barely know.  Join the group at work and start using the sweet sound everyone likes to hear…the sound of their own name.  

  151. Dear Perplexed,  Nothings wrong with having courteous mannerisms especially in todays’ world; however in a work environment you are seen as a “Team Member”, one of the group.  The use of “sir” and “ma’am” are more commonly used within the family or by those we barely know.  Join the group at work and start using the sweet sound everyone likes to hear…the sound of their own name.  

  152. Perplexed
    Youngster,

     

    Your references
    to your insistence of maintaining your level of formal greeting: being “naturally
    inclined”, “respectful terms”, and “courteous mannerisms” is hinting at being
    overly defensive. You are fighting a corporate culture in your job that people
    conform to in order to be part of a team. One normally makes at least some mannerism
    changes to demonstrate to others in a team that one is a loyal member of that
    team. There is nothing ethical about the level of formality a group conforms
    to. You apparently choose not to be part of this team and, frankly, you seem to
    feel superior to them. Their resentful response is absolutely natural and your
    resistance is snotty.
     

  153. No, no no no no no! It absoulutely isn’ t wrong! People just don’t understand courtesy anymore.
    So what? Who cares what they think? They just do not get it. If people will be rude then SPEAK UP!!!!!!!!!!!! Tell them its enough and tell them how you feel. If it gets to the point that it completely bothers you and they do not stop reconsider whats more important your job or your pride.

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  154. Dear Perplexed, it certainly seems that you were raised to show manners by your parents. I tell my daughters that respect  and being kind to others will get you further in life than the best education. Unless someone says “please don’t call me sir or ma’am” , then keep on being yourself and use manners every time you can.  Jerry Dacus

  155. Dear Perplexed, it certainly seems that you were raised to show manners by your parents. I tell my daughters that respect  and being kind to others will get you further in life than the best education. Unless someone says “please don’t call me sir or ma’am” , then keep on being yourself and use manners every time you can.  Jerry Dacus

  156. It sounds as if you have a very informal or familial office.  What you understand and possibly have been raised with may be a code of conduct appropriate to a place with respect for very clear levels of power; there is a reason that “Sir” is used as seriously as it is in the military.

    A wise approach may be to ask your boss, or a coworker with a long tenure about it.  It’s entirely possible that if the office is used to a familiar work environment, then sir or ma’am may make them feel as if they suddenly need to be very formal and in high business mode.

    In any other case, I would condone the use of sir/ma’am: after all, they show a clear sign that you are paying attention with both ears and eyes.  It also shows to others that we respect that they have worked as hard as they have to reach their accomplishments; think of the knights and lords in the medieval days, and the strenuous requirements many often had to fulfill for such titles.

    In the suggested conversation, two things may come out if it is informal; the offended folks may come to an understanding that in your family culture, such respects were not only encouraged but common.  And secondly, that you had missed the cue that it was a sudden surprise for most!  Adapting to cultures is a difficult process, but communication is sometimes our best way forward when it comes to bridging the distances that cause conflict.

  157. I am 50 years old and still refer to my elders with Sir or Ma’am.  It shows respect.  There is not enough respect between generations today.  Show your elders you respect them, and respect what they say.  You will be surprised when you receive the same respect shown to you.  This same respect should be shown,  to your Teachers, parents friends and any other person who is older than you are.

  158. Ma’am and Sir are signs of respect, admiration and general politeness.  I wish more young people knew to use these terms.  In my family, you always said Ma’am and Sir to anyone older than you.  Today my 21 year daughter also uses it with co-workers and  friends her own age.  She says it shows that she respects what they say to her and takes their words to heart.  I even say Ma’am to her on occassion.  In a work situation, if you are on first names basis, you can relax the Ma’am and Sir, but always continue to use it with anyone who has authority over you.  If they cannot see the respect that comes with the words, that is their problem, not yours.  Manners will get you very far in this world.  Keep up the good work.
    dby in Roswell, GA

  159. I had a similar problem when I was younger.  When I called superiors “sir” or “ma’am”, I was chided for it.  I finally came up with this response: “I was taught to treat everyone with respect, until they show they don’t deserve it.  If you feel you don’t deserve respect, tell me now, and I’ll treat you like a jerk from here on.”

  160. Having been reared in the south, I was taught to use respectful language and manners.  Who could object to this?  Showing respect for others, regardless of age, position, or title reflects the respect one feels for themself.  It is not an admission of one’s own position or of another’s superiority.  In addition, I just read an article by former Sec. of Colin Powell where he shares a lesson he learned from employees at a parking garage:  “You can never err by treating everyone in the building with respect, thoughtfullness, and a kind word.”  Where would our world be if everyone treated everyone else with this mantra?

  161. It’s refreshing to read that respect for others isn’t quite dead yet and I commend you. Unfortunately as well, we live in an anti-old society and some people have more of a problem
    with it than others.
    I once ran into an ex-boss whom I hadn’t seen in years and while introducing her to my friend, I said, “This is my old boss…”   I truly meant to say ex-boss, but as the words came flying out of my mouth, this woman flipped out on me and said, “OLD!”, “I’M NOT OLD!”, “HOW COULD YOU SAY I’M OLD?”  All I could do was apologize and tell her that I meant no disrespect because it wasn’t my intent to hurt her feelings. I truly meant,
    “ex-boss.” 
    So anyway, with that being said, I would tell the co-workers who give you backlash, that you meant no disrespect and you were brought up to respect others as well as authority. Then ask if there is another respectful term they perfer and that you are open to suggestions.  Keep the peace, while keeping your job :-)

  162. There is no way that anyone should have a problem with you calling them ma’am or sir. I think despite age, calling each other ma’am or sir is the right thing to do, especially if you dont know them. My parents still say that to others! And honestly, I’m still young myself and people call me ma’am all the time. It comes with all do respect and if they have a problem with it they dont deserve to be respected.

  163. I am far from the youngest at my work, but at 36 years old I’m hardly the oldest either. I was raised by military parents and ‘sir’ and ‘ma’am’ are terms of respect, as far as I was taught. My mother and father still refer to each other this way. I, too, have received backlash when using these words outside of my family and my reply is “My mother and father raised me to treat other people with respect – to me, this is respectful. I apologize if I’ve offended you”. People tend to back right off when it’s phrased this way! I think it offers the nay sayers another perspective.

  164. First of all, Bravo on being so respectful.  On the other hand, some people in the workplace might not want to be reminded that they are so much older than you are, and would rather that the office be less formal.  Look around, do the people refer to each other by first name?  If so, I would suspect that you may drop the sir, and mam, and speak to them as equals.  You are not wrong, but they may want you to think of yourself as an adult, and not as any less than that.  Pay attention though, if they refer to anyone as sir, or mam, you might want to follow the lead.

  165. First; congrats to the respectfully mannered ‘perplexed youngster’.  I suggest she advise said upper management persons that she was raised to respect persons of position and if “sir or ma’am” are inappropriate then they are requested to advise her of  what they consider appropriate titles.  End result could be: she is addressing said persons as they request, or, said persons may realize they had been previously addressed with titles of unearned respect and allow the continuation of ‘sir or ma’am’.  Either way, the youngster will be addressing as requested. Problem solved.

  166. OMG, this is such a problem for me!  I am originally from Michigan, a very polite place although not the South, and manners matter so much to me.  But Gen Y needs to know that instead of “Ma’am” being polite, it sooooo offensive!  At 55 years old, yes, I’m old enough to be their mother, but in a work setting I do not consider myself old or ever think of my age, in fact.  Even though I am a powerful personality, not obsessed with youth at all, and own the business, I expect to be addressed by my first name, in a polite manner.  Please, please don’t treat me like some sort of relic grandmother – it REALLY damages the relationship.  If one person speaks up and gives you this feedback, know there are ten who were irritated and kept it to themselves.  Thank you for your respect, but show it a less offensive way.

  167. Dear Perplexed – good manners are a major part of your personality. The use of word like “sir” and “ma’am” indicate that you are well grounded and secure with who you are. Don’t allow the lack of respect found in others to change your world.

  168. Use gentle humor with the respect. “Excuse me kind sir.”. Also Use miss instead of ma’am. It feels less age disrespectful.

  169. My son recently graduated from high school and has always had excellent manners. He addresses everyone as “sir” or “ma’am”, and is very polite. When he was little this was taken as “cute” and “sweet”, now it is usually viewed as “sucking up” or being a “wise-ass”. He insists that his way is right and will not change to conform to society. He has this rebellious attitude with pretty much everything he feels strongly about.  I just hope that out in the “real world” he will be able to continue being respectful as he was taught, but still be able to “blend” and “play the game”.   When I seen this question in my June issue, it was reassuring to know my son was not alone with this problem. I hope all of our younger generation who are trying to be polite and respectful can continue to be. Very proud of all of them. 

  170. I can’t say I understand exactly why it’s such a big deal; maybe they just don’t think of themselves as old (or old-fashioned) enough for ma’am and sir. Either way, you’re addressing your superiors here, so address them in the way they’re comfortable with. After all, these are the people you’re going to be appealing to when you want a promotion or an important project. Even a little thing like calling the wrong person ma’am or sir could end with you being blackballed.

  171. I can’t say I understand exactly why it’s such a big deal; maybe they just don’t think of themselves as old (or old-fashioned) enough for ma’am and sir. Either way, you’re addressing your superiors here, so address them in the way they’re comfortable with. After all, these are the people you’re going to be appealing to when you want a promotion or an important project. Even a little thing like calling the wrong person ma’am or sir could end with you being blackballed.

  172. I can’t say I understand exactly why it’s such a big deal; maybe they just don’t think of themselves as old (or old-fashioned) enough for ma’am and sir. Either way, you’re addressing your superiors here, so address them in the way they’re comfortable with. After all, these are the people you’re going to be appealing to when you want a promotion or an important project. Even a little thing like calling the wrong person ma’am or sir could end with you being blackballed.

  173. Honey, you were obviously raised right !! Do not be ashamed of good manners. However, I would be considerate and if anyone tells you they are offended by being called ma’am, ask how they would like to be addressed. As far as using “Sir”, no one could possibly be offended by being called sir. Keep using your good manners, people will think well of you despite what they may say.

  174. I work in a medical office and I am currently the youngest in my office.  I have worked here for over 5 years the fellow staff asked me to refer to them as they want and I respect that and try though sometimes I spil up.  I also get guff from my patients.  But my favorite response is that my Mom raised me right and I am respectful of everyone.  That makes them understand that I am not meaning it as pointing out that they are older than me but that I respect them. 

  175. Dear Perplexed Youngster,
    Continue to say “Please”‘ “Thank You”‘ Sir”‘ “Ma’am”‘ to those hold tiltles over yours, older people, and any one to whom you respect. If your superiors don’t like it; tell them you are sorry they do not feel worthy of your respect.Or as I once told a younger manager, “I respect your tilte if not the person.” Anyone who doesn’t want your respect obviously was not reared proper.

  176. I’m young but I was always told to say “Yes ma’am” and “Yes sir” although a kid in my class was always yelled at for saying ma’am and sir because it seems to be a southern thing. As for a boss, my guess is that the see this as mockery. I would say “Mrs.___” or “Mr.___” whichever applies.

  177. Who is the source of the backlash?  I suspect its people in the peer group, not those in upper management. In any case, it’s always best to err on the side of respect and formality as opposed to familiarity and casualness. 

  178. Most likely due to them thinking you are mocking them, or when they are not in a good mood. Perhaps also could be due to them not used to it, or simply feeling old when you say it. Regardless the best way is probably just to not use it to those who are offended by it.

  179. Dear Perplexed Youngster:

    I understand your dilemna and the fact that the terms “Ma’am or Sir” are signs of respect from you.  I truly believe that this is a regional issue.  While I find that “Sir” seems to exude respect in most of the country, the term “Ma’am” clearly for me does not.  I am from New Jersey, now living in Florida.  One of the hardest things for me to get used to is being called “Ma’am”.  In New Jersey, you would risk confrontation using that term!  We do not hear respect or even the word “Ma’am”, but what we hear is “hey old lady”, clearly not a sign of respect.  I think that you should adjust your vocabulary to fit where you live and understand that it is differences in regions.  I have had to accept being called “Ma’am”, as much as I detest that word.  I see it down here as a sign of their respect and for that I must get over my New Jersey interpretation. 

    Signed:

    Formerly from New Jersey, transplanted in Florida and clearly not a “Ma’am”!!

  180. “Perplexed Youngster” doesn’t say what part of the world he lives in.  But I would say that out here in the Western U.S., “Sir” and “Ma’am” are used mostly for emphasis, and not for much else. 

    For ex.:
    Divorce lawyer to me in court:  “The marriage isn’t retrievable?”
    Me:  “No, Sir!”

    Me:  “Your son’s birthday is April 27, right?”
    Proud  Father:  “Yes, ma’am!”

  181. Sir, keep up your manners. I’ve been raised to call all my elders by “sir” or “ma’am” as well. I’m also a young worker, and I know people (women especially) seem to take offense. If they tell you not to call them that, don’t. Adress them by Mr or Mrs, or if your office is a first-name basis, add a Miss or Mr. Don’t use nicknames in the office. But whenever you meet a new person, stick to your honorifics. I promise you, your boss will notice. And when they see how polite and respectful you are, along with being a vivacious young representative of the company, who do you think they’ll give the important clients to?

  182. Sir, keep up your manners. I’ve been raised to call all my elders by “sir” or “ma’am” as well. I’m also a young worker, and I know people (women especially) seem to take offense. If they tell you not to call them that, don’t. Adress them by Mr or Mrs, or if your office is a first-name basis, add a Miss or Mr. Don’t use nicknames in the office. But whenever you meet a new person, stick to your honorifics. I promise you, your boss will notice. And when they see how polite and respectful you are, along with being a vivacious young representative of the company, who do you think they’ll give the important clients to?

  183. Sir, keep up your manners. I’ve been raised to call all my elders by “sir” or “ma’am” as well. I’m also a young worker, and I know people (women especially) seem to take offense. If they tell you not to call them that, don’t. Adress them by Mr or Mrs, or if your office is a first-name basis, add a Miss or Mr. Don’t use nicknames in the office. But whenever you meet a new person, stick to your honorifics. I promise you, your boss will notice. And when they see how polite and respectful you are, along with being a vivacious young representative of the company, who do you think they’ll give the important clients to?

  184. Sir, keep up your manners. I’ve been raised to call all my elders by “sir” or “ma’am” as well. I’m also a young worker, and I know people (women especially) seem to take offense. If they tell you not to call them that, don’t. Adress them by Mr or Mrs, or if your office is a first-name basis, add a Miss or Mr. Don’t use nicknames in the office. But whenever you meet a new person, stick to your honorifics. I promise you, your boss will notice. And when they see how polite and respectful you are, along with being a vivacious young representative of the company, who do you think they’ll give the important clients to?

  185. Sir, keep up your manners. I’ve been raised to call all my elders by “sir” or “ma’am” as well. I’m also a young worker, and I know people (women especially) seem to take offense. If they tell you not to call them that, don’t. Adress them by Mr or Mrs, or if your office is a first-name basis, add a Miss or Mr. Don’t use nicknames in the office. But whenever you meet a new person, stick to your honorifics. I promise you, your boss will notice. And when they see how polite and respectful you are, along with being a vivacious young representative of the company, who do you think they’ll give the important clients to?

  186. Sir, keep up your manners. I’ve been raised to call all my elders by “sir” or “ma’am” as well. I’m also a young worker, and I know people (women especially) seem to take offense. If they tell you not to call them that, don’t. Adress them by Mr or Mrs, or if your office is a first-name basis, add a Miss or Mr. Don’t use nicknames in the office. But whenever you meet a new person, stick to your honorifics. I promise you, your boss will notice. And when they see how polite and respectful you are, along with being a vivacious young representative of the company, who do you think they’ll give the important clients to?

  187. As far as I am concerned, respect is going down the tubes in the USA.  I commend the young person for maintaining his/her own upbrining and being respectful.  Any negative comments by others should be ignored.  Keep being the polite, young adult you are.  If people don’t like it, it’s their problem.

  188. As far as I am concerned, respect is going down the tubes in the USA.  I commend the young person for maintaining his/her own upbrining and being respectful.  Any negative comments by others should be ignored.  Keep being the polite, young adult you are.  If people don’t like it, it’s their problem.

  189. My husband was in a surgical residency in Ohio back in the ’80s.  We are from the Deep South, so you learn to say “yes ma’am” and “no sir” almost as soon as you learn “mama” and “dada”.  He apparently offended an older black nurse for using these terms, who reported him for being condescending to her.  He apologized to her explaining that he really didn’t mean it that way.  It was the way he was raised and his mama would still pop him if he didn’t use his manners.  Now our daughter is in college in the midwest and she says some of her instructors bristle when she says “yes ma’am” and “no sir”.  I think you should always go with what your mama and daddy taught you.

  190. Kudos to you for actually having some manners!  It seems that etiquette is a dying practice; there should be more people like you trying to keep it alive.  I say go ahead and keep addressing your elders as “Ma’am” and “Sir.”  If it seems like your coworkers are really taking offense to these nonoffensive terms, though, perhaps try laying off a little while still being polite.  But if they are that put out by your courtesy, it might be time to find a new job where you are more appreciated.

  191. Until 1976 when I worked as a co-op student at IBM I was always taught that it was respectful to say Mr. and Mrs. or Miss.  At IBM they tended to use first names for everyone, and I started that habit.  They shouldn’t be offended, at least you are not calling them “honey” or “sweetheart”.  At least you know you are being respectful.  If you were to call me Ma’am even at 52 I would not be offended.  Keep your good manners dispite what others think and say.

  192. Respect is indicative of one’s attitude; and attitude is the
    mindset of your disposition and the catalyst for your character. I would suggest that his communication skills remain courteous.

  193. I suggest that you continue using those terms to your superiors even though you receive backlash.  The only backlash you should consider is from upper management.  If they tell you to call them by another name, or if they have a title that they are naturally called such as Sheriff for the police department or Doctor for a medical doctor, then heed those rules instead.  If they are in higher positions than you, regardless of their age compared to yours, they deserve the respect that comes with that position.  They worked hard and deserve deference.  Do not feel bad for calling anybody by those terms.  It’s better to be overly polite and call them sir and ma’am and get everybody else upset than to not call them that and be frowned upon.  It shows your level of respect and politeness and the others around you should learn to get on board.  Times are changing and people are becoming more informal but that doesn’t mean we have to abandon all forms of respect.

  194. There is nothing wrong with what you’re doing. It is respectful, but it would be better if you adressed them as Mr Mrs or Ms instead. By doing what your doing is making them feel old and its insulting. Its like when someone talks down to you when in reality you know what there talking about.

  195. Please.  You say these are terms of “respect” then you want to know what’s the big deal, and why people have become that sensitive.  From your attitude, it is clear you are not using these terms out of respect, but simply to get your own way – “nobody can tell me what to do!”  Every business or corporation has its own culture and you would do better to learn the culture at your job.  If you’ve been asked to stop using these terms, then stop.  

  196. You don’t say who the backlash is from. If it is coming from upper management and they request you call them by their names, then you certainly should. If it is coming from co-workers, they may think your politeness is a way of “sucking up” to management. Being polite is never a bad thing.

  197. The bottom line is that you shouldn’t call anyone something that they don’t want to be called.  If they ask you not to address them as ma’am and sir, then don’t do it. 

  198. The bottom line is that you shouldn’t call anyone something that they don’t want to be called.  If they ask you not to address them as ma’am and sir, then don’t do it. 

  199. The bottom line is that you shouldn’t call anyone something that they don’t want to be called.  If they ask you not to address them as ma’am and sir, then don’t do it. 

  200. Perhaps you could, simply, address them as a “Mr.” or “Mrs.” followed by their surname. What could be more respectful than addressing someone by their own name and the least offensive? 

  201. My first job I was the only youngest there too.  I called everybody sir and ma’am and was chastised for it.  Many of the guys I worked for were in the military and did not want to relive those days.  I then learned to only say sir to my boss (nonmilitary man).  The rest of them I called by their first names.  You just have to go with the flow.  It’s not disrespectful unless someone objects to it.  They may tell you why.  If they object to it, find out why and ask them what they would like to be called.  They will respect you for it. 

  202. Bravo “Perplexed Youngster” on having respectful manners!  It is perfectly courteous to use ma’am and sir and it USED to be expected.  Most manners have been lost due to families choosing to lose them or their children simply rebelling even after they are taught.  It is up to all of us to carry on with proper behavior.  I personally am teaching my son to use those very terms every day!!

  203. At work we are not supposed to be male or female but co-workers. Using “Ma’am” and “sir” shows that he doesn’t have this concept yet and is still seeing people as male or female. Outside of work he can use these terms. But at work this can be seen as discriminatory. Just use the first names or whatever they want to be called for the upper management. 

  204. Dear Perplexed, what have been basic good manners are no longer accepted. Please, thank you, and other basics of civilized behavior are now ridiculed or considered offensive. When you are around civilized people continue to be civilized. When you are around others leave out the politeness and speak to them as they wish. That is, after all, the polite thing to do.

  205. In the USMC we had to by Law say sir or Ma’am when addressing an Officer.  So I did.  But I did not necessarily respect 100% of them.  In private industry, I think using Sir or Ma’am is very good, quaint, and very Texas like. My dad was from Texas and used sir and ma’am very often. But do respect those who say “Don’t call me sir”. In the Marines we low ranking Lance Corporals would kiddingly say sir to each other.  The response was “Don’t call me Sir!!  I work for a living!…. (pause)  On second thought, Call Me Sir!!!” Craig Wilson  age 60  Los Angeles

  206. Most of the ladies I work with I call them Miss [their name]. The men I call them Mr [their name]. That way I’m still respectful, but not making them feel like their parents.

  207. My dear old daddy always used to say, “Son, call no man sir.  If you think he is better than you, never let him find it out.  Then I went into the military and found out sir was a dirty word.

    Sorry, I couldn’t pass this one up. 

  208. If you actually wanted to be respectful, you’d realize that it doesn’t matter whether you think it’s a problem. If someone doesn’t want to be called something, you don’t call them that. That’s how courtesy works. If you can’t respect what someone prefers to be called, how dare you call yourself respectful?

  209. Your intentions and manners should be applauded.  The reason you have received some backlash is that people in our youth obsessed culture look at titles like ma’am and sir equated with saying old lady or old man.  People under a certain age (I’m guessing 50ish) think of ma’am and sir as their minister or teacher or some other “old” person from their youth and who wants to think of themselves as old?  Perhaps a better way to still use your good manners, but not offend anyone, is to call them Mr. or Mrs./Ms. 

  210. I don’t believe you’re being rude at all.  I myself used to work with people off all ages, one who was only a week older than me, and used the “sir” and “ma’am” when given tasks.  If anything, the others weren’t taught proper manners.  You can stay with your manners, we all need to live with how we all were raised.

  211. Sir and M’am are terms of respect, not just for those who are older but also for those is positions of authority. It has been my practice to use those terms until such time as I am asked not to. “Perplexed youngster” should continue to use “Sir” and “M’am”. Those to whom the terms are directed to say whether or not he should stop. Anyone else that is bothered by it should be disregarded.

  212. The real issue here is not about manners, but about how well you follow instructions.
    The culture of your workplace is to stress that every duty is essential to the business, therefore treating all employees as equals is a reminder for every worker to maintain the highest standards possible in their duties.

    The most polite way to address anyone is to use the designation you are asked to use, not what you personally consider better.

  213. In Los Angeles, I regret to say those forms of address probably are rusting from disuse.  Civil discourse is dying, and formal titles are disappearing as well.  Luckily, we can look beneath the surface and see respect lurking in “textspeak,” in first names, and in “sir” and “ma’am.”  It’s not what we say but how we say it.

  214. First of all, I would like to say “Kudos” to “Perplexed Youngster” for displaying manners in the workplace.  I am both surprised, and yet sadly not surprised, by the reaction of his/her fellow co-workers regarding the use of “sir” and “ma’am” when addressing senior employees in the workplace.  When did we become too “busy” to be mindful and respectful of others?  In this fast-paced world of automated this-and-that…drive thru baristas, banks and fast food…separation from personal contact has reduced us to self centered, lazy drones.  Let’s talk about busy parking lots for example: I can’t begin to tell you how many times I have stopped for people to pass in front of my car without so much as a wave or nod of “thank you.”  Now, I realize that I have a certain obligation to watch for pedestrians in parking lots….but don’t they have the same obligation to watch for my 55,000 lb vehicle? Half the time they don’t even bother to look before crossing.   What dangers are they teaching their children?!   Don’t even get me started on people not holding the door for others.  I don’t mean the good ‘ol days when men would open doors for women (although my dad still does this and rarely gets a thank you)….I’m talking about people who allow the door to slam in your face as they pass through.  I have a small child and I don’t exactly relish the idea of a heavy door colliding with him or his stroller.  I guess the  lesson here: Don’t let the self-centered laziness of others put a kibosh on your manners.  A little manners goes a long way! 

  215. First of all, I would like to say “Kudos” to “Perplexed Youngster” for displaying manners in the workplace.  I am both surprised, and yet sadly not surprised, by the reaction of his/her fellow co-workers regarding the use of “sir” and “ma’am” when addressing senior employees in the workplace.  When did we become too “busy” to be mindful and respectful of others?  In this fast-paced world of automated this-and-that…drive thru baristas, banks and fast food…separation from personal contact has reduced us to self centered, lazy drones.  Let’s talk about busy parking lots for example: I can’t begin to tell you how many times I have stopped for people to pass in front of my car without so much as a wave or nod of “thank you.”  Now, I realize that I have a certain obligation to watch for pedestrians in parking lots….but don’t they have the same obligation to watch for my 55,000 lb vehicle? Half the time they don’t even bother to look before crossing.   What dangers are they teaching their children?!   Don’t even get me started on people not holding the door for others.  I don’t mean the good ‘ol days when men would open doors for women (although my dad still does this and rarely gets a thank you)….I’m talking about people who allow the door to slam in your face as they pass through.  I have a small child and I don’t exactly relish the idea of a heavy door colliding with him or his stroller.  I guess the  lesson here: Don’t let the self-centered laziness of others put a kibosh on your manners.  A little manners goes a long way! 

  216. First of all, I would like to say “Kudos” to “Perplexed Youngster” for displaying manners in the workplace.  I am both surprised, and yet sadly not surprised, by the reaction of his/her fellow co-workers regarding the use of “sir” and “ma’am” when addressing senior employees in the workplace.  When did we become too “busy” to be mindful and respectful of others?  In this fast-paced world of automated this-and-that…drive thru baristas, banks and fast food…separation from personal contact has reduced us to self centered, lazy drones.  Let’s talk about busy parking lots for example: I can’t begin to tell you how many times I have stopped for people to pass in front of my car without so much as a wave or nod of “thank you.”  Now, I realize that I have a certain obligation to watch for pedestrians in parking lots….but don’t they have the same obligation to watch for my 55,000 lb vehicle? Half the time they don’t even bother to look before crossing.   What dangers are they teaching their children?!   Don’t even get me started on people not holding the door for others.  I don’t mean the good ‘ol days when men would open doors for women (although my dad still does this and rarely gets a thank you)….I’m talking about people who allow the door to slam in your face as they pass through.  I have a small child and I don’t exactly relish the idea of a heavy door colliding with him or his stroller.  I guess the  lesson here: Don’t let the self-centered laziness of others put a kibosh on your manners.  A little manners goes a long way! 

  217. To me, when I hear someone say “Ma’an” it is truely the manner in which they “say”it!!  It’s like someone always calling the people around them “Sweeheart” or “Honey”.  It is not offencive when they say it, it is just HOW they say it.  If they truely have  good intensions, then it’s fine!

  218. Dear Perplexed,
     if the point of your “ma’am” and “sir” is to be respectful why not find out how others want to be respected?  Next time you get backlash come right back with,”Thank you for leeting me know that, how would you like me to address you?” and then just use whatever they tell you.  True respect is about the other person, not you. 

  219. People DO seem to find it offensive now. It’s an odd conundrum for those of us who were taught it’s good manners.

    However, it is never good manners to offend someone, no matter what you have been taught. Whether because they feel like you’re saying they’re old or because they just want to be your equal, your co-workers don’t like your attempt at polite.

    The well-mannered thing to do, then, is drop the sir and ma’m for those who seem to be taking offense. Feel free to keep using for others.

  220. Sir and Ma’am have always been terms of respect.  If the backlash is coming from co-workers, ignore it and continue.  If your bosses have a problem, ask them how they would like to be addressed while at work

  221. Using Mr. and Mrs., and “yes sir” and “yes ma’am” are ways we teach our children to respect authority.  
    If you are not a student or intern, you have entered the working world as an adult and full-fledged peer to your co-workers.  Put on your big girl pants and talk like you are in charge of your future.  There are lots of other ways to show respect and deference to your supervisors, but they will respect you as an adult when you address them as a peer. 

    1. P.S. I should clarify – outside the workplace, your mama and grandma still want to be called ma’am, and you should respect that.

  222. Dear Perplexed Youngster,
     I commend your desire to remain respectful at work.  However, you should look at it as a compliment that they don’t see it necessary for you to call them “sir” or “ma’am.”  Perhaps they see you as more of an equal than the terms deserve. For some it makes them feel old.  Ask them politely how they would like to be addressed.  Do you want the next youngest hired to call you “sir” or ‘ma’am?”

  223. She or He should ask her/his supervisor(s) how they prefer to be addressed. I did that at my first job. Some bosses are more formal than others.

  224. It’s not offensive at all. Some people just like to make a big fuss over every little thing. One time I called a lady “ma’am” and she got in a big huff and said not to call her that. So I replied “Alright, sir.”

  225. I’m the, “kid,” in my office and I have experienced something similar. I was raised in the South and have grown up to say ma’am and sir to everyone (even pets).  Once, a woman in my office became instantly angry, stopped all that she had been doing, looked me straight in the eyes, and said, “Do NOT call me ma’am. It makes me feel old.”  Embarrassed, I apologized. Since then, I avoid the use of ma’am with her and mostly just avoid her.  However, I wish I that I could have been confident enough to make light of it, or to simply stand my ground and make sure she knew that, “Yes, ma’am,” would not cease to be a part of my regular vocabulary. I know it’s not my fault that anything might help her to feel old–her own feelings allow her to feel old.  It is good an proper thing to say ma’am and sir. As you might in other awkward situations, do your best to be graceful and accepting or just make light of the situation–but never stop saying ma’am and sir just because someone is rude about it.  Don’t be a jerk, but don’t be a doormat either. The insecurities of others that cause them to behave rudely ought never dissuade us from being polite.  Incidentally, propriety is a way of showing concern for others–if we forget that, then we are neglecting the purpose of politeness which is infinitely more important the the particular manner in and of itself.  Sometimes, adjusting your own behavior can the most polite thing.   If someone is expressing their discomfort in a kind way, return their respect by honoring their wishes–explain why you say ma’am and sir, and let them know you’ll do your best to keep from using those phrases with them.  

  226. I’m the, “kid,” in my office and I have experienced something similar. I was raised in the South and have grown up to say ma’am and sir to everyone (even pets).  Once, a woman in my office became instantly angry, stopped all that she had been doing, looked me straight in the eyes, and said, “Do NOT call me ma’am. It makes me feel old.”  Embarrassed, I apologized. Since then, I avoid the use of ma’am with her and mostly just avoid her.  However, I wish I that I could have been confident enough to make light of it, or to simply stand my ground and make sure she knew that, “Yes, ma’am,” would not cease to be a part of my regular vocabulary. I know it’s not my fault that anything might help her to feel old–her own feelings allow her to feel old.  It is good an proper thing to say ma’am and sir. As you might in other awkward situations, do your best to be graceful and accepting or just make light of the situation–but never stop saying ma’am and sir just because someone is rude about it.  Don’t be a jerk, but don’t be a doormat either. The insecurities of others that cause them to behave rudely ought never dissuade us from being polite.  Incidentally, propriety is a way of showing concern for others–if we forget that, then we are neglecting the purpose of politeness which is infinitely more important the the particular manner in and of itself.  Sometimes, adjusting your own behavior can the most polite thing.   If someone is expressing their discomfort in a kind way, return their respect by honoring their wishes–explain why you say ma’am and sir, and let them know you’ll do your best to keep from using those phrases with them.  

  227. Dear Perplexed,

    You need to loosen up a little, Why not refer to upper management as Bubba or Sweetie, maybe Big guy or Toots. In all seriousness unless you are a butler or in the military, stepping up to sir or ma’am is probably a little over the top. As the CEO of a company we have found that equalizing everyone at the office creates a more productive and happy place to work. Feel things out. Is a first name appropriate, sometimes a response without a name or title works best. Personally I like it when the staff refer to me as “Yes Boss”, with heavy emphasis on the Yes

  228. If someone does not want to be addressed so formally then it would be rude to keep addressing them as such. Good manners also mean respecting the wishes of others. Someone should only have to ask you to not call them “Sir” once.

  229. If someone does not want to be addressed so formally then it would be rude to keep addressing them as such. Good manners also mean respecting the wishes of others. Someone should only have to ask you to not call them “Sir” once.

  230. I was taught by my mother to show respect for others; sir and ma’am are part of my regular vocabulary. Holding doors for others is simply the way things are done. sometimes I get a strange look and sometimes I get a “Thank you”. But sometimes, I am scolded in less-than-polite fashion. My response is always the same (and always delivered with a laugh a smile): “My mother taught me to be a gentleman. You wouldn’t want her to come out of her grave and slap me upside the head now, would you? That’s something neither one of us would want to see.” So far, no one has wanted to see if she would.

  231. I’m 52 years old but don’t feel like it or act like it. I don’t mind being called “Sir” but I don’t like being called “Mister” by people I am around often. It’s a waste of time and too formal for me. I am not offended by it and don’t mind telling younger people to stop using Mister with me and to address me by my first name. I would recommend that you continue this practice of politeness until someone asks you to stop and then respect their wishes. Also….thank your parents for teaching you correct manners! :)

  232. I was raised such that “Ma’am” and “Sir” are to be used as a sign of respect. The term is always approrpiate for some one you do not know well,  or for a superior.

    Even in certain contexts, you may wish to use this address for a close friend. Perhaps others are around for whom you want to set the tone.

    In the late 90’s, I worked at a high tech firm that was hiring a lot of people just out of college. A young woman, first job, came to my desk to ask a question. I said, “Yes, ma’am. How may I help you?” She was offended thinking I said she looked old. She never spoke to me again.

    So, use the term when it will be well received. And not otherwise. Knowing the difference is the trick.

  233. Age is a big issue these days, and with so many baby boomers getting older, the world is bound to become more sensitive when it comes to how we wish to be addressed.  I am 56, but I would rather be called by my first name than “ma’am.”  Personally, being called “ma’am” does make me feel older.  “Sir” and “ma’am” are also very formal, and we live in a much more casual world these days, so that might be part of the problem too.  If your co-workers are sensitive to it, then maybe you would be better off going with the culture of your office.  Address them by their first name, unless you are really uncomfortable with it; then perhaps simply using the titles “Mr.” or “Ms.” would be a good compromise.  

  234. You must be from the south.  Us good ole southern folks still address people that way.  I would continue doing it , but also find out if they prefer something else.  I am 65 and still say Yes ma’am and yes sir to everybody .   I am in the south and in sales and customer service and will say yes ma’am to ladies in their 20’s and 30’s

  235. We both think using the terms “sir” or “ma’am” are signs of respect.  However, being right or being insistent that you are right is not going to help you. Some people view the terms as an uncomfortable reminder of their age.  Others think of the terms in a slave-owner relationship or some other relationship where one has authority over another.  In a work environment, you all want to work together as a team.  To truly show respect for someone, you need to be considerate of other people’s feelings.  If others at work perceive the terms as offensive, do not use them.  If you accidentally use the terms and see that you’ve caused offense, apologize and explain that you only meant respect.

  236. When in Basic Training I called a drill sergeant sir.  He just about swallowed his tongue and then yelled, what?  I looked him square in the eye and told him that my mamma is meaner than he is.  He looked at me, smiled, and said don’t do it again.  

    I’m 41 now and still say sir and ma’am to people both older and younger than I am.  I always give them this same answer.  I’m not backing down at all.  My mamma taught me better than that.  Polite is polite. 

  237. I was raised to have respect, not only for my “elders” but those around me and myself. The years of martial arts I took only reinforced that. What they don’t understand is that you are saying it out of the respect you have for them. I myself am only 20 and I have experienced this myself. What I would suggest is that the next time you say “yes sir” or “yes ma’am” and they become short with you, inform them that you mean no harm in it, that you mean it out of sincere respect. Apologize to them if you offended them, and ask them what they would prefer you to address them by. At the end of the day it is all about respect. If you respect them, you’ll respect their wishes regardless of their reasoning behind it.

  238. I was raised to have respect, not only for my “elders” but those around me and myself. The years of martial arts I took only reinforced that. What they don’t understand is that you are saying it out of the respect you have for them. I myself am only 20 and I have experienced this myself. What I would suggest is that the next time you say “yes sir” or “yes ma’am” and they become short with you, inform them that you mean no harm in it, that you mean it out of sincere respect. Apologize to them if you offended them, and ask them what they would prefer you to address them by. At the end of the day it is all about respect. If you respect them, you’ll respect their wishes regardless of their reasoning behind it.

  239. I was raised to have respect, not only for my “elders” but those around me and myself. The years of martial arts I took only reinforced that. What they don’t understand is that you are saying it out of the respect you have for them. I myself am only 20 and I have experienced this myself. What I would suggest is that the next time you say “yes sir” or “yes ma’am” and they become short with you, inform them that you mean no harm in it, that you mean it out of sincere respect. Apologize to them if you offended them, and ask them what they would prefer you to address them by. At the end of the day it is all about respect. If you respect them, you’ll respect their wishes regardless of their reasoning behind it.

  240. I was raised to have respect, not only for my “elders” but those around me and myself. The years of martial arts I took only reinforced that. What they don’t understand is that you are saying it out of the respect you have for them. I myself am only 20 and I have experienced this myself. What I would suggest is that the next time you say “yes sir” or “yes ma’am” and they become short with you, inform them that you mean no harm in it, that you mean it out of sincere respect. Apologize to them if you offended them, and ask them what they would prefer you to address them by. At the end of the day it is all about respect. If you respect them, you’ll respect their wishes regardless of their reasoning behind it.

  241. I was raised to have respect, not only for my “elders” but those around me and myself. The years of martial arts I took only reinforced that. What they don’t understand is that you are saying it out of the respect you have for them. I myself am only 20 and I have experienced this myself. What I would suggest is that the next time you say “yes sir” or “yes ma’am” and they become short with you, inform them that you mean no harm in it, that you mean it out of sincere respect. Apologize to them if you offended them, and ask them what they would prefer you to address them by. At the end of the day it is all about respect. If you respect them, you’ll respect their wishes regardless of their reasoning behind it.

  242. I was raised to have respect, not only for my “elders” but those around me and myself. The years of martial arts I took only reinforced that. What they don’t understand is that you are saying it out of the respect you have for them. I myself am only 20 and I have experienced this myself. What I would suggest is that the next time you say “yes sir” or “yes ma’am” and they become short with you, inform them that you mean no harm in it, that you mean it out of sincere respect. Apologize to them if you offended them, and ask them what they would prefer you to address them by. At the end of the day it is all about respect. If you respect them, you’ll respect their wishes regardless of their reasoning behind it.

  243. I was raised to have respect, not only for my “elders” but those around me and myself. The years of martial arts I took only reinforced that. What they don’t understand is that you are saying it out of the respect you have for them. I myself am only 20 and I have experienced this myself. What I would suggest is that the next time you say “yes sir” or “yes ma’am” and they become short with you, inform them that you mean no harm in it, that you mean it out of sincere respect. Apologize to them if you offended them, and ask them what they would prefer you to address them by. At the end of the day it is all about respect. If you respect them, you’ll respect their wishes regardless of their reasoning behind it.

  244. I was raised to have respect, not only for my “elders” but those around me and myself. The years of martial arts I took only reinforced that. What they don’t understand is that you are saying it out of the respect you have for them. I myself am only 20 and I have experienced this myself. What I would suggest is that the next time you say “yes sir” or “yes ma’am” and they become short with you, inform them that you mean no harm in it, that you mean it out of sincere respect. Apologize to them if you offended them, and ask them what they would prefer you to address them by. At the end of the day it is all about respect. If you respect them, you’ll respect their wishes regardless of their reasoning behind it.

  245. I think ma’am might be informal for certain work environments or sound a bit too country.  Or maybe you just made a woman feel old he he.

  246. I grew up a military brat, so “sir” and “ma’am” were part of my normal, everyday vocabulary. But I notice a lot of people seem to be offended by them, mostly due to the fact of making them feel old. In fact, we are not supposed to call people “sir” or “ma’am” at my job. I think your best bet would be to address your coworkers as “Mister xxx” or “Miss xxx”, though the feminine aspect may cause its own problems between “Miss” and “Mrs.”

  247. There is nothing wrong with your decision to be courteous and respectful at work. I am sure the backlash involves people saying you are “sucking up” or “kissing butt” to get ahead. This type of behavior derives from those who may feel you are a threat to them. They do not feel the same way about their boss. I deal with the younger generation as a police officer and I see the consent disrespect towards authority and the public in general. I address everyone I come in contact with as sir or ma’am. It is a sign of universal respect. Keep up the comments, don’t worry about the co-workers, continue to stand up for what you believe in. Good luck!

  248. There is nothing wrong with your decision to be courteous and respectful at work. I am sure the backlash involves people saying you are “sucking up” or “kissing butt” to get ahead. This type of behavior derives from those who may feel you are a threat to them. They do not feel the same way about their boss. I deal with the younger generation as a police officer and I see the consent disrespect towards authority and the public in general. I address everyone I come in contact with as sir or ma’am. It is a sign of universal respect. Keep up the comments, don’t worry about the co-workers, continue to stand up for what you believe in. Good luck!

  249. Ma’am, you have company. At nearly 40, I’m the third youngest in my office, and I get frequent ribbings for my use of formal titles. There’s absolutely nothing wrong with showing respect and good manners to the people around you. I’d say there’s more wrong with a society that has discarded these practices. Keep up the good work.

    1. I think formality is fine, if it is applied to everyone. If one of my co-workers wants to be called Mrs. Smith or Dr. Brown then I expect the same deference. I will be Miss Doe and not Jane.

    2. I think formality is fine, if it is applied to everyone. If one of my co-workers wants to be called Mrs. Smith or Dr. Brown then I expect the same deference. I will be Miss Doe and not Jane.

  250. It’s nice that you want to respect your elders, but in this day and age, most people- even in the workplace, and especially in the workplace- tend to call people by any name/title they prefer. Many times people prefer not to be called by their formal name, but by a nickname. Go with the flow, and don’t take it personally. If your elders prefer not to be called “sir” or “ma’am” then fine, call them by whatever name or title they go by.

  251. I’m also a young person, under 25, and I also use respectful honorifics. 
    I would continue using “sir” and “ma’am,” and if someone gives you grief, ask them why and then just remember to not use honorifics when addressing that person. 

  252. I’m also a young person, under 25, and I also use respectful honorifics. 
    I would continue using “sir” and “ma’am,” and if someone gives you grief, ask them why and then just remember to not use honorifics when addressing that person. 

  253. I’m also a young person, under 25, and I also use respectful honorifics. 
    I would continue using “sir” and “ma’am,” and if someone gives you grief, ask them why and then just remember to not use honorifics when addressing that person. 

  254. As a middle-aged woman, I feel hurt when I get “Ma’am”ed and senior discounted, when others my same age may get treated as youngclerk women. The trouble is that in our culture, people respond and address you according to their perceptions of your outward age and level of attractiveness.

    1. What about those who would get offended at the term “Young Lady”?

    2. No! I have encountered plenty of middle-aged women (40s, 50s) that I find incredibly attractive, and guess what? Whether I am on duty or out in public while off duty, I still refer to them as “Ma’am” out of genuine respect for them as a Woman, regardless of age or marital status. In fact, I do them same for younger women…it’s pure and simple respect. The level of attractiveness is irrelevant, although, if I found an “older” woman to be attractive, I most certainly would not refrain from addressing her as “Ma’am.” In fact, I would be more inclined to refer to her as “Ma’am” unless she told me to do otherwise. Trust me, you can be a “Ma’am” and still be beautiful and desired.

  255. You must be working somewhere in Yankeeland where they believe Ma’am is short for “Mammy” and Sir is meant to mock someone.  I suppose they would rather be called “Dude” and “Hey Lady”. Ask your coworkers how they would like to be addressed. I wish you good luck!     

  256. It depends on the culture at your workplace. What we think respectful may come as offensive to others. I had similar problem a few years ago when I came into a very westernized culture at my new workplace. Several people preferred to becalled by their first names. Others wanted to be called by their titles. Some people were fine with being called Ma’am or Sir and some others weren’t. Although personally, I consider that calling our seniors with Ma’am or Sir polite, I believe we have to consider our surroundings too. Our natural habit may be difficult to break but there is nothing wrong in bending the rule a little bit. If the person you’re calling Ma’am or Sir are fine with the way you address them, so be as your usual. But if they aren’t, consider their feelings and try to remember how they would like to be called. In any case, call them Mr, Mrs, or Ms should be adequate and generally accepted in every work environment. Good luck.

  257. It depends on the culture or country you are in. In US, they find it offensive but in Philippines they find it okay. It boils down to one word – respect.

  258. The proper etiquette is to say:  Mr., Miss, Mrs. or Ms.  Since you have no training in good manners you might want to buy a book about manners.  Then when told, you may use what the person suggests. 

    1. Question, would you still use Mr. Miss, Mrs, or Ms. if you do not know the person’s first or last name (let us suppose you are addressing someone you accidentally bumped into)? 

      1. Excuse me Miss, I did not indend to tread upon you. Oh! Mister, you left your wallet on the table. Ma’am/Sir you dropped your phone.

    2. No training in good manners?  This person obviously has great training in manners.  They had the sense to ask.  

    3.  That young lady has more good manners in her little finger than you have in your whole body.

    4.  That young lady has more good manners in her little finger than you have in your whole body.

  259. There’s nothing wrong with having good manners. I wish more people taught their children how to give and receive respect. Maybe there wouldn’t be so many problems.

  260. Good manners includes NOT doing things that offend or are hurtful to others.  Forms of address seem to be in quite a state of flux these days.  Titles (Mrs./Miss/Ms., for example), first names or title + surname (Betty vs. Mrs. Jones), and forms of address such as “sir” or “ma’am” belong to the person, not you, and are subject to their control.  Your inclination to show deference and respect to others is laudable, and is the most respectful way to start addressing people.  How much easier it is to start being overly courteous and then being asked graciously to be more informal, than to start overly familiar and be upbraided by someone who wants to be treated more formally.  So when Mrs. Jones asks you to call her Betty, you should comply.  And when Mr. Smith asks that you not address him as “sir,” you should comply.   But if Dr. Brown never asks you to address her as Mary, then stay with “ma’am” and “Dr. Brown.”  If you must, keep a little chart of preferred forms of address until you remember. 

    Now for those who have given you backlash: shame, shame, shame! 

  261. Good manners includes NOT doing things that offend or are hurtful to others.  Forms of address seem to be in quite a state of flux these days.  Titles (Mrs./Miss/Ms., for example), first names or title + surname (Betty vs. Mrs. Jones), and forms of address such as “sir” or “ma’am” belong to the person, not you, and are subject to their control.  Your inclination to show deference and respect to others is laudable, and is the most respectful way to start addressing people.  How much easier it is to start being overly courteous and then being asked graciously to be more informal, than to start overly familiar and be upbraided by someone who wants to be treated more formally.  So when Mrs. Jones asks you to call her Betty, you should comply.  And when Mr. Smith asks that you not address him as “sir,” you should comply.   But if Dr. Brown never asks you to address her as Mary, then stay with “ma’am” and “Dr. Brown.”  If you must, keep a little chart of preferred forms of address until you remember. 

    Now for those who have given you backlash: shame, shame, shame! 

  262. How can it possibly be polite or respectful to call someone something they prefer not to be called? Ask them what they WOULD like to be called, and then call them that. That’s true respect.

    1. yes but Ms. Wills what if you can not properly pronounce there name. I just can not wrap my tounge around Asian names. My boss at the laundry matt was offend in being called boss or sir. I just quit because I could not say his name.

      1.  You would not take the trouble to ask and learn your boss’s name and its pronunciation?  You are lucky you were given the opportunity to quit….

  263. ooops  meant to say you can always ask your superiors.  But keep it up

  264. You keep on with your good manners.  You can always your superiors if it is a problem if you a still concerned.  Kudos to the peopleo instilled such good manners.  Keep it up.

  265. I’m not offended by “ma’am”, and to be honest, I find myself saying it very frequently.  However, I can understand younger women not wanting to be called ma’am – it does make one feel quite old.  My suggestion for those who are giving you grief is to ask them what they would like to be called.  Maybe they have some idea of what they want to hear – you can negotiate from there.

      1. No. We don’t distinguish men by whether they’re married are not.  It’s old fashioned and who cares?  Ma’am for everyone that’s an adult however old they may be.  

      2. No. We don’t distinguish men by whether they’re married are not.  It’s old fashioned and who cares?  Ma’am for everyone that’s an adult however old they may be.  

    1. Why is it that when a woman physically changes people thinK its their right to call them something. Which is only used based on one’s perception of age of another. Do u think every woman that looks in the mirror and realizes she doesn’t look 20 anymore needs to be reminded every second of her life. When i get called ma’am i feel separation not respected. You are no longer a regular attractive woman, treat u different. Im 38 and have just started getting ma’amed. Cause now i look it,

        1. do not take it that way, some kids call every grown up “ma’am or “sir without even think of it, even when they’re only 25, so words are just words i think.. we take it the way we feel or we want!

  266. I am in my late 40’s and I use ma’am and sir when addressing my superiors at work. I don’t believe addressing them this way is offensive at all. But I have noticed, with myself too, that Many equate it with age. I make light of it but your coworkers maybe are being sensitive because of their ages. While this seems silly, we worship youth in our lame world. Just address those with ma’am and sir who don’t mind it and understand you are just being respectful.

  267. Everybody is equal at work place no matter there are age differences. In most western culture, it’s common to be address using name only as most people thinks they are more comfortable and when addressed as sir or madam it means that you are not comfortable to be working with them. In my culture, it’s usually to show respect but respect comes with how you interact with other people. Therefore, care should be taken when addressing others as most people thought that everyone is on equal footing otherwise clearly stated when’s you are being introduced.

    1. Marinah, you have just answered my question.  I have been working at walmart for at least 2 years now.  The Customer Service Manager,  knows  me by my first name.  Refuses to call me by my first name.  I am always Ma’am… You hit  it right on the button about them not feeling comfortable about working with me.  Thanks

  268. It is not offensive to me, but then I’m a product of the 50’s when people had respect for their elders, those in authority and themselves.  People no longer have respect even for themselves, so why should they have respect for others.  My children are now 48, 49 & 50 and they are still polite to others because that’s the way they were taught.  Since I’m in the south, I often address my elders as Miss Mary or Miss Martha or some such.  There are people around who call that slave talk, too, but to me it is a way of addressing someone with respect.  Look around you–no one has any respect for anything, nor anyone in America.

  269. It is not offensive to me, but then I’m a product of the 50’s when people had respect for their elders, those in authority and themselves.  People no longer have respect even for themselves, so why should they have respect for others.  My children are now 48, 49 & 50 and they are still polite to others because that’s the way they were taught.  Since I’m in the south, I often address my elders as Miss Mary or Miss Martha or some such.  There are people around who call that slave talk, too, but to me it is a way of addressing someone with respect.  Look around you–no one has any respect for anything, nor anyone in America.

    1.  And that’s what I like about the South.I’m 59 and was born in NC where we still say” Yes ma’am” and “no sir.”Most of us still say Please and Thank You.I can’t tell you how many times people will tell me how polite and courteous my son was and said the same about my brothers and me.Maybe someday people will start respecting each other again….Thanks for your comment,Steve…tarheeljones

    2. I could not wait to get old enough for some one to call me Miss. At 30, married, and living in a trailer park, on of the other moms asked me why the children called me “Mrs. Sharry and just called her Angie? I replied “How did you introduce your self.”

    3. Continue using sir or ma’am. It’s courteous and respectful. Even if they don’t acknowledge it it is appreciated.

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