I’m accustomed to a work environment where you address your superiors by their first name rather than calling them “sir” or “madam”, you don’t jump to your feet and stand at attention when your boss enters the room and you don’t fetch his/her coffee. Despite the lack of formality, it’s still understood that your boss calls the shots. When they ask you to do something, you do it to the best of your abilities, assuming their instructions aren’t illegal or completely insane.
But the Sand Landian work environment is the antithesis of what I’ve described above – at least in my company. From my first day in the office, everyone has addressed me as “Madam.” In those early days, each time someone called me this, I’d say “Please call me [my first name].” The person’s smile would instantly change to a look of horrific discomfort, as if I’d demanded that they punch me in the face as hard as they could. They’d look up at me with Bambi-eyes as they shook their head and whispered “No, Madam.”
The salutations in emails were even more bizarre. Everyone started emails by saying something like:
“Dear Respected Madam”
“Your Most Esteemed Madam”
“Most cherished Madam”
“Gracious and kind Madam” (a raise-seeker, natch)
And it didn’t stop with the salutation; the bodies of the emails were just as ridiculous:
“I most humbly request to meet with your Esteemed person”
“Your excellent self will be please to know…”
“I WILL THANK U WONDERFUL MADAM EVERYDAY OF MY LIFE” (raise-seeker from above)
Ok, folks. Enough with the “madam” shtick. I’m not running a Texas whorehouse. The term “Madam” makes me feel skeevy and gross – like I should be smoking opium in a red velvet-upholstered boudoir and cutting deals with johns.
|A typical day at the office|
Weeks of telling people over and over again not to call me madam got me nowhere. So I sent around an email saying something to the effect of “we’re all co-workers and I’d really appreciate if you’d address me by my first name. There’s no need for formalities. I'll be really, really, really happy if you call me [my first name].”
Ten minutes after I sent the email, my phone rang. I answered and the caller said “Hello, Madam. You ask me to call you?”
“Uh, no. I don’t remember doing that,” I replied.
“Oh, Madam, I just got an email from you saying you’d be really happy if I called you.”
I hung up the phone and banged my head against the desk. Mission "A Madam No More" Not Accomplished.
After a few months of continuously telling people how much I hate the term “Madam” only two people in the whole office are addressing me by my first name. A few of the others have started calling me “Ma’am” - which makes me feel 87,000 years old. I’m no spring chicken, but I like to flatter myself by thinking I'm too young to be a “ma’am.”
The vast majority of my co-workers are still calling me “madam” and groveling about me like I’m the Golden Calf. It makes me wonder what their former supervisors have done to them. A couple of the people in the office are so nervous and fidgety whenever I speak with them that I’m always scared they’re going to pee in their pants, even though I’ve never said an unkind word to them.
But the groveling shouldn’t be taken as a sign of sincere devotion to oneself or the company. From my experience, you could regress a variable entitled “Likelihood to steal petty cash/Propensity to download MP3’s all day/Inclination to misappropriate office supplies” against another variable entitled “Prolific usage of Madam and superfluous supporting adjectives” and you’d come up with a statistically significant relationship.