Rule 82: Know what to call everyone

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Famous Actress and Glo Ambassador, Mrs. Abiola Atanda aka  Madam Kofo 


Yes, you should know what to call everyone, but that doesn’t mean you are going to call them it.  I dare say Mr. Cutler has long since forgotten me.  I was his assistant many years ago.  When he changed company he phoned me and asked me to join the new firm with him – more money etc. – so I said yes.

On my first day working with him at the new company he said to me, call me Mr. Cutler’.  No way, Peter. I had called him Peter at the old place and was going to carry on calling him that. But not quite yet.  There were several assistants and they needed to get to know this new boss, this Mr. Cutler.  That’s what they called him, because that’s what he wanted.  I waited until the moment was right and we were all gathered together. Then I addressed him as Peter.


He couldn’t pull me up short in front of my peers and they thought, quite rightly, that I had secret access to him that they didn’t.  For me the Mr. Cutler nonsense was never mentioned again and I was the ‘senior’ assistant’ because I called him Peter.  What’s in a name?  A whole lot.

 “I stood alone and Buckethead could never get close to me, never be a ‘friend’.  I played the aloof game and was eventually offered the general Manager ship of the company which would have made him my junior.  Success?” 

You need to know that Mrs. Robertson in accounts is always addressed as Mrs. Robertson and never as Mary, although you know that is her name and you are senior to her.  Why not call her Mary?  Because she doesn’t like it and she handles the wage cheques.  They have been known to go astray, be very late, and be made out for much less than the anticipated amount and all to people who inadvertently called her Mary.

In one job, I worked with an administrative manager who was known, for curious reasons, as Buckethead. It’s a long story and you really don’t want to know (no, believe me you really don’t).  He was addressed to his face as Buckethead by all the senior staff – including me as Finance manager. He was Buckethead to the board.  He was Buckethead to most of the secretarial staff.  But anyone else and he was Mr. Taylor, never Buckethead.  I have seen him savage a young junior who made the mistake and called him Buckethead. Now why this strange division between who could and who could not call him it?  I have no idea but I did have a very strange relationship with him.  Technically he was my senior, albeit it only slightly.  But I was power hungry in those days and I wanted to control everything.  I never ever called him Buckethead.  I didn’t like him.  To me he was always Mr. Taylor.  Why?  Because it separated us and made me different from the other senior managers. I stood alone and Buckethead could never get close to me, never be a ‘friend’.  I played the aloof game and was eventually offered the general Manager ship of the company which would have made him my junior.  Success?  Yes, but it felt a hollow victory – I wasn’t playing the Rules as effectively then as now and I left for new challenges, new horizons.

 (Excerpts from THE RULES OF WORK by Richard Templer Read “Knowing when to go late and early to work” from The Rules tomorrow on Asabeafrika)

Rule-to-Work Series

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