Q. I have a question about how to address supervisors. I address my supervisor by his title, Dr., and last name. Recently, he began signing e-mails between us with his first name. Does this mean that it’s now appropriate for me to call him by his first name in person or when addressing him in an e-mail? I have noticed a few colleagues using his first name in conversations.
H. H., Natick, MA
A. Recently is the key word here as it implies that previously he had been signing his name more formally. Given that he initiated the change and is now signing his emails with his first name, he’s clearly signaling that you may call him by his first name. The other people in your office have picked up on the change, and so at this point you may also. If you still have qualms, it’s fine to ask him directly.
Q. Some buildings have two doors to get into a building. I always open the door for my wife. But then, my wife jumps to open the next door. I tell her to wait for me since that’s my “job” (as a gentleman). What do you think?
A. W., Cohasset , MA
A. This isn’t an issue of opening a door being your “job,” it’s a matter of showing courtesy and that can be a two-way street. Let’s assume the second door follows the first closely. Rather than waiting for you to scoot around her, your wife is stepping forward and opening the door. There’s nothing intrinsically wrong about her doing that. In fact, it makes sense so she isn’t left in an awkward position of standing in front of the closed door waiting for you to open it.
If the second door is much farther along, and she is stepping forward to “take her turn” opening the door, she seems to be indicating her desire to repay the favor. Rather than being perturbed by her action, accept her effort gracefully with a well-meaning “thank you.” Then, focus on her and on having a wonderful evening.