Q. Our Foundation sends a lot of formal and informal information to physician (MD) graduates. Discussion occurs regularly about the correct way to address formal invitations to a function versus informal mailings of brochures, etc. We want to include spouses on the formal invitations, so what do you suggest to be the correct way to address these invitations? Where and when should we use the spouse’s first name?B. P., Albany, NY
A. For a formal social event, the invitation envelope should be addressed to Dr. and Mrs. John Smith. However, if the doctor is female, then the correct address is: Dr. Jane Smith and Mr. John Smith. Her name comes first because her professional title “out ranks” his social title. If you wish to use the spouse’s first name, write: Dr. John Smith and Ms. Jane Smith. If the spouse kept her maiden name, write: Dr. John Smith and Ms. Jane Jones.
Q. I work for a small, family owned company with very few employees. One of my coworkers (who I am generally only in contact with when customers are present) refuses to acknowledge me. She will not answer my questions, acts as if she doesn’t hear me when I give her information, etc. How can I remedy this situation without offending witnessing customers?J.C. Maysville, KY
A. You are absolutely correct that you cannot deal with this problem in front of a customer. Meet with your co-worker privately, and take the approach that she’s unaware of her behavior, rather than that she is acting maliciously. “Jane, I asked to talk to you because I don’t think you are aware that there’s a strange dynamic between us when we’re with customers. I’m hoping we can address it just between us. Did you realize that when we’re with a customer you tend to ignore me—not answer my questions or include me in the conversation? I enjoy working here and want my efforts to help us all be successful. Am I misinterpreting this or do you have a problem working with me that we should get out in the open?”