Yesterday in a business writing seminar near Seattle, Washington, we were talking about our pet peeves in the messages we read at work. It was a sociable group of women and men in a friendly company. Nevertheless, this pet peeve surfaced: terms of endearment.
When I asked the woman what she meant by terms of endearment and why such terms were a pet peeve to her, I got an answer like this:
"It’s words like dear, hon, and sweetie. I don’t like them in email and other business communication. I would like to respond to people who use them, ‘I’m not your dear, I’m not your hon."
I asked the woman to speculate why people used words like dear and hon (short for honey) at work. We decided that people, especially older workers, may simply want to be friendly.
Despite that positive motive, the group decided terms of endearment should be taboo at work. I agree. I remember visiting my 96-year-old cousin in a New Jersey hospital last autumn. When I arrived, she had been in the hospital an entire week, yet every worker except her doctor called her hon and dearie instead of her name. To me, the words made her anonymous rather than nurtured. Only her doctor called her Mrs. Wallace.
So let’s agree and spread the word: If you want to be friendly at work, say hi, good morning, please, and thank you. Use people’s names and say "Have a great day!" Let’s apply this rule not only to coworkers, but also to patients, customers, clients, members, visitors, citizens, and others.
Let’s save hon, sweetie, and dear for our spouse or sweetheart, children, grandchildren, nieces, and nephews. Let’s use it with people who would not even think of responding "I’m not your hon."
Do you agree? Are you with me?