Chatting with higher-ups

First impressions are really important, and the first words out of your mouth are usually someone’s name after you’ve been introduced. Introductions usually follow the same etiquette. In general, the person who does the introducing uses both the first and last name of each individual. However, that doesn’t automatically give you permission to address the person that you just met by their first name. Here are a few tips on how to address your co-workers, mentors, and superiors and some ideas about what to talk about:

  1. Co-workers: Co-workers can include other interns, junior colleagues, secretarial or support staff, and service personnel. You can usually call them by their first names. There are some exceptions, including an older person or a person who calls you by your last name even if you’ve suggested they can call you by your first name.
  2. What to talk about with co-workers: Acceptable topics range from asking about families, weekends/vacations, hobbies, interests, work history, etc. The secret to a good conversation is to ask questions of others, rather than rambling on about yourself.
  3. Mentors: A good rule of thumb is to address each mentor by their last name, such as Mr. Jones or Miss Smith, unless that person tells you to use their first name. A mentor is like a teacher who may appreciate the sign of respect you show by using their last name.
  4. What to talk about with mentors: Ask questions about the job or the assignment. Be sure to thank the mentor for all the help and advice. Other safe subjects are the weather and sports. Unsafe subjects are money, religion, and politics.
  5. Managers: Always address managers by their last names, such as Mr. or Mrs. Bond even if they call you by your first name, unless they tell you otherwise.
  6. What to talk about with managers: The conversation will probably be brief, and could include the weather. If the company has received a large contract, new business or has made the news in a positive way, you might want to compliment your superiors on their achievements.