Q. I am a woman in my late twenties working for a scientific association. My position carries some weight. I report directly to the vice president and I often deal with other scientific organizations and their top administrators.
It is my custom to address people I meet in this context by their title -- Dr., Mr. or Ms. What bothers me is that this consideration is rarely returned: I am usually addressed by my first name.
I am sure some of these people would not mind being addressed by their first names, but I am usually not invited to do so.
I have two basic approaches. I can address everyone by first name, right off the bat, or I can seethe in resentment after I say "Dr. Jones" and the other person calls me "Mary."
I don't particularly care to call anyone by a first name without permission, particularly when these people are 30 to 40 years older than I am. Yet I resent the condescension implicit in their doing so.
My situation involves largely men because I work with men. In some cases I feel this treatment reflects prejudice against women. In others, it is perhaps a matter of showing rank: These people are scientists and have earned the right to be called "doctor."
Is there a polite solution to all this? I am very frustrated.
A. In a word, no. If you were to correct any of these individuals by asking them to call you "Ms. Jones," they would probably be offended, rightly or wrongly. Your remaining alternatives are to grin and bear their uninvited familiarity or to reciprocate.
Anyone who calls you by your first name has implicitly invited you to do likewise. So, in theory, you are free to call the person who calls you "Mary" by his or her first name.
The person probably won't take offense, but you are likely to be uncomfortable doing so.
All this reminds me of a recent encounter with a traffic officer who pulled me over for speeding.
He must have been about half my age, but that didn't stop him from calling me "Andrew" as soon as I gave him my driving license. Guess what? I didn't reciprocate.
Q. I have worked in the field of city planning for more than 15 years. In this capacity, I have had occasion to work with the governmental and the private sectors and therefore feel qualified to make management comparisons between the two.
It seems to me that, in general, governmental agencies are very meticulous in letting their employees work the standard 40 hours a week.
On the other hand, private companies usually expect a lot more dedication -- and hours -- from their employees as part of the salary they pay. I am talking here about middle- and lower-echelon staff members, people like researchers and writers. Is this good management?
A. In my mind, a professional employee is paid to do a certain job -- not for a predetermined number of hours.
If the job takes some extra time, he or she should stay with it until it's done.
In my view, it's too bad that the government agencies you have dealt with have not succeeded in instilling this attitude in their employees.
It's all of us -- taxpayer-customers -- who suffer as a result.
Andrew Grove is chief executive of Intel Corp. of Santa Clara, Calif. Send questions to him in care of the San Jose Mercury News, Business News Department, 750 Ridder Park Drive, San Jose, Calif. 95190.