I thank Craig Lundberg and Lawrence K. Williams for their encouragement and constructive comments during the early stages of this research.
Black Holes in Social Space: The Occurrence and Effects of Name-Avoidance in Organizations1
Version of Record online: 31 JUL 2006
Journal of Applied Social Psychology
Volume 35, Issue 2, pages 320–334, February 2005
How to Cite
Morand, D. A. (2005), Black Holes in Social Space: The Occurrence and Effects of Name-Avoidance in Organizations. Journal of Applied Social Psychology, 35: 320–334. doi: 10.1111/j.1559-1816.2005.tb02123.x
- Issue online: 31 JUL 2006
- Version of Record online: 31 JUL 2006
In contemporary organizations, subordinates often address superiors by their first names but are at times reluctant to use first names of more powerful others because of the form's presumption of familiarity. At the same time, the principal alternative–title and last name (e.g., Mr., Ms., Dr.)–is eschewed because of its connotation of deference and formality. The result is name avoidance and awkward silence. This article reports survey findings from 74 working individuals indicating that avoidance occurs, varies by relative power, varies by gender, and is negatively associated with perceptions of communication openness. Evidently, the conflicting strains between egalitarianism and hierarchy within organizational social systems are strong enough to produce a linguistic black hole. Implications for theory and managerial practice are discussed.