Etiquette Hell

General Etiquette => All In A Day's Work => Topic started by: Isisnin on February 24, 2013, 12:04:40 PM

Title: Your professionalism is unprofessional (long)
Post by: Isisnin on February 24, 2013, 12:04:40 PM
I’ve joined a newish nonprofit community group that is challenging in so many ways.  Personalities, dramas, etc.  One of the recurring issues is “professional”.  Individuals have taken to saying something is “professional” to get their way.

Yesterday, we had an exchange of emails about the “professional” way to use our name in a proposal being submitted. Tomorrow, we are going to discuss at our meeting.  From the email exchange and from private conversations with the president, I know that she is adamant in her opinion of how to use our name. As she has been beandipping any conversation about the name for some time, I’m concerned that tomorrow’s meeting is going to be heated and could use advice on how to handle.

BG:  Say our legal name is “Antique Linen Society of the Northeastern Mountain, Inc.”  The president always uses that full, legal name (meaning including the Inc.) on all correspondence, the web, etc.  Every time someone uses any abbreviation like “Antique Linen Society”, she changes it back to the full legal name if she can get to it before it is released.

Privately, she has insisted to me that both “Antique Linen Society” and "Antique Linen Society of the Northeastern Mountain" are unprofessional and that it frustrates her that so much of the organization’s correspondence is not written professionally.  I’ve pointed out that Inc is used for legal contracts and tax returns, that organizations like the New York Times don’t use Inc. when referring to themselves.  The Times uses the New York Times in the first paragraph and then switches to the Times.  She is unswayed.  It’s “Antique Linen Society of the Northeastern Mountain, Inc.” only to her.

FYI, in the last exchange of emails, she was outvoted on what initials to use (she wanted ALSNEM, but ALS won the vote).  Her response to that was a bit snippy and then she refused to talk about the name further and she was out voted on that.  Thus we are discussing tomorrow.

Recommendations on how to discuss at the meeting tomorrow?  I’d like to say that uncommon use of the full legal name is unprofessional or ostentatious.  Or that it make us sound like amateurs pretending to be professionals.  But I am concerned that words like those would be hurtful to her.  I’d like to persuade her, not hurt her.

Thanks for any help.
Title: Re: Your professionalism is unprofessional (long)
Post by: White Lotus on February 24, 2013, 12:58:06 PM
Businesses often use "nicknames" just like the New York Times example you mentioned.  I think citing examples like that would be helpful, and also the first reference in full, subsequent references by nickname would be a good compromise.  Make sure your acronym isn't already taken! ALS is the acronym for a well known illness, and charities related thereto, for example.
Title: Re: Your professionalism is unprofessional (long)
Post by: Katana_Geldar on February 24, 2013, 03:47:40 PM
Does she know that a legal name of a business can have little to do with their trading name? I uses to do books for about 12 companies that used many variations of the owners surname, but only one had his name for trading.
Title: Re: Your professionalism is unprofessional (long)
Post by: LazyDaisy on February 24, 2013, 04:50:29 PM
It might carry more weight if you can cite a widely recognized source. The Associated Press (AP) style used for newspapers, media etc. dictates that names of organizations, firms, agencies, universities and colleges, groups, clubs or governmental bodies are spelled out the first time the name is used. (i.e., on first reference) but abbreviated on second reference. She can argue with you and other volunteers, but it's more difficult to argue with the AP.
Title: Re: Your professionalism is unprofessional (long)
Post by: gollymolly2 on February 24, 2013, 05:02:08 PM
She's the president, right?  I'm on your side in terms of preferring the shorter name. But it seems like a pick your battle situation. She has a very clear preference and she's the highest ranking person so just go with her preference.
Title: Re: Your professionalism is unprofessional (long)
Post by: Isisnin on February 24, 2013, 06:22:34 PM
Thank you for the responses.

I've printed out some examples to bring of how major organizations use their names.  As Lazy Daisy pointed out, the first time the name is referenced, organizations use their long name (usually without the Inc. at the end) as the first reference.  After that, the nickname or the initials/acronym are used.   So I've got printouts from a local, internationally famous University which does that. Plus a well-known non-profit that does the same. Also, I'm bringing local papers that do the same.

She won't acknowledge that businesses use trading/brand names, not legal names, when doing sales and public relations.  She just told me a couple times in the past that abbreviations or nicknames were unprofessional.  When I used examples of major organizations that used abbreviations or nicknames, she clenched her jaw and looked at the ground.  Afterwards, she still continued to edit out abbreviation or nickname for our group.

I haven't battled with her on this.  When she clenched her jaw, I dropped it. 

Two others brought this up via email yesterday and thus we're discussing it tomorrow.  Those two can be rude when voicing their opinions.  One actually once used the phrase "not up to my professional standards" while surfing on the smartphone during the meeting :o. 

So I'm trying to figure out a way to handle everyone diplomatically.  I'm leaning towards saying that an abbreviated name or nickname is used for "ease of the reader's comprehension". 

PS: our acronym is not a known/popular one, so we're good on that score, thanks WhiteLotus
Title: Re: Your professionalism is unprofessional (long)
Post by: JeanFromBNA on February 24, 2013, 10:15:54 PM
I got stuck with a long business name.  It's confusing and hard to remember.  I have  my personal name listed in the business directory so we can be found more easily. 

One of the most important factors in the promotion of any business is how easy you are to deal with.  Having an identity/brand that is easily recognizable in your industry is more critical to your objectives than making certain that everyone knows the legal name of the business.

If she won't give on this issue, can you work on a tagline or logo that communicates your mission?
Title: Re: Your professionalism is unprofessional (long)
Post by: Yvaine on February 24, 2013, 10:30:27 PM
She's the president, right?  I'm on your side in terms of preferring the shorter name. But it seems like a pick your battle situation. She has a very clear preference and she's the highest ranking person so just go with her preference.

She's president, not queen. Most organizations like this are run democratically (and indeed the OP talks about matters being voted on) and sometimes the president doesn't get her way in a democratically run group.

I witnessed a group go down the tubes once in large part because it became a sort of unspoken rule that no one would ever vote no on anything. You were considered "rude" if you did. It led to a lot of bad decisions.
Title: Re: Your professionalism is unprofessional (long)
Post by: starry diadem on February 25, 2013, 01:34:59 AM
Thank you for the responses.

I've printed out some examples to bring of how major organizations use their names.  As Lazy Daisy pointed out, the first time the name is referenced, organizations use their long name (usually without the Inc. at the end) as the first reference.  After that, the nickname or the initials/acronym are used.   So I've got printouts from a local, internationally famous University which does that. Plus a well-known non-profit that does the same. Also, I'm bringing local papers that do the same.

She won't acknowledge that businesses use trading/brand names, not legal names, when doing sales and public relations.  She just told me a couple times in the past that abbreviations or nicknames were unprofessional.  When I used examples of major organizations that used abbreviations or nicknames, she clenched her jaw and looked at the ground.  Afterwards, she still continued to edit out abbreviation or nickname for our group.

I haven't battled with her on this.  When she clenched her jaw, I dropped it. 

Two others brought this up via email yesterday and thus we're discussing it tomorrow.  Those two can be rude when voicing their opinions.  One actually once used the phrase "not up to my professional standards" while surfing on the smartphone during the meeting :o. 

So I'm trying to figure out a way to handle everyone diplomatically.  I'm leaning towards saying that an abbreviated name or nickname is used for "ease of the reader's comprehension". 

PS: our acronym is not a known/popular one, so we're good on that score, thanks WhiteLotus

How about world-wide organisations such as the UN or the BBC?  I grant you that the Beeb may not be universally familiar, but isn't there a BBC America channel you can point to as an example?  CBS News?  She probably doesn't think twice about using acronyms there and they're familiar and everyday
Title: Re: Your professionalism is unprofessional (long)
Post by: Bethalize on February 25, 2013, 03:34:41 AM
The best parallel I can offer is to consider it like a person's name. After all, your organisation is an entity with which people feel they have a relationship. Insisting on calling it American Linen Company Inc is like knowing someone who insists on you calling them Professor Sir John Smith every single time you mention them or address them. It creates an artificial distance without engendering respect and actually, it is just plain wrong. "Professor Sir John Smith, would you like a coffee?"

Even Her Majesty gets addressed as "Your Royal Highness" first and then "Ma'am" thereafter.
Title: Re: Your professionalism is unprofessional (long)
Post by: YummyMummy66 on February 25, 2013, 07:19:00 AM
Can you do a majority vote?

Does the president have final say on all things? 

If not, I would put my hand up and say, "Let's take a vote.  Who votes for so and so?  Ok, nine hands.  Who voties for so and so? Ok.  two hands.   First vote wins.  Onto next subject and dive right in to that subject".
Title: Re: Your professionalism is unprofessional (long)
Post by: Yvaine on February 25, 2013, 07:31:14 AM
The best parallel I can offer is to consider it like a person's name. After all, your organisation is an entity with which people feel they have a relationship. Insisting on calling it American Linen Company Inc is like knowing someone who insists on you calling them Professor Sir John Smith every single time you mention them or address them. It creates an artificial distance without engendering respect and actually, it is just plain wrong. "Professor Sir John Smith, would you like a coffee?"

Even Her Majesty gets addressed as "Your Royal Highness" first and then "Ma'am" thereafter.

Ha! There's a good point and I think you can bring it up.

I also, when I see promotional materials where someone has used the style this president prefers, think it sounds like a boilerplate with the organization name mail-merged in. It's so stilted and makes it look like human eyes never actually read it over.
Title: Re: Your professionalism is unprofessional (long)
Post by: bopper on February 25, 2013, 09:35:57 AM
What is funny is that if you have a long, awkward name and dicate that it not be shortened, people are going to shorten it anyway. It is better that you control what it is shortened to so it is reasonable and consistent.

For example, our product used to have a short name, like netProduct*.  But it didn't really indicate what it did, so the PTB decided all our product names should indicate what they did and do what they say. Sounds reasonable...new customers could get an idea what it was faster.  So it was changed to Network Processing Provisioning Manager.  We were told NOT to abbreviate/acronymize it.  Never.
But nobody is going to say that every time! Too long, too awkward.  They did persist in the no abbreviations for a while, but then reasonableness took over and we would start with Network Processing Provisioning Manager in a document/presentation and then after that refer to it as NPPM.



*names changed to protect innocent software
Title: Re: Your professionalism is unprofessional (long)
Post by: Yvaine on February 25, 2013, 09:37:27 AM
What is funny is that if you have a long, awkward name and dicate that it not be shortened, people are going to shorten it anyway. It is better that you control what it is shortened to so it is reasonable and consistent.

For example, our product used to have a short name, like netProduct*.  But it didn't really indicate what it did, so the PTB decided all our product names should indicate what they did and do what they say. Sounds reasonable...new customers could get an idea what it was faster.  So it was changed to Network Processing Provisioning Manager.  We were told NOT to abbreviate/acronymize it.  Never.
But nobody is going to say that every time! Too long, too awkward.  They did persist in the no abbreviations for a while, but then reasonableness took over and we would start with Network Processing Provisioning Manager in a document/presentation and then after that refer to it as NPPM.



*names changed to protect innocent software

Or, when you go to a restaurant and they want you to order the Sizzlin' Fire-Roasted Sugar Glazed Chicken Fajitas with Red Pepper and Vinegar Sauce instead of the chicken fajitas. No one really does that IME!
Title: Re: Your professionalism is unprofessional (long)
Post by: Giggity on February 25, 2013, 10:05:54 AM
Ask her about IBM and NASA and the IRS.
Title: Re: Your professionalism is unprofessional (long)
Post by: artk2002 on February 25, 2013, 11:20:18 AM
Ask her about IBM and NASA and the IRS.

Sounds like she'd be quite happy telling IBM (or any of the others) "you're doing it wrong." Funny you should mention IBM since the company uses just about every TLA (Three Letter Acronym) possible. Woe betide you if your product's TLA conflicts with another one. You're going to have to change your name!
Title: Re: Your professionalism is unprofessional (long)
Post by: TootsNYC on February 25, 2013, 11:39:36 AM
She's the president, right?  I'm on your side in terms of preferring the shorter name. But it seems like a pick your battle situation. She has a very clear preference and she's the highest ranking person so just go with her preference.

But doesn't the majority prevail? "President" doesn't mean "owner"; it just means "the person in charge of running the meetings and setting the agenda."

The thing perhaps to dwell on is that she has been outvoted, and that it's in the groups best interests to move on.
Title: Re: Your professionalism is unprofessional (long)
Post by: Diane AKA Traska on February 25, 2013, 12:44:25 PM
I think the United States Marine Corps would take exception to use of USMC being unprofessional.  :)
Title: Re: Your professionalism is unprofessional (long)
Post by: TootsNYC on February 25, 2013, 01:04:09 PM
or "the Marines" or even "the Marine Corps"
Title: Re: Your professionalism is unprofessional (long)
Post by: Calypso on February 25, 2013, 01:05:43 PM
Coming from the other side, as someone whose job involves a lot of fact checking, can I just say I don't care what your official name is as long as it's easy for someone who is not familiar with you to tell which name is the official name?

You wouldn't believe how many times I go to someone's website to find out exactly how I should refer to their organization, only to see it used four or five different ways on one page of their website. If there's a "Contact us" page, they'd better list it there exactly as they want it reproduced---and that means capital letters where they belong, 'inc." or "no inc." etc.--because that will usually end up being my default. (and don't say "well, can't you tell from the company logo or title? No. I need to know if it should be WeBeHot (logo) We Be Hot (how they refer to themselves in one part of the content) or WE BE HOT, or what. I don't care which, just make it clear!!!

It may be unprofessional....but I'll tend to give your (generic your) press release a lower priority if you can't bother to decide on your name.

So----she has a point. Perhaps the conversation will go better if you can get the group to acknowledge that there's some validity to where she's coming from.
Title: Re: Your professionalism is unprofessional (long)
Post by: Isisnin on February 25, 2013, 02:56:12 PM
All these examples are making me laugh!  Imagine telling the Queen of England, that it's unprofessional for her to be called to "Your Majesty"!  Or telling the Marines they can't use USMC!  Don't know who would be more intimidating.

While we're waiting for everyone to arrive tonight, maybe I'll ask if anyone saw "the Academy of Motion Picture Arts and Sciences, Inc. award show on the American Broadcasting Company network" last night.  >:D

Calypso, exact clarity is what I do hope we achieve tonight.

Per the by-laws, votes are binding, but we have a history of not abiding by our votes.  I've pointed that out at the last couple meetings.  That didn't cause a conversation about resolving the problem, but hopefully that seed was planted well enough that people will abide by any vote taken tonight. 

Will post the results of the meeting.
Title: Re: Your professionalism is unprofessional (long)
Post by: jedikaiti on February 25, 2013, 03:09:05 PM
All these examples are making me laugh!  Imagine telling the Queen of England, that it's unprofessional for her to be called to "Your Majesty"! 

Can you just imagine news reporting in the UK if she had to be referred to as "Elizabeth the Second, by the Grace of God of the United Kingdom, Canada and Her Other Realms and Territories Queen, Head of the Commonwealth, Defender of the Faith" Every Single Time they referred to Her Majesty?
Title: Re: Your professionalism is unprofessional (long)
Post by: Dr. F. on February 25, 2013, 05:35:30 PM
All these examples are making me laugh!  Imagine telling the Queen of England, that it's unprofessional for her to be called to "Your Majesty"! 

Can you just imagine news reporting in the UK if she had to be referred to as "Elizabeth the Second, by the Grace of God of the United Kingdom, Canada and Her Other Realms and Territories Queen, Head of the Commonwealth, Defender of the Faith" Every Single Time they referred to Her Majesty?

The Times would have to add pages.
Title: Re: Your professionalism is unprofessional (long)
Post by: Jaelle on February 25, 2013, 05:55:27 PM
All these examples are making me laugh!  Imagine telling the Queen of England, that it's unprofessional for her to be called to "Your Majesty"! 

Can you just imagine news reporting in the UK if she had to be referred to as "Elizabeth the Second, by the Grace of God of the United Kingdom, Canada and Her Other Realms and Territories Queen, Head of the Commonwealth, Defender of the Faith" Every Single Time they referred to Her Majesty?

The Times would have to add pages.

Heh. No matter who's telling them they have to do it, no newspaper is going to do that. Colossal waste of newsprint.

I agree with Calypso on settling on a name, but I think it's most important to have a full name, then a recognized abbreviation or nickname and only use those two. But always insisting on the full name is just silly and impractical.

I used to deal with a small college at my last newspaper job. The administration insisted they MUST be called Certain Full Long Name in any reference. They got a little snotty about it. But here's the thing ... NO ONE except for the administration called them that.   ::)  Not the students, not the rest of the community, not other colleges. If we had bowed to them and only used Certain Full Long Name, half the people would have read it and said, "Who?" and the rest would have rolled their eyes.

We kept using Certain Full Long Name on first reference and CFLN on subsequent uses. They whined, but realized that if they wanted to keep the level of coverage they were getting out of us, they couldn't refuse to deal with us over it.

I'm in a different city, different paper now, but every once in a while, I see press releases from them. They still write out Certain Full Long Name. And everyone else still knows them as CFLN. :D
Title: Re: Your professionalism is unprofessional (long)
Post by: ChiGirl on February 25, 2013, 07:28:06 PM
All these examples are making me laugh!  Imagine telling the Queen of England, that it's unprofessional for her to be called to "Your Majesty"!  Or telling the Marines they can't use USMC!  Don't know who would be more intimidating.


Now that's a reality show I'd watch.
Title: Re: Your professionalism is unprofessional (long)
Post by: JeanFromBNA on February 26, 2013, 09:44:17 AM
What is funny is that if you have a long, awkward name and dicate that it not be shortened, people are going to shorten it anyway. It is better that you control what it is shortened to so it is reasonable and consistent.


Yes.  Or they will pick the four words that they remember, and one will be wrong, IME.
Title: Re: Your professionalism is unprofessional (long)
Post by: Diane AKA Traska on February 26, 2013, 10:19:46 AM
And people will get it wrong in the most hilarious ways... ask French Connection.  :D
Title: Re: Your professionalism is unprofessional (long)
Post by: Tea Drinker on February 26, 2013, 11:48:02 AM
Given that the French Connection ads used to have the initials FCUK in large letters, I don't think that counts as "getting it wrong" so much as "how far can we push the envelope to get attention for our company"?
Title: Re: Your professionalism is unprofessional (long)
Post by: Calistoga on February 26, 2013, 11:53:00 AM
Whenever I see a company refer to their own Inc, it bugs me terribly. It's really bad for marketing for two reasons.

-People who know what Inc really means are going to assume that you do not
-People who do not know what Inc means are going to find your company to be a bit uptight.

Since the name is being discussed, just bring up as many examples of really professional companies as possible, explain it from a marketing standpoint, etc.


Random Aside- Isn't ALS the acronym for lou gehrig disease? I could see the longer name in this case.
Title: Re: Your professionalism is unprofessional (long)
Post by: Diane AKA Traska on February 26, 2013, 12:04:22 PM
Given that the French Connection ads used to have the initials FCUK in large letters, I don't think that counts as "getting it wrong" so much as "how far can we push the envelope to get attention for our company"?

My point, though, was that imagine you're a company called Seattle International Holding Traders.  You *really* wouldn't want that casually abbreviated. 
Title: Re: Your professionalism is unprofessional (long)
Post by: blarg314 on February 26, 2013, 06:50:34 PM
Whenever I see a company refer to their own Inc, it bugs me terribly. It's really bad for marketing for two reasons.

-People who know what Inc really means are going to assume that you do not
-People who do not know what Inc means are going to find your company to be a bit uptight.


That summarizes it nicely. You're projecting an image that is either uptight and pretentious, or ignorant.

However, given what you've said, I don't think that the person in charge is going to change her mind. In her mind, full name including Inc = professional and everyone else (including NASA, the Marines, and the New York Times) is unprofessional.

So you've got two main choices - ignore it as not worth the fuss, or plan to stage a coup and use the majority to override her, if possible.
Title: Re: Your professionalism is unprofessional (long)
Post by: bopper on February 27, 2013, 01:14:31 PM
What is funny is that if you have a long, awkward name and dicate that it not be shortened, people are going to shorten it anyway. It is better that you control what it is shortened to so it is reasonable and consistent.

For example, our product used to have a short name, like netProduct*.  But it didn't really indicate what it did, so the PTB decided all our product names should indicate what they did and do what they say. Sounds reasonable...new customers could get an idea what it was faster.  So it was changed to Network Processing Provisioning Manager.  We were told NOT to abbreviate/acronymize it.  Never.
But nobody is going to say that every time! Too long, too awkward.  They did persist in the no abbreviations for a while, but then reasonableness took over and we would start with Network Processing Provisioning Manager in a document/presentation and then after that refer to it as NPPM.



*names changed to protect innocent software

And since at first we didn't have a standard abbreviation, one of our clients started calling us C-NPPM (C being the first letter of the name of the company, as we would start a document with CompanyTM Network Processing Provisioning Manager. But company B just bought us so will they stay with C-NPPM or switch to B-NPPM or just NPPM?
Title: Re: Your professionalism is unprofessional (long)
Post by: MrTango on February 27, 2013, 02:15:31 PM
Random Aside- Isn't ALS the acronym for lou gehrig disease? I could see the longer name in this case.

That's right: Amyotrophic Lateral Sclerosis
Title: Re: Your professionalism is unprofessional (long)
Post by: Dorrie78 on February 27, 2013, 02:25:07 PM
OP - so what happened at the meeting? I'm fascinated by the president's attitude towards this and her absolute refusal to consider all the evidence you brought forward and I'm terribly curious to hear what happened!

Title: Re: Your professionalism is unprofessional (long)
Post by: Isisnin on February 27, 2013, 06:59:35 PM
OP here.  Sorry for the delay.  And for the length of this.  I tried to pare it down.

We had the meeting and it wasn’t the President that was the problem, but a real Steamroller of a Director.

Steamroller kept saying we had to “get the proposal done” and that we didn’t have time to talk about the name.  The President got angry (unusual for her), insisting that since people had demanded by email to talk about the name at the meeting, we were going to talk.about.the.name.   

Steamroller then said that “we agreed (via email before) that we would use our 1st 3 initials (ALS) as an abbreviation.”  Everyone, including the President nodded. Steamroller then added “and everyone knows that the full legal name with the Inc is only for the legal contracts and we are only using it on the title page of the proposal, right?”  Everyone but the President nodded.  Steamroller declared the name topic over.

Knowing that the President's style is to just not to discuss what she doesn't agree with, then to do what she wants, I pushed back saying “so we don’t use the full legal name in the chapter titles? Or in the narrative?”.  Steamroller, rather condescendingly, said that was correct and that was how it already was in proposal.  I pulled out a hard copy of the prior emails and of the proposal.  There was an email that said “Antique Linen Society of the Northeastern Mountain, Inc” was to be in a couple chapter titles.  Then I pointed out that it was also used throughout the proposal.

Everyone was “That’s not right!  That’s not professional!”.  The President was quiet and downcast. 

So we reached a consensus that “Antique Linen Society of the Northeastern Mountain, Inc” is for legal contracts and the title page.  We will use “Antique Linen Society of the Northeastern Mountain (hereafter known as ALS)” at the start of the Introduction then use “ALS” after that.  Our “nickname” is the “Antique Linen Society”. 

Our meetings are very confusing.  Added to that, the minutes are not very good records of what was discussed and agreed on.  I wish I had remembered to call for a vote to be sure this was nailed down, but a clear thought process is not possible when trying to deal with Steamroller.

I'm bummed that I didn’t get to use the great – and funny – names and comments here!!

"... projecting an image that is either uptight and pretentious, or ignorant."  sums up exactly my feelings on the misuse and overuse of Inc.

** ALS.. is not our real name or initials.  I did check on our name and initials and we’re not in conflict with any well-known usage of the initials.  Thanks for the heads up on that.