I will start working in a new company soon, as a developer (I am 27 years old). Shall I be formal with my colleagues and use Mr. and Ms. + last name, or is it okay to use the first name directly? Or something in between, for example: Mr and Ms. + first name?

Dutch firm

  • 88
    The easiest cue is, how do they introduce themselves?
    – Jane S
    Sep 25, 2016 at 22:15
  • 13
    If you're not sure then it's not a bad idea to start out more formal than may be necessary. They'll just tell you "Call me Bob" or something if they prefer it.
    – Brandin
    Sep 26, 2016 at 6:30
  • 5
    @NickCoad: Industry/sector is also important. For example, in Germany, banks and government agencies tend to be more formal, while something like SW development or advertising is quite informal. The size of the company also plays into this, and they way they see themselves (e.g. at IKEA, using first names is part of the company philosophy).
    – sleske
    Sep 26, 2016 at 7:32
  • 1
    what were you doing before, and how did you address people there? (and how did you figure how to address people there when you started?)
    – njzk2
    Sep 26, 2016 at 16:55
  • 2
    @Davor: not by me. Anyway, comments can always be cleaned up at any moment, especially if they're not actually comments to try to make the question clearer, like all of these except njzk2's. Sep 28, 2016 at 9:39

4 Answers 4


Short answer: Use the name that each person introduces themselves to you.

During your induction to your team, you will no doubt be introduced to your new colleagues. If someone introduces themselves using their first name, use that. If they use a more formal name, then follow their lead and address them by that.

You'll also no doubt pick up cues from the other staff members how they address other colleagues. And if in doubt, ask!

  • 12
    But if you're in a culture where "Mr.", etc. are the norm, would people actually introduce themselves that way? Sep 26, 2016 at 13:26
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    The first part of this answer might make sense in a Dutch workplace (I wouldn't know), but would not in some other cultures. In my experience as an American, it would be very odd for someone to introduce themselves as "Miss Surname" or even just "Surname" to a new colleague, even if it's the boss welcoming a new employee. I agree with the second part of this answer (observe how others address each other, and "if in doubt, ask!"), and would add "or else err on the side of formality, and accept correction with grace."
    – talrnu
    Sep 26, 2016 at 17:10
  • 5
    While "err on the side of formality" is generally not a bad rule of thumb, calling your new colleagues Mr. and Ms. + last name at many informal software development shops in my experience would immediately appear odd, much like showing up in a suit when everyone else is wearing cargo shorts. Sep 27, 2016 at 0:09
  • 1
    @ZachLipton That may be the case in the US, but not necessarily in the rest of the world.
    – Jane S
    Sep 27, 2016 at 0:24
  • 1
    It would be in the Netherlands, though. You're more likely to leave a bad impression by going too formal than by just assuming first name basis.
    – Erik
    Sep 27, 2016 at 7:17

You are in the Netherlands, which has a very informal work culture. You are a software developer, same.

So just introduce yourself by your first name and address people by their first names.

There may be exceptions with some larger companies that are in a more formal line of business, e.g. at banks or a lawyer's office. But those are the kinds of places where people wear suits too, and in a comment to you other question you noted that the interviewers were wearing jeans and t-shirt, so this is not one of those places.

Customers are sometimes treated differently, it's good to ask a colleague how to behave before any meetings with outsiders.

  • (+1) Others have provided valuable generic advice but this is the simple and correct answer now that we know the OP was talking about the Netherlands.
    – Relaxed
    Sep 26, 2016 at 11:11
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    Given that it's the Netherlands, you'd be probably mistaken for an intern if you addressed a colleague as "Mr. Jansen" !
    – MSalters
    Sep 26, 2016 at 12:20
  • This is the answer I was looking for (and would otherwise have posted) because this is the answer that's applicable to the actual situation (which wasn't given at first). And yes, go for first names, that's just the way it (mostly) is in the Netherlands.
    – Jasper
    Sep 26, 2016 at 13:50
  • I lived and worked in NL for 3 years, 2 companies. This is a good answer.
    – Mr Me
    Sep 26, 2016 at 15:42
  • 3
    If they wear a suit, call them by their surname; otherwise first name. Sep 27, 2016 at 11:07

That totally depends on the culture of the company and the workplace. There are companies where everyone is on a first-name basis, and there are companies where everyone is always Ms X or Mr Y.

Ideally, that is something you should have found out while interviewing - the interview should allow the candidate to find out about the company culture.

If in doubt, just ask your contact at the company (HR, your future boss...) about that. That is a totally legitimate question to ask, and no-one should hold it against you, especially if you are new to the industry.

  • 1
    Agreed. Conventions range all the way from very formal to nicknames. And they may vary from individual, or be different for folks you know personally and/or are working with directly versus those far above you on the management tree. And individuals have their own preferences. If you want to know how to address someone, the best answer is to ask them, or ask others who have worked with them.
    – keshlam
    Sep 25, 2016 at 22:14
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    @ChrisH: Your comment, while true, was probably meant for Jane S's answer.
    – sleske
    Sep 26, 2016 at 16:16
  • @sleske, you're right. Fixed
    – Chris H
    Sep 26, 2016 at 16:25

Typically, you will be introduced in a way that tells you how to address people. Someone might walk you around the office saying things like

This is Alex, who looks after all the database work

This is Ms Smith, the head of the department

And so on. Or people may introduce themselves to you

Hello, I'm Chris

Following a formal introduction, Ms Smith might respond

Please, call me Judy

If you don't get any cues like this then you won't know anyone's names anyway, so settle for "hello", "excuse me", and "good morning" and watch what they call each other. You'll figure it out pretty quickly.

  • 1
    Instead of waiting for overhearing names (which includes the risk of inappropriately calling someone by first name just because someone else did) you good simply introduce yourself with full name first and see how they respond, e.g. "Good morning, I'm Tobias Kienzler, the new guy from [deparment XY]" and the answer will most likely include a "...but please call me Kate" if they are comfortable with that. Sep 26, 2016 at 7:27

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