When speaking with a boss/manager's son, should I say:

Your father requested so and so.

or rather:

Mr. Doe requested so and so

I only have a professional relationship with the son. We don't chit-chat.

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    @Lilienthal when I first saw this question someone had downvoted it too, seems to be a problem with people being all to eager to jump the gun a bit. Commented Apr 6, 2017 at 9:40
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    Usually, more than any other business, family businesses have their own traditions. Go with whatever is tradition at yours.
    – skymningen
    Commented Apr 6, 2017 at 13:18
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    Family "ranks" are for those who are part of the family.
    – Agent_L
    Commented Apr 6, 2017 at 14:06
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    If Mr. Doe said to you "Mr. Doe is too formal. Please, call me Optimus Prime." when you first met him then from that day forward you simply say "Optimus Prime requested so and so."
    – MonkeyZeus
    Commented Apr 6, 2017 at 15:35
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    YMMV, but when I worked in the family business, I always referred to my dad by his first name at the office, whether to him or to other employees, and it irked me when people would call him "your dad" while talking to me. My dad, on the other hand, didn't care either way. So there's not necessarily one right answer, but it will also probably never be weird to be more formal, unless you've received specific instruction to the contrary. Commented Apr 6, 2017 at 20:51

7 Answers 7


Interact professionally based on professional roles. Say "Mr. Doe" or any standard professional way of referring to him that is appropriate.

Personal ties outside of work can be a challenge in the workplace for those involved. A parent-child relationship can be particularly difficult. In some cases, the child may struggle to step out of their parent's shadow and be known for their own work, rather than as "the boss's kid".

In such cases, usually the individuals involved are trying to keep the personal and the professional separate. The most helpful thing for you to do is respect the same divide: base your interactions with them on their roles in the company, not on personal factors outside of work. If you say "your father requested this", you might be subtly contributing to a difficult situation.

Note: this may change if you develop more of a relationship with the people involved and interact more casually. But it would be the starting point for professional interaction.

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    It depends very much on the company culture. If everyone else in the company uses one style, it would be weird for you to be the only one who uses the other style.
    – Val
    Commented Apr 6, 2017 at 13:28
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    Using Mr. Doe could be an issue at "Doe, Doe, Doe, Doe, and Dudley Charted Accountancy".
    – Myles
    Commented Apr 6, 2017 at 14:05
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    In a family firm at which I worked, the directors were referred to as Mr John, Miss Jane, etc. This was not my idea, I was told that was how they were to be identified during my induction. Commented Apr 6, 2017 at 14:20
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    I do not see the relevance of the son example, as opposed to father-daughter, mother-son, mother-daughter...
    – ApplePie
    Commented Apr 7, 2017 at 16:41
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    @Val While true, this answer is the best default. It's far less awkward to correct someone being "too formal" than it is to correct someone being too casual.
    – jpmc26
    Commented Apr 8, 2017 at 5:30

The boss is speaking in his function as the boss and not as the father, so you should rather ignore the relationship.


I run a family business that has employed my children. We are all on a first name basis, so both staff and children would occasionally say "Kate" to each other when referring to me. The kids might say "mum" to someone, no worries. Some of my staff had been with me a long time, their kids were friends with my kids etc, these are the ones more likely to say "your mum" to one of my children. It never once mattered to me a speck.

Note: the largest this company ever got was 11 people. I might have a different answer for a team of hundreds, or when the parent didn't own the company. But for a small cohesive group, where everyone knows the relationships, and many staff have known us for decades (I had a young programmer for a summer job who I first met when he was 4, and have twice employed people who lived close enough to my house to walk to work when the office was attached to the house) it doesn't matter what you call me, everyone knows who I am.

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    I must say I do like companies where everyone (excepting maybe the owner) is allowed to use a first name basis. It simplifies things and creates a nice atmosphere. And it also removes any confusion on forms of address.
    – Vality
    Commented Apr 6, 2017 at 17:01
  • @Vality I think it's even better when the owner is also on a first name basis. I worked for some of those and the atmosphere is really friendly when everyone is treated equally.
    – Erik
    Commented Apr 7, 2017 at 8:19
  • @Erik yeah, agreed. I just know the owner is sometimes an exception. But yes. I have found first name basis can help the atmosphere and employees a lot.
    – Vality
    Commented Apr 7, 2017 at 15:12

This is a matter of business culture and the personal preference of the people being addressed. How do others refer to the boss to his son or daughter? Have you asked the parent and/or child how they would prefer you to handle the situation. I know there have been people I worked with who did not want to be known as a relative and they preferred the people who knew not to mention it. I have worked other places where the relationship was always mentioned. Most places I have been on a first name basis with both people and referring to people by their first name to a relative seems much more natural than by saying Mr. Jones.

  • You need to spell check your answer. Commented Apr 6, 2017 at 17:26
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    @Bonner웃 you could have just fixed it
    – HLGEM
    Commented Apr 6, 2017 at 17:29
  • @HLGEM Don't think they could have. It's only 3 characters changed. Probably blocked by length requirements for a 596 rep user. (Although they could have pointed out the typos instead of making you find them.)
    – jpmc26
    Commented Apr 8, 2017 at 5:34

When I worked at my dad's restaurant in Germany as a teenager and young adult, the staff would always refer to him as "the boss" when talking to me, unless they were on first name basis with him, in which case they would sometimes use his first name. I was fine with that, and I don't think he cared, as long as the job got done and communication worked.


In my view it doesn't matter, both are equally appropriate. The arguments presented by dan1111 and FooBar are perfectly valid, but in most cases you can use either.

I used to say to a subordinate, "Your son is doing a good job and it is really good we've got him as a tester". My subordinate never had a problem with this, and others in the office made reference to the relationship too. While saying "Your son" is coming from the opposite perspective, it is referring to the relationship.

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    Many people are fine with it, but for some it is a very sensitive issue. So I would advise caution. Also, in the father-son relationship, direction matters. "Your son is doing a great job" is much less likely to be a problem than "your father told me to you need to do this"...
    – user45590
    Commented Apr 6, 2017 at 9:43
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    When in doubt the best option is the formal option as that will not insult/bother anyone.
    – Jeroen
    Commented Apr 6, 2017 at 10:56
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    @Jeroen "(..something..) will not insult/bother anyone". A bold statement in this day and age
    – xDaizu
    Commented Apr 6, 2017 at 13:03
  • I think especially in this direction, you can use the child's name, since the parent generally calls them that. I say "my son" or "my daughter" but when I am talking to them, I use their names, so if you talk to me about them with their names, it doesn't feel weird. But for parents, most children only ever use "mum" or "dad" whether talking to or about their parents, so saying "John said" or "Mr Boss" said may actually cause a momentary disconnect if they don't know who you mean. It's quite different from your example here referring to someone's child. Commented Apr 6, 2017 at 14:17

It probably depends on country and company (or family) culture, but in my sector (construction) at my place (Catalonia) there are a lot of family business and it's perfectly fine to refer to people by their relation. In fact, sometimes using the most formal designation is ambiguous: if somebody called to some business and asked to talk to some people using the surname, it would be uncommon to be asked back "Which one do you want to talk to? The father or the son(s)?".

Of course that might be different in family business - proud to be family business, and sometimes proud of their several generations long history - than in a big company, where working close to relatives could be seen just as a sign of nepotism.

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