To be, or not to be, that is the question – (a famous quote from Hamlet written by Shakespeare) ; can be modified in the context of our article to say ” To Sir or Not To Sir”
Prof Kaushik Basu, formerly Senior Vice President and Chief Economist of the World Bank, 2012-16, and, prior to that, Chief Economic Adviser to the Indian Government, 2009-2012, has recently launched his memoir, Policymaker’s Journal (Simon & Schuster), talking about his experiences with the Indian bureaucracy
Yes sir!The use of the word, sir, is very common in Indian officialdom.
During a government meeting, Prof Basu recounts, he decided to keep a tab on how many times the word was said.
A senior official, he counted, was saying Sir, “on average 16 times every minute (there was a Minister present)”.
Assuming it took her half a second to say the word, Prof Basu calculated that 13% of the official’s speaking time was spent saying Sir.
“Sir” is derived from the French honorific title Sire, which in turn developed from seigneur that was used to be referred to Lord’s as was used to signify knighthood and respect to senior male, father and important elderly man.
In Corporate India, bosses are still referred to as Sir / Madam ; just like judges in India are still referred to as ‘My Lord’, ‘Your Honour’.
Is it like a habit ingrained into our very DNA – a colonial hangover deep rooted and widespread
There are organisations where you address your seniors or bosses by their first name and then there are few where you address them with ‘Sir / Madam’, voluntarily or involuntarily.
Infact , after working for some time in traditional Indian companies; in the year 2010, when I had joined Deloitte USI, Hyderabad as a CA, I found it very difficult to come to terms with the fact that I would need to address seniors by their first name and there would be no Sir/Madam.
I think it’s broadly a choice of culture that an organisation makes. In India, you show respect to someone senior by using the phrase Sir – that you are succumbing to the power distance and yielding to authority. By addressing someone by first name only means that you consider yourself equal to that person 🙂 and this can be taken in poor taste by the senior. To add to it, even as a recruitment agency, I mostly address my clients as Sir/Mam – again because in th
” To Sir or Not To Sir” is therefore a dilemma of epic proportions
What do you think