Is calling my female colleagues “Ma’am” sexist?

“woman holding respect all women poster” by T. Chick McClure on Unsplash

This one has me baffled, hence I’m putting my opinion out for anybody that may be able to enlighten me on the subject.

I try my best to treat everybody that works with me with the same respect that they deserve.

It’s a mannerism that has lived throughout our family values.

My Parents and their parents before them; instilled these values within us.

It was simply put this way to us,

If we ever acted out of order or failed to show respect to anybody who works hard for a living; we weren’t allowed in the house anymore.

Other than that, my academic failures or pranks at school were treated with something that could be improved upon; but the stress was always on to remain respectful and humble.

As we are moving into a new age of political correctness, we have to acknowledge and appropriate our behaviour.

Due to my upbringing and education, we were always taught to refer to our elders, peers, and colleagues with the proper terminology.

A Senior was to be referred as Sir. or Ms.

A Colleague, Stranger, or a Formal friend was to be referred to as Mr., Ms, Ma’am.

Or Mrs. (If Applicable)

Recently though, I got bombarded with a few complaints that a few of my colleagues had taken offence to my patronising behaviour at work.

The emails in question highlighted how I refer to my female colleagues as ‘Ma’am’ whilst referring to my male colleagues as ‘Dude’.

I issued an apology and noted that from now forth I shall refer to all my colleagues as “douchebags”.

Obviously, the sarcasm didn’t travel too well.

I issued another apology and enough time had passed for us all to move past my short-comings.

Earlier this week, we were being briefed for a conference that we will be attending.

When I was asked to speak, because of the nature of the conversation, I took to referring to my colleagues as “Mr.” and “Ma’am”.

After the briefing ended, we all went out to a gathering to celebrate our departure on our journey.

Remaining consistent with my promise to appropriate my behaviour.

I continue to refer to all male encounters as either “Sir.” or “Mr.” and my female encounters with “Ma’am.” or “Mrs.”

There wasn’t any sarcasm intended, and there was never a moment where I deviated from this speech pattern of paying my respect.

I use “Ma’am” in every encounter that I have with women, when it’s ordering food at a restaurant, on aboard with a flight attendant, or with my colleagues.

I was informed today that I should from now on refer to my colleagues with their first names, as it has most certainly enraged our staff.

What was so deplorable about paying respect, is what I failed to comprehend.

So I simply put forward a question,

Do I stop treating people who I believe are deserving of value with a simple ‘Sir’, ‘Ms.’, ‘Mr.’, or ‘Ma’am’?

The reason why this is important to note is also the age difference between me and my colleagues — I’m the youngest employee at our firm but hold a senior position because I guess I was struck with a bolt of lightening of luck.

What I hope to understand is this, was it paranoia, a misunderstanding of me paying genuine respect as being patronising, or should I just give up on life and pursue becoming a silent-monk?

Because I honestly do not understand how a simple gesture of respect could be so damning when colleagues constantly pass sexual innuendos between one another?

Am I really in the wrong here?

Help me understand this conundrum, before I decide to quit on pursuing a career and resort to a life of solitude.

I failed to learn the piano, so I decided I’d play the keyboard instead. //All aboard the Crazytrain.

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