When Did I Become a Dude?

by Jennifer Miller on July 1, 2009

in Communication, Generational, Leadership

I was sitting in a meeting with a VP of Technology the other day, preparing to meet with her company’s president. She watched me pull out my paper calendar and exclaimed, “Dude! You have got to get a BlackBerry!” Now, this person is in her 40’s so she’s a Gen X-er. So this wasn’t a comment uttered by someone fresh out of college. This isn’t the first time I’ve heard women being referred to as “dude”. To wit:

When picking up my son from daycare one day, his college-aged teacher exclaimed “Dude, that’s a really cute purse!” I looked around and didn’t see any other adults in the vicinity, and I don’t usually hear men complimenting each others’ handbags, so I could only conclude she was addressing me. My reaction was part pride (“hey, she thinks I’m a ‘dude’…that means I’m somewhat with it) and part old fart matron (“Geez, young people today—no respect!”)

Overhead wafting from a cubicle in a corporate workplace… “Liz” addressing “Katherine”– “Dude, you have got to read this email. It’s hysterical!”

So is the use of the word dude to address women commonplace in your workplace? And if it is commonplace, what are the boundaries for its use? Should only peers address each other this way? What about supervisors and direct reports? Is this a generational issue and if so, in what way?
I’d love to hear your thoughts.

{ 11 comments… read them below or add one }

Jane July 1, 2009 at 12:56 pm

We are a society that loves to label – everything; not just people. While Dude could be interpreted as a negative connotation, is that really true? I see it as a fun tag, leaving an impression of light hearted familiarity. Some individuals might care about Dude or Dudette – personally, it’s nothing i would even think about, unless questioned – such as in a posted survey on a website like this one. Dude! that’s an awesome way to survey the topic.

Deirdre HR Maven July 2, 2009 at 4:51 am

Dude. STILL chuckling….. I hear this all the time and use it – even my dog is sometimes ‘dude’.

Great post.

MelissaWiseWays July 2, 2009 at 1:51 pm

Do I use it? Sure, when someone is cutting me off on the I-95 and I holler out, “Dude, what are you doing?”

Do I use it in a work situation with colleagues? Definitely not.

For me, there is still some distinction between the world at work and the world outside of it. And in my mind, dude is a term that needs to stay out of it.

I’m chuckling right now, imagining myself walking into the C-Suite and saying to one of my executive coaching clients, “Hey dude, what do you want to work on today?”

Um, on second thought, let’s cancel that thought!

Alexia July 8, 2009 at 2:29 pm

LOL! 🙂
I use “Dude” in conversation a lot. I think it has to do with being a teenager in the ’90’s. I think I called my mom “dude” unthinkingly when I was visiting her last week…

Vanessa Lowry July 10, 2009 at 10:51 am

There is a campaign for beer (don’t remember which one) where the entire dialogue is “Dude” with different emphasis. It always cracks me up!

Mary Ellen July 20, 2009 at 6:02 am

I don’t think “dude” is a gendered term in this case. When I start a conversation with “dude,” it means I am about to point out something really goofy. It’s more interjection than a label of address.

Michael VanDervort September 6, 2009 at 6:49 pm

Thanks for referring me here, Jennifer. It made me laugh. I am 52, and I use dude on-line all the time. I adopted when a 70 year old woman on twitter called me dude…

She said it was the perfect generic.

Joan E. Ginsberg September 7, 2009 at 7:29 am

I’m pretty certain no one has EVER called me dude. Or dudette.

I have used it on men in a playful way, even at work. I used to work in a small manufacturing facility where most of my workers were men. It was a really informal place, so it kind of fit. I can’t imagine using it in a larger, more traditional corporate atmosphere. Using or hearing it always reminds me of the TV show “Hey, Dude” that my children watched when they were young. If the situation doesn’t fit that theme song, I wouldn’t use it! 🙂

One of my dogs is named Dodger, and I often call him Dodger-Dude. We play a game called flyball, and I use the name “dude” to call him back to me because it is shorter and I can yell it faster and louder than “Dodger”. Situational.

Interesting post, Jennifer!

Ruchi September 20, 2009 at 2:44 pm

Dude i use for referring someone as “Really Cool” ! If people call me Dude, i take it as a compliment. And i guess, so do few others ! Enjoyed…lovely post.

Ruchi June 22, 2012 at 1:18 pm

I would go to the extent of saying ~ some people are born Dude . I mean, they have it in them. May be , it’s their demeanour , comfort of being in their own skin , their attitude.

Though at workplace , I have not seen it in common use as it conveys a casual , sense of playfulness , a word commonly used amongst friends or buddies, often male.

I remember , when I visited a Doctor (one of my client in an earlier job ) , she referred to me as Dude , and I kinda like it.

Jennifer , let me shower a compliment ” I saw your video on Influence ecourse & i was happy that you spoke like a real Dude ” yayyy…..

Jennifer Miller June 22, 2012 at 2:10 pm


What fine compliment! Thank you so much 🙂

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