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.

{ 5 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.

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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