telling my boss about a rumor he might lose his job, advocating for my staff, and more

It’s five answers to five questions. Here we go…

1. There’s a rumor my boss might lose his job

I am in a predicament where a coworker has told me he overheard a rumor that my boss is being ousted by the president. Allegedly, they are bringing in an even more senior head of our group (new role) to be his boss, with the ultimate goal of eliminating my boss’s role. This coworker is an office gossip, and I have seen many of the rumors he has spread to be credible.

Here is where things get sticky. I was brought into my own job by my boss, having worked together at a prior company. We have a really good relationship. On the other hand, this gossipy coworker has admitted to undermining the boss to other leaders in the business because he does not like his leadership style. I believe that this is a ploy for my coworker to try to oust not only my boss, but also eventually me, based on conversations we’ve had where he has tried to take over things under my purview. He throws all of his coworkers under the bus in order to get ahead while feigning loyalty or friendship.

He told me not to tell anyone this piece of information and said that I am the only one he told (which I am not sure I believe given how gossipy he is). I feel I need to tell my boss this information and come clean with how my coworker has been sabotaging him. How do I know if this is a wise thing to do? The only reason I came into this role is because of my boss, and without him, I would not be very happy working here and frankly would be concerned about my own job security.

It sounds like you have reason to be far more loyal to your boss than to this coworker, and the coworker sounds like an ass anyway. If your boss is a reasonable person with good judgment, I’d tell him. Obviously you should include the caveat that you have no idea if it’s true or not, but you can say that you didn’t feel right hearing something like that and not sharing it with him.

2. Advocating for my staff to management above me

I’m a regional leader in an organization. Members pay to join and it was started by a company, so obviously it’s not exactly the same as a workplace, but in a lot of ways it’s like being a regional manager in a larger company.

My region has some concerns that are specific to our group. I know that regional managers who’ve been around longer than me have been raising them with head office for a while now, but head office isn’t receptive and it’s not only affecting morale, but it’s also led some people to leave. I’m not sure how relevant it is, but from what I can tell, head office is actually in the wrong on this (and for once, the issue is actually pretty black and white), but for some reason they refuse to even entertain discussion, let alone reconsider their position.

I’m finding myself stuck. On the one hand, as a regional leader, I want to advocate for my “staff.” I also feel some responsibility for making sure that head office understands just how negatively its position is viewed among the people in my region. On the other hand, given that I’m a regional leader, I don’t want to come out and blame head office or tell them they’re wrong. But I also want to make sure that members in my region feel heard and know that we regional leaders are continuing to work to address their concerns.

As (essentially) a middle manager, how do you advocate for your members without seeming like a troublemaker to head office? When head office doesn’t want to entertain a discussion on something, is there a way I can raise it that might get them to engage? And how do I tell my members that I hear their concerns and I’m working on it, without seeming like I’m contradicting or criticizing head office?

In general, the way to raise issues as a manager to management above you is to frame it around the interests of the organization. So it’s not just that you and your staff think their position is wrong — you want to put it in terms of how it’s impacting morale, harming the leadership’s credibility, and causing good people to leave. Keep it less about your personal opinion and more about the impact you’re seeing as a manager. That way, your input is about you doing your job — because part of managing well is making sure that you loop in people above you when you see problems brewing on the ground.

However, with a head office that isn’t receptive and refuses to even allow discussion, you’re unlikely to get through to them. Frankly, at this point, it might make sense to make that the issue — their stonewalling and lack of transparency should be a pretty big deal themselves, even aside from the specifics of this issue.

3. Can I ask my boss if I’m about to be laid off?

I currently work as an IT contractor. I am essential to the operation here, but budgets are being cut and my boss is being very secretive and short with me. He is spending most of his time behind closed doors and our relationship has gone from being very friendly and open to short and minimal. Is it appropriate for me to to straight up ask him if I am about to be fired?

You could*, but if the answer is yes, it’s very likely that he won’t tell you that until the company decides it’s time to tell you that. It’s possible that there’s still some value in asking, because he might give you an answer that’s compelling enough to be convincing (like “your project is the major money maker for the company right now, and I wanted to talk to you about we can make sure we keep you”) or that he’ll give you enough of a hint that you’ll have your answer (“it’s a tough time for the company right now, and I’d understand if people felt they needed to look around”).

But really, if budgets are being cut and your boss is being secretive and short, I’d start looking. That doesn’t mean you’re definitely being let go, and it doesn’t mean that you need to take any job that’s offered to you, but in this kind of climate it’s always smart to start looking so that you’re not starting from scratch if you do lose your job.

* If you do talk to him about it, don’t use the word “fired” — that means you’re being let go because of your performance or behavior. Use the words “laid off,” which means your position is being eliminated.

4. People keep thinking my last name is my first name

I’m recently married, and I took my husband’s last name. I knew a new name would be an adjustment, but I didn’t anticipate a bigger problem: my first name could also be a last name and my last name could also be a first name. Clients and opposing counsel frequently call me by my last name, thinking it’s my first (I assume part of the problem is that an email will show up last name, first name). I know how to handle this in person or over the phone (“it’s Lindsey, actually”) but I don’t know how to politely but firmly correct people over email.

I know some people would advise me to let it go, but I don’t think that is the solution, especially with opposing counsel: I am a young, pretty woman in a male-dominated industry, and I don’t want to be seen as a pushover. What’s a polite but clear and confident way to correct people? Should my response differ in any way if it they repeatedly use the wrong name? What if the email only necessitates a short reply (“Got it, thanks!”) – should I still correct them then?

I think it’s worth correcting them even if you’re just sending a short reply. Think of it as a kindness to them: You’re preventing them from continuing to call you by the wrong name, which will be embarrassing to them at whatever point they figure it out.

In an email, you can just add it as a short, matter-of-fact note at the end of your message like this:

Got it, thanks! (By the way, it’s actually Lindsey — Taylor is my last name.)

If you want to warm it up a little more, you could add “The way the email is programmed to display doesn’t make that obvious!”

{ 358 comments… read them below or add one }

  1. RTG123

    Along the same lines as the last letter, I’m a woman with a man’s first name.

    I exchange many emails regarding billing everyday, most of which are quick polite interactions—is it worth it to correct folks when they address me as Mr. LastName? So far, I have only addressed it when it has come up during the occasional follow up phone conversation.

    Reply
    1. KayDay

      I work in an international environment, so it’s common for people to know that their gender might not be obvious from their name to everyone. Sometimes people add their honorific in their email signatures and/or put their family name in caps (the last name in caps is more common in Europe than the U.S.). E.g. “Taylor KELLY (Ms)” or “Mr Leslie TAYLOR”. Obviously, this doesn’t work if you are Dr So-and-So.

      Reply
      1. Five after Midnight

        I’ve only seen last name caps used in France and, yes, it does help there quite a lot. Also, why wouldn’t this “obviously” work with Dr So-and-So – simples: “Dr Leslie TAYLOR”. Or am I missing something?

        Reply
        1. Ramona Flowers

          Dr tells you which is the surname and first name, but it’s unisex so doesn’t tell you whether someone is male, female, etc.

          Reply
            1. peachie

              In my day to day work I communicate mostly with people who use the title Dr., and let me tell you, I’m thrilled not to have to guess people’s gender for the most part.

              Reply
              1. BenAdminGeek

                There were two married professors in college who had doctorates, and they loved to play dumb when telemarketers would call their house- “I’m sorry, Dr. Stark? I’m Dr. Stark! Ohhhh… MRS. Dr. Stark? She’s not available.”

                Reply
                1. Epizirco

                  My wife and I will play this game. (She is a veterinarian and I have a PhD)

                  I am male with a unisex but predominantly female name. When I get the “Ms.” title, I usually just put in a postscript that says something like “It’s ‘Mr.’ actually, or preferably ‘Dr.'”

                  A benefit of the unisex name is that my wife can pretend to be me on annoying but necessary phone calls (like calling customer service to get account info changed), which works great because I hate making those calls.

                2. wendelenn

                  That reminds me of the final episode of Star Trek: The Next Generation.

                  Crew Member: “Captain Picard?”
                  Jean-Luc and Beverly , together: “Yes?”

                3. Specialk9

                  @Epizirico “A benefit of the unisex name is that my wife can pretend to be me on annoying but necessary phone calls (like calling customer service to get account info changed), which works great because I hate making those calls.”

                  That made me laugh. Nice way to work the system!

                4. Teacher

                  My mother and I have both been known to pretend to be our husbands or bosses on the phone to deal with accounts with no trouble, despite names like John or Robert being in play. They can’t really give you grief about it – what are they going to say? “I won’t speak with you because you don’t sound like your name is John”? :)

        2. INSEAD alum

          It’s definitely more of a French thing, and also common enough in the Benelux countries, but it’s not unheard of in other European regions. I’ve also seen this quite a bit in Asia, where family names may come before given names.

          Reply
          1. M-C

            Not traditionally a French thing, I had to teach the French coworkers to do it. It worked great to detangle the snarls caused by first-sounding last names, and especially with Asia the bending over backwards to accommodate what everyone thought they knew about different orders.. Soon the clients were doing it too

            Reply
      2. Susan Calvin

        Came here to suggest capitalization too! It’s really a life saver in my company, especially since we have a large east Asian branch office where conventions about name order are just all over the place – but honestly even some European coworkers have names where, in isolation, I couldn’t say with confidence if it’s a first or a last name (looking at you, Finland).

        I wonder why it’s not common in America?

        Reply
        1. Victoria Nonprofit (USA)

          I wouldn’t use capitalization in the US. In my field/experience/region it’s unherd of (as in I’d literally never seen it before today) and would cause more questions than answers. (I legit thought it was an autocorrect issue when I started reading this thread)

          Reply
          1. Amber T

            Yeah, all caps tends to be read as “I’M YELLING AT YOU” and not a gentle emphasis. If I saw someone sign something “Leslie TAYLOR,” I would assume that their last name had either been spelled wrong or misprinted or something previously, and they’re angrily making their point on how to spell it correctly.

            Reply
          2. Sylvan

            +1

            If you want to specify which is your family name and which isn’t, or which one you prefer to be called… I think doing that verbally is your best shot? Caps read as shouting and/or a typo.

            Reply
          3. Catherine

            How you use it is not, “Hi, I’m Catherine DOE,” but rather in an email signature or on a business card. My first name is common enough (at least recognizable) in the Americas, Europe, and Africa, but a lot of people outside of those areas really have no idea. Even just moving from one state to another in the U.S. I’ve encountered some first names I had never heard before and couldn’t have identified as such. It really is a courtesy to give people some guidance! And although I’m based in the U.S., no one here has seemed to have any trouble understanding the convention (though it’s true I’d have no way to know if their eyebrows went up when reading an email).

            Reply
        2. Parenthetically

          It was ubiquitous when I lived in Hong Kong, and really convenient. My surname is a slight variation on a man’s name (think Martins), and the convention of Ms. Sally MARTINS kept me from being referred to as Mr. Sally. It also kept me from referring to ZHOU Wen (Mr.) as Ms. Wen.

          Reply
      3. crookedfinger

        Oh that’s really interesting, I was never sure what that meant. I assumed their name had just been misspelled so often that they wanted to make it super obvious, but this makes a lot more sense. Thanks for sharing!

        Reply
      4. Jan

        My company uses that globally on email signatures as well as business cards. Works quite well.
        We are very international, to the point that the family name is not always the last name; in many Asian countries the family name is written first (like MAO Tsedong) while in Europe or the US the common order is George WASHINGTON).
        About 1,000 US employees out of some 15,000 overall, headquartered in Europe but not France, in case you’re wondering.

        Reply
        1. Specialk9

          Interesting. Well, company wide conventions will become obvious soon enough, if a client sees that all of these Acme folks all-cap last name, they’ll figure out it’s a convention and not being rude.

          Reply
    2. Ramona Flowers

      I think I would correct them. It can be sort of excruciating to realise you’ve got this wrong, especially if you twig during a phone call.

      When I was a journalist I once talked to someone at very short notice for an article whose name was Stuart. I realised on the phone that it was a woman and was kind of thrown wondering if I’d put my foot in it at any point.

      Reply
      1. Lily Rowan

        My real name is unisex and I have been on calls with people who persisted in thinking I was a man, which is funny since I don’t think my voice is especially gender-neutral.

        For the original commenter, I correct people or not depending on if I think we’re going to have a relationship and it will be awkward someday. What I don’t do is make the kind of call I had to take early in my career where a man named Marion or similar called and REAMED ME OUT. Dude, it is a fair mistake to make! And I should know!

        Reply
        1. Ego Chamber

          “What I don’t do is make the kind of call I had to take early in my career where a man named Marion or similar called and REAMED ME OUT. Dude, it is a fair mistake to make!”

          Seriously. My preference for gentle correction probably has something to do with my many years tenure in Call Center Hell, but there are definitely right and wrong ways to correct honest mistakes.

          (Storytime. I was on a customer service call with a woman who was elderly and/or had smoker’s voice and she also had a gender-neutral name. I tried to play it neutral and not address her by name because I didn’t want to guess the wrong gender, but it became obvious quickly because she screamed “MA’AM, NOT SIR!” I… had not said sir and was sort of confused. This happened a few times: I agreed with something she said and she screamed “MA’AM! NOT SIR!” getting more upset every time. I finally figured out what was going on when she screamed “DON’T YOU F#CKING HEAR ME?! I AM A WOMAN!” and I said “Yes, ma’am, certainly, I understand,” and she screamed at me again for calling her “sir.” I told her I was saying “certainly,” as in “yes, I agree with you,” … and she accused me of making up words. Coolsies. O_o)

          Reply
      2. MadStuart

        My last name could be a first name and my first name a last name, and both my last and first names were mostly male not that long ago, so I get a decent dose of both the “lets swap first and last names” and the “this person must be a man” issues in my inbox.

        Fortunately, my workplace is fairly relaxed—my job title is Minion!—so I sign a lot of emails with just my first name, and add slightly goofy parentheticals after the closing if they’ve misgendered me, since it’s not the first time it’s happened and won’t be the last.

        Reply
        1. DataQueen

          I love that job title! I think it’s super fun and cheeky to use something like that. I was going to make a yellow minion joke but i’m woefully uninformed about those movies.

          Reply
      3. Specialk9

        Yeah, I both appreciate and am momentarily embarrassed by corrections, but it needs doing and I’m grateful overall. Someone recently corrected me on her first name, and I admire how matter of factly she did it.

        Reply
    3. Agent Diane

      I don’t think the solution is to add your title, mostly because female titles (aside from Dr) come with extra baggage. Miss/Mrs creates ideas about age and indicate martial status – neither of which the supplier of teapot handles should care about. Ms can make people wonder if you’re divorced or “making a point”. It’s a very valid desire to have your gender recognised – it is part of your identity after all. And I bet many suppliers of teapot handles are embarrassed when they realise they were wrong.

      You could say “Just FirstName is fine” in email, which sounds less corrective than “that’s Ms LastName”? They may go on thinking you are male, of course, but at least you’re not being mis-addressed. For people who continue to use “Mr LastName” give them a call to check they got something!

      Reply
      1. Ramona Flowers

        And that’s why Mx is kind of cool.

        But none of this helps people who are non-binary, or transitioning and not wanting to disclose it, or any other reason why a heteronormative solution isn’t the answer.

        Reply
        1. Chocolate Teapot

          I knew a Laurence and a Benedicte and a Laurent and a Benoit. The first 2 were women and the second pair were men. At present, I find Asian names are tricky to define whether they belong to a man or woman.

          Reply
          1. SchoolStarts!

            Yes! I am Scout Leader and I have a mother who is called Wei for one kid…and a father called Wei for another and I wasn’t sure until they specified or I met them if they were male or female (not that it matters for emails about the next meeting). Without seeing the Chinese characters, which I believe would immediately clear it up for those who knew how to read it (and my rusty Chinese never extended to people’s names when I studied it), and not having the tone associated with it (maybe high tones are for women only?), there’s no way to know.

            Reply
            1. Emi.

              With Chinese names, the characters do help, because they tell you the meaning of the name. (The tone with the romanization might tell you that, but it’s not foolproof.) AFAIK tones aren’t gendered at all for names. It’s just the meaning–girls/women are more likely to be have Peony and Beautiful, while boys/men are more likely to be have Dragon and Bright, although this is becoming less true. There were three different boys named some variety of Long (dragon) in my year, but I’m a woman and my name is Ming (bright). But sometimes even native Chinese can’t tell.

              Reply
          2. Artemesia

            the problem with Asian names in the west is that some Asians will put them in Western order and some leave them in Eastern order and you don’t know which the person has done. Using caps for the surname would definitely make that clearer.

            Reply
        2. Specialk9

          I haven’t really seen Mx in the mainstream, though I suspect in academia it might be. Do you see it often? Does it get perceived as politically charged?

          Reply
      2. MK

        If using “Ms” makes people think you are making a point, would that be so bad? It’s a good point to make, that a woman shouldn’t be addressed according to her marital status (unless she actually chooses to do so). That being said, I realise it can create an issue I personally have never had to deal with; in my language, once “Miss” became obsolete, every woman is called “Mrs.”

        Reply
        1. Miso

          In my language, too, luckily (I wonder if we speak the same one…?).
          I had to explain to my foreign ex-boyfriend though that it’s really not cool to address women as Miss anymore, no matter what he (or his father!) might have learnt at school.

          Reply
          1. Specialk9

            I hear Miss a lot from British people. The explanation I got was “Ma’am” is only for the queen, and “Miss” is both polite and age-flattering.

            Personally it makes me pissed internally until I remind myself of the good intention, but I’ve felt like a grown ass adult since early on, and calling me a child feels very disrespectful. But in my regional culture, “ma’am” is appropriate.

            Reply
        2. Mary

          The thing where “Ms means divorced” is just … there isn’t enough eyeroll. We specifically invent a title where marital status is irrelevant, and people decide it must be attached to a marital status. logic!

          Reply
          1. Kathleen Adams

            I live in a fairly conservative area (Indiana), and here Ms. does *not* mean “divorced.” It isn’t used much in speech, but in writing/emails it really and truly is used to mean either “Honorific for a woman of whose preferences I am unaware” or “Honorific that I use because I just, for whatever reason, don’t wish to get into the whole Miss vs. Mrs. thing.” (In my case, I use Ms. because I use my birth name, rather than married name, at work, and “Mrs. MaidenName” is just to weird.)

            That really is it. I email all sorts of people, and all sorts of people email me, and there really isn’t much baggage associated with the use of Ms., at least not in writing.

            Now, if I introduced myself as “Ms. LastName,” there very well might be. But in email it really has become that “marital status is irrelevant” title that it was supposed to be, at least among the people who write to me.

            Reply
            1. Dana

              When I was a little girl in Indiana, I had a teacher named Ms. So-and-so. This seriously prejudiced my mom against her–she would say “MIZZZZ So-and-so” whenever she had to refer to her, and thought it indicated something negative about her character. I think the implication was that she was a feminist and self-absorbed about it, or something.

              Fortunately, that was decades ago, so this reaction seems much less likely today. But I wonder what my mom would think if she knew that *I* now go by “Ms.”!

              Reply
              1. Elizabeth

                Similarly, I just remembered my art teacher in grade school was the only teacher who used “Ms.” and my mother bristled at this as well—but it was the ’80s/early ’90s, and my mother is conservative. I haven’t observed this kind of reaction from anyone else since. I also prefer Ms., married or not.

                Reply
                1. Kasia

                  I grew up in the South and every female teacher was referred to as something that sounded like a cross between Miss and Ms. It’s still hard for me to say Mrs, actually.

                2. Specialk9

                  Yeah, I remember those days, when Ms was staking a huge feminist flag, to ridicule and resentment. As a very young teen, I babysat for a neighbor who was an open feminist, while my parents listened to right wing radio. I remember my utter shock that someone decent would actually claim to be a feminist. (I had thought the term was feminazi.) She asked me a basic question – do you think women should get the same money as a man for the same job? – and when I said yes of course, declared me a feminist. I was *really* unsettled, but its simplicity stuck with me over the years.

                  (I’m now a proud feminist, use Ms, didn’t take my husband’s name, etc. My parents despair but love me; I despair at my parents but love them.)

              2. Snark

                The overwhelming interest midwesterners have in others’ social, familial, and marital status vis a vis Byzantine rules and standards for same is everlasting, even if “Ms.” has lost its significance.

                Reply
              3. synchrojo

                About a decade ago in Ohio, I had a high school English teacher (chair of the department, had been with the district many years) who pointedly went by “Ms”. On the first day of class, she explained the connotation of “Mrs” and why, despite being married, she refused to use the term.

                …About 10 minutes later, the principal pages her over the intercom, using “Mrs.” She flicked off the intercom. Best teacher I ever had.

                Reply
          2. Mandy

            When I was growing up in my head the definitions were literally this:
            “Miss” is for an unmarried woman
            “Mrs.” is for a married woman
            “Ms.” is for it is none of your business

            Reply
            1. Mel

              I remember being in first or second grade and asking my mom about this after seeing “Ms.” for the first time on an order form. My mom told me it meant “none of your business” and nascent feminist me thought that was awesome!

              Reply
          3. Portia

            When I started this job at my rather conservative, religious school, one of the many eye-openers in the first week was that married teachers are referred to as “Mrs.”, unmarried as “Ms.” They put it on the door signs and everything! It rubs me the wrong way every time I see it. I’m glad that I am “Dr.” and get to skip the whole thing. There’s no way to tell whether our male teachers are married just by glancing at their door — why should it be different for the women??

            Reply
        3. Chocolate lover

          Agreed. I don’t care if people think I’m using Ms. for a point or not, or if they wonder if I’m divorced. I kept my own name when I got married, and I don’t answer to Mrs. I teach college students, and I tell them they’re welcome to call me first name, Professor last name if they’re more comfortable, but not Mrs.

          Though I also have a clearly female name, so I don’t have anything useful to add for OP other than what’s already been suggested.

          Reply
        4. SchoolStarts!

          When I moved to Quebec as a young, unmarried late teen, I discovered everyone was called Madame regardless of apparent age. It was only particularly old fashioned guys who would call you mademoiselle.

          Reply
        5. Artemesia

          This is less an issue today but 40 years ago it was definitely a political hot button especially in the south. I had many men smirk and say is that Miss or Mrs when I used Ms. The assumption by sexist jerks is that you aren’t married and are embarrassed not to have achieved this ultimate goal of womanhood and thus hide behind a Ms, you loser. It gave me great pleasure to be able to say to such men ‘oh actually, it is Doctor.’ This was the only occasion on which I used ‘Dr.’ as a social title.

          Reply
      3. Savannah

        Curious where in the US you are where using Ms is still giving you pause. In the northeast I’d never think twice about using it and as someone who didn’t change their last name when married, I use it regularly.

        Reply
          1. ExceptionToTheRule

            It was a THING in the 70’s & 80’s when divorce was still relatively uncommon. It’s not a thing anymore.

            Reply
            1. Blue

              Yeah, it’s what I was taught as a kid (in the ’80s, in the South), but in college (still in the South), I was retrained to use it as a catch-all.

              Reply
          2. Kathleen Adams

            I agree that it’s just not a thing any more, at least not here (Indiana), and this is a pretty conservative area.

            Reply
          3. Cleopatra Jones

            In some parts of the deep south, it is still a thing. I had a guy from Mississippi ask me why I used Ms. as my marital status title instead of Mrs.
            He said that I was married so I should NOT deceive people into believing that I was divorced & possibly available to date.

            Yes this happened about 2-ish years ago.

            Reply
            1. Rainy

              I wish gross dudes realized how gross they seem when they are grossing it up at women. :( I’m sorry you were exposed to such a gross dude.

              Reply
              1. Ego Chamber

                This. I watched a thing the other day about how women who default to putting men in “the friend zone” is not really the issue: the issue is men who default to putting women in “the f#ck zone.” (Stay away from those men, ladies, stay safe.)

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      4. Naomi

        Maybe this is cultural to where you are, but I wouldn’t assume either of those things just because someone used the title Ms. For example, Ms. makes more sense than Miss or Mrs. for a woman who is married but did not take her partner’s name. Or who just doesn’t think her marital status is anyone’s business.

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      5. HR is fun

        I’ve never thought Ms. means “making a point.” I work in HR in the north-ish eastern-ish part of the US and I was taught that it is incorrect to use Miss or Mrs. to refer to women in the workplace, even when you know if the person is married or single. I have always used Ms. to refer to women in the workforce. (We write lots of business letters in HR. For example, when writing job offer letters, I address them “Dear Ms. Taylor.” )

        (Addendum: this is evolving now that I am more aware of nonbinary people and people who use pronouns other than he or she. But I certainly wouldn’t go back to using Miss or Mrs. in the workplace.)

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        1. Falling Diphthong

          Yes, work is a weird venue to be figuring out people’s marital status before you can write to them. I thought we were decades into “Ms” as the equivalent to Mr.

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        2. Twenty Points for the Copier

          We were told in one of my first jobs in New York that Mrs. and Miss are totally inappropriate to business correspondence. This was brought up as an example of bad business writing along with someone who had sent a client letter with the signoff “Hugs and Kisses.”

          Then I moved to California, shifted to a slightly different type of client market, and now everything is all first names all the time.

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      6. Temperance

        I exclusively use Ms. to address any female-identified person, unless they are very elderly and one of my clients. I don’t know anyone who considers Ms. to be “making a point”, as it’s the appropriate greeting for an adult woman professional.

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      7. Sam

        In my opinion, “Ms.” should be the default unless you know for a fact that they prefer Mrs. And Miss should just never be used unless you’re talking to a kid. I have strong feelings about this, and maybe as a single women in her 30s that means I’m “making a point,” but I think that point would be “don’t use titles that makes irrelevant assumptions about people’s personal lives.”

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        1. Kathleen Adams

          That is my conviction as well. If I don’t know, I use “Ms.,” and that’s what people use when they write to me as well. It truly has become completely mainstream, at least as far as I can tell (and I write to and hear from some fairly conservative people).

          Reply
        2. NotAnotherManager!

          Yep. I am 40 and grew up in a conservative area, and Ms. was not considered unusual at all nor, to my knowledge, was it considered a statement of any sort. I use Ms., when a title is required, and I’ve been married for over a decade. No one has every asked if this meant that we got a divorce.

          I am, however, Southern, so Miss FirstName is how a lot my kids’ friends refer to me. This is also fine, and it avoids the last name issue all together, since mine is different. (The “Miss” has nothing to do with my marital status, it’s just a bit of Southern politeness horror at kids not using a title with adults. :)

          Reply
        3. OP #2

          This. Any time someone calls me Miss, I find it infantilizing to the point of sounding condescending. And having recently gotten married, basically the only person who gets a pass on calling me Mrs. is husband’s grandmother. If my husband’s title didn’t change after the wedding, why should mine?

          Reply
          1. Anonymousaurus Rex

            Exactly this. Literally the only time I correct people is when they call me “Miss” — “It’s Dr., actually” (It’s an obnoxious response, but I’m not a child and I don’t want to be addressed as one.)

            Reply
          2. Emi.

            I’m also recently married, and I really like it when my friends introduce me to their children as “Mrs,” because it helps me feel like a grown-up–that’s how I always addressed my parents’ friends. I would find it weird at work, though, even if my office didn’t use first names for everyone.

            Reply
          3. SimonTheGreyWarden

            Yeah…I only ever hear Miss as the name of my grandma’s dog, Miss Priss, which was also what she used to call my cousin and I when we weren’t acting up to her standards as little kids. I used Ms. until I got married and now with a son I have quit fighting the Ms/Mrs fight and just use Mrs (though a tiny part of me wishes I’d finished that doctorate; My MIL is a Doctor Warden and I wish I was also a Doctor Warden, so I wouldn’t have to deal with the honorifics (I’m in academia).

            Reply
        4. nonymous

          my British-colony educated mom would address the under 18 set as Miss and Master in correspondence, but once they were adults the form of address would become Ms and Mr (Mrs to be used only in the context of Mr & Mrs). Although I did have one Auntie who gloried in having letters addressed to Dr and Mrs LASTNAME.

          Reply
            1. Ego Chamber

              Interesting. Although next time someone calls me “Miss,” I might try responding “Call me Master” and see how that goes over. Not very well, I’d assume.

              (Context: I’m a cisgender strongly female person who prefers menswear and would rather be called “King” than “Queen.” I think that’s just a power thing though?)

              Reply
        5. Renamis

          I would like to point out in some US regions “Miss” goes far past kids. I don’t think I’ve ever called a kid “Miss”, but usually older women! Don’t know the region specifics, but “Miss FirstName” is common around where I am, and marital status doesn’t enter the equation. Now, if you try “Miss LastName” that isn’t going to go over well at all. Nor will “Miss, can you help me!” My marital status is not your business, so there.

          … I will point out I felt old the first time I was called Miss Rena. That’s not a fun moment at all. :-P

          Reply
          1. SimonTheGreyWarden

            It’s definitely a southern thing, because growing up my parents had me call all their friends Miss or Mr. FirstName, and my mom was from the deep south. However, there’s no difference in how my mom pronounces Miss and Ms, so I don’t actually know which I should have been saying. Likewise, I’ve told my husband I want our son to do the same by using Mr. and Ms. with the first name for our friends, and while he finds it weird because he just used first names, I’ve told him to me it is about respect. If our friends tell our son he can call them just FirstName, that’s fine, but I want him to learn the other way as well.

            Reply
      8. bookish

        This may depend on region, office culture etc, I suppose – but I commented below before reading this full thread that a coworker with an ambiguous first name had added “Ms.” to her signature. I would never think anyone was using “Ms.” because they were divorced or to make a point. I see it as just the most common/default women’s title – I’d be more surprised to see “Miss” or “Mrs” in a signature, to be honest. (Particularly Miss – I read “Miss” as either incredibly old-timey, or the beginning of a stage name – you see a lot of burlesque performers, for example, using “Miss” before their names.) Do you come from a more conservative area? Genuinely interested to know, because what you’re suggesting is so different from anything I’ve experienced! (East Coast, above the Mason-Dixon line.)

        Reply
    4. AlligatorTrainer

      At my place of employment it has become increasingly common for email signatures to include pronouns, like so:
      Dr. Johnny Appleseed
      Exec. Director, Dept of Llamas
      she/her/hers

      or sometimes instead the final line might say, “My pronouns are they/theirs.” as a full sentence for clarity.

      Reply
          1. Floundering Mander

            Seriously. It would help avoid awkward encounters, especially if someone’s gender is ambiguous for whatever reason. A person might have their own hangups about others who are transgender or non-binary but it’s not very professional to take that out on people they work with.

            Reply
            1. Sarah in Boston

              There’s no need to be rude about something that other people clearly find important and/or useful. It just means that you shouldn’t do it.

              Reply
          2. Engineer Girl

            It starts to become too much information in the signature. And when you hit a certain level of noise people start to ignore it. It’s also not about the job but people’s preferences. These are things that usually get addressed in other ways.

            Reply
            1. NotAnotherManager!

              Yes, I am happy to use someone’s preferred pronouns and make a concerted effort to figure out how they prefer to be addressed, name-wise. I think putting pronouns in an email signature is a bit much. I deal with a lot of outside parties, and, beyond the proper spelling of their name and their email address (maybe a phone number), I basically ignore all the other stuff that is crammed into a signature (social media links, fax numbers, websites, graphics, etc.) along with the email disclaimers (unless I’ve received something in error and need to figure out how to notify them) and dunning comments about printing emails.

              I also work in a fairly conservative and formal industry (legal), and including any sort of personal information like that would be frowned upon. (They don’t even really like putting your nickname on things – my old boss is, let’s say, a Robert who went exclusively by Bob, but his email was rboss@org.com and his signature block said Robert Boss, Chief Teapot Design Officer.)

              Reply
            2. logicbutton

              It’s useful information directly relevant to dealing with the person, like a phone number or an unusual work schedule. It IS about the job.

              Reply
              1. Engineer Girl

                It’s not about the job. If you are thinking of the work then you don’t give a hoot about the gender/sexuality of the coworker. They are simply “Pat”.

                It falls into the same category as nicknames, marital status, etc. if someone uses it wrong then you say “actually it’s …”. Done.

                Keep the signature simple.

                Reply
                1. logicbutton

                  Whether or not it’s directly relevant to their work, gendering people correctly is an absolutely essential part of good working relationships. It’s the most basic of soft skills. And if someone is frequently misgendered for whatever reason, maybe they only have to correct *you* once, but there is no “done” – there’ll be someone else to correct next week, and someone else the week after that, and the week after that. Why shouldn’t they put their pronouns (we’re not talking huge animated graphics here; it’s one short line, or a short parenthetical after their name) in their email signature, and save themselves a bit of trouble? And why not let people who don’t often get misgendered themselves but want to stand in solidarity with those who do, do the same?

                2. robot

                  We started adding pronouns into our company intranet. It’s great! It makes sure that I address people correctly and talk about them correctly. I love it. (We actually also have a field for preferred name/nickname, like if my boss’s name is Timothy, but he goes by Tim: well, you change it in the system and then it shows up that way everywhere and you’re far less likely to call him the wrong name.) It makes it easier to treat my colleagues with respect, and I’m grateful that I’m less likely to hurt them, and to make their working life more comfortable so that they don’t have to correct my invalid assumptions about them. It’s really not a burden to read two words.

                3. The Snark Knight

                  Agreed. I’m Aspie half-deaf, and a number of other odd things that make me far from “normal”. Keep things simple and understand that when you’re not the norm, people will assume you are. There is no hostility in this and there’s no need to lead with it.

                4. The Snark Knight

                  @logicbutton.

                  Because it’s obnoxious and over-sharing. Nobody really cares that much, esp in the workplace. Show up, do your job, and it is polite to **ignore** a faux pas. people assume I can hear them all the time, I’m not going to include “Hearing impaired” in all my conversations and emails either.

                5. Temperance

                  This is very industry-dependent, and frankly, all the comments about how stupid this is and insinuating that those who share pronouns are special snowflakes is actually pretty gross.

                  I’m cishet, but because I work with a lot of nonprofits, I work with many people who are not. It’s common for people at certain nonprofits to share pronouns in their email signature. It’s a sign that a person who is gender variant will be accepted. I work at a law firm and don’t have pronouns in my signature, but when I’m interacting with certain folks, I will share my pronouns and ask theirs as well.

                  While you (and not just you, the rest of the commenters who are snarking way harder than you) might not think it’s valuable, and might not get it, it’s a kindness for many people.

                6. AlligatorTrainer

                  But this whole thread is about how to make it clear A. what your name is and B. what gender you are, often after someone has erred. My work’s convention prevents someone from erring in the first place. It seems useful for exactly the issue being discussed in this thread, so I’m kind of confused about how it’s “too much information” or “not work appropriate”?

                7. Engineer Girl

                  Temperance- Could you please provide some clarification on how my comment is snarking? My understanding of the term is ” to make snide and sharply critical comments.”

                  I have not been snide nor sharply critical (believe me, you would know it if I was).

                  I don’t get it. For years, I was one of the few women engineers in my company. I’d continuously get letters addressed to “Mr. Engineer Guy”. I’d correct the person and move on. Shoot – even when I joined IEEE my acceptance letter had Mr on it – and they had my first (very feminine) name!

                8. NotAnotherManager!

                  So, I actually asked my HR director, and she said that she wouldn’t object to people voluntarily including pronouns in their internal signatures (external would require management committee approval), if it was important to them, but that current HR guidance (from SHRM, I assume) on the matter is that it should not be mandatory to disclose one’s gender identity.

                  I do think that this is very industry-dependent. Those that tend to attract younger and more liberal folks are going to see this much more than those of us in older, more conservative industries. I work in BigLaw, and it’s going to be a while before this becomes commonplace, especially in external communications. It’s also a client-services industry, so there will be concern about how the clients will perceive it. It seems to be taking root in colleges, so I’m sure as those folks enter the workforce, the norms will change.

                  I do also agree with Engineer Girl and Snark Knight that one should generally not take umbrage at an honest mistake. Someone who persistently refuses to use your preferred name/pronouns/etc.? Yeah, that’s offensive. Someone who makes an honest mistake? Jumping down their throat does nothing to start a positive working relationship.

                9. Elsajeni

                  But it’s useful to know when you have to talk about that person or that email conversation later, and if anything it makes it easier to focus on the work. In the last few days I’m sure I’ve had a dozen conversations that went “Oh, I heard back from Pat about that issue with the alumni data and [PRONOUN] said…” or “A student contacted me to let me know [PRONOUN]’s having trouble logging in to…” — the times that my boss and I have no idea about Pat’s or the student’s gender, those conversations take a little longer and all the “shhhh…he?” guessing and fumbling is an annoying distraction. When we know which pronouns to use, it’s a completely invisible part of the conversation. And the whole “cost” is, what, one additional line of plain text in their email signature, which you are free to not read if it doesn’t seem relevant to you?

                10. Specialk9

                  @The Snark Knight
                  “Keep things simple and understand that when you’re not the norm, people will assume you are. There is no hostility in this and there’s no need to lead with it… Because it is obnoxious and over-sharing. Nobody really cares that much, esp in the workplace. Show up, do your job, and it is polite to **ignore** a faux pas.”

                  I’m glad you’re able to shrug off the way your conditions – Aspergers, partial deafness – mean people treat you weird.

                  But here’s the thing. Our society questions the very personhood of some people, and the right of those people to a) exist, b) not be murdered, c) have human functions. That’s why this is important. It’s not obnoxious to do something that supports these humans.

                  And frankly, I’m surprised at you. You should know really well what it’s like to be mistreated for your biology.
                  There was an unarmed, unthreatening, deaf guy who was murdered by a cop, after he was told the guy was deaf, for just being deaf. An autistic 1st grader was murdered by cops for being autistic, in 2015.

                  So basically, you don’t have to put pronouns in your email signature, but it’s not kind or supportive to “snowflake” people for being not the “norm”.

          3. Translator

            And in addition to what everyone else has said, it’s also useful in cross-cultural and multilingual communication, where one of the languages may require gender information for grammatical purposes that the other language doesn’t supply and that is impossible to circumlocute.

            In my early career (especially when the internet was not yet robust) I kept having to make awkward calls and emails to individuals and organizations trying to find out whether Taylor is a man or a woman, so I didn’t produce a translation that misgendered Taylor with every verb and adjective. This could be awkward and embarrassing, especially when people didn’t know enough about other languages to understand why the question was relevant.

            Now I have the option of the much more benign and routine-sounding “I just want to confirm everyone’s pronouns.” Worst case, people roll their eyes about how politically correct I’m being.

            Reply
        1. Ramona Flowers

          Okay, so some people are going to feel hurt or offended by what you’ve posted because stating pronouns is something that’s really important to a lot of people, particularly (but not only) those identifying as LGBTQ.

          If you are cis-gender or heterosexual (and I am both) you may take it for granted that you can tell people your name or whatever and they’ll not mis-gender you or that being gendered is a simple thing. But it’s not so simple for lots of people, for lots of reasons. Including pronouns in an email signature can be a really helpful way to take ownership over that aspect of your identity, I guess (I don’t know, I’m not the best person to explain this bit wanted to say something).

          My employer encourages it and provides email signature templates for anyone wanting to include pronouns.

          Reply
          1. taco

            I wish that stating people’s pronoun preferences were more widespread. I advise an LGBTQ group on campus and we include pronouns in our introductions and it’s just a great way to make sure everyone is included and made to feel welcome. And if you forget someone’s preferred pronouns, “they” is always a good backup.

            Reply
          2. Annie Moose

            And even for a cis person, sharing pronouns is quite useful in a non-face-to-face conversation. Certainly online I’ve had to correct people many many times, after they just assume I’m male! I’ve gotten very used to going, “oh, I’m female”/”I’m a ‘she’, actually”, even though I’m cis, because there just aren’t a lot of indicators. (the usernames I use apparently tend to come across as masculine)

            When you’re dealing with people’s real names, it’s easier to guess correctly, of course (it’s a safe bet most Joannas are female), but still, you’ve got gender-neutral names, names from another language you might not be familiar with, names used by the “wrong” gender… there are so many reasons why someone might want to do this! It’s of obvious value to everybody in a non-face-to-face conversation, in my opinion.

            Reply
          3. Alex the Alchemist

            Yeah I’ve definitely made a point to include my pronouns (she/her) on my email signature. It helps normalize it and I also have a gender-neutral name so I don’t get any emails back with “Dear Mr. The Alchemist” or something similar.

            Reply
          4. SimonTheGreyWarden

            I can see this. I gave my son a very traditional male name with a nickname that has been used as a female name (think Justinius, with Justine as a nickname, though obviously that isn’t it). I tend to call him Justine, and I dress him in a lot of soft grays and teals because I like those colors, and he has a pink butterfly rattle hanging off his dark blue carseat, and he’s totally bald, and everyone tells me my daughter is beautiful. As he gets older, it probably won’t happen (he’s not even 4 months yet so it isn’t like he cares at all; he’s not aware he has a gender yet; he’s not even aware he has toes yet), and he’ll also be able to decide if he wants to be called Justinius or Justine.

            However, because of my experiences with people misgendering my baby, I’ve tried to become a lot more conscious of pronouns, and if I am talking about someone and don’t know their pronoun, I default to singular they. I’m active in communities where people do get misgendered and don’t always feel safe pointing it out, and while I know not everyone who thinks of themselves as agendered goes with singular they, to me it feels less hurtful than accidentally using he/she — less like a microaggression and more like an attempt, even ham-handed, at inclusion.

            Reply
        2. Viv

          I can’t think of any negative repercussions it will have for you, but perhaps I’m not trying hard enough – could you elaborate?

          Reply
        3. Mary

          Love it! I have my pronouns in my Twitter bio but hadn’t thought of adding them to my professional email sig, but that’s a great idea. Thanks!

          Reply
        4. Danger: Gumption Ahead

          I wish it would become a trend. I hate having to guess if Eddie Smith is he or her (her ICYMI) when I refer to them in conversation with a coworker or pass their request on to my boss. It spared me the embarrassment of getting it wrong.

          Why don’t you like it?

          Reply
        5. Not Your Babysitter

          I very much hope that it is. Normalising sharing pronouns would do a hell of a lot to make this issue much less fraught for many people for a lot of different reasons.

          Reply
          1. JB (not in Houston)

            Yes, I will never understand the pushback from allowing people to be referred to how they want to be. It costs us nothing, and it makes them feel more comfortable. There’s no downside! And adding pronoun preferences to signature lines/bios helps out people who aren’t sure how to address that person, like when they have a name that doesn’t indicate a gender. It’s a good thing that helps everyone treat others in a nice way, and I don’t see how that has a downside.

            Reply
            1. SimonTheGreyWarden

              At the beginning of the semester, I tell my students to tell me what they want to be called, though I don’t generally ask for their preferred pronouns since I’ll be direct-addressing them with “you” and it generally won’t come up. However, I default to singular they whenever I can.

              Reply
            1. Anna

              I think it would be helpful if Mommy MD gave us some context for the dislike. I’m on the fence about it. On the one hand, I want to use the correct pronouns for people. On the other hand, I can see why putting it in a signature can be just more clutter.

              Reply
              1. Elizabeth H.

                On the one hand, I understand the value of everyone doing it so that it’s not marginalizing when people whose gender identity isn’t readily apparent (whether because of a unisex name, because of identification with a different gender than someone was born with or that a first name would indicate, or identification as nonbinary gender) use it – if everyone does it it’s not “weird.”
                On the other hand, it seems a little bit overwrought/excessive when someone whose gender identity is either obvious (in not all, but in MOST cases, it’s obvious – really) or commonly known to all, or can easily be worked in otherwise, seems to put a lot of stress on communicating their gender identity. because it’s not totally widespread, it can be interpreted as calling attention to one’s being socially conscious. Being socially conscious is not a bad thing, but it’s a perception issue imo.

                Reply
                1. Anon for This

                  Elizabeth H “On the other hand, it seems a little bit overwrought/excessive when someone whose gender identity is either obvious (in not all, but in MOST cases, it’s obvious – really) or commonly known to all”

                  It’s really not obvious or commonly known, though, you just think you know. I hang out with a lot of genderqueer, and transgender people. Sometimes the first you know about that lifelong massive upheaval in their soul is when someone asks you to use a new pronoun.

                  And that’s not even counting the trans people who can “pass”. (Not a good compliment for a trans person, btw.) There are some trans folks who I have known for awhile and had *no* clue.

                  Gender identity is also something that comes out in the kink community (though gender identity, sex, and sexual orientation are very different things). From the outside, I don’t know what’s going on inside unless I ask – is it fun dressing, role playing, titillation, revealing a genderqueer personality, exploring a new identity in a safe space, etc. (Or a changing rotation of the above) But I will say that way more people than you know jump into the genderqueer ring in private.

              2. EmilyG

                Sure, but given the ratio of how many people still have their fax numbers in their email signatures, to the number of faxes I’ve sent in the past decade… I can’t get bothered about that.

                I don’t have it in my signature but people in my organization who deal with the public do. I just realized that the first person who did it does have a gender-ambiguous name, but I know that others have done it to normalize being clear about pronouns for transgender people.

                Reply
            2. JB (not in Houston)

              Sure, to you, but to many in that group, the pronouns are a helpful and welcome idea, and MommyMD comes off as trivializing that. Worse, as mocking it. It’s rarely kind or necessary to eyeroll at something that an oppressed/disadvantaged group says is helpful.

              That definitely may not be how MommyMD meant it. But Loons’ interpretation of the comments is as reasonable as any other.

              Reply
              1. Ego Chamber

                “MommyMD comes off as trivializing that.”

                Yep. I read it like when my grandma said “I hope you’re not getting into that bisexual trend that’s going around,” when I started spending a lot of time over at a middle school friend’s house.

                Calling something a trend when it’s core to someone else’s identity is inherently condescending.

                Reply
            3. Loons with Gumption

              Eh, we’re not a monolith clearly :) We can agree to disagree! I’m part of that group too (well, cis queer lady) and I wouldn’t choose a primary care doctor with that sort of attitude.

              Reply
        6. Rainy

          It’s becoming more common at my place of work as well. I haven’t added it to my .sig, mainly because I don’t care what pronouns you use for me as long as it’s not he/his/him.

          I think and hope that it *is* a catching trend. :)

          Reply
      1. HR is fun

        Glad to hear this is becoming more widespread. It is used a lot in LGBTQ organizations. I think colleges in the US are teaching people to do it, too.

        Reply
        1. Chocolate lover

          I don’t know if my university is teaching students that, but they’re not teaching faculty and staff, at least not in any broad reaching way. I just saw it in an email for the first time recently.

          Reply
        2. Blue

          I work at a university and our office requires us to have them in our signature! It’s not uncommon to see other staff or faculty with it, either.

          Reply
        3. Dorothy Mantooth

          Currently work in higher ed and can confirm it’s pretty common to see people include it in email signature. I don’t know if it’s required by any department/office, but it’s common.

          Reply
          1. BeezLouise

            Yep. I work for a large University (in the South even!) and pronouns in email signatures is becoming increasingly common, especially for people who interact frequently with students.

            Reply
        4. Chalupa Batman

          In the US: recently attended a higher ed conference where our preferred pronouns were listed on our nametag if we wished, and it’s getting more common in e-mail signatures. I’m a cisperson, but I list mine on my Twitter bio and will probably add it to other things over time. For me it’s supporting of the normalization of the practice. In my area, it’s uncommon enough that people sometimes assume that you’re LGBTQ+ if you use it. My hope is that as more people do it, even when it’s “obvious” how they identify, it will create a space where people have more freedom to come out on their timetable, and where people with androgynous or non-normative presentations can give their preferred pronouns without getting the special snowflake treatment. Any time I can use my privilege to completely painlessly make someone else’s life easier, I’m going to do it.

          Reply
      2. memyselfandi

        Really interesting discussion. When I was a little girl (back in the ’60’s) my father came down hard on my oldest brother when he made a remark at the dinner table about two high school teachers who lived together. My father made it very clear that peoples’ sexual preferences were their own business and none of ours. So, I have long considered that information that I didn’t need to know about a person unless they wanted to share. I realize that that is not entirely true, especially when it comes to issues of social justice. It is also an attitude based the kinds of relationships we had living in a small town. And, I realize that sexual identity is a very important part of who we are. However, all this focus on forms of address seems to make is more about sex than respect. If you make a mistake in addressing someone in a one-time correspondence, it seems like something you could do your best at and let pass, on both sides. If you are having an ongoing relationship, what is wrong with asking, how do you prefer to be addressed?

        Reply
        1. teclatrans

          Hm. There isn’t a single thing I can infer about someone’s sex life or sexual preferences that I can infer from their gender.

          Reply
        2. Temperance

          I genuinely don’t understand how asking someone’s pronouns or using the correct ones is more about “sex than respect”. It’s one of those homophobic things that you might not even realize. For cishet folks, it’s something you share without thinking, and no one would ever think the very mention of your partner or spouse is equivalent to sex.

          Reply
        3. HR is fun

          The discussion about using pronouns in email signatures and using Ms. vs. Mrs. is about gender identity, not sexual orientation or sexual identity. Gender identity is a person’s deeply held beliefs about what gender they are (male, female, or another gender). Sexual orientation is which gender or genders you are attracted to sexually.

          Reply
        4. Specialk9

          memyselfandi, most trans people I’ve met, and the trans blogs I’ve read, are ok with honest mistakes, with people asking for preferred pronouns, and with people who don’t know but are open and not trying to be unkind. Obviously, humans are all different, so there are no at rules, but that seems to be the majority view I’ve heard expressed.

          Reply
    5. Janelle

      I always dislike last name then first as a lot of foreign names that I am not familiar with can be confused easily this way also. And without revealing my last name let’s just say people always….always reply to my emails “thanks Janello””. Ughh

      Reply
        1. Drama LLama's Mamam

          That was my grandfather’s name. He went by Bob. I also went to high school with a guy named Thomas Thomas. I always wondered what his parents were thinking.

          Reply
    6. AvonLady Barksdale

      I think it’s worth a correction, especially if you’re meeting people in person or talking on the phone. My partner has a gender-neutral first name that has leaned more towards women in the last 20 years. He also has a surname that could be a man’s first name. To make matters complicated, his middle name is a family name that the addition of one letter would make a name that was very popular for girls in the early 80s. Plus he can be pretty sensitive about it, because people have said some odd and cruel things to him in the past.

      He once got an email about a job interview that addressed him as “Ms.” He responded to the email and wrote a PS that said, “To avoid confusion when we meet, I should let you know that I am a man.” I thought that was a nice way to handle it. What made it nicer? The response: “Dear Mr. AvonLady’sPartner, I assure you your gender identity will make no difference to me. See you on Tuesday.” My boyfriend got the job and developed a wonderful relationship with his boss.

      Reply
    7. It's Just A Name

      People frequently call me by my last name which has become a household name (thanks, iPhone!) but I believe it’s because my first name is pretty out there, so they aren’t sure that they are correct if they call me by it.

      I continually sign all correspondence with my first name. Sigh.

      Reply
    8. Kimberly

      My Dad had the both names can be first or last names problem. He always handled it exactly as Allison said. In his case the problem is common in our family because of a tradition of naming first borns using their Mother’s family’s surname.

      Reply
    9. Jaguar

      It sounds like it doesn’t bother you. If so, it’s worth considering that spending emotional energy on it could turn something that doesn’t bother you into something that does.

      Reply
    10. bookish

      Oh hey! I have seen a solution to your problem (women with a first name that could be a man’s first name) and was going to suggest it as a possible fix to #4 as well!

      It’s all in the signature! I have a coworker who has gender-neutral first name who recently changed her signature so that it says “Ms. Sam Robin” (fake names used for this comment of course). I think then it’s clear not only your gender but also what’s your first name and what’s your last name! Just add that honorific/prefix/whatever it’s called.

      Reply
      1. Elizabeth H.

        I don’t like this – I know why people are doing it (for this specific reason) but it just sounds so stilted to me.

        Reply
  2. Ramona Flowers

    #1 “On the other hand, this gossipy coworker has admitted to undermining the boss to other leaders in the business because he does not like his leadership style” – I think that’s the part I would most want to be sharing with your boss.

    (Sidenote: ‘you may also like’ is quite something today.)

    Reply
    1. Bagpuss

      Yes, that was my thought – whether or not you share the rumour about boss being at risk of losing his job, I think you should absolutely speak to him about the coworker’s admission that they have been deliberately undermining him

      Reply
    2. Jesca

      Is this the woman I used to work with, or what? They are so dangerous to others professional because they have no boundaries. There is no line they will not cross. She too did this, and our boss did end up getting fired. She had all these grand (delusional) ideas of what was going to happen once he was fired, and none of that happened. Prior to him being let go, I confronted the President politely about it to discuss the reasons. As my manager was not perfect, he was not guilty of half of what she was running her mouth about. I say this with the caveat that I had a lot pull in my last job and could get away with asking the president. Basically, it meant something coming from me. His reasons for firing my manager were that he was not controlling the problem women well enough. Fair enough. But he was undermined at every turn.

      When it all went down, even those who did not like my boss were absolutely disgusted. I left a few months later. No one like that should ever be given any credit. And I would definitely alert your boss. I have an amazing reference from this boss, and he would hire me anywhere!

      Reply
      1. Ego Chamber

        “His reasons for firing my manager were that he was not controlling the problem women well enough. Fair enough.”

        If someone is undermining their boss to the point that management decides to fire the boss for not “controlling” the person who’s doing the undermining, but then management doesn’t also fire the problem person, that’s just shitty management. No one is good enough at their job to justify keeping that around. Wtf.

        Reply
    3. Working Mom

      I agree with you and Alison, I would share with the boss too.

      However, one comment in the post that I would want to be mindful of and share with your Boss, is that the office gossip made it a point to state that you were the only person they shared this information with. To me – that sounds like this Gossip Monger laying the groundwork to blame OP with spreading gossip.

      Even with this tidbit, I would still share with Boss with all the caveats, but I would also make mention of this little piece, as it may come back around later. (And I would share it with the context of, “Waukeen did tell me he only shared this info with me, so while I truly do NOT want to be a part of a rumor or contribute to gossip, I would never forgive myself if I didn’t say something to you and it ended badly for you.”)

      I would phrase it like that, but Alison or someone else may have better wording, or a better context to share that part with!
      I hope it all works out!

      Reply
    4. Specialk9

      Yes. You don’t owe this person more discretion than they showed in telling you. Oh hey, you related something confidential that you weren’t supposed to, but I won’t repeat it myself! Especially when they’re sneaky and have an agenda (as opposed to someone who has your back and is giving you a very quiet heads up to help you). Yes, tell the boss, and tell the boss this person has been trying to undermine the boss, and you think there’s a reasonable chance it’s all a pot-stirring like, but I wanted you to know there’s a pot and Fergus is storing it.

      Reply
  3. Janey Jane

    #2 – Can you and all the other BPCs present your concerns to the head office together? They may feel like ignoring one concerned manager is a one-off, but if a group of you come forward to say, “These are our concerns, #1 of which is that you either aren’t listening or aren’t sufficiently explaining the reasoning behind what you’re doing,” that may have more of an impact on HQ. Good luck!

    Reply
          1. serenity

            I think it’s high time potato peeling (or whatever this wonderful Council does) replaced chocolate teapot design/making as our go-to euphemism for job tasks.

            Reply
    1. OP #2

      Thanks! I’m following up with the regional leader who’s been taking the lead on this so far to see how she’s framed it to date, but a number of members have complained about this issue to head office. I’m definitely going to try framing it in terms of how they’re being perceived!

      Reply
  4. Ask a Manager Post author

    I deleted a derailing thread started by someone who didn’t think OP #4’s mention of attractiveness was relevant. Young, attractive women notoriously encounter problems being taken seriously, particularly in male-dominated fields, and it’s relevant in that context. Let’s not continue that derail. Thanks.

    Reply
  5. Ramona Flowers

    #2 Do you mean “in the wrong” as in not legal – or simply that they’re being jerks? If it’s the latter, and I’m guessing it is, I think you need to do two things in terms of how you handle this with your staff/members.

    1. Be clear in your own mind about what you can and can’t do.
    2. Communicate that to your people.

    For example, you can control what you tell people. You can’t control whether they definitely feel heard – or whether they think you’re contradicting head office. You can do your best with all this and no more.

    In any case, your members may not see it in those particular black and white terms, ie if you’re advocating for them then you’re contradicting head office and if you’re not then you’re not. They care whether you’re advocating for them. They probably don’t actually care about whether you’re contradicting head office. They’re more likely to care about whether you’re contradicting yourself – hence the suggestion to just be clear about what you can and can’t do.

    So you can say that you understand their concerns about situation X, and you will continue to raise them with head office. You can reiterate that X is the current policy, which means Y, and that you can’t change this but you can do Z to support them.

    Reply
    1. OP #2

      That’s actually kind of a tough distinction here — they’re not breaking any domestic laws and it’s not for nefarious reasons or anything, as far as I can tell. But the issue involves their interpretation of another country’s laws, and (while it’s not my area of specialization), I’m a lawyer in said country. So they’re interpreting it wrong, but not in a way that’s criminal, if that makes sense.

      Reply
      1. Falling Diphthong

        Then I’d look to Alison’s advice to frame it as the stonewalling being the problem. Because next time it might be in a way that’s criminal and not just wrong, but the top level has trained themselves not to hear any feedback.

        Reply
  6. Anancy

    #1 coworker told you and only you this gossip, and you think he’s trying to undermine both you and your boss in general? Is it possible coworker is completely making it up, thinking you will tell boss and that will stir things up in a negative way for you and boss? To be honest, if boss isn’t aware that coworker is trying to undermine you, I’d make sure boss was clear on that context when you tell boss of the rumor. It sounds like there is zero chance coworker shared this with you to be helpful.

    Reply
      1. Engineer Girl

        This. Repeat a lie often enough and it becomes “fact” in people’s minds. This is how evil people work to destroy others.

        Reply
        1. Had Matter's Pea Tarty

          Isn’t that a Goebbels paraphrase, something about a lie repeated a million times becoming the truth? Definitely underlines your point about evil men trying to destroy people…

          Reply
      2. Danger: Gumption Ahead

        I’m with you. I think the coworker is trying to drive a wedge between the LW and her boss. This smacks of classic pot stirring

        Reply
      1. Floundering Mander

        Agreed, and that’s what I would be bringing to boss’ attention, more than the actual content of the rumour. Especially if there has been a pattern from the gossip — that’s something that I would want to know and investigate if I were the boss. Of course if OP thinks boss will immediately react in a way that furthers the gossip’s evil plans, it might be rather tricky to address.

        Reply
      2. OP #1

        Hi,
        I am OP. Tell me more about this line of thought. How could my telling the boss drive a wedge? I really want to be careful because I have a nagging suspicion it’s a trap of some sort. He bashes the boss to me yet knows I am close with the boss. I just can’t put my finger on it.

        Reply
        1. Trust Your Instincts

          OP 1, I’ve worked in offices where this type of gossip and war mongering were common. Maybe I’ll be in the minority here, but I would actually NOT tell your boss. Right now, all you have is the gossips’ word about this stuff. At least as far as I can tell. In my experience, if the gossip knows you’re close to your boss, then they are banking on you telling them. This is to likely try and cut at your boss’ confidence. If there are no other signs that your boss is going to be fired, I would let it go.

          The thing is, I’ve had someone once tell me that I was on the office chopping block. There was no truth to it, but it did make me constantly second guess every decision I made, every act I performed. It made me feel I could trust no one, because apparently everyone else knew things that I didn’t. Eventually, the stress is enough where you start to make mistakes, and then the fiction they created has a chance to become reality. Unless you have some other reliable source, be aware this is a possible outcome of telling your boss.

          Reply
          1. Specialk9

            I disagree. Tell the boss, hey, this person is gunning for you and stirring pots.

            I didn’t tell the boss once what was going on – your new #2 resents you and has been systematically undermining you – and I should have, to give him a heads up, and because she was also systematically undermining me to the boss.

            I say tell the boss. You can say directly, my loyalty is to you, I want you to be aware of some negative dynamics going on.

            Reply
    1. Helpful

      I wonder if OP an frame some of this like, “How do we get Gossipy Gus from spreading his Gossip Manure all over our office.”

      Reply
  7. Email

    #4 – Is there any chance you would be able to change how your name comes across in email so it is less confusing? Some organizations allow you to adjust that yourself at the server level (I’ve done this before) or you could ask the IT guys to do it. Depending on your organization, that might take approval, though.

    Reply
      1. DaniCalifornia

        None of my clients read my signature and I have the same problem. I have a male sounding first name but I’ve been emailed with ‘Dear Diane, Dana, Ann, Annie, Jenny, Dawn, Diane,’ etc

        Reply
    1. Floundering Mander

      I still think it’s worth correcting. Otherwise it will be a constant tiny annoyance for the OP and potentially embarrass people when they realize their mistake. They might also wonder why she didn’t correct them right away, which is potentially ever more undermining of her authority and credibility. Since she’s already noted that her appearance and age might be working against her I think it’s an important but low-risk way of being assertive.

      My husband’s surname is also a common first name; if people call him John by mistake he will say “sorry, John is actually my surname — people often get that confused. My first name is Jack.” I think OP could just respond with a breezy “people often confuse my first and last names — easy to do! But please feel free to call me by my first name, Taylor.”

      Reply
      1. Triplestep

        Breezy, yes. “Feel free”, no. I think in this context, that would paint the OP as too much of a pushover. (As in “I prefer you use my actual first name, but feel free to do as you please!”)

        Here’s what I would do, OP#4: If you don’t have your signature on every outgoing e-mail, outlook will let you add it to a response. The first time someone calls you by your surname, sign your response with your first name, then place your signature underneath it. If the same person does it again, sign again with your first name and signature, but add one of the suggestions that’s been made here. So even a two-word email would then look like this.

        Got it.

        Lindsey (often confused with my last name, Taylor)

        Lindsey M. Taylor
        Special Teapot Counsel
        Chocolate Teapots, Ltd.

        Reply
        1. stk

          I kind of do this. My emails all end:

          thanks, [or yours sincerely, or whatever]
          [First name]

          [Firstrname Surname]
          [job title]
          [contact details]

          It seems to have basically cleared up any confusions around naming issues. People tend to be good at reflecting back whatever you shine at them, I think.

          Reply
    2. Not Today Satan

      Not really… being called just my last name makes me think of high school boys or something. It’s not at all (for me at least) a respectable way to be addressed at work.

      Reply
      1. Lily Rowan

        In my last job, I worked with people from a lot of different countries, and it was often hard to know what was someone’s family name vs. given name (or if that was even a thing in their country), and then also what they went by — a lot of people seemed to go by their family name, as far as I could ever tell!

        Reply
    3. Annie Moose

      Not really, though? OP clearly prefers to be referred to with their first name. If someone clearly prefers to be addressed with a particular name, then it’s not unreasonable to ask people to use that name. You shouldn’t have to go through life called something you don’t want to be called; it’s OK to tell people to use a different name for you.

      Reply
    4. ThatGirl

      So I have an unusual first name that reads as female (at least to me, and I am) and a last name that is also a male first name in some Middle Eastern and Eastern European countries (add an E and it’s female) … And while I would think my work email signature makes it fairly clear, I do occasionally get addressed by my last name. It’s not the end of the world or anything, but I do want people to know which is my first name, you know?

      Reply
  8. Detached Elemental

    #4 – I empathise. My first name is similar to shorter but different female names (eg Alexa/Alexandra) and my last name is also a female first name. I get called by my last name, variants of my first name, etc, etc.

    I second Alison’s advice.

    Reply
  9. The Wall of Creativity

    OP#1. A request. In line with Ask A Manager’s naming conventions for anonymous coworkers, please could we refer to OP1’s coworker as Littlefinger. Thank you.

    Reply
    1. RVA Cat

      I am so hoping that Co-worker gets called into a meeting with the OP, Boss and Grandboss that goes down just like it did in Winterfell.

      Reply
  10. Kate

    Why don’t you put a comma between your two names? Or make your surname capital letters? (It’s what I do, because we have the names switched around in my country, so when I’m writing to people in say, US, I put my surname there with capital letters, so it’s obvious which is which.)

    Reply
    1. Paperfiend

      A comma wouldn’t necessarily help other email programs get the right order. Displaying a middle initial might help with the human element, though, and probably would be fine in a formal setting like law.

      Reply
      1. Dinosaur

        This is a very elegant solution. I have a last name that is also a first name so I’m tucking your suggestion away for future use.

        Reply
  11. nonegiven

    #4 reminds me of a file in a lawyer’s office. Both the first and last name of the person could have been either, I’ve known people with both names as first and both names as last. This disorganized lawyer’s office had this file split and half was under last, first and the other half was under first, last.

    Reply
    1. hermit crab

      If we are telling name stories – I have a recognizably female first name and a moderately common last name (say, “Castillo”). But my husband has one of those triple-barrel names, where his first, middle, and last names could all plausibly be first names (something like “Michael Christopher James”). In our household, we regularly get mail addressed to a mysterious mashup person named “James Castillo.” Maybe that should be our band name.

      Reply
      1. Had Matter's Pea Tarty

        My parents aren’t married, which helps with dealing with spam callers – anyone asking for the non-existent ‘Mrs G’ (when my mother’s a Miss W) leads to me hanging up at once.

        Reply
        1. hermit crab

          Definitely. I mean, I *am* married but I still don’t answer to Mrs. James! Mrs. James is my mother-in-law. (Every time this comes up — for example, we recently received a wedding invitation addressed to Mr. and Mrs. James — my husband and I start singing the “that’s not my name!” song.)

          Also, back on the topic of double first names, my husband definitely has to do the same “THAT IS MY LAST NAME” thing The Awkwardest Turtle describes below. It’s so weird how other people assume they know more about your name than you do!

          Reply
        2. NotAnotherManager!

          My kids’ schools and activities routinely ask for me as Mrs. Husband-and-Kids’ Last Name. If I started screening calls that way, I’d miss a lot of important call. I’m in their records under my actual name, but no one ever checks. Ever.

          Reply
        3. Decimus

          I have the similar situation but gender reversed! My wife is a local professional who did not change her name when we married so I get a lot of mail addressed to Mr Leslie and it goes straight in the junk mail bin.

          My wife also has the naming problem – her name is the equivalent of Dr Jane Leslie so a lot of people she meets only occasionally think her first name is Leslie.

          Reply
      2. Sparkly Librarian

        I imagine Neil Patrick Harris gets this a lot.

        I Googled an author, Noun Odd Lastish, once when I was confused about how that name shook out. I was very pleased to find, at the end of their bio, the sentence “My books are shelved under L for Lastish.” If only we all had such helpful FAQ sections!

        Reply
    2. The Awkwardest Turtle

      Solidarity with OP4 – I’ve been living with “two first names” my whole life. I usually don’t correct people in email, but if they get it wrong I’ll make sure I sign my first name when replying. It doesn’t really bother me when people get it wrong anymore and if we talk on the phone I’ll correct them. I might re-think this now from seeing Allison’s advice/the comments.

      The most annoying thing is at the pharmacy/doctors office/etc. when someone asks for my last name and I tell them and then start to spell it (there are several spellings that could be accurate) and then they get annoyed and say NO YOUR LAST NAME. Me: THAT IS MY LAST NAME.

      All the time.

      Reply
      1. The Awkwardest Turtle

        Whoops meant to post this as it’s own thread instead of a reply. Also I’m now terrified that filing systems everywhere have my name wrong ;)

        Reply
      2. The One Who Burned the Popcorn

        I’m rethinking my approach as well. I have an “extra” letter in my name (think “Meghan vs “Megan”), and regularly am called the wrong name by my coworkers and volunteers. Volunteers spelling my name wrong no longer bugs me; however, a longtime coworker of mine misspelled my name just yesterday.

        Reply
        1. OtterB

          I have a coworker whose name is Anne-with-an-e and a neighbor friend who is Ann-without-an-e and I try to get it right but occasionally misspell one of them anyway.

          Reply
      3. anoncmntr

        Ah I get the same thing! I have had that exact same experience and besides being incredibly frustrating, it mystifies me. Like, do you think I don’t know how alphabetization by name works? Do you think I honestly think you’re asking for my first name? Just… you asked for last name, this isn’t the first time I’ve been asked that, I presumably know the difference between my last and first name, why would you assume I’m giving you the wrong name???

        Shouldn’t bother me so much, but boy, it does!

        Reply
      4. Paige Turner

        OMG YES- I also have a last name that sounds like a first name, and it’s a less-common spelling (like Alison instead of Allison) and the “No, your LAST name” really sets me off.

        Reply
        1. FormerEmployee

          There is an old movie from the 1950’s called “Heaven Knows, Mr. Allison” set during WWII about a soldier and a nun who are stranded on an island in the South Pacific when the Japanese arrive. A bit old fashioned for modern times, but the nun is played by Deborah Kerr and the soldier by Robert Mitchum, so definitely worth checking it out. I looked it up to be sure I got the details right and was surprised to find it was directed by John Huston (added bonus).

          Reply
    3. Ghost Town

      Graduate admissions… Every year there’s a couple of students who have similar names, like John James and James Johns or Nancy Telluride and Nancy Tellington, just to confuse us. And the students who have 2-3 names that could all be first, middle, and/or last names. So confusing! Are you Farnsworth Burlington Carl or Carl Farnsworth Burlington or…aaahh!!

      Reply
  12. Zip Silver

    All through high school football and my enlistment I was addressed as my last name. You get used to it, and it is technically your name, just your family name rather than your given name.

    Reply
    1. Zip Silver

      And if you really want to make a point about it, you can refer to people who do it as their last name, and then if they ask you about it just say “you were calling me Taylor, so I was returning the formality and calling you Johnson.”

      Reply
      1. Floundering Mander

        Eh, that seems like it might be misread as hostility or snark. It’s a little different when the coach or the drill sergeant barks out your last name, as they probably do that to all of their charges.

        Reply
      2. Elemeno P.

        I’ve done a less snarky version of that in email, depending on the person. Where I’d usually put “Hi Robert,” I’ll start the email instead with “Hi Baratheon :),” and then continue the email as usual. I do have a casual workplace, and I exercise caution of who I do that with: specifically, only people who I have interacted with in person or will soon. My last name doesn’t usually sound like a first name, but we work with a lot of international people who mix them up. In that case, I just let it slide; I’ve probably done it to them, too.

        Reply
    2. Not Today Satan

      Football and enlistment are totally different contexts than most workplaces. I wouldn’t at all advise her to get used to it just because high school football players get used to it. No one else gets called by their last name at her work, so she shouldn’t have to either.

      Reply
    3. Anononon

      But surely you can understand why someone wouldn’t want to be called by their last name when it’s not the norm?

      Also, this could be just a situation I’ve had, but I have at least one coworker who often calls women employees by their last names, likely in an attempt to show more camaraderie/whatever, but it always just comes across as forced and awkward. He doesn’t really do it with the male employees, and it’s not a common thing in our office.

      Reply
      1. strawberries and raspberries

        I’ll never forget the French teacher I had in high school who called me (and only me) by my last name (which is most definitely not a first name). He’d call on everyone else by their first name (“Yes, Gina,” “What do you think, Millie?”) but then he’d get to me and be like, “Very good, Liebowitz.” (My last name isn’t Liebowitz, but just to give you an idea of how weird and out of context it sounded.) I told my parents about it, and when they went to parent-teacher conferences my dad brought it up, and the teacher was like, “Oh, I’m sorry- I’ll call her Rosa from now on!” Except my name isn’t Rosa. SO annoying. (I eventually had my guidance counselor switch me out of his class.)

        Reply
        1. Gandalf the Nude

          In HS Spanish I was the only one addressed by my last name except not really because it wasn’t really my last name it was a Spanish cognate of my last name. Everyone else got to be Amy and Chris and Josh. I got to be Donkey.

          Reply
      2. Kasia

        My last name is fun to say, and several of my coworkers call me by it. It isn’t all that uncommon in my line of work to call people by their last names, so it doesn’t really bother me. I think if I was the only one or if my boss did it and not just my coworkers, I might care.

        Reply
    4. Danger: Gumption Ahead

      When I work as an EMT, I am always called by my last name and, depending where I met them, half my friends call me by my first name and half by my last name. I answer to both but can see how it might be annoying if I am used to being called by my first name. Especially when the LW isn’t being called by her own last name, but her married name.

      Reply
    5. Chocolate lover

      It may technically be my name but I’m not necessarily listening for it and may not always respond. Nor is it what I want to be called.

      Reply
    6. purple otter

      this works in countries where there are varied last names. this doesn’t work in countries like china, korea, etc where the majority of the population has about 100 last names in rotation.

      Reply
    7. Turquoise Cow

      There were 5 boys named Michael in my high school class of about 50 kids. One guy was always called and referred to by his full first and last name, because his last name could also be a boy’s name (and there was a boy who had that name, but spelled differently). Out of necessity, everyone basically always referred to the other four by their last name, or sometimes by both. Otherwise you’d say “hey Mike!” and they’d all turn around, or you’d refer to “Mike” in conversation and no one would know which one you were talking about.

      Reply
    1. Florida

      I didn’t get that vibe at all. My first thought was a professional organization or maybe a political action committee.
      We can speculate all day on what group it is (or the type of group), but I’m not sure how helpful that is to anyone.

      Reply
      1. Agatha31

        If it’s an mlm, it would explain the stonewalling. I also thought that’s what it shaded on the LW stating they had to pay to get in. I’ve always been told that a job that makes you pay them isn’t a job, it’s a scam, so that’s what made me automatically think mlm.

        Reply
    2. Hey Karma, Over Here

      The part about members paying to join indicated MLM to me. And LW concerns, that once the people buy in, they get ignored or hindered by head office follows things I’ve heard from people with those companies. At some point, if no changes are made, LW is going to have to let his conscience be his guide, and leave.

      Reply
    3. Murphy

      I didn’t read it that way, but it could be an MLM. I was thinking a local chapter of a professional organization on my first read.

      Reply
      1. OtterB

        This is what I was thinking too. My husband is the president of a local chapter of a professional organization and has issues with the national organization. But he would probably have referred to other volunteers, not “staff”. On rereading, MLM may be a better fit.

        Reply
    4. OP #2

      Ha! I can definitely see how it could read that way, but rest assured it’s not a MLM. It’s a voluntary thing to do with a shared interest that lines up with head office’s business. Head office happens to be a retailer, but membership doesn’t involve selling or even explicitly promoting anything.

      Reply
  13. hbc

    OP4: Can you add a middle initial? “Taylor, Lindsey M.” and “Lindsey M. Taylor” make it much easier to see which is which.

    Reply
    1. Chicago Recruiter

      I have an uncommon first name and a very uncommon last name and people (mostly outside my org) would get confused and call me by my last name in emails all the time (not sure why…) so I put Chicago A. Recruiter in my signature and on my business cards and it helped a lot.

      Reply
    2. hermit crab

      This is a great suggestion. I know it has saved me from making embarrassing mistakes in the past, when I would otherwise have been unsure about a person’s name. Though I suppose OP4 would be out of luck if they don’t have a middle initial or middle name — and I know that the middle-name-less already have their own set of issues with official forms, databases, etc.!

      Reply
  14. Helpful

    I wonder if there could be some advantage to being addressed by your last name, as men typically are in sport/social arenas. If you’re willing to go by it, perhaps it could work. However, I understand it’s just an error on people’s parts. In your signature, you could sign Lindsey Taylor (not Taylor Lindsey)

    Reply
    1. EE

      1) That would require a major change, especially given that the people she actually sees day-to-day presumably already call her by her first name;

      2) follow-up letter: “Hi, Alison. Some people assumed my last name was my first name, so I started to accept that ad my new normal. How do I explain to people who see my full name that they’re supposed to call me by my last name?”

      Reply
  15. Long Time Reader, First Time Poster

    Re: #1 – I was given a heads up once about a layoff — it came through the office grapevine. The gossip was shared with me by a colleague that I’d worked with at a previous job. I brought her on board at this company, so we had a good personal relationship.

    I was SO GRATEFUL to have advance knowledge, I had all of my ducks in a row when the layoffs happened, and was already looking for other work. My horrible manager, who was also let go in this layoff, had no warning (I certainly wasn’t going to tell him!). He lost his damn mind and sent a really embarrassing flame out email company wide. I, on the other hand, was composed and cool. I’ll always appreciate getting tipped off.

    Reply
  16. MicroManagered

    #4 I think the advice is relevant for many situations where one’s name is being confused. I work in an academic environment where, sometimes, if students aren’t sure how to address a faculty or staff member, they will default to calling everyone Dr. So-and-so. A coworker of mine (who is definitely not correctly addressed as doctor) exchanged several emails with a student who was addressing her as Dr. So-and-so, but she was too shy to correct him.

    Eventually she realized that she needed to copy in her supervisor on the email, and she was mortified that she had this person calling her Dr. So-and-so. She had let it go so long that it would seem even weirder to correct him now. Moral of the story? If someone is getting your name or title wrong, correct them! It’s no big deal!

    Reply
    1. Chicago Recruiter

      It really isn’t as a big of deal as people make it out to be to correct someone. It’s YOUR NAME, if someone is offended or huffy when you correct them, that’s on them. My name gets misspelled constantly and I just send a quick “It’s actually Caitlin, not Katelyn”. Problem solved. Same deal for if you go by a nickname/middle name/initials ie. Maggie or TJ.

      Reply
      1. MicroManagered

        Agreed. My other name story is that I had a client at a former job who repeatedly called me by a name that was close to mine, but not quite. Say my name is Karen, and she kept calling me Carol. After a couple Carols on the phone and in email, I finally replied with “Hi Client, (Actually it’s Karen, not Carol! :) Response response…”

        She kept doing it. I started probably 3 or 4 emails with “Hi Client, (Actually it’s Karen, not Carol! :) Response response.” She kept calling me Carol.

        Finally, I waited until she did it on the phone one day. She called me Carol, and I said “Client, my name is Karen. I know I’ve mentioned this several times in emails that you’ve responded to. I’m going to need you to start using the correct name when you email or speak to me.” She spluttered for a second and then went on with what she was saying as if I hadn’t said it.

        She never used my name again. Not Karen. Not Carol. Never again.

        Reply
  17. Murphy

    I’ve said this before, but I have people who get my name wrong frequently, though not in a first name/last name sort of way. My first name, though not uncommon, is one letter away from a much more common name. In email, I usually just add a “It’s Jane, actually” prior to getting to the rest of the email. I ignore it if it’s the first time and someone I’m not likely to talk to again right away, but if it’s someone I will likely interact with again soon, I would like them to get it right. (Even though my signature contains my name and my email address is jane_smith@university.edu.)

    I could see how this maybe wouldn’t work if it’s a first name/last name confusion though. But maybe a “By the way, my first name is Lindsey.”

    Reply
  18. Murphy

    I wrote a comment and it got caught in moderation, maybe? I’m going to try again just in case.

    OP#4: People get my name wrong pretty frequently, though not in a first name/last name kind of way. My first name isn’t uncommon, but it’s one letter off from a much more common first name. In email, I’ll usually just start with a “It’s Jane, actually” before getting to the rest of the email. I let it go if it’s someone I’m not likely to interact with again/soon, but if it’s someone I’m likely to converse with again soon, I want them to get it right. (Even though my name is in my signature and my email address is “jane_smith”.) This might not work for you, but maybe an “By the way, my first name is Lindsey.”

    As an aside, there is someone who, on separate occasions a year apart, has addressed me via email with a name that is nowhere near mine except it starts with the same letter. My boss said I should “get over it”, but it matters.

    Reply
  19. Montgomery Montgomery

    I met someone who took her husband’s last name. Her name literally became along the lines of “Taylor Taylor”.

    Reply
    1. Annie Moose

      Well, at least she never has to worry about people picking the wrong one to call her!!

      I know a couple who both have the same first name… and yes, they share a last name, too. Slight spelling variation in the first names, but I always wondered how they sorted it out when people called them! “Can I talk to Avery?” “OK, which one?” “Avery Jones.” “…OK, which one?”

      Reply
      1. LQ

        We have a situation like this, it is mostly internal people who talk about them so we just say “Our Avery” or “New Avery” or “Tall Avery” (it helps that both Averys are wonderful so about a third of the time someone will say “the Good Avery” and the response will be which one!).
        It’s actually faster when external people are looking for them since they talk about the work they do or what project they are or their physical location (if they know it) which are all very quick identifiers.

        Reply
        1. Sparkly Librarian

          My grandmother didn’t like her name (say, Ethel), so when she married “Dan Michaels”, she became Ethel Michaels and started going by Mikey. It wouldn’t have been confusing if she hadn’t also called my grandfather Mike (which no one else did). The two of them calling back and forth down the hall… “Hey, Mike?” “Yes, Mikey, what is it?” <3

          Reply
      2. miyeritari

        There were two friends in my friendgroup who had very similar first and last names: one was andrew goldsmith, and one was andrew goldstein. eventually they just became “smith” and “stein.”

        Reply
    2. Science!

      I was reading through the thesis of a student who graduated from my lab a decade before me and one of his mentors was named Dr. Doctor.

      Reply
        1. Science!

          Maj. Major Major Major – thanks for the Catch-22 reference! I love that character. I always wondered if Dr. Doctor felt compelled to get his doctorate to fit his name.

          Reply
              1. NextStop

                That reminds me of a story my grandfather told me. He knew a dentist who would advertise that he was painless. The dentist got sued or something, because no dental practice is completely painless. So he changed his last name to Painless, so that he could legally claim that he was Painless.

                Reply
      1. Mmm Hmm

        A Mrs Mister called our office to coordinate some renovation work her husband, Mr Mister, would be doing. She was pretty tired of the jokes, but they ran a tight ship & did great work.

        Reply
        1. Sparkly Librarian

          I wonder if he’d consider branching out into outdoor cooling systems. Then his van could say “Mister’s Misters”!

          Reply
      2. Twenty Points for the Copier

        I had an eye doctor growing up named Dr. Doctor. In fact, their practice was comprised of a husband and wife who were both Dr. Doctor and then a few years later their daughter (also Dr. Doctor) joined the practice.

        It was pretty entertaining as an 8 year old. (ok, still pretty entertaining now.)

        Reply
    3. A nonny

      My dad’s cousin has the same first and last name. That’s the name his parents gave him. With no middle name (his siblings all have middle names)

      Reply
    4. Dorothy Zbornak

      I know someone who married a guy with the same last name as her (so she was Sally Smith and he was Joe Smith before marriage)… but her dad’s name was also Joe Smith. So she’s married to a dude with the same name as her dad. Names are wild!

      Reply
  20. eplawyer

    #4, since you mentioned opposing counsel I am going to guess you are a lawyer. When I first started practicing I got a lot of condescension from older male attorneys along the lines of: Oh look the little female attorney thinks she knows what she is doing. I stopped dying my hair and let the natural grey show, that stuff stopped immediately.

    What I am saying is — come down politely but firmly that you are Ms. Taylor, not Ms. Lindsey. Do it now. You will be doing your career a favor.

    Reply
  21. The Last Shall Be First

    People never get my name right.

    I was also christened with a First/Last name combo that could also be easily used as a Last/First. To add to the confusion, my first name was given to me with an alternate spelling that makes it both easy to mispronounce and gender neutral, and my last name is a female first name that has two common alternate spellings. I have spent life correcting people, arguing with government clerks (I’m talking to you DMV) and losing my medical records. At least it made it easy to filter junk telephone calls from my real friends and associates back in the land-line days. If you asked for Mr. FirstName, LastName-FirstName, or MisPronounced FirstName I knew you didn’t know me.

    My favorite was the helpful clinic clerk who informed me that I had filled out my registration forms wrong. As a favor, she then “fixed” the spellings for me, but then was mystified when her computer couldn’t pull up my chart under the”corrected” name. I failed to understand why she felt I was incapable of correctly spelling my own name at age thirty. After all, I was in for a blood draw, not a head injury.

    The scariest when I received my college dorm assignment addressed to MR. FirstName LastName. I immediately contacted the housing office, but I could have been very interesting.

    Reply
    1. Sparkly Librarian

      On the first day of high school, I was horrified to find out that I’d been put in Mr. Hansen’s PE class. I went over first thing and explained that I did have a traditionally male first name, but here I am and please, can I go change in the girls’ locker room? He was confused until he realized that the new freshmen didn’t know that PE classes were mixed-gender and that I had been correctly assigned to a male teacher.

      Reply
  22. KaraLynn

    Please don’t tell your boss a rumor your heard about him. It’s childish, there’s nothing he can do to prepare for it if it’s true, and if it’s not true you’ll look like a gossip and a fool and it will most likely have repercussions for you.

    Reply
    1. Mike C.

      there’s nothing he can do to prepare for it if it’s true

      Whoa whoa whoa, this isn’t true at all! The boss could try and head this off at the pass if it’s within her power, update her resume or reach out to contacts in her network and get a head start on a job search. So long as you communicate the source and lack of certainty along with what you’ve been told, how does this make you look like “a gossip and a fool?”

      How would you feel if you were fired by surprise and later found out that others knew but didn’t speak up because they were worried about looking bad?

      Reply
      1. Kathleen Adams

        I absolutely agree. If the rumor is true, it’s probably too late for the boss to change anybody’s mind, but she could get a jump on her job search. And if it’s not true or not entirely true – and given the nature of office gossipis, there’s a really good chance that this is the case – then she has a chance to change the outcome. So yes, if the OP is close to this boss and believes she is a reasonable person, she should absolutely pass it along, making sure the boss understands the OP’s uncertainty.

        There’s nothing foolish – or even gossipy – about that.

        Reply
    2. Lissa

      I think that this depends on a lot of things, but I think if OP phrases it as “this is what I heard, I have no idea if it’s true, but I’d want to know if people were saying this about me”…that type of thing, I really don’t think it’ll make OP look like a gossip or a fool, so long as it’s really clear that the rumour isn’t coming from you. Honestly this is a case where I think showing discomfort might even be a positive thing….

      I mean, I wouldn’t do this for someone who I didn’t know well enough to gauge their reactions – if I thought it would not help them (say they were a big overreactor) or that they’d be the “shoot the messenger” type of person, I definitely would not say anything. But it sounds like OP and boss have a really good relationship.

      Reply
  23. Another Lawyer

    #4, I have feminine first names for both my first and last name, and my last name is more common, so I am constantly addressed by my last name in email. I usually just sign emails Best, First Name above my signature line and it usually fixes itself within an email or two.

    If it doesn’t, I usually just say “Oh, LastName is actually my last name!” and then they apologize and I laugh it off and say “No worries, it happens constantly!”

    Reply
  24. Science!

    On the name thing: I have a co-worker whose son has a first name that is a common last name. But what’s funny for me, is that his name is a variation on my maiden name (and a fairly common Irish last name) so on one hand it’s easy to remember, on the other it feels weird for me to hear it as a first name since it used to be my last name.

    BUT when I married and changed my name, my new last name is one that can be a fairly uncommon first name. I don’t know anyone with that name but it’s funny. Unfortunately it means that everyone pronounces my last name wrong but spells it correct. A change from my maiden name which everyone pronounced correctly but spelled wrong Luckily my first name is very obviously a first name and never a last name.

    Reply
  25. smokey

    #3 (layoff) He might just be really stressed, or afraid that HE’S about to be laid off. Or if he manages more than just you, maybe they are going to be laid off. Or he might be having a lot of closed-door meetings about the whole thing and trying to save everyone’s job. Or it may have nothing to do with any of that and the budget cuts have made his job more difficult, stressful, and time-consuming.

    If it makes you feel any better, my company has been doing layoffs every quarter for about 2 years now. My bosses are often stressed and short near the end of quarters and in the week before a meeting with their bosses, but friendly the rest of the time. But only one layoff in my department this year, and one last year. And they brought one of them right back.

    Reply
  26. Samata

    OP #3: I once asked my boss if I was in danger of being laid off due to some budget cuts and a round of layoffs.

    His answer was that I was probably in the most secure position in the company, due to my instrumental role at the location and being the sole person with knowledge to handle many of my responsibilities.

    2 weeks later they let me go with only 2 weeks severance. My boss was as shocked as I was when he was told earlier that morning by upper management to let me go.

    I guess my point is if you have a feeling, start dusting off your resume. Because even if your boss tells you that you are safe and believes it, it doesn’t mean it’s true. That was a hard lesson.

    Reply
    1. Samiratou

      My sympathies with this. My husband was laid off a few weeks after they took a “culture training” where it was asked if there would be layoffs and assured there wouldn’t be. They laid off half of his team and he got to train his Bangalore replacements. I don’t think his team lead or manager knew about it ahead of time, and my director (we worked at the same company, different departments) said he had no idea any layoffs were coming, so I believe it when your boss says he didn’t know. And was probably pretty mad about it.

      Reply
    2. Actual Bob not the guy that gets blamed in every thread

      I was going to start a new thread but I’ll just add here that when management starts skulking behind closed doors it’s a red flag warning and everyone should be prepared to get the axe, the axe, the axe. Then be pleasantly surprised if you don’t. Of course I *may* be a little cynical so your mileage may vary.

      A tip I got years ago from a tech lead was don’t have more in your desk that you can scoop into 1 box and carry out under arm and I haven’t forgotten it because it’s true.

      Sorry you only got 2 weeks severance because that was bush league.

      Reply
  27. FormerOP

    I have a sincere question about name changing, and I hope I don’t come off as a jerk. Do women (and the occasional man) consider the issues that OP#4 brings up? Like how well the new last name would go with your first name? I didn’t take my husband’s last name, honestly because I didn’t want to. But it does seem valid to have concerns about ending up Avery Avery or Ima Butt (sorry). Does tradition trump those concerns for other people? I’m honestly very curious.

    Reply
    1. Kathleen Adams

      I would be shocked if it did not. I mean, it’s your name, after all – something that you’re going to be hearing from friends, family and strangers for the foreseable future. How could how it sounds *not* be a factor?

      Reply
    2. FDCA In Canada

      I’ve never met anyone who wouldn’t consider that. It’s going to be your name–I’m confident that anyone who ends up via marriage with an “embarrassing” name has 100% thought about it, and decided that they wanted the name more than they wanted to save themselves from someone being immature occasionally.

      Reply
    3. EE

      I took my husband’s name, and many people were surprised.

      It was simply a matter of:

      A) it’s handier for a married couple to share a name, and even in the situation where a married couple BOTH adopt the same hyphenated name, a problem arises with the next generation;

      B) new name flows more nicely.

      I might have made a different choice if I’d known the future, however. My maiden name is VERY common with no variants. My married surname is quite common, and has one little-used variant. Imagine my surprise when a new country we moved to has the common-ness switched! I like to joke that we drove the minority spelling people out. But really it’s very annoying and nothing I could have foreseen. I already have enough trouble with my first name and amn’t enjoying a life of “Surname that’s with ONE m” and “No, I didn’t receive your e-mail… Any chance you mispelled my address?” and even effing employment contracts having the wrong name.

      Reply
    4. Science!

      I definitely did. For various reasons I hated signing my name cause I found the transitions between letters to be annoying. Also I liked the shorter last name.

      As a scientist, changing your name is tricky, so my rule for myself was that I’d be willing to change my name as long as it was early enough in my career that I didn’t have too many publications under my maiden, and it was before I obtained my Ph.D. After I got married I waited 9 months to change it while I decided and ultimately decided to change it because I searched for all name possibilities in PubMed (a common repository of scientific publications) and found that F. NewLast had fewer publications already listed than F. Maiden so anything I published was more likely to be found on the first page of a search.

      Reply
    5. Murphy

      I think it depends on the woman. There are lots of different opinions on it. A lot of people are really traditional, taking your husband’s name is just what you do, and a lot of other people would never even consider changing their names.

      For me, I like my maiden name better than my married name, but I wanted to change my name when I got married, so it didn’t stop me. I did consider hyphenating, but (I felt) my maiden name was too long, like “Warbleworthy-Smith” kind of long. For me, if it had caused some kind of Carol Carroll kind of situation, I probably wouldn’t have changed it…but so many people assume that your husband’s last name is your last name no matter what, I’d probably end up being called that anyway.

      I do know someone whose last name was along the line of “Butt” and couldn’t wait until she got married and could change it.

      Reply
      1. Elizabeth

        Regarding your last example, just a PSA that anyone can change their name legally regardless of marriage! I did it! If you hate it that much, it is well worth the hassle.

        Reply
        1. Myrin

          That really depends on where you live – you definitely can’t do that in my country (with very few exceptions like when your surname is truly obscene or you share it with a publicly named mass murderer or something like that).

          Reply
      2. HannahS

        Yeah, I knew someone who had the last name “Fried”–pronounced “freed” but usually mispronounced as “fryed.” She was happy to change it.

        Reply
    6. Danger: Gumption Ahead

      My friends who took their partner’s last name (man taking woman’s, woman taking man’s, same sex partners) all thought about it really hard and worked through all the iterations before deciding what to do. The ones that ended up with something awkward decided to go that way for a well thought out reason.

      Reply
    7. nnn

      I’m sure everyone does. I’ve thought about how potential name combination would work with everyone I’ve had a crush on. (Which sounds like overkill, but it takes about 3 seconds to think about it and doing so is multitaskable.)

      Reply
    8. Kathleen Adams

      I really think that all but the most traditional women consider this pretty long and hard – it’s your name, so it’s a big change. And I am sure that even a very traditional woman would think about Ima Butt or something, even if only to think “Oh, why this name of all names? Why why why?”

      Reply
    9. Temperance

      I’m one of those militant feminists who has stated from childhood that she wouldn’t change her name upon marriage (and I didn’t), but I imagine for people who actually want to become Mrs. Him, this isn’t much of a consideration.

      I actually do know someone who willingly changed her last name to Butts when she got married.

      Reply
    10. Mrs. Fenris

      Sigh…Fenris’ actual last name is fairly amusing. It’s absolutely not the name I would have picked. It could be worse, but still…

      Reply
    11. Thing1

      Definitely some people consider it. I wasn’t really inclined to change my name anyway, but one of the reasons I barely even considered it when getting married is that the first syllable of my partner’s last name is the same as my single-syllable first name (think something like being Ann Anderson, except worse). I had absolutely no desire to have that name, and definitely wasn’t going to change to it.

      Reply
  28. Anonymous Educator

    I definitely think you should correct people, but some people will still keep stubbornly calling you by your last name. I had a former co-worker who had a last name that sounded like a first name. He constantly corrected people and looked visibly irked when people messed it up, but people (not my co-workers—others he had to interact with professionally) would insist on messing it up anyway.

    Reply
  29. nnn

    Another quick and easy option for #4 is to end your emails with

    Thanks,

    Lindsey

    Put this above the signature block containing your surname and all your information, the email equivalent to signing a quick handwritten note on personalized stationery. (Some people use the signature function to include this in all their emails above the signature block, but visually it should look like something you added “manually”.)

    I’ve seen people do this to communicate the fact that William would prefer to be addressed as Bill and Mary-Jo would prefer to be addressed as Jo. It would probably also work in your case.

    Reply
    1. Elizabeth H.

      Doesn’t every single person who writes an email do this? How common is it to NOT SIGN your emails? (except for quick back-and-forth exchanges w/people you work closely with or are very close to)

      Reply
  30. Bad Candidate

    #4 – I have a somewhat similar problem. My married name starts with the first three letters of a woman’s name (like Cin), but is very clearly not a first name, while my first name is very definitely a western female name. And I get called Cindy ALL THE TIME and it only happened after I changed my name. Though the first person that did it knew me before I got married. I assume they see my last name and just stop reading after three letters? It’s annoying and really ticks me off, but has become a big joke with my friends, we kid about how it’s my alter-ego or my alias.

    As for what to do, I correct people sometimes. If it’s someone I’d work with on a regular basis I just tell them politely what my name is. If it’s not someone I may ever email again, I don’t bother. And if it’s someone I feel I can joke around with, I call them by the wrong name. :)

    I will say, as far as emails go, when I first got married the company I worked at had the First Last name display in emails, and it happened several times. At my last company it was Last, First as it is with my new company. So I don’t think the order in which it displays matters much.

    Reply
  31. Teapot project manager

    Re the name, I get that all the time as my last name is also a first name. But my first name would never be a last name. I wouldn’t add the part about the email formatting, because honestly I think it’s just people not paying attention and sometimes they know and it’s just an honest slip. If you don’t already, be sure your emails have your signature however every work email I send out has my signature which is clearly first name last name and I get replies to last name a lot. I don’t correct it email, verbally I just say it’s first name. Many times people realize it before I say anything and even though I don’t correct emails, I often get emails apologizing for using wrong name, I think as soon as they hit send they see it and realize it.

    I’ve worked with people who have last names like Cole, Mitchell and Oliver and they get the same.

    Reply
  32. Kvothe

    #4 I grew up with a last name that is also a woman’s first name and people get it mixed up all the time over email, I find just typing your name above your email signature usually helps.

    Don’t get me started on when you need to provide your last name for a reservation or something, people always give you a look and ask again. Ugh did I stutter? That is my last name.

    Reply
    1. Another Lawyer

      Oh man – the giving your last name is the worst! I grew up in the South, and it would always be this real slow “No, honey, your lasssst name.”

      Reply
  33. Essie

    #1 If a previously-proven-to-be-sneaky coworker told me something inflammatory “in confidence” and told me not to tell anyone, I’d immediately wonder if they were pulling a Paris Hilton and planting info to see what leaked from whom. This sounds like a set-up.

    Reply
    1. bb-great

      I love that you described this maneuver as “pulling a Paris Hilton.” (Probably the least offensive activity that could be described that way…)

      Reply
  34. miyeritari

    4: Maybe you could to a two-prong approach, where you change your email name to First Initial, Last Name – so your email name says Taylor, L. Then at the bottom, you could do “Thanks, Lindsay.”

    Reply
  35. The Claims Examiner

    I have also recently acquired a new last name that can be a first name. My husband’s response to this in the past was to call people by their last names back to them, but they never caught on, which I think is hilarious. My solution was to make my name obnoxiously large in my email signature. People still get it wrong.

    Reply
  36. JSO

    My full name is Jacqueline, but I go by Jacque. Still pronounced like “Jacque”. I worked for a French Canadian company and a lot people thought I was a man named “Jacques”. Sometimes I would correct them from calling me Mister. Mostly I would wait to meet them in person because the look on their face was priceless seeing a 6 foot woman with long blonde hair introduce herself. We’d all have a good laugh about it.

    Reply
    1. JSO

      Whoops!! Supposed to be pronounced like “Jackie”. That spelling is not second nature, so typing it out clearly didn’t work the first time.

      Reply
  37. Manager-at-Large

    I am in the U.S. I don’t need it in a signature line (too crowded) but I would love to have something like M/F indicator or pronoun preference in the company Outlook Profile at the office as well as a preferred method of address. I work with many people in Bangalore and Mumbai and I have no clue from their name if they are male or female. I just don’t know the names well enough. Some traditions use initials for family names and that is really confusing the first time you encouner it (e.g. J G, Ananth) and then we have phone calls where the same person is addressed as “J G”.
    on name preferences:
    If the email system allows a name preference (which I prefer), we can see that Joe Chang is to be addressed as Joe rather than his Chinese first name which he doesn’t use in business except with the IRS/HR. My preferred name is not obviously derived from my given name (like Ted from Edward but female) and I don’t use my given name in life except for IRS/HR. It confuses people when systems are so rigid that I cannot get my preferred name in the email, chat window, or phone lookup directories.

    Reply
  38. Thing1

    About the name thing–I join the chorus of people saying that it’s fine to clearly correct people. This happens to me too, with the added wrinkle that my first name is also sometimes a last name, and that the genders are reversed. So, my First Last is clearly a woman’s name, but Last First could easily be a man’s name. It doesn’t bother me much when people make the mistake, but the gender flip often seems to make them feel more awkward about it. I think a straightforward correction is probably best. Honestly, usually I’ve just gone with signing with my actual first name, which they usually pick up on, but I think that it may increase the awkwardness on their end, so I’m going to try to address it directly in the future. I’ll probably steal Alison’s wording to do it, too.

    Reply
  39. MJ

    OP #3 – if you ask, be prepared for the answer. I asked that once and my concerns were well founded, but they had intended to have me finish out a certain time frame. I asked in the morning and was removed at lunch.

    Reply
  40. Kylie

    What does being “pretty” have to do with being perceived as a pushover? I am a woman and have a female first name as my last name, and find it really simple to respond to emails/in person mistakes just as AMM suggested.

    Reply
  41. Liza

    Re #1: Alison, what would you recommend the boss do in this situation? “One of my employees just told me that I may be ousted soon. However, it’s only a rumor. How should I proceed in a way that keeps me in a strong position?”

    Reply

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