my boss is super excited about The Voice, coworkers are late with edits every week, and more

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

1. My boss is super excited that a coworker’s sibling is on The Voice

I have a coworker whose sibling is on The Voice. Their boss has been sending out emails about voting and supporting the contestant through to the next round. I like this coworker a lot, but the emails are kind of grating. I have a lot of causes I’d love to get our staff’s support on, but don’t think it’s appropriate to make the ask. I also see that it’s a big deal, and they’re excited about (rightly so!). But it’s also a slippery slope to constant asks from folks all over about all kinds of things.

In sum, I can see how you could argue this both ways. Which way would you argue this?

The boss may see this as a thing for you all to bond around, create camaraderie, etc. There would be a stronger argument for that if it was your coworker herself who was on the show; it gets a lot more tenuous when it’s her sibling. Still, though, in some offices, this could be a fun thing that people legitimately get into. And it’s unusual enough (in terms of the difficulty in getting on the show, and how high-profile it is) that I think your boss could reasonably feel like this isn’t opening the door to a cascade of more mundane requests. So I don’t think it’s outrageous that your boss is making it into such a thing (assuming, of course, that she’s not sending multiple emails a day about it).

That said, it’s potentially setting people up to feel like their own achievements aren’t given the same recognition as the achievements of someone who doesn’t even work there, and that’s something your boss will need to be sensitive to.

2. My colleagues are late every week with edits to my work

As an executive assistant to the director of my division, I am responsible each week for a report on our major contracts. I gather information from various managers, consolidate their updates onto one document, and edit the updates so that the verbiage is clear and consistent. This report takes most of the week because there are always questions that my boss wants answered, as well as a lot of editing required on my part. Each Thursday I send the final draft to everyone and request initial edits by 1 p.m. on Friday. I NEVER get responses on time. They eventually turn them in, but it’s usually an hour or more past deadline. These edits really consist of a few sentences per contract and no more.

I ave tried to talk with management, to be a pest, and to move the deadline back and no matter what it’s turned in late. Please advise if you have a strategy for dealing with this. I have no authority over these people other than as the representative of my boss, and that clearly holds little weight.

They might actually need more time. Even though their edits are only a few sentences, they presumably have to read the whole thing and might need to chase down answers from their own staff, and they may have work that’s legitimately a higher priority that day.

If they’re getting their edits to you just an hour past the deadline, you might just need to mentally adjust the deadline in your head and think of it as being 2:00 rather than 1:00, if your own workflow will allow for that. If it won’t, then you could try sending their sections to them earlier if possible (if you’re able to send their piece of it before the entire document is ready), or talking to them to explain why you need it on time and what the impact is if you don’t get it (preferably an impact that it’ll be clear matters to your director rather than just to you, since they’re more likely to prioritize that). If that doesn’t work, you might need to talk to your boss about the timeline being too tight for people to turn around their edits in time. She might actually agree that they’re right to be prioritizing other things, or she might decide to use her authority to push them to prioritize this — but at that point, where you’ll have exhausted everything you can do on your own, that should be her call to make.

3. Companies that try to be hip in their marketing

This isn’t a question about my job per se, but something I nonetheless wonder about. The credit union I bank at accidentally sent a mass email to the wrong people. They sent out a correction email. Both emails were oddly familiar in tone and trying to be hip. For example, the second email said, “The thing is, we realized after it went out that we sent some to the wrong folks. Awkward :( ” and “Now you get a second email to explain you shouldn’t have necessarily gotten the first one. More Awkward, yes, but we also don’t want you to panic…” Trust me, I wasn’t going to panic!

What is the general consensus about emails written in this tone? It gets the information across, but to be honest, I like my financial institutions to be a bit more serious in their correspondence. Maybe I’m just a curmudgeon? Is this a thing we’ll see more of as companies try to connect with so-called millennials?

There has indeed been a shift in the last decade or so (maybe longer?) to companies increasingly trying to sound hip … but yeah, it often results in them just sounding contrived because there’s so clearly a marketing team behind it. Consumers are fairly savvy about marketing these days and I’d think would be at least mildly turned off by this kind of pandering language, so I’m curious if there’s any evidence that it works. I agree I wouldn’t want it from my bank either, although maybe we’re both curmudgeons. But it’s definitely a thing.

4. Have I been mispronouncing a volunteer’s name for years?

I have a teen volunteer who I have been supervising for three years though she has been volunteering with my organization since before I started. A (notably unreliable) former coworker introduced her to me as Tamara (pronounced TAM-er-ah) and that’s how I’ve been referring to her. I’ve even written letters of recommendation for her. Recently, the other (much more reliable) folks who used to work with her have asked if Tam-AH- rah is still volunteering. Now I’m concerned I’ve been calling her the wrong name for years and she’s too quiet and polite to correct me. Is it too late to ask the correct way to pronounce her name?

It is not too late! You can just say, “I’ve noticed some folks calling you Tam-AH-rah recently. Is that the correct way to say your name?” If she says yes, you can just give her a quick apology and tell you didn’t realize that but will correct it.

5. I want to be a reference for a friend who’s struggled with sobriety but I don’t think I should

I have a friend and former coworker who has a long history with substance abuse, but when we met he was clean and sober for years. He was very open about his past with me and with others, it was never a secret. He was great to work with and extremely competent. A few years later, my (still sober) coworker and I crossed paths again at another company, but at different locations. Things went well for a while, and then my friend ghosted. When a manager tried to check on him, he was verbally abusive and threatened to call the police. This isn’t like my friend at all. It turns out he had started using again, and has struggled with maintaining sobriety since (by his admission, I’m not assuming this).

I’ve never actually been called, but I’ve agreed to be a reference in the past, and I have nothing but positive things to say about my direct experience working with my friend. I’d love to stay an unburnt bridge in the future, because I know he’s going to need one. However, it feels unethical to only discuss our first job together when I saw things blow up with the other employer in a way that could realistically happen again. It would be easy for a reference checker to see we were there at the same time, and if asked directly I wouldn’t lie. I’m not emotionally capable of being a constant in his life when he’s using, so I can’t speak to his sobriety in real time, and wouldn’t try to anyway. I feel like this is the one thing I can do to help him get back on his feet when he’s ready, and I feel guilty acknowledging that it’s not in my best interests to vouch for him anymore. I’m probably naive, but I do think he’s a good person and have seen him be a capable, even excellent, employee for an extended period. Do I have to completely write off my friend professionally?

No, but I do think you have to be honest, which means giving the full version of what you know, not just the positive piece of it. So if you give a reference, you could talk in detail about the good work you saw him do when you worked together, but you’d also need to mention that you know he’s had trouble more recently. You shouldn’t use your own professional capital to cover for someone because it could end up harming your own reputation … plus, if you agree to weigh in on someone’s work, you have an ethical obligation not to leave out something so highly relevant.

You could, however, give him a heads-up ahead of time, so that he’d have a chance to decide whether nor not to offer you as a reference at all.

{ 453 comments… read them below or add one }

  1. Princess Consuela Banana Hammock

    Yikes—I could see #1 also backfiring if the coworker’s relationship with their sibling were frosty (see, e.g., Aaron Rodgers and his Bachelor brother, Jordan). Arguably, the fact that the boss is aware suggests the coworker at least supports their sibling, but this could go sideways, quick.

    (I think how grating I find the emails would depend on their volume and frequency.)

    Reply
    1. Legalchef

      But even if that were true (and there’s nothing in the letter that would lead to that speculation), that would be the coworker’s issue to take up with the email-happy boss, not the LW’s.

      This season (cycle?) of The Voice will be over soon, so it is probably not worth wasting capital over (especially since it doesn’t seem from the letter like this is the LW’s boss), even if the emails were more frequent than a weekly reminder to vote or whatever. The boss probably just thinks this is a cool thing to bond over (as Alison said), especially if they know there are a lot of fans of the show at the office.

      Reply
      1. Princess Consuela Banana Hammock

        Agreed that it’s not worth burning capital. Disagreed that I’m speculating (I’m just mentioning a set of conditions that are more common than folks assume in which this kind of behavior could create tension between a boss and employee, even if there’s no effect on OP).

        Reply
        1. Hmmm

          I think that still meets the definition of speculating though? Not to be overly pedantic, but it made me question myself so I looked it up – speculating is defined as “the forming of a theory or conjecture without firm evidence”, so I’d say since we have no evidence that their relationship isn’t great, it falls under speculating. It could still be possible, but since we have no evidence, I wouldn’t say it’s necessary to account for it.

          Reply
      2. Legal Beagle

        Yeah, I don’t think this would have even come up if the coworker and their sibling had a poor relationship. It’s extremely unlikely that the boss would have discovered this information on their own and unilaterally decided to engage the office in supporting the sibling. Much more likely is that the coworker told the boss, because they’re excited for their sibling.

        (Whether or not coworker likes that the boss is recruiting the office to support is a different question! But that would be its own AAM letter.)

        Reply
  2. Detached Elemental

    OP#1 can you set up a filter to automatically delete emails referring to ContestantName or The Voice? Or at least send them to a separate folder so you can read through them if/when you want to?

    I’d find that annoying, but not annoying enough that I’d publicly push back on t.

    Reply
    1. Yvette

      I agree, it is probably best to just ignore or skim the emails. Pushing back on this could just come across as, I can’t put my finger on the right word, grumpy? In any case if you are concerned about the achievements of others going unnoticed, is there anything to stop you from calling attention to them?

      Reply
      1. Yvette

        ” is there anything to stop you from calling attention to them?” Sorry, when I saw this posted it looked snarky. I did not mean it that way. I meant it in the sense of wondering if for some reason it might be out of place for you to call attention to them, praising a subordinate or a peer is one thing, but constantly praising upper management might come across as self-serving.

        Reply
      2. pleaset

        Pushing back on this is a waste. It’s not a big deal. Ignore or filter.

        Now, if there is an issue with too high a volume of non-work related emails in general, you can push back on that – that’ll have lasting impact.

        Reply
        1. Seriously?

          Especially since you know that it will be over soon. It might be different if there was not an end date in sight depending on the frequency of the e-mails and amount of pushing to participate.

          Reply
    2. Snark

      Yeah, I think you nailed it – it’s annoying, but probably not annoying enough to burn professional capital pushing back on.

      Reply
    3. AnotherAlison

      Agreed.

      At my office, the big boss’s niece was in the Rio Olympics. We got a bunch of emails, and they had a news crew come film people from our office chanting and cheering her on in our parking lot. It was his NIECE, and she wasn’t from our hometown. If it was his daughter or a local woman, okay, I’d have seen a closer connection and maybe not been annoyed by it. Even though it was annoying, I kept my mouth shut and just deleted the emails.

      Reply
      1. Tardigrade

        I appreciate that this was annoying, but it sounds like you’re saying a relationship with a niece isn’t a close relationship.

        Reply
        1. AnotherAlison

          I think it’s a fairly distant connection to have an entire company involved, most who have never met the person. I’d expect him to be very excited, but I don’t think it’s close enough for him to expect all of us to be excited for him and her. Maybe his peers who know him well would be, but those of us down the ladder don’t really even know him that well. This office is a corporate office with like 1500 people in it. I may feel differently if he was an owner/founder, and there were ~50 of us.

          Reply
          1. Tardigrade

            I can agree that it’s annoying and overmuch to involve an entire company, but there’s no need to devalue someone else’s relationship.

            Reply
            1. Princess Consuela Banana Hammock

              Yeah; in general it’s helpful to refrain from commenting on whether we think a person’s relationship is less meaningful (or should be less meaningful) based on their familial relationship. Families are so diverse that passing judgment on the validity/perceived closeness of the relationship misses the real issue, which is being inundated with over-sharing, overly enthusiastic personal emails.

              Reply
            2. HS Teacher

              My niece and nephew lived with me for a few years due to problems in their homes. They still treat me more like an additional parent than like an aunt. I agree that we shouldn’t devalue others’ relationships, especially without knowing the context.

              Reply
        2. Finn

          Is it? In my experience, aunt/uncle to nibling isn’t a default close relationship. Certainly it could be, but I am not close with any of my aunts or uncles, and certainly not to the degree that I would expect them to mention me at work for any reason.

          Reply
          1. Bea

            It can certainly be a close relationship. I am not because my mom is 10 plus younger than her siblings, even she’s not close.

            My best friend grew up living with her uncles due to them being so close. She absolutely has a close relationship with them. It depends on family dynamics.

            I didn’t really know my grandparents but of course many others are close with theirs…I don’t understand the idea of “I’m not close to mine, is this even a thing?” kind of confusion.

            Reply
          2. Breda

            It doesn’t HAVE to be, but it certainly can be. My mom’s family is extensive but also pretty close; I see my aunts & uncles multiple times a year even though they live hours away. And my dad’s brother & sister are both unmarried without kids, so my aunt in particular pays a lot of attention to me and my sister. But yeah, as Bea said, neither your experience nor my experience is universal.

            Reply
            1. Finn

              Right, I am not saying it can’t be, more that I’ve never seen it presented as the default that it is a close relationship; of course it varies from family to family

              Reply
          3. Specialk9

            I have 17 nieces and nephews, several of whom are step. You’d better believe that they’re close family. I’d lose my mind if any of them got on The Voice. I’d never shut up about it! :D

            Reply
      2. Hmmm

        I call my aunt nearly as often as I call my parents (and considering how often I call them, definitely more than some people call their parents!), so you never know. I do still think it’d be odd even if it was his child though, to some extent – you’ve never met her!

        Reply
      3. DeColores

        If it helps at all, you weren’t the only one who had the same reaction at the push to cheer the exec’s Olympian niece. I made sure to be too busy to go cheer.

        Reply
    4. karou

      I agree it’s not worth pushing back publicly about the emails when you can ignore them and look forward to the day the season ends. At least you know there will be an end point!

      Reply
    5. Parenthetically

      Yeah, this exactly. I would roll my eyes like I do at ALL those “talent” competition shows which are very much not my cup of tea, and then quietly delete the emails. I don’t think it’s even worth expending a lot of emotional energy on, much less professional capital.

      Reply
    6. Nanani

      That sounds reasonable to me.
      I’d only push back if the calls to participate were getting intrusive, like boss was asking for proof that you voted for Sibling or trying to make you participate in a mandatory watch party.

      Reply
    7. D. Llama

      It’s just for fun. No need to get annoyed. Some people get excited about “real” people on tv. I do not, but this is not a big deal to me.

      Reply
  3. Princess Consuela Banana Hammock

    But for #5, when does a person run into the risk of outing their friend’s struggles with addiction/sobriety? I understand explaining that he’s been volatile/less reliable as of late, but it seems impossible to say that without triggering questions about why that’s happening. Are there examples of things OP could say (or mini-scripts) that would avoid pointing the caller toward a larger health or life-struggle issue?

    It seems fundamentally wrong to out someone’s mental health diagnosis or even gesture (broadly) toward it. I would be livid, for example, if someone suggested I had had a slow start at one of my jobs because I was struggling to manage my depression (it’s true, but I’d still think it was a massive violation). At what point are we disqualified from serving as references because we can’t provide a complete reference without sharing information that isn’t ours to share?

    Reply
    1. TL -

      If I knew someone who had an addiction or who described themselves as a recovering addict and was sober – or likewise, someone who has a well-managed MI and took care of things professionally (ie, calling in sick if they need a mental health day, appropriately managing their workload during rough times) then I wouldn’t say anything because it’s simply not a factor.

      If someone is struggling with drug use currently or is in the throes of uncontrolled mental illness and that’s impacting their work in a serious matter (and I know it’s true and not just speculation on my end), I would absolutely say something. Whether that’s “I worked with her and things were great but I know she’s been showing up drunk to work lately” or “She was quite ill and was unable to complete her work and didn’t handle her time off professionally” or “She behaved unprofessionally towards her coworkers due to anxiety; we had to let her go but I do believe that she could be a good employee if that is under control” depends on the person and situation.

      Reply
      1. Julia

        But why do you have to diagnose the employee? Why can’t you just say “she behaved unprofessionally towards her coworkers; we had to let her go but I believe that she could be a good employee if she worked on that”?

        Reply
            1. TL -

              I think it depends on impact – I would disclose an active drug/alcohol problem because there’s no way to get around that. The other stuff I would disclose if I thought it was something that could change over time and if it had been let known to me – if I said I had to let an employee go because she showed up at a coworker’s house there’s no way I can say “but she’s otherwise a good employee” without any mitigating factors.

              Reply
              1. Julia

                Maybe, but is it legally and ethically permissable to disclose such things?

                Wouldn’t it be best to discuss with the employee what they want to be said?

                Reply
                1. TL -

                  Discussing with the employee would be very dependent on why I let them go and how it played out – if they were, for instance, focusing on treatment than I would much more likely to negotiate something.

                  As for ethically – I don’t know. It would be unethical to recommend someone without stating major problems you had with them. How much detail you want to give and how much you use that to offset a bad recommendation would be a case by case thing.

                2. Call me St. Vincent

                  A person’s status in recovery qualifies them under the ADA whether for alcohol or drugs, but active drug use is explicitly excluded from coverage under the ADA and would be fair game legally. Generally, even one day in treatment will qualify someone for protection under the ADA. Alcoholism is a little more complicated. An employer can certainly bar someone from using alcohol at work or being drunk at work and take steps to deal with those issues, but may have to make reasonable accommodations for someone with alcoholism that they wouldn’t need to make under the ADA for someone actively using illicit drugs. On the other hand, some federal appeals courts have explicitly held alcoholism is not a disability under the ADA, but I wouldn’t take the chance on that one. This is a very nuanced issue.

                3. What's with today, today?

                  We hired a guy that had a neutral to decent reference from someone my boss worked with often. Turned out the guy had a recurring drug problem and stole some equipment and busted a company car window. The reference giver admitted later he’d not disclosed the drug problem but was aware of it. My boss severed the business relationship he had with the reference giver, and still talks about it (was at least 5 years ago).

                4. Princess Consuela Banana Hammock

                  Legally, could be ok, but I think it’s an ethical quagmire. It’s unethical to disclose someone else’s illness, full stop. If this were cancer treatment or almost any other chronic illness, there’s no way people would think it’s ok to share.

                  But it’s also unethical not to disclose poor work performance. In which case, I think the safest route is to disclose the tough situation to the ex-coworker and decline to serve as a reference.

                5. medium of ballpoint

                  For me, it comes down to whether the condition affects a person’s reliability or decision making ability. For example, I had a coworker a few jobs ago who had a substance abuse problem. She’d show up to work intoxicated, her work product declined in quality, and she was in danger of losing her certifications. If she asked me to be a reference, I’m sure she wouldn’t want me to disclose the substance abuse, but I wouldn’t feel comfortable being a reference for her without doing so. And I would be specific about it, so that her next employer would know what to look out for an intervene early, if possible. She could potentially be a liability to her next company, and for me that’s the line where I’d disclose more specific information.

        1. Falling Diphthong

          I think it’s only diagnosing if it’s speculative. If I couldn’t do my job at the garden center because my asthma interfered, and I was open with my coworkers that I had asthma and that was the problem, it would be fair for someone to relate that in explaining my performance. I agree with Colette that “performed poorly because of a health problem that wasn’t well controlled” is a better reference than “performed poorly.”

          Showing up drunk is showing up drunk, whether alcoholism or I-totally-don’t-have-a-problem is invoked in explanation.

          Reply
          1. Princess Consuela Banana Hammock

            I think this line of argument is dangerous. If I disclose an ADA-protected illness in Job 1 (asthma sometimes qualifies), and it affects my job performance, it’s really not ok for your reference to talk about your asthma. Coworkers have shared health information with me that I would never share in a reference—it’s simply not appropriate and is a huge breach of confidentiality and boundaries.

            Reply
            1. Colette

              But the alternative is “performed poorly”. I agree it’s not ideal to disclose someone else’s health information, but the alternative is a bad reference without qualifications.

              And that’s OK, if that’s what you feel you need to do, but if I wanted to help the employee, I would be happier giving a more complete reference. But I also think it’s OK to give them that choice, if they’ve asked in advance if you’d be a reference.

              Reply
              1. SarcasticFringehead

                Or the alternative is “performed poorly in situations that required lots of physical activity/being near plants/[other asthma triggers], but was great at customer service/inventory management/etc.” You can be specific about the parts of the job the person wasn’t good at without necessarily disclosing medical information.

                Reply
                1. Colette

                  That depends a lot on the situation, though. If the issue manifested itself in showing up drunk to work, not showing up at all, or being unable to work at all (even while present), what would you say? “She was great when she was able to work?”

              2. Princess Consuela Banana Hammock

                I don’t think disclosing a medical diagnosis is always a mitigating factor, though. There are lots of people who will not look at addiction with compassion or who may (right or wrongfully) judge it as an additional risk. A bad reference without qualification seems better to me than a bad reference with a stigmatizing reference about private health information that is not the referee’s to share.

                Reply
          2. ErinW

            The stigma attached to both addiction and mental illness is also a factor. No one judges someone unfairly for having asthma. (Except for maybe portraying them as nerds in sitcoms?)

            Reply
        2. Totally Minnie

          Is there a way to phrase it that expresses that the event was temporary, but doesn’t disclose the specific cause? Something like “experienced some personal difficulties that caused XYZ difficulties at work?”

          Reply
    2. Mad Baggins

      I thought about this too. Substance abuse, depression, and other possibly recurring issues might be relevant to an employer who wants to know if you are reliable or likely to scream at your employer over the phone because you’re under the influence of something. But I cringe at the thought of a coworker communicating how “under control” such an issue is (which might change over time), and I can easily see how this could turn into employers discriminating against people with mental health or other recurring medical issues based on word-of-mouth/stereotypes alone.

      Reply
      1. Julia

        I had to take time off grad school for depression and anxiety, and it only affected me. Even when I worked and had flare ups, no one knew. Why is it that people who behave badly for reasons that aren’t in the DSM-V just have the facts stated and we who struggle with mental health issues get our conditions broadcast to the entire world?

        Reply
        1. hbc

          If I was sharing a medical issue*, it would be as a mitigating factor, not as a shame thing. I probably wouldn’t recommend Fergus who yelled at me because he’s a jerk to everyone and he had his dial set to 11 that day, and if I got an unsolicited question about him, I’d be saying, “Only hire him if you don’t mind having yelling jerks around.”

          On the other hand, if Fergus yelled at me because he had a medication mix-up or a flare-up or something, I wouldn’t want to paint him as the model employee but also show how it was a rare and understandable event in context. Just like I might say that Jane got stellar reviews except for one year when she was dealing with a family emergency. It’s not gossip, it’s framing the situation.

          *Not saying I would, this is hypothetical.

          Reply
          1. Zillah

            I take the point above about certain things mitigating otherwise deeply problematic behavior, but I also think that if the instances are truly isolated, they’re not necessarily thing that should come up in a reference at all. My experience is that even detailed reference calls aren’t an exhaustive list of the employee’s history – they’re the relevant bullet points.

            Reply
            1. Luna

              I think the difficulty the LW is facing is that his friend’s/coworker’s problems are no longer isolated- they appear to be actively occurring/recurring at this time and the LW knows it. I think it would be best for LW to tell his friend that he cannot be a reference until the friend has things under control again.

              Reply
        2. TL -

          But taking a block of time off for a medical condition isn’t something that should affect a reference. People have to deal with their stuff, whether it’s mental or physical or whatever.
          I would never say, “Oh, Julia was great but she did need a semester off to deal with depression and anxiety.” I might say, “Julia struggled at first but by the end, she was an excellent student.” or something along those lines *if* it was true.

          Reply
          1. Colette

            Agreed. But if, instead of taking time off, you got fired for not showing up, the information that it ended up being a medical condition is a mitigating factor. Otherwise, the reference is just that you got fired for not showing up.

            Reply
            1. Julia

              But then it should be stated as “medical condition” and not specified. Mental illness is stigmatized enough – specifics might hurt the case more than help it.

              Reply
              1. Colette

                It really depends on how many specifics are given, as well as what the actual situation was. If the employee left on their own to deal with a mental health or addiction issue, that’s different from violent behaviour in the workplace or using drugs/alcohol on the job (especially in a job where that is a safety hazard). I mean, I don’t think a reference should give all of the details ( … and then he shouted “you can’t catch me” and streaked through the halls) but at the same time, I think the reference is obligated to give an honest reference, and explaining that there was another issue in play will help mitigate that.

                If the employee requesting the reference isn’t OK with that, they may need to find another reference.

                Reply
          2. Julia

            This. (And hehe, this feels weird somehow.) If I had to take time off due to endometriosis or any other medical condition that most people don’t want to talk about – I guess a broken arm would be considered fine? – I would just want them to state that.

            Reply
        3. Specialk9

          Julia, I don’t understand. You mentioned 2 situations in which people *didn’t know* you were dealing with mental health issues. Then you said that people with mental health issues unfairly get outed. It’s sounds like your outrage doesn’t align with your experience. Is it general outrage with other people’s experience, or worry that in a future scenario people will know?
          Cuz right now it sounds like a lot of hypotheticals.

          Reply
    3. Story Nurse

      I think that’s why it’s important to talk with the friend about it and be explicit about what you would say if someone called you for the reference. He may say “Thanks, then I won’t use you as a reference” or he may say “Hm, I do still want you to be my reference, but can you phrase it differently?” Maybe he’s okay with you saying “Jim did good work at job 1 but abruptly no-showed at job 2” or “Jim wasn’t always reliable” or “Jim has some ongoing health concerns that affect his ability to do his work” or some other phrasing that the two of you can agree is honest without either totally tanking his chances at a job or disclosing information that he doesn’t want shared.

      Reply
    4. AcademiaNut

      You can be honest without bringing in personal medical details. Describe what happened, without commentary as to the reasons.

      “His performance was very good for the most part, but his performance deteriorated badly near the end, and he left the employer on bad terms with inappropriately aggressive behaviour” or “Her performance is inconsistent – when she’s on top of things she produces top quality work, but has trouble maintaining that standard steadily.” And “he was fired for drinking on the job” or “she stopped coming into work” is a factual statement that doesn’t reference the reason why.

      If you’re giving references like the examples above, though, it’s probably best to tell them you can’t be a reference for them. I don’t think lying and saying they were a great employee without qualification is a good strategy, either.

      Reply
      1. Snark

        I think this is a basically reasonable approach – stick to the facts and observations you are personally aware of, don’t speculate about diagnoses or conditions.

        Reply
        1. Kate 2

          But what if you know the diagnosis for a fact because they told you so? Like with the LW’s example, they know their friend is a drug addict. That is a simple fact. It is terribly sad that he is using again, and I hope he gets in recovery again, but that doesn’t support lying by omission to me. Lying about relevant facts isn’t okay.

          Reply
          1. Snark

            I don’t think this is a lie by omission, I think it’s sticking to the facts and observations you can personally speak to.

            Reply
          2. SarcasticFringehead

            Using the phrasing other people have suggested (when I worked with him, he was great; later, he had some issues) isn’t lying, by omission or otherwise. If the former coworker had a drug problem that didn’t affect his work, it wouldn’t be lying for the LW to describe his work without mentioning the drug problem; it would only be lying if the LW said that the former coworker had never had a drug problem.

            Reply
          3. jo

            Omitting personal information that would be unethical and violating to share isn’t itself unethical. There is a difference between discretion/respect for privacy and a lie by omission. For example, if someone had performance problems (observable behavior) after having a miscarriage (underlying reason), you wouldn’t volunteer the whole truth just because you were asked about it, would you? If pressed, you’d talk about the observable behavior and leave out the underlying reason. You’d say (I hope!) something like, “Jane’s performance suffered for several months after a health issue/family crisis, and she may still be struggling.” Even if you happened to know all about how Jane was actively trying to conceive again and at risk for another miscarriage, which would affect the prospective employer, you wouldn’t air her private life, right?

            The only difference is that the OP’s friend’s health issue involves drugs. Don’t let the stigma trick you into thinking it’s right to violate people’s privacy.

            Reply
      2. Jesca

        Losing the commentary on the why I think is the only way around this. But at the end of the day, a person generally does not want to use an actual personal reference who can and will/should say such negative things. I think we all have demons in our past, and there are some people we all would never use as a personal reference. I would step out of the personal reference pool for this person while letting them know gently why.

        Now, I mean this as a personal reference. If the OP was in a position where they were being called to verify employment and provide additional information and context, then yeah I would definitely go with the above type statements. Straight facts without the whole “has medical issues” or whatever.

        It is sort of like a moral dilemma because you don’t want to give a half-truth reference but at the same time you don’t want to tank this guy’s life.

        Reply
      3. LW 5

        Thanks, I like the simplicity of these suggestions. I feel ethically ok deflecting questions from “he left on bad terms” since we didn’t work as closely at Job 2, but I don’t feel right about not mentioning it at all. I can say with a clear conscience that my experiences working with him were positive, but my impression is that he didn’t leave the position on good terms with his direct coworkers/supervisor. As Jessa said below, I don’t feel comfortable making “commentary on the why” because it’s not my story to tell. I also like Story Nurse’s suggestion of being very clear on what I plan to say so he can tell me if he wants me to be more or less detailed, or would rather not use me at all. I will be honest with him about what I’ll say if asked…I just didn’t know exactly what that should be. I appreciate Alison’s help and the commenters’ suggestions.

        Reply
        1. Vin Packer

          Good on you, LW5.

          I would bet you can trust him to manage this and follow his lead (assuming he’s pulled himself out of his relapse). Treatment often involves counseling about how to handle your addiction wrt employers, and “keep it a big secret forever, and get other people to cover for you” is typically not the advice given. He will likely already have his own ways of handling the past episode in interview processes that are better than anything anybody here can come up with through spitballing, so talking to him is the best way to go—and it’s almost certainly not on you to come up with your own way to solve this for him!

          Reply
        2. Princess Consuela Banana Hammock

          OP, if you feel you can’t give a reference without disclosing your coworker’s mental health condition (addiction related substance abuse), then please tell him you can’t be his reference. I agree with AcademiaNut in framing in more oblique/neutral/job-p rformance-driven terms, but it’s really not ok to out someone’s medical/health information.

          Reply
        3. mf

          I think this is an excellent script: “my experiences working with him were positive, but my impression is that he didn’t leave the position on good terms with his direct coworkers/supervisor. ”

          It’s not misleading but it’s also not divulging any information about his medical history or about why he left (since, really, it’s likely that only HR or his direct boss know the full story).

          Reply
      4. Anonymeece

        I like this suggestion. It’s completely factual and, if a reference checker asks why, I think it would be fine to demur politely, either by claiming ignorance or recommending they speak to the person directly about those things. It still gives the situation without outing someone.

        Reply
      5. Lindsay J

        This is where I fall on it. I’m not going to give someone a solely positive reference just to cover up their physical or mental illnesses.

        But I don’t think specific diagnoses need to be brought into it, either.

        Like, for someone’s asthma example above, if I were called by another garden center for a recommendation, I would mention that they were unable to do any tasks involving handling plants, and that that put an increased burden on their other coworkers since that was 99% of all the assigned tasks. (Though, if I were called by a home goods store, I probably wouldn’t bother mention that).

        If I had someone working in my warehouse who became unable to lift more than 10 lbs due to a herniated disc (which would mean that they had to be reassigned to a different department), I would mention that they were unable to lift more than 10 pounds when they worked for me if I were called for a commendation from another warehouse (but probably wouldn’t mention it for a desk job), and might include a caveat that it’s entirely possible that the situation has been rectified since then.

        If I were called to be a reference to the OP from another post that opened up their coworker’s pay stub, went to their house, made a scene, and then had to be let go because she would’t stop trying to relay an apology to the coworker through HR, I would explain that situation, but I wouldn’t mention “anxiety”. But I might say that she was an otherwise good worker and that I thought she could be a good hire if she has since got those issues under control.

        Part of that is because I don’t want to risk making false statements, either. If I make a statement about a medical issue that is not true, I could risk defamation or other issues. If I stick to reporting facts that I have personally observed, then my statements are not going to put myself or my company at risk. While with the medical stuff, there’s a possibility that I misunderstood what the employee told me. There’s a possibility the employee lied to me. There’s a possibility that the medical issue did not cause the behavior I observed.

        And for things that can be accomodated, I would not mention them at all. A weekly recurring therapy appointment isn’t really anyone’s business. Neither is an employee’s dog phobia, unless they’re applying to be a vet tech or a pet store clerk or similar. Nor is having to leave early for an occasional migraine. If something was chronic but happened years ago I don’t see it worth mentioning, like if someone was late all the time until they got their ADHD treated, but since then has been on time almost all of the time for the last 3 years I wouldn’t bring it up. If it was more recent I would say something like, “Pam was struggling with lateness up until 3 months ago, but seems to have made some changes and seems to have everything under control since then.”

        Reply
    5. anon for this

      tw: suicidal ideation, depression talk

      I suffer from clinical depression, for which I’m on medication.

      Occasionally, I end up crying in the office for no reason. As in, nobody is talking to me, I have not read or thought of anything upsetting. I just have tears pouring down my face and need to hide it before anyone notices and thinks something is wrong.

      Despite that, I get my work done on time, I’m on decent terms with my co-workers and I’m considered reliable. This isn’t a country that offers mental health days so even when I’ve been feeling suicidal, I’ve dragged myself to office though it means I spend half the day fantasizing about jumping off the roof.

      I would absolutely *hate* it if someone disclosed the random sobfests and/or my mental state. Nobody in the office knows I’m clinically depressed or that I’ve been on meds for over a decade because of it. I would understand if people think it’s disruptive to have someone who starts sporadically crying for no reason but would so desperately hope that they just wouldn’t mention it. Even if they’re a reference who’s seen me do that, I just wouldn’t want them to mention it during a checking call, especially with the huge bias against mental health issues in the country I live in.

      Reply
      1. TL -

        From my perspective, that wouldn’t be something to disclose in a reference – you’re a good employee, you’re reliable, you get along with your coworkers. That’s what I would be evaluating my reference on.
        If you cry occasionally, that’s just a quirk and presumably you wouldn’t be applying to be a Disney princess (one of the very few scenarios where I can imagine being asked about how “happy” you looked at work.)

        Reply
    6. Emi.

      I don’t know exactly how you’d do it here, but I’d think in general it would be fine to say “Princess Consuela was dealing with some health issues when she started.” Would that still bother you?

      Reply
      1. Princess Consuela Banana Hammock

        That wouldn’t bother me! I think it would be fine to say “personal issues” or “my understanding is that there were external factors” or “health issues” or “going through a trying time” or whatnot is sufficiently vague for me. The part that makes my eyes bug out is the idea that someone should out someone’s specific health diagnosis, especially when that diagnosis is stigmatized/disfavored.

        I’m mostly asking for language because I think brainstorming scripts that do not disclose specific health diagnoses would be helpful to OP (e.g., I like Academia Nut’s approach and framing–I also like Echo’s suggestion, below). Although now that OP has said they don’t think they can give a reference without specifically mentioning substance abuse/addiction, I think OP should decline to provide a reference and explain why to the ex-coworker.

        Reply
        1. Specialk9

          Yeah but personal issues or health issues sound like something that’s done, not that this person is currently acting erratically and likely can’t be trusted because they’re injecting or smoking life-destroying drugs.

          Reply
    7. Echo

      I think it’s important for LW #5 to explain that this is a medical/health issue interfering with a very high-performing person’s ability, because that’s going to read completely differently from saying that someone just stopped being a high performer. I also agree with everyone who says you shouldn’t disclose the specific health issue.

      So, something like “I worked with James at Acme Corp and he was a top performer there, as well as a friendly and reliable colleague and active mentor to new employees. He saved a really tough client relationship, and I still reference his reports when I need a refresher on widget making. I do want to mention that I know he’s been struggling with health problems lately that are affecting his work at Llamas Inc. and that he got into a confrontation with a supervisor. This would have been extremely out of character for him when we worked together, but I would be remiss not to mention it now.”

      Whereas, if you just said “he has had performance issues at Llamas Inc. and got into a confrontation with a supervisor” it makes it sound like it’s a long-term personality issue.

      Reply
      1. TL -

        The thing is, if I hired James based on that reference, thinking that’s okay we’re flexible with health issues, and found out it was an active drug/alcohol problem the hard way, I’d lose all respect and trust for the LW.

        Reply
        1. Double A

          But wouldn’t that be on you for not following up with the candidate to try to learn more? A drug/alcohol addiction can be managed, and it can also go off the rails. The same is true of any chronic health condition. Would you be angry if someone’s cancer came back and they had to be out of work?

          I do understand that when people are using they can be disruptive and a liability. But if someone has been successful in treatment before, I do think there’s hope for them as a reliable employee.

          This is particularly hitting home for me this week because my husband had to fire his best friend/only employee this week due to uncontrolled mental health and substance abuse issues. But this friend has never acknowledged a problem or been in treatment, so there was no hope of him being able to continue.

          Reply
  4. Mad Baggins

    #4 I know some people who have names that can be said several different ways, and even though they express a preference, some people get used to saying a name a certain way and it’s hard to switch over. Ariel introduces herself as Ah-ri-EL, but as soon as her coworkers see it in print, it’s hardwired into their brain as AIR-i-el. So maybe they introduce her as AIRiel to the new coworkers who don’t know it’s wrong (maybe this is your coworkers, maybe this is you!). Only way to know is to ask.

    Reply
    1. FTW

      Yes, ask.

      I’ve seen it happen where a couple new people got it wrong… then a few of the longer tenured thought they had it wrong and switched… eventually it was almost the whole team!

      I asked and, sure enough, original pronunciation was the right one.

      Reply
    2. Ayla

      Definitely ask.

      It’s entirely possible that she won’t really mind either way. My IRL name can be pronounced two different ways and I don’t particularly mind which way people choose.

      Reply
      1. Dan

        I used to work with a guy who had a similar but distinctly different name than mine. Often, it was just the two of us, and we answered phone calls throughout the shift. People would get so confused, thinking they had “just spoken to me”.

        I’ve noticed that foreigners often have trouble with my legally given first name, which appears on my passport, and which I’ll use when signing up for things overseas. They often pronounce my name as if it was the feminine version — sometimes I push back, sometimes I don’t — I’m never offended, it’s just a matter if I’m feeling snarky or not. They’re always sufficiently mortified, as nobody would ever confuse me for a woman IRL :D

        Reply
        1. Mad Baggins

          I’m assuming based on your handle, but do you mean Daniel/Danielle? I know the Spanish “Daniel” is actually pronounced similar to “Danielle”, so they might not be getting it wrong from their perspective. (Apologies if I’m off-base!)

          Reply
            1. bmore pm

              I think one of you was referring to the first paragraph of his comment and the other the second paragraph.

              Reply
        2. Murphy

          Yeah, my name is close to another more popular name. At my last job, everyone got it right until we got someone there with the other name. Then people screwed it up all the time.

          Reply
        3. Seriously?

          I’ve been on the other side of that a few times where I worked with several people from other countries that had names that were pronounced differently in English and their native language but spelled the same. They never seem offended if I ask which way they prefer, even if I had been calling them by the English version for months.

          Reply
      2. My Name is Weird

        Yep, I’ve got one of those names. It’s nice when people ask, but honstly I don’t really care either way. The pronunciation choice happens at the end of my name anyways, “ah” or “uh” so unless I’m really paying attention I just hear my name, I don’t notice the particular pronunciation they picked….
        With something like Tamara though, they’d be able to tell immediately if you got it wrong, so do ask!

        Reply
      3. hermit crab

        I also have a name that can be pronounced two ways and don’t really care. I mean, only one of them is my actual name, but I answer to both and it doesn’t bother me.

        And then we got a new hire who pronounces her name the “other” way and does care, and everybody was confused and she and I got a LOT of misdirected emails. So it might make sense to speak up even if it doesn’t bother you, just for the sake of clarity!

        Reply
      4. Tammy

        As a “Ta-MAH-rah” who is almost always called “TA-meh-rah”, I agree. I’m used to it and it doesn’t bother me one way or the other. But even though I don’t much care, I always appreciate the thoughtfulness of someone asking, and frankly, that’s inclined to earn you a bit of relational capital with me.

        Reply
        1. On Fire

          I knew a Tamara from school. Everyone (including her mother/entire family) called her TAM-er-ah growing up. Saw her again years later, and heard her introduce herself as Tuh-MAR-uh. So sometimes the pronunciation changes with time, too. (I have an unusual name and am sufficiently used to its being butchered that I answer to anything.)

          Reply
      5. Anion

        Mine has numerous different spellings, and I don’t generally care which one people use–at one point it was spelled differently on every form of ID I had, thanks to clerks writing it down and me not bothering to correct it (I eventually had to; turns out the government wants you to have an official spelling.

        Reply
      6. Where's the Le-Toose?

        Growing up there was a Dana (Dan-uh) and a Dana (Day-nuh) in my class. While we were all used to it, when there was a substitute in school or they met a friend’s parents for the first time, there was usually a mispronunciation involved.

        Just ask what the person prefers.

        Reply
    3. Princess Consuela Banana Hammock

      As a person whose name is often mispronounced, I so strongly prefer that people ask me how to pronounce it–even if it’s been weeks/months/years. And when people ask, I’m grateful that they’re thoughtful enough to be willing to ask what can sometimes feel like an embarrassing question (for the questioner).

      Reply
      1. He-he-hello

        This is my volunteer, and what makes it worse is that I also have a name that is nearly always mispronounced. *sigh* She’s also so incredibly shy that I am hesitant to draw any additional attention to her, especially since she’s spent three years responding to two names.

        Reply
        1. Princess Consuela Banana Hammock

          I’m so sorry, OP :( The good news is that I bet she’d still appreciate you asking. She’s probably given up on correcting people or has decided the mispronunciation doesn’t bother her. Asking her her preferred pronunciation can be a really humanizing (in a good way) experience for the person being asked, if it’s done with care and a genuine desire to get her name right!

          Reply
          1. VelociraptorAttack

            Agreed. My name is generally uncommon but there is a famous person with a very similar name, slightly different pronunciation and spelling. Generally, I’ll respond to either pronunciation and it doesn’t really bother me but I’m always delighted when someone asks which way it is. I think due to this if I’m not sure how to pronounce someone’s name I always, always ask.

            Spelling on the other hand, that gets me. You can see how I spell my name in my email address, it’s not too hard!

            Reply
            1. He-He-Hello

              This is also something I deal with with my own name! I even had a teacher (with an official, printed class list) give me a completely new name on a concert program with only one letter in common with my actual name.
              I have another volunteer who actually gives two different pronounciations of her name depending on who she’s talking to. She’s not shy about it, though. She just tells you she didn’t think you could handle the real way to say her name.

              Reply
        2. Yvette

          Just put it on yourself “I was told your name was pronounced _____, but I recently heard someone who knew you from before I started pronounce your name as _____, and I realize that not only was I possibly pronouncing it wrong, you were too nice to correct me if I was.

          Reply
          1. BuffaLove

            I think you can go way lighter with the script. Just apologize sincerely, acknowledge the awkwardness if it feels right, and move on.

            Reply
          2. accidental manager

            Taking responsibility yourself is a good idea. Using passive-voice phrasing like “I was told” sometimes comes with the baggage of the speaker NOT taking responsibility, though. “Someone told me ____ but then I heard someone say ______; which do you prefer?” is one way.

            Or just “Do you prefer _______ or _______?” I think I like that best, because it puts the focus on wanting to do what they prefer, not on establishing that someone is wrong. If you want to apologize, you can do that after they explain – and if their explanation shows that they might be more embarrassed if you apologize, then don’t.

            Reply
        3. Wakeen Teaptots, LTD

          My first name has three distinctly different pronunciations. When I was a teenager, my pronunciation was the least common and I had to learn how to speak up for myself in order to have my name pronounced correctly. (So, it’s “Andrea”, and if you know one, or are one, you know how that goes. :D Imma ANN-dre-a, not AHN-dre-a or ahn-DRAY-a )

          It’s all good if you model for her that you care about how her name is pronounced! Maybe she truly doesn’t care or maybe she needs an extra boost to know it is okay to ask for what she wants.

          Reply
          1. AnotherAlison

            I worked with an ANN-dre-a for 3 years, who then decided she was Andie when she got married. This was slightly annoying because 1.) I feel bad calling you something you didn’t want to be called for years, and 2.) Now I have to watch myself and make sure I don’t slip and call you Andrea when she was the one who put it in my head to call her that to begin with.

            [She also quit the team for a few months, which relieved a lot of drama in the group, and then she came back. It was good when she had a baby & decided to stay home permanently.]

            Reply
            1. Wakeen Teaptots, LTD

              We are the worst, I do believe the worst, at being highly particular about what we are called. Call me Andi/Andy/Andie and I will cut you.

              I am sorry for your trouble. :D

              Reply
              1. Julie in Ohio

                I get snarly less about pronunciation than just reading it correctly, dangit, I’m Julie, not Julia. And why people mispronounce my son’s perfectly nice English place name Devon as De-VAHN is beyond my comprehension.

                Reply
                1. Parcae

                  I am sorry to say that I am one of the people who would mispronounce your son’s name. I am (dimly) aware of the place, but having never encountered it as a person’s name, I would have assumed it was pronounced like Devonte. Whoops. In my defense, I try hard to get names right after being corrected!

                2. Specialk9

                  Enh, you’re generalizing from pronouncing your kid’s name one way to it being the One Twue Way. Outside of Iceland, we all get to name our kid whatever crazy thing makes us happy, and pronounce it how we want.

                3. Julie in Ohio

                  Fair point, SpecialK9. I guess I’m being Eurocentric as well. To me, my perception was that it was a place name probably well before anyone thought to name a person after it, so I figured that would be the default. It just surprises me that it isn’t.

                  I also didn’t make myself clear about the Julie/Julia thing. I’m hearing-impaired so understand mis-hearing and mis-repeating. What really gets me is when I’ve signed my email as Julie and then get a response as Dear Julia. I try to roll my eyes and figure they’ve got a friend or family Julia and that was their go-to.

                  I guess my whole long point is, names are important and should be right. When I meet someone new with a commonly abbreviated name, I tend to ask if they prefer Robert or Bob or something else entirely. When I was a college instructor, I’d ask the students to tell me their names the first day, rather than me trying to call roll and screw it up.

                  And we won’t even get into the whole thing of my husband’s family who name the kids one thing and call them something else and then wonder why the whole world is confused.

          2. oviraptor

            I also have a 4 name issue. Although mine isn’t pronunciation. For example, let’s say my name is Susan. I am called Susan, Sue, Susie and quite frequently (especially on the phone) Suzanne. I have given up and answer to all of them. Mostly because it depends upon where they first knew me from, that determines my name for them. (One former job was Sue, and when I was really young, if you were my neighbor I was Susie (although some randos will all of a sudden come up with Susie. But whatever. It’s all good). I realize I don’t help things much because when asked what name I like I tell them it doesn’t matter. And I usually answer to Hey You too. (Honestly, to me which name they decide upon using is like a big science experiment for me. I really am curious as to which name they will choose. I know. I am weird. )

            Reply
          3. Al Lo

            ANN-dre-a is the default in my brain! Almost every Andrea I’ve known pronounced it that way, and I had to make an effort to say it her correct way when I worked with an ahn-DRAY-a.

            Reply
            1. Specialk9

              It’s so hard! A former roommate was AHN-dreeuh, and the very next roommate was ANN-dreeuh. I stayed friends with both, and every time I say both names before settling on the right ‘Drea.

              Reply
        4. Mr. Cholmondley-Warner

          If you have a commonly mispronounced name, it might actually make it easier to handle. When you ask her what the actual pronunciation is, mention that people always get your name wrong, and now you are doing it, and you feel all embarrassed etc.

          Reply
        5. Emily W

          In my experience, acknowledging the awkwardness will help a lot! For whatever reason, I have a very poor memory when it comes to names, so I have to do the “have I been saying it wrong?” thing pretty frequently. My usual response is something like, “oh, no! how embarrassing! well, i’ll get it right from now on!” said with a light/friendly tone. This usually lets us both have a little laugh about it, and the awkwardness is gone!

          Reply
          1. Triplestep

            This is really true. I still remember how someone I knew through peripherally through friends just blurted out to me at a party “I KNOW I am supposed to know your name … But I just don’t. What is it?” I knew her name because she was kind of a minor celebrity; I suspected she didn’t know my name even though we had spoken, so it was actually a relief to have her acknowledge the awkwardness and just ask.

            This was probably about 25 years ago, and we’re still friendly, and I still remember her asking. So clearly it made an impression on me!

            Reply
            1. JanetM

              I try to remember people’s names, but they often escape me. I’ve gotten very good at saying, “I know we’ve met, but I’ve lost your name. I’m Janet,” on the off-chance that they’ve forgotten my name too.

              Reply
          2. Oxford Coma

            I have a retired teacher relative who just cannot remember names, ever. He has an excellent memory for virtually everything else in his life. When old students approach him in public, he’s completely forward about being awful with names, but makes it clear that he does know them: “Sorry, I have a problem with names. But I know that you were in AP physics, third period, and you sat one row from the window. You carried a bright blue backpack with doodles on it in White-Out.” No one has ever been anything other than delighted.

            Reply
        6. Lance

          If it’s anything like in my case, she might have gotten so use to people pronouncing (or in my case, reading) it wrong that it barely registers, and doesn’t seem worth even the minor bit of fuss when she does notice. Just a little thought on my part, but at least it’s an understandable mispronunciation; rather that than call her something completely different, as folks in some past letters have mentioned.

          Reply
        7. AliceBG

          I would just wait for a moment alone with her and say, “I’m so sorry, I think I’ve been saying your name wrong this whole time! Is it TAM-er-a or Ta-MAH-ra?…[repeat what she says], got it!” and then let her go.

          Reply
        8. Curious Cat

          It could also be that she pronounces it both ways! I have a friend, Anna, who introduced herself to me as Ah-nuh, but other people pronounce it like Anne-uh. I asked her one day which pronunciation she preferred and she told me she just goes by both. Even people in her family pronounce it differently!

          Reply
        1. Goldfish

          True story: my first boss pronounced my surname wrong, but only ever used it in front of clients (law firm) and new graduate me was too embarrassed to correct him. Not until the end my 6 month review when he asked if there was anything else I wanted to talk about did I manage to tell him he was getting it wrong!

          Reply
          1. Boo Bradley

            Similar situation happened to one of my coworkers, let’s call him Jesus. When he started, the president of the company referred to him as “Hay-zeus”, but Jesus pronounces his name “Gee-zus”. It wasn’t until a year later that the president overheard someone refer to “Gee-zus” and said, “It’s not Gee-zus, it’s Hay-zeus!” that Jesus was forced to admit he’d been too scared to correct the president for a year!

            Reply
        2. Princess Consuela Banana Hammock

          It depends on the context! My first name has two common pronunciations, and I’m ok with folks using either (the second pronunciation is more common with folks for whom English isn’t their first language). And with my monolingual Spanish speakers, there’s a common Spanish equivalent, so I’ll answer to that, too.

          But people always butcher my very simple surname. It’s a combination of vowel mispronunciation and misplaced emphasis (like the ANN-dray-uh v. Ahn-DRAY-uh problem). I’ve tried all the usual tactics—gentle and immediate correction, introducing myself with the proper pronunciation in front of mispronouncers, describing the distinction in sounds/stress, and so on. Unfortunately, I’ve found most Americans who only speak English either struggle with, or simply don’t try, to pronounce my name correctly, and it’s exhausting to constantly correct them. I think there’s a good number of people who genuinely mean to try but for some reason can’t wrap their heads around the pronunciation. So instead I thank people for asking or for making an effort after my first attempt at correction.

          Reply
          1. Princess Consuela Banana Hammock

            Oh man, I missed some words. I meant “with my clients who are monolingual Spanish speakers.”

            Reply
      2. many bells down

        I apparently had been mispronouncing a former boss’ name the entire 4 years I worked for him. I was putting the emphasis on the wrong syllable. He never said anything to me. It wasn’t until I was training my replacement and SHE mentioned it that I realized. Whoops.

        Reply
    4. Cornflower Blue

      My favorite English teacher spent a year mispronouncing my name and I liked her too much to correct it. When I got her for a second year, THEN I had to correct it and she was very confused as to why I’d never said anything before.

      Reply
    5. Falling Diphthong

      Ask. She isn’t going to bring it up, but might be grateful you finally noticed. (This is definitely in the family of things where you either say something at the exact right moment or figure it’s gone too long uncorrected for you to say anything now.)

      If you have been mispronouncing her name, a low-key “Aha, got it” from you is better than a lengthy explanation.

      Reply
    6. Accounting is Fun

      As another person with a name that can be pronounced multiple ways, just ask me! If someone pronounced my name Ta-MAR-a vs. TAM-ara, I usually correct them with a smile and say, but my friends call me Tam.

      Reply
    7. been there

      I have a name like this. I have a pretty normal European name, it is not massively common but it is not very unusual either. There are about three ways to pronounce it and almost no one pronounces it my preferred way but I tend to ignore it.

      Then I moved to Japan, my name starts with an “L” which is not a sound that exists in Japanese and the closest transcription of my name is not very close to my real name at all. I solve this by answering to anything that sounds vaguely similar to my name.

      Reply
    8. Health Insurance Nerd

      I have one of those names, and it honestly does not matter to me how people pronounce it. If asked I will give the pronunciation I prefer, but as long as they’re in the ballpark I’m good. I once had a coworker named Bob, and we passed someone in the hallway who said “Oh hey, hi Tim!”, and when I asked him what was up with that, he responded that for some reason this person thought his name was Tim, had for literally several years, and he just never bothered to correct him.

      Reply
    9. Ariel

      I’m an Ariel, and that’s exactly what happens. I prefer Ah-ree-el, but my family pronounces it AIR-i-el. So I go by both. Even though I prefer the first pronunciation, I genuinely don’t care (as long as you don’t start singing Under the Sea, we’re good).

      Reply
    10. Arielle

      I love that the example you used is my actual name. As I’ve gotten older, I’ve gotten way better about not feeling bad about correcting people. At my first 1-1 with my boss, I used the opportunity to say, “Hey, you’ve been introducing me to people as AIR-i-elle when I prefer Ah-ri-ELLE, could you try to remember Ah-ri-ELLE when you mention me?” It wasn’t a big deal and he never got it wrong again.

      To the OP, do not feel bad about asking her preferred pronunciation. I always appreciate it and thank people for asking, and I don’t think any less of them. Now, the people who see my name in written communication (email address, signature, everything) and start off their reply with “Hi Ariel!” are dead to me.

      Reply
    11. Legal Beagle

      My name is like this, and I can tell you that 99.9% never bother to learn the correct pronunciation, even after hearing me say it multiple times. OP, I would be thrilled if anyone took the time and effort to correct themselves, no matter how long it had been. This is a lovely gesture to make for your volunteer.

      Reply
    12. Flash Bristow

      Same. I worked for an Eva (AIR-va). The trouble was, next time I met an EE-va, my brain defaulted to calling her AIR-va. I had to consciously correct myself.

      Definitely ask her. I doubt she will be offended, and it’s better than not knowing.

      However, once you do know the right pronunciation, you should beware of going round correcting colleagues on her behalf, lest it comes over all “I know something you don’t know!” I’d just continue to use the right pronunciation when referring to her.

      Reply
  5. Anxa

    #2

    I might also be a curmudgeon. I cannot stand this. The worst offenders to me are women’s brands. I

    I don’t always want to unsubscribe, because sometimes I want the coupon codes, but when it gets too obnoxious I just decide that the codes aren’t worth it and just abandon the brand for a while.

    Probably not the effect they are going for, but they can’t possibly not know that those emails will alienate at least some customers.

    Reply
    1. HannahS

      Website pop-up: “Want beauty tips delivered directly to your inbox? Yes, I want to be fly AF! No, I don’t want to be beautiful…”
      Me: JUST SHOW ME THE F-ING CAKE RECIPE

      Reply
      1. Dan

        I give some credit to the websites who wait until you’ve scrolled to the bottom of the page before pestering you to sign up for the email list or whatever. When it’s the first thing to load when I browse to the page, I always think, “How do I know if I want to subscribe? I need to see your content first.” For that matter, I want to know who the genius was who decided every website also needed an email news letter/marketing spam, and that the website needs to pester all visitors to sign up.

        I never do.

        Reply
        1. Falling Diphthong

          The email newsletter is a vast mystery. I read your site already! I have adequate amounts of email in my life!

          Reply
          1. Snark

            Right? What gives anybody the impression that I need 3 emails a week from a site I went to just to see if I liked their jackets or whatever?

            Reply
            1. Skipperlou

              They either have good open/clickthrough/conversion rates for the emails or they have no idea what email marketing is.

              Reply
              1. Snark

                This is not my area of expertise, but I get the impression a lot of these metrics of online commerce are widely assumed to be more meaningful than they actually are.

                Reply
                1. Jadelyn

                  Right? I might open and click through on an interesting-looking sales email out of idle curiosity, but I can think of maybe…one or two times at most that I’ve ever actually *bought* something as a result.

                  Even worse are the “you left something in your cart!” emails like. Yes. Yes I know. I left it in my cart because I decided not to complete the purchase and didn’t feel that I needed to take the extra time to clear my cart before I closed the effing tab. Please stop pestering me about this.

                2. Skipperlou

                  Jadelyn – well, if you open the email and then order something online from that company within 30/60/90 days, that email is considered an assisted conversion. Even if the email was about jeans and you bought a t-shirt. The idea is that that email put the idea in your head to shop at the store. Same for all the ads that chase you around on Facebook or on websites. You get served an ad, you buy something online from that place a month later, that ad is considered an assisted conversion. If the assisted conversion value is high enough, the company is going to keep sending emails/serving ads.

          2. many bells down

            I just bought a mattress from Sears. It’s the only purchase I have made at a Sears in at least a decade.

            I’m now getting 2-3 emails A DAY from flipping Sears. I keep hitting unsubscribe but no luck yet.

            Reply
            1. Totally Minnie

              My particular favorite is when the company makes you tell them why you want to unsubscribe from their newsletter. Usually, the first option is “I no longer want to receive these emails,” and then there are four or five more choices. But why do you need other options when the first one could be the correct answer for everyone?

              Reply
      2. Like Feathers

        I think it’s The Body Is Not An Apology that has a thing to click on before reading their articles- yes, I want to know about their book, or no, I’m not interested in improving my life. It annoyed me so much that I won’t click on their links any more.

        Reply
        1. Jadelyn

          There’s a resin art site that does this too – I think it’s Resin Obsession? – where it’s like “yes, I want to know these tips about doing better pours” and “No, I don’t want to improve my skills” or something to that effect. I take perverse enjoyment out of very deliberately clicking the “No, I don’t want to improve anything about my life, ever” answers on websites that pose those sorts of stupid gotcha questions.

          Reply
          1. Jadelyn

            I found the actual message – it’s “Join the mailing list and we’ll send you an ebook with 50 tips” and the options are “Yes, I want those tips” and “No, I don’t want to be better with resin”. *rolls eyes*

            Reply
      3. Tardigrade

        Enter your email to save 15% off your purchase.
        Yes, I want to save 15% off my purchase.
        No, I want to pay full price.

        What the cuss! I’m not buying anything now. *close tab*

        Reply
      4. epi

        I hate forced responses to pop-ups. Even ones where no is something like “No thanks!” Why would I thank you for interrupting me? I usually try to dismiss then some other way just on principle. I might be a curmudgeon.

        Reply
        1. Jadelyn

          If you’re a curmudgeon, I’m the same kind of curmudgeon. I try clicking outside the popup, then clicking the corner where an X should be to close it, and only if neither of those works will I click on the “No thanks” button. It’s purely out of spite but it makes me feel better.

          Reply
      5. esra

        Me: JUST SHOW ME THE F-ING CAKE RECIPE

        Looooool I feel this.

        Also, I was on a team that was hiring for a digital marketer at a b2b company and this one interviewee came in mega-smug and started railing on us for not having pop-ups like you’ve described here, or being active enough on Twitter. Afterward I was like, definitely not this one.

        Reply
          1. SignalLost

            Toastmasters just did a huge overhaul of their educational program (it’s digital because the millenniallyallyalls like digital!) that uses pop ups. Since the first instruction for accessing the new education program is explaining how to allow pop ups, I assume they know this is irritating af. They did it anyway, and I have a looot of questions.

            Reply
      6. Anonymeece

        Oh, ugh. I hate the ones that try to shame you into subscribing. A, I don’t want to subscribe anyway, and B, I REALLY don’t want to when it’s something like: “Yes, give me tips on how to bake cakes and redecorate your house!” or “No, I’m a bad person who deserves to feel bad.” There’s a third option here: I want to do those things on my terms when I’m surfing, not cluttering my email inbox.

        Reply
      7. Totally Minnie

        I love when the choice is phrased as “do you want to receive our daily email newsletter, or would you rather have a terrible, miserable life?”

        Reply
    2. Eliza

      I can generally put up with it if it’s from somewhere like an online clothing store or a food delivery service, but I think getting an email like that from my bank would cross a line for me. I’m imagining it now: “We just found out that some bad guys might have taken a peek at your credit card details somehow, so we gotta cancel it for you. Bummer :( But we’re sending a new one right over to you, so turn that frown upside down :)”

      Reply
      1. Falling Diphthong

        Yes, I very much want my bank to project boring sedateness. There should be no suggestion of “Duuuuuuuuude…”

        There are industries where coloring outside the lines might be a plus, but holding onto my money (bank accounts, investment accounts) is absolutely not one of them. The bank should not ask if I want to be cool AF.

        Reply
        1. OP#3

          The part that really annoyed me was when the said “but don’t panic!” I don’t like my bank telling me not to panic because when people tell me not to panic it usually means there is a reason someone might.

          Reply
          1. Lora

            I got nothing but sympathy. My mortgage was recently sold from VerySeriousBank to GoofyBank and they irk me to no end. Fking do my auto-pay correctly and maybe THEN I won’t hate your guts, but no amount of marketing makes up for the fact that I have to be on your website and on the phone constantly and even worse they charge you actual fees to pay the old fashioned way even though their stupid software NEVER works worth a crap.

            The cutesy marketing crap just sends me over the edge. I guess on a positive note I never was so motivated to refi as I am now…

            Reply
          2. Triple Anon

            I would consider switching banks. They made a sloppy mistake and then responded to it unprofessionally. Not once but twice. I’d reconsider trusting them with my money and personal info.

            Reply
        2. Jadelyn

          As someone who works at a credit union, I’m wondering if it may be a cultural difference between CUs and banks. We offer mostly the same set of services and products, and some credit unions really do present themselves like banks do, but others have a more casual mien in general – probably born of the way CUs originated as community co-ops. You’re a customer at a bank, but you’re a member at a CU, that sort of thing.

          I just feel like boring sedateness isn’t always a quality that will apply to CUs, even when it generally does apply to banks, and if that’s specifically a quality you’re looking for, CU’s may not be the best choice for you.

          Reply
          1. Falling Diphthong

            To me, credit unions have the vibe of your nice responsible Uncle Fred. Boring and sedate in a more casually dressed, warmer manner.

            Reply
          2. Robin Sparkles

            I am a member of a CU and I don’t see them as cutesy at all. They aren’t as corporate as a big bank but they are still formal and have a formal trust-worthy feel.

            Reply
        3. Elsajeni

          Yes, this is a good point! I’ve seen people get really annoyed about cutesy error messages or account info emails from, like, Tumblr, and that I think is a bit of an overreaction — you know, it’s Tumblr, I’m mostly there to share goofy pictures with my friends, I feel like an error message that says “Whoops :( ” more or less fits the tone of how I use the site. But I very, very much want my bank, my investment advisor, and my doctor’s office to talk to me like I’m an adult.

          Reply
      2. Skipperlou

        If it’s a serious breach, then a cutesy email would be incredibly tone-deaf. If they just sent the wrong mass email out to the wrong group, light-hearted apologies tend to go over better in the world of email marketing.

        Reply
      3. LQ

        My credit union does stuff like sponsor kids learning about savings events and they show up at music things in my neighborhood. I’m ok with these sounding like that. I just don’t read it if it annoys me. But their information for my actual account is polished without being impossible to read (which I actually hate more, throwing 3,000 words of dense legalese doesn’t make you more professional, it makes you not good at your job, which is communicating).

        The thing is that yes, they might be trying to target millennials, but they likely ARE millennials. They are not stuffy 80 year olds. They are likely 30 somethings that are doing the marketing messages, so they are actually millennials. Millennials aren’t all 22. They are mostly snuggly ensconced in jobs all over, including your bank and government and insurance and law and so they are going to start to change the way communication happens because that’s what people do when they start to take over departments.

        And I am certain they got at least one COMPLETELY PANICKING email in response.

        Reply
          1. LQ

            Sure…so why does everyone keep blaming them for everything as though marketing folks have only in the last 10 years started trying to co-opt hip language of the era? I’m sure you can find a marketing something from a bank in the 70s that uses groovy. Language changes based on the people in those jobs. Not because millenials these days. But because those people in those jobs are different and those people in those jobs will always try to sound like they are part of the culture of the group they are trying to market to.

            Reply
        1. Triple Anon

          Yeah . . . It’s not about what age they are or who they’re targeting. They’re just not taking themselves seriously.

          Reply
      4. bb-great

        HAHAHA. Yes, I totally agree. If you’re selling me pizzas or t shirts we can be cazh AF but if you’re holding onto my money, not so much.

        Reply
      5. Pollygrammer

        Is anyone thinking of the bank in the old Simpsons episode?
        “You’ll go ape over our car loans!”
        “…a professional in an ape mask is still a professional.”

        Reply
      6. Kimberlee, no longer Esq.

        See, the copy you wrote would be just fine for me. We only think that “professional” language is professional because that’s what we’ve been socialized to think. There’s nothing inherently more “professional” about it. Moreover, I like when stodgier institutions experiment with stuff like language, because it tells me they’re trying to do things differently; that they aren’t just going with the Here’s How To Run A Bank textbook. That maybe working in marketing at that bank isn’t as soul-sucking a job as working in marketing at a more stodgy bank might be. Which can be an indication of all kinds of things about their internal culture that I would generally find positive.

        Reply
        1. Eliza

          I agree that it can reflect a broader attitude within the company’s culture (although I don’t know how strong the correlation really is), but I don’t agree that what it reflects is a good thing. To me, there are good reasons why large financial institutions *should* be very averse to change, considering what’s at stake if they try something new and it fails catastrophically.

          Reply
    3. Kimberlee, no longer Esq.

      I guess I’m the opposite of like everyone here! I like knowing that the businesses I frequent are staffed by real people and not JobBots. I don’t think that someone who uses more formal language is going to be any better at banking than someone who uses emoji, so why would I judge a bank based on whether or not its “voice” is stodgy or relateable?

      Reply
  6. lyonite

    A friend had a boyfriend who I thought had a two-part name (like Jim Bob), so that’s what I called him. I didn’t find out until after they broke up that his first name was just Jim, and Bob was his last name. I assume he thought I was just oddly formal.

    Reply
    1. KX

      Back before all business correspondence went via email, we had a vendor named Large O. Large O would call, or we would call her.

      And then we got email. Her name was Lara Jo.

      Reply
      1. Mickey Q

        When I was in the Caribbean on a very small island I met a Rasta called Big Ras. The other islanders called him Bear Grass because they couldn’t understand his accent.

        Reply
    2. LNZ

      I had a similar situation with a friend whose first name was Marry and last name Su (not the actual name but more or less the right idea) and because my step mom is also named Marry so in my head or talking to family i always said her full name. This led to me accedently calling her her full name infront of friend a fair ammount, who then thought her first name was Marry-Sue and started calling her that too.
      Turns out i really really annoyed her by causing eveeryone to constantly call her by her full name.

      Reply
    3. Jemima Bond

      I had exactly the same thing with s forner colleagur only I never called he by the name I thought was two-part, before I found out. Her surname sounded similar to a female first name – so it was something like Jenny Lynder which I was hearing as Jenny-Linda.
      I’ve had a whole extra name added to mine – had a phone conversation with a chap then he faxed something through to “Kelly-Jemima” :-D
      Reminds me, the next time a distant colleague calls me a variant of my name (which she’s done a few times but I wussed out of saying anything), I WILL politely say, it’s Jemima not Jemimana!

      Reply
  7. Story Nurse

    OP3, I’m an editor, and I’ve learned the hard way to give freelancers and other editors a LOT of deadline flex (e.g., give Monday deadlines for things I need by Thursday). You say you’ve moved the deadline back, but by how much? When do you start gathering the data from the managers, and can you do that earlier? Even sending the report out Wednesday end of day instead of Thursday morning could make a big difference.

    Another option (with your boss’s approval) is to say, “If I haven’t heard from you by Friday at 1 p.m. I’ll assume you’re fine with my edits.” You will get some pushback the first few times corrections come in at 2:30 and you say “I’m sorry, I’ve already finalized the report because I hadn’t heard from you by 1”, so that’s why it’s important to have your boss’s awareness and approval before taking this step, but a firm stance of “deadlines are deadlines, not guidelines” can work wonders.

    Reply
    1. Quoth the Raven

      As a translator (freelance though working through an agency), I love editors like you. Seriously.

      Reply
      1. Story Nurse

        Aw, thank you! I do my best to be easy to work with. And there is nothing I hate more than chasing people down for late materials, so I try to spare myself that!

        Reply
    2. EA Editor

      I’ve pushed the deadline back a couple of hours. What irritates me about this, is that before my boss and I started in these positions (we’re relatively new), there was no issue with timeliness on this report. However, I like both of your ideas. I will try to send the document out on Wednesday and ask for it a little later on Friday. It does mean adjusting my schedule but I think that I can manage it and it might cut down on the stress of getting this report handled. Thank you!

      Reply
      1. Seriously?

        I actually don’t think you should tell them a later deadline. You need to give them the “official” deadline but plan to start working on it later. Otherwise they might think it is ok to turn it in even later. Most likely they are scheduling their day with the deadline in mind and other things are cropping up and pushing the report back. If you shift the deadline you are telling them, then they will plan on doing it later and the cycle will repeat.

        Reply
        1. Luna

          +1! never move the deadline back, that will only lead them to submit it later and later. Keep it as it is (or if anything move it forward) and just plan for them turning it in an hour late.

          Reply
        2. Kathleen_A

          Yes, I agree with Seriously. Move the deadline, but don’t tell them you’ve moved the deadline. That way, most people will meet the deadline even if they don’t realize it.

          But do make sure you’re giving them enough time. Since, as you say, virtually everybody seems to have a problem with this deadline, that could be part of the problem. Don’t get me wrong: I’m confident that in most cases, the main problem is with the contributors. Most people are just being sloppy about the deadline because that’s what most people do. But odds are you have at least a couple of deadline-conscious folks there, so if nobody is making the deadline, that could indicate a problem with the deadline itself. So just make sure to evaluate that, too.

          Reply
      2. SpaceNovice

        Have you changed up how the report is formatted? More information? That can definitely do it. And there could be other reasons, but I wouldn’t be surprised if it speeds up slowly as they get used to how you’re doing things.

        Also–ask them what they need! Go to a few people individually (not together, as that creates group bias if you have a dominate personality; that’s why focus groups are bad) and ask for their feedback on the report process. You can mention that you’ve noticed they’re late and you want to see what you can do to help. An earlier first draft might be what’s needed. Also, if you’re gathering all this information and they’re providing feedback throughout the week, I might consider something where your group can collaborate in real time. There’s subscription services like Box that allow for real-time collaboration or you can do something as simple as a protected wiki (cybersecurity is important; keep that stuff locked down!). There’s also services that are for statuses and the like, but I didn’t research into them much.

        At my first job, I was responsible for smoothing over a software engineering process although I didn’t have authority. While those in charge of the process just grumbled about people not following the process, I went and asked what they needed. Some of it was training, some of it was just quick reference sheets, and others was finding an alternative workflow within the process for items that couldn’t conform for one reason or another. (An example: if a hard drive fails, you’re just going to replace it, there’s no Software QA involved!) If you can find ways to make the information useful over time to teams, that’d be amazing. (Make sure to involve the team with this. You’re trying to make their lives easier. You need the feedback and once you get feedback encouraged, you’ll get some brilliant ideas from others.)

        The secret to these sorts of situations is to not nag, but to assist. Yes, you have to do this annoying thing, how can I make it LESS annoying? Is there anything you have any questions about? What could we do to improve this? Instead of being a nag, you’re being a problem solver, and people respond amazingly well to this.

        Take my first job, for example. No one conformed to the engineering process when I first started–by the end of it, not only were people conforming but they were able to brag about it on their yearly reviews (oh, the number of people I taught about querying how many tickets they closed in a year, ha!), training others (correctly!), turning in perfect/complete documentation, turning in everything on time, and creating complex queries to give themselves real-time data! Some of the worst offenders became the strongest adherents. People at that level know what they need, and you will gain political capital about taking their needs into consideration. They will return that political capital by doing what you need to the best of their abilities.

        Also, I want to extend a thank you for writing in–you’re being incredibly considerate. I hope this advice helps! Don’t nag; do assist!

        Reply
      3. Autumnheart

        I would honestly move the deadline UP. If it used to be by 1pm, and people send them in at 2pm, set your deadline at 11am. You’ll still get them an hour past the deadline, but they won’t be an hour past YOUR deadline.

        Reply
      4. Story Nurse

        Ah, this is one of those places where time-based language is unclear! When you said you’d moved the deadline back, I assumed you meant you’d moved it EARLIER. Always give a deadline that is much earlier than when you actually need it, because no one will ever send you their materials early, and someone will always send them late.

        Reply
    3. Lil Fidget

      Yes, if I just need to create the option for people to weigh in, but don’t actually think most of them care or will want to, I’ll typically give a “by X time I’ll do Y thing.” It doesn’t always works, but at least it shifts the onus on them a little rather than on me. Delegating up is a real skill that you will use throughout your career, unfortunately.

      Reply
    4. Agent Diane

      I came here to flag the “here’s the report for a final fact-check: if I don’t hear by X, I will assume your section is factually accurate” approach.

      The focus on facts is important. You don’t mention the types of edit you get back, but by asking for a fact check rather than amends you’re focussing them on it being right not being in whatever their personal stylistic quirks are. That may help weed out petty style amends, and mean they respond in a more timely manner.

      Reply
    5. Midge

      I’m actually kind of surprised that the OP is spending a significant chunk of each week compiling what sounds like a pretty standard status report. Surely there are better things both she and these managers can be doing with their time than going through multiple rounds of edits on this. I wonder if the managers could just email her brief updates. No editing required! All she would have to do is compile and send them.

      Reply
      1. zora

        This was my thought. A weekly report sounds like a lot to me! We do monthly updates in our company, and that is plenty frequent to hear about the accounts you don’t actually work on.

        My first move would be to sit down with my boss and discuss the purpose of these reports and figure out if they really have to be weekly, or if they can shift to semi-monthly or monthly. This sounds like a lot of work for everyone involved.

        Reply
    6. Ealasaid

      Yep, these are good strategies. Definitely talk to your boss about things, too. If this is affecting your work, your boss needs to know.

      I’m a technical writer, and getting review comments out of people on time can be a nightmare. One thing I’ve learned (it took forever) is that if I get wound up about it, I start to see myself as a teacher and the reviewers as misbehaving students or similar, and the unspoken power differential messes up the dynamic. They aren’t following my rules! GRR! Nobody likes being on the receiving end of that kind of thing.

      They’re my equals (usually), we are team members, we want the same things (the report/doc/whatever to be finished and good), so we need to figure out the best way to accomplish that. Involving my manager is important, and I try to make sure I’m in the right headspace for it – if I’m wound up about the issue it’s easy for me to come across as a tattler, which is no good. :)

      Reply
    7. Ann Nonymous

      I think I’d insert “[No edits received.]” after the parts of the report where you didn’t get a timely response. And by timely, that means by exactly the deadline you gave them. No scrambling on your part to incorporate edits when they come in at X:03.

      Reply
    8. Kimberlee, no longer Esq.

      I agree. I had a weekly thing I had to put together that required input from a bunch of editors. Ultimately, there was a hard deadline and a finite number of editors, so if anyone was missing 1 hour before deadline, I’d usually send them a Slack message asking for it. But it was a weekly thing and everyone knew about it, there’s just not that many excuses. If they failed to ever get them in, well, I would send what I had and it was up to them to defend why their portion wasn’t included to their own managing editor.

      One detail that might be relevant is that this wasn’t a thing where people were late because they had to get input or spend a lot of time on it. With regular, fairly easy tasks like this, a lot of people simply plan to do it at the last minute, because it’s not worth it to plan out time to do it. My managing editor had always been like “you should require people to have them to you the day before, you’ll have more wiggle room then” and I’d just laugh. Nope, that wouldn’t help anything. There’s a hard 2:00 deadline, people know that, it takes 5 mins to throw this together, so they will start thinking about it maybe around 1:00 and if they don’t get to it until 1:55, that’s fine with them. That’s the reality.

      Reply
  8. Quoth the Raven

    OP#2, are these contracts always the same length and similar in complexity? What time do you send them out on Thursday? Because as Allison said, they may need more time depending on these variables in order to effectively edit, even without considering the need for additional questions they may have to answer. It’s definitely not the same if they receive these contracts at 10:00 AM than to get them at 4:30 PM, and it’s not the same to edit 50 pages than a 100 or 150. It’s something that may be worth considering, specially if they are only late by an hour.

    Maybe my experience colours my perception, but it’s something I run into fairly frequently in my work (I’m a translator). I work through an agency and I suspect they negotiate the delivery times based on the number of pages in the document, not the words — which has led to things like being asked to turn in a 60,000 word document in five days, way above the professional average of 2500-3000 words per day.

    Reply
    1. WonderingHowIGotHere

      This is a critical point. I have had to do something similar in one of my other roles, and the report is always sent at the same time (within 30 minutes depending on email server reliability) and is the same length. This process has been in place for years. The contributors know to expect it for review, and have been told to clear their calendars accordingly.
      Consequently, I actually took the opposite approach to what AAM suggested and *shortened* the deadline (with full managerial approval – it was actually one manager’s suggestion). The few who considered this piece of work unimportant (it was a requirement of *their* boss as well as the CEO, but hey, some people are just *better*) would still submit their edits late (I think, almost on principle), but it was now within the deadline that *I needed* it by to complete my work.

      Not a recommended approach at all – but the take away is that you probably need your managers’ buy-in to get everyone to do what you need, as long as you are also being consistent in your requests.

      Reply
      1. EA Editor

        This. This report is 20 pages. I’ve spoken to my boss about this and she’s been clear that they shouldn’t be hunting down this information each week but should know it due to the size and priority of these contracts. The main problem is that once this has been approved by my boss, she sends it to the Chairman of the Board and he expects these in a timely fashion. I try to leave enough wiggle room so that if there are questions, no one has to scramble to answer them.

        Reply
    2. The Cleaner

      When I had this problem, it really helped to talk to my boss to get clarity on the purpose, his priorities, and the audience.

      This is what we came up with — we shifted the report to a shared document, where each manager could make their own edits to their section as they wished, and sent the message (repeatedly!) that the boss would be looking at the report at 1 pm. At 1 pm, I turn off the editing ability of the contributors. I will continue to make some “clean up” edits (format, grammar, voice) as it is eventually shared with leadership, but my boss is still able to read for content while I am doing this. We use a template so people don’t have to fuss too much with header plus narrative plus data table for each section.

      There was also a little push-back from a few people about everyone being able to see each other’s information, but my boss was pretty strong on the idea that we SHOULD be able to see each other’s information for general business (we don’t use this system for the few occasions per year when we’re generating something extremely sensitive). And he’s also a little snarky, saying that if you have time to go and read everyone else’s section, then you DEFINITELY have time to get your edits in before 1 pm.

      Reply
  9. Sheralania

    LW4, I’m a person with a different sounding name. People pronounce it wrong all the time.
    When I was younger, I didn’t correct people. Now that im older, I do.
    I think AAMs response is perfect. I wouldn’t have been offended if an adult had approached me in this way. I would have appreciated it and it would have made me feel like you cared about me.

    Reply
    1. HS Teacher

      My first name is Tara, and I’ve heard it pronounced several different ways. Only “TAR-a” bothers me, so that’s the one I correct.

      Reply
    2. He-He-Hello

      I think I’ll have to just ask. I was hesitating between just waiting for her to graduate and saving us both a weird conversation, and just getting it over with so that we can end on a good note. I may need the AAM commenters to keep me honest, but I’m committing to asking when she comes in on Friday, and letting Alison know how it goes.

      Reply
  10. Elizabeth West

    Oh man, I haaaaate when coworkers go on and on about a show I don’t watch. Usually it’s either something I can’t see because I can’t afford or don’t want the channel (i.e. Game of Thrones on HBO) or it’s a show I wouldn’t watch if Hawkeye were standing over me with an arrow pointed at my head (Duck Dynasty).

    A coworker at an old job once had a friend who got on Fear Factor and she begged me to watch it to support her friend. Well I did and I regretted it — during one segment, they had to eat live snails IN THE SHELL and I had to leave the damn room and go do the dishes before I puked. The friend ended up winning, which was nice for her, I guess. But I don’t like competition shows, especially gross ones, and I won’t do that again.

    Reply
        1. Eliza

          Probably not legally, at least in the USA: the Animal Welfare Act only applies to warm-blooded animals, and while some state laws provide further protection, all the ones I’m aware of still exclude invertebrates.

          Reply
    1. Mr. Cholmondley-Warner

      I had a friend who tried to convince me to watch Game of Thrones. I tried to calmly explain that no, I’m not going to watch it, because I’m just not interested. I’d rather do anything else than watch a TV show that goes on for 8 years. The dude actually got angry. Weird.

      Reply
      1. LBK

        I mean, that’s, like…most shows, unless they do poorly and get cancelled early on. 8 seasons isn’t especially long.

        Reply
      1. annakarina1

        I do remember it, because my ex comes from the theater world and one of his actor friends was on it and knew how to do stage combat and LARP stuff.

        Reply
    2. Lady Phoenix

      I heard of escargot (and had it)… but the only raw shelled food you’ll ever see me eat is Oysters—and I am VERY picky about Oysters (the fresh oysters are the best as is… but the moment they show age than they are GROSS raw and are better of fried).

      Then again, it could be worse. They could have eaten raw octopus. That stuff can, has, and will in all actuality kill you

      Reply
      1. Elizabeth West

        I like clams (cooked) but I will never eat a raw oyster ever. They look like somebody hawked into a shell. :P I don’t eat octopus at all because they are very smart and I like them just as animals. If I were on a show (never!) and somebody said “Eat this octopus,” I would grab it and run to the ocean and set it free.

        Reply
    3. annakarina1

      I liked Fear Factor, but only the physical stunt parts, I liked seeing highly athletic people master difficult stunts (same why I like watching American Ninja Warrior). The gross-out stuff of eating bull testicles or being trapped in a box with spiders was awful to watch.

      Reply
    4. Hmmm

      That’s so odd, because at least with the Voice you can vote and stuff – it literally does nothing for that person that you watched Fear Factor. Even watching shows that they normally watch (like so you have something in common) would make more sense than that.

      Reply
    5. Thany

      The amount of people who try to convince me to watch Game of Thrones is astounding. I’m sure it’s a good show, but they can get really pushy about it. I try to only recommend shows, movie, books to people who I genuinely think would enjoy them. Not suggesting things that only I enjoy.

      Reply
  11. Kendra

    Moosejaw is one of those companies that tries to be cool. It was funny for like the first two emails and then it very quickly became obnoxious.

    Reply
  12. Rookie Manager

    Companies using ‘friendly’ or ‘cool’ language is nothing new. I worked for Abbey National, traditional bank, about 15 years ago when it changed to abbey, cool place that gives you money. The logo was changed to be a bubble writing thing that could be used in multiple colours, letters and statememts came out “Hi Firstname” and we were coached to answer calls in a colloquial way. This meant if someone phoned for a balance check we would have to answer “Yeah, you have about fifty quid to spend” instead of “Your account shows an available balance of £53.75”.

    There was a lot of pushback from older, or more accurate, customers. I currently have an account with their latest reincarnation and they have reverted to the traditional banking language again.

    Reply
    1. Mad Baggins

      Oh my word I would switch banks. I’m not asking a teenager how much money is in my account, I’m asking a bank teller, who presumably learned professional norms and wears business professional to work. Being too casual AND inaccurate really would undermine my trust in an institution like that.

      Reply
      1. Rookie Manager

        I was at the very bottom rung of the ladder (pt student call centre job) so can’t say for certain – but I think there was a loss of both trust and customers. I sometimes ignored the new guidelines and reverted to my original training as we did sound unprofessional. It was also harder to manage angry/shouty/perhaps sweary customers when we’d cultivated a laid back, anything goes tone to the call.

        Reply
        1. Lance

          I’d have absolutely zero doubt that there was an at least mild exodus of customers with those sorts of responses. I’m not calling a bank about my existing account to deal in approximates; I’m calling to know exactly how much I have in there.

          Reply
      2. paul

        Yeah…when I want to know how much money I have from my bank, I want them to frigging tell me to the penny, so I can reconcile my checkbook with my balance available!

        Reply
      3. Jadelyn

        I find that fascinating, particularly the dress code comment. The credit union I work at specifically went to a casual dress code a couple years ago *because* it made our members feel more comfortable with us. We’re completely okay with visible tattoos and piercings and unnatural hair colors – we actually had a loan officer who had facial tattoos and she was one of the best loan officers we had, the members loved her.

        I do agree that if I ask for my balance, I really want to know my actual balance, not “you’ve got about fifty bucks” – that would irk me to no end. “About” does not help when I’m trying to figure out how much in groceries I can afford this week.

        Reply
        1. Mad Baggins

          Interesting! Maybe if I had tattoos that would make me feel more welcome, but business professional dress is a statement that this a Professional place of Business, and that’s what I want in my bank, at the hospital, at the government office… I know having a facial tattoo doesn’t mean they aren’t a good worker but personally I think it reflects a decision to put self expression>professionalism and that wouldn’t jive with me.

          Reply
    2. Amandine

      I closed my account with them when that happened, and moved to a much more sensible bank. Never regretted that change.

      Reply
      1. Rookie Manager

        ‘To spend’ included any available money including overdraft. I can’t remember what the cool word for account balance was. *Ah, student jobs*

        Reply
    3. Falling Diphthong

      “Yeah, you have about fifty quid to spend.”
      “About? Omigod, you’re just guessing! What happened to my money?”
      “Dudette, chillax!”
      “This isn’t even the bank!!! What did you do with the real tellers?!”

      Reply
    4. SarahTheEntwife

      Argh! A lot of banks do project this intimidating, “we are too fancy to hold your pitiful salary” vibe, but this is going way too far in the other direction.

      Reply
      1. Falling Diphthong

        Someone once commented that one of the senior people in the office was kinda anal, and everyone was like “But he’s the accountant. If there’s one role in the office where I WANT someone who is really uptight and focuses on little things, it’s the person who makes sure I get paid.”

        Reply
        1. Parenthetically

          Yes! I value warmth as a general rule but by gum I want the people handling my money to be fussier than a Victorian spinster.

          Reply
    5. sunshyne84

      This reminds me of Mint Dentistry and their Sexy Teeth campaign. I don’t get it! I just want them clean.

      Reply
      1. Lindsay J

        Are they the ones running the commercial about how “there’s no need for anyone to have a yuck-mouth anymore” now? Because they’ve moved from irritating to kind of offensive to me with their language at this point.

        I wouldn’t be bothered by, “Nobody has to have crooked teeth anymore” or “Nobody needs to have yellow teeth anymore” but calling it a “yuck-mouth” is both juvenile and rude.

        Reply
    6. Oilpress

      I stopped using my ING/Tangerine bank account because of odd stuff like this. Example: To login to your account, you had to click on a button that said, “I’m a client, let me in!” I would trust my bank so much more if they just labeled the button “LOGIN”. ING/Tangerine also has such great promotional campaigns such as, “Save your money automagically with…” Automagically? Come on.

      Reply
  13. Crystal

    OP1, I think being a finalist on The Voice is a unique enough thing that the boss is just trying to bond people, like Allison said. It’s a pretty cool achievement on a national stage. I don’t think it’ll be a slippery slope at all, it’s a distinctive thing.

    Reply
    1. Anon.

      I have to second this. It’s okay to celebrate someone else’s achievement or happiness or whatever. It doesn’t diminish your own in any way.

      Reply
    2. LBK

      But I do still think it’s a weird thing to promote so aggressively for a coworker’s sibling – it sounds like this isn’t even the OP’s direct coworker, and presumably she’s never met this sibling. This is a few too many degrees of separation for anything beyond “Oh, that’s neat.” It doesn’t really merit what sound like several far-reaching emails pushing people to watch/vote.

      Reply
      1. sunshyne84

        Yea if it were like a well liked former coworker fine. I guess OP will just have to hope they get eliminated early on. lol

        Reply
    3. LawLady

      It’s also fundamentally a form of entertainment. I would imagine if the coworker’s brother had achieved some other cool, but less entertaining, thing, it would be weirder. (I’m thinking, like, being a finalist for an academic award.) But people love The Voice. Heck, there’s a group of people in my office who watch it and talk about it together, and we don’t have any connection to anyone on the show.

      Reply
  14. Anonymous Ampersand

    I worked with someone for two years before she nicely mentioned that I was putting the emphasis on her name wrong. I was mortified and changed, but everyone else in the office kept saying it wrong. I dunno whether they ignored her or what. Fwiw I was one of the newest members of staff.

    Reply
    1. baconeggandcheeseplease

      At least you were mortified! People pronounce my name wrong all the time (it’s an uncommon spelling of an easy to say american name otherwise), so I usually just ignore it or correct them if they ask, or find a casual way to say my name correctly without making them feel bad. I had a call with someone in an outer office and she pronounced it…very wrong and then asked me how to pronounce it because she realized she was probably saying it wrong. I told her and she goes “oh, close enough.” Her name was Wendy, and I really wanted to respond and say no problem, Wendall…

      Reply
      1. rldk

        Oh that is the worst – when they clearly show that they know they’re saying it wrong but won’t put in the effort to change even once you’ve corrected them.

        I have a very uncommon but still very English name, and it is a constant weighing of “how much do I care that they’re mangling my name”

        Reply
  15. Mr. Cholmondley-Warner

    #3. This is on my list of least favourite things. Julie Andrews can sing a song about it.
    My company recently launched a new webpage with “useful” links that really just replaced the previous page with the same links. Then yesterday they sent a mail with some feedback they got from employees, with things like “Logging in every time you visit is super annoying.” Super. Like totally! Rad!

    Reply
    1. Agnes

      I was on the Delta frequent flyer website, and it would not let me log in. I’d change the password, type it in, and it would pop up “OOOPS! That’s not right!” I was like, don’t cutesily tell me the password was wrong, fix your f’ing website.

      Reply
      1. Snark

        I feel this way about cutesy 404 pages. “Oh noes! A robot kitten is playing with the page you were looking for! Try using our search bar to find where it got off to.”

        Reply
        1. AnotherAlison

          Yes, it was cute. Once. 15 years ago. Especially annoying when you read a blog post that teases a topic and says if you really want to, say, fix your tweaked knee see the whole workout at this link, and the link doesn’t exist. Dang it. How am I going to fix my knee now?

          Reply
        2. Lora

          If they could Blingee that 404 page with Justin Bieber riding a sparkly unicorn, maybe some midi background music though…

          Reply
        3. GG Two shoes

          The only one of these I like is Reddit’s. It usually says, “you broke it.” with the little reddit alien. That’s appropriate for the site though.

          Reply
      2. PB

        Yes, this drives me crazy. “Whoopsies! Looks like you’ve got a password problem!” No. Just tell me I have an error and I’ll fix it. I don’t need you to get cute with it.

        Reply
        1. smoke tree

          It’s probably a good general rule that you shouldn’t speak to customers the same way you’d speak to a toddler that soiled itself.

          Reply
      3. Cousin Itt

        What I really wish they’d do on those incorrect password pages is remind you of the password requirements (10 characters long, capital letters, at least one symbol, etc.)

        Reply
        1. Rookie Manager

          Me too! If I got that reminder I probably wouldn’t get as many ‘new password not acceptable as same as the last password’ messages when I try and reset it.

          Reply
  16. NYC Weez

    Ugh the weekly report…

    It’s a high priority for my coworkers that generate it. It’s a low priority for our team. I am the liaison between the two.

    I know the deadline and when you need it. I totally plan on delivering it to you on time each week. And then we have 3-4 fires to put out and I’m in meetings all am, and the next thing I know, you’re sending me an email asking me where the heck my team’s notes are.

    My recommendation is to revisit the purpose of this report. It sounds like your boss wants everyone to be up to speed on the company business, but if you struggle this much to get edits, are people (besides your boss) actually relying on this report, or even reading it? IME, the more data that gets conveyed, the less people pay attention to it. We finally switched to a more immediate system—our team is responsible for uploading our own info as soon as it’s needed, so no need for someone else to hound us for it, or for us to have to remember to do it later. It’s stored in a central location, but it’s blocked out by workgroup/project, so you don’t need to wade through everything to find info on a specific job. This system works for us because it aligns with why the info was being distributed in the first place.

    Reply
    1. eplawyer

      I was wondering too. Do they really need weekly updates on major contracts? Do things happen that much from week to week? I kinda doubt you need a major report that says “did the same thing as last week only a bit more to move forward” that requires several days worth of work to put together.

      Is there a better format to do this? Or if it’s really necessary, then it needs to be prioritized as such with someone other than the admin being responsible for it. Someone with the time and clout to chase down late reports.

      Reply
      1. Mike C.

        I see so many reports like these – teams are rushing to get them done by hand every week and then they just get tossed in the round file.

        Reply
      2. EA Editor

        This is due each week to the Chairman of the Board. I have wondered before if he really reviews it, and he does (he’s had some questions) but at the end of the day, we are all answerable to him. Also, due to the nature of these contracts, we are answerable to the government for where they are at. I agree that this is a task that probably makes everyone cringe each week but it is important- and unfortunately I am the one who has to collect it.

        Reply
        1. CAA

          Ah, I was wondering if it might be government contracts. All of our contracts require weekly status reports. Our process is on Monday morning, our Admin copies the previous report files to a new folder on the Sharepoint server and labels them with the new date and as drafts. Each Project Manager is then responsible for updating their section(s) and marking as final by Friday at noon ET, and the Program Director does the overall summary by end-of-day. Each section follows a standard format of accomplishments this week, goals for next week, financials. I don’t do this unless I’m filling in for someone, but even when I do, it takes me less than a half-hour, and I expect the PMs should be much faster at it.

          On Monday morning, the Admin combines it all into a document, does a final edit, and emails it out for review. It goes to the customer on Monday afternoon, then the whole thing starts over. Failing to get your status in on time means a conversation with the Program Director, because he’s going to have to do your part for you; and failing more than once without a “life-or-death emergency” type of excuse is likely to get you put on a PIP. I don’t know if you can go that far, but if there are contractual requirements that back this up, maybe that can be emphasized a bit more. Not meeting the requirements of a government contract puts everyone’s job at risk.

          Reply
          1. CAA

            Oh, also there is some light public shaming that seems to work. An email goes out right around the deadline listing the status of each section, and asking when the incomplete ones will be done; so everyone can clearly see who hasn’t completed their stuff yet and they usually reply-all with a “sorry, on it right now” message.

            Reply
          2. eplawyer

            But you’ve standardized it and put more emphasis on the people who have the information to write the report. It goes MUCH faster this way.

            Perhaps reformatting might be easier since you are stuck with the report.

            Reply
  17. Jennifleurs

    OP2 as someone who’s name is constantly mispronounced I would love it if someone who’d been saying it wrong for years corrected themselves. It shows a bit of effort and caring that not everyone shows.

    Reply
    1. Thlayli

      On the other hand some people don’t really mind. I have an unusual name and lots of people pronounce it wrong. It really doesn’t bother me in the slightest. If someone asks I will tell them the correct way, but I don’t correct people otherwise.

      Reply
    2. Pollygrammer

      I know a really easygoing guy who will always tell people they’re pronouncing his name right–but they’re all saying it fairly differently.

      Reply
  18. Kate

    #2
    A full edited report each week? That seems like…a lot, which may be part of the problem here if the managers don’t feel like this is a good use of their time. I can see sending weekly bullets, but having to read and edit a report on my work is not something I would want to do more than every two weeks at most (and it would put me behind on work).

    Reply
    1. EA Editor

      The entire document is a report but the edits consist of one or two sentences. I understand that it might not be their favorite task but it’s not my requirement. Furthermore, this is a task that has been part of their routine for years. It is just recently that everyone has decided not to respond in a timely fashion. I am not sure if it’s because I’ve only recently started in this position or because my boss is also new to her role. Either way, I’ve tried to accommodate their timeline but even in doing so, I get late responses.

      Reply
      1. Lil Fidget

        Yes, in my experience with something similar, I would get slippage no matter when I made the actual deadline. When it was one PM, I would get them at three; so I changed the deadline to three, but then I’d get them at five. Basically people were always going to wait until it was a crisis. I ended up doing the annoying thing where I “pretend” the deadline is one and that it’s set in stone, but my actual mental deadline was three.

        Reply
      2. Agent Diane

        If you really want to wake them up, provide the report with a “x and y teams did not respond by deadline”. Give them a month or so on “please confirm factually accurate”, then a month having private words with late teams, then tell the boss’s boss who is still not filing on time.

        Right now they are taking advantage of you and your boss’s newness to slack off on something they can do on time. They are no longer seeing it as important, and they are not seeing any consequences for that. Create consequences.

        Reply
      3. Seriously?

        Can you tell them that you have noticed that they are turning in the report later and later and ask if there is a reason? Maybe your boss has done something to change their workflow or increase the number of tasks and that is why it is now late. Or maybe some key people left at around the time you started. If there is a reason, then if you learn what it is you can work around it and if there is not a reason then they will be more aware that getting the report to you late actually is a problem.

        Reply
        1. EA Editor

          Early on I asked if there was a timeline that worked better for them and they insisted that they were fine with the established timeline. However this is clearly not the case. They are a little understaffed at the moment but I need some communication if the current due dates / times are not working and I haven’t had anything so far other than “Sorry we’re late, here it is.”.

          Reply
      4. Kate

        Totally understand that it’s not your requirement – I’m just pointing out that this may be people pushing back against that requirement, which at least in my field would be perceived as excessive/micromanage-y. Ideally they would talk to your boss about this instead (and maybe they have, who knows). This is more about your boss/the managers than you, but unfortunately you are stuck in the middle.
        If it were me (or one of my direct reports) I would say to go ahead and send the report out even if you haven’t heard from everyone – but you should probably check with your manager before taking that step.

        Reply
        1. AdAgencyChick

          Yup, I’m late to the party here, but I sympathize with the late coworkers. They probably don’t see the value in dropping whatever it is they are doing for an internal report. If our agency’s admin handed me a report that’s solely for internal purposes at close of business on Thursday and told me I had to revise it by midday the next day, I would do it only if I didn’t have client-related work to take care of, which I nearly always do.

          Which is not OP’s fault, but I think OP needs to talk to the boss, not press the coworkers — to say that she’s having trouble getting responses within the turnaround time needed, and how should we handle that? Maybe the boss will realize that hey, half a business day is not enough time to get something like this done every single week, so the report should go out every other week instead. Or maybe the boss will start coming down harder on the coworkers (in which case the coworkers should use their best AAM techniques to negotiate pushing something else off their plates to make room for the report).

          But I think the solution is in some kind of acknowledgment by the boss that a weekly report that requires inputs from multiple people is a lot of work, NOT some magic words that OP can say to her coworkers to make them do it faster!

          Reply
  19. A. Schuyler

    #4 reminds me of a report for which I used to be responsible. It was a weekly update from our middle managers to our senior managers with updates on clients, key issues, workflow, that sort of thing. They were meant to send me updates by Friday noon but I routinely got them at like 5pm, which meant I was in the office until 6pm or so finishing the report and nobody was around for follow-up questions.

    What worked for me in terms of getting those inputs in time was: a) following up individually so people knew I was waiting on them; and b) letting my senior leaders know that the chain was being dragged (though not by who) so they could add some weight to it. Basically, it came down to accountability and letting them know the impacts of their actions, like Alison mentioned.

    The report ultimately got cancelled in a drive to remove low-value tasks. It’s fair enough, since there’s a lot of very open dialogue so the senior leaders rarely learned anything solely via the report. I don’t miss staying back on a Friday to get it done, but I do miss feeling so informed.

    Reply
    1. Lil Fidget

      Yes, there’s nothing OP can do about it, but in a lot of cases these types of reports aren’t really critical anyway – weekly updates, etc. I was responsible for many in my early career and they were ALWAYS a pain in the neck. Often they would later be dropped and nobody even missed them. There’s usually a better way to stay on top of tasks.

      Reply
    2. Luna

      I like your point about following up individually with the late people, that has often helped me too when in similar situations.

      Reply
  20. Delta Delta

    #1 – This seems like the kind of situation where, if the email annoys you, delete it and move on. It’s relatively difficult for a contestant to get on to a reality show, and (perhaps blessedly) it is of relatively short duration. This will pass when the season is over or the sister gets voted off, or however it is that her tenure on the show ends.

    Reply
    1. Blue Cupcake

      Yeah, I get lots of emails that I don’t belong on or don’t want/need. I’m sure that happens to almost everybody that has a work email.
      It’ll be different if the boss is sending it to you personally but since this is a mass email, just delete. You don’t even have to open it if the subject line show what it’s about.

      Reply
  21. Kinder gentler manager

    OP #3 – there is actually a reason for this shift that ironically can be pinned on the banking and financial industry. The financial crisis in 2008-2009 started a wave of distrust in “big companies” that has only continued since then. Think the Deepwater Horizon oil spill, the fashion industry and the exposing of factory conditions in China, most recently the airline industry and their treatment of customers.

    For a lot of companies, they have switched to a more informal, personal tone to try and gain trust, or seem more like your friend than a “big company”. Some get it right, and some get it very, very wrong.

    Reply
    1. Snark

      Yup. And I think there’s also a very self-conscious attempt to use the language and mannerisms of younger generations to accomplish that – we can’t be evil corporate drones, we’re millennials! And I feel like more often than not, there’s a strong “how do you do, fellow kids?” vibe when they try to do it.

      Reply
      1. Mr. Cholmondley-Warner

        Reminds me of those middle aged people who used to come to my high school and rap at us about Jesus and drugs.

        Reply
      2. Rockhopper

        Perhaps the banks should note that the “fellow kids” are the ones with no money and large student loans. We old curmudgeons are the ones with the money.

        Reply
        1. Luna

          Um, not always. Besides don’t banks make tons of money off of interest rate charges on the people who can’t pay off all their loans & credit cards each month?

          Reply
        1. Snark

          I’m so gratified that people are starting to realize Zuckerberg is malign, even if he successfully fronts like an innocent techie dweeb.

          Reply
      3. SpaceNovice

        +1 to the “how do you do, fellow kids?” impression; that was my first thought as well. I was hoping someone else would point it out in the comments.

        Reply
    2. Lora

      I realize I am saying this as a professional Big Pharma minion, but another option is simply to stop being evil.

      Like, I am 100% sure that if Big Pharma announced that they were lowering prices on a sliding scale on all products, and that Martin Shkreli was being publicly flogged, it would go a LOT further than cutesy marketing.

      I kinda feel like if the financial industry wanted to improve its image it could stop falsifying and robo-signing foreclosure related documents and bring back the separation between different sectors that existed in Glass-Steagall days. Maybe hang a few Wells Fargo executives for scoundrels, put their heads on pikestaffs next to the bull sculpture.

      Reply
      1. Parenthetically

        Excuse me, are you suggesting meaningful change instead of tone-deaf sloganeering, multimillion-dollar marketing campaigns, and other general band-aids? That is… it’s… it’s UNAMERICAN.

        /s

        Reply
  22. Oxford Coma

    I have a coworker who explicitly asked to be called by his full first name when he started, and I was one of about three people who adhered to his request. (Software engineers just love nicknames, I guess? IDK, but it’s rude.) Recently I noticed that his e-mail signature uses the nickname. I guess I need to ask him if he just gave up, or if he still actually prefers it the original way.

    Reply
    1. He-He-Hello

      I had a coworker who would get extremely upset if anyone shortened her name (a commonly shortened name, and she occasionally introduced herself as “nickname”) and correct them to use her full name, but she would also give other coworkers nicknames that were both longer than their original name and ridiculus and refer to them as that in a formal setting even after being asked to stop.

      Reply
  23. tam-ra

    My name is Tamara pronounced tam-ra with the middle “a” silent. I get Tam-ear-ah, Ta-MAR-ah, and all other variations. I correct people the first couple of times they say it incorrectly, but then just ignore it. I do occasionally get someone asking “how’s your name pronounced”, which is best. There are some people that have been saying it wrong for years at work.

    Reply
    1. GG Two shoes

      I have a friend who’s name is Andrea, but is pronounced On-Dre-Ah, (accented on both ends). I cringe so hard for her at our conference where she was introduced in every pronunciation but the correct one. I know she was used to it- it seemed to bother me more than her. lol

      Reply
    2. Also a Tam-ra

      Also a Tamara here, and I pronounce it the same. If people have trouble I tell them it’s like ‘camera’ but with a T. But really as long as they don’t call me Tam or Tammy I don’t care how they pronounce it.

      Reply
  24. Adlib

    OP2 – My friend and coworker does a very similar thing in her role. Is it possible for you to see if it would be acceptable to tell the managers that if they don’t submit by the deadline, the write-ups will be considered “approved” for submittal? That way they know that it will go out if they don’t submit changes by the deadline. Of course, you’d need to clear this with your boss.

    Reply
    1. Lil Fidget

      Or if your boss won’t approve that, can you call the late people at the deadline and just get a verbal sign-off? I can sometimes get people to budge face to face or over the phone, who were never going to open that email and reply to it. Bonus, people don’t like to be followed up with face to face, so they may make it more of a priority to get the edits in next time to avoid you.

      Reply
  25. Lauren K Milligan

    #5, only speak about the time that you and your coworker actually worked together, at the first company. If you are asked about your experience with him at the second company, answer that while your paths crossed, you didn’t work with him and therefore, can’t speak about that portion of his career.
    Just because a question is asked, you don’t have to answer it. If they dig in, hold firm and tell them they’ll need to speak to someone else about that particular time. That’s it.

    Reply
    1. Thlayli

      Except OP says it would be really obvious that their paths did cross at second company. (Possibly from linked in or something).

      Reply
      1. LW 5

        Yes-we work in a specific role where it would be very clear to most people in our field that there was at least some interaction, and there was enough overlap that if they looked at my LinkedIn profile it would be obvious that we were there at the same time.

        Reply
        1. Lauren K Milligan

          I own a career management company and I do reference checks. Respectfully, I believe you’re overthinking this. If you tell them that you didn’t work directly with them at company two, I doubt they’ll give you any pushback. They aren’t checking up on YOU so they would have no reason to doubt you, or trap you in your answers.
          Good luck!

          Reply
  26. Tea

    #1-This just sounds like one of those stupid work things you should just ignore and delete as they come-then make fun of to your friend outside of work when you meet for brunch. It’s not something unprofessional enough to push back against. You may even begin to find pleasure in deleting these emails as they come in because they are dumb. And really, if everyone just ignores these emails, your manager may just realize nobody is excited about this so she may taper off.

    In relation to this: I once slowly ghosted a friend after she unsuccessfully auditioned for American Idol (and later the Voice) for years on end. One one hand, good for you to not give up on your dream, but on the other, please stop singing in public while we are on the subway together. I’m a hater, I know, but vocalizations annoy me.

    Reply
  27. Melodious Thunk

    Re: OP #2, here is a PSA: “verbiage” = “speech or writing that uses too many words or excessively technical expressions.” Please do not use that word just to sound more fancy when what you mean is “words” or “phrases” because, in doing so, you are suggesting that the text in question (which may well be your own writing) is overly ornate or arcane.

    Reply
    1. CDM

      And you ignored the second definition,
      US: the way in which something is expressed; wording or diction.

      OP#2’s choice of words is perfectly acceptable and clearly understandable for US business writing.

      Reply
      1. Melodious Thunk

        Gosh, sorry! I really was thinking it was a PSA, since lots of people use the word wrongly and I used to do so myself before looking it up.

        Reply
  28. Viki

    OP2: Way back when I was out of school in my first job, I was a technical report writer. We had big contracts with big companies to safety test their parts before they were legally able to sell. The engineers tested it and once the tests were done, I had to write and edit a full report with schematics, charts, pictures, etc. in a forty-eight (48) hour turn around.

    I don’t think you have the exact same pressure turn around date, but these reports were promised to clients without consulting the engineers or the report writer and it didn’t taken in variables as multiple engineers working on multiple tests ending on all the same day, and giving the report writer all the results on the same day. The test could be finished, but the data unproccessed so the report wasn’t able to be written in the expected time. The engineers forgot to give the writer the results, leaving them on their desk.

    There are many variables when you’re working on reports like this and I think if the deadline is consistently being missed, you need to look at the process and see what has the biggest deviation time. Is it the data collection, the data processing, the edits?

    What can you do to streamline this? Is there a form you can set up that means all they need to do is input data and generate the report via software? Obviously there is a flaw in the system and what currently is working is not viable for your needs, so you need to look at what can and should be changed as well.

    Reply
    1. CM

      I like the streamlining idea for OP#2.
      The idea I had was for her to physically go around to everybody’s offices, or call them if they’re not in the immediate area, and get their edits in-person on Friday morning. (This will only work if the edits can be done quickly and it’s just a matter of people not turning their attention to the report. It won’t work if they need to put thought into the edits; but if that’s the case, half a day is a tight deadline.)

      Reply
  29. Bea W

    #2 – I wonder what time of day on Thursday the email is going out. If it’s near the end of the day, that leaves very little time for people to review and edit, especially if there tends to be a lot to catch up on first thing in the morning or meetings. I agree with Alison, it sounds like maybe people aren’t being given enough time to review and edit since the OP mentions “never” getting responses on time. That’s a pattern that can’t be ignored. The OP says it takes most of the week for her to get the information and do her edits. It may be reasonable to expect that the reviewers need more than part of a day to do the same. It also makes me wonder if there is some way the process can be made more efficient.

    Reply
    1. EA Editor

      I generally finalize my draft around 11am and submit to the managers then. Just like the managers, I am not only responsible for this report, so I am not inclined to send it out earlier and disrupt my workflow. I do take all week to make edits but that’s because there is a lot of back forth with the managers and myself. An example is that they will say that something was submitted for approval and then never update the status to reflect whether it was approved or not. I follow up with them to see where it is at in the approval process. I also have to verify information that they include because it’s often a little off. Maybe there’s been a change order and the contract value has increased. They rarely let me know if this is the case, so I have to double check each contract to ensure all values are correct. In reality, if they took a few minutes of their time and made sure their weekly update was complete, we could have this entire report finished by Monday.

      Reply
      1. WellRed

        Hmm, you say you and your boss are both new and the report timeliness wasn’t a problem before (are you sure about that, btw?). Did the previous report require all this back and forth of edits and approvals etc or are you holding it to a different standard maybe?

        Reply
      2. WellRed

        Also, if you give me a report at 11 to finalize by 1, well, that’s kind of tight, especially since I eat lunch.

        Reply
        1. EA Editor

          11 am Thursday for 1 pm Friday. My boss tells me it wasn’t a problem before, I suppose she could be wrong. I am taking her word for it. The former EA told me that she also spent a lot of time editing but she did say that she eventually left it to her boss at the time to decide if it was good enough or make changes because the actual updates weren’t her responsibility. I have a hard time letting something cross my desk to my boss’ when I know it’s incomplete, incorrect, etc. So to answer your question, I think I am holding it to a different standard but I know my boss does as well and I don’t feel that she should have to waste time on the edits when I am able to handle them.

          Reply
  30. Charlotte Gray

    OP3, I usually find that annoying too, but a few months ago (during Mardi Gras season) I got an email from a New Orleans-based company who’d had an email glitch and sent out notifications for past orders that I thought was pretty great (and in line with their general tone overall). It included the line “Not sure what happened, but we shoved some king cake into the server and it seems to have helped” hehehehe

    Reply
    1. BadWolf

      I like that one!

      We support a piece of hardware that’s on the finicky side — internally we make jokes about bringing it a hot cocoa and reading it bedtime stories so it remains happy and keeps working.

      Reply
      1. Lindsay J

        At my old job there were two factions concerning how to make the money processing machines work.

        One faction believed you needed to curse at the machine and threaten to send it to the junkyard.

        The other faction believed you needed to sweet-talk and cajole it into doing what you wanted.

        I was on team nice. The machine usually worked for me.

        Reply
    2. Parenthetically

      Mild self-deprecation that scans with a generally casual tone is good, IMO. It’s the obviously put-on marketerese that makes me bananas — Snark characterized it above as a “How do you do, fellow kids?” vibe.

      Reply
  31. finderskeepers

    #3 I have to admit , I can’t tell any significant difference between TAM-er-ah and Tam-AH- rah . When you say the three syllables, the middle one is so short, it seems like most people are just inperceptible to the difference. It’s not like pronouncing, say, Joan as one syllable or two.

    Reply
    1. finderskeepers

      Obviously that should be #4 … and on further thought, perhaps the OP meant to say one pronunciation was TA-mer-ah?

      Reply
      1. fposte

        I don’t think so; most Tameras I know use the TAM-er-ah pronunciation, which can be elided to TAM-rah. I don’t think I’ve ever met a TAH-mer-ah, which is how I’m interpreting your variation.

        But to me syllabic stress is the big difference–are you accounting for that? It’s not so much that the middle syllable is ah versus er, it’s that one is TAM-ra and one is basically “tomorrow” with an ah at the end.

        Reply
          1. fposte

            I’m at a university and see hundreds of new students every year. I know a lot of everybody :-).

            I just was wondering if you were thinking this was a Mary, marry, merry situation, where in the Midwest they’re pronounced the same, when what’s being described is a Mary vs. Marie situation, which are differentiated by different syllabic stress even in the Midwest.

            Reply
        1. finderskeepers

          I suppose overall point is that I have rolled my eyes at people when they try to correct my pronunciation and I don’t see any aural difference to what they say and what I said. I find it to be an indirect criticism of my “accent”.

          Reply
          1. fposte

            That’s an interesting point! To me it’s not the same thing, but I know the thing you mean–I’m not sure I can muster the differences between Tara, Tara, and Tara that I hear the Taras offering. It’s worse with my UK friends, where nearly-imperceptible-to-me changes in pronunciation on something like “Sharon” mean massive class differences.

            Reply
            1. Oxford Coma

              The only time I’ve heard a different pronounciation of Tara was with Rhona Mitra’s character on Boston Legal. I assumed it was a British thing, so I feel slightly validated now. :p

              Reply
          2. Falling Diphthong

            I would really hesitate to do that with something as emotionally laden as names. Other words, there’s no need for people to call it out–I cannot hear vowel differences that are obvious to my linguistically-adept spouse and offspring. But names matter to people, and not in a mocking-you way.

            Plus where the accent goes on a word is much clearer than all the ways to pronounce the letter o. Like, FOR-got and for-GOT will sound different enough if you exaggerate that you can tell which is correct, while fergot and firgot and furgot is a lot harder.

            Reply
            1. finderskeepers

              If someone makes a good faith effort to pronounce a name, repeatedly correcting them is mocking them. It could be auditory, verbal, speaking with a foreign accent , or some combination.

              And yes, calling people out for pronunciation difference like FOR-got vs for-GOT (I cannot make the difference) falls into this.

              Reply
        2. Environmental Compliance (was Environmental Navy Wife)

          I once worked on a team that had both a TAH-mer-ah and a TAM-er-ah. Both also went by Tammi/Tami. It was fun. Also one of the only offices that never had a problem getting my name right.

          (To tie into the regional discussions, this was in a Midwest/Great Lakes state, and both Tammi and Tami were from the area.)

          Reply
            1. Environmental Compliance (was Environmental Navy Wife)

              They pronounced both the same! It somewhat became a running joke between the two of them that one was One M and the other was Two Ms.

              Reply
              1. TheCupcakeCounter

                At old job we had 2 VP’s with the same name but spelled differently. Instead of going with Tom P and Tomm Z we had One M and Two M

                Reply
    2. Espeon

      I think perhaps accent and dialect play a part with that too. In my “well-spoken” English accent I find the difference much clearer between the two. Interesting!

      I have a cousin Ta-MAR-ah.

      Reply
      1. finderskeepers

        I have lived in the midwest/great lakes for over a decade and never heard any aural distinction between these two pronunciations.

        Reply
        1. fposte

          It could also be you don’t know any Tuh-MERR-ahs. The other pronunciation is a lot less common in my experience in the same region.

          Reply
    3. LBK

      They’re completely different pronunciations, so maybe the phonetics just aren’t clear – the emphasis on the second syllable is the main difference.

      Reply
    4. Elizabeth H.

      They’re completely different. One pronunciation is “TAM” (rhymes with “jam”), “er” (like the end of the word “spider”), “a” (like the first letter in “another) and the stress is on the first syllable. Another pronunciation is “ta” (rhymes with the “tra” in the word “traditional”), “MAIR” (rhymes with “bear,” “fair,” “hare”), same “a” at the end of the word and the stress is on the middle syllable.

      Another version of the second version would be where you still have stress in the second syllable but the “MAR” is pronounced as in “Mar-a-Lago” or rhymes with “char,” “car.” There are doubtless other variations of pronunciation.

      Reply
        1. fposte

          No, she says one starts with TAM, stressed, and the other starts with tam, unstressed. The placement of the m doesn’t change the stress; you could break the syllable up before it in both instances without changing the pronunciation indicated.

          Reply
    5. He-He-Hello

      The volunteer’s name is not actually Tamara, but it is a very common name with a common spelling that is being pronounced in a way that I *personally* haven’t heard often. I used “Tamara” as a stand in because I know two people with that name that pronounce it in two separate ways and are pretty adamant about what their name is.

      Reply
    6. Jennifer Thneed

      You know how the word “data” can be pronounced two different ways? Well, there was a tv show once where that was a character’s name: Data, with a long initial a. Like Day-tuh.

      A designed-to-be-disliked character met him and called him Data. Like Dah-tuh. And then she brushed it off with “data, data, same thing”. WHICH IT IS, when you’re talking about a bunch of information, but when you’re talking about a person’s name, how it’s pronounced is part of the name.

      (And Joan in 2 syllables is likewise a different name: Joanne.)

      Reply
      1. Jennifer Thneed

        And I’m reminded of a comedy sketch that was maybe on SNL years ago? Where someone is reading song lyrics, and it’s the “You say tomayto, I say tomahto” song, only the person reading the words doesn’t know they can pronounced differently and they. are. baffled.

        “You say tomayto, I say tomayto, let’s call the whole thing off???”

        Reply
  32. Scubacat

    #5) Could have been me posting about a former roommate. However, I do not want to be a reference (and am not) for this person. Here’s how the story goes. A few years ago I move in with Jon and Bran from work. Jon is a recovering addict, and spoke often about this. Work was also aware of Jon’s history. For many years, Jon performed well and was even promoted. When Jon asked if I could be a reference for him, I agreed. Though his personality was that of a donkey, Jon did good work. And then things started to go downhill. Jon’s addiction came back at full strength. He was fired from work. Then, he stole money from roommate Bran and was evicted. His behaviour was so horrible that I wouldn’t feel comfortable ever being a reference now. If a workplace did call me, I’d opt out by legitimately claiming that I never functioned as Jon’s supervisor. Though I admire OP #5 wanting to help, their professional reputation could take a hit.

    Reply
    1. LW 5

      Thanks for sharing your story. It makes me feel better about it if I do decide that I can’t be a reference at all, because the damage is real, even if I wasn’t directly mistreated, making it doubly important that I not act like it was all good. My professional reputation is very important to me.

      Reply
    2. Lindsay J

      At my job, HR was demonstrating how you can give a reference without actually giving a reference, since we’re not actually allowed to give references.

      Her example was that she called someone to ask about a job candidate, and their only response was a sigh and, “Betty, surely you have other candidates for the job,” and that told her all she needed to know.

      I would consider using this response for someone like Jon.

      Reply
    3. The Expendable Redshirt

      I think that OP5 has two real options here.
      1) Give a reference with both the good and bad professional feedback. ( Alex was good at llama grooming. Though the company had to let him go at the end).
      2) Decline to be a reference.

      When I was faced with these two choices, I did think about what would be least damaging to Jon. In this case, the negatives far outweighed the positive statements that I could give about his work performance. Me opting out was actually the best that I could do for Jon.
      The third option of only giving a positive reference would likely cost the OP some reputation points.

      Reply
  33. essEss

    My first reaction to the letter about missed deadlines is that you aren’t really giving them a deadline if you still do the edits for things that you received late. If you say “X” is the deadline, then do not make changes that you received after that time. If you get changes late and they later ask why their edits weren’t in the report you can simply tell them that the deadline was 1pm so you were unable to accommodate any changes that were received after that point. To prepare them for this FIRM deadline, next time you send out the request for comments make it clear in the message that you have other commitments that need to be worked on after the deadline so all revisions will need to be received by 1pm in order to make it into the final edit. Currently they don’t have incentive to meet the deadline if you don’t really treat it as a deadline.

    Reply
    1. Lil Fidget

      Unfortunately OP would need the support of the boss to do this. One of the difficulties of “managing up” is that you often can’t take a firm tone or refuse to accommodate senior people. You have to work with them.

      Reply
    2. McWhadden

      Sadly, admins don’t generally have that kind of latitude. And it seems as though this report is ultimately OP’s responsibility to compile. So, if it’s inaccurate it will be on her. I don’t think saying “well, edits came in at 2:00 rather than 1:00” will fly.

      Reply
      1. EA Editor

        My boss is not going to allow us to turn incomplete or incorrect work into the Chairman. Also, I feel responsible for ensuring this is complete when it’s due to my boss. What am I here for if I can’t even get this seemingly simple report done each week?

        Reply
        1. Penny Lane

          if your boss isn’t going to turn incomplete work into the chairman, he or she can lean on the slackers and tell them they’d better adhere to the deadlines or else.

          One technique I think is useful is to put the incomplete work in red font so they have to turn it black when they edit.

          Reply
  34. Lily in NYC

    I think the Voice thing sounds like fun. It’s not like it’s mandatory to be excited about it so just delete the emails. I had a coworker who was a contestant on Survivor (back when it was still popular) and we had viewing parties on Thursday nights and it was kind of a blast. I’m usually not a “joiner” but it added some much-needed variety to the job.

    Reply
    1. BuffaLove

      Right, and I’m curious what other causes OP #1 is thinking about, because voting for a contestant on a reality show is a pretty low bar, especially if you already watch the show (and no one would ever know if you didn’t do it). It’s not really akin to asking someone to support a charity or something along those lines.

      Reply
      1. Lindsay J

        And it’s also something that’s pretty darn easy to ignore.

        I have acquaintances post on Facebook occasionally asking me to vote for their entry or one of their friends entries in some contest or another.

        If I’m interested, I’ll click and vote. 99% of the time, I ignore it.

        And it’s not like the boss could check to verify that the people in the office voted or didn’t or anything. And it doesn’t cost much time or any money to do it if you so choose.

        Reply
  35. Mass

    #2 I put together proposals at my job and always need the help of directors in my company. I have a few people that get things to me on time but a few others that are notorious for being late. Because of this, I always have a buffer between the deadline I give them and my actual deadline. For example, if I NEED something done by Thursday, I’ll give them a deadline of Tuesday end of day. That way, I can spend my Wednesday pestering them until it gets done :)

    Reply
  36. Environmental Compliance (was Environmental Navy Wife)

    I’m another someone whose name is constantly pronounced incorrectly….because everyone substitutes in some similar sounding name and calls it good. I usually simply don’t answer to anything but my actual name, which has led to some pretty interesting interactions.

    “Catherine (or some variation thereof)! I need XYZ!”
    *crickets*
    “Catherine!!!!!”
    *more crickets*
    “CATHERINE! *stomps up* Jesus, why aren’t you answering me? I need XYZ!”
    “Possibly because my name isn’t, and has never been, Catherine.”

    Also occurs with Kathy, Katelynn, Katarina, Kelsey, ….really anything that begins with a C or K.

    Reply
    1. finderskeepers

      Are we now talking about the difference between pronouncing Catherine as two syllables vs three syllables?

      Reply
      1. Environmental Compliance (was Environmental Navy Wife)

        Oh, I get both. But my name isn’t Catherine, and isn’t really that close. Confounding this is that there is often another person in the office with a similar-ish name that also gets confused into the group.

        Reply
        1. Arielle

          I was on call today with someone named, say, Ruby, and one of the other participants kept calling her Crystal and then getting confused when she didn’t answer. We were all like, um, close but different gemstone, my dude.

          Reply
          1. Environmental Compliance (was Environmental Navy Wife)

            At my old office we had someone call in for a Claudette. Swore up and down that that’s exactly who he spoke to last week, how dare we not know who he’s talking about, it was some lady named Claudette!!!1!1!

            Well, a Claudette has never worked in this office, 6/7 of the staff are female, and your options are Christina* or Kayla*. No? Still insistent on the Claudette?

            The ladies up front transferred him to me, he ended up yelling at me for having the wrong name, and turns out he really did speak to me the previous week. Names are hard, apparently.

            (*Actual names changed to protect the innocent…but he really did want to speak to Claudette.)

            Reply
            1. Cousin Itt

              We had something similar happen at my office – an irate customer on the phone swore up and down he’d spoken to a ‘Hope’ about his problem and that she’d promised him free products. We’re a very small office. There’s no one here called Hope. There’s no one here called anything that sounds like Hope. And if he had actually called us before, both of the people on the team he would have been put through to are men. The mysterious Hope is now jokingly blamed for any problems by the customer service team.

              Reply
            2. Lindsay J

              At an old job, someone swore they had called and talked to a “Raven”.

              It turned out they had talked to Brandon.

              We called him Raven for awhile after that.

              Reply
  37. Goya de la Mancha

    #2 – Early deadlines. All day, every day.

    I’m a very prompt person and tardiness makes me anxious, but I’ve learned in my work career that there are things I can’t control (other people). So I set my personal deadline as 4:00 and tell them 1:00, knowing full well that I’ll be lucky to get it before 4:00, but at least it will be better then me expecting everything at 1:00! Same for certain family members. If we’re meeting at 5:30, we tell them 5:00 because we KNOW that there is no way they will get there on time.

    Is it possible to send out the edits as soon as you get them done? As in X department sent me their reports, but I’m still waiting on W, Y, and Z departments. So I’ll type up X’s part and send off for them to confirm?

    Reply
    1. EA Editor

      This could work, though it doesn’t really fix the problem with W, Y, and Z consistently being late. It does let me get some of my end taken care of earlier.

      Reply
    2. TheCupcakeCounter

      I have those family members. My favorite was when we showed up around 5:10 for something (knowing they would be running late) at their house and she gave us the weirdest look when she met us at the door and asked why we were so early. Her husband had sent out the invites for an hour before the actual start of the event because of how late her family always was. His family had the correct start time but he forgot that my small little group is actually quite punctual. He and I had a good laugh but she was mad that he would “trick” her family like that. When they showed up at 5:55 or so (with an invitation that said 5pm) he really rubbed it in good. It was worse when they were in a different time zone. I swear sometimes my aunt would tell us she would be somewhere at 3pm and then not actually leave until that time and the dive was well over an hour and she was traveling from the central to eastern time zone.

      Reply
      1. Environmental Compliance (was Environmental Navy Wife)

        My MIL needs to be told a time at least 3 hours earlier than everyone else. At the time they need to leave, she’ll start vacuuming, or washing the dishes, or she’ll need to clean out something in the garage, or call and schedule this random appointment….nothing that ever needs to be done right then, and she’ll just sit around until the time to leave comes and goes and then start a lengthy task. It’s incredibly irritating when you come from a very punctual family.

        MIL also has yet to figure out that time zones exist. We’re in ET. They’re in CT. When she calls at some oddly late time on her end, it’s always an hour later on OUR end, and no, I don’t want to talk about SIL’s baby’s bowel movements at 11:45PM, actually. It’s like time doesn’t exist on a normal level for her.

        Reply
  38. I'm A Little TeaPot

    RE #3 – the absolute WORST one I have ever seen was an email from Petco. The pet supply store. They sent an email out which said that one of the cat foods had been discontinued, but didn’t say which one, then said don’t worry, we’ve got plenty of great options to switch to! Well, if you have cats or know anything about them, changing foods is typically a BIG DEAL. Some cats will starve themselves if they don’t like the food. Even if the cat isn’t that extreme, switching foods is a multi-week process and often results in digestive upset for a while. Which means the cat is throwing up all over the house. That email made me drop everything and spend a good 30 minutes trying to make sure my cat’s food was still available.

    Turns out, they just wanted people to switch to their preferred in-house brands. I reamed them on social media, and while I was doing so I saw a bunch of other people doing the same thing. I’ve never seen that again from them. You do not mess with a cat’s food.

    Reply
    1. Diluted_Tortoiseshell

      Ugh I am dealing with that right now. Out of the blue Amazon started to a require a prime subscription to order my cats food. Then switched my cats vitamins to an “add on” item but I digress. Unfortunately nowhere nearby sells our cats food so we had to do a harsh. 1/2 now full next week switch to a different brand which really pissed me off!

      Reply
      1. Falling Diphthong

        Add on only! What the everlasting heck??? I understand “You cannot order this with free shipping” or “Now that you’ve bought the fairy kit for your niece, would you like to add on a fairy coloring book?” But “You cannot order this unless you go and buy $50 worth of other stuff, and then it can be an add-on” is not a business model.

        This was for a $10 item for my mom. I would have paid shipping. I bought it direct from the manufacturer instead–same price, free shipping. (Zen-Toes, for the record.)

        Reply
  39. Louise

    I think whether or not casual marketing works depends very much on the industry. My makeup subscription box? Sure, tell me how fab I’m gunna look in this lippie. My bank? Not so much.

    Reply
    1. Curious Cat

      Exactly. Customers expect certain companies to have a certain “voice,” and a bank using a more casual approach just doesn’t seem to connect with expectations. I wonder what that marketing meeting looked like at the bank when they decided that’s the voice they wanted to use with customers!

      Reply
        1. Louise

          Yeah, but it seems like they didn’t really succeed. I do some brand writing, and my rule of thumb is that I want the person reading to both like me and trust me — which means something differen for each brand! I think they missed the trust element.

          Reply
      1. Totally Minnie

        It feels like the overly casual bank emails are an overcorrection. Mine went from super-conservative and full of finance specific wording to Tumblr style slang before they finally balanced it out at middle ground.

        Reply
  40. Laura H

    I’m at a customer-facing job. My last name gets butchered often (not at work but elsewhere and mostly by accident) and it affects my process in how I update my customer’s info and the rest of my interaction with them. I’ll initially give it my best shot, and then I ask if I was correct. If so, yay. If not- I ensure I use the correct pronunciation often- but not overkill I hope- in the transaction process. Names are important and I know that while I’ll just roll my eyes inwardly and politely say “actually it’s pronounced like ‘boogie’” as I’ve done for years- other people are likely not nearly as… blasé about it.

    Reply
  41. stitchinthyme

    #5 – I wonder where the line is when it comes to being honest about a reference. This brings to mind a situation I had years ago.

    I had a coworker who was in another group that worked closely with mine; we had the same grand-boss. She was an incredibly hard worker; we’d sometimes see emails from her timestamped in the middle of the night. So they promoted her to manage her group, and that’s when the trouble started: she expected her group to have the same level of dedication she did, while they, of course, wanted to have lives outside the office. It wasn’t all that long before they rebelled and went to her boss, and she got demoted back to her former position. At that point, she totally checked out — did the minimum of work, came in late, left early, and basically was a ghost around the place until she got laid off 6 months or a year later.

    Sometime after she left, I got a call from someone doing a background check for her application for a security clearance for hew new job. I only told them the good parts: how dedicated and good at her job she was. I had two reasons for this: 1) this was not her hiring manager; it was just someone trying to make sure she was not at risk to sell or give away company or government secrets, and I firmly believe she was not; and 2) I believed that her disconnection at our former company was directly related to depression following her demotion, and was a fluke and not likely to happen again. I later learned that they talked to our director (her former boss), and he had come to the same conclusions, and only told them the good stuff as well.

    Obviously, this is not the same as a substance-abuse problem, but it does bring up the question of whether it’s okay to leave info out in a situation like this when you don’t believe it’s likely to happen again and/or it’s irrelevant to the question the interviewer is actually trying to answer.

    Reply
  42. Curious Cat

    OP#1: I think you can reasonably just quietly delete the emails about voting if they’re grating to you, and congratulate your coworker on their sibling moving forward in the competition when it’s appropriate – i.e. if everyone else is having a conversation about it (& if they do continue to move forward). This doesn’t strike me as harmful, just some fun. It reminds me a little of doing a fantasy football league in the office, or as my office does, a Bachelor/Bachelorette bracket. If everyone’s having a good time & is agreeing on that, there’s no reason to stop, and if you don’t want to participate, there’s no reason you have to.

    Reply
  43. saffytaffy

    OP#4, I work in an environment where I see hundreds of people frequently, but for only a moment or two at a time. It happens at least 3 or 4 times a year that I’ll realize, oh, “Ryan’s name is actually Evan” or that I’ve been emphasizing the wrong syllable in Somiah. And it’s OKAY. I’ve never been sneered at, nobody thinks I’m stupid. If anything, it’s a moment of levity and makes me bond a little more with that person. And they’re always embarrassed, too, because we don’t like to correct one another! So it’s okay.

    Reply
  44. Also a Tuxedo Cat

    #3: In the world of marketing, open rates are what it’s all about. And using language that is more familiar, like you saw with your credit union, ensures better open rates. There’s lots of A/B testing and analytics behind it. I think for the most part, us marketers take the risk of turning off a few to get the masses to open our emails.

    Reply
  45. willow

    LW2 – are you specifying what time zone you need the edits in by 1 pm? I am in the middle of the US, so if I say 1 pm, that will be 3 pm for the folks in Georgia, which is fine for me, but my California people will not get it to me until 2 pm my time, which makes it late for me but on time in their minds.

    Reply
  46. Charles Xavier

    #4 – it doesn’t have to be awkward. One of my best friends is Chinese and I was pronouncing his surname wrong for years (to the point of using it in puns) until his wife (another close friend) corrected me and then we all laughed about it.

    Sometimes people just get way too polite to actually say anything like that because it’s not something overly important.

    Reply
  47. mAd Woman

    I’m in advertising and I haaaaaaaaate the gimmicky familiar tone in marketing. There are so few brands that make it work (Chipotle, for instance) and even then it’s difficult. At my last agency, we had a regional bank client that wanted to move to that tone to “appeal to millennials”. As the only millennial in the room,I begged everyone not to go that route – we’re in our 20s and 30s! We don’t need the bank to be cutesy – but ultimately I lost the battle. They produced a bunch of”how to open a checking account” stuff in snarky steps and displayed it to folks considering them for mortgages. A total miss.

    Reply
  48. Another Sara

    I had a coworker several years ago with a very short nickname, e.g. Sam. He was introduced to us as Sam, he signed his emails with Sam, he used SAM to tag files he modified, etc. His real first name was a traditional Indian name, and Sam was a shortened version of his last name – think Samantaray. We didn’t question it. After all, he signed his own emails that way.

    About two YEARS after he started, we learned that Sam was not actually his nickname. His friends didn’t call him that, his family didn’t call him that, and former colleagues didn’t call him that. He did not call himself that in any other context. As it turns out, the person who managed his recruitment and onboarding misread his documents and thought Samantaray was his first name. She called him Sam, and he didn’t feel comfortable correcting her! Or anyone else! And then I guess he decided to just commit to the whole Sam thing? He said he didn’t mind the nickname, but I have to imagine it was super awkward for him!

    Reply
  49. RB

    LW #2: I realize I’m several days late to this post, however this is my exact situation on our quarterly reports. I don’t think Alison’s answer was all that helpful because I have already tried all those things and they just don’t work with some people. Some people are just going to be late no matter what. What’s worked for me is letting my boss know that I don’t have what I need from everyone, despite repeated reminders, and to let him know that the report is going to be late. Then I ask him whether he wants me to turn in what I’ve got so far, or to write the edits myself, or to wait another day and have it be late.

    Reply
  50. Blondie

    OP#2 I am assuming these managers who do the report, report directly to your boss? If so, you are acting on behalf of your boss to complete the task. If they do not complete on time, call them, email them etc. As an EA you are an extension of your boss and are the barrier between your boss and them. You have every right to hassle them ifs it’s late. If your report is late every week due to the same managers, tell your boss! Don’t take all the blame! Remember, you are an EA to deal with these issues rather than your boss, be proud of that and take ownership of that!

    Reply
  51. HyacinthB

    Tamara is used to it! Don’t worry. I have the same issue with a much more unusual name. It’s not a big deal, although asking her directly is a great idea. (p.s. Hyacinth is not my real name!)

    Reply

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