how can I stop my office from celebrating my birthday, my old job won’t stop contacting me, and more

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

1. How do I tell my office that I don’t celebrate my birthday for religious reasons?

I do not celebrate my birthday for religious reasons. I have several friends, family, coworkers, and other acquaintances of varied faiths who do celebrate their birthdays, and I have no problem with that – I just don’t celebrate my own. Unfortunately, my office is big on birthday celebrations. I like my coworkers, and I don’t want to be That Jerk who won’t Cooperate and be a Team Player. On the other hand, I don’t want to betray my faith by celebrating.

Last year was my first year at my current job. I quickly realized our office celebrated everyone else’s birthdays, so I decided to hide my birthday. I started in January and my birthday is late in the fall, so I had to hide it for basically the whole year. When asked when my birthday was, I’d say, “Oh, it’s not for a while.” I don’t think anyone kept track, so they didn’t realize that I’d “never” had a birthday the whole year.

I almost got away with it. But then, I had to provide my birth date to my manager so she could sign me up for some training. This happened just a few days after my birthday. Due to the timing, she wished me a happy belated birthday, which I took in stride and thanked her. Then other coworkers who had nothing to do with this training started wishing me a happy belated birthday. I think the whole office now knows when my birthday is, including the party-planning coworker (who plans everyone’s celebrations), despite my efforts to hide it.

Now that my secret is out of the bag, what do I do to make sure my birthday isn’t celebrated in the office? It seems to me that I have to let everyone know at some point before my birthday that I don’t celebrate it. I’ll at least have to tell the party planner coworker. Is there a way to do it without mentioning religion? If it’s better to mention my faith, how I can I politely and professionally bring it up in a way that will actually be respected?

Just be straightforward: “I don’t celebrate my birthday for religious reasons. Could you make sure the office doesn’t plan anything for mine? Thank you.” I’d say this to both your manager and the party-planning coworker, so that they both know. And it’s definitely better to just explain it’s faith-based; if you don’t, you risk people deciding that you don’t really mean it or that they know better and pushing a celebration on you anyway.

2. I took a lower-level job than I’m qualified for and want to move up

A few months ago I was offered and accepted a position. When I was applying for this position, I clearly stated that I had 4 years of work experience, including a master’s degree in an adjacent field (admittedly not directly related). My work experience was in event planning and promotion (2 years) and communications (2 years). The position I was applying for was purely for communications (though a good portion is in event promotion, which I didn’t know at the time). The recruiter, however, saw Communications in my job title for only 2 years, so she said she was going to submit my application instead for a lower level position, a rung below the one I originally applied. I agreed only because I was in need of a job.

Fast forward to now, I am in more of a support role alongside recent graduates with only 2 years of work under their belts. I feel in some ways I’m still getting acquainted with the way things work at this employer and thus learning to a degree, but in other ways the nature of my work is much less responsibility than I was accustomed to having. I have had weekly check-ins with my new supervisor and have clearly stated I have enjoyed A, B, and C work (where I’ve had more autonomy, more difficult projects) and would like more of that. Things are not changing much, I’m guessing because I’m new (understandable).

In a month, I have a new-employee review, more of a check-in with HR to express how I’m feeling in the position. I would love to say in some way it’s my fault for not sticking up for my past experience, but I need to be promoted to more responsibilities in line with my level of experience and education. I still remember my days of unemployment and am worried they would just worry this job was not the right fit. I really enjoy the projects I get where I have more autonomy, yet I also am feeling unhappy and unfulfilled most of the time, because those opportunities are more rare.

Well, you can’t usually just request to be promoted or given higher-level projects and have it happen, especially after only a few months on the job. Even if you’re qualified for a higher-level role, you accepted a lower-level one. That’s the job they hired you for, they have lower-level work that needs to be done, and you’re the person who they’ve hired to do it. You can certainly express interest in moving into a higher level role over time, but if you accept a lower level job and only a few months later are agitating to be moved out of it for something more senior, you really risk coming across as unrealistic about the job you took on.

It’s possible that the recruiter was off-base in pushing you toward this role, but it’s also possible that the company wouldn’t have hired you for the more senior one. Either way, though, this current job is the one you accepted. I’d focus on being awesome at it for a year and proving yourself, and then ask about growth possibilities after a year.

3. The job I left six months ago is still contacting me with questions

I left my organization in July 2014 and am employed now at a new organization. I am still getting contacted by previous coworkers about information and projects I managed. When is an appropriate time to say, “that’s enough”? I just received another email this morning and deleted it. It’s extremely frustrating, especially since all this information had been handed off prior to me leaving the organization.

It would have been appropriate to cut them off a month after you left. It’s crazy that they’re still contacting you after six months. I’d tell them directly that you’re too busy with your new job to continue helping and that you’re sorry but you can’t continue to respond to questions. (And as a general rule for this kind of thing, it’s reasonable to be available for the occasional question for a few weeks after you leave — but regular questions six months later? No.)

4. Should I use my full name when I start working?

I will be graduating in May from university and I have a bit of a silly question. I have two first names, for example Maria Theresa, in addition to a middle name. In previous internships I have gone by this name, but it has created some confusion, with people calling me Maria (a name I’m not usually called and so I forget to respond when that name is called). In my personal life, I go by the initials, such as MT, or a shorter nickname such as Terri. It makes me feel difficult to have a long name and people have told me they don’t want to have to always say my full name. Should I continue going by my full name? I fear that going by a nickname will highlight my young age in an office setting.

Go by whatever name you want to go by. It sounds like you prefer initials or a nickname. Either of those is fine. You can put that name on your resume — a resume isn’t like an official legal document where you have to present your entire full and legal name. And working professionally doesn’t require that you start using a more formal name than you’ve used previously. Nicknames aren’t unprofessional or young; people of all ages use them.

If you prefer to go by MT or Terri, use that on your resume, and introduce yourself to people that way.

5. Describing family caregiving work on my resume

After almost 23 years, I was laid off from my office manager position (I was the only one in the office handling all areas of running the small corporation) in May 2014, per my request of my wonderful boss who worked with me on this situation. My teen daughter had been fighting recurrent cancer the previous year and a half and he’d kept me at full salary through all of my time off through her surgeries and chemotherapy handled at the local hospital, as I was still able to work about 10 hours per week. At the time of the layoff, she needed two stem cell transplants at an out-of-town hospital, so he let me go since I had no idea when I could get back into the office and I wanted him to be able to hire someone else. She has now recovered and returned to school, so it is time for me to get back into the workforce.

How should I handle this employment gap on my resume? I’m assuming:
May 2014- Present: Caregiver

But I don’t know if I should use action words as though it were a job — things such as conferring with doctors, ensuring schooling continued, researching and providing proper and bacteria-free nutrition, etc. Please let me know what your suggestion is in this type of situation and what action words would work best. During this time of non-employment,I did take some training classes in the Microsoft Office Suite of products as well as classes on interviewing, resume writing, and using social media in your job search since everything has changed since I last interviewed.

I actually wouldn’t put it on your resume. While I’m sure it truly was a significant amount of work, ultimately it’s not the kind of professional work that belongs on a resume. Instead, I’d just address it briefly in your cover letter without getting into details: “For the last X months, I’ve been dealing with a family health issue that has since been resolved, and now I’m eager to get back to work.” That’s it!

I’m glad your daughter is doing so much better!

{ 308 comments… read them below }

  1. I did not say this. I am not here.*

    #1: if you say you don’t celebrate your birthday because of religious reasons, be forewarned that the next thing many people are going to do is ask “what religion doesn’t celebrate birthdays?” Maybe you’re already used to this.

      1. Chinook*

        Actually, Jehovah Witnesses don’t celebrate birthdays. But, if someone wanted to form the Church of MYOB, I am sure they would find many adherents.

          1. brian35242*

            Sadly, as promising as the Church of MYOB sounds, it would have many people who professed to follow its tenets, but often do not. :(

    1. Jessica*

      Yeah, that’s almost a certainty. It seems that some people view any discussion of faith as being given the go ahead to ask prying, personal questions. No need to answer them, but I agree that it probably will be asked.

      1. I did not say this. I am not here.*

        Personally, I don’t see that there is anything wrong with asking “what religion is that?” It’s simple human curiousity. If I said “my car get 100 mpg”, many people are going to ask “what kind of car is that?”

        I had (note past tense) a friend who would regularly bring up how her brother was dating an actress, and they did such and they did so-and-so, and finally I asked “so who is this actress that I hear about so much?” And she responded “well, of course I can’t tell you her name!” Like I’ve got one helluva lot of nerve even asking. I feel this was completely bogus: if you’re going to bring something up in conversation, it’s fair game for people to ask you about it. There may be exceptions to this ‘rule’ but getting back to the question at hand: there’s nothing wrong with people asking “what religion?”

        1. DaisyC*

          Except in this case, the OP wasn’t ‘bringing up’ the topic of birthdays. AND its in a professional environment. “What religion is that?” is not an appropriate question to ask in that situation, IMO.

          1. Jessica*

            Yeah, I feel like OP stating matter of factly, “I don’t celebrate birthdays for religious reasons” is not opening the door to be asked about her religion. It’s a self-contained statement that provides all relevant information. OP doesn’t need to expand on why, if she doesn’t want to.

          2. MK*

            I don’t think it’s inappropriate to casually ask, once, in a light “how interesting” tone, about your coworker’s religion (or any other intensely personal, but not always private matter). Just be very careful to read their reaction and back off if they are uncomfortable with your question.

            1. JMegan*

              I like that, the distinction between “personal” and “private.” I agree that it’s not inappropriate to ask, but there’s no need for the OP to discuss it if she doesn’t want to. In which case, it couldn’t hurt to have an answer prepared ahead of time.

          3. JB*

            Agreed. There’s a difference between intentionally referring to your brother’s girlfriend’s occupation (there’s no need to bring it up at all) and saying “please don’t celebrate my birthday because religion.” If the LW went around intentionally mentioning her religion in conversations, that would be different. “What did you do this weekend? Oh, you went out to dinner for your birthday? That’s interesting, I don’t celebrate birthdays because of my religion.” THAT would be a situation more like your friend’s actions.

            Something more like the LW’s situation would be to say, “I’m sorry, I can’t contribute to the boss’s birthday present, it’s not in my budget.” That’s not an invitation for your coworkers to grill you about what you spend your money on.

            1. I did not say that. I am not here.*

              “I’m sorry, I can’t contribute to the boss’s birthday present, it’s not in my budget.”

              No, that is not at all similar. Be real: most people are going to be taken by surprise at the concept of someone not celebrating their birthday because of their religion. I’ll bet 99% of the people reading AAM today wondered “what religion is that?” And the other 1% thought “I bet OP is a Jehovah’s Witness”. All I’m saying is that it’s natural to ask “What religion is that?” in these circumstances.

              The OP doesn’t have to answer, of course. And I think it’s obvious that you don’t get all critical about someone else’s religious beliefs at work.

              1. 2horseygirls*

                ^ This. I worked in a real estate office, and one of my realtors was a Jehovah’s Witness. As the official “keeper of birthdays”, it drove me nuts she wouldn’t tell me hers ;) – but I respected her wish.

                She also didn’t celebrate Christmas, but contributed to the office pool of “appreciation” money for the staff every year. On the bright side, she mentioned that the gym was blissfully empty on Christmas morning. :)

                1. manybellsdown*

                  I first learned this fact about JWs as a young teacher, when a parent yelled at me for giving her child a birthday cupcake. Now my boss probably knew, and would have told me … if the parent had mentioned it to anyone at all prior to yelling at me.

                2. ThursdaysGeek*

                  I’m not JW, but I try to keep my birthdate quiet at work, because I’d rather not celebrate it here. I’ve been successful so far at this job, but at FormerJob, it only lasted 1 year before a co-worker found it online and I had to join in the celebrations.

              2. JB*

                Well first of all, I think it depends on what pool you are drawing your “most people” from. To “be real,” most people I know already know this. And if we’re basing it on what other people know or not, zero of my coworkers know my budget, so me saying I can’t contribute to a gift because of my finances is brand new information to them. That doesn’t mean me bringing it up makes it ok for them to expect me to talk about it.

                Second, whether most people know or not is 100% irrelevant to my point. My point is that by saying “I don’t celebrate birthdays because of my religion” is not opening the door to quiz a person about their religion anymore than saying “I can’t, I have a budget” is opening the door to talking about their personal finances. I’m not saying that it’s definitely rude to ask. But I am saying that the answer to whether it’s rude to ask someone a personal question is almost never ever based on how curious you are about it.

                If you were to write to Miss Manners to ask her, “Is it ok if I ask this person I don’t have a personal relationship with about her race/religion/favorite sexual position/how much debt she has/other personal question,” she’s not going to say, “well it depends–how curious are you about the subject?”

                If you know your coworker well enough to know they don’t care about personal questions, ask away. But if you don’t know, you are deciding that your curiosity about something outweighs their comfort. For topics that seem innocuous, it’s not a bad thing to make that decision because you know there’s a low chance that bringing it up will make someone uncomfortable. With religion–there’s a reason it’s on the list of topics not to bring up at parties.

                Now, just asking what religion someone is–without asking more personal follow-up questions–is not necessarily going to make someone uncomfortable. But we can make an educated guess about by paying attention to their tone and body language when they say that they don’t celebrate holidays because of it. If they seem closed off but you ask anyway, that’s tactless.

                TL;DR: saying “no birthdays because reason X” is NOT an invitation to ask about X. Whether it’s ok to ask anyway is context-specific.

            2. Koko*

              Great analogy. “Oh, what DO you spend your money on?” would definitely be inappropriate in that context.

        2. neverjaunty*

          All kinds of rude and invasive comments result from “natural human curiosity”. OP isn’t bringing up religion over and over again.

          1. Katie the Fed*

            If OP was so inclined – it might be nice to give a brief explanation just to further understand. She’s under no obligation, of course, but I personally find it very interesting (I find all religions very interesting) so I like when people give a bit of explanation. But again, no obligation.

          2. Anna*

            I used to work with a woman who is Jehovah’s Witness and so didn’t celebrate birthdays. I’m not even sure how it came up, but we ended up having a lot of interesting conversations because of her religion. I think it’s okay to ask (not everyone knows that Jehovah’s Witnesses don’t celebrate) but to also make sure you’re paying attention to how your coworker responds. Some people don’t mind talking about it, some people do, and it’s really up to them.

          3. NoPantsFridays*

            Yeah, to me, this strikes me as people’s “natural human curiosity” about what’s between a trans person’s legs, and asks “What do you have down there?” or “So how do you have sex?”. Just because one is curious does not mean one should ask.

            I’m in an eerily similar situation to OP. I also don’t celebrate my birthday for religious reasons (not JW; I know of at least 5 religions that forbid birthday celebrations other than Jehovah’s Witness).

            I really hesitate to bring my non-Christian faith up at my workplace since I’ve been asked “So what church do you go to?” and “What are you giving up for lent?” as if I’m supposed to just magically know what lent is. (I’m actually about to google it so I’m prepared for tomorrow’s lunch conversation!)

      2. Observer*

        Sure. But just about any reason the OP might give is likely to trigger nosy prying questions – and more personal criticism.

        1. Jill*

          I also worked with a Witness who asked that her cubicle not be decorated for the holidays. I, too, find the topic of religion interesting. I’d ask questions about her religion from time to time and she was gracious about answering – but briefly.

          I agree that OP may need to state that it’s her religious preference but also not be afraid to draw a line with any Nosey Roseys by saying, “I don’t want to turn this into preaching in the office so if you could just make a point to leave me off the birthday list, I’d appreciate it.” Circle back to the point and cut off the discussion, gracefully, but firmly.

    2. Sonya Kukula*

      I believe Jehovah’s Witnesses do not celebrate occasions such as birthdays because it is putting celebrations before God. At least, that’s how it was coldly explained to me when I asked a friend of my parents’ whether they had a nice Christmas.

      Of course, there could be other religions which forego birthdays. Some cultures are much more about name days, for example.

      1. DaisyC*

        I personally know JWs, it was explained to me that they strictly follow the Bible, and there are passages in the Bible that instruct not to follow any celebrations of Pagan origin. Birthdays fall under this. So do Easter (worshipping the goddess of fertility with eggs), Christmas, etc. The only traditional celebrations they participate in are wedding anniversaries and graduations.

        1. Vancouver Reader*

          Interesting, and my husband, who was raised JW, told me that they didn’t celebrate birthdays because John the Baptist was beheaded on Herrod’s birthday (or whoever it was). Course, I don’t think he was very good at paying attention during service, so I’m sure he misheard. ;)

          1. Evan Þ*

            I heard (I don’t remember where) that they notice the only times birthday celebations are mentioned in the Bible are in a negative context (e.g. John the Baptist being beheaded), and from that they conclude that celebrating birthdays is a bad thing.

      2. SCMill*

        That’s a pity they were so cold in responding. Years ago, one of my direct reports was a JW. I found out when we were organizing a covered dish Thanksgiving lunch. He brought the sign-up sheet to me after it had made its rounds and told me that he wouldn’t be able to participate and why. He was very matter-of-fact about it and told me he would stay at his desk and field phone calls for everyone while we enjoyed our lunch. No drama, and we all learned a little about JW.

  2. I did not say this. I am not here.*

    #5: I too am happy to hear about your daughters recovery – and also that your old boss was the kind of person who supported you through hard times after 20+ years!

    On the off chance that you haven’t considered this: have you looked into going back to your previous job? I totally get it if you’re looking for something new. But it sounds like there were some good things about your old job.

      1. I did not say this. I am not here.*

        Maybe there’s another job? Maybe the replacement hasn’t been working out? Maybe the replacement just quit?

      2. Allison*

        Still, the old boss might be looking to expand the team, and I’ve heard of people creating part-time contract positions for people they like if those people are looking for work, so it wouldn’t hurt OP to connect with her old boss and see if there’s any room for her on the team, or if OldBoss knows anyone else who might be hiring.

        1. some1*

          It’s worth reaching out to say that if there is a role for her she would be interested in coming back, but I think it’d be awkward to straight out ask for her old position back.

    1. I did not say this. I am not here.*

      #5: please pardon my self follow-up, but also: way to go to you, too, OP 5! Whether it belongs on your resume or not, “Caregiver” is one of the hardest jobs around. 9 characters, one word, that really doesn’t convey the vast effort and force of will that permeates every waking hour, every day of the week, for as long as it takes, as you devote yourself to your daughter’s recovery while you also deal with keeping the electricity on at home. Simply put: you rock.

      I can’t speak for everyone, but if I were to interview you, your Caregiver experience would be a definite “plus”.

      1. Stef*

        Thank you! It’s good to hear different opinions as there is not a lot written on how to handle this that I could find.

    2. Stef*

      Thank you all for your comments from the OP! As I was the only one in the office and my boss has hired a replacement and I believe she is even just a part-timer, there is no longer a position to return to. Due to changes in the industry, most notably the rise of e-books and digital media delivery, the company’s sales had been declining since 2009 so unfortunately I can’t see an expansion happening.

      1. Hlyssande*

        It could be worth getting in touch with the old boss anyway to see if they know of anyone else with openings…and to let them know that they may be getting reference calls when you’re interviewing for positions elsewhere.

  3. Jessica*

    OP #5… That’s great news that your daughter is doing much better! I had the same thing happen, but with my mother (breast cancer). I acknowledge the gap in my cover letter and it’s never been an issue. People are very understanding, typically, and you really don’t want to work for a person that isn’t understanding. Just a question… could you reach out to your former boss to see if they know of any job openings? He sounds like a wonderful, compassionate person that genuinely cares about you and your family.

    1. AdAgencyChick*

      +1. At first I read the paragraph as sarcasm (as in “my ‘wonderful’ boss laid me off while my daughter was in the midst of cancer treatments”) and then saw that it was OP and her manager working out that decision together.

      A boss like that, even if he can’t hire you back because he’s filled your position, is probably someone who would put in a good word for you if he knows of any suitable openings elsewhere. And having that introduction means you won’t have to explain the gap on your resume — he will have done it for you.

      1. Stef*

        I do have a great letter of reference from him and use him as a reference on applications. If I can just get my resume/cover letter combination correct and get an interview his input should be very helpful.

    2. Similar Situation*

      I have also been in a similar situation. I left a job in 2011 for double reasons, pregnant and husband with cancer. My pregnancy was complicated and then on top of that my husbands health spiraled out of control and after numerous life threatening illnesses, including a second stage IV cancer diagnosis, he was given a 6% chance of recovery. So I was taking care of a new baby and dealing with a critically ill spouse at the same time. I ended up being out of work until mid 2013 when I took a 1 year contract position just to make ends meet. I’ve now been out of work again since mid 2014. (My husband is in complete remission now by the way!!)

      I never thought to mention this in my cover letter and I have had a very hard time finding work. I guess I will start doing this now. I wonder, what is ok to say during an interview? I’ve had a number since and they ask why I’m looking for work and often hint to the job gap. I always assumed I shouldn’t mention health or family stuff.

      Can I just say:
      “I left my job back in 2011 because I was starting a new family and also dealing with a critically ill spouse. Once he recovered and I was ready to get back to work, I accepted a 1 year contract and now I am looking for something permanent.”

      1. KSM*

        I’m very happy to hear that your husband is in remission!

        re: your phrasing, use the more general version Allison recommends for your first job then keep the 2nd sentence as-is.

        1. Similar Situation*

          Thank you!

          I agree, more generic is better. I’m just relieved I can say something rather than ignoring it.

      2. fposte*

        Congratulations on your husband’s remission! I think you’re on the right track on the comment but I might even keep it shorter and less detailed. “After a leave from the workplace for family reasons (or “the birth of my child”) in 2011, I’m looking for a permanent position.” I think mentioning your spouse’s illness has more potential to distract than to help in a cover letter. An interview doesn’t necessarily have the same rules, but even if I did bring up my spouse’s illness I’d just go with “now-resolved health problems” rather than “critically ill”–that’s a phrase that tends to stop conversation, which isn’t what you want.

        1. Similar Situation*

          Good point about “critically ill”. I certainly am not trying to be overly dramatic. I think I heard that term 1000 times from doctors and now it is engrained in my mind. I was also thinking that mentioning both might be a better explanation for such a lengthy job gap, but I agree with you. Not mentioning it would be better.


        2. neverjaunty*

          Agree – employers understandably want to know about job gaps, but a brief and neutral explanation gets the information across.

          And so glad to hear things are better, OP!

        3. TOC*

          I’d go with that same wording, too. I think “leaving the workforce to start my family” might imply that you’re more interested in being a stay-at-home parent than being an employee. Fair or not, it might make some employers wary of your commitment to the job. You want to make sure to demonstrate that the time off was beyond your control but the factors involved are now resolved. Make it one sentence on your cover letter to explain your resume gap, but then spend the rest of the space focused on why you’re a great candidate.

          I’m glad your family is healthy now. Best of luck on your job search!

      3. Michele*

        I think that your suggestion of what to say sounds perfect. It indicates that you have taken care of things and are ready to head full steam back to work.

        Just don’t say anything that indicates you plan on making your family issues work issues. For example, one time I interviewed a woman who was coming back to work after having kids. She kept turning the conversation back to what happens when her kids are sick, trying to find daycare, etc…. I don’t care if someone has kids (everyone has something outside of work that is important to them), but I do care if they are making excuses for being absent before they even get a job.

  4. Connie-Lynne*

    For OP#4, I also have a double name that’s kind of long. I totally understand feeling “difficult” by having a name that’s long or somehow complicated (“So, Connie…” “Actually, it’s ‘Connie-Lynne,’ like ‘Mary Ann.'”).

    In interviews, I’ll let people know once and then not worry about it. At the office, I found that people tend to shorten it to “CL,” “CLV,” or “c-lynne,” which is my longterm unix login/email address. That’s all fine with me, and if people seem to have trouble with “Connie-Lynne,” I’ll offer “CL” as an easier variant.

    In the end, it’s not that big of a deal. Just tell people what you want to be called and help them remember it. I’ll differ from Alison in that, if you prefer “MT,” put “Maria Theresa” or “Maria Theresa (‘MT’)” and then explain you prefer “MT.” People want to know what initials stand for, and will find it odd if you don’t tell them.

    1. Coco*

      Yup, it’s really not a big deal.

      My partner is in a similar situation, but with a doubly double name since he legally has two first names and two last names (Spanish naming conventions). He constantly has to feel “difficult” and correct people, but it’s happened so much that he has it down to a formulaic response: “Oh, that’s my long name. I actually just go by [second first name] [first last name].” It never comes up again.

      About putting the initials in parentheses after the full name: Lots of men have initialed names (B.J., C.J., J.T., etc) and don’t bother to put the whole name, so I think M.T. should feel free to do the same. If someone asks, tell them. Otherwise it could be confusing.

      1. Marzipan*

        I know someone Portuguese who has one given name and two surnames, but uses a nickname version of his first surname as his given name, and his second surname as his surname. And he gets on fine! (Although when he was a student I do recall a certain amount of jiggery-pokery with multiple email address redirects to cope with the official version of his name versus the one everyone uses. This wouldn’t be a problem in a business setting, though, because they should be able to just set one email up in the name you actually use – it was just the very bureaucratic university setting that made it tricky.)

        1. Connie-Lynne*

          Actually, at work, I have some stupid jiggery-pokery because my company has an email naming policy they follow, but any professional contact trying to reach me would go for “clynne.”

          This is a bit of bureaucracy unfortunately not limited to academia.

      2. M-C*

        I agree MT, the wisest is to put your preferred form of address on your resume, and consistently introduce yourself the way you want to be named. Much better to be insistent in corrections the first time you meet someone than to spend years correcting unfortunate habits later. I’ve been in this country nearly 40 years, and only once have I failed to move a (Midwestern) colleague away from plain ‘Marie’ :-).

        1. M-C*

          PS: I also find it very useful when people whine about how my name is “too long” and unnatural to remind that they wouldn’t even blink at “Susie Jane” or “Betty Jo”. That usually shuts them up quickest. Of course we’re lucky our names aren’t 6-syllable Asian ones and can be broken down into manageable chunks :-). And my last name, while unpronounceable for English speakers, is at least short and fast to spell.

    2. Jen RO*

      There is something I don’t really understand about names in the States. Is it illegal/impossible or just uncommon to have more than one last name? I remember reading that when Khloe Kardashian got married, she dropped her middle name (Alexandra), turned Kardashian into her new middle name, and took her husband’s name (Odom) as her last name. Why couldn’t she stay Khloe Alexandra Kardashian-Odom?

      And a note to OP#4 – some companies don’t allow you to use a different name in your official email address. I just tried to do that for a new coworker (she goes by a name that has nothing to do with her legal one) and it was against company rules (the same rules apply to the US office).

      1. Dan*

        She can actually do what she wants.

        Hell, I don’t understand why women in the US drop their middle names and replace it with their maiden name when they get married. It is a bit strange, considering that most people don’t use their middle name very often. In the US, most “formal” references are generally middle initial only.

        1. Melissa*

          You can use your middle name as much as you like, though. My original name was Melissa Jane Smith and I married a Johnson, so my new name became (first) Melissa (middle) Jane Smith (last) Johnson legally. But I go by Melissa Smith Johnson – that’s how I sign my name on forms and such. The only difference is that I publish professionally as Melissa Smith, but it’s mostly so that when people search me they can find me easily.

          1. Ashley the Nonprofit Exec*

            I kept my middle name, made my original last name a second middle name, and then made my married name my only last name. I really did not want two last names because it felt complicated. I can use both last names if I want but at the most practical level, it’s simpler to fill out forms with just the one last name.

        2. ExceptionToTheRule*

          I won’t speak for the entire female population, but the two conventions I’m aware of are 1) I hate my middle name and want to change it AND/OR 2) I want to keep my maiden name but take my husband’s name as well.

          obviously YMMV

        3. AdAgencyChick*

          I *wanted* to do this, and could not, at least not at the DMV. Some states, including mine, will change only your last name, not your middle name, upon marriage — changing the middle name requires a separate court order. Grrr.

          (As for why I didn’t want to keep my middle name, my last name doubled in length when I married. Hermione Mimsy Porpington is already unwieldy enough without making it Hermione Alethea Mimsy Porpington.)

            1. Persephone Mulberry*

              Well, in my experience SSA needed proof of my name change (marriage license), so if the county or wherever you get your marriage license decrees that they won’t do complete name overhauls on as part of a marriage license application, you’re kind of stuck.

            2. Purple Jello*

              Then when you go to file your taxes electronically, it won’t go through because of the name mis-match between government agencies. Also, you may have problems if you go to work for a US government contractor or sub-contractor who has to check your name/identity in “eVerify” database.

          1. Hlyssande*

            My friends shopped around at various county offices (benefits of being in a large metro area) until they found one that would let both of them fully change their names. She changed her legal first name to her preferred nickname, he did the same for both first and middle, and they both took a new last name that they picked for themselves.

        4. Carrington Barr*

          I don’t understand why, in this day and age, women are changing their names upon marriage at ALL.

          Before I get all the snippy remarks about it being tradition, and how you lurved your hubby sooooooo much, and about being one big family — I get it. The above is just my opinion.

          1. Sunshine DC*

            Well, my surname is my dad’s family name (i.e., a man’s name) and I see no difference whatsoever in using that vs. the name of a man I would marry. What if someone was raised by a single mom and feels no loyalty whatsoever to a father who wasn’t there for her—as opposed to a husband who IS present and loyal and all those things? In any case, even my mom’s surname was her father’s family name. It’s all about *choice* I reckon.

            1. Judy*

              I changed my name 19 years ago. I wouldn’t do it again.

              I think my biggest issue with changing was that it had been my name since birth. So it wasn’t a choice between my dad’s name and my husband’s name. It was my name. And if it was “my dad’s name” then it was “his dad’s name”. In the end I c hanged it because I thought it would be easier to all have the same name.

              During the time my dad was going through cancer 10 years ago, my husband volunteered that he would be ok if I wanted to change my name back. He knew I struggled with the decision, he did want me to change my name, but understood if I didn’t want to. He was certainly completely unwilling to change his. (He has brothers, I don’t, so it seemed like a possible solution to change his.)

            2. Natalie*

              There are practical reasons to avoid changing one’s name, for any reason. IIRC women who change their names end up bearing a real financial burden from the choice. Obviously everyone’s situation is different and it’s still a perfectly valid decision, but the decision is about more then just patriarchy.

          2. Helka*

            I don’t understand your comment.

            You “don’t understand why” women change their last names… but you “get it” that the reasons you listed are some reasons why?

            1. Sadsack*

              Yeah, I wondered about that myself. I am taking it as Carrington knows there are reasons, but thinks they are stupid.

              1. Helka*

                Well, yes, but I wanted to highlight the actual content of the comment.

                “I don’t think people should do Thing” is an opinion. “I don’t understand why people do Thing” isn’t an opinion, it’s commenting on your own lack of information. Stating that you don’t understand something, then not wanting to have that thing explained to you because you already get it — that’s a pretty silly way to say that you disagree with the thing you claim not to understand.

                1. OhNo*

                  I dunno, I read it as Carrington Barr understanding logically that people have reasons, but not being able to conceptualize why those reasons are significant enough to put up with the change and the resultant hassle.

                  Like, I don’t understand why a person would climb a mountain just to buy a chocolate bar. I understand, logically, that there are people out there who like the taste of chocolate so much that they would climb a mountain to purchase some, but I just cannot understand what their thought process is when making that decision, because I would never have that thought process. Same thing.

          3. Little Miss No Name*

            So you do, in fact, understand.. You just don’t agree and so decided to be rude about it. Bless your heart.

          4. Ezri*

            I took my husband’s name, and it wasn’t a ‘TRADITION!’ thing. We wanted to have the same last name (we don’t wear wedding rings and that’s confusing enough for people :] ). We went with his because we both liked it better. Plus, my initials now spell out an awesome onomatopoeia. XD

            I don’t have a problem with anyone (male or female) willingly changing (or not) their name on marriage. I only have a problem when it’s coerced – I remember a thread a while back where some commenters heard of men who refused to marry women who wouldn’t change their names. That’s icky.

          5. Karowen*

            Personally, I’m just super sick of spelling my last name. There’s even a family chant around it that you learn very young. Very much looking forward to changing it to a common one! (Though, to be fair, I will be keeping my maiden name professionally because I have a web presence with it.)

            1. Persephone Mulberry*

              I was also excited to change my name when I got married for reasons that had nothing to do with tradition or luuuuuuurving my hubby – uncommon first name plus extremely common MAN’S first name for a last name = constant confusion growing up.

            2. Jazzy Red*

              My name isn’t difficult, but it can be sung to the Mickey Mouse song. The children thought it was funny.

          6. neverjaunty*

            Y’know, there’s a whole internet out there for you to pick fights when you’re bored. It’s not actually necessary to do it here.

          7. KS*

            When men aren’t offended en masse about potentially changing their names, I’ll believe it’s about love and togetherness. It sounds like a royal pain in the butt to change it. I’m too lazy for that, and my last name is cooler than any guy’s I’m gonna meet anyway. ;p And tradition? That’s not a real reason for anything. So what? Is it a good/valuable tradition?

        5. Artemesia*

          It has always been very common for women to drop their middle name and then use their maiden name in its place. I did that 50 years ago in my first marriage; it was what most of my peers did. This way you don’t entirely lose your name and people who know you by that name don’t lose track of you. Men usually don’t use their middle name; women frequently use the Firstname Maidenname Lastname convention.

          When I married the second time over 40 years ago, I kept my name and hyphenated my kids. Many women hyphenate their names so it is Firstname Maidenname-Husbandsname. And some men adopt the hyphenated name as well. My son who has a hyphenated name is marrying a woman whose parents each kept their names but the kids were given the father’s last name. I have no idea what they will do with their names but assume they will each keep the one they have as they are far along in their professions. My hyphenated daughter created a new hyphenated family name with her husband.

          1. Karowen*

            Weirdly, I think that’s more of a common thing in the South than in the North.* I only know of one northener who did that and she didn’t have a middle name to begin with. My personal pet theory is that (a) southeners are much more into tradition and family heritage so (b) certain names have a certain cachet to them and (c) at some point, someone who married into a family with less cachet wanted people to know that she was one of The Arlington Lees so she wanted to keep her maiden name but (d) didn’t want anyone to think she was unmarried (the horror!) so (e) she dropped her middle name and moved her maiden name into its place.

            While I’m certain that used to be the mindset of northeners, they tend to move away from tradition more quickly, and between that and the higher influx of immigrants coming through Ellis Island, I think it died out more quickly.

            *NB: this is based solely on my observations as a northener who now lives in the South.

            1. Kelly L.*

              I think that’s how a lot of the double-barrelled British surnames got started–with a wife whose name had more prestige than her husband’s. Also why a lot of men would have their mother’s maiden name as a middle name.

              1. Karowen*

                That’s what fed my theory! I seem to remember reading something about how the Spencers (as in Diana) have bluer blood even than the Windsors and had she married anyone else there would have been hyphenation.

              2. Ellie H*

                Why is it called “double-barelled” in the British convention? This always seems jarringly colloquial to me. In the US just saying “hyphenated last name” is the most common convention, right? (I have a hyphenated last name and two middle names, so I think about these things a lot.)

                1. Ellie H*

                  I know it’s not nec. what the government would use in official paperwork or something, but you see it really everywhere (translations of Chekhov, newspaper articles, etc.) which I’ve always found mildly interesting.

          2. Burlington*

            Yeah, my BF’s mother uses both her maiden name and her married name as lastnames (hypenated), and then gave my BF her maiden name as his middle name, so he wouldn’t have to deal with having a hyphenated last name. So, his last name was different than both his parents’. Which was fine.

        6. Amy*

          It’s a way to retain one’s birth name while taking on the new “family” surname. While I don’t introduce myself as “FirstName MaidenName Husband’s Name,” the whole name is on my stationery, if I write a letter it’s signed with all three names, all three are on my checks and business cards.
          My maiden name is also a common first name, and we used it for the middle names of our children. So instead of a hyphenated name, they have my maiden name as part of their name, but don’t have to deal with the hassle of a super long or hyphenated name. So I was Amy Marie Thomas, married Mr. Jones, and now I’m Amy Thomas Jones, and our kids are Ralph Thomas Jones and Wakeen Thomas Jones. We’re all Thomases (except my husband, who, to be fair, is not a Thomas but by marriage) and we’re all Joneses.

        7. simonthegrey*

          Both my mother and mother in law dropped their middle name for their maiden name. I just added my maiden name as a second middle name, and my husband took it as a second middle name as well. Now we both have four names, but we didn’t want to deal with hyphenating (my maiden name was really long, his last name is pretty long, together our children could never take standardized tests).

        8. Elizabeth West*

          I dislike my first name so I go by my middle name. My legal name is Name Elizabeth AnnoyinglyLongLastName. If the universe will stop being a butthead and let me get married, I’d like to drop the first name completely and change the last name. As long as I don’t marry someone named Bob Smittywermenjaegermanjensen, I should be fine.

          Now watch; that’ll happen. :P

      2. Marzipan*

        Eh, and there was me just saying emails shouldn’t be a problem! So, emails may or may not be a problem…

        I would push back on that rule, to be honest, and see whether it could ever be reconsidered. There are plenty of people who aren’t known by their official name – I know loads of people who go by their middle name, for example, including my dad. (He used to go to interviews and they’d be all, ‘So, is it Rob? Bob?’ and he’d be like ‘Actually, it’s Edward’.) And it’s such a pain, especially in large company email directories, when you’re desperately looking for someone and can’t understand why they don’t seem to exist, and have to have someone tell you that Edward is really called Robert, even though he’s never actually called Robert…

        My workplace used to be quite prissy about this but have recently got much better at listing people as they actually want to be listed. So maybe it’s worth at least starting a conversation with the powers that be about this, especially if you can evidence it with ‘we’re having trouble with customers being unable to find Jane’s email address because office policy requires that she’s listed as Cynthia’ or whatever?

        1. Jen RO*

          I tried and they wouldn’t budge :(

          The new coworker is a friend of mine, and until the day she submitted her new hire paperwork I had no idea that “Myra” wasn’t her legal name! The story goes that her mother and father decided to call her “Myra Jane”, but on the way to the [wherever you go to declare your new baby] her father decided Myra is not a proper name and she should be just Jane. When he got home, her mother got angry and decided to call her Myra anyway… so it’s the only name my friend has ever used, despite it not being on any paperwork.

          HR didn’t care and said the rules are rules and as long as her ID card says Jane and not Myra, she will be Jane…

      3. Panda Bandit*

        She didn’t have to change anything. I see a good amount of married women who haven’t changed their names at all. Hyphenating your last name is also a very popular option but I’ve heard it can be a pain. If any of the names are long you tend to run out of space when you need to fill out forms, etc.

        Dropping your middle name and using your maiden name as your new middle name is a weird practice. Nobody has ever explained the reasoning behind it.

        1. Sarahnova*

          It’s not really that weird. It’s a way of taking your spouses name but also retaining your own. It’s a good way of keeping your professional identity consistent without creating a long awkward hyphenate. I did it although I didn’t drop my original middle name, just added my married name to the end.

          1. Melissa*

            Same. I didn’t want to deal with a hyphenated names on legal forms (plus I just didn’t like the way my name looked or sounded hyphenated) but I did want to retain my own original name for personal and professional reasons. It was quite a simple thing and most people aren’t confused as long as I stay consistent.

          2. Mallory Janis Ian*

            I am legally firstname middlename husbandslastname. However, on Facebook, I go by firstname maidenname husbandslastname so that people who knew me by my maiden name can find me. A lot of other women I know do the same thing.

        2. BananaPants*

          It’s not weird. I did want to take my husband’s surname, didn’t want to hyphenate because it’s a pain in the neck on forms and in our case was awkward to say, I was never fond of the middle name I was given by my parents, and wanted to keep my maiden name in my legal name. So I went from First Middle Last to First Last NewLast. I know several women who went for this option. I don’t use my full name often but it’s on our kids’ birth certificates, on my passport, patents, degrees, etc. It’s important to me and makes me happy, and really isn’t consequential for anyone else (at work I simply went from Nickname Last to Nickname NewLast – not complicated).

          1. Ezri*

            If you’re going to replace a part of your legal name, the middle name is the logical choice for most people. My middle name doesn’t hold any significance for me or my parents, except that hearing it means I’m in trouble.

        3. Natalie*

          It can’t possibly be that new – Hillary Clinton did it 50 years ago. As for weird, what is that based on? These are ultimately social conventions that are largely arbitrary today.

          1. Judy*

            I’m pretty sure Hillary Clinton did it in the 90s. She practiced law as Hillary Rodham while in Arkansas.

            But from geneology, it’s been the tradition in the US for many years. I can see it in the census listing some of my ancestors in the early 1800s.

              1. Judy*

                Also remember Mary Todd Lincoln, Juliette Gordon Lowe, Laura Ingalls Wilder to name a few from quite a bit earlier.

          2. Kelly L.*

            It’s not new. My paternal grandmother, who married in the early 1940s, did it. She died when I was 6, and I remember asking my dad why her name was “Mary J Smith” on all her documents when I’d always been told her middle name was Anne. Dad explained that yes, her given middle name was Anne, but she’d decided to use her maiden name “Jones” as her middle name after she got married–at least on paper; obviously “Anne” still got mentioned socially or I wouldn’t have known about it.

            (All names fake.)

        4. Wakeen's Teapots Ltd.*

          It’s not weird at all, and it’s not a new thing.

          My mother did that when she married my father during WWII, replaced her middle name with her maiden name. She signed legal documents as Jane Smith Jones, too, but went by Mrs. Thomas Jones, Jr. socially.

          It’s an actual thing with history.

          1. Wakeen's Teapots Ltd.*

            Actually, I just checked and my grandmother also dropped her middle name for her maiden name. That would have been around 1910. AFAIK, all the women in my family always did that.

          2. Not So NewReader*

            1980s. I got married. My bank would not allow me to have checks in my maiden name.
            That is MY name- HELLO! Anyway, I was forced to get my husband’s name on MY checks. Skip the part about it not being his account. So I went with Mary Smith Jones.
            Not much choice in the matter. This was the only way I could “keep” my name.
            Yes, 1980s.

            1. Artemesia*

              When I married in the 70s I could not get a passport in my name although I had not taken my husband’s last name. I would have had to list myself on my passport as firstname hislastname aka mylastname (like a bank robber, alias my name) We didn’t travel outside the country until they changed that rule

              1. Burlington*

                Oh, yeah, it’s amazing how long there were (gross, sexist) LAWS about this stuff. Even beyond the social conditioning that is still alive and well today. There are probably STILL actual laws about this in some places. Crazy.

            2. ThursdaysGeek*

              Wow! I got married in the 80s too, and had no problems with not changing my name.

              I have a friend who got married (90s, I think) and they combined their names (think Joe Spring and Linda Water combining to make Joe and Linda Springwater). He had to pay to have his name changed, but she got it for free because she got married. I thought that was lame and unequal.

          3. Panda Bandit*

            I’m aware it’s an old practice, and I’m allowed to think something is weird even if it’s a tradition.

        5. MJH*

          I didn’t change mine at all. It’s really the simplest option, as far as paperwork, getting a new email address, changing work stuff, etc. I didn’t have to do any of that! But I mostly kept it because I like my name a lot, it has positive family history attached, and I had no interest in my husband’s name (other than that it is his!). We’ll see how it goes when we have a kid with his name and not mine, but that seems to be a pretty common thing these days, so I am confident school and daycare can handle it.

          I know plenty of people who made their maiden name their middle name and use it, but it seems like a lot of extra writing to me. Middle names do tend to get lost in the shuffle unless you very purposefully pull them out.

          1. Burlington*

            Hahaha, if the daycare can’t handle it, it’s because they choose not to! It’s obnoxious, and preachy, and sexist, but yeah, I can already hear the complaints about your whole little family not sharing a last name.

            1. Artemesia*

              Schools deal with this all the time. If not intact families with assorted name, then divorced families with assorted names. School is the one place we never had any problems at all with names.

          2. Artemesia*

            My kids were hyphenated. The doctors office filed them under their father’s name and after several screw ups (not recognizing who the patient was when I called about a strep test, calling the kids by the wrong last name etc etc ) I asked for the files to be put in the kids’ last name. First the clerk was ‘oh but we have to have billing name on there’. I pointed out that we paid our bills and if they accidentally got sent to my husband with the kids name on them, they would still get paid. Then they whined that the C’s were in yellow folders and the S’s were in purple folders and the kids folder was purple — oh would to do?’ From the depths of the office came the booming voice of the doctor (booming while female) saying “Make a new damn folder.” After that no problem.

          3. hellcat*

            I didn’t change mine either. The complete lack of paperwork has been so nice and I enjoy giving the side-eye to those services that advertise on every wedding site about “making the name change easy!”

        6. Not So NewReader*

          No one has tossed this out yet- but with some people their family trees and genealogy paper work was very important to them. You could work the mother’s family name into the genealogy by using her maiden name as the middle name.

          Having done some genealogy research myself, I have offered up a silent thank you to those women who did this because it makes it easier to be accurate in tracing a line.

          I think people thought about that more in decades past. I don’t know many who are very interested in their ancestry now.

      4. FD*

        Not illegal anymore, but until the 20s it more or less was. It wasn’t until 1925 that the first married woman was able to get a passport with her birth last name, instead of her husband’s last name.

        It’s still the expectation that women change their last name to their husband’s. Although it’s becoming more normal, there’s a stereotype that women who don’t adopt their husband’s last name are radical feminists.

        I believe the practice of maiden-name-as-middle-name became more common in the 70s and 80s. A lot of women drop their birth middle name for legal purposes if they do this, as having four names is a bit unusual in the US. It also gets tricky because most legal forms have first name, middle name, last name. The system doesn’t really encourage more than three names.

        Hyphenating, not changing your last name, and blending the two names are becoming more common, but really only in the last 20-30 years. There are also a lot of legal barriers to doing non-typical things; it’s quite hard for a man to change his last name to his wife’s, and in many areas you have to go through a LOT of hoops to give your child a last name that isn’t at least partly his/her father’s.

        1. Artemesia*

          wow I never heard the passport rule changed in 1925. I was unable to get a passport in my name in 1972 although I never used my husband’s last name. (I had a previous passport in my maiden name that had expired)

        2. Lluviata*

          I’m surprised no one has mentioned this before: in some cultures, women traditionally are not given middle names at birth. Then, when they marry, their maiden name is moved into that spot. I think this is common in Latin American countries, but I’m really hoping someone with direct experience can come and add details since I know this secondhand from meeting people and such.

          I wonder if the no-middle-name practice influenced/was influenced by the drop-middle-name practice or they were created separately?

          1. Kelly L.*

            And I believe sometimes it’s worked into the kids’ names too. So if Juan’s mother’s maiden name is Lopez and his father’s surname is Rodriguez, I think it might come out to Juan de Lopez Rodriguez, though I may have it jumbled up in one way or another.

          2. Vera*

            Oh, no. We don’t have middle names. Our name is composed of a multiple words first name (it can be just María, which is more common in Spain, or María Victoria or even María de los Ángeles, for example) and a two words last name, for example Pérez González.

            In the Spanish tradition, in use in Latin América, we don’t change our names after marriage. Actually, in several countries it is next to impossible to change your name. We don’t have this idea of a family name, I mean all family members having just the same name. If Andrea Molina Robles marries José Céspedes Valencia, they keep their names and their children are named Xxxxx Céspedes Molina and it is clear for everybody reading their IDs or talking to their parents, that their father will be Mr. Céspedes and their mother is Mrs. Molina.

            In the past, sometimes wives would add a “de Husband’s First Lastname” to their social name. In my example, Andrea Molina de Céspedes. My grandmother did that. But it was a long time ago and nobody does it anymore.

        3. LD*

          I think the practice of maiden name as middle name has been around a lot longer than the 70s and 80s, unless you mean 1870s and 1880s. My mother (married in the 1950’s), my grandmothers (married in the 19-teens and 20s), and apparently many older female relatives of many other commenters have the same practice of having the wife’s old surname become the new middle name when she takes a new surname from her husband. Nothing new or weird either way. Whatever you choose, whether it be due to family tradition, personal choice, social convention, convenience, or whatever I find it interesting, but not necessarily surprising.

        4. MJ (Aotearoa/New Zealand)*

          “there’s a stereotype that women who don’t adopt their husband’s last name are radical feminists.”

          Oof, you wanna try being the woman whose husband (happily!) took her name. I’ve copped so much flak (ball-buster, abusive, manipulative, why do you haaaaaaate his family) that it’s ridiculous.

        5. Jen RO*

          Thank you! Your explanation makes the most sense to me. (But I loved reading the entire thread!) Here it’s fairly common to have four names (First Middle Maiden-Husband’s), so it was odd to me to keep reading about this name swapping on US sites.

      5. Jennifer M.*

        If you have a long name, hyphenating it can be problematic if forms don’t have enough space to fit all the letters. This means that your name can be truncated in odd ways in reservation systems and things like that. And when she went to fill out her paperwork for the name change, there was probably only one line for middle name, so she chose to just put the Kardashian rather than Alexandra Kardashian as it may not have been clear that she was allowed to do this.

        1. Artemesia*

          I once had a student in high school whose name was Virginia and her name always got truncated as ‘Virgin’ because of the length of her last name. On the first day of school she always got called ‘Virgin’ in the class role to her embarrassment. I got it right by guess, and she came up later and thanked me and said wouldn’t you think people would KNOW that Virgin is not my name? Of course these days with name creativity, who knows.

        2. Vera*

          Hahaha, that reminds me of the first time I opened a bank account in the US. I have a long Spanish name, four words, something like Marcela Antonia González Echeverría. I could see the sweat in the forehead of the guy trying to find a combination for my credit card… He got it somehow right, M. González Echeverría, but when the card expired, the new one had the name Marcela Gon Eche. It was a nightmare when buying online, I could not remember that name!

      6. bring in that floating fat man*

        Jen RO: I’m pretty sure it’s not illegal (or even uncommon) to have multiple last names in the US. Spanish surnames come to mind.

        On the other hand, an awful lot of software appears to be written with the assumption that all names are three parts: first-name, middle-name, last-name. Sometimes they’ll get fancy and use prefix, first-name, middle-name, last-name, suffix (so you can handle things like Dr. Francis Xavier Flynn, Jr.)

        Where the real fun starts is with some LDAP systems. My company, for instance, uses an attribute called ‘fullname’, which is a single field that accepts the entire name. Being LDAP, you can have multiple ‘fullname’ attributes which hold different versions of the name. This is more of a curse than a blessing. I’ve had to wrestle with writing a Pythen regexp to convert an arbitrary LDAP name string into an “acceptable” (first-name, last-name) 2-tuple, and it was a headache.

        Sorry to go so far afield here. But sometimes it seems like the software “tail” is wagging the real-life name “dog”.

        (and then there are the fun folks who object to the notion that a marriage can only contain two people …)

        1. Judy*

          I had a lot of trouble with an airline frequent flyer account matching my work travel account. It kept coming back as “names don’t match” when I bought tickets. When I logged into the frequent flyer account, it showed the name correctly. Judith Maiden Married. It turns out that the communication between the system split the name as first-middle and last. The frequent flyer account had “Judith” as first and “Maiden Married” as last, while the work travel account had “Judith Maiden” as first and “Married” as last.

        2. Burlington*

          Eh, I’d say two last names is still fairly uncommon. I’ve only known a handful of people that have two last names, and most of the time they have to “pick” one to use formally, because as you said, US forms really don’t like two last names. (Also, I’ve learned recently that software that tolerates a hyphenated last time often WON’T tolerate a hyphenated first name… I know a dude who has one, and he has issues with forms constantly, because they don’t like that special character in that field.)

          1. Vera*

            As a software developer, I always push to accept “unusual” names. Most of the time I have problems with accents, á é í ó ú, not length, but I do have to remind my American coworkers that their names are not really a standard.

      7. Sabrina*

        I would say it’s more uncommon than anything, though there are plenty of people who have two last names. Most women I know that moved their maiden name to their middle after getting married do so because they wanted to remember their dads.

    3. Dynamic Beige*

      I had a coworker who I knew as Wakeen, then one day he told me that his “real” first name was Joseph. Turns out that if you’re French Canadian and devoutly Catholic, you’re supposed to give your male children the first name of Joseph for Joseph (obviously) and Marie for Mary. Then you give them whatever names you want. Given that French Canadian families in Ye Olden Tymes could get very large, there could be several Josephs and Maries, so I guess everyone would get called by their second names, he only went by his second name.

      Just introduce yourself however you want to be called. Unless it’s on an official form, no one is going to know or care what your given name(s) is/are.

      1. Judy*

        There are also traditions where the oldest male child is given the father’s name as a first name, and then a name that is meant to be the name as a middle name. I know a few families that have that naming.

        Robert Carl Jones is known as Carl. (R. Carl Jones)
        Oldest son is Carl Stephen Jones and known as Steve. (C. Stephen Jones)
        Oldest son is Stephen Andrew Jones and known as Andy. (S. Andrew Jones)

    4. Alma*

      There are those of us who as children, even into college, were known by shortened forms of our names (or nick-names) that we think diminish our authority in the workplace. It is your prerogative to choose your preferred form of address in your professional life, and also to correct people gently when they shorten or change it.

      I do not use my first name in the workplace, though many of my family members still call me by my first name. (Part of the reason I don’t use my first name is that **everyone** rushes to shorten it, and does not pronounce it correctly.) My middle name has a nickname version which – suffice it to say – I have heard every joke in the book about. I introduce myself slowly and distinctly. I identify myself on the telephone, and say “let me spell that for you” to be sure the message gets across. And I gently interrupt and correct people who begin into the joke. I hand out business cards when I introduce myself so there is a visual reminder of how I choose to be addressed.

      In a former line of work, there was a new young man just starting out. His legal name was Bobby, but as he was contacting potential clients, he discovered he had a much higher success rate introducing himself as “Robert”. Eventually he legally changed his name to Robert.

      One’s name is important. Make your decision about how you wish to be known in your business dealings, and use that name on business cards, resumes, and in correspondence. (In job applications and other legal documents, use your full legal name.)

  5. Jen RO*

    #2 – You probably don’t want to hear this, but if I heard an employee say that she “needed to be promoted to more responsibilities in line with her level of experience and education”, I would start thinking I need to replace her with someone who actually *wants* the job. So, if you want to share these feelings with HR or your manager, I would at least soften the approach.

    1. MT*

      Agreed. This is always a concern with hiring someone to a position lower than they previously held. I always questions resumes that I get that are too qualified for what I am hiring for.

      1. Windchime*

        Yep. We recently hired someone way overqualified. He said all the right things (I want to take a step back, I need a better work-life balance, of *course* I love QA work), but then he turned around and applied for a promotion mere days after he was hired.

        He has done nothing but boast about his past experience, his blog, and he wants to teach a class at work. He is a huge pain in the butt. I pushed back on his hire, but you can bet that I will push back harder next time someone who is overqualified (or *thinks* they are over qualified) applies for a position in our department.

    2. OP#2*

      I totally understand that saying it in that way comes across as tone deaf. To be more clear, this is a place where everyone is in “job families” so promotions happen often (due to the fact that no one needs to leave necessarily for you to be promoted). It simply means taking on more responsibility. I hear Alison’ response loud and clear and will continue to kick butt in the position to show them how my past experience and education has prepared me for more responsibility.

  6. Lori C*

    OP #3 – I suggest the next time you receive an email asking for assistance, email them back: I would really appreciate it if you would stop contacting me since I no longer work for Teapot Industries. Thank you. Sincerely, Peggy Carter. If this person has the audacity to contact you again, call their supervisor. Hello Janet, this is Peggy Carter. June Cash is still contacting me with questions regarding the position I had with your company. I left your employment six months ago. I asked her to stop contacting me but she continues to do so. Who should I speak with to get this to stop? Would you be that person? Or as Allison suggested, you may tell them you would be happy to set up a consulting contract with them at $300 per hour, minimum one hour charge per question, billed in 15 minute increments after the first hour. And you will require a retainer of $1,200.00.

    1. Ask a Manager* Post author

      The thing is, though, most people want to maintain good relationships with former employers because of references, networking, etc. It’s not that your approach wouldn’t be justifiable, but it’s more adversarial than the OP really needs to be. She can handle this just as assertively without being so adversarial.

      1. neverjaunty*

        Especially if OP has been providing advice all this time. They may really be clueless that this is a problem.

        1. CAinUK*

          Following on from Alison’s point: I would also un-delete (if you can grab it from trash folder) and actually respond to that email OP. You have a right to be frustrated, but simply NOT responding isn’t the best or quickest way to resolve this (or the best way to maintain relationships and references).

          1. Original Poster*

            Hi CAinUK. A few months ago I was contacted by an employee for assistance. I graciously provided them with direction and made sure to let them know that would be the last time I would help. I mentioned that I am busy learning my new position. Unfortunately the message was not clear. I decided to delete the email because we would have this back and forth email happening and I just do not want to waste any more time with that organization.

        2. Original Poster*

          Hi neverjaunty. It would be hard to believe that the previous organization is clueless that I have moved on since I’ve made it clear to the entire department that I could no longer assist.

      2. Original Poster*

        Thank you for posting my question, Alison! You are absolutely correct in me not wanting to respond in a snarky manner. The last thing I want to do is burn bridges.

    2. jag*

      Are those really your prices? I’m impressed you charge that much.

      For me, my prices would be somewhere between $60 and $150 per hour with a one hour or maybe half day minimum, if I was willing to do the work. But I’m just barely into six figures in my “day” job.

      And if I was not willing to do the work, I’d just say so rather than setting up some excessively high price: “Hi, I’m quite busy now and sorry that I can’t help you.” That’s it.

      If they wrote again, I’d write to the manager and say “Hi X. Z has been contacting me with questions, which I has happy to help with for the first couple of months. I’ve since told him I’m too busy to help but he continues to write to me. I’d appreciate it if you could speak with him. Thanks.”

      1. Lori C*

        I wish! I was trying to use outrageous figures since the OP didn’t want to be bothered by these folks. But your right, it probably would be best to just ask them to stop contacting you.

        1. jag*

          “I was trying to use outrageous figures since the OP didn’t want to be bothered by these folks.”

          Using outrageous figures might suggest a lack of understanding of the market, and it’s indirect. Plus, what if they say “Yes” to the prices? (That actually happened to a person I know, regarding salary job he didn’t want.)

          1. Burlington*

            Yeah, it’s really an honesty thing. If it’s work that you don’t want to do at any price, don’t name a price! If you would do it for a ludicrous amount, then it’s fine to name a ludicrous amount (especially if you note that it’s high, but that’s just the price you’re willing to do the work for).

    3. Bluebell*

      Many years ago, I left a job and over six months later I was still getting calls from an interim person in that department about information I knew was in files somewhere. The breaking point was when I received a call one evening at home about some detail. I very nicely told him that I would answer that last question, but in the future, I’d make myself available for consulting at $x per hour. $x was at least double my past hourly wage, and voila – they did not contact me again. I didn’t ask for a retainer though.

    4. Original Poster*

      Hi Lori. Ironically, the last time I was contacted by my previous employer I did make it clear that it would be last time I would offer my assistance. I emphasized that I am learning a new position in a new organization and am extremely busy. I honestly no longer want to associate with my previous employer and want to move on so consulting would not be fitting. Thanks!

  7. Maria Theresa (#4)*

    Thanks for publishing my question Alison!
    I actually do prefer my full name, I guess the problem is more that people are constantly calling me Maria and it is boring to constantly be correcting people. When it is in person, I can usually quickly correct it, but it happens a lot over email too. It feels harsher to correct it then, should I address it right away, or include a note at the end of the email?

    1. Connie-Lynne*

      I’m going to admit, in email, I often just let it lay — but I do sign with “Connie-Lynne” and people often are like “Oh, crud, meant to call you ‘Connie-Lynne,’ sorry,” because they remember from the in-person correction.

      When I worked remotely a lot, I would, if it were a casual enough email, just add a quick note at the top, “Not a big deal, but I actually use both names, ‘Connie-Lynne,’ like ‘Mary Ann'” or else add that on the bottom as a PS, depending on which sounds best in the tone of the letter. I also will wait until a fairly light-hearted or non-crucial email, because I don’t want to dilute important discussions with what might be seen as a triviality.

      In the end, it is a bit more work because it’s slightly out of the ordinary for people, but it’s not any more work than meeting people at a new school or in a new social group. After the first couple months, word will get around and other folks will do the correcting for you! *grin*

      1. Maria Theresa (#4)*

        Thanks :)
        I’ve tried that, but people seem to be really unobservant! My real name has a slightly different spelling than the usual & people just make a mistake on that if they do put both names. It feels like a never ending correction!!

        1. Ask a Manager* Post author

          As someone whose name is regularly misspelled (Allison rather than Alison), I’d let the misspelling go (unless it’s somewhere that it matters, of course). Focus on getting them to call you the right thing; that’s much more important.

          1. Connie-Lynne*

            Oh yeah. I learned a long time ago to live with “Connie-Lynn,” “Connie-Lyn,” or from my german counterparts, things like “Konny-Lynne (pronounced ‘Kon-ee-Lynn-ee’).”

            Gotta pick yer battles.

          2. jag*

            #1: I’ve just not gone to a birthday party thrown for me and other people born in the same month. It’s good to give the organizers the heads up that I wouldn’t be there – I did it by declining the Outlook invitation to the event.

          3. Lori C*

            I apologize, my intent was not to be adversarial but to be polite, professional and to the point. No hammer intended.

          4. Lore*

            Yeah, battle not worth picking. Though my spelling of my name is sometimes a man’s name and I did have to prove I was female to get the government to stop bugging me to sign up for the draft! Still, I continue to find it baffling that I can send someone an email where my correctly spelled name appears both in the email address and my signature and have them respond “Dear Totally Different Spelling…”

            1. CherryScary*

              I have a very female name, but when filling out the FAFSA for college the first time, my dad accidentally marked me as male! I was so confused when the first aid offers weren’t coming in since I hadn’t registered for the draft…

            2. Burlington*

              I hate this! I used to do hiring, and probably 10% of applicants would spell either my first or last name wrong at some point in the process. I took the time to look at their materials and make sure to spell their last names correctly, so why can’t they do the same thing? It feels so disrespectful!

            1. Mallory Janis Ian*

              I had only ever seen it spelled with two L’s until I was an adult and a coworker used the one-L spelling. I found it unusual at the time, but both ways seem equally usual to me now.

              1. Burlington*

                The most common I’ve seen is Alison, followed by Allyson, followed by Allison. So I guess in aggregate they all come out to be pretty common!

                1. The Cosmic Avenger*

                  In case anyone’s curious (I’m not exactly using Census Bureau data, but just did a quick search; these numbers are probably proportionally correct, but not precise):

                  There are 147,125 people in the U.S. with the first name Allison.
                  There are 79,959 people in the U.S. with the first name Alison.
                  There are 20,789 people in the U.S. with the first name Allyson.

                  We each have very small, unrepresentative samples, so it’s not surprising that it’s hard to tell how common each one of those are. And that’s just in the US! (I don’t know in what other countries those names might be popular, but would imagine they wouldn’t be very common in non-English speaking countries.)

                2. I'm a Little Teapot*

                  Alyson also shows up sometimes. (And Chaucer spelled it Alisoun, but I’ve never actually seen that in the modern world.

    2. Connie-Lynne*

      There are a couple things I do to help people remember (hey, gotta set your coworkers up for success!), in addition to just corrections/reminding:

      * In companies that do introductory bios or email, I will make note of the two names as part of that introduction. “Connie-Lynne (yes, both names, please) comes to us from her role as a Senior Teapot Engineer with…”
      * When assigning tasks or doing something else that requires referring to myself in the third person, I use “CL” instead of “Connie” or “C”.
      * This was entirely accidental, but it’s very useful that my email address (clynne) emphasizes the second half of my name. I chose it because it was short and descriptive 30 years ago, without realizing that it would help people remember the right way to say my name. It totally does, though!

      Congratulations on your pending entry to the workforce, fellow slightly-complicated-name-haver!

    3. Artemesia*

      If you really want to be called by the double barrel name you need to educated each new acquaintance clearly the first time you interact. Unfortunately any time one does something out of the ordinary, you run the risk of being seen as ‘difficult.’ I had a professional colleague with an odd name combo like ‘Mary Friend’ who made a big fuss every time someone called her Mary and got the reputation of have a stick. It seemed unfair, but there it was. I would think in our workplace where you deal with the same people all the time, you would be able to establish that you ARE Marie Theresa without having to mention it constantly and then just introduce yourself that way the first time you meet new people.

    4. JMegan*

      You’re actually in a really good position here, because you can decide what you want to be called, and just start using that version of your name. In a new workplace, nobody will be “used to” calling you Maria, they’ll just call you Maria Theresa because that’s how they have always known you.

    5. ACA*

      As a fellow double-name – “Eva Marie,” for example’s sake – I usually let it go in email, especially if it’s someone I won’t be communicating with again, but have occasionally written: “Hi Jane, Please note that my name is Eva Marie, not Eva. Regarding your question about chocolate teapot marketing….” I’m much more likely to correct over the phone or in person.

  8. Dan*


    And people wonder why employers don’t like hiring “overqualified” candidates. I know you gotta do what you gotta do when you’re unemployed, but that generally comes with a year or two of faking a smile before trying to move up.

    1. NJ anon*

      I have always had problems with overqualified employees. Never seems to work out so now I refuse to hire them.

    2. dang*

      I understand the frustration, but two extra years of experience doesn’t really scream overqualified. Lots of people are in that position these days.

      1. MT*

        There is a big difference between 2 and 4 years experience. It is also about the responsibilities of the last job.

        1. MK*

          But 2 out these 4 years are not entirely relevant. It shouldn’t be taken for granted that the recruiter made a mistake in applying the OP for the lower-level job. I think it would be a good idea if the OP considered the person who was hired for the higher position and tried to determine whether they would be competitive compared to that person.

          To my mind, though, the real question is whether there is an opening for the OP to be promoted. If the company has filled the positions a few months ago, there just might not be room for advancement.

          1. MT*

            That is why it is about responsibilities of the last job. If the OP had a lot of mid to high level, independent work, that would raise a red flag for a position that was low level grunt work.

            1. LBK*

              Does it really, though? I think it depends on whether the OP had actually gotten promoted and changed positions at the previous company or if her role just expanded as she gained trust and knowledge and naturally took on more responsibilities. In each role I’ve left I certainly had more autonomy and got more interesting work by the time I left than when I started, but I wouldn’t expect the new role to just skip right to that level of independence.

          2. some1*

            Even if the recruiter “made a mistake”, the LW had two openings here to hammer home that she had the four years of Communications experience that was needed for the role she initially applied for, 1) in her application materials, 2) when the recruiter said she didn’t.

          3. Ask a Manager* Post author

            Even with an opening for advancement, asking to leave the role you just accepted a few months ago isn’t likely to go well with most employers. Plus, it’s possible that the OP wouldn’t have been hired for the higher-level role had she focused on it (and might not be considered a competitive candidate for it now, were it to be open, for all we know; people who are qualified on paper are regularly deemed not the best candidate all the time).

            1. OP#2*

              I should have been more clear: no one has to leave a position for promotions at my employer, it simply means accepting more responsibility within the same type of work. So promotions happen often. I think on paper (and perhaps how I describe it as well) my experience was “non-traditional” for the role. For example, coming from a non-profit setting rather than corporate. I have just found that many of the skills crossed over directly whereas before the recruiter (and myself) assumed there would be more of a learning curve. I don’t want anyone to think I was wildly overqualified for this position, just accustomed to more autonomy. I have been highly positive and held a great attitude in all levels of work that have been assigned to me and will continue to do so.

        2. Colette*

          I’m not sure I’d agree that 4 years experience automatically qualifies you for more responsibility than 2 years. There may be cases where it does, but 4 years is still pretty new, career-wise.

          Even if it did make a huge difference, it doesn’t matter in this case, because the OP accepted a job that doesn’t have the level of responsibility she wants. That’s not the employer’s mistake.

          1. dang*

            Yeah, exactly. Plus the op says that only two years are related to the job and I think includes get masters degree as part of her experience, unless I’m misreading.

            I sympathize because I’m in a low level support position with five years of experience and an advanced degree. But I accepted it as is and also accepted the fact that I shouldn’t plan on getting to move up anytime very soon.

    3. JMegan*

      Agreed. I had this happen once – hired someone with a Masters degree for a tech-level position – and it was an unmitigated disaster. She wasn’t in the door two weeks before she was trying to get her job description upgraded, and she generally let it be known that she was Much Too Good for the job (and for her colleague at the same level, who was perfectly happy as a tech.)

      Now, this is a sample size of one, and this person was probably a pretty extreme example. I wouldn’t assume that everyone in this same position would be that awful, but I would certainly be cautious about trying it a second time!

      And OP, I’m not suggesting that you’re behaving this way, or that you would. Just that you applied for the job knowing what level it was, and you accepted the job knowing what level it was, and it’s not going to go down well if you start agitating for more work already. I agree with the others – be a superstar for a year and then see what you can do. Or if you’re really truly struggling with feeling overqualified here, then start looking for a new job outside your company.

  9. MJ (Aotearoa/New Zealand)*

    #4, I have a double-barrelled first name and I go by MJ. My resume etc has Maria-Jane (MJ) Surname at the top, and I sign all my correspondence/introduce myself as MJ.

    As a side note, you can call me MJ, or Maria-Jane. If you call me Maria, I’m going to reply with “Maria-Jane” every. single. time until you actually get it right ;)

    1. Ask a Manager* Post author

      I think you’ve misunderstood. Jehovah’s Witnesses (and maybe some other religions?) don’t celebrate birthdays. Can we not insult people’s faiths here?

        1. Felicia*

          May I ask where this is common? Just out of curiosity! Because i know quite a few Muslims who celebrate birthdays, but it may be that North Americans do, or it might have something to do with their parents’ countries of origins (i know Muslim practice, like most other religions, varies on your country of origin)

        2. Marcia*

          I’m curious, because I know Muslims from several different countries and parts of the world and all celebrate their birthdays. Where is the person you know from? Could it be a custom just in their country or area?

          1. Musereader*

            My sister converted to islam when she married her husband, he’s very strict in the faith and we have not celebrated her or my nephew’s birthdays in the last 6 years.

            1. Musereader*

              I should also say we are in england and her husband is from pakistan. There is no tradition of birthdays in islam, it is not allowed because it is putting it before god and part of non haram religions. You can get away with the celebration if it is framed as giving thanks to god but otherwise it is a non islamic tradition and therefore not followed. One of many edge cases i have found since my sister concerted where there is disagrrment of the scholars. On the other hand my sister enourages presents at any time so i usually just get presents for my nephews (who are 4 and 1) whenever i see something they might like.

              1. fposte*

                Wouldn’t celebration be a part of haram religions, not non-haram religions, since “haram” is what’s forbidden and sinful?

    2. Apollo Warbucks*

      I work with a Jehovah’s Witnesses who not only doesn’t celebrate their birthday but also who declines invites to nearly all social events during December, which I found a little confusing as they were never anything religious.

      I get on well with the guy and and said to him it was s shame that he wasn’t joining us on our night out, and asked him if it made a difference that the event wasn’t remotely religious (I’ve always viewed it as team building and a reward for a years hard work), we had a brief conversation and there were several reasons that felt unable to attend, some of which I wouldn’t have thought of and it was interesting to get his perspective on the issue.

      People should be free to practice their religion in anyway they like, if it’s not impinging on you then there’s no need to judge others for their convictions (and I say this as a VERY committed atheist, who has little time or respect for the concept of religion)

      1. The IT Manager*

        From my experience, JW are not “fooled” by Christma parties masquerading as end of year celebrations. Nothing on you Apollo, but they ar eusually strict on this.

        And Paul is just being a troll.

        1. Apollo Warbucks*

          It wasn’t an attempt to fool anyone and I respect his choice and reasoning, it’s just disappointing not to be able to socialise with him as he’s a really nice guy.

    3. BritCred*

      Whether its religion or not. If I don’t want my coworkers taking note of my birthday that’s my choice. Anyone trying to change that is Unbelievable. What on earth makes you think you have the right to assess someones “faith” and whether they are taking it too far?

      1. CAndy*

        If you have a right to have a faith, I believe I have a right to be able to cast an eye over it and comment on it if I want to.

        It is after all a belief system which has been constructed by humans.

        1. Amtelope*

          I really don’t think this is a good forum for debating religion, rather than advising people about how to negotiate the workplace given the rules of their faith.

            1. bring in that floating fat man*

              By my simplistic calculations, half-life of a “Hildy” is approximately 13 days.

        2. fposte*

          You also have a right to pick your nose publicly and wipe it in your clothes. Having a right doesn’t mean thst you can practice it without people thinking poorly of you.

        3. nona*

          Well, congrats on boldly posting your opinion pseudonymously on the Internet.

          But most people here are looking for advice, not debates.

          1. CAndy*

            Could have sworn you just posted your opinion in the same way.

            America, where free speech is enshrined in the constitution. Unless of course you happen to want to make a point about the godbotherers.

            At least I didn’t split an infinitive.

            1. NoPantsFridays*

              Do you know what the right to free speech actually means here in “America”? It only means the government can’t censor you. This is Alison’s blog, and she can allow or disallow whatever content she wants. Same goes for any other platform for speech – blog/website, newspaper, book, TV/radio channel, etc.

              And as a “godbotherer”, I see no problem with criticizing faiths and faith-based practices. I criticize other religions as well as my own on a daily basis. After all, if I didn’t criticize my former faith (the one I was raised in), I’d never have deconverted and found my current faith.

              But I tend to save those criticisms for things that are actually harmful, not small things like people individually declining to observe/celebrate their birthdays. OP isn’t saying her coworkers can’t celebrate their birthdays, only that they not require her to celebrate her own.

              Most religious and secular belief systems are constructed by humans. So is money. And I like money.

              1. CAndy*

                Oh dear. I was not having a go at Alison.

                I was having a go at an idiot who to paraphrase, had a go at me for being bold in posting my opinion on the internet under a pseudonym.

                While doing the exact same thing herself.

                Thought this might have been obvious due to the fact that it was Nona’s post I replied to and not Alison’s.

                Thanks for your interest tho, have a great Thursday.

        4. Sandrine (France)*

          Well, while AAM is not a space for debate about certain issues, I can understand how one might want to as this is one of the rare spaces where you can debate things without people going too far off the deep end.

        5. Sadsack*

          You might want to look for a different blog to make comments about people’s religions. This blog discusses managing careers and related topics.

        6. LBK*

          As long as the practice of their religion at work isn’t involving trying to convert you to it, I don’t see how it’s any of your damn business. Not being able to celebrate someone’s birthday at the office is not a crime against humanity.

      2. Natalie*

        Those Jehovah’s Witnesses, always protesting ChuckECheese and smashing birthday candles in protest.

    4. nona*

      Plenty of people take “faith” way too far, but this one? No. LW’s essentially not eating cake one day a year. And we know nothing about the rest of this person’s religious beliefs.

      I generally ignore my birthday (not for religious reasons). I’m not terribly deprived without cake and some presents.

      1. some1*

        Right. Taking it too far might be along the lines of trying to get everyone else to stop celebrating their own birthdays, which is not at all what’s happening.

        1. NoPantsFridays*

          Yeah, I didn’t get the impression that OP was trying to prevent her coworkers from celebrating their own birthdays. It’s not even clear that she’s declining to participate. She just doesn’t want her own observed/celebrated.

    5. Lizzy*

      Your comment about about taking faith too far is incredibly condescending and lacks serious perspective –I can give you real examples of “taking faith too far.” But I will refrain from commenting further because I imagine Alison does not like it when conversation veers too negatively and too far from what is being discussed.

      Many people hate celebrating their birthday or choose not to, and their reasoning is not even related to religious beliefs. If someone does not celebrate their birthday because his or her faith does not permit it, I fail to see how that cannot be accommodated and respected.

  10. Wakeen's Teapots Ltd.*


    When people hire you for job X, they are hiring you because they need job X filled. It is very frustrating, on the employer side, to hire somebody for a job and have them start pushing for advancement when they have only been in a position for a few months. This has happened to me at least a few times and it has made me wish that I’d never hired the person to begin with.

    Framing can make a difference.

    If you frame your frustration to anyone as “I’m way more qualified than my peers” or “this work is boring. I need better work so I won’t be bored” and you’ve only been there a few months, this is a bad thing. The former marks you as stuck up and the latter as self absorbed. If you are asking your supervisor to give you better work, depending on her circumstances, you might be asking her to make more work for herself. Creating special assignments so someone isn’t bored can be a lot of work, and not something a person is willing to do for a new hire who please god could she just do what she is hired for without making work for the rest of us.

    OTOH, looking for ways to actually help, that’s a good thing. If you see more advanced things that need to be done, ways you take work off of your boss and make her life easier, volunteer. Master the job for which you’ve been hired, both accuracy and speed, and then ask for extra work.

    Show people you are over qualified by actually being over qualified, right? Then ask about advancement in a year or so.

    1. Burlington*

      For real. OP, in the upcoming meeting, since the purpose is to gauge how much you’re liking your role, I don’t think it’s inappropriate to mention that you’d love to move up in the future. But if you continue talking a lot about how you’re disengaged and don’t like most of your job, it’s just as likely to cause you to be fired from your current job as it is to cause you to be advanced. I agree that it’s really important to remember that you applied for that higher level job, and they looked at your materials and told you that you’d be more competitive for a lower one instead. Employers don’t tend to make that decision flippantly. You might find it helpful to do some honest self-evaluation about what in your background is really useful to this employer, and what is tertiary. Then see what you can do in your current job to fill in any gaps. But you should definitely be looking to move up in a year or more, rather than in the next couple months.

    2. A Cita*

      Great advice. I took a job once that I was overqualified for. I dedicated myself to the job at hand. And when there was down time, I surveyed what was going on around me and figured out specific help I could offer with more advanced projects.

      So yes, the key is doing the job you were hired to do well and without attitude and then finding ways you can offer assistance when there is down time. Do it well enough, and you will soon be the go to person for higher level tasks.

    3. OP#2*

      Framing my question to Alison is much different than how I would frame to my employer. I respect the decision they made and look forward to working here long term, so I just want to demonstrate through my work and through my actions that more autonomy and responsibility is my goal. I have been proactive about that, I just wanted to get more information from Alison if there was anything additional I could say or do.

  11. BananaPants*

    #1: This sort of thing makes me glad that I work in an environment where birthdays aren’t celebrated. I have zero clue when anyone’s birthday is and am totally fine with that.

    #2: This is why so many hiring managers are unwilling to consider an “overqualified” candidate, even if they’re willing to do the job as-posted. You really have two choices: suck it up until you’re been there for a year or more and have proven yourself in the current role, or find a new job that you think is more suited to your skillset. The former can include taking on additional tasks at a higher level to demonstrate your readiness for promotion but as others have said you need to be careful in how you approach this.

    1. Wakeen's Teapots Ltd.*

      This is why so many hiring managers are unwilling to consider an “overqualified” candidate, even if they’re willing to do the job as-posted.

      Yep, I’m gun shy. Not completely adverse, but gun shy, for exactly this.

  12. Batshua*

    For OP#5, you didn’t address if there was a best way for them to mention the training they picked up while not working, especially given that it doesn’t seem like they were college classes and could be easily listed that way under education.

    I’m curious, what should they do?

    1. Monodon monoceros*

      I wouldn’t list the “skills” anywhere on my resume. Sure, OP probably learned a lot while caring for her daughter, but skills learned while in a personal situation are not really relevant on the resume. Perhaps if during the interview she was asked something that she could then say, “well, this wasn’t during a job, but while caring for my daughter I learned to….”

      I learned a hell of a lot about navigating health insurance and doctors when I had some medical issues. Not on my resume. I learned a lot about probate law when my grandmother died. Not on my resume. There are just a lot of “life skills” that don’t go on your resume.

      I think AAM has talked about this before, too. If I remember correctly, she used the example that you can’t use planning your wedding to show your event planning skills, and you can’t use planning your complicated family reunion to show your travel agent skills.

        1. Persephone Mulberry*

          But even these, I think, aren’t really resume material unless they were advanced classes that really put you head and shoulders above everybody else with a working knowledge of MS Office.

          That said, if you can find a way to work this continuing ed into your cover letter, I would, and not only because it helps fill that work gap, but might help alleviate any concerns about hiring someone who was at the same job for 20+ years (no offense to you, OP. But there have been plenty of stories on AAM about the 20-year office manager who refuses to get with the times, and I’m sure you don’t want to be seen as that person!).

          Best of luck in your search, and I’m so glad your daughter is doing well.

          1. BRR*

            I agree, I think classes can be worked into a cover letter to fill a gap but not a resume. I just wanted to clarify what was being talked about.

      1. Allison*

        Agreed. It would be one thing if OP had taken a class or two to keep her skills up-to-date (I recommend it whenever possible), but life skills aren’t professional skills. Those skills are important, that work is important, but usually not transferable to the professional realm. When people list being a housewife, SAHM, caregiver, etc. as part of their job history, it doesn’t look professional – it looks cheesy, gimmicky, and borderline delusional. In fact, it can be downright creepy when women list their families or husbands as their employers. Please, just don’t. Mention it in your cover letter, maybe even your summary, but don’t list it as a job.

      2. Artemesia*

        I have actually had resumes where housewives tried to euphemize and package their ordinary household chores as if they were CEOs of major corporations or financial officers. Goes immediately in the ‘you’ve got to be kidding’ pile. Those of us who work also ‘manage the family budget’ ‘coordinate transportation’ and all that nonsense as well. There is nothing wrong with taking time to deal with a family health crisis, and women tend to get a bit of a pass on that compared to men, and it may be prudent to mention taking the time to deal with such a crisis in a cover letter to account for gaps. But ‘providing bacteria free nutrition’ is going to get laughs as ‘professional achievement’.

        If I were applying for a position that involved dealing with insurance companies, I might mention having to do that in a complex personal case (not on the resume, but perhaps in the cover letter and certainly in the interview). But it is a delicate thing not to come across as naive and given to gymnastic puffery.

        1. neverjaunty*

          Unfortunately that’s one of those nuggets of bad career advice frequently give to homemakers going back to paid work.

  13. Trix*

    Letter Writer #4’s comment that ” people have told me they don’t want to have to always say my full name” jumped out at me. Who in the world would say that to someone???? That’s pretty rude IMO.

    1. Maria Theresa (#4)*

      I agree! I’ve been told that more than a few times, which has made me rethink if I should be ‘forcing’ people to say my name.

      1. ancolie*

        You should, because they’re the ones being rude! It’s YOUR name and they’re saying they don’t respect you if they can’t be assed to, omg! say a couple extra syllables. The poor dears, does no one understand their suffering? :'(

        The best way to drive the point home (and yes, I’ve done it)* is to cheerfully agree… And then say that you’ll just call them {insert nickname. Best if there’s an obnoxious diminutive of their real name, but feel free to pick a completely different name, too}.

        Most people get the point. But others won’t connect the two and get huffy. That’s when you can ask what the problem is, since apparently we can just call someone whatever we like instead of what they say their name is. Or make the point more politely but directly, depending on your preference.

        * friend of mine is Brad, short for BradFORD, not BradLEY. Another friend named Juan Carlos (just goes by Juan) would antagonize Brad by calling him Bradley. Kept it up even though Brad said to knock it off several times and was getting pissed. So I started calling Juan “Johnny Chuckles”. :D He IMMEDIATELY was all, “that’s not funny.” So I said, “neither is calling him Bradley, then.” Stopped that cold.

  14. Rayner*

    #5, I agree with Alison.

    Although that is a lot of work, it’s nothing on scale of what you would be doing if you did any one of those jobs professionally (or even semi pro). It’s one thing to sit on the patient/parent/family side of the table and quite another to sit on the pro side of doing the same role, and bosses only want to hear about the latter. Putting it on your resume will just make people feel like you don’t understand the difference.

    Congrats on your daughter’s recovery, though!

    1. Stef*

      Thanks- I didn’t think I should put them either. It’s been very helpful getting all of this input. I believe I will leave it off of the resume but mention the time in my cover letter, stressing that she has recovered and returned to school and how much I’m looking forward to returning to the workplace.

  15. Helen*

    #2. I would definitely steer clear of using the word “promotion” in your talk. I would just do your current tasks to the best of your abilities and *occasionally* mention that you like the more challenging tasks. I took a job that I was overqualified for, and it showed quickly. I got a raise at six months and a title change at a year. But the job title was made for me (it wasn’t an existing job tier) and it never was ultimately challenging enough.

  16. BRR*

    #5 As Alison said I would briefly address it in your cover letter. If you put it on your resume it would be like when stay at home parents list that as their job. It’s a ton of work but doesn’t really fit in on a resume.

    Congratulations on your daughter’s recovery and great job taking care of her. It had to be a tremendous amount of work.

  17. The_artist_formerly_known_as_Anon-2*

    #3 – in another thread – and I won’t go over this too far – but I had the same problem. I was laid off of a position, my replacement had no clue as to how to perform my job, and another systems person – who was capable -was “assisting” her but needed to be trained “over the phone”.

    As AAM said – I was willing to help – to maintain references, etc. but it got to be overbearing (3-6 hours a week) and when I did find work elsewhere I was forced to tell them I couldn’t help any more. I am being paid by company Y to do work for them, and can no longer do this for you.

    1. Artemesia*

      You are a nicer person than I am. If I got laid off, there is no way in hades I would continue to provide ‘training over the phone’ to the incompetents they thought could do my job. Of course I would be professional in transition. But the day I was no longer there, they would not get anything more from me (except perhaps a passport they forgot to ask for.) It is one thing if you left for another job; but they fired you and now want you to continue working for them. Not even. Certainly one month was more than gracious to respond to questions.

      1. The_artist_formerly_known_as_Anon-2*

        I thought I’d be nice – because I did have a “right to recall”.

        After a few months of unemployment they asked if I’d waive that – I said “not without some financial consideration”……

        In fact, after I worked at another place for a couple months, I was asked if I’d come back. I said “not unless you give me a three-year no-layoff agreement”…

      2. The_artist_formerly_known_as_Anon-2*

        I might also add – they were upset that I had taken a week off to go job hunting in another part of the country ….. I had to inform them that I was not “on call”.

      3. Jazzy Red*

        Artemesia, I completely agree. The moment my employer made the decision to toss me aside like a used kleenex, they were on their own. However, I always had a desk manual that would answer most questions if anyone bothered to look at it.

        1. Elizabeth West*

          I always do a manual in case I accidentally step out in front of a bus, which I very nearly did in London! (I knew which way to look; the sun was in my eyes. Yes, there was sun in London that day LOL.)

          Doing them also helps me learn procedures. I work them up from my notes. I would suggest this to a replacement if they kept calling for help–sit down with the person who has done X and have them talk you through it, take lots of notes, and then type them up. You’ll learn it much faster and see where the weak areas are, those in which you need to ask more questions.

  18. soitgoes*

    For OP4, I think she should pick one variant that she prefers the most and introduce herself as that. Giving a lot of options and then prohibiting the one nickname that seems the most obvious (just Maria) would strike me as odd (it’s the presentation of it, not the request). This is one of those things that’s very YMMV. Most people have no problem going by one name or a nickname that others have chosen for them, so they really might not have a head for remembering someone’s specific request in that regard. It’s just something to keep in mind – they won’t be trying to offend you or treating you with passive aggression. They’re just not used to someone being adamantly opposed to being called a nickname.

    OP5: I’m so glad your daughter is better! I agree with Alison though – I wouldn’t put “caregiver” on your resume unless you’re a certified health professional and are actually qualified to care for others in a professional setting.

    1. Sadsack*

      It seems like you are suggesting that OP should just accept people calling her by a name that she doesn’t want. I understand that it would make it easier for everyone who is addressing her, and it would mean less correcting by OP, but if OP doesn’t like it, she doesn’t like it. How long does it take to learn a person’s name? Especially when it is someone who you work with fairly often, just learn the name that the person wants to go by. I was surprised when the OP wrote that she has had people tell her that they don’t want to have to say her full name. That is ridiculous. Some people have nick names, whether self-chosen or imposed by others. If OP doesn’t like it, then it is up to others to learn her name.

      1. soitgoes*

        I’m not suggesting that at all. But people have certain ingrained habits, and if they don’t happen to care much about being called nicknames themselves, they might not put a lot of effort into learning someone else’s specific quirk in that regard. I was more advising the OP not to view it as a personal affront if it takes a while for people to get used to it. There are also a lot of cultural/regional factors at play with names like that (the example given, Maria Teresa, sounds very Catholic and/or southern to me, so depending on where she ends up working (ie in an area that is of a markedly different culture or is not in the South) she might find that people simply don’t care much about things like nicknames or maintaining the usage of compound first names. It’s like when some feminists insist that all women MUST keep their maiden names after marriage, even though a lot of women simply don’t view names as a huge aspect of identity. Some people do, some people don’t, but it’s not something you can change someone’s mind about.

        1. Windchime*

          I dunno, a name is such a personal thing. It seems really impolite to insist on calling someone a name that they don’t like or isn’t theirs. I mean, if the OP’s name is Marie Theresa and that’s what she prefers to be called (because it’s her NAME), then isn’t it rude for people to insist on calling her something else after they have been told, “That’s not my name”?

          1. Sadsack*

            My point, exactly. I don’t consider it a quirk to want people to use my name. It’s my name. Saying, “hey, your name is too complicated for me to bother remembering it” is so lazy and rude, I really can’t understand it. I don’t care where Maria Teresa is from or what is her religion. If she introduces herself to me or corrects me with Maria Teresa, that’s what she wants me to call her, so that’s what I call her.

        2. I'm a Little Teapot*

          Calling someone a nickname they don’t like is often a deliberate insult or mark of disrespect, though, and even if not deliberate it’s pretty much a signal saying “I don’t care enough about you to get your name right.”

    2. Maria Theresa (#4)*

      Honestly it isn’t even that I don’t like the name, I just can’t remember to respond to it. Growing up I was never called just Maria, so I don’t feel that is my name at all. In email I usually let it go, but in person it is weird, because it really is to me like they are calling me by someone else’s name.

  19. fposte*

    OP#2–I know it’s frustrating to feel like there’s another job in the organization that would suit you better, but I feel like you’re framing this without understanding the organization’s likely point of view here. You didn’t get that job, and somebody else did. They have you doing work they need somebody to do, and somebody else is doing that other work that you want to do. For you to stop doing the work they need and take over work somebody else is doing leaves them with an open position where you currently are and redundancy where you want to be. That’s what they’re likely to be prioritizing, not whether your current work is in line with your expectations or not; they’re assuming that since the job was good enough for you to take, you consider it good enough for you to do.

  20. TotesMaGoats*

    #1-I think I’m echoing AAM and everyone else. Evangelizing at work is a bad thing. Telling someone that you don’t celebrate your birthday because of your religion isn’t. And if your workplace is open enough, just talking about what you believe in an information sharing aspect isn’t a bad thing either. We do celebrate birthdays in my office (is anyone really surprised?) but I always ask my new employees if they celebrate their birthday and I ask in private. If they didn’t, for whatever reason, it wouldn’t be brought up again. I do applaud you for taking it in stride when people were wishing you happy birthday. That’s the right thing to do.

    #2-I’m not sure if I’m piling on as I skipped over a lot of comments but OP this is why a lot of people who are overqualified for a job don’t get hired. Managers think you’ll get bored in the lower level role (which is sounds like you are) and you’ll want to move up (which you do) and we’ll either be short yet another job or have no where to put you. I would hold out in the lower level role for at least a year, build your reputation at the company and then apply for the internal role you really want. At my place, you have to be here for 6 months before you are even qualified to apply for internal positions.

    1. SherryD*

      We do celebrate birthdays in my office (is anyone really surprised?) but I always ask my new employees if they celebrate their birthday and I ask in private. If they didn’t, for whatever reason, it wouldn’t be brought up again.

      I applaud this! At my last couple of jobs, everyone’s birthday is automatically given to the admin assistant who marks them in his Outlook calendar. Then for every birthday, the whole office signs a card for the birthday boy or girl. I know it’s pretty innocuous and good-spirited, but I think a few people found the whole thing pretty annoying.

  21. Ann O'Nemity*

    #2 – I don’t blame this OP for feeling frustrated. It sounds like the recruiter gave them bad advice, and now the OP has taken a gigantic step backwards with their career. Salvaging this situation at this particular employer is probably dependent on the OP’s long-term patience. It’s unlikely that the OP can get a promotion for at least a year – maybe more – and even then, they’d be moving up to the level they already held years ago. Through a lot of hard work and a great attitude, they may be able to eventually make up for the lost time. Or, they could start a new job search now.

    1. Ask a Manager* Post author

      Since the hiring manager hired her for this role and thus clearly thought it was a reasonable fit, the recruiter may not have given her bad advice either.

      The OP is taking it as nearly a given that she could have been hired for the higher-level role had she applied for it, but there’s actually no way of knowing if that would have happened.

      1. Ann O'Nemity*

        I agree that there’s no guarantee that the OP would have been hired for the higher-level role. But that doesn’t necessarily mean that recommending the lower-level role as a better fit is good advice – for either the applicant or the company. It’s not good that the OP starts the job, gets the first assignments, takes a look at peers, and then instantly feels bored and overqualified.

      2. The_artist_formerly_known_as_Anon-2*

        Yeah but sometimes there is deceit – someone answers a request for Senior Teapot Engineer, paying 150,000 tugheriks a year, and is offered a Junior Teapot Engineering spot for 2/3 that. There was a scene in the movie “The Company Men”…

        That often happened to me early in my career – and it would stun an interviewer when I’d say “well, that’s not what I came in to talk to you about. I don’t want to waste any more of your time, so I think it’s best that we cut this short now.”

        And if they’re only offering the junior position and you’re going to be unhappy and underchallenged – it’s best to walk away.

    2. Helka*

      Yeah, this. I can see why people are talking upthread about the dangers of hiring someone overqualified, but I think the real problem here is that the recruiter decided to aim low, and pushed the OP to do so when that was maybe not the better choice.

      1. LBK*

        Are we positive the recruiter aimed low, though? The difference between 2-4 years isn’t THAT dramatic, and it doesn’t sound to me like the OP feels her skills aren’t being challenged, just that she isn’t able to work with autonomy. I wonder if this is actually just a factor of being new to the company and not about the job at all, and that if she sticks it out, builds a reputation and gains the trust of her manager, she’ll get that autonomy back. You can’t just jump to the level of flexibility and freedom in a few months that you get when you’ve been somewhere for years.

        1. Helka*

          Of course we aren’t positive; I’m taking the OP at face value that the higher role was within her scope and she was a reasonably competitive candidate for the position.

        2. Burlington*

          This! Plus, I worry that OP has fallen a bit into the Master’s trap… that is, I see a surprising number of people who feel like having a Master’s degree in an “adjacent” field as OP does makes them dramatically more qualified, when in fact it might not make them AT ALL more qualified. Or, perhaps only marginally. If it’s a job that doesn’t require a Master’s, it’s probably a mistake to think that having it helps you.

          1. OP#2*

            I’m totally fine with my Master’s not being taken into consideration here, just FYI, I probably shouldn’t have included that. The employer is able to hire for a position at a few different levels so placing me at that level meant that’s just what the department will get instead of that higher position. Everyone does the same tasks, just at different levels. I assumed also there would be a bit of a learning curve, it just turns out there isn’t and my past work directly applies. I do think the recruiter didn’t have a great understanding of the department I was moving into, but I am overall happy doing the work I am doing.

            1. Ann O'Nemity*

              Thanks for the additional detail. If they hired you at a lower level without hiring someone else at the higher level, there’s probably more opportunities for you to be assigned that higher level work. Once you prove yourself, hopefully you can move up quickly.

    3. Cheesecake*

      I disagree. A recruiter is not DMV – the only authority to decide if you get the licence or retake the test. Recruiter is, well, a recruiter. He can give valuable advice but equally, if not more often, pretty damn bad one. Also, hiring company/manager did not blindly offer OP a job based on recruiter’s feedback. But after all these deliberations, OP was the one to decide which direction to go and who to listen to. Ok, let’s assume it is solely recruiter’s fault. How would it look like if OP tells her manager “recruiter put me in this role i am not happy with. Now, can you please correct his mistake and give me a job i wanted to apply to in first place”?

      There is noone else to blame here. And blaming is not the thing to do, OP should move past it and make a decision stay&zip it or go try to get a better job outside. I am a little confused by OP’s thoughts about “entitlement” to a higher job and believe this attitude will not help.

  22. LBK*

    #2 Work experience isn’t like experience points in a video game, where you automatically level up when you have enough. You decided to take on a lower-level dungeon and now you’re stuck there until you complete it. The good news is that since you already have a bunch of skill points it should be easy to get through, if a bit tedious, and then you can collect the loot from the boss at the end.

    1. hayling*

      “Work experience isn’t like experience points in a video game, where you automatically level up when you have enough”

      that’s great!

    2. OP#2*

      This was how the recruiter framed it to me. Level 1 Teapot Makers have 1-2 years of experience and Level 2 Teapot Makers have 2-4 years of experience.

      1. LBK*

        Out of curiosity, did they say if that was in general or specifically at the company/in the role? Here we have 1/2/3/senior based essentially on years of experience, but that’s years here. It’s really hard and really rare that someone would be hired directly into a level other that 1.

        1. LBK*

          (Also I know that’s not necessarily common and that a lot of companies hire directly into senior positions, but I think there are plenty of places that do it the way my department does too.)

  23. Dasha*

    #2 this is happening with a lot of people due to the job market! This also happened to me and Alison is right, tough it out for a year and things will get better. Just remember, you are still gaining valuable experience and you’re not stuck there forever.

  24. Allison*

    #2, I don’t see anything wrong with signaling to your manager that you’re interested in moving up within the organziation, as long as you frame it well. Approach it during a general touch-base meeting, rather than confronting your manager about it. Ask how long one usually stays in a position before moving up, as a way to clartify expectations. Get your manager’s thoughts on where you could go from where you are, whether your manager sees you in a leadership role, a more senior version of the role you have now, or whether they see you moving up and over to a different kind of position. Finally, find out what exactly you’d have to do – what attitude you’d have to display, whether coming in early or staying late would make a difference, if special projects would help, etc.

    Basically, don’t say “hey boss, I’m ready to move up, let’s make it happen,” express interest in working your way up, and work with your manager on a plan.

  25. Malissa*

    #2–Be gracious and helpful. Attitude is everything. I would frame the the request as, “I enjoy the work in a, b, and c. But I also have skills in e, f, and g. I would like to keep those skills sharp and current. If there is ever a chance to help out with anything related to that I would love to be involved.”
    Keep in mind that you have to be excelling in your current position for them to even consider that you would have the time to help out in other areas. Once you get the chance to help out then they can see your skills and you will be in their minds if something opens up.

  26. Malissa*

    #3–Just stop answering them. At this point you are being a crutch. Once you stop answering emails in a timely mannner, they’ll quit sending them.
    When I left my last job I spent a month dealing with daily emails. Some were things I didn’t get to cover with my replacement. But as time went on I figured out she was emailing me first before looking through any resources or researching the issue.
    I actually stopped answering her back when my former boss called me and said she told him I didn’t cover half the stuff that I sat there and explained to her. Stuff I had also written detailed procedures on. I realized I was her crutch and excuse that she wasn’t doing her job. I sent a final email to her saying that I would only help her if it was something that I hadn’t written a procedure on and that she also hadn’t gotten an answer from one of her coworkers on.
    The emails came a whole lot less frequently.

  27. BadPlanning*

    On #OP #1, if either the manager or party planner seemed confused or uncertain when you tell them to skip your birthday (I really liked Alison’s wording), I would reply with what you shared with us, that you don’t mind other birthdays. Maybe something like, “I enjoy the other office birthdays fine, we just need to skip mine.” In case they’re jumping around to thoughts of “Oh oh, do we have to cancel office birthday? Do I have to remember to not talk about birthdays to OP?”

  28. Michele*

    In the first question, I don’t understand why the religious aspect matters. It should simply be enough to politely tell the party planner or office manager that they don’t want to celebrate their birthday. People’s preferences should be respected with or without religious justification.

    1. Ashley the Nonprofit Exec*

      They should be, but it’s much more compelling to include the faith aspect. Otherwise people might just assume OP doesn’t like being the center of attention, or whatever and decide it worth it to “do something nice” anyway.

      1. Michele*

        We need to stop saying that there are only a couple valid excuses for things and that anyone who doesn’t fit into one of those categories just needs to suck it up. Religion is one of the things that gets people carte blanche out of doing things. The coworkers shouldn’t respect the religion, they should respect the person. It doesn’t matter if the person is religious, if they had some sort of childhood trauma on their birthday, or if they just think that it is silly for adults to celebrate birthdays. If they want to opt out, they should be able to opt out.

    2. SherryD*

      I think you’re right: If someone has clearly stated they’d prefer their birthday not be celebrated, coworkers should respect that. Unfortunately, some will think, “Oh, that Carol, so shy, or so afraid of getting older. Well, let’s go ahead and do something nice for her anyway.” So I think it could help to explain what the stakes are.

    3. Mephyle*

      It should be enough, but it isn’t always so. Alison addressed that in her answer when she wrote “if you don’t, you risk people deciding that you don’t really mean it or that they know better and pushing a celebration on you anyway”. There have been stories here and elsewhere of people who didn’t like celebrating their birthday at work, out of personal preference that wasn’t religious-based, and had birthday celebrations forced on them.

  29. Natalie Anne Lanoville*

    I read all the replies, and I was surprised that nobody commented on how the birthday ‘got out’ and became public knowledge. I’ve never worked at a place where it would be kosher for a supervisor to reveal a staff birthday to another random staff member, or for a co-worker to find it on the Internet and share it around the office.

  30. Thanks for calling*

    #1) I had a boss who did not celebrate his birthday or other holidays for religious reasons. While my office wasn’t overly pushy about it, he got the vibe that some people thought it was weird or felt odd that they would never (apparently) get a chance to celebrate with him. He told us that we could do whatever we wanted on X Date – his wedding anniversary. I think it helped to give people something to do for him, and he was comfortable with it. If people are weirdly insistent, maybe you could find something you are comfortable with to compromise?

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