telling a coworker she has B.O., putting degrees in your email signature, and more

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

1. Talking to a depressed coworker/friend about B.O.

I have a very good friend who’s also a coworker (on another team from mine). I happen to know that she’s suffering from very bad depression, and I’m very proud of her for getting through it as well as she is.

Here’s my dilemma–in the last few months, she’s developed a definite problem with body odor. I think it’s very likely to be related to her depression, since I know she has trouble gathering the energy to do even basic tasks. I’m concerned that it may damage her professional reputation–I know some of our coworkers have already complained about what they think is her flakiness, and the fact that she’s not been as put together as is expected in our industry (think wearing visibly rumpled clothes, that kind of thing). Should I say anything to her? And if so, what would you recommend I say?

(As a side note, I don’t think this is due to cultural differences in diet.)

If she’s a good friend and you believe she’d want to know (most people would, for what that’s worth), yes. Exactly what to say will depend on your relationship, but it could be less awkward to make it about laundry rather than her actual body. You could say something like this: “Hey, I hope you don’t mind me telling you this, but I’ve noticed an odor from your clothes lately that didn’t used to be there. It might be that you’re washing or drying your clothes differently than you used to. It’s hard to noticed stuff like that about yourself, so I thought you’d want me to tell you.”

Or you could be more straightforward, although most people really struggle with directly telling people they’ve got B.O. But if you’re up for it, you could say: “I want to be a good friend and tell you that I’ve noticed lately you’ve had a smell you didn’t used to have. Normally I’d ask if everything was okay, but I know you’re going through a really tough time and figured this might be related to that. I’d count on you to tell me that if you ever noticed it about me so I hope it’s okay that I’m telling you.”

2. My coworkers keep touching me

Several people in my office have been touching me. It is not inappropriate touching; it is more like make a connection touching. I don’t like it at all. Is there a nice way I can get it to stop? I am not a toucher type. In the beginning it was happening a little. Then we got a new person and he was touching me the minute he walked in the door. I mentioned this to someone and then many more people started touching. I suspect the person wanted to get to me and spread the word. Do you think if I tough up and ignore it they will tire of it and stop?

Possibly, but rather than waiting it out, why not just tell people to stop? Just say, “Oh, I’m not really a toucher.” Smile and say it kindly, and people are less likely to take it as a chilly push-away. But if someone continues after you’ve told them to stop, getting chillier is perfectly appropriate; at that point you should say firmly and without smiling, “Please don’t touch me.”

3. Putting degrees/certifications in your email signature

How do you feel about email signatures with degrees/certification in them? Like, “Sansa Stark, MPA” or “Brienne of Tarth, Esq” ?

For most people, not good. Avoid.

There are a few fields where it’s normal to do that (like the medical field, for example), but for most people, it’s unnecessary and comes across as putting too much weight on the degree. If it’s the norm in your field, you’ll presumably know it — but define that as “nearly everyone working in this field,” not “I’ve seen a couple of people do it.”

4. How to give feedback to consultants

At my organization we have a formal performance evaluation system for staff, which consultants are not included in even though many of them do staff-like work. As a team leader of projects, management frequently assigns people to my team who do work on my projects but do not directly report to me (except in the context of the project). It has always bothered me that there is not a formal way to provide feedback for consultants, particularly those who have done a great job. I have started doing emails, but was not sure about the appropriate protocol, especially as no one else really does it and I work in a formal environment.

Is it better to write to their supervisor directly saying what an excellent job they did and why and copy the person, or write to the person thanking them for their good work and copy their supervisor?

Either one! And in either case, they and their manager will likely really appreciate it.

You can also provide feedback informally on an ad hoc basis as you notice things that person is excelling at or that you’d like them to do differently, or in slightly more formal debriefs at the end of a project. (The latter wouldn’t be a performance evaluation; you don’t really do that for consultants. But you can certainly ask them to set aside time to debrief with you about how the work went.)

5. Can my friend connect me to a recruiter who contacted her about a job?

My friend is being regularly emailed by recruiters. She’s not interested in most of the positions, but occasionally shows me one that might be a good fit for me. We work in related fields, though hers is more technical. Our skill sets overlap, and it wouldn’t take long for me to learn the ropes.

If my friend is contacted by a recruiter with a job that isn’t right for her but might be right for me, what should we do? Should I reach out to the recruiter directly? Should she send the recruiter my contact information? Should she include my resume? We’re really stumped on the etiquette here.

Do both. Recruiters are usually happy to get leads, so it wouldn’t be at all weird for your friend to say, “I know someone who could be great for this. Her name is Cordelia Plufferton, and I”m attaching her resume if you’d like to reach out to her.” Meanwhile, if you don’t hear from the recruiter a day or two after that, it would be fine for you to contact the person directly and say “I learned about this job from my friend Valentina Warbleworth and would love to talk if you think I might be the right match” (and of course, attach your resume).

{ 297 comments… read them below }

  1. Andrea*

    For #3- I work in higher education (at a reasearch university) and it’s not uncommon for staff at the institution to list their degrees (although generally not undergraduate degrees).

    1. super anon*

      Same here. I work in academia at a major research university and it’s very common for people to list their degrees in their email signatures and on their business cards. I don’t list mine as I only have a BA in an unrelated field to what I do now so I don’t think it’s relevant or particularly impressive enough to list.

    2. JJ*

      Yeah, M.A., Ph.D, and generally everything above the BA/BS is fair game in academia and in some professional settings where it seems important to know that you have that stuff (e.g., organizational psychologist or consultant).

      1. The Cosmic Avenger*

        Yep, I was going to say, in contracting/consulting, your qualifications are very important to winning and keeping business. (And yes, I know a degree is usually the least of your qualifications, but it’s also the most easily communicated.) Our corporate style is to include your credentials in your signature block. It doesn’t matter that my master’s has very little to do with what I do now, it looks good on a proposal! :D

        1. hermit crab*

          Yes, it’s the same for us. At my firm, people’s signatures/business cards are full of PhDs, PEs, PGs, JDs, MPHs, etc. And when we write proposals, it’s all “Dr. Manager this” and “Dr. Manager that” if someone has a doctorate.

          1. vpc*

            I work in a research field where probably 90% of our staff has a master’s or higher. We include bachelors (if it is your terminal degree) and all master’s or doctoral degrees in email sigs and on business cards as a matter of course, and also some professional credentials such as “Certified this”, “licensed that”, or “fellow of the whatever”. It’s alphabet soup, people. Most folks have at least two stamps after their name and I’ve seen as many as five. Double-doctorates, like law/medicine or veterinary/phD, aren’t terribly common but I’ve seen them too…

            In other words, as a field, we’ve mostly spent too much time in school, and we’ll give up the bragging rights when you pry it from our cold dead hands.

    3. neverjaunty*

      Normally for lawyers, you don’t put “Esq.” after your own name, but you do use it in addressing letters (such as in the address block).

      The only time I’ve seen an exception to this is when I volunteered at a clinic that served indigent clients who were almost uniformly immigrants. We were told to put “Esq.” after our names as a mark of respect – so that the client understood an actual lawyer, and not a clerk or notary, was writing back to them.

      1. GS*

        That’s interesting, I see the opposite in my state. While I would agree that lawyers shouldn’t use Esq. in the signature line of a formal letter, I quite often see lawyers use Esq. in the signature of e-mails (and have to admit that I do too). Something about being clear that this e-mail is coming from an Attorney and not a law clerk or paralegal.

        Of course, these are the long, formal type emails, and not “Thanks, we’ll meet at 2:00 -GS, Esq.” That would be pretty crazy.

      2. Lucky*

        That’s an east coast thing. I’ve never seen that from a born-and-bred west coast lawyer, and it makes me laugh when I get an email or letter with “Esq.” after a guy’s name or in his signature block. Dude, I know you’re a lawyer. It says “Member, Dewey Cheatum & Howe” under your name and I’m paying you $450 an hour.

        1. Doriana Gray*

          Not just east coast – I see it from midwestern lawyers too (I needed to defend my fellow east coast snobs).

        1. bridget*

          Agreed. Particularly when the information is completely unnecessary. When I was clerking, I’d see it all the times on briefs and captions. Of course you’re a lawyer. We wouldn’t have let you file this if you weren’t. The court requires that you put your bar number after your name; adding “Esq.” as well is totally redundant. The same principle applies to email communications, because almost every firm has a block of “this may be attorney-client privileged information” disclaimer language pre-built into the email system, so it’s obvious from that that the sender is a lawyer.

          1. bridget*

            Additionally – in my experience, there’s a pretty strong correlation between briefs where the lawyer put his “Esq” in the caption and briefs that are really crappy.

            1. Atrocious Pink*

              Yes to this entire thread. I’ve never seen anything to indicates that “Esq.,” as used in the U.S.A., is anything other than a meaningless affectation. If you must put comma-something after your name to mark yourself out as a lawyer, you should use “J.D.” But really, to the extent it’s necessary, “Attorney” beneath your name is the best way to go.

              1. potato battery*

                I recently heard that “Esq.” denotes someone who has passed the bar, which “JD” alone wouldn’t convey. Not a lawyer; don’t know if this is true.

                I personally find it useful to see degrees sometimes, as I work in a field where people often have all sorts of backgrounds. Although some degrees still don’t tell you much, like “Ph.D.” In what?

              2. LawPancake*

                Whenever I see just a “JD” after a name I assume the person isn’t licensed whereas when I see “Esq.” I assume they’re either really old fashioned or in their first year of practice.

      3. weighing in*

        I’ve read that Esq. is a mark of respect that you are supposed to show for other attorneys, not yourself. I would address correspondence to other attorneys as John Smith, Esq., but not sign my own correspondence that way. For e-mails, you can put your title below your name to cue people in about who you are: Jane Smith, Associate Attorney, Dewey Cheatem & Howe, Address. With that being said, I now work in a bank in a non-attorney role and it’s extremely common to write “J.D.” after your name (or other credentials that people might have).

    4. JC*

      Yup, agree that this is a “know your field” type of question. I am a researcher with a PhD at a research organization. I have my degree in my email signature and on my business cards, as do most of the other PhDs that work here and some of the researchers with MS degrees. But at the same time, it would be strange in my organization for someone not in a research role to list their degrees in their email or on their cards. It would also be strange to list a BA/BS.

    5. Anonymous for this*

      I work in the academic part of nursing, and most of the nurse professors put every credential ever behind their name. It is not uncommon for there to be five or more. I am staff, and this has now led to some people putting their associate or bachelor’s degree behind their name, and it drives me bananas! Sometimes my boss makes me, on nursing type paperwork, but it seems silly in my email signature to have BA after my name.

      1. Shannon*

        In interpreting, there’s also an alphabet soup behind people’s names. It is generally reserved for official/ sales type emails or for being snotty in arguments (“I’m right because I have more letters behind my name than you do.”)

    6. AnonymousaurusRex*

      Yep, I was asked to list my PhD in my email signature when I was hired, mostly because my company interacts a lot with people in the military, and titles have a lot of weight there, since civilians don’t have rank to fall back on. I thought it was a little pretentious, but it makes a difference in the level of respect/authority my opinions have, when otherwise I am often seen as a [youngish and blonde] woman.

      1. PhilBinnen*

        I spent a few years as the near-sole civilian working with a bunch of Naval aviators (who do love their call signs), and it took about two months before I gave in and just started signing my emails as “Doc”. That was practically the shorthand for my position anyway — nearly always occupied by a PhD — just as they refer to other people by job (MO, FOPS, Gunner, etc.) regardless of occupant.

    7. Cautionary tail*

      I have a PhD but I do not work in acadaemia and am not a consultant so I simply have my email signature as Dr. Cautionary Tail.

    8. Holly*

      It’s common in accounting, I think (I’ve been at a firm for 6+ months.) They tend to put stuff like “CPA, MBA, CFF, CFE, CICA, CGMA, ASA, ABV, PFS, SHRM-SCP, SPHR, THRP, MA” and on and on – just went through my emails and found those. I don’t even know what a lot of them mean, but there you go.

      1. Nervous Accountant*

        Same, everyone here puts EA or CPA after their name in their email signature. I never knew it was even a weird thing to have.

        If I work my butt off to get these designations, I’m sure as hell going to use them… obviously not on my personal email but in all work emails, yes.

      2. ScarletInTheLibrary*

        Our director wants me to put an acronym from a common certification in my field on my business cards and email signature. My biggest issue with that is that no one outside my field knows what it is, and I am often the point of contact with one of our user communities. I explained that there is a strong potential for misunderstandings and bad assumptions. She is at bay for now, but I’m sure she will bring it up when it’s my turn to be picked on.

    9. Dot Warner*

      I work in healthcare, and I didn’t know that it was *not* normal to list one’s degrees in an email signature until today. We learn all kinds of useful stuff from AAM!

    10. Kassy*

      I’m in social work, and the convention here is a little weird, although I understand it. We accept most types of human services degrees as acceptable for employment, but it’s sort of a distinction to have an actual social work degree (in that you can’t technically call yourself a “social worker” in Missouri unless you have one). So people who have social work degrees tend to put them in their email signatures, even if it’s a BSW. It’s less common for other degree types to use theirs.

      1. Elizabeth West*

        I’m an admin, and people would consider it excessively stuffy and pretentious if I wrote my name as Elizabeth West, B.S./A.S. Even though I worked hard for those degrees and I’m proud that I actually finished them (cum laude, no less; made the Dean’s List twice), I can’t say anything because in my line of work, it doesn’t matter. I think the only place I have it other than my resume is my blog.

        1. Kassy*

          I’m in the same boat! As much as I am proud of my chemistry degree, it has nothing to do with my admin job for social workers. So I would definitely also appear stuffy and pretentious, in addition to just the pure confusion factor it causes (“So…what are you doing here?) that I prefer to avoid.

      2. PegLeg*

        To add on to differences in social work (and counseling as well), the license you have carries more weight, and once you have your license it is a normal thing to have your email signature and hand signatures on formal letters and case notes include your license. My email signature is PegLeg, MSW, LCSW and I sign all my documents the same way.

    11. Grey*

      I work in property management, and while I’ve never seen anyone list a college degree in their signature, property management certifications are typically there.

      I don’t see it much on business cards, though. Those are usually passed to customers and vendors who don’t know what the letters stand for and understandably don’t care.

    12. Clever Name*

      I’m in science/engineering consulting, and those of us who have Ph.Ds put them behind their signature when they’re signing reports and on business cards and on emails. I have a M.S., and I don’t note it anywhere.

    13. Aardvark*

      I actually just added my M.A. into my signature line–our field consultants (who work directly with teapot producers) put their advanced degrees into their signatures, and I anticipate working more closely with them in the coming months. They don’t all know me personally or know that I have experience in teapot production in addition to my current position in saucer storage–hopefully that will help them feel more comfortable trusting me when I talk about teapots with them!

  2. Mando Diao*

    OP1: When someone’s depression is getting bad, hygiene is one of the first things to go. Has your friend been in a worse way than usual lately? It’s not mere armchair diagnosis if you’re actually close with the person; a lot of times, people only get the help they need after other people pick up on the cues and initiate difficult conversations. Obviously you don’t want to bring all of this up in the context of work (where BO is a problem in itself), but you should be aware that this really isn’t about flakiness or laziness or whatever. Your friend is probably struggling more than anyone realizes, so go forward with that in mind. Good luck.

    1. Adam*

      Agreed. I’ve been in stages similar to this, and while I don’t think I ever got this bad I would have days where I wouldn’t do something simple like brush my teeth because “seriously…**** it…”
      We all have a certain level of energy we’re able to spend in a given day and when you’re seriously depressed sometimes it can feel like you’re running on fumes.

      I would approach her, but leave her career out of it and just do it from a point of friendship and concern. “Hey [friend], I’ve noticed that you haven’t been looking like your usual self lately. I know you’ve been struggling with a lot lately and I’m concerned for you. Want to talk about it?”

      1. Natalie*

        Oof, the teeth. I didn’t take care of my teeth for a couple of years due to depression, and spent the subsequent 10 years having cavities filled. Depression can really do a number on you in a lot of ways people might not expect.

        1. nep*

          It was during a period, years and years ago, when I was having suicidal thoughts quite regularly. Hygiene went to hell. And as we all know — ignore the teeth and they’ll go away.
          When I finally started getting my dental problems addressed (having to show my teeth to another human being), it helped to keep in mind that the fact that I’m around to get my awful teeth worked on means I didn’t give in and I got through that rough period.

          1. ArtsNerd*

            Thanks for sticking around.

            (Also, I’m glad to know that I’m not the only person who neglects dental care in depression).

      2. Ask a Manager* Post author

        I agree leave the career stuff out of it, but I think “want to talk about it?” might not end up conveying the essential info she wants to convey. It sounds like they’ve talked about the depression, but she wants to raise the odor issue specifically, if I’m reading it correctly.

        1. Adam*

          I wasn’t sure on that either. I think she should bring the hygiene issue up, but I can’t tell if it’s better to get it out of the way early or get into a more general rapport with her friend first and then let her know about the issue. My default is for general concern first and then specific concern later, especially when it’s as potentially embarrassing as this, but what do others think?

        2. JessaB*

          And as a person with depression, no we don’t wanna talk about it, or may not have the energy or desire to deal. Sometimes you just have to say “Listen I need to tell you this.” Because if you ask, they really don’t want to.

          1. Ketchup is a vegetable*

            I agree with this to an extent… if given the choice to talk about it, we’d rather decline… the energy it takes and the feeling of being a burden is already bad enough. Being direct MIGHT yield better results, but still definitely with the care of concern for her. Of course, OP, you know your friend better than we do and can probably gauge the best approach, but yes… sometimes when you’re in the thick of it — even if you can see the problems – you just can’t/won’t do anything different. I am sure she knows she’s fallen behind. She’s likely only making it out of bed in just enough time to make it into the office.. and that is such a monumental feat in itself when she’s in the throes of it (this also explains the unkept/wrinkly clothing) she possibly gets home and does whatever tasks she must (if she has children, etc) or just gets right back into the bed or on the couch without doing the other things.

            My best friend used to come over when I was at my worst and couldn’t move and she would just wash my dishes without saying anything to me about it, she’d wash my dishes and tidy up the kitchen and hang out with me a little. I’d be plastered to the couch like a zombie but she knew I was letting this tasks pile up and as badly as I wanted to fix them (or at the very least realized I was letting it pile up), I couldn’t make myself do what was needed to fix it.

            If you’re especially close, maybe offering to take a pile of her clothing to the cleaners for her/taking them back to her, so she could have fresh pressed clothes for a week or two would be a helpful gesture, but that depends on the nature of your relationship.

            All in all, I really hope she is getting the outside help she needs.

            1. Not So NewReader*

              That is a really great idea about helping with laundry. Maybe OP can find an inroad to do that.

              Sometimes these problems are not as hard as we think. I had a situation with an elderly person who would not shower. Long story short, the problem was the place she was renting did not have enough hot water. Her solution was to shower during non-peak water usage periods. So, right now it looks like Coworker might not be showering because of depression the actual reason might be something else that OP could actually help with.

            2. Erin*

              The helping with the tasks without being asked is a great point.

              For some reason that reminded me: I read somewhere (here?) someone with depression had a good friend who would invite her to dinner often and casually – “Hey, we’re having lasagna tonight if you want to stop by” – and she really appreciated having somewhere to go and, you know, not having to try to cook.

              I can see how that would be much preferred over say, bringing them a casserole. One says, “I’d like to spend time with you” and the other says, “Clearly you’re a mess and can’t cook dinner for yourself, so here.”

  3. Lionness*

    LW #4 I work with a consultant pretty regularly and I make it a habit of sending ad-hoc feedback to their manager (as well as providing on the spot feedback when appropriate). I’ve found it to be highly appreciated especially since they likely have their own review process and it is likely helpful to have direct client feedback to use.

    1. Rubyrose*

      Ditto, I was in the same situation, but for me the folks were offshore. I was clued in early on that in their company kudos as soon as they were earned was more important tHan just waiting until the end of the project. We were on the project from hell, but I got excellent cooperation and effort. As they individually rolled off I sent a final appreciative email to them, their official manager, and their new manager with my company. In return I received back several gracious thank yous, which I keep for when I need I need a boost.

      1. OP #4*

        Thanks! Those are both good suggestions. Our projects typically last for 5-10 years, so feedback on a rolling basis is probably best.

        1. Chinook*

          OP#4 – I am a consultant and my supervisor supervises 4 other consultants (with only 3 regular staff under her – we bug her that they won’t trust her with “real” employees). What my supervisor does is the same annual review with us as she does with the staff only she has to email us forms since we can’t access them ourselves. She then sits down with us and goes trough our goals and accomplishments the same as everyone else. She says that she likes knowing this and and like being treated like we have long term goals and room for growth.

  4. Anon123*

    Ahhh OP1, that’s always tricky. I remember in high school we had one girl in my class with bad BO – simply a case of not even knowing how to fix it (unsure why her parents didn’t say anything/teach her!). In the end our PE teacher gave us all a mini-lecture about the importance of hygiene since we were all growing teens. It worked perfectly; no judgement and no singling her out. But I doubt you could do that OP!

    Kudos to you for being a caring friend. Good luck OP.

    1. PinkTeapots*

      Our PE teacher did the same for every 6th grade class and gave everyone a stick of deodorant too!

      1. Elizabeth West*

        We had to take Health class beginning in middle school and hygiene was pretty well covered in the curriculum. Of course, some kids in severely economically challenged situations have a hard time doing this.

        Brad Pitt’s brother Doug and another local businessman started a thing here called Care to Learn; it’s a non-profit that helps kids who have these needs. They don’t have to fill out family applications, and there is no invasive judgmental crap. They just get what they need when they need it–a coat, shoes, breakfast, etc. The org has spread to other cities in the state. I wish it were national, but give it time. :)

    2. OriginalEmma*

      I didn’t realize quite how funky teens could smell until I graduated and would go back to HS to visit some of my old professors. Phew! Our poor teachers. Part of it may be hygiene but I would argue that it was spending 6+ hours (after possibly walking/biking to school) in a building with NO A/C, gym (we actually did laps, etc.) and schlepping heavy backpacks between classes through crowds that made Penn Station at rush hour look desolate.

  5. Lionness*

    LW #3 The scientists, researchers, developers and anyone remotely related to that area of our company all list their degrees. I assume it is part of the field because anyone not on the science side does not (and it would be really weird if they did).

    1. Henrietta Gondorf*

      I worked for the federal government in a heavily science/research area, although there were also tons of people not doing those kinds of jobs. Some people were deeply insecure about being surrounded by MD/PhD dual degree folks and would include all kinds of weirdness in their signature blocks. eJD (electronic JD) from someone who had nothing to do with law and PhD (ABD) from one of our IT personnel were my favorites.

      1. Treena*

        What the heck is an electronic JD? Does that mean an online JD degree/program? If so, why distinguish it with the “e?”

        Definitely never put your bachelors degree (BA, BS, BFA) because it’s just weird. Very rarely do you need to designate it. Either you’re in a position where any old generic degree is acceptable, or it’s obvious from you being in the position that you have a degree in the field. In public health, you need the MPH to get higher than entry/mid-level, so it’s commonly used. But then non-MPH folks also tack on their BA at the end of their name. It screams insecurity, unfortunately.

        1. Brooke*

          On a related note, it drives me batty when people put “MFT, MA” after their name…. MFT stands for marriage and family therapist, which you can only GET if you have a MA. Yes, one is a license and another is a degree, but it’s still redundant since the MA is understood.

          1. Treena*

            Yes! I listened to a presentation once by a guy with over 40 letters behind his name (NOT exaggerating). Some of them were recognizable and impressive, MBA, MD, PhD, etc. But I made a point to write down the ones I didn’t recognize and looked them up later. There were two that were related to being a personal trainer. Really? You’re a freaking doctor twice over and you feel the need to say you’re a certified personal trainer?? Something you can do without even a Bachelor’s? I’ll note that his presentation/current field of work had nothing to do with exercise.

            1. fposte*

              Makes me wonder whether the other degrees were mail-order or even as real as that. Which is probably not the effect he was intending.

              1. Treena*

                There is a slight possibility, but when he brought up his bio page (he has a whole slide dedicated to his bio in a 45 minute presentation), he said something along the lines of, “Yes, I know that’s a lot of letters, but what are you going to do?!” and gave one of those patronizing smiles. This was a room full of academics, and I’m pretty sure the only people without advance degrees were current public health students and me along with a few other people working without advanced degrees, so I really do think he was trying to impress.

                Thinking about this more, it is possible that he has some sort of rags to riches story and he was the first to graduate college or something and he’s SUPER proud of every single letter. Even then, I find it tasteless.

            2. OriginalEmma*

              Ugh, yes. I see this in the public health field sometimes. You have your valid degrees (MD, MPH, MSPH, MHA, MSW, etc.) but then people tack on these nonsense mail-away or online certificate programs that really make me give the side-eye. Especially when that nonsense certificate has nothing to do with the program area in which they work. I don’t care if you’re a homeopathic nutritionist or a naturopathic doctor in your spare time but don’t put it in your e-mail signature.

        2. Henrietta Gondorf*

          It isn’t really anything that I know of. In this guy’s case, it was a non-accredited online certification that did not enable you to sit for the bar.

      2. Elysian*

        An EJD is a separate degree from a JD, if they capitalized the E. The Executive JD is apparently for people who want to study law but never practice it. Either way an EJD or an electronic degree wouldn’t qualify a person to sit for the bar in most states and is… kind of an odd degree to list in your signature block.

      3. Aunt Vixen*

        PhD (ABD)


        (For those unfamiliar, ABD stands for “all but dissertation” – that is, a person has taken all the coursework necessary for a doctorate and passed the qualifying exams but not successfully defended a thesis. It’s not unusual to use ABD as a qualification en route to completing a PhD, but it can also be a signal that a person has dropped or washed out of a program and will never get the final degree. It can be sort of a permanent save point for someone who can’t finish the game.)

        (Also, while I’ve seen it appended to people’s names in signature blocks, I’ve always seen it on its own, not in parens after PhD. If you’re ABD it means you don’t have a PhD. Signing your name “IT Guy, PhD (ABD)” is precisely equivalent to signing your name “IT Guy, PhD (not really)”.)

        1. JC*

          Seriously. I wonder who people who flaunt their ABD status are trying to impress? People who have finished PhDs won’t be impressed because they know what ABD means, and people who do not have PhDs won’t be impressed because they have no idea what ABD means.

          1. Shannon*

            The latter group is exactly who they’re trying to impress. They’re banking on people seeing ABD and thinking it must be a special certification.

        2. AnonymousaurusRex*

          Eh, I have a PhD and I actually think that the ABD designation does say something kind of useful (though I would never put it in an email signature…maybe a resume though). I think there are a lot of people who get through grad school coursework and then just realize that they don’t really want to complete the dissertation. It kind of makes me sad that being ABD is seen as a sign of failure, rather than just a designation that you decided not to complete the PhD. Average time to PhD in my field is 7-8 years in grad school…a lot of life happens in there and I think it’s rather dismissive to assume that someone who is ABD couldn’t hack it in a PhD program and washed out.

          1. fposte*

            The ABD stage is a legitimate one that people are in for various reasons.

            None of them, IMHO, justify appending it to your signature as if it were an actual awarded status.

            1. potato battery*

              I used to have “Ph.D. Candidate” in my email signature when I was in grad school. Most people I know did this.

              1. gingersnap*

                I had “Ph.D student” until I advanced to candidacy (by passing a qualifying exam, finishing the majority of my classes and doing some paperwork) and then changed it to “Ph.D Candidate” (or PhD(c)? I can’t remember. I put PhD (c) on presentations, I know that much)

          2. Aunt Vixen*

            True, I should have said “can be a permanent save point for someone who hasn’t finished (and may never finish) the game” instead of “can’t finish.”

            I stand by the rest of it, though. And I speak as a person with a collection of master’s degrees but nothing with a D in it. :-)

  6. Lionness*

    LW #1 … I’ve been your coworker/friend. I was depressed and stressed and the mere idea of showering daily on top of everything else was sometimes just too much. A friend pulled me aside and had the “you smell odd” talk. It was horrible to hear and was embarrassing. But to be honest, it helped. It helped me realize how bad things had gotten. It was one aspect that helped me seek help that I badly needed.

    I’m in a much better place now. I’m happy, healthy and clean! And as hard as it was to hear from my friend it would have been so much worse to hear it from someone that didn’t have my best interests at heart. Or worse, to have never have heard it and not have started down a path to being better.

    1. Ask a Manager* Post author

      Do you happen to remember how she framed it? I think specific language is what people really struggle with here, so if you can relay your friend’s, that could help. (And yay to both you and your friend!)

      1. Lionness*

        I do. I remember it very clearly. She asked me to talk and we went somewhere quiet where it was just us and she said “I wanted to talk to you. I’m sorry if this is hard to hear but I would want to know and I think you would too. I’ve noticed recently an odd smell from you and because sometimes people don’t notice it about themselves I thought I should tell you. Is there anything I can do to help?”

        1. Mallory Janis Ian*

          How did you react in the moment, if you don’t mind my asking? People often hesitate to approach even a good friend with something like this because they fear an angry or hurt response from that person.

          1. Lionness*

            I thanked her for telling me and we went our separate ways. I am not one to openly show how upset I am. I think most people would react the way I did so as not to make it worse.

        2. AnotherHRPro*

          I am so glad you are doing better and it sounds like your friend handled it well. The only thing I would add to what you and Alison suggest is to acknowledge that this could be embarrassing and that you care about your friend.

          1. fposte*

            I think “I’m sorry if this is hard to hear” covers that, though–if you go much further than that, you make things worse, not better–and I think “Is there anything I can do to help?” covers the caring about your friend.

            In general, this is such a shock to hear that I think it’s important to keep things really short, too–talking too long can be worse than not hitting every single note exactly. Lioness’s friend managed to hit all the right notes without prolonging things.

            1. INTP*

              Good point about keeping it short. It’s an embarrassing conversation for anyone, and when you’re depressed, all of the “I’m concerned for you” conversations get especially exhausting. For me at my most depressed, a quick “I know this could be hard to hear but I thought you should know, we can smell you at work” would have been well-taken (though I might not have appeared appreciative). Anything longer, especially with attempts to bring my depression into it or discuss my feelings or offer help, would have been defensively shut-down. I get the impulse to bring up the depression and everything to make it clear that you aren’t judging, and to make it lengthier in general to dilute the “you smell bad” sting, it’s just the last thing most depressed people want to talk about.

          2. Shannon*

            At a certain point you go from acknowledging a situation to suggesting what their response should be. Could it be embarrassing? Absolutely. Does it have to be? No.

        3. Joanna*

          Whoa, whoa, whoa! Hang on a second, people! :-)

          I’m gonna assess this from my own perspective.

          If I had B.O., I think it would be more embarrassing for someone to say they noticed “an odd smell from me” or that I’ve “had a smell” than to just come right and say the magic word “B.O.” Goodness gracious, everyone knows about B.O. There’s no need to dance around it. And there is a perfectly innocent reason to have it: you forgot to put on deodorant. Referring to a generic “smell” coming from my body makes it sound like some sort of toxic waste dump or something—at the very least, it sounds like you’re referring to an inanimate object.

          I think not embarrassing someone is all about downplaying the situation as much as possible (not to be dishonest, but just to avoid being brutally honest) or making it seem innocent. I remember once I had some hair gel gunked up in the back of my (short at the time) hair and a really nice fashionable gentleman casually tapped me on the shoulder and said, “I think you have some product in your hair.” Could he have been more objective, since he didn’t know what it was for sure? Of course, but “you have something gooey-looking stuck in the hair on the back of your head” is a lot more embarrassing than “I think you have some product in your hair.”

          Also, I would lose the whole preamble. I know you are trying to soften the blow, but it really serves as an outright signal that says, “What I am about to say next is something that really ought to embarrass you, so—here!—I’ll do you the favor of softening it so your feelings aren’t hurt.” But of course that message is just going to cause more hurt feelings and embarrassment. In other words, it softens it for you, but has the opposite effect on the listener.

          Here’s an idea: maybe you wait until the end of the day, start having a conversation with your friend (don’t come out of the blue) and after a little bit, act like you (barely) notice a smell, smell your own armpits subtly (but obviously to your friend) and then say something like, “Hmm… did you forget deodorant this morning or did I? I think I smell B.O.” And then don’t wait for an answer, just shrug it off and go on talking for a little longer.

          1. ThursdaysGeek*

            Well, except that Lioness was saying what actually did happen and what did work, and was not dealing with hypotheticals. In addition, sometimes when we’re too subtle, the message is completely missed. Your idea might work for someone who isn’t depressed, easily picks up on non-verbal communication, and accidentally missed their deodorant that day. It might work for the OP too, but it might not.

            However, waiting until the end of the day for the conversation is a good suggestion.

            1. Joanna*

              I agree that you should be direct enough to make it work, but I don’t see anywhere that the OP was concerned that their message wouldn’t get through. In my opinion, the risks here are imbalanced: erring on the side of not hurting feelings is not as bad as going overboard. If the message doesn’t get across, you can just be more direct the next day. If you are too direct or make too big a deal out of it, your friend’s feelings may not magically heal overnight, especially if she’s depressed.

          2. Devil's Avocado*

            I don’t think your suggested wording actually solves the problem – it would be too easy for the recipient to lose the meaning entirely, or to just think you were commenting on your own smell.

            Plus, I would be much more insulted by that approach than the one articulated above. (I might understand, might not, but if I did I would be insulted that my friend didn’t even have enough respect to be direct or caring in their approach.)

            1. Joanna*

              First, as I replied to ThursdaysGeek, it is lot easier to fix too-indirect than too-direct.

              Second, this is ALL about caring and respect. Apparently I would interpret things differently from you, but from my perspective, I would feel a lot better if something I was letting slide was coming across to other people (and let’s be honest, we all let some things slide that we don’t think other people will notice) and a friend informed me in a way that (a) didn’t stress how embarrassed I should be (“I know this might be hard to hear, but…”) and (b) didn’t make it seem like I had some really strange problem (“There is an odor coming from you.”).

              1. Lionness*

                The way my friend did it allowed me to save face in the moment. Your verbiage would have been…devastating to hear. Far beyond what I already was hearing. There is no way her meaning could have been lost.

                Your posts come across as if you’ve never experienced depression. I hope that is true, but keep in mind it does limit your understanding.

                1. Joanna*

                  (I’m not sure how one can diagnose such an illness as depression from a few Internet posts, but I’ll leave that aside.)

                  Really, I’m not tied to the exact wording I proposed. My main point is that having B.O. is pretty far down the list of things one should have to “save face” from and you shouldn’t send people the clear message that it is high on that list by telling them that you understand that they will be embarrassed or by expressing how difficult it was for you to muster the courage to say something to them about it or saying that you hope it’s okay that you mention it (i.e., apologizing for shaming them like that).

                  All of those things scream, “You should feel shame for being in the position to hear this from me.”

                  Seriously, consider the preambles that have been proposed in this thread: many of them would be perfectly appropriate if you were confronting someone for things far, far more serious than any slip-up we are talking about here.

          3. Anna*

            Ohhh, see, that would be incredibly embarrassing to me. If someone said it that way to me, it would make me SO uncomfortable. I would much rather the approach Lioness’ friend’s approach. It does not come across as caring or respectful to me. It comes across as abrupt and a little insensitive.

            1. Joanna*

              Maybe there’s no accounting for how something like this comes across, but I just don’t get that. Given the choice either to emphasize the seriousness of the behavior or to treat it matter-of-factly, as something that could happen to anyone, I’d always prefer the latter. And given the choice to label it as an unusual phenomenon or to name it directly in order to emphasize that it is ordinary and nothing to be ashamed of, I would always prefer the latter.

              The way some of these people are addressing it, you’d think they were confronting someone over a drug habit or something.

              I honestly would hate to have some of these people inform me that I had a booger sticking out of my nose:

              “Hi Joanna, I wanted to talk to you because I would really wish someone would talk to *me* if *I* were in your situation, no matter how embarrassing or awkward of a conversation it is. To me, that’s when you really know someone is a friend. I’ve been noticing for the past while that there seems to be some a strange substance protruding from your nostrils. I hesitate to use this word, but it almost appears ‘slimy,’ I would have to say. Oh my gosh, I hope you aren’t too embarrassed! Things like this happen to some people. I want you to know that if you ever want to talk about it, I’m here for you.”

    2. nep*

      Good point — I can see how, for some people, something like this could really be jarring and a bit of a wake-up call about how bad things have gotten.
      Thanks for sharing and glad things are so much better.

    3. INTP*

      Yes, I haven’t had that talk with anyone but have probably smelled at some point. I would definitely want someone to 1) be brave enough to start that talk with me and 2) focus on the smell issue instead of trying to make it into a talk about my feelings that they’re hoping can result in me showering more. To be honest, I might have been defensive in the conversation because in the thick of depression any sort of conversation about myself was exhausting so I had a knee-jerk reaction to shut them down, but I would have appreciated the message.

      For me at least, it was not that I reached a point where I just could not physically shower. Rather, I reached a point where I did the bare minimum to get by on basically everything – only enough cleaning to keep my home from becoming a severe health hazard or damaging it in a way that would cost me my deposit, brushing my teeth only before leaving the house when people might smell my breath, and showering just enough to feel like I didn’t smell. With the showering, no one really notices when you go from daily to bi-daily when you never move or sweat anyways, and then you’ll skip a second day once or twice, and then you’re showering maybe twice a week and can tell yourself no one knows. OTOH, if someone told me I was smelly, I would have known I wasn’t meeting the bare minimum and stepped it up.

    4. SallyForth*

      I have a friend who works as an HR consultant. She works in small companies that don’t have separate HR departments and this is a really common issue that she is called in to help with, especially if there are cultural issues. I was in the same situation as the OP and asked her how to handle it. She gave me a little script. She said the big thing is to not bring other people’s opinions into it. It’s one thing to be told you have an odor. It’s quite another to know that others have talked about it.

      This was a while ago, but it went something like this. Took the person to coffee out of the office. Sat down at a table for two. “Hey, Suzie, I’ve noticed that in the last little while you’ve had a strong body odor. We’ve been friends for a while and if the roles were reversed, I’d hope you’d be open and tell me.” She was mortified, of course. It turned out she was trying to save money and was using those dryer dry cleaning packets and didn’t realize they weren’t getting smells out.

      1. Joanna*

        Don’t want to be a broken record, but I think being less formal about the whole thing would have informed Suzie that her dry cleaning packet idea wasn’t working out without her being so mortified.

        Think about it. You’re Suzie and you’re sitting at your desk after coming back from coffee and suddenly it hits you, “The ONLY reason Julie asked me to coffee was to tell me I stink. Oh my gosh, this is SOOOO embarrassing. :-(“

          1. That's What The Cat Said*

            At least she was informed. My mother has a story of working with a boss for a more than a year before she found the courage to pull him aside and informed him nicely that it was possible his wife didn’t switch the laundry from the washer to the dryer fast enough and that his clothes carried a certain odour.

            Apparently both his clothes and his office improved drastically after that.

  7. Sherm*

    #1 — I would tell. If you don’t, someone else may, and that person might say “Boy, you stink!” in front of 10 other people. If it’s from you, you have the opportunity to be tactful and discreet about it.

    1. Adam*

      Yes. If OP has noticed someone else will too. And while they may not be so brash as to say it to her face they may start talking about it behind her back which isn’t much better.

      1. Sue Donem*

        Or passive-aggressively spraying Lysol all over the office like it’s air freshener, even after I asked the person to not spray it in front of me. To this day I have a strong aversion to the stuff, to the point of throwing the can away if co-workers or roommates use it as air freshener (instead of a disinfectant, which is its *intended* use) more than twice. (I figure people should at least be asked/told to stop first.) Some people have a strong aversion to other people’s dishes piling up in the sink too long; I have a strong aversion to Lysol used as an air freshener.

        1. Kassy*

          I won’t get on my passive-aggressive soapbox today because it can get pretty far OT :) but ick. Lysol is WAY too strong to be used as a standard air freshener.

    2. Shami*

      Note that certain antidepressants can cause sweating [source: WebMD].
      Bupropion hydrochloride (Wellbutrin) may cause body odor, in addition to excessive sweating in some patients.

      Antidepressant medicines that can cause an increase in sweating include:
      Bupropion hydrochloride (Zyban)
      Clomipramine hydrochloride (Anafranil)
      Duloxetine hydrochloride (Cymbalta)
      Escitalopram oxalate (Lexapro)
      Fluoxetine hydrochloride (Prozac, Sarafem)
      Paroxetine hydrochloride (Paxil)
      Paroxetine mesylate (Pexeva)
      Sertraline hydrochloride (Zoloft)
      Venlafaxine hydrochloride (Effexor)

      1. Not So NewReader*

        Look at you go, Shami! Knowledge is power, OP! You can tell her that maybe she should talk to her doc about side effects from any scripts she has.

      2. ancolie*

        Ugh, yeah. I’m on bupropion xl and sertraline and I sweat SO much more than I did before. It’s way more embarrassing in my mind since I’m fat, too. It’s good to KNOW that it’s a double-whammy side effect, but I still feel so self-conscious.

  8. Anonymous Educator*

    For #2, it sounds as if that co-worker is being an immature jerk (“Oh, OP doesn’t like being touched? Let’s touch her more!”). I’ve been in touchy work cultures (everybody hugs, lots of touching), and I’ve made it clear from the beginning “I’m not a hugger” (and will even put my hands up to block if necessary). At first you get a bit of “What a curmudgeon!” pushback, but eventually they just get that that’s you. Don’t be afraid of that first reaction of you being “oversensitive” or “cold” or whatever. Just be consistent. Eventually, they’ll just think of it as “Oh, that’s OP—doesn’t like to be touched” (not that that’s bad… it may just be unusual for your workplace’s culture).

    1. JDrives*

      That was my take on the co-worker, as well. It would be really crappy if the co-worker did go around like “Hey, OP complained about New Person touching them – let’s all touch OP and really freak them out!” Of course, that could just be the culture, and OP came up with that theory to explain it, but knowing how jerky people are I wouldn’t be surprised.

      1. Analyst*

        When I was pregnant, my personal space needs were much higher. I managed this in the workplace, around vendors, etc. by establishing the space right off the bat by purposefully standing a step further out than everyone. And carrying things in front of my stomach frequently. It worked perfectly; I was still able to be nice/friendly/professional and had enough space and time to head off any stomach grabbers (there were very few for me, thankfully).

        I also had swollen nasal passages so if anyone went in for a hug that under non-pregnant circumstances I would have no problem hugging, it was easy for me to tell a white lie about having a cold I didn’t want to give them.

      2. Observer*

        That pretty much sums up my take, as well. Let’s face it some people are not only jerks, they are nuts. I’m thinking about the poster whose HR person insisted she HAD to hug people to get over her traumas.

    2. Elizabeth West*

      I make a joke out of it–“Aaaah you’re in my space bubble!” but with a definite edging away that lets people know I don’t want that. Most of the time I don’t mind a little touching, but in some situations and groups, I’d rather not.

    3. jamlady*

      I’m a very intense person and people in my field are usually very laid back. They cross the line from coworkers to friends immediately and, with that, there’s a lot of touching. I always make it immediately clear that I don’t like to be touched and I’ve only had a few instances where someone thought it would be funny to cross that line (and then they were immediately scared of me, so I had to make sure they knew I wasn’t angry, but it’s just not something I allow, so please remember that). Most of the time, people just accept it, but every so often you get a pusher. Like you said, the OP just has to be consistent.

      Btw, I’ve had one coworker ask straight up if “I had been raped or something” – they were fired less than a week later. And that wasn’t even why.

      1. Observer*

        I’m trying to imagine what this person did. Part of me says that this is not a firing offense. On the other hand, this is SOOO inappropriate, that I’m wondering what other lines got crossed.


  9. Gene*

    #3 reminds me of a bit in Daniel V. Gallery’s U-505. After noting the strings of initials after the British officer’s names in Iceland in WWII, he started adding “Commander, DDLM” after his signature. Eventually, one of the British officers asked him what it stood for, he replied that it was, “Something like your KCB.” KCB, Knight Commander of the Bath is a Very Big Thing to the Brits. After trying to figure out what it meant, someone finally asked what the initials stood for. To which he replied, “Dan Dan the Lavatory Man.”

  10. Former Professional Computer Geek*

    Cordelia Plufferton and Valentina Warbleworth sound like the name of attendees at a fictional formal British tea party.

    “Another scone, Miss Warbleworth?”

    “No, thank you, Lady Plufferton. But may I say, your gardens are looking absolutely stunning this year!”

  11. MR*

    If I had a Ph.D., I’d use it in my email signature and honestly, everywhere else. That is hard and a lot of work and also, it’s a terminal degree.

    As it is, I only have a MBA and they are fairly common, so I never use that as a signature and whatnot.

    I’m of the opinion to use the Ph.D. or Dr. if you have it. If you don’t, leave it out as not only would most people not care, they will likely be confused by whatever the designation may mean. Good luck!

    1. anon for this*

      I wouldn’t advise it. I have a friend who does this. She has a doctorate and occasionally does community theater in our small town. She insists on having her doctorate listed in the program when it has little to do with theater and when they call out the cast at the end of the show, you can hear “and this is a Bob Hope who played Hamlet, Dr. Mae West, Phd., who played Ophelia”. The difference in the applause and the stunned silence that is a short instance after her name is called is notable. Also, don’t ever go to Starbucks with her . . .

      1. F.*

        In a non-professional setting like this, demanding that the doctorate be listed and announced screams pretentiousness. Reminds me of the old joke about what BS, MS and PhD stand for: Bullsh**, More Sh**, and Piled Higher and Deeper!

      2. get some perspective*

        This example, “Dr. Mae West, Phd.” is being said in such a different context that it’s not relevant to the OP’s question about email signatures.

        In writing, we sometimes refer to people as Mr. o r Ms. but you wouldn’t do that in naming the cast at the end of a show either.

        1. F.*

          If I ever went to Starbucks, I think I’d give them the most outlandish name I could think of. “Dr. Kildare! Paging Dr. Kildare!”

    2. Nye*

      I think in fields where most people have PhDs, the titles aren’t widely used (at least in the US). I’m in science and very few of my colleagues use Dr. or PhD except in formal occasions. I use it on business cards and job applications, but would never introduce myself as Doctor Nye. (Though I do take full advantage of it when giving obviously terrible advice, e.g. “Of course there’s a separate dinner compartment and dessert compartment in your stomach. Trust me, I’m a doctor.”)

      Mostly the title is useful for screening junk mail. If it’s addressed to Dr. Nye, chances are very good they’re trying to sell me something/solicit me for donations.

      I haven’t had occasion to do this yet, but I am determined that if anyone ever asks me (in an obviously sexist way) if it’s Miss or Mrs., I’ll reply, “It’s Doctor if we’re being formal, thanks.’

      1. fposte*

        Yup. I was intrigued to hear up thread that people were seeing it in people’s .sigs at a university, because I don’t see that as the norm at mine. It’s slightly more likely with academic support staff rather than faculty, especially if they’re younger, but the higher you go, the less likely you are to see a degree in a signature.

        1. Elsajeni*

          I think I see it most from staff who work directly with students — our advisers and career services people almost all list their degrees; those of us who just lurk in the administrative offices mostly don’t. I wonder if it’s partly an authority thing when interacting with students.

        2. Marcela*

          Yeah, that’s my experience too. DH told me, once we were discussing about the Big Bang Theory and Howard’s MA, that in his environment nobody uses Dr. because all of them have a PhD or are working on getting one. For this same reason, people don’t sign emails with their title until they are professors.

      2. Lionness*

        Agreed. None of the scientists I work with are called “Doctor” although all of them have PhDs. We had a new guy start a few months back that introduced himself as “Dr. Such and Such” and it just came across as insecure and out of touch with our culture. He didn’t last long.

        1. Anna*

          I guess I can see both sides of it. Cultural norms are important, but that person also put in the time and effort and earned the title, so I can understand wanting to use it. Having said that, when I completed my MA I realized I *could* technically include it in my signature but that it would be pretty stinkin’ weird to do so.

      3. JC*

        Yep. I have a PhD and this is exactly how I use it. I never refer to myself as “Dr. Lastname” unless I am writing a professional bio about myself in the third person, and others only refer to me as Dr. Lastname in formal professional contexts. Around the office, I am Firstname. In personal contexts, I am Ms. Lastname.

        I have to admit that I do get a kick out of it when I get a card in the mail addressed to Dr. Lastname, though. These cards exclusively come from other friends with PhDs and my grandmother.

        1. JJtheDoc*

          This!! I use precisely the same formatting for formal versus informal, business versus personal situations. As well, relatives and other survivors of the PhD wars *always* call me Doctor. I’m proud of earning it, loved the study, and find it makes a great handle!

        2. Not the Droid You are Looking For*

          My parents are both PhDs and it cracks me up to hear some on say, “Dr. Not the Droid” because neither of my parents are very formal.

          When I’m being a smart-aleck I will say, “yes doctor” when my mother asks me to do things.

        3. Velociraptor Attack*

          One of my favorite professors in college joked on the first day that yes, he has a PhD but no, we did not need to call him Dr, the only person who did so was his mother.

        4. Tau*

          I was SO CHUFFED when my fellow PhD friend sent me a card addressed to Dr. Tau after my graduation. Tempted to keep the thing and frame it – I left academia and am in a field where my PhD is irrelevant (and everyone always uses first names anyway), so I never get to be Dr. Tau.

    3. Henrietta Gondorf*

      My father has PhD and his (German) employer booked him a plane ticket using the title Doctor. It was super awkward when there was a medical emergency on board his flight and he had to explain he was a chemist. Fortunately, there was a nurse who could assist, but he’s refused to let them use any title other than Mr. since.

      1. Valar M.*

        Well in Germany its not unusual to list one or more titles with your name. Even when I just correspond with my family its always dr. engineer. yada yada so and so.

        1. Tau*

          This is odd, because it’s my German academic family I picked up my own “actually using the title from your doctorate is extremely tacky” thing from. I’m guessing this may vary by region/background/subculture/etc.

          1. Myrin*

            Yeah, my reaction was “that’s a bit odd”, too, only that I’m from “the other side” compared to you, so to speak, as my family are all craftspeople and (apart from myself) don’t have anything to do with academic titles whatsoever. That background has definitely made me think people who seem to put a lot of weight on their titles are odd and self-important.

            That being said, there are also situations where I don’t bat an eye at the mention of titles. I’m in academia and if someone has one of these automatic signatures that appear at the end of every email they send, the title will be there 95% of the time (although the people themselves will just sign their name). Outside of that, I’d honestly mostly err on the side of not using it lest you risk being seen tacky (I wanted to list “signs showing you to someone’s office” as another example where use of title is okay but I realised that that’s only the case for doctors and maybe Dipl.-Ing.s).

            You do have the possibility to fill out a field for “title” in most forms I’ve come across, though (like with a plane ticket like Henrietta talks about), but I’m not sure how many people actually use that.

      2. GS*

        Like so many things there are cultural considerations to titles. In a strict protocol sense, in the US we don’t mix pre-nominals and post-nominals, and formal convention is to only list relevant post-nominals. My understanding is in Germany (and to a lesser extent other European nations), it’s convention to list all of them, except in personal correspondence.

        1. Myrin*

          “Convention” where, though? I keep seeing people say that and it’s not my experience at all. As I said above, you can use titles (as in, forms you fill out allow you to enter them, although there’s mostly only “Dr.” and “Prof.” to choose from anyway) but it’s not at all convention and would get you some serious raised eyebrows unless you’re in a specific field/insitution (like my university, for example) where it is common.

      3. kt*

        In the old days a woman in Germany got to use her husband’s title, so every now & then when it’s appropriately awkward or obnoxious I ask someone to refer to me as Frau Doktor Doktor. I like it because I get one more Doktor than my husband — patriarchy for the win ;)

        I never use Dr. on planes because they’re never asking for help with a math problem when the flight attendant calls for a doctor on the PA system. I have woken up the spouse and made him go help, although I think he also avoids using Dr when getting tickets.

        Amusingly, in some German circles people are very touchy about the title Professor — that’s one I *won’t* obnoxiously adopt!

    4. Maggiegirl*

      A lot of this is dependent on audience. When I write emails to students I always use my full signature block including my degrees. When I write colleagues, including staff, I just use my name. Povosts and journalists also get the full block.

      I’ll probably change this a bit if I get tenure.

    5. AnotherHRPro*

      Education is wonderful and it is normal to be proud of the accomplishment of advanced degrees. However, I do not think you should put your degree in your signature (unless you are a doctor, lawyer, researcher or work in higher ed – basically a job where credentials are critical). Your work should speak to your level of expertise and dedication, not letters after your name. I’ve seen people mocked for doing this in the corporate world. It can come across as slightly elitist and culturally tone deaf. (This is coming from someone who has an MBA and is currently working on a Ph.D.)

  12. AnonJust4this*

    (Just my suggestion, as a person who has bipolar and has been in that rut where the depression is so bad a shower sounds like it would take every single bit of energy I have left in the world.)

    Go hit like a bath and body works sale. There is always one and there are always coupons. It won’t cost much. Get a body wash/shower gel (or 2, and maybe a matching lotion, see what’s what, maybe 2 flavors, who knows). Hit dollar tree for a lil foil basket thing, and a new loofah. Entire thing might be 25$.(both stores)
    Go to depressed friend :
    “Hey *friend.* I know it’s been kinda rough lately. I wanted you to know that, if you wanna talk, I’m willing to listen, because I care about you. I know even everyday things can be hard when you’re fighting depression, and I got you this to help – I want you to splurge and spend a little time on yourself. I got you a new scent because I think what you’ve been using may be reacting weird with your body chemistry or might even have gone bad because I noticed it smelled a little odd the other day, so I figured it was a good excuse to get you a little something nice”

    1. AnonJust4this*

      Even if you can’t/don’t want to get them something new, mentioning that their old stuff may have expired takes it off them (making them self conscious and think there is something wrong with them could push them further down)

    2. Mando Diao*

      Eh, Bath & Body Works stuff is terrible for your skin, and unless you want Alison to receive emails from people complaining of Juniper Breeze body spray (combined with the already-present BO), I wouldn’t go this route. The friend already has bath products that she likes. She’s not skipping showers due to lack of products. Giving her a body gel that smells like high school won’t make her jump in the shower, and in any case, she needs hardcore Dial at this point.

      1. The Artist Formally Known As UKAnon*

        I think it depends on the relationship they have, to be honest (and that’s not something internet commentators can gauge, so any suggestions might be useful to OP depending) but certainly phrasing it as “I thought you’d like to treat yourself as I can see you’ve been struggling” might go over better than “people notice you’ve started to smell” (which, however nicely you phrase it, will be how some people hear it) Obviously it doesn’t have to be any particular brand, but if OP’s friend is one of those people who will a) know what OP means and b) appreciate the indirect route and c) will see it as a treat which they might choose to use rather than a passive-agressive gesture, this could be a way of handling it that avoids any awkwardness for friend. It all depends on OP’s relationship.

        1. Mando Diao*

          That’s all true. In general though, gifting things like soap and skincare can be a major faux pas. It’s so coded in me as an offensive gesture that it wouldn’t succeed as an effort to avoid offense.

          1. ThursdaysGeek*

            I’m in the process of buying some nice beeswax and goatmilk lotion bars for my siblings (I really like it and want to share), and received skincare products for Christmas. The general I’ve seen is that gifting things like soap and skincare products are very common and normal. Your mileage obviously varies, but perhaps you’re seeing more offense than is meant.

      2. Stranger than fiction*

        Yeah, while I understand the intent, scents are so personal. If she doesn’t like the one you choose, you’ve wated your money and she still stinks.

    3. Not So NewReader*

      OTH, health food aisle and organic food stores offer bath soaps with fragrances that are uplifting, mood enhancers. I am not claiming this is some kind of magic bullet, but for some people, in some circumstances (notice all the qualifiers here) they might get some enjoyment or find something appealing about that soap. It’s a shot in the dark,I have no way to know if your friend would like that or not, OP.

    4. Allison*

      Well, BBW is having their semi-annual sale, but I don’t think this is a good idea. I don’t like the idea of coded gifts like this, it tiptoes around the issue too much. Friend should know they have a noticeable BO issue, OP gently encouraging them with nice soap probably won’t cut it.

      1. Shannon*

        I agree, and with this being so close to the holiday season, I might think it’s a belated holiday gift. Then, I’d just be even more depressed because I was so skank that the only thing this person could think to buy me would was soap. That when they were out shopping and brainstorming gift ideas for me, soap was what came to mind.

    5. Shannon*

      I can’t put my finger on why the idea of buying soap for a coworker makes me uneasy, but it does.

      First, you knew this person stank, didn’t tell them about it, went home, bought them soap on the assumption that they would keep on stinking. I would be especially horrified about you noticing that I smelled the other day and you just let me keep walking around, stinking.

      Second, I’d wonder if you thought I was too poor to buy soap.

      Third, and this is a me thing, but, I’m very direct. It would bother me that you couldn’t just come out and what was wrong.

      Fourth, the “I want you to…..” phrasing would just annoy me, because it makes my inner teenage girl yell, “no one tells me how to live my life!”

      Fifth, when I’m that depressed, I don’t want people telling me to take care of myself. I don’t give a hoot about myself when I’m that depressed, and I don’t understand why you do, either.

  13. Cari*

    OP#1 – this last year I’ve been going a week or more without washing due to depression, and even I notice I smell after a day or two. Your friend is probably already aware of it if this is something related to her depression, and unless she has a reset or an upswing, idk if there is much you can do or say that will help her get motivated to get in the shower more. One thing I found that held off my mam telling me I was getting ripe, was using wipes (like baby wipes or facewipes). I didnt have it in me to get washed and dressed properly, but it was easier to get a few wipes and give problem areas a once over.

    If seemingly simple things like personal hygiene are taking a hit, but she’s still showing up to work, sounds like maybe she could do with talking to her manager about having time off or reduced hours so she’s got a bit more time and energy for herself to do things like have a wash or clean clothes.

      1. Emily, admin extraordinaire*

        My college football team had running backs this year named Francis and Algernon. Really. And they both go by those names (well, Algernon gets called Algie most of the time. I always think of the Importance of Being Earnest every time his name is mentioned).

        Next year a guy who had to redshirt this year will play. His name is Squally Canada. I do not kid. A running back core comprised of Francis, Algernon, and Squally. What the actual heck.

            1. Anna*

              I luuuuuuuuurve that sketch and will watch it randomly for a giggle. “Nevada State…Penitentiary.” I’m laughing just thinking about it.

  14. Ketchup is a vegetable*

    I know social workers and such have their titles behind their names, but only in professional correspondence. I don’t think they walk around in casual convo or every day life with their LMSW behind their names and such. lol.

  15. Blurgle*

    OP2: I had to address this last year. Guy kept asking the women in the office to shake hands with him for no discernible reason. If they said no he’d ask again the next day, pushing and pushing and pushing every time he saw them. In one case he touched a woman’s back after she turned away!

    He told me he thought they were being cold and mean by not shaking his hand and he was trying to make them ‘loosen up’ and teach them to be ‘warm and accepting’. I had to tell him that a) some of the women he was bugging were members of faiths that do not casually touch men who aren’t close relatives, and refusing to hear their ‘no’ – and they did use that word – was cruising close to religious harassment under provincial law; b) he was leading all of the women to believe he was untrustworthy, because a guy who won’t take ‘no’ for an answer re. a handshake might not take ‘no’ for an answer otherwise; and c) he was interrupting everyone’s work to feed his ego.

      1. MashaKasha*

        I take it that all the men were already sufficiently loosened up, warm, and accepting, and so did not need his handshake treatment?! What a character!

      2. Stranger than fiction*

        Wow weird. Reminds me of a guy I knew like that but instead he insisted on fist-bumping everyone. After like the third time, I just looked at him and said “Really?? C’mon”. Then, amazingly, he left me alone.

    1. Myrin*

      He just went around willy-nilly asking women to shake their hands? Like, completely randomly, not even as a greeting upon meeting them or anything? How incredibly bizarre! (I just imagine sitting at my desk doing work and suddenly a coworker I see all the time comes over and demands shaking hands. I’d be more than perplexed.)

      Good on you for dealing with it so effectively! What was his reaction to your talk?

    2. The Artist Formally Known As UKAnon*

      “He told me he thought they were being cold and mean by not shaking his hand and he was trying to make them ‘loosen up’ and teach them to be ‘warm and accepting’.”

      “Hey, I reported you for sexual harrassment. I thought you were being creepy and like a jerk, so I wanted to try and make you ‘learn some restraint’ and teach you to ‘respect boundaries’.”

      (Ok, I hope you were a tad more diplomatic than that. But not too much more. Good on you for dealing with it though. Ugh.)

      1. Doriana Gray*

        I like your undiplomatic language here. Seriously? He was trying to teach them to be “warm and accepting?!” That’s not his place! And who the hell is he that he just decides what the little women need? Ugh – this has got me all riled up too early in the morning.

        1. The Artist Formally Known As UKAnon*

          I was going to post “Even running with the idea that it’s ok to ‘teach someone’ how to be ‘warm and accepting’, telling them to let men violate their physical boundaries whenever said men feel like it isn’t the way to go about it.” But then I realised that I really can’t think when it would ever be ok to ‘teach someone’ how to be ‘warm and accepting’. Beyond “please can you smile a bit more for customers” or some form of “hey, I just wanted to let you know that we’re quite informal and chatty here, I’ve noticed you often ignore people who greet you but we like people from different teams to get to know each other” I am genuinely at a loss at how it would ever be ok to do that.

          1. Doriana Gray*

            I was going to post “Even running with the idea that it’s ok to ‘teach someone’ how to be ‘warm and accepting’, telling them to let men violate their physical boundaries whenever said men feel like it isn’t the way to go about it.”

            This is the biggest problem with that whole scenario. Thank you for calmly articulating what my issue was because it was too early for me to form a coherent thought and I was seeing red, lol.

          2. Nashira*

            The only context I can think of involves helping very shy or (my case) autistic people learn how to present warmth as much as they can, but the instructor should be a parent or therapist. Not somebody at work, good night!

          3. LQ*

            “I know I come across as very cold and dismissive, please help my by pointing out times when something I say could be warmer and more accepting.”
            “Ok, I will try to help teach you how to appear warm and accepting.”

            Except even that doesn’t mean touching. In fact the only scenario I can come up with that involves touching likely requires a special license.

      2. Mallory Janis Ian*

        “Hey, I reported you for sexual harrassment. I thought you were being creepy and like a jerk, so I wanted to try and make you ‘learn some restraint’ and teach you to ‘respect boundaries’ [and to quit trying to groom women into compliance with male advances].”

      1. Blurgle*

        He was a maternity leave replacement and had already been there ten months when I was hired. Luckily he did comply for the last eight weeks of the term (why yes, this did get dumped on me on Day 1) so we didn’t have to fire for cause.

        And no, I didn’t believe him; he was just a garden variety creeper.

    3. NewCommenterfromDaBronx*

      I would have been like WTF? Really? Warm & accepting? What century is this that you think it’s your place to even think that? Glad you got him to stop, but I think you were way too easy on him in explaining why he needed to.

      1. Charlotte Lucas*

        Except that in past centuries, it was the woman who decided whether the handshake happened or not. If a woman didn’t offer her hand, it would be in very bad taste for the man to force the issue. (Watch some very old movies or plays, and you might see this dynamic, if the staging is done correctly. When it’s two women, the ranking woman decides whether the handshake happens or not.)

        1. fposte*

          Not to mention how many fingers get offered. (Which sounds like I’m suggesting something that I’m not.)

          1. Charlotte Lucas*

            Yes! There’s a whole subtext that can be read into these interactions. You can sometimes find it discussed in novels and memoirs. And, remember that gloves are off for handshakes (except in extraordinary situations) – or else you’re implying that the person’s hand is too dirty to touch. (No eating while wearing gloves, either!)

    4. Josine*

      It is so frustrating dealing with people who have no respect for physical boundries. I have a sister-in-law who behaves in similar ways to this. Her excuse is that it’s just who she is, and we just have to respect that. Unlike her, who don’t have to respect my boundries. I’ve pretty much given up, and try to get the hugging over as quickly as possible.

      1. Mallory Janis Ian*

        “When people foist unwanted hugs on me, I tend to slap them directly in the face; it’s just who I am.”

        /fantasy response

        1. Doriana Gray*

          LMAO! I would actually say your fantasy response. This may be why I have few friends in life…

      2. Not the Droid You are Looking For*

        it’s just who she is, and we just have to respect that

        This attitude really drives me nuts. I’m a toucher, in part because I’m a tactile person and in part because I was raised by hippies (lived on a commune) and grew up with people that were constantly hugging, touching.

        However, I have learned that if someone doesn’t like to be touched, don’t @#$%ing touch them! It’s not hard. I have a coworker who doesn’t like to be touched and it has led to some awkward moments where I reach out to touch her arm, remember she doesn’t like to be touched, and then snap my hand back.

        1. Elizabeth West*

          This. Someone’s personality should not be an excuse for bad behavior. We all have personal responsibility to control our damn selves.

          I would just tell the handshake guy to knock it the hell off. But I’m not subtle when people are being annoying arseholes.

      3. JDrives*

        Oof, I feel you. I had this happen with my BIL. He also used the “I’m just a touchy-feely person!” excuse. Granted, it sounds like your SIL is just more of a warm fuzzy hugs type, whereas my BIL was bordering inappropriate-touching territory. It got ugly and awkward before he finally respected my wish not to touch me in any way, but it seriously took him so long to understand why it was not OK to touch someone who didn’t want to be touched! As if his personal desire to be a “hugger” outweighed my desire to not be creeped the eff out. Hang in there.

    5. Observer*

      I think I would have told him that he is showing himself to be untrustworthy, period. Not just that women see him that way.

      Also, I don’t know if it applies where you are, but in the US, this could easily have fallen gender based harassment as well, and that’s illegal, too.

    6. Joanna*

      I wish the woman he touched was trained in wrestling or something and just grabbed his arm and flipped him on his butt and said, “Do not touch me.” What a sexist, gross, abusive jerk. He didn’t deserve three reasons. He deserved to be fired.

    7. Shannon*

      I wonder if it would also qualify as some sort of sexual harassment – he’s not understanding the word “no” when people don’t want him to touch them.

      1. Observer*

        Yes. The problem is not that it’s touching, since he could probably make a case that the touch is not overtly sexual – I mean we are talking about a handshake. But, it based on gender / sex, and that is NOT ok.

  16. One of the Sarahs*

    OP3 You’re reminding me of my LONG ago bank call centre jobs, where a woman wanted her name to be listed as Arya Stark BA (Hons) on her bank account – card, cheques (& even then we were much more of a card culture in the UK than cheque) & letters, and it was just so ridiculous (the answer was “Unless you can produce 2 pieces of valid ID with that as your given name, no!”)

    1. get some perspective*

      Would it create problems for her or your organisation to do what she asked, other than it appearing ridiculous?

  17. Doriana Gray*

    OP#3 – in my field (risk management/insurance), it’s damn near a requirement to put advanced degrees and designations behind your name in your email signature, on letters/othe business correspondence, and on business cards. In fact, the people who don’t have any of these things listed are looked upon as being less knowledgeable, and possibly even less accomplished, than those who do. My email signature with my six industry-specific designations is what just got me a promotion and raise into another division within my current company. Some fields take this stuff very seriously not just for appearances sake, but also for regulatory reasons (we have to take continuing ed courses and renew licenses every two years depending on state regulator’s guidelines so the designation exams count towards both).

    As to the Esq. thing – I’ve seen it a couple of times, but most lawyers in my field just list JD and any designation(a)/certifications they may have.

    1. Florida*

      I know a guy who is not an attorney and uses Esq. He is a retired clown (that’s not a joke). He uses Esq after his name. Once I asked him about it. He said that Esq. means you are a male. His first name is gender neutral, so he added Esq. so people would know he is male.

      In case you were wondering, his clown name did not have Esq. after it, only his real name.

      1. Doriana Gray*

        LOL! So he’s a young nobleman who was trained for knighthood? Because that’s the only other time I’ve heard Esq. used when not speaking of a lawyer.

        1. Emily, admin extraordinaire*

          Back when the aristocracy was still a thing, Esq. could also mean (and in fact, usually did mean) “gentleman,” and the principal landowner in an area was often called the Squire. For example, in Pride and Prejudice, when Wickham and Lydia’s marriage was announced in the newspapers, it said “Lately, George Wickham Esq. to Miss Lydia Bennet,” and of course at the time Wickham, if he was anything, considering he’d just run away from his regiment, was a solider, not a lawyer. It only meant that he was of sufficient social standing to be considered a gentleman. In fact, I wouldn’t be surprised if the convention of using Esq. to designate a lawyer came from the fact that at the time, the only proper professions for members of the gentry were the law, the military, or the church.

          1. OriginalEmma*

            Thank you for explaining that! I was always confused about why Wickham was an esq. since I wasn’t sure if he was a lawyer. I must have missed that.

          2. Doriana Gray*

            See, I read that book and skipped right over that. Nice! So the retired clown is really a gentleman in disguise – I love it.

            1. Gee*

              In the UK, Esq. is still used in formal communications, such as wedding invitations, invitations to Royal garden parties etc, for any man on the basis that they are a “gentleman”. It is never used in connection with women and it doesn’t indicate that the man is a lawyer. I work in a legal field and often deal with US lawyers. It is still a disconnect for me when I get a woman lawyer adding Esq. to her name or even more oddly, when a US lawyer adds it to mine! (I am female).

      2. Vanishing Girl*

        I am really amused by this! So his clown personality was not a lawyer or a knight.

        Retired Clown, Esq.

    2. Rita*

      I remember working in finance and seeing how much went into becoming a CFA when a couple of my coworkers were going through the process. I don’t have a problem with anyone using that in their email signature within the industry or on their business cards. If I had seen someone with something like Series 7 after their name, that would be ridiculous.

    3. twenty points for the copier*

      I work in a related field dealing with insurance and securities and have had a similar experience. Some designations – registered rep (series 7), insurance license # (for certain states) – are required to be in email signatures and on stationary. Others designations which are more about expertise (CFP, CFA, etc) than licensing are not required, but it would be unheard of to not list those. The only time I could imagine someone not listing a designation is if it is a more specific, less prestigious one and the person has achieved a designation that’s better regarded and has covered the same subject matter. A string of ten acronyms might look silly after a while, but among those who have been in the field a while 1-2 is typical and 3-4 is not unusual.

      1. Doriana Gray*

        A string of ten acronyms might look silly after a while, but among those who have been in the field a while 1-2 is typical and 3-4 is not unusual.

        Yup, this. The hiring manager/AVP who just promoted me from out of my current job/division without knowing anything at all about me or my work firsthand openly said the reason he hired me was because of my unusual (and to him and his boss, the Senior VP, impressive) string of designations. I’ve only been in my industry a little over 2 years and I’m not even in my 30s yet. Meanwhile, both men have been in the industry for 25+ years and each only has 2-3 designations to their name. (And my soon-to-be new manager registered to take another designation exam after hiring me.) These things matter a lot in risk, insurance, and securities.

        This is why I don’t tell people that the only reason I have so many is because I’m using the bonus money we get for taking them to buy designer purses. That sounds less impressive.

        1. twenty points for the copier*

          “This is why I don’t tell people that the only reason I have so many is because I’m using the bonus money we get for taking them to buy designer purses. That sounds less impressive.”

          Love this. We don’t get a bonus for any of them, but there’s a couple that are Big Deals – to management, to peers, and to the public at large. I think in a lot of financial fields there’s a lot of subject matter specific expertise that is required, but it’s rarely what’s taught in academic programs.

  18. AP*

    #3: I spoke with a recruiter a few months back who had “MBA” after his name in his email signatures. I had never seen that particular degree called out in that way and was curious about it so I clicked on the link to his LinkedIn that was also in the email signature. He recieved the degree from a for-profit university. I thought that was a little odd.

      1. AP*

        Definitely and it also made me question his judgement. Rightly or wrongly, there is a certain stigma associated with for-profit universities, and to advertise your degree so loudly is maybe not the best decision. I didn’t follow up with him about the opportunity.

      2. Mike B.*

        I have only one colleague who includes her MBA in her signature, and this explanation holds water–she’s not a manager, she doesn’t specialize in finance, and she’s known for her inconsistent work quality and process adherence. For the most part, the only people at my company who cite their advanced degrees are in roles that demand scientific or medical training.

  19. Short Geologist*

    As scientists/engineers, we always add licenses/professional designations and PhDs, but masters degrees would look a little strange. In consulting, your email signature/business card/correspondence is supposed to indicate that you’re an expert at something. A masters degree doesn’t really convey that, and everybody has a BS or equivalent.

    1. the_scientist*

      At my organization we have a standardized email signature that includes your degree- everyone, including people with BAs only, includes their degree. So definitely, a field-specific and organization-specific degree!

  20. Christy*

    Captain Awkward has a letter that’s entirely about working while depressed. It’s letter 450, and I’ll link below. But it’s all about looking like you have your life together while depressed. I have it bookmarked for myself and it’s great.


    As someone who is crawling their way out from under the boulder of depression may I suggest an app/website called habitrpg? You can make lists of things that you have to do every day and you get points for completing them. It provided a structure for my “bare minimum” days. I hope your friend is feeling better soon.

    1. OP #1*

      I’m actually familiar with it! It’s a cute idea, and IMO, it’s particularly brilliant because it breaks what can seem like an overwhelming load into bite size pieces.

      1. Elizabeth West*

        Ooh I need to check this out. I’m a big fan of that saying about eating an elephant one bite at a time. The look-at-something-and-become-overwhelmed-by-it-and-give-up is also one of my worst habits.

  22. AisforA*

    I work in healthcare and also teach as an adjunct on the side. It is required at my university to use credentials. It is also required at my position in healthcare to use credentials. I have an MS, am a certified recreational therapist, a certified personal care administrator, certified in teaching higher education, and certified in dementia practice guidelines. I do not use all of my certifications in my e-mail signature. Just the degree, recreational therapy (directly related to my job), and administrator (also directly related to my job). Otherwise my letters after my name would be twice as along as my actual name, which is ridiculous.

    1. Doriana Gray*

      There’s a guy who works at my mom’s job (she and I are in the same industry) who has 21 designations listed in his email signature. It’s hilarious, so I’m shooting for that level of pretension as well just so I can giggle every time I see my own emails.

      Apparently I’m a child.

        1. Doriana Gray*

          Yeah, and the fact that she said he’s also a major douchenozzle to everyone he works with makes it even more ludicrous. He actually once said to someone, “Don’t you see my designations?! You need to listen to me because I’m smarter than everyone here!” Whatever, dude.

          1. Nashira*

            Oh of course he’s a jerk. Of course. Nobody else would feel the need to be all CCENT CCNA CCNP A+ Network+ Security+ CISSP blahblahblah. They’d list the terminal certs as necessary and be done with it.

            1. Doriana Gray*

              Now, to be fair, I do know some people who list a million designations behind their names and they’re perfectly nice people to work with. My former manager is one (she has, I think, 15 designations and lists 11 of them, plus her MBA, in her email signature block) – people love her and highly respect her. She’s very approachable, doesn’t take herself or anyone else too seriously, and she admits she’s a major dork, hence, all the test taking. Plus she’s just really good at her job. Douchenozzle from above is clearly insecure about something and is overcompensating like mad.

            1. Doriana Gray*

              She said everyone just rolls their eyes whenever he comes into a room. Pretty much everyone in the company knows he’s a pompous moron.

      1. Florida*

        It drives me batty when people list their certifications. In general, people outside of the field do not even know what they mean. There are a few certifications that are widely known, but typically the initials only mean something to people in the field. Also, sometimes you get a certification for taking a 10-hour online class with no test. Now, you call yourself a CNP or a CEPM or a CVM or whatever initial you can make up. Every time I see that, I want to say, “You are not that impressive.”

        1. AnotherHRPro*

          Ha, ha! I tend to have the same reaction. Oh, you have XYZ license. Great, you are still an idiot, but a licensed one! But I am a little sarcastic and snarky by nature. :)

      2. LSCO*

        Haha, I have a couple of friends who are competing to collect the most letters after their name – they get more points for more obscure letters (“z” and “x” are worth more than “a” for example), and more points for the higher level the designation is. First one to complete the alphabet wins.

        However, that is purely for entertainment purposes and outside of the title “Dr” neither of them use their designations in a professional context.

    1. OP #1*

      Ugh, stupid keyboard–hit enter by mistake too soon.

      Update and clarifications!

      The situation ended up resolving itself without me saying anything over the next couple of weeks, I think likely this was because of her overall condition starting to improve a little.

      In terms of people’s questions. Yes, we’re quite close. I knew for a fact she had been struggling with depression because we’d talked about it a lot, and I have been doing my best to be there and be supportive as she got professional help with it. Her manager also knows about the situation, but was more focused on managing workload vs. hygiene matters.

      Thanks, Alison, for answering my question, and thank you to everyone who commented.

      1. Doriana Gray*

        I’m glad to hear your friend’s doing better. Been there, and it’s a never-ending tunnel of suck – at least she had some support along the way.

      2. Erin*

        Glad to hear it, but also glad you posed the question – I’ve seen the BO thing come up on occasion and I think it’s helpful for everyone to hear the question/read the answers. Approaching someone with a sensitive topic like that is applicable to a lot of situations, I think.

      3. Very Much Anon*

        I’m glad she’s doing better. I’ve been in her shoes. I had a manager (who was also a friend) have to tell me. It was horrifying. Luckily she told me on a day I had showered, and she gave me a hug after and said “I smell nothing, they are probably crazy.” But I knew they weren’t. I thought I was hiding it better. I’m glad she has a friend that would help her with this and be understanding. Depression is a bitch.

    2. socrescentfresh*

      Thanks for sharing your dilemma, and I’m glad to hear it resolved itself! Even if the advice from Alison and the comments wasn’t necessary for your particular situation, it’s been one of the most helpful discussions I’ve read through in a long time. The kindness and sensitivity suggested for approaching your colleague were a great reminder that taking the time to craft a caring response could turn out to be a lifeboat to someone.

  23. Former Retail Manager*

    Related to OP#3….I know there are a few accountants that comment regularly so I’d like your take on e-mail signatures with CPA in them when you are not in public practice, only corresponding internally due to the nature of the position, and the position you are in does not require a CPA license (Govt. position). In my current position, a CPA is not required, although some have it. From my observations, it has absolutely nothing to do with your ability to succeed in this job and we have some CPA’s who are great at the job and others who are far surpassed by non-CPA’s. I am a non-CPA and I just feel that it comes across as pretentious due to the nature of the position. Obviously, public accounting or even corporate accounting would be a different story.

    Thoughts or opinions of any CPA’s here?

    1. Granite*

      In current job (public company, not CPA firm) I was asked what I wanted on my business card, and had the opportunity to flip through a book of current cards. I noted the only folks who listed their CPA/MS were under 30, which made me think it would be seen as a sign of insecurity, so I left it off. Unfortunately, I’ve come to find several higher ups were unaware I had those qualifications, which has impacted their view of me.
      In previous quasi-governmental job, we all listed everything everywhere, because some of the PhD’s we worked with had a tendency to be condescending to anyone “uneducated.” We accountants thought it was pretentious, but necessary in our environment.
      In the end, barring clear guidance from your supervisor or HR, you have to make a judgement call on the net pros and cons, and it looks like your colleagues think it helps them more than it hurts. Or it’s a habit from a previous job and they haven’t given it a second thought.

    2. CdnAcct*

      I’m in Canada, where our accounting designations (CA, CMA, CGA) recently merged into one (CPA). When it happened, we got emails from the accounting body telling us how to present the designations and saying we had to do so.

      In my case, I work for a bank in financial reporting, so I have it in my work email signature. I think it helps people recognize what I’m likely to know (accounting, finance systems) and also what I don’t know (why my system is crashing, HR regulations).

  24. Erin*

    #3 – I hate it when people use degrees/certifications like that, that’s SUCH a pet peeve of mine. “Esq” in particular makes you look like such a pompous ass. I mean the definition is: “a young nobleman who, in training for knighthood, acted as an attendant to a knight.” Yeah I’m sure you’re awful knightly in your lawyerly duties.

    Also reminds me of 3rd Rock From the Sun: “Dr. Mary Albright, PhD.”

    1. LQ*

      I try to give people who use Esq a chance to be hilarious because I’ve met 2 people who used it who really were. My experience with them has been full of funny. I’ve met a lot of lawyers but only the people who used Esq have been funny.

        1. LQ*

          My favorite was a long legalese filled email full of jargon and things like Esq that was saying basically, “I’m an idiot, come help me fix this powerpoint please!”

    2. Bowserkitty*

      I used to work with a bunch of attorneys and they’d roll their eyes at anybody who titled themselves “esq”. That was a learning experience.

      Props for the reference – I loved 3rd Rock. :)

  25. not.telling.*

    LW1: I think you really need to tread carefully here. When I had my last depression epsoide I barely made it to work. It took every bit of energy and will. Unless you have experienced that you really don’t understand. I can’t speak for your coworker, but getting them professional help is what is necessary IMHO, esp if they are spirialing downward.

    1. fposte*

      I don’t think that’s a reason never to say anything, though, and we’ve had several people here and on other threads talking about how hearing something like this was hard but helpful.

      This isn’t nagging somebody for not wearing eyelash extensions; it’s noting that the lowered level of self-care is evident to the point of possibly being a work problem. It may not fix the situation, but it’s better than assuming it can’t be fixed and letting the chips fall where they may.

    2. OP #1*

      I have actually experienced pretty bad depression, so I do at least have some idea, though I won’t pretend that I know exactly what she was experiencing. For clarification, though, when I wrote in, she had been getting professional help. This was more of a side issue related to being at work.

      My concern with saying anything, though, was whether it would make it worse because I know that sometimes depression magnifies any negative thing you hear so that it seems like the end of the world.

      1. not.telling.*

        OP1: Worrying about making things worst is a normal reaction. It is hard to know without really getting a professional involved but it sounds like your friend already has one. I still would be a little worried for your friend, being depressed AND at work is never good, esp if work has triggers/situations/people etc that could make the depression worst.

  26. Gigi*

    I’m an American working in higher education in the UK. The use of postnomials after one’s name in email signatures and on business cards is the norm here (sometimes an absurdly long stringy of them, I might add) and I too find it pretentious and unnecessary. I am struggling at the moment with whether I should do it so that I can fit in, but it would sort of go against my principles. Or not do it and risk having some idiot potentially think that I have no proper qualifications for my position (at a well-known university in London). I will probably just do it in the interest of cultural acclimatisation (workplace culture as well as national) however I’m not too happy about it.

  27. HRish Dude*

    I’ve seen someone list their BA in their signature. I wish I was kidding.

    On the other hand, if no one that you regularly correspond with has any damn clue what all of the alphabet soup after your name means, don’t put it in there.

  28. Not Gloria, A.A.,B.S.*

    I’m going to start signing my emails with B.S. because that’s pretty much how I feel about my degree! Maybe I’ll include my associates degree too. Can I put something to indicate Lean Six Sigma yellow belt training? Think of the possibilities!

      1. Not Gloria, A.A.,B.S.*

        I think we should all make up acronyms and put them at the end of our emails and make people wonder what they stand for.

        1. Doriana Gray*

          I did this once (adding my NanoWriMo “certifications” and Amazon Bestselling Author of [insert names of my actual published short story collections here]), plus uploaded my acting headshot from almost a decade ago to my email server – yeah, that didn’t go over well. Tough crowd where I work.

  29. OriginalEmma*

    #2: Sit your coworkers down, Clockwork Orange-style, with a copy of “The Manners of Downtown Abbey.” The touchy-feeliness of most Western cultures nowadays is a world away from how we used to relate less than 100 years ago. Shaking hands with every Tom, Dick and Harry? Being emotional? Hugging?! All mostly unacceptable back then.

    But seriously, a firm, consistent but nonchalant “No thank you, I’m not the hugging/touchy-feely type” should work.

    If your coworkers persist, take a leaf out of Fearless Leader Green’s book and say something along the lines of “I have asked you repeatedly not to touch me. Why won’t you respect that?” Then watch as they sputter and try to come up with some excuse that doesn’t make them sound like boundary-breeching wingnuts.

    1. JDrives*

      I make this mistake all the time. I am really hoping they just come up with a modern version of Downton (almost did it again!!) Abbey set in Manhattan or something.

  30. Temperance*

    Re: #3 – I’m an Esq., but don’t include it in my email; some others in my office do. It’s considered gauche in my industry to announce yourself with the title, but you should use it for others. It’s a bit harder for women professionals, though, because we’re mistaken for support staff if we don’t make it clear that we aren’t secretaries.

    My husband has a few certifications and includes them in his email signature, but that’s standard for his industry (IT).

  31. I try to be an innocent bystander*

    Yeah, I briefly worked with a pharmacist whose husband would call looking for “Dr. Smith.” It was confusing as heck, since we worked at a hospital. If I hear someone asking for “Dr-so-and-so”, I’m going to think they are looking for one of the 500 MD’s, and called the wrong department.

    Granted, the vast majority of the pharmacists at my work are Doctors of Pharmacy, but this woman was the only one who ever used “Dr.” as her title.
    I could never figure out if she was the pretentious one, her husband was, or both!

    Appending degrees in signatures, however, is standard practice.

  32. I'm not a lawyer, but ...*

    I once had a contract position and when a new contractor took over they kept me on. They were aghast when they realized that the “new” $10/hr secretary (who knew where the bodies were buried) didn’t have the required Masters degree. They told me to add HS (year) to my email signature. I chose to look for employment with intelligent beings instead.

  33. alex*


    I have used a variation of this script for a friend:

    “Friend, I know you’ve been in pain recently. I know you’ve been having a hard time: you’re acting morose, distracted, not sleeping well…and you’re not keeping up with hygiene. I’ve been there, for real. Spray dry shampoo in the hair [suggest brand], swipe some deodorant on before you leave, and spray your clothes with scented fabric spray. These tricks work great. You’re gonna be ok. Can I take you out to coffee?”

  34. Sara*

    It’s not common in my field to put your degree in your email signature, although I have a couple of coworkers at my current job who do. It makes me roll my eyes just a little bit, because while completing a rigorous graduate program is certainly something to be proud of, the degree that these folks tack onto the end of their name is basically a prerequisite for employment where I work. Oh, you’re an M.Ed? So is everyone else who works in this building.

  35. GlorifiedPlumber*

    Odd! I feel like “professional” certs would be perfectly acceptable on the end of an email signature!

    Things like MD, JD, PA, CPA, AP, LEED, etc. just seem… normal to me. I am an engineer in an engineering firm and everyone who has it throws P.E. after their name.

    My wife is a veterinarian and throws DVM on the email signatures…

    What in the world kind of stuff are people putting after their names on email signatures?

    There are some engineers in this office who put all their states they have their PE with in the signature too:
    Johnny Engineer, P.E. (ID, OR, NV, UT, VT, NY)

    Now THAT is just pretentious… :)

  36. Mkb*

    #5- a recruiter reached out to me with a job that I wasn’t interested in and I ended up passing it along to my husband who ended up getting it. I sent an email back to the recruiter with his resume saying I was not interested but if she thought his background was a fit that he would love to connect. It worked out well. Good luck!

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