new hire said I’m too relaxed to be a manager, coworkers keep calling me the “compliance lady,” and more

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

1. New hire said I’m too relaxed to be a manager

I recently had four new staff members join my team, as did the other three managers in our company. As with all new starters, we conduct a “temperature check” a couple of months in to ascertain their thoughts on the training modules, their team, their manager, etc. Feedback is anonymous, of course, but at least one of my new hires stated that I am “too relaxed to be a manager.”

While I am aware that I am more laid back than some of our other managers, I have never felt that this has made me incompetent at my job. In fact, I take (some) pride in the fact that staff are comfortable around me and that my approach has enabled me to develop good relationships and good work habits from some difficult staff members. However, this feedback has made me acutely aware that a casual approach doesn’t work for everyone, and that I need to demonstrate a more authoritarian manner. How should I change my behaviors to be “less relaxed” without micromanaging?

Well, wait. The fact that one person — one new person who doesn’t know you well — said this doesn’t mean it’s definitely true and something you need to change. It’s worth reflecting on the feedback and thinking about whether there’s merit to it, but it doesn’t sound like you’ve done that — it sounds like you’re just taking one new person’s feedback as gospel, and that would be a mistake.

Instead, ask yourself how your current style is working. Do people have clear expectations? Do they get regular feedback, both good and bad? When you have a concern about someone’s work, do you address it clearly, quickly, and straightforwardly? Are problems resolved pretty quickly or do they fester? Do you have frustrations with people’s work that they don’t know about? Does work get done well and on time? What kind of work is your team producing overall and what kind of results are they getting? Are they hitting/exceeding their goals, or coming up short?

The answers to those questions are what will tell if you need to change something.

(And frankly, if someone needs a very authoritarian management style from you, they might not be the right person for your team, if things are otherwise going well.)

2. My coworkers keep calling me the “compliance lady”

I am the only person in my office in this type of role (teapot compliance officer), but my colleagues refer to me as the “compliance lady.” I am referred to in this manner both verbally and in written correspondence, internally and externally, by both men and women. No other role in my office is referred to in short hand such as this. Personally, I feel the term “compliance lady” is a little demeaning as it doesn’t reflect the effort I’ve put in to my career over the years, and I also wonder if they would refer to me in a similar fashion if I were a man. Also, perhaps this is just my own etymology, but to me the word “lady” indicates a woman of a certain age, whereas I am only in my mid-30s!

We are a relatively small office with an informal culture which I normally appreciate, but I find this annoying and it gets under my skin every time it happens. Is there a way to address this without coming across super high strung, or is this just a weird quirk of my office that I should let go?

Well, they might call you the “compliance guy” if you were a man. Part of it is that “compliance officer” sounds pretty formal, and I can understand people wanting something more casual for casual communications. But they don’t need to make it gendered; “compliance person” would do just fine. And particularly in written communications, or with people outside your office, there’s no reason they can’t use your actual title.

I think you can stamp it out, but you’ll need to decide if it’s worth the effort it may take. I’d start by saying to the biggest offenders, “Hey, would you mind not calling me that? I don’t mind ‘compliance person,’ but the ‘lady’ thing feels unnecessarily gendered. Thank you.” Or if you don’t want to get into it being gendered, you could just say, “I actually prefer not to be called that.”

3. How do I explain I’m moving because my house is crumbling?

I live in Connecticut, where currently we have a rapidly growing epidemic of crumbling house foundations. (If you want to read the details of this issue, here’s a good New York Times article on it.)

I fear we may have an entire area of the state full of collapsing foundations soon. My condo has this problem. I’m dealing with this the best I can. One choice I will have to make in the near future is this: Do I stay or do I walk away? Those are the only two options I can see at the moment. Hopefully a more appealing option appears soon.

If I decide to walk away, I will seize the opportunity to move to another part of the country. How far in advance from my anticipated move should I submit my resume? What’s the best way to answer questions on why I’m relocating? I don’t want to come across as someone who walks away when things get hard.

I’m already leaning towards pulling the escape hatch. I’ve only just found out about this a month ago and the stress is destroying my health. Any advice or help would be appreciated.

You’re not going to come across as someone who walks away when things get hard! You’re going to come across as someone who made a perfectly understandable decision that no one is going to hold against you. Also, sometimes it makes sense to walk away when things get hard! You’re not in a marriage with Connecticut; you’re allowed to decide you want to leave. Seriously, non-issue.

That said, you’d ideally explain why you’re moving by focusing on why you’re picking the area you’re moving to. Employers want to see that you’re excited about moving to their location and aren’t going to change your mind six months after you start there — so focus on what’s drawing you to them, rather than what’s pushing you away from your current home.

I’d start applying now, if you’re serious about moving this year. Long-distance job searches can take a long time, unless you’re in a really in-demand field where people are being snatched up.

4. Should I let my company fire me so I can get severance?

I was told by my manager about a month ago that I could either risk being fired immediately due to “poor performance” or take reduced responsibilities and look for a new position for 45 days. Well, obviously I wanted to keep receiving a paycheck, so I took the reduced responsibilities.

I found a new position and I am about to accept the offer (just making sure no last-minute offers come from another job before I send the signed letter). I decided to set my start date the Monday after my last day at my current job. This will allow me to complete the pay cycle.

When I informed my manager of my plan, she stated that I could still choose termination (I have the choice to resign or termination where I get severance on the last day). My wife would like me to take the termination and get the severance, but I do not want it to affect my new job. It is important to note I was not asked on the application or any interviews if I had been terminated or asked to resign. The reason I gave for leaving was to pursue my career goals and that the current position had changed and no longer met my career goals(which is actually truthful).

If I am terminated from my old job before I start my new job, can it come back to bite me?

You mean with the new job? No. But it could impact you in the future, in that you may be asked on future job searches about whether you’ve ever been fired, and you’d need to answer yes. Similarly, if your departure is recorded in your current company’s records as a firing, that’s what will get reported to reference-checkers in the future. It sounds like if you want it recorded as a resignation, you’d have to give up the severance.

5. My boss is pushing me to work weekend days, despite our initial agreement

I work two part-time jobs. The first one I’ve had for two and a half years, and the second one I’ve been working at for a year. In order to make the schedules work after an issue with bus schedules and not having a car, I work job #1 on weekends and job #2 Monday through Friday.

I gave my two-weeks notice to job #1 a couple weeks ago. Yesterday I let my boss at job #2 know about that because a coworker found out about my leaving job #1, and as she has a tendency of outing me on everything, I was worried my boss would find out and could get upset. I have the worker personality that just goes with whatever the boss says and am always worried about offending people. When I told my boss, I tried to explain that I still wanted my weekends off as we had agreed when I started working, and she told me she would try but that she really needs help on weekends and offered to give me a Tuesday or whatever off when she needs me on a weekend. I nodded my head and said okay when she said it, because I didn’t know that I could say no and keep my original availability.

My boss is nice but she has a tendency of using people as often as possible and this is my first time in a year having a chance at a day off. Is there any way to retract my agreement or am I now stuck?

It would be easier if you’d held firm in the first place, but you can absolutely push back now. Say this: “I need to stick with my current schedule that we’ve agreed to. I have other commitments on the weekend now, and still only available Monday through Friday, like we originally agreed.”

The problem, of course, if that it sounds like you’ll want to cave if she pushes back. So you’ll need to resolve that you’re willing to stand up for yourself and not agree to anything asks of you. Keep repeating to yourself, “This is reasonable, and this has been our agreement all along.”

{ 408 comments… read them below }

  1. Noah*

    #2 – People call me “safety dude” and my employees that are on functional teams in other departments get similar casual titles. It doesn’t bother me, but that doesn’t mean you have to ignore it either. I doubt people are doing it to be demeaning, so if you ask them to stop I bet they will.

    1. Dan*

      My casual title for many years was “line guy.” The customer service reps were “the girls up front.” Yes, those positions were heavily gender skewed, for better or for worse. The only time my official title was ever used was on personnel paperwork.

            1. DN*

              I don’t mean to make it sound like I’m calling you out, but “the girls up front” doesn’t sound _bad_ to me, per se. Especially if the customer service reps actually are all young women. Just because a casual title is gendered doesn’t necessarily make it a bad thing. I think a lot of it has to do with the tone of how someone says something. In digital communications, tone is very hard to convey.

              I do completely agree with the sentiment that one should call someone what they request to be called. If someone took offense to a casual title, I’m completely on board with changing the way I speak.

                1. AMG*

                  Yes, Sunny-Dee. That’s why I think jokingly saying ‘lady makes me feel old’ might be a good approach to get them to stop.

              1. Ask a Manager* Post author

                They aren’t girls; they’re adult women. Calling professional adult women girls, while professional adult men are called men, has a long and patronizing history.

                Girls are rarely taken as seriously as women. Would you call Hillary Clinton or Ruth Bader Ginsburg a girl? If not, why is it okay to refer to other women that way?

                1. DN*

                  I get that there is a long and patronizing history. Perhaps it’s just my youth and male perspective skewing my thoughts then. Still, I think it depends on the context in which the words are used, and I hope you’ll permit my explaining why:

                  In my last job, I worked in an office with 5 women. The entire executive/admin team was 15 people at most across all of the various departments and there were times when we’d go out as a team for lunch. It honestly would sound really odd if our GM were to say “ask the women what they want to do about lunch” rather than “ask the girls what they want to do about lunch.” Even a gender neutral “ask your department” sounds too formal in that situation. My HR manager would say “How are the girls doing?” if I walked by her office. It would sound rather odd if she were to ask “How are the women doing?” since we were close-knit and had a relaxed atmosphere at work.

                  I completely understand if that is mansplaining. While I’m highly cognizant of how I refer to people in general, I’ll try and do better to watch how I reference women in particular going forward.

                2. Anon attorney*

                  I’m replying to DN here because nesting fail.

                  You say using the term women would sound odd and therefore it’s ok to use ‘girl’, even after being given an explanation of why the latter is problematic.

                  Why would it sound odd? Also, why does your desire to avoid any conversational discordance outweigh a woman’s wish to be referred to as an adult? Might it not be the case that if the word woman were used correctly it would in time cease to sound odd, if indeed it truly does now? How about if that process started now, in your office?

                  Your explanation doesn’t contain an awful lot of substance or critical thinking, I’m afraid…

                3. Daisy Steiner*

                  @DN – I found it super-weird at first, when I was younger, to refer to “A woman I work with” or “The women in finance”, or even to refer to myself as a woman – instead of using the word “girl”, as I was used to. It felt like it just wouldn’t roll off my tongue right, like I was being unnecessarily stuffy, etc.

                  But you know what? It gets easier with practice. Now I hardly notice it (and hardly ever slip back to ‘girl’). It’s like when we were supposed to start calling it ‘Uluru’ instead of ‘Ayers Rock’. At first I thought ‘I’ll never get used to that!’. Now I don’t even notice it.

                4. DN*

                  That last bit was rather unnecessary, Anon attorney. I’ve acknowledged I will refer to someone however they want to be referred. If I’m talking about a person, I’ll call them by name or title. I would never say “Compliance Lady” because that’s not a title. Compliance Officer is the title and I would use that if we had one. I’m merely suggesting there are certain situations where informal references sound warmer than their more formal counterparts.

                  I wouldn’t say “let’s take the men out for drinks,” I would say guys. That’s because of the context in which I’m referencing this group of people. Again, perhaps that’s just my age and cultural upbringing.

                  That being said, I’ll concede that I’m completely wrong and you’re absolutely right. Perhaps the word will sound warmer the more it’s used.

                5. MK*

                  DN, as others have said, “women” sounds off exactly because it isn’t used much; you ‘ll just have to get used to it. Also, even in your examples there are non-gendered and non-formal ways to refer to a group of young women, like “ask the team what they want to do about lunch” and “How is everybody doing?”.

                6. blackcat*


                  What about…

                  “the team up front”
                  “the folks up front”
                  “the front team”
                  “the front peeps”

                  There are plenty of gender-neutral, informal options to refer to a group of people. As a woman in my late 20s who looks quite young (I work at a university and get mistaken for an undergrad all the time), I get really pissed when I’m called a “girl.” I’m not a girl. That has not been an accurate description for a decade. I have *some* tolerance for when the faculty who are 70+ years old refer to me as “the girl” (I’m the only female grad student in my department currently), but ZERO tolerance for anyone younger doing it. They should know better, and they don’t have to break decades old habits.

                  Your relative youth isn’t an excuse. If anything, it makes it *worse* if you are referring to women your age and older as “girls.”

                7. Patrick*

                  DN, I think where you’re missing the point is that while “guys” and “girls” are both informal they don’t imply the same thing in terms of age. You might call your male friends “boys” but you probably wouldn’t use it at work, right?

                  This isn’t necessarily directed at DN per se but is kind of a followup to calling people what they want to be called – as a guy I’ve gotten the impression that being called “girls” is like the ultimate “just let it go” thing for women. A lot of times if a woman complains about it she’s going to be labeled as a “b*tch” or worse, just because most men don’t even see why it would be an issue because it’s so common.

                  Overall I agree with the people saying that nongendered language is the way to go in the office when possible, but whether its that or pushing yourself to use “woman” instead of “girl” I agree with Daisy Steiner that the more you do it the more comfortable/less stilted it feels.

                8. Observer*

                  @DN You give us an explanation that really is NOT an explanation. You say that only “girls” sounds right, “women” and “department” sound odd, and negate any other form of usage. But, you don’t really explain why. You also, as others have pointed out, totally ignored the very different meanings of the two words you claim are equal.

                  What’s off to me is that you, and your milieu are so used to thinking of adults women – some of them possibly old enough to be your grandmother, certainly your mother, in the same terms as children, and in situations where you wouldn’t think of and refer to men that way.

                  You other usages “off”. Start using them, and you’ll get used to them.

                9. Gaia*

                  DN, I don’t think that would have sounded odd at all. I despise being called a girl. I have not been a girl for many years. I am a woman.

                  I also do not refer to grown adult men as boys. I refer to them as men. Because that is what they are. Adult. Men. I am and Adult. Woman.

                10. Gaia*

                  Also, I just want to say that “guys” is different than “boys” A guy is not a young, immature, underage male. It is a male.

                  Actually, it is more complex than that, but this is not the place for a history lesson. In either case, it is not the same as calling adult women “girls.”

                11. AMG*

                  Yes, Sunny-Dee. That’s why I think jokingly saying ‘lady makes me feel old’ might be a good approach to get them to stop.

                12. Dr. Johnny Fever*

                  DN: “I get that there is a long and patronizing history. Perhaps it’s just my youth and male perspective skewing my thoughts then. Still, I think it depends on the context in which the words are used, and I hope you’ll permit my explaining why:”

                  Sorry, but if you say you get it, then make excuse for why you disregard it, you don’t really get it.

                  I am a mother, a wife, and have a successful career. I am a woman, and not a girl. I don’t care if you think calling me a “woman” sounds odd in the office culture, or because of your youth or any other reason. I am a woman. Period. I am not a girl, and have not been a girl for many many years.

                  This is case where you must look outside your own perspective to consider the alternative point of view, and proceed accordingly. You don’t get to decide how to classify me based on your personal preference.

                13. Tinea*

                  Seconding Patrick above: “I’ve gotten the impression that being called “girls” is like the ultimate “just let it go” thing for women. A lot of times if a woman complains about it she’s going to be labeled as a “b*tch” or worse, just because most men don’t even see why it would be an issue because it’s so common.”

                  DN, please listen to the people in this thread who are speaking up. In the workplace, we have to pick our battles and navigate if requesting a more respectful terminology will actually result in less respect from a sexist co-worker or boss.

                  You may not be individually taken aside and handheld by each person who would like you to use professional language to address them. The imperative is on you to learn respectful forms of address and use them with everybody.

                  This helps the people who do not feel comfortable enough to request directly one-on-one with you that you change how you speak about them (or are too busy, or don’t believe you’ll change, or want to avoid making YOU feel uncomfortable when they tell you how insulting & unprofessional you are being).

                  It also helps you. If you call me “girl” in a workplace, you’re going to be noted as someone who is either ignorant of professional norms and/or sexist and discriminatory. It probably won’t be worth my time correcting you, as I will instead focus on working with (and promoting) people who demonstrate respect for others’ gender, age, race etc.

                1. AliceW*

                  Must just be me. I could care less if someone referred to me as a girl unless they were deliberately calling me a “girl” in some derogatory way- and I’m 40. No one says “gal” so I think of “girl” as synonymous with “‘guy” for men, rather than simply equating “girl” with “boy”. I don’t find it offensive at all. I spent years in the Army and they always referred to women as “females”.

                2. Dr. Johnny Fever*

                  Difference in people, I guess.

                  I’m 40. If someone referred to me as one of “the girls up front” that person would receive some serious feedback and that phrase would die immediately. I don’t refer to my developers as “the boys” and would never direct someone to “the boys in the back.”

                3. Rat Racer*

                  @ Dr. Johnny Fever: one of the SVPs I work with refers to himself as a “Boy” and I think it’s really weird. He is prone to saying things like “People tell me I’m the fastest talking Southern Boy this side of the Mason-Dixon…”

                  Hearing a 60-something man who is an executive at a Fortune 50 company refer to himself as “boy” sounds so creepy to me. But since he’s calling himself boy, and not calling me “Girl,” it’s absolutely his prerogative.

                4. Dr. Johnny Fever*

                  @Rat Racer – Agreed. If he choose to define himself as a boy, that’s his choice. I can’t imagine calling my SVP “boy”. That could be a fun experiment.

                  It’s interesting that he chooses to do it as a Southerner since “boy” has so many loaded connotations (fellow Southerner). Being Southern is part of the reason I don’t like “girl” or “lady”. “Girl” is often used by men to put a woman in her place if a man feels she’s being too assertive (e.g. “Now, listen here, girl,). “Lady” still conjures the image of white gloves, plantation dresses, and women who lived to serve men and look like pretty trophies.

                  @Nunya – totally with you on boob thing!

                5. SenatorMeathooks*

                  I don’t like using “girls” to reference adult women anymore that I like to use “boys” to reference grown ass men. In my office, it’s been established through years worth of email communications that “ladies” is okay when the email is CC’ed to all women. (Although our department is 97% women, I use the greeting “Team,” or “Good Morning Team”, if I’m emailing the entire department but even that doesn’t always make sense in all contexts.)

                  However, while I’m from the South, I’ve always used “guys” to refer to both genders as I’ve always interpreted it as a gender-neutral term. For the record, I am female.

              2. blink*

                The thing is, the more those customer service reps get called “the girls up front” or the IT people get called “the computer guys” the more ingrained in the company culture it becomes that those positions are gendered. Little things like that wear grooves into the reality of a place. Will it stop a man from getting hired into a customer service position, maybe not, but it might be a sign of a culture that will make fun of him for doing a “girl’s job” or whatever. The little stuff reflects the big stuff.

                1. Tinea*

                  Yes! Thank you! This is why it is important to use gender and age neutral terminology in professional environments: these jobs are gender and age neutral but office cultural bias in language can skew the hiring process and the respect the employees receive in their work.

        1. anncakes*

          In my workplace, which is literally all female except for one guy, the client care specialists are often referred to as the girls up front, while the rest of us are the girls in the back. It doesn’t bother me like it would in a different type of job, and most of the ladies are under the age of 25 and have never objected. Their official titles are cumbersome, and they don’t like being called receptionists, so I refer to them as the ladies up front.

              1. Petronella*

                Wow, that is really gross. “Ladies” may be a condescending and unprofessional term, but it’s not the same thing as “prostitute!” wtf. I have no idea what Ladies of the Night means either.

            1. anncakes*

              That’s kind of bizarre. In some contexts, “lady” or “ladies” can sound weird or condescending, but really? Like calling them prostitutes? I guess making it off limits instead of trying to figure out and explain nuances works as a “keep your foot out of your mouth and you’ll be safe” tactic, but that’s so odd.

              1. JB (not in Houston)*

                Yeah, the only thing I can think of here is the fact that I personally have run into several men over the years who addressed as “ladies” and said it in a really skeevy way. So if it’s happened to me several times, it’s likely happened to other women, too. So rather than trying to describe how not to say the word, they just told people that it is like calling them a prostitute? I’ve definitely heard it said in a way that made me feel gross, so . . . I guess?

              2. Artemesia*

                It always reminds me of Jerry Lewis ‘hey laydeeez’

                Many Europeans use lady when addressing a woman and it always sounds so ‘off’ and weird. Of course ‘Madam’ the correct way to address a woman in say French and the translation is ‘lady’ apparently which just isn’t used the same way in English as Madam in French.

            2. anonderella*

              I am rolling around laughing on the inside – please, in all seriousness, would you care to share the reasoning behind this?
              I don’t like being called ‘ladies/lady’ but there is nothing in my head that jumps to ‘because it’s like calling me a prostitute’. I just think it’s laziness (or other preoccupied-ness) that makes people thoughtlessly use a generalization instead of a person’s name or role in a situation.

          1. Nunya*

            I have observed that sometimes younger employees lack the confidence to object to workplace ‘offenses’ or are afraid of being called bitchy or feminist or not team players.

            1. anncakes*

              I assure you, no one in that place is afraid of being called bitchy. ;)

              For what it’s worth, I assume people are okay with it if they use the phrase themselves. If they objected to being called “the girls up front,” I doubt they’d be referring to the others as “the girls in the back” and vice versa. I’m not a fan of “girls” and personally prefer to refer to people as gentlemen and ladies when interacting with our clients (our owner likes us to be a little more formal and old fashioned). The majority of the time, though, I find myself using titles or just a plain “someone.” The issue is that they don’t like being called receptionists, and their full titles are a mouthful.

        2. INFJ*

          At Dunkin Donuts, we were “counter girls.” (The female employees served the coffee and donuts; the male employees did the baking/finishing in the back.)

            1. Anna*

              Oh, that is so gross. Was this particular to your site or was it chain wide? Because if that was common across all stores, I want to know what chain this was.

              1. Apollo Warbucks*

                I’ve no idea if it was wide spread it was certainly common in two or three local stores I worked around, but that was only one franchise not necessarily how other stores ran.

          1. Daisy Steiner*

            It is British. It’s a non-count noun roughly similar to ‘eye candy’ or ‘talent’.

    2. Minion*

      When I was a bookkeeper for a children’s home the kids called me the “money lady” and it kind of spread to the non-admin staff as well. They’d call me up and say, “Hey, Money Lady, we need Johnny’s allowance money.” or whatever they’d be asking for.
      I didn’t mind, generally. Especially when I got sweet drawings. There was one in particular that featured a stick figure me holding dollars in each hand and standing in a pile of money. I guess they thought that’s what I did.

      1. NJ Anon*

        I have been called this as well. Never really bothered me. But never was called the money girl.

      2. For This Anon*

        The picture is at least cute. I have one person who likes to call me “Boss Lady” because I am, but I can’t stand it. I have just learned to get used to it. Doesn’t make it right

    3. Lora*

      Reading the responses I feel like I’m the only person who has worked (apparently exclusively) in places where nicknames are applied. Mostly because there are about 6541063513041 guys named Mike and women named Laura everywhere I’ve worked; you run into those generational names like Jennifer where there’s so many you can’t keep track of them all. The Mikes at my current job are all referred to by their last names; at a previous job we had five Andys, all in the same department, and we called them by nicknames based on their last names.

      1. Victoria Nonprofit (USA)*

        Sure. I’ve worked in plenty of places where nicknames are the norm. My last org had an initials culture, where most everyone was referred t0 by their initials (or a first initial and last name). My current boss calls a lot of people by their full name, as though the two names run together. My husband, who has a very common first name, is routinely called by his last name. etc.

      2. Nerfmobile*

        In my department (a fairly large one) there are two men named Andrew. For a while they both worked together as the leads on a project, so it became common to refer to “the Andrews”, as in “You will need to talk to the Andrews about that”.

            1. Artemesia*

              Nothing, Bob. I do nothing. I get her as late as possible — if you come in the side door they don’t notice and then I get coffee and then pretend to shuffle paper for awhile and then take a break. Nothing, Bob.

        1. CS Rep By Day, Writer By Night*

          I have another co worker with the same name as me. We refer to ourselves as “{firstname} squared”.

        2. Jadelyn*

          My department head (HR) is named David, and so is the IT manager. One of my closest colleagues outside of HR is an IT guy, so when we’re talking and one of us says something about what David did we have to stop and go – “wait…which David? Yours or mine?”

          This also leads to, when we hit an impasse on figuring out an issue between us, a “let’s go talk to our respective Davids and reconvene after to see where we stand.”

          1. Pixel*

            My friend has a husband, father and brother-in-law that are all Davids. It gets quite confusing.

        3. KTB*

          We have the Sams. OG Sam, Intern Sam, and Man Sam. Intern Sam just left, so now we’re down to OG and Man Sam.

      3. LD*

        LOL! My husband Mike works with Mike and they are the only two who do what they do. They are called the “Mikes” or even “M&M” by the people they work with.

      4. mander*

        We had three guys with the same name on my last job site. They became Chainsaw Jack (because he was the saw operator), Pirate Jack (because of his dress sense), and Comedy Jack (who is an amateur stand up).

    4. LizB*

      I had a teenage client ask me yesterday what my official title is, because she’d just been referring to me as “my [human services organization] lady” and realized that was kind of weird. I don’t really mind being called “[org] lady,” but if a 13-year-old can realize it’s not the most respectful title, grown adults should be able to understand why you don’t like it, and change if asked.

      1. Gaia*

        Right. When the 13 year old gets it, the adults with fully formed prefrontal cortexes should really, really get it.

        1. Petronella*

          Nooo, it’s too odd and difficult to call people by their names or their titles! /sarcasm

          1. Anna*

            My title is LOOOOOOONG and it’s awkward when people use the acronym because unless you work in my field you will have no idea what it is (and frequently when you do work in my field, you don’t know what it is). So, call me by my name. Although I don’t know if I’d be too worried if someone called me the marketing lady. However, there is a person who works here who does call the women girls and I cringe each and every time.

            Example: Today our Finance Director was introducing the new person around and introduced me by name and title. New person was definitely confused and had no idea what it meant. So I explained I do marketing and outreach. Immediate comprehension.

    5. Nervous Accountant*

      I’m just curious, what do you guys think about “Tax Girl”? She’s a successful, accomplished tax attorney and publishes the tax blog featured on Forbes. I enjoy the content and writing but never really thought about the “girl” aspect of it. I’m interested to hear the thoughts on this.

      1. AnonInSC*

        I wouldn’t choose it and think it’s not a good choice…but presumably she has decided to use and market herself in that way. There is an agency in choosing it. Not completely related, but I’m a runner and I cannot stand all the “runner girl” stuff out there. I am a runner. I am a woman many years removed from competing in high school and college. I refuse to purchase or wear that stuff. But I know plenty of strong, intelligent women who are all over it.

        1. AnotherAlison*

          Seconded. My issue with all the girl power type of t-shirt marketing slogan stuff is that it should go without saying. Just execute it. Run the marathon. Kickbox. Whatever. You don’t need to announce that you are a female who does it. It should be obvious that women can do all these things.

          1. Artemesia*

            Yup. Telling a girl she can be anything a boy can be is incredibly subtly demoralizing. It teachers her that this is even a question. I am so delighted that in the first election my granddaughter will remember, having a woman candidate is perfectly normal — just as her first president is a black man. It hasn’t occurred to her yet that women are discriminated against — it will of course eventually.

      2. sunny-dee*

        See, using “girl” has never offended me. Or lady. Or chick. Ironically enough, the ones I don’t like are “woman” and “female” because they feel really clinical. I also frequently use “guys” just to refer to a group of people, even a group of all women.

        1. Jennifer*

          Some of us just find “woman” or “lady” to be hard to pull off with our personalities. I am hella immature myself (both in personality and looks, I admit it–I’m a really slow learner on life) and I pass for 16-21 at the oldest with most people. I would not call myself “TaxLady” or “TaxWoman” because it would just seem strange if I went with the chronological age that I can’t pull off. I know nothing about TaxGirl, but maybe she has similar issues?

        2. Petronella*

          Woman and Female are no more or less clinical than Man or Male. They are not dirty words, they are not strange words. This is all really, really sad.

        3. Alienor*

          I loathe “female” as a noun (as an adjective it’s fine) because it’s almost always used by a certain type of man in a dehumanizing way. “Females all want ripped guys with a lot of money,” etc. “The problem with my job is all the females complaining about xyz.” Ugh!

          1. Petronella*

            Yes, men who just can’t bring themselves to say “woman” and so choose “female.” Yuck.

            1. Artemesia*

              Yeah. In the most racist era in the US south black women were ‘females’ (and white women were ladies or women depending on their social class). Just as white women were Mrs. Jones and men were Mr. Jones and black and white people were Mary and Cletus.

        4. Jadelyn*

          “Female” to me is a really touchy one – when it’s used as a noun rather than an adjective. “Female nurse” or whatever, that’s fine. But to refer to a group of women as “females” makes me almost literally twitch. It’s not that it’s clinical to me, but I find it to be incredibly dehumanizing – biologists use “females” as a noun to describe literal animals – and for another, speaking purely from experience, the people who use “female” that way are either 1: gross misogynist pickup-artist-type bros, or 2: transmisogynist radical feminists. So either way, not a good indicator of “this is someone I want to keep talking with”.

          I do use “guys” and “dude” pretty gender-neutrally unless someone asks me not to use it for them, but “girl” just…grates on my nerves. It belittles and undermines my hard-won experience and skills by putting me on the level of a child, and children can be easily dismissed or ignored. Call me “the [whatever] girl” at your peril.

          1. blink*

            Yeah, I pretty much never hear “females” from anyone who’s not being gross (in ways 1 or 2, as described above, in fact.) It’s basically a dog whistle.

          2. Recruit-o-rama*

            I look at it a little differently. I think people use whatever phrase is culturally typical for them without any forethought or intent. While I personally don’t find being called a “girl” offensive in almost any context, I can understand the reason other women find it so offensive.

            I do NOT that there is almost always some kind of ill intent behind using the term (and this goes for “lady” too) I think that sometimes we put too much thought into what people really “mean” when they use girl or lady when they are just using the descriptor that is natural to them. I think there is value in having this discussion and trying to change mindsets, but I don’t think there is value in assigning bad intentions without regard to context.

            As for the OP in this discussion, the part for me that would grate is not the gendered descriptor, but the casual title demotion because titles are a really important part of a person’s professional identity.

            1. JB (not in Houston)*

              It’s not so much that we think people around thinking of which term they should use that will cause the most offense. The problem is *why* they are using this term and why is it natural to them? What mindset does their word choice reflect? What beliefs and assumptions led them to casually choosing that word? Word choice is often loaded. It says a lot about unconscious thought processes and world view, even if nothing more than the fact that that person has never thought about what they are really saying or what meaning their words reflect.

              1. Recruit-o-rama*

                Maybe they say “the girls up front” because everyone else in the office does and always has the same way I call Coca Cola “soda” and my husband calls it “pop” because I was raised in New England and he’s from the Midwest. OR maybe they HAVE thought about the meaning their words reflect and simply don’t seem changing the term to be very important, for whatever reason they have. I almost always give people the benefit of the doubt. Until the prove otherwise, I don’t assume they are sexist.

                1. Ultraviolet*

                  Speaking for myself at least, if someone at work called me a girl I wouldn’t think, “Wow, he’s sexist.” I would think, “If he thinks of me as a girl, can he also think of me as a strong leader and an authority on my subject and a technically skilled worker? Because those concepts don’t really go together a lot of the time. I’m not sure he’s carefully maintaining the cognitive dissonance that would be required to call me a girl but not let any of the negative associations of that word affect his assessment of my work skills.”

                  The connotation of words have a big influence on our thought processes. Regardless of how someone came to refer to their coworker as a “girl,” it’s really hard to believe that the typical negative connotations of “girl” are somehow completely absent.

        5. Stitch*

          I find them all somewhat offensive. Woman and girl both feel off. Lady is at best mildly obnoxious. I’ve never been able to find a term I am personally comfortable with because, to put it simply, the fact that I’m called ANYTHING GENDERED AT ALL bothers me. So I always get stuck with thinking about which term I’d prefer, because they all make me feel pretty similar.

          Seriously, what’s wrong with “person” or “semi-official title” or heck even “Actual Name”. Why does it have to have a gender at all? “Hey the HR rep said I had to turn this form in” is no more stuffy than “hey the HR lady said…”

      3. AnotherAlison*

        I think it’s different, as she has branded herself (or someone else has) for specific marketing reasons. The “girls” in the office setting IMO is a leftover from the secretarial pool days, when women could only have those types of roles and could never be managers, SMEs, etc. I think the “tax girl” and others who brand themselves are playing off the “girls” in the office with the dichotomy of being the opposite of what a “girl” is “supposed” to be.

        1. The Rat-Catcher*

          Agree here. It’s one thing to choose that for yourself; you can be known as whatever you want. It’s very different to have it put on you.

      4. always anon*

        Honestly, I take women a little less seriously when they refer to themselves as “girl”. I’ve known women who use that term to make themselves seem more approachable, but to me it’s counterproductive because it just makes you seem younger and more inexperienced.

        But I also cringe when other women say something like “hey, girls” or “I’m eating lunch with the girls”. Don’t refer to me as a girl. I’m almost 30 ffs.

        1. AnotherAlison*

          Speaking of age. . .I have an older coworker who addresses me as Miss. I’m 38 and have been married for 18 years. My son is going to college in the fall. For the love of all things holy, I’m certainly not a “miss.” (Or a girl.) I don’t get it. It makes me feel like I’ve reached a ripe old age where people call me “miss” like you would to an old woman in the nursing home, to condescendingly make her feel young.

          1. Lady Kelvin*

            Thats funny, I don’t consider Miss as being old, I would call someone young miss. I hate being called ma’am because I think it makes me sound old (and thus you are assuming I’m old). Last fall I went to my husband’s undergrad college football game and one of the students said “pardon me, ma’am” and I really had to fight my gut instinct to retort that I am not a ma’am because he (my husband) went to a military school in the south and they call everyone ma’am and sir. We laughed about it later but wow, in the moment I was insulted.

            1. AnotherAlison*

              I don’t like ma’am, either, for the same reason. Really, saying nothing is just fine. “Pardon me” is just as polite as “Pardon me, ma’am.” I suppose the kid would get chewed out for not using “ma’am” in the South, but I don’t live in the South, and I still get “ma’am’d” at the grocery store.

                1. Jodi*

                  Same. Take this as you may, and I’ll probably get backlash for this, but I feel like when people get SO upset about someone using “miss” or “ma’am” in conversation, it’s more of an internal issue regarding age/aging. The response is always “I’M NOT THAT OLD.” Yet that is very rarely what it’s meant to be. It’s not like someone is sitting there like “wow, she looks old, I better call her ma’am to really rub it in.” And yes, people have no say over how their words impact someone else, but take a second to realize that is was in no way used offensively.

                2. JB (not in Houston)*

                  Yes, exactly. It’s not an age thing, it’s a title of respect. It means exactly that and nothing more. As for the “miss” usage, some people use that as a way to avoid “Mrs.” because some women, even married women, don’t like been referred to that way. I think the key takeaway is that when a person is calling you Miss or Ma’am, this person is trying to show you respect. They aren’t meaning it as a comment on your age or marital status, just giving you a title to indicate respect, that’s all.

                3. Jadelyn*

                  But JB, that’s what Ms. is for (hard z sound rather than soft s) – to provide a neutral ground that’s neither Miss (too youthful) or Mrs. (assumptions about marital status). If someone calls me “Miss” anything (with the exception of the context of “Miss [firstname]” the way that some young children have been taught to refer to all non-familial adults, which I think may be a Southern thing), I will ask them to use Ms. instead. Small difference, perhaps, but it matters to me.

                4. Anna*

                  I don’t call anyone sir, unless I’m kidding around. I do not like ma’am, but feel free to call me madame.

                5. JB (not in Houston)*


                  Many people find the distinction between Miss and Ms. confusing, and some women are offended by being called “Ms.” It’s great that you tell someone when you prefer to be called Ms. because if someone is trying to be respectful, they’ll want to know what you prefer to be called. I don’t have any problem with people clarifying what term of respect they’d like to be called by. I was merely questioning people who take personal offense at someone who is trying to show respect and does so in a way that is perfectly acceptable to some but who doesn’t happen to know your particular preference. It’s a bit of a minefield because preferences can be regional and change quickly. I prefer Ms. myself but I’m not going to be offended by a coworker calling me Miss unless I had reason to believe that she had some ulterior meaning behind it.

              1. Witty Nickname*

                I hate when people call me “miss” (except when the kids back in MS call me “Miss WittyNickname” when I visit my family there, because that’s how I grew up addressing adults too, so I know it’s just how things are done). I prefer ma’am if they have to call me anything, but I know a lot of people hate it, so to be safe, they should just skip it completely. “Thank you, have a nice day,” is good enough.

              2. oh dear*

                I was surprised the first time I was called m’am, but I was raised to call people m’aam (and sir) and I do, so I guess I can’t complain. I still get the occasional ‘miss’.

            2. MillersSpring*

              I was first called ma’am when I was a 13-year-old candystriper at a hospital. Seemed a little add at the time, but I took it only as a term of respect. Because I’ve been called ma’am for many years, it does not seem like those who say it now have put me mentally into their category of “old” but rather “a woman to treat with respect.”

            3. AJS*

              Unfortunately, if you’re over the age if 30, you are old in the eyes of college students.

          2. Friday Brain All Week Long*

            Miss has always struck me as weird. Doesn’t feel like the equivalent of Sir, like Ma’am does. I’ll take Ma’am, Ms., Woman any day.

            1. Megs*

              Miss strikes me as weird too, I think because it’s set up as opposed to Mrs. specifically to identify women based on their marital status. I see Ms. becoming more and more dominant in professional settings, which I think is completely appropriate.

              1. Petronella*

                Miss is absolutely not the equivalent of Sir. It’s not respectful to call a woman you don’t know Miss, it is impertinent. Regardless of anyone’s respective ages.

            2. Murphy*

              That’s because “Miss” isn’t the equivalent of Sir. It’s a little girl term, similar to “Master” for a little boy. That’s why it rings wrong. It’s like using girls for grown women in a situation where we would generally never say “boys” rather than “men”.

              1. Friday Brain All Week Long*

                Glad I’m not the only one who feels that way! Heck, I even call my young daughter Ms. sometimes when making a formal request (“Ms. FridayLastname, you will now go put your pajamas on”).

                1. Murphy*

                  Yup, even as a child I bristled at being called “miss” (I hated being a kid and wanted to be 40) and when formally filling out a form for my kid she gets Ms., but I do admit that I do call her “Little Miss” sometimes when referring to her in text with my husband (have you picked up little miss yet), but I also call her “the wee one” or “Izzy-Bee MonkeyToes” so it’s not a common nickname.

      5. Victoria Nonprofit (USA)*

        To me, that feels like a marketing choice that reflects the society we live in — a society that rewards women for being feminine, attractive, young, etc.

    6. Ad Astra*

      I always hated when people at my old job referred to me and my 30-year-old coworker as “the marketing girls.” Especially because there were three other people in the department: two guys and an older woman. “Marketing ladies” would have bothered me less, but it’s still not great.

      1. AnonyMeow*

        Along those lines, I always cringe when I receive emails that start with “Ladies,” from people at my company (usually higher-ups, but sometimes colleagues at the same level), even though technically the addresses are all women, and “ladies” is not necessarily infantalizing like “Hi girls,” would be. I haven’t been able to put a finger on why this bothers me, but I do find “Hi all,” email starters much more palatable. Maybe I just don’t like the unprofessional sound of “Ladies,” and “Guys,” as starters…

        But yeah, as much as being called a “compliance lady” would bother me, I wouldn’t die on that hill.

  2. Dan*


    The problem with the English language is that things can be “unnecessarily gendered” because we lack a gender neutral term for a lot of circumstances. There is no gender neutral casual term to replace “guys or gals” or “dudes or chicks” . Even at the more formal level, there is no gender neutral equivalent to “ladies and gentlemen” or titular equivalent to “Mr. or Mrs.” About the only thing I can think of is the title “Dr.” which is truly gender neutral. (I’m not forgetting the term “person” which of course is gender neutral, but it’s just out of place where we would otherwise use a gendered title or pronoun.)

    If a woman told me she has a problem being called a lady, well, I’d respect that, but I’d forever think of her as a bit out to lunch. The median person using the term “compliance lady” isn’t putting down down or otherwise disrespecting that person or their position. Depending on what kind of image you want to portray to the office, I’d err on the side of letting this go if you don’t want to stick out. I guarantee there will be some water cooler talk if you start telling people that you are uncomfortable being called a lady.

    1. Ask a Manager* Post author

      I suppose it depends on the type of people you work with, but most of the people I’ve worked wouldn’t have an issue with a reasonable, pleasant person saying, ““Hey, would you mind not calling me that?”

    2. Artemesia*

      Lady is not only gendered, it has lots and lots of baggage. All sorts of people are creeped out by it.

      1. Tweety*


        The word lady is a civil term of respect for a woman, specifically the female equivalent to gentleman, and in many contexts a term for any adult woman. Once confined to usage when specifically addressing women of high social class, race, community and status; over the last 300 years, the term may now be used to refer to any respectable adult woman.

        Let it go. Why are people looking to be offended nowadays?!

        1. Ask a Manager* Post author

          People are not generally looking to be offended. But many people are more aware of things like the power of language and slights that used to be ignored or considered the status quo, and people feel more empowered to speak up.

          It’s fine that you don’t mind the term. The OP does. It’s not an outrage for her to say, “hey, I prefer not to be called that.”

          1. Catalin*

            When people screw around with my title in a way I don’t like, I sometimes chip in with, “Commonly known as Catalin LASTNAME, I’m the (ACTUAL GROWNUP TITLE) for ORG.” Done with a smile, handshake, and the right personality, it’s been very effective.

            Also, pedantic note, “Lady” applies to any young woman who has passed the age of 15 or 16 (dependent on culture). It’s a reflection of a woman’s departure of childhood, a mark of independence and maturity. However, like any word, it sometimes has cultural connotations and context can be everything. For example, “hey, lady!” said angrily in confrontation is impolite, but “I was raised to be a lady,” or, “Cindy is such a lady/ so lady-like,” is polite.

            The discussion on “lady” reminds me of a Dear Abby letter from a woman who moved to the American South and was massively offended that she was referred to as, “ma’am.” She believed that “ma’am” was derived from “Mammy”, a derogative, and not “madam”, a title of respect. Similarly, many people think “Mrs.” is some form of “Mister’s” i.e. property of the husband. It’s a natural abbreviation of “Mistress”, another title of respect.

            1. AnotherAlison*

              I used to be a Senior Market Analyst and my boss was the Director of Strategic Planning, and some jackhole managers would call us “data miners.” Nothing inherently offensive about that, of course, but it used to get under my skin. I would have loved it if data mining was my job. That would have left me about 85% of my week to twiddle my thumbs and read AAM. Referring to us that way felt really minimizing, and I completely understand how the OP feels. “Lady” or not, it feels like your job isn’t taken seriously when people minimize your title.

              1. Alienor*

                As a writer, I was often asked “Can you wordsmith this?” It drove me completely around the bend for some reason I could never quite put my finger on at the time, but I think it was because it felt minimizing.

            2. Mabel*

              And this is why I can’t stand the term “lady.” In my experience, “ladylike” means quiet, polite, unassuming, obsequious, etc. It’s used to put down women and girls who are not those things and to try to keep them “in their place.” Grrrr

              1. Jennifer*

                Yeah…I get why lady shouldn’t be offensive, and I also get why in some ways it can be annoying. Or you hear Gilbert Gottfried screaming LADY in your head.

                1. Dr. Johnny Fever*

                  I always hear Jerry Lewis. “Hey LAAAAAAAAAAAAAADEEEEEEEEEE!”

                  Fingernails on a freakin’ chalkboard.

          2. LN*

            Thank you. “Everyone’s looking to be offended” has got to be the most pervasive myth in social discourse these days.

            1. Nunya*

              Yeah, no. I’m not looking to be offended, I’m calling out offensive behavior. There’s a diff.

            2. Jodi*

              To Tweety’s defense, I’m thinking they meant it as “everyone jumps to the assumption that people are purposefully offensive” rather than considering that there may be other factors at play – like maybe they were brought up learning that it’s polite to refer to all women as ma’am. But I may be giving credit where credit isn’t due…

        2. Katie the Fed*

          There’s a big difference between a preference and being offended. OP prefers not to be called “compliance lady.” Nowhere in there did she say she was offended.

          1. Allison*

            Don’t you know? If you speak up and say you don’t like something, it means you’re offended! And if you ask people to not do something, it means you’re offended! And being offended is bad, so really, you should just hold your tongue. Gawd, why can’t people just grow thick skin and let jerks continue being jerks?

            1. Petronella*

              Right? None of these chicks have any sense of humor! I bet they hate men and are feminists! When I call them Girls it’s a compliment!

        3. LadyB*

          I’m afraid that despite my username (which is based on the honorific ‘Lady’ rather than the generic term for an adult woman – long story) I can’t take the word ‘lady’ seriously since the ‘Ladies’ sketches on the Little Britain TV show. Non-UK peeps may need to google this to get the context – maybe not at work.

          1. Jen RO*

            That is always the first thing I think about! The second is me and my former coworker, both very foul-mouthed women, insisting that we are ladies and we do lady things.

        4. Mookie*

          You’ve alluded to the racist, classist baggage associated with “lady” but you still don’t know why people are skeeved by it? Okay.

          Nobody’s looking to be offended. Saying so is just a silencing tactic absent the ability to put forth a logical rejoinder. It’s not engaging honestly or in good faith with people who are trying to be thoughtful. You don’t have to agree with them, but the strawmen are unnecessary.

          1. Allison*

            Don’t you see? Men are putting women on pedestals, we should be grateful and not question it!

            1. Dr. Johnny Fever*

              Same thing with whistling and catcalling. It’s called admiration – why do we get all bent out of shape? Crazy girls.

        5. Former Retail Manager*

          Tweety…totally agree. And I too am in my 30’s and often referred to as “lady.” (Note: It doesn’t bother me a bit.) For those saying the OP isn’t offended, she clearly is or she wouldn’t have a problem being referred as compliance lady. A happy medium would just be a request that she be called by her name or perhaps, Fifi in compliance. No need to venture off into gender neutral territory. I have also referred to people in the manner as OP’s co-workers and I never meant it to be offensive and I typically only used it when I couldn’t remember the person’s actual name. Once name was memorized, it was used.

          1. Natalie*

            “she clearly is or she wouldn’t have a problem being referred as compliance lady”

            I believe they call this a false dichotomy.

          2. Katie the Fed*

            Regardless of how you mean it, I would hope that you now understand the issues with it and would choose another term.

          3. many bells down*

            Nonsense. If I’m named Jennifer and my sister is Catherine, and we prefer to be addressed as “Jennifer” and “Cat”, that doesn’t mean we find “Jenny” or “Cathy” offensive. It just means we have a preference. If you call my sister “Kate” or “Cathy” she’ll just think you’re talking to someone else – no one calls her that!

            1. Lizketeer*

              Exactly. I prefer Liz to Elizabeth. My name tag says Liz. I sign my emails as Liz. My friends and family all call me Liz.

              Where I might get offended (or at least frustrated) is when I’ve articulated that I prefer Liz but am continued to be referred to as Elizabeth.

              It’s not the name that I’m offended by. It’s the lack of respect that comes with ignoring my wishes

            2. Allison*

              If someone called me a nickname (like Ally) without checking with me, I’d be annoyed, you should call the person by the name you know unless you ask if you can call them something else. If someone asked to call me Ally and did it anyway after being told “no,” I’d feel downright disrespected, because at that point they’re choosing to ignore a preference that’s been stated. I wouldn’t be offended in either case, but I certainly would feel put off.

              Some people might love being called nicknames, but others (like me) hate it.

            3. Megs*

              What I find really offensive is when I’ve asked to be referred to one way and people intentionally disregard my wishes. I.E. it’s not offensive to call someone Mary unless they’ve told you their name is Marie and you decide you just like Mary better.

            4. Emmy*

              The offense comes in when you’ve explained, “Really, I prefer Cassandra.” “You know, I just don’t respond to ‘Cass.’ I’m Cassandra. Thank you.” “It’s.Cassandra.” to the same people over and over. I have a dreadful habit of shortening people’s names because in my family, that meant affection and closeness. Once someone points it out, I’m mortified and try to remember and I apologize. Cassandra, Cassandra, Cassandra. Instead poor Cassandra often gets, “I call you Cass because (we’re friends. It’s a valid nickname. Cassandra sounds too long, formal. I knew a Cassandra I hated.)” (not from me, from other people who want to argue with her about her own preference.)

              So, LW, make your preference known. Some people will roll their eyes probably and think it’s silly. That’s okay. If it’s important to you, you have to let them know. Also know, some people will still get it wrong.

        6. Artemesia*

          Yeah seriously. Lady has all sorts of class connotations and racial connotations. I lived in an area where it was accorded white women and not black women for example. And it is also clotted with the baggage of restrictions on career options because so many things are not appropriate for ‘ladies’. Jobs were restricted when I started out. Many higher level management jobs were not for ladies. I remember Katharine Graham writing about women not being allowed to advance to editorships at Newsweek because they would have to work late and that wasn’t safe — you know walking to the parking lot and all that. Women were excused from juries what with the unladylike things discussed on them. The word is about putting women in a category where they are sheltered and protected and patronized; it is not about a woman as an equal person.

      2. Merry and Bright*

        I agree. Apart from anything, it can come across as condescending in a way that Alison’s example of “compliance guy” doesn’t. To me, “lady” just isn’t a business term.

        That said, I do tend to brush most irritants away but would want to act on a major one like the OP’s issue because it sounds like she has an unofficial job title change.

        1. blackcat*

          Right. “Compliance gal” would sound sort of weird (um, are you from the 1950s?), but wouldn’t carry the same baggage as “lady” or “girl” to me.

          1. Kelly L.*

            “Gal” to me is stuck in the Wild West for some reason. A “gal” is wearing a plaid shirt and chaps and probably riding a horse and carrying a lasso. I’m sure there’s some 80s pop culture thing that caused this.

            (Glamour Gals dolls maybe? IDK)

            1. MoinMoin*

              For me, I think of Guys and Gals. Maybe OP would consider being the Compliance Moll though…

    3. Coco*

      “Out to lunch” is harsh. There is potential negative baggage that comes with words relating to female gender, so it’s really understandable if someone doesn’t want to deal with that. I can’t imagine there would be water cooler talk at my place of work if someone made this request.

      1. Dr. Johnny Fever*

        I know.

        How I want to be referred to is my right and no one else’s. Mine. no one gets to say I’m “out to lunch” by correcting someone on MY preference.

    4. Anonymous Coward*

      Whenever possible, I remind people who refer to me as “lady” that I’m “not a lady”. Don’t much care if they interpret that as “hoyden”, “slut”, or “commoner” (all possible opposites of the word, which should underscore why it’s weird to use it in the workplace) so long as they stop using it when referring to me. I am a person, and I am a woman, if that’s relevant to the circumstances. “Lady” is not an all-purpose synonym for “woman”.

      1. Blurgle*

        Whenever I hear someone called a “lady” I’m reminded of Jerry Lewis screeching “Lay-DEEE!”

        1. Wakeen's Teapots, Ltd.*

          Heh, I actually like being called a lady because of that!

          I find it forever funny when people refer to me as a lady, and do my best “Hey lady!” whenever it’s not inappropriate. Always makes me smile!

      2. Chaordic One*


        There’s a word I’ve never heard before. I had to look it up. I like it.

        It sounds like it would be a great first name for someone.

        When referring to the word, “lady,” it can be (and often is) used in a way that is intended to be ironic and which means the opposite of respect for a woman.

        1. Putting Out Fires, Esq*

          Please name a child Hoyden. Just to see if the phenomenon of children with names like Angel being little terrors works in the other direction.

          1. Sparkly Librarian*

            I first came across it in the audio version of The Wolves of Willoughby Chase, which is narrated by Lynn Redgrave! This was something like 20 years ago, and I *still* can mentally hear phrases from that recording.

        2. MillersSpring*

          It’s in the original movie The Parent Trap: Susan goes to Boston in Sharon’s place. Her grandmother criticizes her short hair as “hoydenish.” Good times.

      3. Navy vet #3*

        Hoyden! Great word. I wish there was more opportunity to use it. (Only because I really like obscure words)

        My group of HS friends calls each other the ladies. Like a term of endearment.

        But I have a problem with it at work. Because it has been used negatively at me when I was in the military.

        Like this:
        Male sailor: “Don’t be such a girl”
        Me: “fu$&! you”
        Male sailor: “Jeez…be a lady”

      4. Minion*

        And now I’m giggling at the thought of being called Compliance Hoyden. Thanks for that! Compliance Slut is almost as good. Good grief, my sense of humor is so weird.
        Then, of course I had to google the opposite of Gentleman and there are others that are giggle-worthy.
        Compliance Boob is especially hilarious.

      5. Jadelyn*

        +1000, especially because many of us got beat over the head (metaphorically) with the term “lady” growing up, as in “don’t do [fun things], you’re a lady” or “act like a lady [to mean shut up and don’t assert yourself]”. That’s why I bristle at it and will politely but firmly correct anyone who uses the term to refer to me, because to me “lady” is about being constrained to traditional gender roles, and I am not about that.

    5. TheLazyB*

      There is a gender neutral title. Mx. Gaining traction, I’m registered as is where I can be.

      1. Merry and Bright*

        I like this too. But elsewhere I’m happy to go with Ms. Otherwise I get post defaulting to Mr.

        But I risk going off at a huge tangent…

      2. Jen RO*

        What is the point of having a gender neutral title? If it’s not used to indicate gender… why use it at all?

        1. Kora*

          Because there are people who aren’t male or female and they’d like a title too? Plenty of places insist on you putting down something, especially on online forms.

          1. AcademiaNut*

            Japan, a very formal and rather conservative society, has an all purpose gender neutral honorific, “san”, which is appended to names. You use it would you would use “Mr/Mrs/Ms” rather than first names.

          2. Jen RO*

            Ok, that makes sense. (I don’t really get the point of titles in general, but I get that they are standard on many forms.)

          3. Alton*

            Thank you for acknowledging this. A lot of people don’t realize that people who don’t identify as male or female exists, and that tends to get left out of discussions about titles and pronouns (like when people take for granted that “he or she” always means the same thing as a singular “they”).

            I would say that the primary purpose of titles is to show respect and identify people by role, rather than gender. But either way, non-binary transgender people like myself can’t really opt out of the system. And a gender-neutral honorific can still denote gender sometimes when used by non-binary people.

            1. Kora*

              Hey, no worries :) I know a couple of NB people for whom the introduction of Mx for official UK documentation has been a big relief – no more sitting in front of a form going ‘Well, ‘Mr’ is horribly wrong but I guess it’s a little bit less wrong than ‘Ms’….’

              (Although, of course, there are still a bunch of places whose online forms will give you dozens of drop-down options up to and including ‘Brigadier General’ but don’t offer Mx. *facepalm*)

                1. Kora*

                  I go with something close to ‘mucks’; I’ve also heard people say it more like ‘mix’.

              1. Nunya*

                My partner still gets catalogs addressed to Lt. Colonel ‘Her Name’ IV after I filled out an order form for her at a certain retailer with waaay too many title options on their dropdown :)

            2. Jadelyn*

              Oh lord, the “he/she” vs singular they thing…I’ve been stealthily replacing “he or she” with “they” every time I’m asked to proofread or update a policy or manual at my work. We will reach gender neutrality eventually, just give me time!

              Ironically, my grandboss (the VP of HR) has admitted to me that he hates singular they, even though he knows the arguments in favor of using it and (grudgingly) acknowledges that it’s more inclusive and we should be moving that direction – he doesn’t add it on his own, but he also doesn’t change it back when I add it, so I guess that’s progress. I haven’t yet worked up the nerve to tell him that in my personal life I prefer “they” for my own pronouns…

              1. LD*

                I do really wish we had a gender-neutral reference for an individual. The “they” substitute grates on my ears because of the disagreement between referring to a single person versus many people. I do occasionally use “they” to mean “any single individual, male or female”, but it still sounds wrong to me. I suppose someone will come up with a good alternative, at least I hope so!

                1. Ultraviolet*

                  A few different things have been proposed–the Wikipedia article called “Gender-specific and gender-neutral pronouns” is an interesting read. It also contains the example phrase, “If some guy beat me up, then I’d leave them,” which seems like a real comment-section landmine to me if used in earnest.

                2. Jadelyn*

                  “They” has been used for singular as well as plural reference since Shakespeare’s day, just FYI. And I think a lot more people use it than they realize:

                  “Hey, someone stopped by looking for you while you were out.”
                  “Oh, do you know what they wanted?”

                  I can’t think of any circumstance like the above where I’ve actually heard someone say “What did he or she want?” In situations like that, it’s so unmarked that it basically goes unnoticed by a lot of grammar…enthusiasts, shall we call them?

                  It does flow less naturally for most people as a direct referent to a known subject (ie someone whose pronouns are they/them), but that’s more a matter of practice. It’s not hard to pick up whether it’s intended singularly/plurally from surrounding context, just awkward because we don’t do it so often.

        2. NJ Anon*

          I never understood the need for titles as mr., Mrs. Ms. Etc. Just use my name! One woman I worked with insisted on using titles in written correspondence and would worry about using Mrs vs ms. I told her don’t use either. For me personally, no one needs to know my gender or marital status on business correspondence.

          1. Petronella*

            There are times in life when people call each other by something other than first names, and it’s rude, at least in an English-speaking context, to use someone’s last name without any sort of title before it.

        3. Rusty Shackelford*

          If someone wants to politely call you by your last name, it’s awkward without a title.

          1. NJ Anon*

            In all my years, and there’s been plenty, the office norm is to call people by their first name regardless of their position in the company.

            The only exception was back in the 80’same I worked for a smallish business where everyone called the owner Mr. So and So. Nobody liked him anyway.

          2. BetsyTacy*

            …Clearly I’ve been around military/sports oriented people too long. At this point, it seems normal to me.

            I do wish we had a less politically-loaded version of the term ‘Comrade’. Some very gender neutral honorific that would be easily applied if one were so inclined.

            My kid’s daycare refers to all children, regardless of gender, as ‘Friends’. So, ‘Boys and Girls line up’ becomes ‘Friends line up’. I know it’s a small, subtle thing, but I love that it promotes this idea that we are all equals.

            1. hbc*

              I like it too, but it does make for some interesting documentation. “Son was playing in the kitchen when a Friend bit him on the head.” Some friend.

            2. Kelly L.*

              I always disliked the last-name-alone thing because it was, for whatever reason, really popular among the most sexist and most bullyish teachers I had as a kid. They’d call everybody “Lastname” in this really barking tone, and my irrational feeling was always that they couldn’t bear to use a first name because that would mean saying a girl’s name and admitting there were girls in the class.

            3. Rusty Shackelford*

              Clearly I’ve been around military/sports oriented people too long. At this point, it seems normal to me.

              Oh, that makes sense. I was thinking of formal speech, written correspondence and email, and the like. I was not thinking about calling a person you know by their last name. Which I should have, because my husband and his friends/coworkers do that, and my daughter even has so many friends with the same first name that she refers to them by their last names.

            4. Petronella*

              That’s cute! I like “Friends.” For the workplace, I’m a big fan of “Team.” I had a manager who managed to pull off calling us collectively “Gang.”

              1. Nerfmobile*

                Can’t speak for the first poster, but my daughter’s daycare also uses ‘friends’ as a general term. Definitely no Quaker (or any other religious affiliation) in this case.

    6. NJ Anon*

      We actually use “guys” as gender neutral. I worked with a woman who called everyone “dude.” That was a little weird but we used to just laugh about it.

      1. Victoria Nonprofit (USA)*

        That you use it that way does not make it so. “Guys” is intrinsically male.

        1. Elizabeth S.*

          Well… for me, in the second person, it’s gender neutral. “You guys” seems like a perfectly normal way to address a group of women informally. But I wouldn’t refer to a group of women in the third person as “those guys.”

          “Dude” addressed to a woman is something I’ve seen a lot of just recently, like in the last 2-3 years.

          1. Victoria Nonprofit (USA)*

            You can believe it’s gender neutral, and intend your use in that way, but it’s not. “Guys” means men or boys, full stop, and it’s a part of the way our language reflects an insidious belief that male is neutral and female is divergent.

            If at some point we live in a world in which men and boys accept “You girls” as gender neutral, we can discuss “you guys” as a simple evolution of language that’s not grounded in sexism.

            1. JB (not in Houston)*

              Yes, exactly. People use “you guys” to address a group of women, but you wouldn’t say “Oh, she’s out with the guys tonight” to say that your friend went out with her female friends. It’s still a gendered term. And as you say, even using it to address people, we end up treating a term for men as a neutral term but not the reverse, and that just further subconsciously enforces the idea that anything relating to women can’t be applied to men (except, of course, as an insult).

            2. She's a Lady*

              I am okay with redefining traditionally gendered terms as gender neutral so long as it goes both ways. Women can now be actors, men can now be stewardesses. No, I will not use the term flight attendant, thank you very much.

              1. Dan*

                Why would you not use the term flight attendant? After so much discussion on calling people what they want to be called, the gendered terms for flight attendants are really a throw back to the 60’s.

              2. Sam P*

                But. . .that’s the actual name of the job title. Why wouldn’t you use the term flight attendant?

            3. Chameleon*

              “Guys” means men or boys, full stop,

              I mean, you may think so. But in my area, at least, “guys” is pretty gender-neutral. Language evolves, and even though “guys” was originally meaning men it no longer has that intrinsic connotation.

              We as a language need a casual way to refer to a group of people, and “guys” is that word. Would it be nicer if we had one that didn’t have a history of being gender-exclusionary? Sure, but we don’t. So I guess we could make one up but I don’t think that would work. In the meantime, using “guys” as gender-neutral will continue to make it a gender-neutral term. Language is defined by how we use it, after all.

              1. Ask a Manager* Post author

                But can you think of any other word that’s gendered in the singular but somehow becomes ungendered in the plural?

                We’re all pretty agreed that “guy” singular refers to a man.

                1. SenatorMeathooks*

                  Actually, I refer to singular women as “guy” , because that’s how I was exposed to language. I refer to singular men as “dude”. It’s odd, even in the informal setting in which I use it, but it was always used in that context as I was growing up. Now if someone told me they’d rather I not say that, I would comply full stop, no problem.

              2. Ultraviolet*

                It’s not true that “it no longer has that intrinsic connotation” though. For one thing, there are a bunch of people here saying that “guys” definitely connotes “men” to them. There are common usages of “guy/guys” that clearly mean “male person/people.” As long as those male associations exist, the word won’t be truly gender-neutral, regardless of its other usages. I’d also say that as long as the singular “guy” is a gendered term, it will be pretty hard to argue that the plural form of that word has no male connotations.

                You might use “guys” without any gendered connotations in mind, but you can’t insist that that means the connotation will vanish for whoever’s listening to you.

                1. Artemesia*

                  As a group of 6th graders to draw a picture of ‘guys at the beach’ or ‘businessmen’ or the ‘chairman of the meeting’ and see what you get. It won’t be pictures of women.

        2. Jodi*

          But it’s also a regional term, used in the Northern US, like y’all is used in the South to refer to a group. I compare it to the way you refer to groups in Spanish – if it’s all men it’s nosotros, if it’s all women it’s nosotras, but if it’s a mixed group then you default to nosotros. Maybe the origin of the personal plural pronoun is based in gender stereotypes, but it’s just become part of the lexicon. Inanimate objects are given genders in certain languages also, but it’s not particularly meant to be offensive to one gender or the other.

          1. anncakes*

            Gender in languages is often misunderstood by native English speakers. Grammatical gender is just a category based on word endings and how words “behave” in different declensions. In some languages, yes, it follows the semantic meaning the majority of the time, but in most languages that your average American is familiar with (Romance languages, Slavic languages, Germanic languages with case systems), the semantic meaning is only partially in play. In Spanish, table is feminine simply because it’s in the noun class that ends in -a. In Russian, the word for man ends in -a and is thus grouped with the other feminine nouns that end in -a (though any adjectives or other inflected modifiers used with it are in the masculine form). These categorizations are often based not just on morphology but also etymology, analogy, and convention. It has nothing to do with biological sex most of the time.

            Interestingly enough, the growth of women in the workplace has led to a lot of neologisms in these languages for various professions. In Russian, there’s a term for a female professor that just takes on the “female-person” type of noun ending, like -ess in English, but if you use it to refer to someone, it’s actually considered extremely condescending. The polite, respectful way to address someone is with the older and thus unmarked title, much like some performers prefer to be called actor instead of actress. There are lots of subtleties in these languages when it comes to words referring to human beings, but for the animal world and inanimate objects, there’s really very little connection to human biological sex or gender.

            1. JB (not in Houston)*

              I’m not sure I understand your point? It seems like most people here understand that, for example, though the word for book in French is masculine, it’s not sexist or insulting to women. The conversation is about gendered words in English, which is entirely different.

              1. Petronella*

                Anncakes, many people on this site speak languages other than English, and even more of us are aware of linguistic gender. That’s not what we are talking about in this thread. Perhaps you are the one who is misunderstanding?

                1. Ultraviolet*

                  Anncakes is responding to a post that says, “inanimate objects are given genders in certain languages, but it’s not particularly meant to be offensive to one gender or the other.” I think it’s reasonable to interpret that sentence as suggesting a misunderstanding of what it means for a word to have a grammatical gender. Anncakes provided a polite explanation of this misunderstanding. (Thanks for posting it, anncakes!)

                  If you don’t think the post anncakes responded to indicates such a misunderstanding, that’s fair too. But it’s really unfair to say the subject of anncakes’ post is “not what we are talking about in this thread” when they’re responding to a comment that is unambiguously talking about it.

                  Even if anncakes had been the first one to broaden the scope of the conversation to languages other than English, I feel they deserved a friendlier reception than they got!

          2. Artemesia*

            You’all is a wonderful contribution of the south to our language. Much more gracious IMHO than ‘you guys’ which still bothers some women. It is plural like you guys is plural — for one person, it is just you.

        3. Rusty Shackelford*

          I’m not saying you’re wrong, but the truth is, I never heard anyone dispute that “guys” can be used as a gender-neutral term until I read it on AAM. So it does seem that a certain portion of the population accepts it as such. Which direction things are going as a whole – toward it being neutral or away from that – I can’t say. But just as “doctor” used to mean “man who practices medicine,” there’s no reason “guy” can’t become completely gender-neutral too. :-)

          1. JB (not in Houston)*

            But as I said above, the problem is that it *isn’t* completely gender neutral, and there doesn’t seem to be any real push to make it so except when directly addressing a group of people. People do not use the term “guys” to speak of a group of women (“why don’t you take the guys out to lunch for your birthday” is not a thing you’d say to your wife as a suggestion for what to do with her female friends). And then there’s the fact that it reinforces the idea that what is male is neutral but what is female is just for women.

            1. Chameleon*

              I actually do use “guys” to refer to all-female groups. I consider it gender neutral, and I think usage is continuing to evolve in that direction.

            2. Ultraviolet*

              I think the point you make in your last line is really important! It’s one reason that I’m fighting my deeply ingrained habit of addressing any group (even all-female ones) as “guys,” and that I’d rather not see “guys” become universally used as though it were gender-neutral.

            3. Nunya*

              Dude and guys referring to women is pretty common in my Cascadian college town. Dude! is almost always an exclamation, and guys does get used for all-female groups, but not in ‘going out with the guys’. More like ‘what are you guys talking about?’ or ‘hey guys, can you keep it down’.

              1. JB (not in Houston)*

                That’s kind of my point. Most people under a certain age will use “guys” to directly address groups of people, even groups of all women. But we know it’s still a gendered term because you only use it to refer to women when you are talking directly to them. In any other context, it only means men. So it’s not *really* a gender neutral term.

          2. MillersSpring*

            Have you ever watched the TV show Friends? Each main character addresses the rest of them as “guys” ALL the time.

      2. She's a Lady*

        I’m with you actually. I’m okay with “guys” as a gender neutral collective, but I know a lot of women aren’t, so I don’t use it. What bothers me the most though, is when a dude tacks on the “and gals” as an afterthought. Either embrace guys as your collective term, or actually make an effort to switch to a gender neural one, but don’t keep pausing and then adding the ladies in like we’re unusual for being there. I had a male manager who would say “guys…and ladies” every. single. time. It drove me nuts.

      3. Tau*

        I used to think I was fine with “guys” as gender neutral until I started work in a department where I was the only employee who wasn’t a man. Now anytime I hear/read “hey guys” or “the guys in teapot development” or the like I have to wonder if they’re really using it as gender-neutral or just ignoring me. (I’ve received an e-mail with four-five other recipients titled “Dear gentlemen” before, so the latter is definitely not out of the question.)

        I’m also of the opinion that it’s not gender-neutral until you can call a single woman a guy without it sounding any stranger than calling a man one.

        1. Ultraviolet*

          Yeah, I really hate it when someone says something like “The guys at Teapot Research Group accomplished X!” when I’m pretty sure they’re not at all certain that the people in question are exclusively men. I’ve come to not like “guys” being used as though it were gender-neutral in any context, but in this context I absolutely hate it.

          I agree with your last paragraph too! My specific test-case for whether “guy” is gender-neutral is whether you would try to identify a woman as a guy. Like, say I’m out somewhere with my friend and I spot a coworker across the street and say, “Oh, there’s my coworker.” My friend says, “Who?” and I say, “That guy in the green jacket.” Is my friend now specifically looking for a man? I think the majority of people would be, and that implies to me that “guy” isn’t gender-neutral.

      4. nonegiven*

        I said ‘Happy Birthday’ to my son on Facebook and his comment was “Dude! I’m sitting right next to you!”

      5. Chaordic One*

        I’ve always heard that “you guys” was a northern Yankee thing and it referred to everyone of both sexes. And that in the south they said “you all.”

    7. Gaia*

      See, Dan, here’s the thing. A lot of men for a long time have told women to just “let things go” in order to present a better image in the office. That is only allowing horrible sexism to be continued because if no one speaks up, no one realizes it is really causing actual harm.

      I hate the term lady. I am not some ancient form of chattel nobility. Please do not refer to me as such. I am a grown, professional, adult, female. I am a woman. More than that, I probably have an official title if you want to refer to me other than my name. Or you could just use my name. If you need to refer to a group, use “people” or “folks” or “guys” (although some don’t like that because they feel it refers to males, my part of the country uses it neutrally).

      1. Sparrow*

        +1 to that first paragraph

        For groups, I’m fond of “folks” (or “y’all,” if speaking to them directly), but if I’m casually referring to someone’s particular area of expertise, I tend to use something like gender neutral like compliance “czar” or “guru” or “sage.” Our job titles don’t always carry meaning to those outside my immediate division, so I definitely default to something like, “Mary, our teapot glaze expert…”

    8. always anon*

      And so persists the problem that if a woman has an issue with the way she’s treated by someone else, she’s considered a bitch or “out to lunch”. Thanks for perpetuating those ideas!

      If I don’t want to be referred to a certain way and you have an issue with it because it doesn’t align with your ideas of what’s normal, the problem is you.

      1. Tinea*

        Ugh! Yes!

        “it doesn’t align with your ideas of what’s normal” — Specifically, it doesn’t align with your ideas of what is normal for a person of a specific gender and age, or what’s the normal gender and age for a specific position. Gendered language has no business in a professional job title, or the reference to it. The world can accept that postal officers and firefighters can be of any gender and therefore should not have gendered titles; it’s on each of us to do the same for the other jobs with which we interact.

        Your sexism is showing when you decide to judge the person who speaks up about a gendered job title. You are part of the problem that keeps women silent when they are being disrespected, and which limits the roles that people can take on based on their gender.

        1. Artemesia*

          And as we saw in an earlier post — this gendered crap still often laps over strongly when it comes to salary. I bet the women making 25% less than their peers in today’s post get called ‘ladies.’

    9. Pwyll*

      This of course depends on the context and tenor of how things are being said, but I bet the emphasis is on the “Compliance” and not the “Lady” part. I spent a good amount of my career as the “Compliance Guy” and it was alternatively used in exasperation, “Ugh I’ve gotta run this by the compliance guy AGAIN”, and in appreciation, “We’ll have the compliance guy take care of this, no problem!”

      Now, as a male I don’t really get gendered terms thrown at me, so I can completely understand if someone doesn’t want to be called a “Lady”, and if it really, really bothers her I can understand her saying “Please don’t call me a lady.” But at the same time, I think it’s helpful to look at the context and tenor: if lady is meant as person, and they’re just referring to the annoying enforcer of all compliance, expressing annoyance at being called “lady” might appear out of touch.

    10. jhhj*

      Having a preference about being called “lady” (a term which has a lot of connotations) makes you “out to lunch” and will have everyone (male) at the office talking about you? Are there any preferences women in the office are allowed to have about what they are called?

      And men wonder why women are so wary of showing even the most basic preference — because it proves they are crazy.

    11. LBK*

      Disagreed with your second paragraph, but I do agree that it can be awkward sometimes that English doesn’t have an acceptable female equivalent of “guys” (lots of people don’t like “gals,” although that feels like the best option to me). I usually use “women,” but it does feel unnecessarily formal most of the time.

      I wonder if the reason it’s so tough to find a good term is that almost any term for a woman inevitably ends up getting used in questionably gendered ways just by nature of the gender dynamics in our speech and our culture.

    12. Liz*

      My problem is that “compliance lady” somehow also rings like “tea lady”, which is not a good mental link.

      It’s probably just me though.

    13. Ebonarc*

      I find I get a lot of mileage out of referring to a group as “folks.” For example, “I need to run some questions by your technical folks before I can move your order forward.” Granted, it sounded odd to me when I first started in my current job, but once I got used to other people saying, I found it a really useful non-gendered term.

  3. Chocolate Teapot*

    4. Compliance Person? At our company we tend to refer to Jane-in-Compliance or Fred-in-Compliance.

    1. BRR*

      This is completely unrelated but there is a drag queen named “Karen from finance” and it’s my favorite name ever.

    2. Nikki T*

      This is what I was thinking, especially externally. I wouldn’t refer to Jane-in-Compliance to outside entities as “the Compliance Lady”…

    3. Jennifer*

      We just call our compliance person by her first name….I don’t think anyone ever calls her “compliance officer” or lady or whatever.

      We do have a few people in the office with the title of “deputy” and they’re about the only ones that get called some kind of thing like that. Though we had one person who was a “deputy” and she hated it for the Wild West implications, so she got it changed to “senior associate title.”

    4. INFJ*

      Yes, it seems to make the most sense to just call the person by name… unless the person’s name is alliterative to the title; in that case, you get called Safety Steve (real example).

    5. ChelseaNH*

      Since it’s a casual culture and they seem to be into nicknames, I’d try, “Thanks, but I prefer to be known as the Compliance Guru/Overlord/Wizard/Queen of All Things Compliance.” Of course, you have to be prepared for someone to take you up on it.

    1. Ask a Manager* Post author

      She’s been working this schedule the whole time and her manager has been fine with it until discovering that her weekends are now freed up. It’s certainly possible that her manager could be incredibly unreasonable and fire her for not being willing to change it now, but it’s not the most likely outcome.

      1. Artemesia*

        Agreed and since she seems to have problems with ‘no’ she should default to ‘Oh I have made weekend commitments and won’t be able to change my regular schedule.’ She does it once and there go her weekends.

    2. SMT*

      If the reason for not originally working weekends is the bus schedule, then that’s a very good reason to keep her weekends off at that job. If her availability wasn’t an issue before, or shouldn’t be now with the new information. As a supervisor, I’d rather schedule someone I know can be there on time, than risk someone being late or unable to make it on the weekends (which is already a rough shift, from the sounds of it). If OP wants to offer to fill in for others on the occasional weekend day with advance notice (maybe a ride could be procured), but transportation is a valid issue to consider in your availability. If the manager really needs weekend help, he or she can hire someone who has availability on weekends. This could possibly impact OP’s schedule during the week, if that new hire is also available and a good worker to work those shifts as well, but that’s the cost of not being available on weekends (especially if this is a retail or restaurant job).

    3. Alton*

      A lot of part-time jobs have employees who have limited schedules because they work other jobs or go to school. Companies need to accept and be aware of that. Sure, if your schedule is too limited, there’s a risk that the company will decide it’s not worth keeping you, and the company has the right to decide that weekend hours are truly essential. But the arrangement has worked okay thus far.

      Also, it sounds like this could be retail-related, and unfortunately, this is a common struggle. High turnover, people calling in sick, and pressure from corporate can lead to managers putting too much pressure on employees to be constantly available. It’s great to be a dependable employee, but you also have to draw a line and be assertive. I worked in merchandising for a while, and I would get desperate calls asking me to fill in last-minute. At stores that were a 2+ hour drive from my home. And they knew I didn’t have a car. I got that they were desperate, but you have to draw a line. And unfortunately, when they do keep pushing for more and more, it makes you hesitant to make smaller concessions, because you don’t want to set a precedent.

  4. Myrin*

    I very much agree with Alison re: #1. It would be one thing if this person’s feedback had made you think more closely about your behaviour and you realised that you indeed are being too relaxed. However, that doesn’t seem to be the case as you talk very positively about your work personality and demeanor. You also haven’t mentioned anyone else ever uttering feedback like that so I’m wondering why you feel like you need to radically alter your behaviour because of this one comment.

    (Also, of course a more laid-back style doesn’t work for everyone – that’s just par for the course. However, that doesn’t mean that it doesn’t work for most or even all people [apart for the one new hire] in your team and there’s no need to suddenly do a full 180 on all those people who like exactly that about their boss.)

    1. Sadsack*

      The person who submitted the feedback also didn’t give OP much to work with. I suppose they couldn’t provide an example for fear of identifying themselves, but just telling OP he is too relaxed is not very helpful. OP should certainly consider all of the things Alison suggested about his management style. But if he doesn’t pinpoint snything, I’d not worry about it too much.

  5. Tau*

    #2 – it may be worth keeping in mind, whether you address this or not, that “lady” is one of those words with very different connotation depending on dialect and region. I’ve definitely lived in places where “lady” would be considered archaic and patronising applied to anyone, where “lady” should only be used for women beyond a certain age, and where “lady” is a good catch-all term in contexts like the one you mention that’s more polite than “woman”. This isn’t saying don’t address it at all if it bothers you, but be aware that it might end in a debate about whether “lady” is impolite or not where nobody understands where anyone else is coming from. It may also be difficult for those people to change, if it’s their default terminology.

    A possible indirect alternative: I don’t know how big your company is, but is there any way you could get to know the common culprits better? “[X] lady” and “[X] guy” are generally workarounds for if you don’t actually know someone’s name or aren’t sure about it. I wouldn’t call any staff at my small company “[X] lady”, not because that’s not part of my vocabulary but because in my head they’re Sansa, Arya and Catelyn and it’s an environment where everyone is expected to know everyone.

    1. Ask a Manager* Post author

      Keep in mind, though, that the OP doesn’t need to let it become a debate (if someone tries to take it there). She can just say, “I prefer not to be called that, thanks.” People can’t really argue with that unless they’re outright jerks.

      1. Jwal*

        I think it’s reasonable to be aware of the fact that people may not agree with you or may not understand where you’re coming from. I don’t think that’d necessarily make it a debate.

        In all honesty if someone said “I find it weird being called lady” then I’d think that’s totally reasonable, but if they went into a description about it being gendered then I’d probably internally roll my eyes. But that’s because where I am this sort of thing isn’t really a problem, and it’s likely to come across as pretty weird for someone to take issue with it.

        So if OP is the compliance lady, and person who live on another floor in their apartment is the lady downstairs, and the person they talk to on the way to work is the lady on the bus etc then that’s a data point to consider when determining if the person who’s calling her compliance lady is doing it for the sake of ease or sexism.

        1. Anonymouish*

          But this highlights something that Tau said above. You call them ‘the lady on the bus’ or etc (even though I really would probably say woman in that scenario) because you don’t know them well. Using “our compliance lady” indicates that she’s not a full member of the team, or is easily replaced. “Our compliance person, Jane”, is not so hard and indicates that she’s an actual individual, instead of the false ‘respect’ conferred by ‘lady’ (and which actually probably means “I don’t know her name so I’ll be delicate about it instead of just saying ‘whosits in compliance.'”)

          1. Jwal*

            Yeah I agree that it’s probably being used as an alternative to saying the person’s name, like I would totally say ‘the delivery guy’ (for example) as I don’t know their name.

        2. Mike C.*

          So if OP is the compliance lady

          She spent the whole letter talking about how she didn’t want to be called that, come on.

          1. Jwal*

            I know?
            I was using it as part of a string of things in agreement with Tau that if it’s the done thing for a person to refer to women as ladies, then the use of it specifically with her would necessarily be to insult.

            Of course it’s perfectly fine for the OP not to want to be called that, but if it’s the norm she should expect that she might get asked why she doesn’t like being called that. I don’t think it would have to be a debate or be a sign that the person was being a jerk (which is why I nested under Alison).

        3. Tau*

          I am definitely someone else who will talk to the lady downstairs about when the cleaning lady is getting in and then chat with the lady on the bus about the lady who was on the news last night before mentally prepping what I’m going to say to the HR lady at the meeting later etc. etc. etc. (Is that a British thing? Scottish thing? Connecticut thing? My dialect is enough of a mess that I honestly have no idea where I picked this up.) Like you, if someone told me they’d rather not be called “lady”, I’d do my best to comply… but if that someone started talking about why being called “lady” was demeaning or how people only used “lady” when they meant X, I’d be taken pretty aback.

          I like Alison’s script since it sticks to the core point – “I’d rather you didn’t call me ‘lady’.” – without getting into the messy, varies-by-region detail.

          1. nonegiven*

            I guess you could say, “I’d rather be called the compliance officer, or Jane in compliance, or just Jane, but The Compliance Lady makes me want a cape.”

    2. hbc*

      To be fair, if I’m sending external emails or even between departments, there are lots of cases where the title is more important than the human behind them. “The compliance person says that we need this paperwork signed before starting” carries a lot more weight than “Jane says you need to do it.” Even “Jane in Compliance” is less effective because now they’ve got a person in mind that they can argue with.

      It also probably happens more to people whose job is to get all the details right. Lawyers, QA people, accountants often seem like annoying roadblocks to the people who are getting the “real” work done. It’s not fair, but it’s a common perception.

      1. Gandalf the Nude*

        Well, in your example, if you’re trying to lend your statement more weight, why wouldn’t you just use the actual title? Compliance officer is more imposing than compliance person. If it’s a context where the title doesn’t matter or is known, just use the person’s actual name. If the title does matter, then use the actual title.

        1. hbc*

          Maybe because it’s too stilted, though I’m not really sure. When I’m trying to be formal/official, I’ll say, “The Warehouse Manager has looked into that and assures me the parts will go out today,” whether or not we have an official warehouse manager. If I’m trying to be friendly or build rapport, it would be more like, “The warehouse guy needs confirmation of the address before he’ll send it out.” But I would only use the latter externally, where the person isn’t going to care about the name of the person in the warehouse.

      2. Megs*

        Yeah, and lets see how well calling me the Lady Lawyer goes. I mean, I get the sense of what you’re saying, but why not just say “Compliance says we need __” or “Legal says to __”?

        1. Megs*

          Side note: women in the legal profession are often unnecessarily referred to as “female attorneys/lawyers.” If you don’t get why it’s infuriating, you’ve probably never been a member of a profession functionally closed to your gender within living memory.

          1. JB (not in Houston)*

            Yes, I think this is why I get so irritated about this kind of thing. It still happens. And you can STILL find some older male lawyers (and judges) who use the term “lady lawyer.” Male lawyers are called lawyers, but not women! We can’t be included in the term “lawyer,” because that refers just to men, obviously. We have to be “lady lawyers.”

            1. anonderella*

              “No, it was one of those lady cops you hear about.” – Hank Hill, King of the Hill

              1. anonderella*

                “Geez, it must have been humiliating to get a beating from a Lady Cop.” – Dale Gribble, KOTH

                ok no more quotes.

              2. Chameleon*

                I’m still horrified it took until 1999 for the UK to drop the patronizing “WPC” and like ranks. 1999, y’all.

                1. JB (not in Houston)*

                  That is pretty bad, but I’m actually relieved to hear that it was 1999. I was watching an old Midsomer Murders episode recently. It was from the late 2000, and they used that term to describe a female police officer. I was surprised that term was still used, and I’m relieved to know it’s just in TV!

            2. Artemesia*

              I once saw a bumper sticker promoting a youth activity for ‘Leaders and Leaderettes’

  6. Chaordic One*

    #3. Well, given your situation, the course of action you take is certainly understandable and reasonable. In the same circumstances, most of Alison’s readers would probably do the same thing. As Alison has pointed out, you shouldn’t say anything about the situation with your house as being one of the reasons you want to relocate and, instead point out the other reasons.

    Although the OP doesn’t specifically say so, it sounds like he or she might have to end up declaring bankruptcy to get out from under this tragic financial situation. There are a handful of employers whose background checks include credit reports and a bankruptcy or default might show up in a credit report. If it does, most potential employers will ask you about it, and if so, the explanation that you’ve stated in your letter to Alison is reasonable and should not exclude you from serious consideration for employment by reasonable and rational employers. Most employers recognize that shit happens. (This would be the situation in every place I’ve ever worked.)

    There might be some potential employers who would hold this against you, but there are not that many. The odds are in your favor of them never finding out, and if they do, the odds are in favor of them not holding it against you.

    1. Navy vet #3*

      Op 3 here.

      Yes, I will end up having to file bankruptcy and let the bank or condo association forclose. My plan is to draw the process out for about a year so I can save money for the move.

      I have an appointment for with a bankruptcy attorney next week.

      1. Meg*

        Since you are a Navy Vet, I want you to be aware that a bankruptcy could compromise any security clearance you might have for government work. One of my former co-workers was demoted to a non-secured role after she sold her house in a short sale due to management’s belief that she would loose her clearance due to the hit to her credit.

      2. Case of the Mondays*

        You might not have to file bankruptcy depending on if you are in a recourse or non-recourse state. Plenty of people allow homes to go into foreclosure and take the credit hit and move on without a formal bankruptcy filing. If you don’t have much in assets, the bank probably won’t go after you. But of course, speak with an attorney. Also, before taking the nuclear option, can you try waiting it out a bit to see what solutions the state comes up with? Is your house currently unsafe to live in?

        1. Navy Vet*

          My home is currently safe. The foundation of my building is just starting to show signs of degradation, so we are lucky in that regard. But, once you let the proverbial genie out of the bottle, there’s no telling how quickly it will move

  7. Queenie*

    4: Surely if you get fired after you accept a new job it’s not the same thing? You hear stories all the time of folks handing in their notice only for the employer to turn around and say “You wanna quit? Well then I’m firing you!”

    Otherwise, is the severance pay all that much that you can’t do without it? Sounds like you won’t be missing a pay check as it is.

    1. ToTermOrNotToTerm*

      It’s not that I will be doing without a paycheck. It’s more that I am going to be losing the amount I will be making on the paycheck. I lucked into the position (interned and was hired at the end despite not really meeting the education requirement).

      Since we were being paid so much we’ve made do with just my income, so losing the amount is a big deal. My wife actually accepted a teaching position last night (she just graduated with a teaching degree) and we will be fine financially after school starts. But until then the 4-5 weeks of pay I will be getting will help us get through. Essentially I will be getting next months pay for this current position and we should be comfortable.

      1. Graciosa*

        The difficult part is that you will be required *forever* to disclose that you were fired on applications that ask it. This can absolutely impact your future career prospects. There are places where this is effectively an automatic disqualifier, and even if it isn’t, you’re still competing for jobs with people who haven’t been fired.

        If you’re confident that the job you’re taking now will be your last, trading 4-5 weeks of pay for the hit to your ability to find another job may be worth it to you. I wouldn’t do this – I would be much too concerned that I would end up losing future job opportunities worth a lot more than the money offered at the moment – but this is your career so you need to make the call you can live with.

        But there are long term consequences. You may put yourself in the position of being comfortable this month and – if you lose this job – unable to find a new job for much, much longer than that at some point in the future.

      2. Oryx*

        I’m with Graciosa on this and the fact that you need to think long term about the ramifications that will come with this on future job prospects. I understand that there are short term consequences that are the focus right now, but don’t let those blind you to possibly more serious consequences down the road.

        1. ToTermOrNotToTerm*

          I am checking with my HR person but my former manager (who is now my manager’s manager and is aware of the situation) asked other HR contacts in our company and they communicated that I would not even have to disclose I was terminated (which is admittedly baffling because…I would have been terminated…get a severance and everything).

          Hopefully I will have an answer that can clear it all up…but as with most things I sure it will make it more confusing.

  8. Navy vet #3*

    #3 here
    Thank you Alison, for answering my letter.

    My decision is going to be based on what actions the state takes, if any, and if we get relief. Let’s be honest here, CT can’t afford to have that much property abandoned. Even if the total stays below 1000, that is a lot of abandoned homes in a short period of time. It’s also a lot of lost tax revenue. Because, I’m not going to stay in a state that doesn’t help its citizens. Lucky for me I spent 11 years in the navy. I literally have friends all over the world I can stay with if I relocate.

    My other main concern is how to handle employment credit checks. While, most of us agree they are not an indicator of a good employee a good portion of employers do it. And a good portion of those employers think very poorly of bankruptcy, foreclosure and bad credit. How do I navigate that mine field? Do I give them a heads up before they run it? Ask if it’s going to be a problem? Wait until they get the report and ask me? Or will they just turn me down without giving me a chance to explain?

    It’s just so overwhelming emotionally, mentally, financially, physically…

    1. Wakeen's Teapots, Ltd.*

      Hugs. Yeah, I took away from your post that your biggest concern was letting your mortgage default and packing up for a new state.

      I cannot imagine how stressful this all is. I’m pretty sure the employment thing will work out fine. There aren’t that many places that do credit checks. Unless you are in a field that requires security clearances, I think you should take this off of your, I’m sure long, list of things you are worrying about.

      More hugs!

      1. Wakeen's Teapots, Ltd.*

        oh and P.S. if you do have a credit check, they have to get your permission, which at that point you can tell them the exact status of whatever.

        We’ve had commenters here in the past who actually do employment checks. Maybe someone will come along who can advise you specifically.

        I can’t say you’d never lose an opportunity over it but defaulting on a mortgage won’t keep you from getting employed.

        1. Screening Co Employee*

          You rang?

          Navy Vet, you have two major things to your benefit: first and foremost, most people don’t do credit checks on most positions. Pretty much every survey that says “X% of companies do background checks” clarifies that it’s only on certain positions. There are also some states where the use of credit checks in employment reports is severely limited. This may or may not help you depending on what type of position you are in but it’s a positive.

          Unfortunately, the default is likely something an employer would see if they ran a credit check. But that leads to the second benefit: the EEOC now recommends that employers give applicants a chance to explain their situation if/when they’re denied employment. So, the employer is legally required to tell you everything that was found on you and at the same time should give you a chance to make a case…But I say “should” because it’s just a guidance, not a law, so they may not offer that chance.

          When you’re asked to authorize a background check (and they have to get your authorization), you could ask what checks, specifically, are going to be run. Regardless of what they say I’d try to explain it then on a really high level – if they’re running a credit check, they’ll find out anyway, and if they’re not then they really can’t use it against you because they’ve already decided that it shouldn’t matter in the hiring decision.

          If you can, I’d try to stick to the more socially conscious companies and states, see if you can find states that have credit reporting limitations in place so you know you have a guaranteed protection. (For the latter, check out JDSupra – they have a section on Credit Checks that may be too in the weeds, but does list some of the states/areas with protections. Front page of that section references Cook County (Chicago area) and NYC, but I know there are a lot more.)

          I wish I had better advice or more concrete answers, but it really depends. All of this sucks big time, and I wish you so much luck!

          1. Screening Co Employee*


            Pretty much every survey that says “X% of companies do background checks” clarifies that it’s only on certain positions.

            Was supposed to be specific to credit checks, not all background checks. It’s like 40% do credit checks on people in finance, type of thing.

      2. Graciosa*

        I’m afraid I disagree that there aren’t that many places that do credit checks. I think Wakeen’s Teapots would have a point if you counted employers – there are lots of small ones that don’t do them – but if you count how many employees are subject to them, the number of very large employers who do them has an impact.

        That said, I agree that you shouldn’t get too stressed out about this as a potential issue. My employer does these checks, but yes, people are given a chance to explain and we have hired people who filed bankruptcy (in at least one case I know of, very shortly before being hired at my company with full knowledge of the bankruptcy filing).

        The individual didn’t qualify for a company credit card for travel expenses which required some internal gymnastics, but we found ways to work around it. The biggest help was the fact that the person was very matter-of-fact about issues as they arose, and this let us tackle the problem (how to handle travel expenses, for example) without getting sidetracked into the emotional issues, rehashing the reasons or the details, or trying to be supportive.

        Don’t forget that companies are made up of other human beings with their own set of life experiences – and friends and families to add vicariously to the mix. People can be more understanding than you expect.

        Good luck.

        1. Wakeen's Teapots, Ltd.*

          Yeah, I worded that poorly. What I meant to say was (accurately or not), if you aren’t in one of XYZ positions, there aren’t that many times you’ll find yourself subject to a credit check.

          And regardless of that, what you said, re what one would expect would happen next.

    2. Mkb*

      I’m so sorry you’re dealing with this, I live on the other side of CT and had no idea about this issue. I really hope our state comes through for you and all other homeowners affected.

      1. Navy Vet*

        Luckily it’s an election year, so representatives are more likely to answer your messages. The entire CT house is up for reelection this year.

        The eastern part of the state is not the states priority. We don’t bring in their revenue. We aren’t the NY side that has all the NY money. It’s so devastating because this area is mostly blue collar/working class. We don’t have the money for this kind of loss.

        That reminds me…if any tax folks are on today, do you know if there’s anyway to get tax relief at the federal level due to this?

      2. Navy Vet*

        I have noticed the lack of general knowledge on this issue. Even in the affected areas. Which is a failure of the local media. I have contacted a few of the local stations and they all basically say the same thing.

        This isn’t newsworthy right now. Nothing new has happened. Contact us when you have something new. It’s not sexy….we are competing with the Presidential candidates for airtime.

        1. 45 Rabbis*

          I am also in CT and had no idea about this! I’m making my husband inspect our foundation tonight. I’m so sorry you’re going through this. I hope our state does the right thing.

    3. Case of the Mondays*

      Can you maintain the house until you find the new job so that your credit is still good when you apply and look for a place to rent? Then, after you get settled in your new location, allow the mortgage to go into foreclosure. Basically get settled while you still have the good credit and then pull the plug.

      1. Navy Vet*

        The problem is my wages have remained stagnant since I purchased the home in 2006. I have to build up enough savings to move.

    4. Pwyll*

      You know, there’s a current foreclosure crisis, and you’ve got a press story explaining a foundation crisis, and I think you can use those in your favor. In an interview when asked why you’re leaving CT, I wouldn’t balk at someone saying, “You may have seen in the New York Times the story about an epidemic of homes that passed inspection but have crumbling foundations putting homeowners’ safety at risk. Sadly, I was one of those homeowners. I decided this was a great opportunity for me to move somewhere I’ve always wanted to live, [your town], because I’ve always loved [reasons]. I’m really looking forward to being out here permanently!”

      In that way, it sounds resilient (because it is) and gives positive reasons for your move. And if they do the credit check, you’ve given them some rationale in advance without ever bringing up foreclosure or anything else.

      Hang in there! And thank you for your service!

    5. Callie*

      So, here’s an embarrassing secret. I moved across the country for graduate school and we could not sell our house before we left. I’m in an education field, I wanted to move from K-12 ed to higher ed, can’t do that without a PhD, and I did not live within commuting distance of a place I could get my PhD. Our house was old and deteriorating, there were mold issues, we did not have the money to fix it, and it wouldn’t sell (the fact that we lived next door to a hoarder did not help). So we let it get foreclosed on. It killed our credit but we’ve been very careful to pay all our other bills on time since then and developed a good relationship with our current landlord and been model tenants. It hasn’t stopped me or my husband from getting a job.

      Sometimes shit just happens and you cannot let the rest of your life be dragged down by a money pit of a house.

      1. Navy Vet op3*

        If you don’t mind, how did you navigate finding a rental property? Credit is a huge part of that as well.

    6. Hillary*


      My townhome association has been dealing with a similar issue for years (crumbling cement block foundations when they should have been poured concrete). Ours is happening slow enough that we’ve managed to address it without assessments or impacting property values. I bought after it was already a known issue because I think the plan is strong, and I’m now the treasurer. The benefit of a condo is that your association can take capital loans and pay them back over time. Hopefully your board is already exploring options.

      1. Navy Vet*

        The option they are exploring is an additional $400.00/mo for 15 years.

        My association fee is already $250.00. Total of $650/mo
        That’s to start. This management company has not been very good with the choices they make with our money and in fact I am certain this will be handled very poorly. (If history is any indicator)

        You can’t sell a property with that kind of association fee.

        By the time 15 years passes it could easily be almost $900.00/month. Which is more then my mortgage is.

        If the condo association mortgage company forecloses they can probably write it off as a loss on their taxes…The home owners are really the only ones who lose in Eastern CT right now.

        1. Bluephone*

          I wish I had some advice or better words of sympathy for you because this sounds like such a frustrating situation. I hope everything works out for you!

  9. Bobcat*

    Can one get severance after being fired due to poor performance? I was fired from my first career job for this reason. I was ineligible for unemployment. I thought you could only get it if it hasn’t been your fault that you lost your job.

    1. OfficePrincess*

      Some employers will give severance, others don’t. Each employer can set their own policy, though the policy can even be “eligibility for severance payments can be decided on a case by case basis”. It’s completely separate from unemployment, which has different rules in each state.

    2. Alter_ego*

      Severance is dictated by your employer though, not the government. It’s different from unemployment.

    3. Duncan*

      In my state, you can get unemployment if you were fired, as long as you weren’t fired for “willful misconduct.” So, not being a good fit for your job wouldn’t affect your eligibility, but if you were fired for attendance or theft, for example, that would disqualify you.

      I’ve also worked for an employer that would give severance when terminating someone in certain circumstances. Typically, this happened when someone was not right for the job, but the employer did not want to go through their entire disciplinary process, which could take months, before firing the person. So they would offer a termination with severance or a PIP. If you go the PIP route and end up being fired down the road, then you get no severance. I’ve only worked for one company that did that, though, so I’m sure it varies greatly.

      1. ToTermOrNotToTerm*

        #4 here, Duncan is correct for how my state works as well. As long as you are not at fault for the termination (you stole, didn’t come in, etc), you generally qualify for unemployment.

        And my employer does severance as long as its the same reasons too. Since the position has shifted over the past 5 years, I am having a really hard time meeting their expectation (or at least my current manager’s…that’s another story but basically a lot of people are leaving my area because she has not done a great job) so I was given the choice. Luckily I have always wanted to move into IT and the position I accepted is right what I want to do even though its a pay downgrade

    4. Jen*

      Yep. When I was laid off, I got severances. But I have also terminated employees for poor performance/fit and offered severance. Our company requires you to waive the right to sue by accepting the sev package, so especially in a contentious firing situation it could be advantageous.

      Perhaps the OP’s company is concerned about a lawsuit so they are pushing the sev package.

      OP, if you can get your separation paperwork to state in writing exactly how they will disclose your exit (“layoff” vs for cause), sign it and take the sev :-)

  10. Jessie*

    #2: This reminds me when I was in an Army class with an officer from Pakistan. He always called me and the the other female “Lady.” Even when playing sports are calling across the room, like: “Hey, lady!” It didn’t bother us since he obviously meant no disrespect by it, but we eventually explained to him that, to other women, it could come across as a little rude to simply refer to someone as “lady.” He was baffled and said “I don’t understand. Your president’s wife is called the First Lady so I thought it was the term of greatest respect.”

    1. anonderella*

      I too would have felt a twinge of understanding and appreciation for his intention.

      Wow, so when we have a female president, there will be a First… what? He won’t be called the First Man – I could imagine some religious balk at that.

      First… ?

      1. Elsajeni*

        First Gentleman would be the direct equivalent of First Lady, but I wonder if in practice it just won’t be used — I think, as is often the case, what we’re used to as a fairly normal way of talking about a woman will suddenly sound obviously silly when applied to a man.

        1. Chameleon*

          I was reading somewhere about this issue (forget where) that was talking about how the First Lady technically isn’t necessarily the President’s wife, but rather the “official hostess” of the White House. In fact, unmarried or widowed Presidents had First Ladies (James Buchanan’s First Lady was his niece, Harriet Lane).

          All this was really interesting, until they started talking about how “a woman President would still be considered the hostess of the White House” and I was like NO SHE WILL BE TOO BUSY TO CHOOSE THE STUPID FLOWERS

        1. HOBBITS! the musical*

          oops hit submit too quick.

          Fella because Fellow has a modern specific designation/use.

    2. Shark Lady*

      That is really sweet, and reminds me of my current boss. He’s originally from Indonesia, and always calls my colleagues and I (all women at the moment) “Lady” as a term of affection, almost like you would call someone “dude”. It’s odd, but I find it kind of adorable.

  11. Hush42*

    Re: #1 Not all managers and employees are compatible even if you’re a great manager and their a great employee. I currently work for a manager who is extremely laid back and hands off. I love the autonomy that I have and it works well for me. I do my work and he trusts me to get it done and come to him when I have questions or need help. His management style and my working style compliment each other very well. However, there are lots of people who couldn’t work under a manager like him. We’ve had people who were transferred to other departments because they weren’t working well with his laid back and hands off approach. This doesn’t mean that he’s a bad manager and that he needs to change it just means that certain people can’t work for him.

    Just because one new person finds your management style too laid back doesn’t mean that’s true for everyone. It may mean that whoever give that feedback isn’t right for your team. If you change just for one person your risk alienating all of the other people on your team who like your laid back approach.

    1. The Other Dawn*

      My manager is like this and I love it! I work very well for laid-back managers. My last manager was very hands-on and it drove me nuts; I hated it. It made me feel like she didn’t trust me and that nothing was ever good enough.

  12. DCompliance*

    #1- Did you ask for examples of how you are being too laid back and what this employee would like to see instead?

  13. Laura (Needs To Change Her Name)*

    I am really curious if the compliance lady does formatting for submitting dissertations at a university. We called this person the “margin lady.” I can see how it would not be cute or funny if it was your actual job, but for those of us dealing with One. Last. Absurd. Hurdle. it helped us laugh at thr process.

    1. Petronella*

      Did the “margin lady” know that your team called her that? Did she find it funny?

      1. Laura (Needs to Change Her Name)*

        I don’t know! By the nature of her position, everyone only had to interact with her once during their entire graduate career. Information about how the process worked was really informal, word-of-mouth. I never would have called her this to her face (and because I had moved to a different state, I did not actually interact with her for the margin-checking – which was done with a physical ruler! – our department assistant did me a solid and brought it to her for me.)

        I’m now feeling vaguely guilty about this, though.

    2. Tinea*

      ” I can see how it would not be cute or funny if it was your actual job, but for those of us dealing with One. Last. Absurd. Hurdle. it helped us laugh at thr process.”

      Therefore confirming that the use of “lady” was considered derogatory: it made the title, and therefore the person in the position, something to laugh at.

  14. baseballfan*

    Re: #4, I don’t understand the upside for “letting” oneself be fired, except for a financial windfall. Note I said windfall because if the new job is starting right away, it’s not like this person is missing a paycheck or that the severance would cover time otherwise spent without pay. It’s extra money, not replacement money.

    I wouldn’t want to have anything in my background that I had to describe as a firing. Take the new job and be grateful for it and move on.

    1. ToTermOrNotToTerm*

      #4 here, I lucked into the position I am being terminated from, so I honestly make more than I probably should’ve. The position I accepted actually makes a decent amount less (about 24k to be exact) than I am currently paid and my wife just graduated from college and last night accepted a job teaching 3rd grade. Money would be tight without the windfall and we will need it to get through the summer.

      Before I got Ask A Manager’s response, I had my former supervisor (who is currently my boss’ boss) tell me how he thinks it would be interpreted and he checked with our HR. Their response was “Even if you get a severance, wouldn’t be considered a termination on your record”. My employer also has a policy not to report how you left the company, just your role and time in your role.

      Personally I have a hard time lying, so if it pops up in the future I am probably going to agonize whose opinion to trust (and would probably err on the side of saying I had been).

      1. Chameleon*

        I think this changes things. If the company won’t officially consider it a termination, I don’t think there’s any reason not to take it. And I also don’t think t you would have to refer to it as such either, rather than it simply not being a good fit. Take it!

        1. Graciosa*

          I disagree about the disclosure issue – this is absolutely required on our applications (I think we even have some catchall language to address departures prior to or in lieu of termination) and on others I have seen.

          If we found out someone failed to disclose this, it would be its own cause for termination – and now the OP has *two* of these to worry about.

          I’m trying to be sympathetic about the money issue, but I don’t think risking reputation (by disclosing) or integrity (by taking the money and not disclosing) is worth it.

          However, this is the OP’s call and the OP is the one who will have to live with the consequences.

          1. ToTermOrNotToTerm*

            Well I have already made the call. my main question was about can it bite me back in the position I have already accepted before the termination. Since it should not, I am not worried about it. I am not as worried about termination effecting my hire-ability later, I had to worry about that already and have made peace with it. In the post-2008 job world, there have been plenty of people terminated/let go, the reason for termination is easily described as the position is no longer a good fit. It is not that I am not a hard worker or am a kleptomaniac, just that the position morphed into something that was no longer a fit.

      2. Rusty Shackelford*

        I’m kind of befuddled that an employer would give you severence pay without actually firing you. What’s in it for them?

        1. ToTermOrNotToTerm*

          Well that’s the weird thing. I just talked to my actual manager about it and she said it confused her too. I reached out to the HR person I am working with to get something in writing.

        2. Velociraptor Attack*

          That’s my thought as well. There’s something fishy about this to me, I’m not sure what it could be but it’s weird and I wouldn’t be surprised if the story over time does turn into a firing.

        3. Ask a Manager* Post author

          Hmmm, yeah. If they’re not recording it as a termination either way, what’s the point of them asking you to choose between these two options?

  15. Putting Out Fires, Esq*

    #2- when I hear “lady” in that sort of context, I always mentally append “dragon” because that’s kinda the vibe I get, right? It’s less demeaning to me and more undermining. “Well, everything’s good, but the Compliance Lady is raining on our parade.” Calling someone X Lady is a habit we have as children (lunch lady, front desk lady, book lady) and when you use it in the work context, it sounds like you’re scoffing at someone taking things more seriously than they are. Major pet peeve, in other words.

    Still, no need to get into the wherefores. “I’d rather be called OP2, thanks.” In fact that is probably a better epithet.

      1. LBK*

        Oh man, I’m totally going to be the Reporting Dragon from now on. You must give me a gold coin if you want me to complete your request.

    1. Kelly L.*

      Yes! I associate it with childhood too. Lunch ladies. Give the lady your change, honey.

      1. AnotherAlison*

        Or the Church Lady!

        And the actual church ladies. . .the ladies’ auxiliary, or all those types of women’s groups that existed back when I was a kid.

        1. Kelly L.*

          Yes! Lady brings to mind either (a) medieval ladies, because I read too much fantasy, or (b) sort of the Far Side beehive/muumuu character, which is, I think, what I thought all older ladies looked like when I was a dorky kid. I get why the OP thinks it sounds old!

    2. Allison*

      Yeah, kind of like the term “HR Lady.” It usually conjures up images of some uptight, prudish woman going around the office scolding people.

      When I was young my grandmother would call cashiers “cash register ladies” when we’d go shopping. Not sure why, but I’m keenly aware that no one calls them that anymore, so either it’s an old fashioned term or that’s just something you say to children so these kids see women in those positions as “nice ladies” rather than scary people.

      1. Kelly L.*

        I think it’s also because we generally had no idea what their names might have been. The other term that we used a lot as kids was “worker”–that was the gender-neutral one. The Kmart cashier was “the worker.” The bank teller was “the worker.” Everybody was “the worker.” Which works (ha!), I guess, when you don’t know either their name or their job title! :)

    3. Dr. Johnny Fever*

      I was thinking that Compliance Lady is really a pejorative nickname.

      In my experience, we rarely speak with Compliance unless they find an issue with a process, so I don’t look forward to a visit from Compliance or a meeting. In data entry work, the Compliance analysts who QA for errors are universally hated by the data analysts for similar reasons.

      If I were OP, I would nip Compliance Lady in the bud not just for sexist reasons, but for negative connotations as well. This does not read as a benevolent nick or one given with affection in my mind.

      However, I don’t have full context on OP’s working culture, so I allow that I could be very wrong in my interpretation here.

  16. CeeCee*

    # 2 – I can sympathize with your situation. My last boss used to purposely hire women between the ages of 19 and 21 for administrative work, (and to parade them around in front of vendors, but that is a completely creepy story for another time.)

    He would constantly say things to me like, “Did you find out what the girls decided to do?” “What are the girls working on today?” and he would get a bit short with me when I’d respond with things like, “I spoke with the ladies down at the front desk and …” It was a constant back and forth where he would always call them girls and I would always respond back referring to them as ladies and he’d kind of guffaw at it as though I wasn’t being serious.

    While I understand “ladies” may not have been the best word choice, it seemed appropriate at the time. And all the women preferred it to being called “girls.”

  17. Rat Racer*

    #1 – I am wondering how being “relaxed” is a criticism of a manager? That feedback doesn’t make any sense to me at all, unless it’s some kind of reverse compliment like “You’re too nice to be working at the DMV” or something.

    You could spend time unpacking the word “relaxed” and try to figure out if this means that you’re too easy-going about deadlines or something, but honestly, that feedback is so vague, I’d personally recommend ignoring it. You know you’re a good manager – if you can get your job done without cracking a whip and breathing down people’s necks, more power to you!

    1. NJ Anon*

      At my last job I was trained by the person I was replacing. She told other staff I was “too laid back” and would never last. I ended up working there for 11+ years. If it ain’t broke, . . .

    2. Alton*

      Yeah, I was wondering if this could have been meant as a positive thing but didn’t come across clearly. It’s hard to tell without seeing the actual feedback, and maybe it’s clear in context that it’s meant as a criticism. But maybe it wouldn’t hurt to consider alternative interpretations.

    3. Rafe*

      I read it as the employee believes OTHER employees are … getting away with all sort of things under a manager who is too relaxed about addressing issues?

  18. LizB*

    #1: I’ve been trying to figure out what “too relaxed to be a manager” could mean, in terms of actual problems a direct report might face. The only thing I’m coming up with is not resolving issues promptly — letting employees get away with bad behavior, saying you’ll address something that an employee feels is urgent and then taking a while to get around to it, that kind of thing. If you are doing that, I could see it being annoying as an employee… but you could also have an employee who sees every problem affecting them as very high priority, and doesn’t like that you address the true high priorities more quickly. It’s also possible you have an employee who is used to a more micromanage-y/authoritarian environment, and is still adjusting to your style. If that’s the case, it would have been more useful for them to say “I’d prefer more frequent check-ins and direct instructions,” and to say it in an email or a meeting, not an anonymous survey.

    I really don’t think this is something to change up your management style over, since it’s just one person, but if you’re really worried you could ask employees individually if there’s anything you could be doing to manage them specifically in a better way. You might find someone who’s coming from a toxic environment and having trouble relaxing themselves, or someone who legitimately just prefers to be held accountable in a more rigid way, and if you do, you can work with them to help make them comfortable. But you sound like a great manager, and I definitely wouldn’t change your whole approach over this one comment.

  19. Purple Jello*

    I am also the compliance lady at my company. I’m glad that they know who I am, what I do, and feel comfortable giving me a nickname. That said, if you don’t like your informal title, then why not smilingly confer-suggest one you do like? I’ve used: compliance guru, compliance king/empress of the universe, ITAR avatar, super approved, etc

  20. GG*

    Kind of #2, but really more of a tangent…

    Maybe I missed a reply, but am I really the only person here who has a problem with “lady”?

    Unless it’s a situation in which you’d just as easily use “gentleman” to refer to someone male, to me “lady” just comes across as sexist. It just carries too much connotation about “ladylike” behavior, and the unequal standards for men and women.

    1. TootsNYC*

      one problem is that there isn’t a “guy” equivalent for women.
      “girl” is infantilizing; “woman” and “lady” feel very distancing or formal in a way that “man” doesn’t (and “lady” feels patronizing).

  21. Former Retail Manager*

    Another perspective for OP #5….if weekends are an issue I can only assume that your position is either retail or customer service. On that assumption…..

    At the time you took the M-F job, you had another job which limited your ability and you reached an agreement with your manager based on those facts and circumstances. Those are no longer the facts and circumstances and I don’t believe it is unreasonable for the manager to request that you revise your availability to the business needs. I don’t feel that this is any different than someone who has a certain schedule while they’re in school. When school ends, there is no longer a need for the student to keep that same schedule. Since this job was taken at a time when the other job already existed, the terms were reasonable. But that job no longer exists…..

    After years of working 2 jobs, presumably 7 days a week, I would definitely want to keep the Monday through Friday as well and would do exactly as Alison suggests in an effort to keep that schedule. But you need to also be aware that if all of your co-workers are working weekends and you’re not, and you have no reason prohibiting you from doing so, this will likely create some tension with your co-workers and potentially your manager who I’m sure works weekends as well.

    If your manager is insistent about working weekends and you wish to keep this job long term, perhaps a request to enable you to keep your current schedule for a month or two to enjoy time with family and friends with the agreement to have a discussion at the end of that time could be a happy medium?

    1. Apollo Warbucks*

      I disagree, the manager agreeded to the working days. There’s no good reason for an employer to be able to unilaterally change the working arrangement, the OP couldn’t go to the manager and demarnd weekends off of they’d previously said they would work them.

      1. Former Retail Manager*

        The manager did agree to the working days, based upon the fact that the OP already had another job at the time she took the M-F gig. The agreement was based upon the facts and circumstances at that time. The prohibiting circumstances are no longer present and the manager would now like to revise their agreement. I don’t believe that is unreasonable. If the employee agreed to work certain days, had a family/personal situation arise that necessitated revision of those dates, I’m sure the employee would expect the employer to make a reasonable attempt to revise their work schedule, if it were possible. It’s a two way street is my point.

      2. Velociraptor Attack*

        Continuing on with the assumption that this is retail or customer service, I think it all depends if weekends are an expectation. A lot of places like this require at least some weekend shifts unless there is a conflict. Obviously, there is no longer a conflict aside from personal preference.

        If others without a conflict are required to work weekends, this could cause a problem because one person could be seen as getting preferential treatment. For example, some places alternate weekend shifts and closing shifts and opening shifts so that the less desirable shifts are evened out among everyone. An employee without a conflict that manages to avoid the undesirable weekend shift could end up being a problem.

        That said, some places have high school and college employees who only work weekends and that could even out the demand and not actually be an issue but it really depends on the location and if they’re struggling for weekend shifts, these shifts are seen as a requirement, and OP avoids them, I can understand that being an issue of a manager.

          1. TempestuousTeapot*

            Yes, it is. Though many retail and hospitality management jobs tend to act otherwise.

    2. TempestuousTeapot*

      I take great disagreement to this, though I do see and understand your very rational response. Regardless of any other situation, the agreement of Monday-Friday was brokered. Period. For all anyone knows the weekend job ended due to another need taking precedence (School, home, religion, mentoring in the community, binging on Netflix). Just because one’s sphere outside of this one contract has changed does not automatically give this contract new terms. I would have no problem stating that the weekend work ended due to another requirement and that since it is outside the agreed it is private. If manager now wants weekends, a new contract can be negotiated, including pay considerations to cover new arrangements for the weekend requirement.

  22. Cruciatus*

    “It sounds like you’re just taking one new person’s feedback as gospel, and that would be a mistake.”
    This just happened to me on my performance review (I’m not a manager). The director of the school at a college I work for asked for and received feedback from faculty about himself and the rest of the staff in the office. One person, ONE (out of potentially 100), said I should work on my tone and demeanor, while the rest were like “Cruciatus is awesome and helpful!” But my supervisor included that note in my performance review but not the more plentiful positive comments. Very frustrating. One person who may have caught me either on a bad day or busy day or thinks if a woman isn’t smiling 100% of the time she is “dour” got to be gospel in my performance review. Blergh!

  23. Allison*

    #2, As adults, we generally get to choose what people call us and we have the power to veto nicknames we don’t like, without needing some profound, insightful reason for it. You’re in a fine position to say “Please don’t call me that, I’m not a fan of that nickname.” If pressed for why, you can just say it sounds weird, without getting into gender politics. A reasonable and respectful person will leave it at that and respect your wishes. If someone is unreasonable and gets grumpy about it, that’s their problem; I mean really, who would get mad about not getting to call you a nickname they chose for you. It’s not your job to placate unreasonable people.

  24. Corporate Drone*

    #2, that is absolutely unacceptable. Just yesterday, a shareholder referred to Google’s CFO as “the lady CFO.” Another shareholder called him out on it. This is no different. Attaching “lady” to your function minimizes and demeans you.

  25. Cassie*

    I probably wouldn’t like to be called the Compliance Lady either, but not so much that I’d ask people to stop. (Not saying that the OP shouldn’t, if that’s what she wants to do; I just wouldn’t). What drives me up the wall is when people write in emails “Mrs. Lastname” – unless the person has introduced herself to you as Mrs. Lastname (say, in the email closing), why would you assume you should call her Mrs. Lastname? At the very least, use “Ms.” instead of “Mrs.” – IF the person emailing you is a teen and perhaps feeling awkward about calling you by your first name.

    I don’t like being called Ma’am, either by strangers I don’t know, clerks in stores, or by faculty who say “thank you, ma’am” (“thank you, sir” to the male staff members). You don’t have to call us anything at all! Well, except for the faculty since we work with them. They can just call us by our first names. It’s totally fine! Saying “thank you, ma’am” after your request doesn’t change your request one bit.

  26. SenatorMeathooks*

    I’ll see your “Compliance Lady” and raise you “Compliance Hitler.” The moment I knew I was good at my job.

  27. stevenz*

    #2. I believe US society has gotten very thin-skinned and is looking for every opportunity to be offended. The word lady has been synonymous with woman for a very long time. (Exceptions: when Sir Paul McCartney was knighted his wife became Lady Linda.) The word lady is offensive only if you decide it’s offensive, and we have criminalised many words, mostly gender-based, that weren’t offensive until someone decided to make an issue of them. (There is an effort to eliminate such words as he and she. Good grief.) In your case it is certainly not meant to be offensive in itself, and it’s best if a society does not fear words.)

    Me, I’d be more concerned about being equated with compliance because it suggests rigidity, judgement, and even an oversight role toward the rest of the team. Sort of like a cop.

  28. OP2 (Compliance Lady)*

    OP2 (aka Compliance Lady) here – apologies for not being able to previously participate in these comments! Thank you to those that provided helpful feedback. To those of you who criticized, as stated by other commenters and in my original letter, this has only ever been a slight annoyance but something that comes up fairly regularly; I wrote in as I do not have an objective third party to discuss this with, and I have been a reader of this blog for many years and have come to respect Alison’s advice and feedback.

    A bit of additional context: I work on the same level as the CEO, CFO and COO who are not referred to as the ‘Operations Guy’, ‘Executive Guy’, etc. etc., although many of the same projects I am involved in also involve sign off by these same individuals (“Please refer to the compliance lady and CFO for both sets of approvals” is a recent example). While this certainly is not the end of the world, I would like to either be referred to by my name or title like everybody else that I work with, rather than minimised as the ‘compliance lady’. (I should also mention that I work in the UK so this has a slightly different connotation than the US.)

    While I did smile at the idea of being the Compliance Dragon, sadly that isn’t a fit for my office’s culture. I realise the only way to stop being referred to in this way is to say something, however because it is such a small thing it almost seems a little over the top to even nicely pause in the moment and mention my discontent. I do suppose that at the very least it is nice to know that others sympathise with me, and perhaps I will be able to provide an update later on if the appropriate moment does arise.

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