my coworker cries over tiny things, using a nickname at work, and more

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

1. My coworker cries over tiny things

One of my coworkers cries at the drop of a hat if you say anything she thinks is criticism. No one is attacking her personally but she takes everything like an attack. For example, we have a form that has to be signed in non-black ink so the original is discernible from a photocopy or scanned copy. I noticed she signed one with a black pen. The next time I saw her, I let her know it had to be in non-black ink. I didn’t raise my voice or belittle her. I said: “This form has to to be signed with a non-black pen. It’s so we can tell which one is the original.” After I said this, she burst into tears and was crying and teary for the rest of the day, five more hours.

Our other coworker asked her to file certain files by date instead of alphabetically, causing her to sob like she was at funeral. It happens when our boss tells her something too. She is otherwise nice and I have no problem with her but it’s uncomfortable to have her crying all the time. She does this with people in other departments also, and when it happens they are taken aback. She cried because the courier told her she signed for the package in the wrong spot.

She finished college last year and has worked here for four months. This is her first job. I started two months before her and I also finished college last year (though I had a job while I was in school and this is my second job). I understand how overwhelming it can be to start a job after being a student. I don’t want to make her feel bad because it will lead to more crying. It happens almost every day and our boss says she will talk to the crier but nothing ever changes. I can’t handle anymore crying. It might sound selfish but I am getting tired of it.

That sounds exhausting. That’s a lot of emotion for her to be pouring into your workplace.

Do you know if your boss has actually talked to her about it? If so, I’m wondering if your boss is baffled about what to do next. I mean, you can talk to someone about the need to take routine instruction less personally, but someone who’s crying as easily as your coworker is probably has something going on that isn’t going to be fixed by a couple of routine conversations about it — and may need some serious outside intervention to get it under control. I wouldn’t be surprised if your boss is at a loss about what to do. (Although if your boss were the one writing in, I’d tell her that it’s reasonable to require that people be able to accept routine instruction without this kind of strong emotional reaction every time — and that if your coworker truly can’t do that, it’s disruptive enough that it’s worth revisiting whether having her in the job makes sense. Which I realize sounds awfully callous, but what you’re describing is serious disruption to your office.)

As a peer, you don’t have a lot of options here, but your best one is probably to ignore it as best as you can. I don’t know if you’re feeling obligated to console her when she’s upset, but if you are, you can release yourself from that — stop consoling her, stop asking if she’s okay, and generally treat her as if she’s having the non-reaction that you’d expect her to have. That might feel really weird, but I think it will be less weird than having to spend your days comforting her about the ink color your office uses.

2. Can I use my nickname professionally?

Since I was a child, my friends and family and pretty much everyone else I meet calls me Lulu, which is a shortened version of my name because I really, really hate my first name, Louise. My name was a very popular middle name in the 1980s but also happened to be my great-grandmother’s name so my parents thought it would be nice to honor her. Unfortunately, I feel that there are really negative connotations associated with my name and it really affects my self esteem, which I think is in turn affecting my ability to succeed in my industry.

When I was a student, I was told that I wouldn’t be able to use the shortened version of my name because it wasn’t professional enough, unless I intended to work in the media or arts. I work in a corporate environment, and have done for the last seven years since I graduated from college, so I always used my actual first name.

The way I see it, my options are to continue using a name that I hate and the low self esteem that I associate with it, to use the shortened version of my name and be constantly paranoid that people won’t take me seriously, or randomly start using my middle name, which I’m worried would just seem a bit weird. Do you have any advice for changing your name mid-career?

Use the name you want to use! Whatever authority figure at school told you that you “wouldn’t be able” to use Lulu should not be giving out work advice, because that is ridiculous. The person who gave you that edict was misapplying rumors they’d heard about this thing called professionalism and got it wrong. You get to be called by whatever name you want to use.

People will take you seriously if you present yourself as a competent, serious person. Going by Lulu will not undo that.

The easiest way to make the switch is the next time you change jobs, at which point you can just introduce yourself as Lulu. But if that’s not anytime soon and you want to do it now, you could tell your coworkers, “My whole life, everyone outside of work has called me Lulu and I’m going to use it professionally now too — no point in going by two different names.” It may take a while for everyone to get comfortable with it because name changes always do, but if you make the switch yourself (changing it in your signature, etc.), people will adjust.

3. My employee over-thanks the coworkers she’s friends with

I manage a small office with 10 employees. The employees in this office are segregated into very specific cliques, and while there are never huge issues, it is clear who is on whose team. I have in this position for about a year, and have been working hard to unify the office.

One employee, Veronica, has gotten in the habit of over-thanking her friends when they do something helpful at work. For example, I asked an employee to switch lunch times one Friday to allow Veronica to attend a webinar and the employee happily obliged. Veronica made a point to loudly announce to the office that she would be buying lunch for that employee as a thank-you. On the one hand, that is super thoughtful, and it is nice when your coworkers appreciate your help. On the other hand, employees outside of Veronica’s clique have made similar efforts to be helpful, and they receive a quick “Thanks!” This kind of thing happens regularly with the people Veronica considers her “pals” at the office.

Am I over-thinking this? I know I can’t tell people who they can buy lunch for, but I’m concerned that excessive praise for acts that are really just employees doing their job can be polarizing when it is only directed to certain people. I know it would be a way bigger issue if I, as the manager, were doing this, but is it still a problem? If so, how can I address it? Veronica is a great employee; I just don’t want this behavior to further divide the office

As long as Veronica is thanking everyone who helps her and not treating some of them brusquely, I’d leave this alone. I definitely get where your worry is coming from, but it’s okay for her to be more effusive with the people she’s personally closer to. If she were being rude to others, you’d need to address that, but if it’s just that she’s being excessively nice to some, I’d write that off as a personal quirk and not something you need to intervene on. (The exception would be if she’s doing it in a way that really does slight someone. For example, if two coworkers did her the exact same favor in the same week and she did a public celebration of one and not the other, you could privately point out to her that the disparity probably didn’t feel great and may make the people getting the short end of the stick less inclined to help her out in the future.)

The other thing that could be relevant here: Does Veronica want to move into a leadership role on your team or otherwise take on more responsibility over time? If so, you could point out to her this kind of blatant favoritism will make it hard to promote her, because to move into a position of authority over others, she needs to seem reasonably unbiased. (That’s true even if she’s not going for a management position; it would be hard to move her into even an informal team lead position if people don’t think she’ll treat them evenhandedly.)

4. Coworker keeps showing up at meetings she’s not invited to

Our local office consists of only 10 employees, mainly software developers. Our office is not too big and the front conference room, where most meetings are held, is the only way to exit the office. So, people occasionally will walk past a meeting taking place to exit the office. That is fine. However, one employee here regularly walks into a meeting in progress and stands there or sits down and begins to listen, occasionally giving comments. All of our meetings are scheduled in Outlook with the proper people officially invited. How should I approach this person and ask them to stop inviting themselves to meetings that they should not be a part of (has not received an official invite)?

I am a manager, but this person is under another manager (who is at the same level as me).But I’m also the office manager as well, so somewhat responsible for everyone in this office from that point of view.

That’s rude! And weirdly out of touch with how meetings generally work.

The next time she starts lurking in a meeting that she wasn’t invited to, stop the meeting and say, “We’re in the middle of a meeting. Did you need one of us?” If she says she just thought she’d join in, then you can say, “Oh, this meeting is just managers” (or “just the people working on the X project” or “just the four of us” or whatever). If doing that a couple of times doesn’t solve the problem, talk to her manager about it and ask her to put a stop to it.

5. Including a cover letter when employers only ask for a resume

I am beginning to apply for jobs and I’m wondering, if only a resume is requested, would it seem odd or inappropriate to include a cover letter? There are no explicit instructions; the application portal only has fields for basic information, plus another labeled “Resume.” I could include a cover letter in the same file, but I don’t want to risk having my application thrown out simply because I added extra material. What are your thoughts?

Add the cover letter as the first page of your resume file. Some hiring managers won’t bother to read it since apparently these aren’t companies that care much about cover letters, but some will. And if it’s a good cover letter, it can make a difference in whether or not you get called for an interview (only if it’s a good letter though; if it’s not, then it’s not really adding anything to your application anyway).

But it’s very unlikely that you’ll be rejected simply because you added a normal part of an application to the file you upload.

{ 788 comments… read them below }

  1. Princess Consuela Banana Hammock*

    OP#2, you can absolutely go by “Lulu.” I work with coworkers who go by nicknames that don’t even come from their names (i.e., the nickname has no relation to their “legal name”). You’re a grownup—you get to decide what name you use, and whoever gave you that career advice is myopic.

    1. Liz*

      I agree, that career advice is myopic and dated. I’ve worked with executives named Cookie, Scottie, Bud, and Bobby. They all used those names because they were comfortable with them, not because they were on their birth certificate. Use whatever suits you!

      1. Princess Consuela Banana Hammock*

        Seriously. If I can work with adults who go by Bobby, Babs, and Bitsy, OP will lose no cred by using “Lulu.”

        1. Betsy*

          Are they all in the same office? It sounds a bit like an Enid Blyton book about rebellious schoolchildren or cartoon monkeys.

          1. Princess Consuela Banana Hammock*

            They were in the same statewide division, but not the same office :) They were all also about the same age (over 60), and Bobby and Babs were in senior management. Bitsy was a long-time Admin Assistant, and she was insanely good at her job.

            1. Artemesia*

              It is really common in the South for adults to go professionally by ‘baby names’ — I know distinguished lawyers who go by Bobby and Jimmy, women who go by Honey, Peaches, Sissy — Sissy is a judge. Coming from a part of the country where this would be a bit ludicrous, it didn’t raise an eyebrow in that environment where there were also the occasional grown men going by Joe Billy, Bubba or Binky.

              And one effect of increased diversity is that people are used to a much wider range of names than might have been typical 50 years ago.

              1. Mookie*

                I’ve worked with a Blankie who was originally from Virginia. (He was nicknamed after his older brother’s blanket. We steered clear of telling the wrong people this origin story because they would have permanently lost their shit and later probably their jobs.)

                1. Pashazade*

                  Years ago I got a call from our front office and was a bit confused when I went to look up the bloke’s details in Outlook:

                  – Why is he Alastair Smith over here but Alastair Joneshire there?
                  – Oh, cos he’s Alastair Smith, Lord Joneshire.
                  – Right.
                  – But most people just call him Binks.

                2. Parenthetically*

                  @Pashazade love Julian Fellowes talking about upper-class nicknames — “Everyone is ‘Toffee’ or ‘Bobo’ or ‘Snook’. They, themselves, think the names imply a kind of playfulness, an eternal childhood fragrant with memories of nanny and pyjamas warming by the nursery fire. But they are really a simple reaffirmation of insularity, a reminder of shared history that excludes more recent arrivals, yet another way of publicly displaying their intimacy with each other. Certainly, the nicknames form an affective fence. A newcomer is often in the position of knowing someone too well to continue to call them Lady So and So, but not nearly well enough to call them ‘Sausage’.”

                3. K.*

                  I won’t lie, I would have a hard time referring to a grown-ass man as Blankie. I’d do it – I call people what they want to be called – but I’d be thinking “Blankie? Seriously?” every time.

                4. Kathleen_A*

                  Why – why why why? – do grown men encourage other people to call them by the nickname “Tiny”? And of course, they never are actually tiny. If they were, they would probably have gotten rid of the name, even if it took threats and bribes. But it’s always these big guys with perfectly ordinary names who will say, “But you can call me Tiny” or who run under the name “John ‘Tiny’ Doe.”

                5. Aitch Arr*

                  Blanket is a nickname. His real name is Prince Michael II, but he goes by BG or Bigi.

              2. RJGM*

                Yep — the first time I voted (in Texas), there was a candidate on the ballot named Jane “Spicybrown” Doe. (Clearly I don’t remember her real name, only the nickname…)

                If she can run for state office as Spicybrown, OP, you can be Lulu in your office.

              3. The Southern Gothic*

                Can Confirm. Have worked with Buzz, Bug, Smithy, Ruthie and Sissy. All were managers.

              4. Oxford Coma*

                Agree with you on the diversity! It has been a bit difficult to get used to calling a European colleague a name that is a racist slur in the U.S., but it’s his actual given name.

                1. EbbyBee*

                  Can you give us a hint as to what that is? I can’t think of what that could possibly be.

              5. Arjay*

                It’s common in the south for adults to actually be named, on their birth certificates, Johnny, Jimmy, Terry, etc. Calling them John, James, or Terrence is an incorrect overcorrection.

                1. whingedrinking*

                  I had a teacher in middle school who insisted on calling people by their “real” names. One student found this so enraging that he finally brought in his birth certificate to prove that his “full” name was Nick, not Nicholas – and she still refused to call him anything but Neek-oh-LA (it was a French immersion class). I was fortunate enough that, while my name does have a French version, I use the Welsh form of it rather than the English, and almost nobody makes the connection.

                2. K.*

                  I know a number of people whose full, on-the-birth-certificate names are nicknames: Jennie, Kate, Meg, Terry (male), Jackie.

                3. Tafadhali*

                  My mom’s siblings all have nickname names. It was very common in the ’50s and ’60s too, even outside of the South. It’s a constant refrain of “Nope, just Robbie, not Roberta — Roberta is my sister.” (Not joking. There is a Bobbie and a Robbie.)

                  (Actually, come to think of it, all the ones who DON’T have nickname names, like Bobbie, use nicknames too. If my aunt can be “Cookie” in the workplace, surely this woman can go by Lulu.)

            2. Nerdling*

              I know of a Sheriff who goes by his nickname, which is similar to “Pistachio” (it’s a food word). That’s an elected position. People have literally voted repeatedly over the past two-ish decades for a guy whose nickname is a snack. Lulu sounds downright refined in comparison.

          2. Mookie*

            It sounds a bit like an Enid Blyton book about rebellious schoolchildren

            Exactly what I thought of! Or, rather, The Comic Strip Presents… parody of it, Five Go Mad in Dorset.

            1. Falling Diphthong*

              I need to check this out. At age 7 my daughter adored the Enid Blyton books, to the extent that we had an argument as to who decides whether an 8 year old goes to boarding school. I loved how they reliably found a secret passage in every book–it was a wonder the seaside village hadn’t collapsed into the sea long ago.

              1. Betsy*

                The books gave me quite unrealistic expectations about life. I’ve never once come across hidden catacombs and have not apprehended one smuggler. If I ever write a children’s book I’ll make certain the highlights are submitting taxes or maybe getting to have a coffee break…

                1. Tuesday Next*

                  Me too. I longed to be allowed to go on unsupervised adventures with my 8 year old friends, and imagined myself solving crimes and defeating baddies on a regular basis :)

                2. boo*

                  Oh I went on all those kinds of adventures! Some people said the catacombs were my mother’s basement, or the bad guy (who lived to fight another day) was my neighbor’s cat, but that’s only because they were fooled by the clever plots of the international spy ring!

                  Speaking of books, let us not forget the storied hater of the name Louise, Jean-Louise Finch, AKA Scout of To Kill A Mockingbird :) You’re in great literary company, Lulu!

                3. Nonnon*

                  I had a similar experience as a child. The closest I ever got was the time me and some friends found a Marks and Spencer’s bag full of bones in a local copse.

                  Turns out they were cow bones, probably from someone having a covert barbecue. :(

                4. FD*

                  When I was ten, my parents nearly bought an old Victorian but didn’t. I was devastated because I loved Nancy Drew books and was certain that any house like that must have at least one secret passage and probably a clue to some treasure.

                5. Jennifer Thneed*

                  The doors… the doors that NEVER opened into ANYTHING interesting… They should have done. It was quite clear to me.

                  I am currently listening to “Anne of Green Gables” on Craftlit. The reader is superb, the podcaster’s additions before and after each chunk of chapters are interesting, sometimes helpful, and always adds depth. It’s amazing to me how much more is going on in that book than I remembered from my childhood reading. (And no magic in that book, but a child’s powerful imagination! She *also* knew that there were magic doors and hidden catacombs in ordinary places.)

          1. Mookie*

            I feel like people here are forgetting that Lulu is an international treasure and her Bond theme is at least in the top five*.

            *for Bond fans who are masochists (but I repeat myself)

            1. Kit*

              Whaaaat “The Man With the Golden Gun” is both awful and catchy, which makes it the worst sort of Bond theme!

            2. Daisy*

              Yeah I couldn’t make anything of the OP’s mention of ‘negative connotations’, since the singer is absolutely the only Lulu I’ve heard of. People hate Boom Bang-a-Bang that much?

              1. Airy*

                I thought they were saying Louise had negative connotations, which I can only think is a strictly personal thing, eg they knew a Louise growing up who was horrible to them, so they feel upset by the name but know people who didn’t know Horrible Louise wouldn’t understand why.

          2. High Score!*

            I worked with a Cinnamon. It was weird at first, especially since half the office had actual spice names given to them at birth and we were all engineers, sales, and management. The weirdness wore off quickly as I got used to hearing and using the names.

            1. Non Anon*

              Random question, but do you remember what the other spice names were? My kid has a spice name so I’m always curious which others are out there!

              1. Goosela*

                I’m not the person you asked, but I also work with a Cinnamon. I have a cousin named Rosemary. Had a rival back in my swimming days named Ginger.

                I forget the movie…but I just watched something in which the protagonist was named Sage (though, now that I am thinking of it, it may have been her last name that she just went by)

                Those are the only herb/spice names I’ve come into contact with….along with, of course, Saffron from Donovan’s Mellow Yellow :)

          3. Goosela*

            I work with a Cinnamon too…except it’s not spelled “correctly” (Obviously it’s right, it’s her name, she spells it how it was given to her). Drove me crazy for the longest time. Now I am…kind of…used to it. I still get her email wrong on occasion.

            I wouldn’t think twice about a Lulu either!

          4. Kelsi*

            I’m a burlesque dancer and all of the stage names in our troupe are “sweet” themed…it’s amazing how quickly your brain adjusts to thinking of names like Cinnamon and Honey as “that’s just her name, nothing weird about that.”

            (It really, REALLY throws me off when someone around me uses my stage name as a generic endearment, not aimed at me, because it takes me a minute to remember that it’s not “my name” per se)

          5. SusanIvanova*

            I wonder how many Cinnamons had parents who were fans of the original Mission:Impossible.

        2. Specialk9*

          I have no idea what the connotations of Lulu are – but I wouldn’t blink an eye, remotely. Like, at all.

          And if you work in business for any amount of time, you get comfortable with people from all over the world work names and nicknames that are a bit out of the norm. (Though I’ll admit I laughed at “Meow-Meow” as a name.)

        3. Kateshellybo19*

          My college financial advisor was named Muffin (and yes it was her real name) I also worked with a lady name Princess.

      2. Lindsay J*

        That was my first thought.

        Lulu for Louise is no different than using Dotty instead of Dorothy, and I worked with 2 women in the same office who used that nickname. Both were older women, and nobody though they were being anything less than completely professional in going by what they preferred.

      3. Ali*

        I work with a Kenyan woman whose name is Lioness which I think is kind of amazing. Bring on the unusual names, variety is the spice of life!

    2. HannahS*

      Yeah. I think it’s possible that when whoever gave you that advice was herself growing up, it wasn’t considered professional to use any nickname that was used in childhood–so Billy would have to become William when he entered the white-collar workforce, and Jenny would become Jennifer, etc. because those nicknames were strongly associated with childhood. But that’s just not true anymore, and I don’t think it’s been for a while. I know plenty of middle-aged white-collar professionals who go by nickname-like names, like Terri (Theresa), Hank, Patty, Andy, Drew, Suze, etc.

      Go forth and be Lulu.

      1. many bells down*

        I’ve gone back to using “Jenny” at my volunteer job because I think it sounds friendlier than Jen or Jennifer. Since I’m interacting with guests all day I’m supposed to be “friendly and approachable at all times.”

    3. Wendy Darling*

      I can think of two different NPR reporters called Lulu. If it’s good enough for NPR it’s good enough for work!

      1. AvonLady Barksdale*

        I was thinking of Lulu Garcia-Navarro when I read the letter and how confused I was when she stopped using “Lourdes”, but I am a reasonable adult and I got used to it.

        1. Rusty Shackelford*

          I remember being fascinated when she referred to herself as Lourdes but the host called her Lulu. It seemed so intimate.

        2. Elizabeth H.*

          Me too :) I remember when she started going by it and thought of that immediately. I actually feel like there’s been a switch in the last couple years when journalists, NPR reporters, etc. have started addressing their colleagues a little more colloquially on the air. Like Kelefa Sanneh goes by K, Louis Menand goes by Luke, etc. And of course – Cokie Roberts.

      2. GG Two shoes*

        NPR has the best reporter names. I feel like David Green is such an outlier there.

        1. lawyer*

          Every time Ofeibea Quist-Arcton is announced, I sigh with joy. The most regal name of all time.

          1. Marillenbaum*

            Right? She’s a GEM. I once saw this thing about how to make your “NPR name”, which is your first name minus one letter, and the smallest town you’ve ever visited–so for instance, mine would be Vitoria Altenmarkt.

            1. whingedrinking*

              The smallest town I’ve ever visited is named after my great-grandfather, so I feel like that’s cheating somehow. :P

            2. TootsNYC*

              Alley Beaconsfield!

              (I don’t think Beaconsfield is big enough to have actual alleys.)

    4. Diamond*

      Yep, I worked with a guy called Larry for ages before I realized his real name was James. I have no idea if Larry was his middle name or just a different name entirely, but everyone called him that. The only confusing part was that his email address used the first initial J, not L. But Lulu won’t even have that issue and it’s clearly related to Louise.

    5. Kaittastic*

      I worked with a Kitty. I was a little surprised but it really wasn’t a big deal

    6. WonderingHowIGotHere*

      I have, in my professional life, worked with two different women called “Angel”, another whose *given* name was “Princess” (she had six names before her surname, including “Angel” as well – I think her parents were so desperate to have a girl, they overdid it somewhat – she went by Francesca, one of her more sensible middle names), and a man known as “Stubs” – which was unfortunate in more ways than one…

      1. Marillenbaum*

        My old history teacher in high school had a student with a name she (the student) absolutely hated–something like Venus Romance Jones. The girl in question was quite nerdy and serious, and felt like her name made her sound ditzy. As soon as she turned 18, she changed her name to Charlotte Venus Jones, and later became Judge Charlotte V. Jones in our town.

      2. Rae*

        My husband almost got in hot water over someone named Princess. He was in alumni relations and she was one of the student reps. A few people thought that might have been an inappropriate pet name for a student and he had to be REALLY clear it wasn’t. She also wanted to make sure nothing happened to him by going to everyone and introducing herself.

      3. Arwen*

        I work for a company that employes a woman called “Princess”. I don’t give two f’s: I feel worse for her colleague who shares a surname with a well-known Nazi-collaborator :-/

    7. Lulu - OP #2*

      Thanks so much for all your very kind and supportive comments, I really appreciate it. I’m working on making some changes career-wise and this has been incredibly helpful towards building my confidence to apply for more senior positions with the name that actually makes me feel like the person I am inside. Thanks all :)

      1. Jess*

        Alison’s advice focusses on using a job change as an easy opportunity to change your name, but I think in the right environment you could start now anyway. I can imagine having a casual conversation with my coworkers and saying I’d decided to start using my preferred nickname and letting it start slipping in organically – introducing yourself to new people as Lulu, it becoming the name used for you in casual chats etc. I suppose it depends on how rigid and big your workplace is – this could work better with a smaller team.

        1. JanetM*

          Some years ago, a coworker mentioned that she really preferred her middle name to her first name. Our manager asked if she’d like to go by her middle name, and so for about a month, everyone called her “First name, uh, middle name,” then “Fi—Middle name,” then “Middle name.” None of us thought her any less professional.

          1. Midge*

            In elementary school, I went by the one syllable nickname for my two syllable name (think Sal instead of Sally). Half way through fourth grade, I decided I wanted to go by my entire name. So I made an announcement one morning and for the rest of the year it was, “oh hi, Sal….. ly.”

            OP, I assume your coworkers would be better at this than a bunch of 9-year-olds. You’ll probably have to prompt people for a while, but they’ll get the hang of it eventually. Also, Lulu is an awesome name!

          2. pandop*

            Yes, we had the reverse when a colleague moved into our team. She preferred the full version of her name, rather than the short version her previous team used. It took a little while for those of us who had worked with her before to make the change completely, but we all managed. There were just a few weeks of short name, sorry, full name until we got used to it.

          3. many bells down*

            My daughter went through a period of preferring her middle name. Unfortunately, her middle name is Isis. So… probably not one she’ll be using for a bit.

          4. Fergus, Stealer of Pens and Microwaver of Fish*

            I have a friend who a few years ago decided to change her name to something completely different. I did the “old name, uh, new name” a few times, and then like magic, it was like she had never had any other name before because the new one just fit so well.

          5. AMPG*

            I had a colleague who got married and changed her last name, and decided to start going by her middle name as her first, as well. So instead of “Ginny Hobblethorpe,” she was suddenly “Olivia Greyson.” It was a bit odd at first to have such a drastic transition, but I think she was ultimately smart to do it all at once.

      2. Be the Change*

        Go ahead and do it now. We have someone in my office who changed from, say, Pamela to Pammy for completely personal reasons. We all took a few days to get used to it and it’s fine.

      3. CarrieT*

        For what it’s worth, I had no idea Louise had negative connotations. No clue what that refers to. I have two friends who have named their babies Louisa and I think it’s beautiful (though I know it’s a slightly different name). Just “Lou” would be a cool professional nickname as well.

        1. JessaB*

          It may be a personal family issue not a general issue with the name Louise. I know that I was originally first named with the name of a woman the family hated and that there is not a single photograph of me in her presence anywhere in existence so I was never taken to meet her, but she was the rich one, so they tried it anyway to play favour. Soon as I had a chance I dropped that name, because NOBODY called me it and I had to deal with explaining to every school and official why you don’t call me that. It was a pain.

      4. Former Hoosier*

        That was seriously bad advice. My doctoral advisor is named Kit. I have no idea if that is short for anything or her name is Kit. Either way she was incredible successful. And my best friend is named Kandi (not even Candace or anything) and she is also successful.

        I do agree that there used to be this idea that when you started working you would use your “grown up” name and I did make that choice ie using Jennifer instead of Jenny. But my husband did the opposite ie still uses Andy instead of Andrew. I don’t think either has made a jot of difference in our careers.

      5. Casuan*

        Lulu, when you need to make a correction it’s best to do it as soon as you can.
        eg: If you’re introduced as “Louise” you can simply say “Actually, it’s Lulu” or even just “Lulu. Fergus, good to meet you.”

        Tone & demeanour are what sell this; if you’re matter-of-fact about the correction then most people won’t be offended. You might need to grandfather a few people in, although they shouldn’t be offended if you succinctly correct others to “Lulu.”

    8. Countess Boochie Flagrante*


      The moment I turned 18, I stopped using my legal first name and started using a TOTALLY UNRELATED one that fit me better. It was a pain in the butt for about 10 years only because it caused confusion, not because of any questions of professionalism.

      In 2015, I finally bit the bullet and got it legally changed. OP, depending on where you live, a legal name change could very well be an option for you, too!

      1. Damn it, Hardison!*

        I am really hoping that you changed your name to Contess Boochie Flangrante, because that would be so awesome. (You probably didn’t but I like to dream).

        1. Countess Boochie Flagrante*

          Hah! Tragically, I did not, but now I’m contemplating how many people would come to a Countess Boochie Flagrante for investment advice.

          1. Oxford Coma*

            If people will take investment advice from a former member of Guns N Roses, they will take it from a Countess Boochie Flagrante.

          2. King Friday XIII*

            It certainly sounds like the name of someone who’s been living in exile for twenty years and has had to make her investments last.

      2. Lindsay J*

        Yeah, my boss at a previous job went by a completely different first name than her given first name. And other than a momentary bit of confusion when I was first hired (hmm, it says here that I’ll be reporting to Rachelle, but I was interviewed by Dawn. I wonder if they are sisters or married or if it’s just a coincidence?) it was not a big deal. In fact, it wasn’t any sort of deal. And it was good because it helped us ferret out sales people, etc, that were cold calling because anyone who actually knew her and/or had any real reason to get in touch with her would be calling for Dawn, not Rachelle.

    9. Say what, now?*

      There’s just one thing I would urge you to be sure to do: tell the person that books your travel what name is on your passport!!!

      I have a friend who goes by Jackson, always has everywhere we were whether we were in college or working a coffee shop and now that he’s a professional in the software sector. His birth name, and the name on his passport, is David. The person who books his travel was unaware of this and booked his tickets under the name Jackson. He was handed his ticket the day before his flight and he didn’t look at it until he was at the airport. You wouldn’t imagine the amount of trouble this caused. He almost didn’t make it to the conference.

      1. Countess Boochie Flagrante*

        Yeah, there’s definitely that part of it. Also, if anyone is writing you a check for any reason! After I started going by my new name conventionally but before I changed it legally, I had some people I had to chase down because they’d written a check to Boochie when it needed to be made out to Bertha.

        1. JessaB*

          You might not have a problem with a cheque, but you have to arrange with your bank in advance. It’s kind of like someone who writes under a pen name having a DBA letter with their bank. A good banker will be able to handle Boochie/Bertha if they’re warned when you open the account.

          1. Woman*

            I’m not sure you *have* to arrange it with your bank in advance. I’ve always been able to intermittently deposit checks written out to a different first name, and at most it was just the bank employee asking me verbally if that was me without any sort of backup needed. I think it’s common enough (especially in more diverse regions) that banks are just used to it.

        2. many bells down*

          I had that issue with my sibling, who has gone from “Ms. Rachel Bellsdown” to “Mr. Ray Bellsdown.” Just forgot the first time to double-check which name was on his bank account.

        3. Kelsi*

          Haha that depends on your bank. I swear I don’t think mine even looks. I have a fake last name on Facebook for Reasons, and even people who have known me for years sometimes use that name by mistake. (I gave my boss so much shit when we went to a site where we had to sign in and she signed me in using that name–given she regularly processes my timesheet and other documentation with my real last name!)

          I’ve never had problems cashing checks made out to MisspelledFirstName FakeFBLastName.

          1. Countess Boochie Flagrante*

            I think part of the problem I had was that I was using a smallish credit union, so they weren’t as accustomed as larger institutions to handling stuff like this. I got a lot of “uhhh I’m not sure we can do that” from them about various things.

            Now I work for McBigBank and just bank with my employer cause the employee perks are pretty sweet.

      2. neverjaunty*

        Shouldn’t the person booking the travel have confirmed “I need your name the way it appears on your ID” routinely?

        1. Say what, now?*

          It was just a casual duty of the person since they didn’t have an allocated officer for that duty at the time. But I would argue that it’s on the person going by the nickname to acknowledge that it is a nickname since the norm is that you would go by your birth name or a reasonable approximation, like Dave instead of David or Sam instead of Samuel.

          1. Someone else*

            I knew someone who would occasionally have this problem in the other direction. As in, his name was Sam. Just Sam. Not short for Samuel or anything else. Word to making it a SOP that anyone who books travel for anyone else must confirm the exact name before booking.

            1. Miss Pantalones en Fuego (formerly Floundering Mander)*

              My grandpa was the same! No other names, just Sam Surname.

            2. Zoe Karvounopsina*

              One of my cousins did that. I had to sit through an entire meal of my aunt wailing that no one would take him seriously! What if he wanted to be Prime Minister?

      3. Artemesia*

        This works when booking a spouse too. On a trip to China where my husband was accompanying me and the entire group from the area was being booked by our office, an admin in another office who didn’t know me booked my husband’s ticket in my name i.e. William Myname rather than William Hisname. (I had provided his name but somehow she whiffed it) Airlines are unforgiving for no other reason than they can be and not only was it an enormous hassle but even though there was a booking for him on my flight, the airline would not change the ticket on that flight, and so we ended up flying at different times through different cities and not connecting again till Narita. Not a tragedy but danged annoying.

        1. Mephyle*

          Annoying indeed, but it’s worth noting that airlines are unforgiving about names not just to make it difficult for regular travelers, but to make it difficult for travelers with nefarious designs who might want to book a ticket using a false name in order to commit a violent act.

        2. many bells down*

          Ugh this just happened to my friends. The airline put his last name on her ticket, and when they called to correct the error, the airline canceled the ticket. And didn’t tell them. They found out 24 hours before their flight to Hong Kong when she tried to check in and couldn’t.

        3. Mad Baggins*

          Also it’s not an airline’s job (or an immigration officer’s, or flight attendant’s…) to know common nicknames for names from around the world and be able to infer that it’s the correct person. If I were an American airline, I wouldn’t want to be responsible for knowing common Thai or Indonesian or Ethiopian nicknames!

      4. Nanani*

        Oh that’s a good point. Ditto visas (the “long term international travel” kind, not the credit card) and such. If staff is booking it for you make sure they have both unless/until you make legal changes.

    10. Ms. Meow*

      I have a common American female name/nickname (think Jennifer/Jenny). In my current job, though my email address is Jennifer, everyone knows me as Jenny and that’s what my business cards say. It happened accidentally: when a member of the hiring committee called me the first time, they got my voicemail which said “You have reached Jenny Meow…” and they just went with it. I grew up with the impression that I would use Jenny personally but would HAVE to use Jennifer professionally. This happy accident changed everything! I’m now applying for new positions, and my resume and cover letters and LinkedIn all have Jenny Meow as my name. It feels so freeing because I never liked going by Jennifer, and people always tell me I seem more like a Jenny than a Jennifer. Taking control of your name is a wonderful feeling.

    11. Phoenix Programmer*

      I think the only thing to bear in mind spelled may find it’s little off at first but then will take your cues and move forward. If you make it A Thing it will be A Thing.

      I work with a Honey and honestly it bothers me a bit. Mostly because I work with her exclusively on the phone and whenever I have a call with her people gawk like I am sweet talking my husband until they hear enough tech Jargon to realize I am not.

      Even then I don’t begrudge her name so much as I get annoyed getting the side eye while working. Lulu should be fine.

    12. danr*

      Your name will be unique and everyone will know who you are. Imagine being one of five people with the same name. My old firm had five Patricia’s and they all liked “Pat” as their name, so it was Names Pat, Network Pat, etc. You get the picture.

      1. whingedrinking*

        At one point in my life there was Actor Dan, Stage Manager Dan, Teacher Dan, High School Dan and Boss-Man Dan. And those were just the ones I spoke of/to often enough to need to distinguish them.
        Of the many, multiplying Andrews in my life, we shall not speak.

    13. ThatOneRedhead*

      I work with many international colleagues who have chosen atypical English names – think Ice Cream, Sunshine, and Happy. They are no less professional than anyone else. Enjoy the confidence boost from being Lulu!

      1. Legal Beagle*

        That is delightful! Do they know their chosen names are unusual, and they just picked things they liked? I love quirky names, so this strikes me as uniquely wonderful.

        1. Artemesia*

          I have worked with many Chinese nationals who do that. They usually pick an actual name but one that is not common and often ones like Jewel, Ruby, Pearl etc or flower names.

          1. ThatGirl*

            We have a factory in China and I’ve interacted with them some over email – one goes by Apple.

            1. HollyWeird*

              Sometimes it can end up being a direct translation of the meaning of their Chinese name. Living in China, I knew people who directly translated their names to choose their English names — Peace, Star Moon, Cloud, Sky, etc. On the other hand I also knew a couple Rambos.

          2. whingedrinking*

            Conversely, I find a lot of men in particular will choose a name that seems very old-fashioned to North Americans – stuff like Harold and Franklin.

        2. attie*

          Some of them are also just locally popular “English” names. I’d never heard “Queenie” before coming here but approximately every other office lady I meet here is called Queenie!

      2. Lindsay J*

        There was a women in a different department at one of my jobs that went with “Electron” as her english name. I really liked it.

        We also always had a lot of Suns and Moons and Mays and other names of that nature.

    14. Jenny*

      It only gets weird for me if it’s a silly nickname. Like I had one boss – in Texas – who was like “My name is Mike but all my friends call me Tex so you can call me Tex” and I swear no one called him Tex. He was just trying to get this started. I called him Mike.

      In college I worked with a guy who was like “My name is Tom but all of my friends call me Big Dog. I’d prefer to go by Big Dog” – I’m not joking. We were like “Nah, you’re going to be Tom.” I’m not saying to someone “Oh you need help with the AV equipment, just go over there and ask for Big Dog.”

      1. Non Anon*

        Reminds me of an episode of 30 Rock where Pete tries to get the nickname “Dallas” going, and no one will call him that.

      2. Roja*

        I actually knew a Tex in college… and yep, everyone called him that. It wasn’t his real name but the nickname did suit him!

      3. Kelsi*

        Haha the easiest way to discourage anyone from using the nickname you’re trying to get started is “My name is X but my friends call me Y.” Like…just say “Hi, I’m Nickname Lastname! Nice to meet you.” Don’t give them the option.

        1. AMPG*

          In college, a friend of mine decided I needed a nickname that wasn’t in any way related to my given name. He came up with one, and I approved it, and he single-handedly got our entire social circle to switch over just by always calling me by that name and introducing me to new people that way. By the time I graduated there were a number of people who didn’t actually know my given name at all. It was pretty cool.

    15. with a twist*

      I’ve worked with hyper-competent women named Candy and Tequila, both of whom knocked my socks off with their work regardless of their names. Go by Lulu!

    16. Turquoisecow*

      My husband has a great-uncle whose real name is Gordon, but regularly goes by Jim. The story is that his mother wanted a boy named Jimmy, but his father flat out refused, and insisted he be named Gordon, so his mother just called him Jim anyway.

      I’m not sure which name he uses more professionally (he’s a lawyer), but friends and family regularly switch between Gordon and Jim, so I assume it’s come up.

    17. D'Arcy*

      I’m required to use my legal name on official paperwork because it semi-regularly goes to court, but my company is absolutely fine with me otherwise using my nickname that has no relation to my legal name.

    18. SkyePilot*

      We have a international, well known, corporate partner, and one of the people assigned to work with us from that partner has a name…well…it’s a doozy. And I’m pretty sure it’s their honest-to-goodness name. Every time I hear it, it feels like a euphemism for a unicorn fart or something.

      So if they can be a unicorn fart, there’s no reason you can’t go by LuLu!

        1. SkyePilot*

          This may even be saying too much, it’s that unique…but think something along the lines of “First name: Food Product/Spice/Condiment Last Name: Weather Event/Terminology”. For the record, they are a lovely person! Just a very unfortunate name.

          1. Miss Pantalones en Fuego (formerly Floundering Mander)*

            Ketchup Tornado? Tortilla Front? Cardamom Heatwave? Harissa Hurricane? Sugar Snow? Pepper Sleet?

            1. Sam Yao*

              Harissa Hurricane is my new burlesque name. I don’t even do burlesque but I’m going to start just so I can call myself Harissa Hurricane.

    19. Ophelia*

      Yes! Anecdotally, I work with someone who has a nickname along the lines of “Bunny” and everyone respects her because she does excellent work. I can’t recall an instance of anyone challenging the use of her nickname!

    20. Clever Name*

      Absolutely go by the name you normally use. I’ve known grown men who go by names such as “Mikey” and “Bobby” both personally and professionally. I use an uncommon diminutive of my fairly common first name that I’ve always gone by, and I think it’s an advantage. I recently changed my name (and I’m mid-career and becoming well-known in my industry) and it’s been basically a non-event because of my somewhat unusual first name. It’s your name, own it. :)

    21. Queen Bee*

      Completely agree, OP#2 use what you want. I personally know of a stranger case of a name change, involving a woman in a customer facing role, not at my work though, but I do interact with the company fairly often. I have to be vague describing it (though I’d love to be more specific because it’s funny), since it was so odd that anyone reading a more detailed description on here, who works with her, would know exactly who she is. So let’s call her Jennie. Jennie has a customer facing role, often sends mass emails as part of her job, most people in the department and building she works in, know who she is; she is an amicable person to deal with. After a leave of absence or vacation, she came back with a changed name – she changed her name to Zsa zsa. Her new name is not related to her previous name, or at least not a name that any of her coworkers are aware of. There probably is a more personal reason for this change, but it’s no one’s business. And it changed basically overnight in emails, daily interactions, etc. And she still has the same (good) job and role and I was told that while people gossiped a little at first, they quickly got over it and call her by her new name. If she can be Zsa zsa, you ca be Lulu.

  2. LouiseM*

    OP#3, this makes me really nervous. We’ve seen so many letters where a cliquey atmosphere turns sour and makes a workplace miserable, but it seems like often in those letters the boss in question doesn’t even realize there are cliques. So good on you for noticing! I agree with Alison that you should watch like a hawk for any signs that Veronica is snubbing other coworkers for doing the same favors her friends do. Someone who feels the need to announce to the whole office that she’s buying somebody lunch sounds like someone who craves attention. Make sure that her “nice gestures” don’t turn into a way of bullying less popular coworkers, if they haven’t already.

    1. Keep Your Eyes On The Prize*

      It’s also an attempt to buy loyalty with her team. The next time she needs a favour the unspoken context is “You owe me because I over-rewarded you last time.”

    2. Bacon pancakes*

      I feel that the over-announcements are more problematic than the actual gesture. Take whoever you want to lunch, but don’t announce it to everyone. Especially when someone “on the outside” does the same task and just gets a “thanks, bye”.

      1. Legal Beagle*

        Exactly. The announcement is unnecessary and exclusionary, not to mention disruptive. I worked in a very small office and we all got along well but had varying degrees of closeness/friendship, so I would go out to lunch with some coworkers but not others. I’d never announce it though, nor would anyone else. That is calling attention in a way that seems intended to make it a THING (aka cause drama). No good will come of this.

      2. Not a Blossom*

        That was my thought. She can treat whoever she wants to lunch, but she shouldn’t be making these grand announcements because it will absolutely cause at least discomfort (if not resentment).

      3. TootsNYC*

        My reaction to this “lunch because you switched schedules” is that the COMPANY is the one who benefitted, and the one who asked the favor.

        I would want so much to squelch that kind of behavior.

        There’s also the idea that when veronica makes a fuss like this, it leaves the implication the everybody should do this. And so for that reason I’d ask her to stop with the announcements, and that she should tone down the thank-yous.

    3. phr*

      @Louise M:

      We have an office bully who does this exact thing. Treats someone like crap, gets called out by either the victim or mgmt…….first reaction (besides vehement denial) is a list of “ALLLLLL THE THINGS I’VE DONE FOR YOU”…..good call re: staying on the lookout for this.

      1. Lindsay J*

        Sounds like my abusive ex, honestly.

        Grand gestures can be pretty common in abusive relationships for exactly that reason – it makes it more difficult for the victim to leave when the abuser can trot out this list of “great” things they’ve done, and, more insidiously, it can make it more likely that family and friends see them as a good person and thus be less likely to support the victim in leaving. “I mean come on, Jim can’t be all bad. Didn’t he buy you that gorgeous diamond bracelet last month? It really sounds like he loves you and that he’s trying to make amends for before.”

  3. Princess Consuela Banana Hammock*

    OP#1, is there any diplomatic way to refer her to EAP? I’m so stuck on this one because you’re peers, and I’m not sure what your boss has tried (or not tried).

    Honestly, that level of crying doesn’t sound normal, and it sounds emotionally exhausting for you and your colleagues. It requires lot of emotional labor to deal with someone’s five-hour crying, or sobbing, when you’ve done nothing cruel, unkind, or inappropriate. But I also can’t help but think someone who’s set off so easily is also probably suffering… because isn’t crying that often and long also exhausting?

    1. Artemesia*

      I feel for the OP who doesn’t have authority to deal with this. The manager should not be tolerating it. A continuing inability to function in the workplace without dumping this kind of emotional crap all over everyone is completely unprofessional. If I were her manager I would insist that she get this under control and point her to EA if that is available and if she fails to take steps to do so, I’d fire her. This should have been dealt with the third or 4th time it happened. It is unfair to inflict on those who have to work with her. It doesn’t sound like management has made this clear to her but it ignoring it.

      1. Augusta Sugarbean*

        The OP may not have the authority to make this person adjust their behavior but I can’t see why the OP couldn’t suggest the EAP as a coworker (assuming the OP wants to) – especially if the manager isn’t stepping up. “This level of emotion in the workplace is going to affect you professionally. You seem to be going through a hard time. Here’s how to access the EAP.”

        I mean it’s not this person’s coworkers’ jobs to be shoulders to cry on but what’s the alternative? It sounds exhausting, OP. I’m sorry you have to deal with this.

        1. Coffee Cup*

          Frankly I am surprised that there was never a conversation that started with “Why are you crying?” Especially the first couple of times, people were probably mortified and went to apologize, not knowing what they had done. How come the ridiculous reasons didn’t come out then and no one reacted?

          1. Mookie*

            Well, likely because she immediately cried after being corrected, so the reason was obvious, and became more so when she would repeat the pattern whenever she felt wounded by what was being said to her.

            I’d have a hard time not asking her to stop or to leave the shared workspace, so I wouldn’t trust myself to address her any further during the sobbing.

            1. Coffee Cup*

              I feel like my immediate reaction would be a very surprised “But wait, are you crying because I said that? Why?” or something along those lines.

              1. Scarlet*

                Yeah, me too. I don’t think I could just keep my mouth shut and pretend nothing is happening.

            2. Antilles*

              Strong disagree. I don’t think the reason is obvious in some of those cases – the pen thing in particular would completely catch me off guard.
              The way OP wrote it, this seems like a very brief “hey, just wanted to duck my head into your cube real quick and ask you to use blue ink next time; no big deal, it’s just a legal thing so we can identify the original”. If co-worker immediately started crying uncontrollably over that, I would NOT think I was the cause of that because it’s such a minor issue that I legitimately wouldn’t even make the connection.
              My first instinct instead would be to assume there was something major going on in her personal life and I’d just caught her at a really bad time when she was still processing the Really Bad News about her (dying family member/medical issue/breakup/etc).

              1. LQ*

                Yeah, this would have been my assumption too. At least the first time. (After it happens multiple times I think you change that.) I had someone who grabbed me to tell me something completely innocuous immediately after I’d gotten some really horrible news of a surprising death in the family and I held it together for about 50% of the conversation and then broke down and excused myself. I went back later to explain but it was absolutely about the timing of the phone call and hanging up and then the person walking into my cube. I hadn’t even begun to process the phone call and my mind was still 100% on that. They just launched in, which normally fine. But this time it was not about needing to change the meeting time or whatever it was.

                I think if it is happening more than once though you can start to draw those conclusions that it is about the feedback.

          2. LBK*

            Agreed – I’m wondering how these interactions are resolving. Do people just walk away when she starts crying? Even if I didn’t have a good response prepared I think my natural response would be something along the lines of “Um…are you okay? It’s just a pen…”

          3. TootsNYC*

            I’m a little surprised that people haven’t been really short and annoyed with her. Rolled their eyes, let their annoyance show in their face, etc.

            (which can’t be helping her, of course)

        2. TootsNYC*

          I agree, a coworker can say, “This seems to be causing you a lot of difficulty. You don’t have to struggle like this; help is available in the world. Our company has an EAP that could help; our insurance does cover emotional coaching.”

          I personally might add, “I got help with X using CBT; maybe that would help you a lot. From what my therapist told me, I think it might help you a lot as well. This is hard on you, you do not have to suffer.”

          Honestly, someone could be my enemy at work, and if I thought they were truly suffering (and this woman is), I’d say something.

      2. Penny Lane*

        Agree with Artemesia. It’s inappropriate and unprofessional and completely out of whack to the criticism. If she can’t take polite feedback on a silly ink color requirement which had no bad consequences for the company or for her, what happens when she makes a mistake on something that has consequences and needs to be dealt with? Will managers avoid giving her feedback at all?

        1. Amber T*

          This is what the awful cynic in me thinks. She may very well just be awful at dealing with any criticism. Or she may be purposely becoming “that crying employee” so that she doesn’t have to deal with any hard conversations, effectively making her job safe to all but the most heartless of managers.

          1. Granny K*

            Personally, I find it to be somewhat manipulative…so I guess that makes me really cynical.

        2. a1*

          And this isn’t even criticism, it’s instructions or directions. “Files these by dates, please” and “Hey, we don’t use black ink for that”. I can’t imagine what she’d be like with actual criticism.

      3. Snark*

        I agree with Agusta Sugarbean – I think that just as someone who will occasionally have to interact with this person and deliver constructive feedback at times, OP is well within her rights to say something like, “We need to be able to interact with you, train you, and deliver constructive feedback that might not be positive, and that can’t happen if you’re bursting into tears over even minor workflow and process corrections. If you don’t know we have an EAP, here’s that info, but this is making it impossible to work with you and it’s going to stop your career dead in its tracks, so I strongly suggest getting it under control.”

        And I think it’s worth banding together the office and sitting the boss down for a chat to express how difficult it is to deal with this. This isn’t frustration-crying or a brief attack of the sniffles – she’s sobbing. That’s a level of intensity nobody should have to tolerate from a coworker.

        1. Lindsay J*

          For hours!

          That’s what gets me.

          Like, even if she were full out sobbing and crying, but ran to the bathroom at the first opportunity, got herself together, and then was able to complete the rest of her day like normal, it would still be a more intense than usual reaction but one I could work around.

          The OP says she is sobbing and teary for the rest of the work day. 5 hours! I don’t even know how I would deal with that.

          It really does sound like there is something more at play here than just being unable to deal with criticism well, and, whether it is just the criticism or something else at play it really does sound like she would benefit from therapy to be able to reframe her thinking a bit. Whatever is at play here, it can’t be fun for her to be this upset and crying at work all the time, either.

          1. Snark*

            I think this is an important distinction – yes, many people, including many posters here, react to stress or strong emotion by crying, but there’s a big difference between being able to pull it together and continue to be professional, and just losing control for the better part of a day.

            1. Pollygrammer*

              I cry at work all the time. But I hide in the bathroom to do it like an adult. :)

            2. Not So NewReader*

              I am thinking of the times in my life where I had a very low bar. I still did not cry all day. And if I could work by myself for a bit I would improve greatly. Sometimes life wears on us, sometimes it’s bad. It baffles me that she does not cue in at least one person, “Hey rough patch in life, but I am working on it.”
              I am hoping she is not in big trouble but it’s looking like this might be the case.

          2. Willow Sunstar*

            Is it possible this person has been emotionally abused in her personal life? I had a very hypercritical parent & it took me years before I could accept criticism at all.

            That having been said, I would suggest using the sandwich method, every time, for this peraon. She probably needs therapy, but yes, at some point she will have to be able to function in the workplace.

            1. The Bill Murray Disagreement*

              The sandwich method is terrible, though. And this person is not having trouble hearing criticism, they are incapable of dealing with any form of correction at all. The sandwich method probably would not help.

              1. Mad Baggins*

                Why is the sandwich method terrible? I agree it’s probably not going to help in this case, but if I was in OP’s position where I still had to interact with her somehow, it might be something I’d try.

      4. Ali*

        Exactly. If this were someone throwing a 5 hour rage-fuelled temper tantrum every day, it would have been dealt with already. They would have been sent to anger management classes or fired. This isn’t someone very occasionally getting teary because of an extremely stressful situation. This is someone who’s completely unable to control their emotional response to very normal workplace interactions and it is. not. normal.
        Honestly, I would probably have snapped and said something inappropriate by this point because it sounds like a complete pain in the ass.

    2. Jennifer*

      This sounds like some kind of mental health issue if she sobs uncontrollably for five hours over a slight correction over ink. JESUS.

      1. Drew*

        While this may be true, can we not jump immediately to mental health as if that solves the LW’s problem? There isn’t any way for someone else to force the employee to get help, but we can offer ideas to help the person who actually wrote in with a question.

        1. Thlayli*

          If there is a mentally health reason then it’s relebaby because I believe that would fall under the ADA? So boss could have spoken to her, found out she has a mental health issue, and be unable to discipline or fire her for this. Boss /HR may also not fully understand the ADA and may not know what they can and can’t do so be doing nothing to be on safe side.

          IF this were the case there’s still nothing OP can do and OP should follow Alison’s advice. It’s not OPs place to discuss mental health issues or ADA accommodations for another coworker, but she shouldn’t assume boss has not spoken to coworker, and it might make it easier for OP to accept/ignore if she considers the possibility that it may be a mental health issue.

          1. Penny Lane*

            Oh please. The ADA requires the office put up with disruptive sobbing for hours? The ADA is not a get out of jail free card for bad behavior; employees still need to control themselves and their emotions in appropriate ways.

            1. else*

              For sure, but a lot of inexperienced or overcautious managers treat it like it is. You have the two extremes – the ones who won’t make the slightest accommodation even when legally required and the ones who immediately stop actually managing the person for fear of being sued even when the person’s behavior has a negative impact on others or the business.

            2. Lindsay J*


              I can’t imagine that allowing someone to cry unchecked for hours in the middle of the workplace over a small correction would be considered a reasonable accommodation.

          2. Observer*

            Not true. The ADA requires REASONABLE accommodation, not a blanket pass for any and all behavior.

          3. neverjaunty*

            The ADA does not mean “someone who might have a mental health isssue gets to act however they wish”. And it doesn’t mean that the mere possibility of a mental health issue obligates the OP to shut up and say nothing to her boss.

          1. Some Sort of Management Consultant*

            Well, it doesn’t have to be. There are quite a few physical illnesses (hypothyriodism comes to mind) that could cause the coworker to have depressive symptoms or anxiety.

            1. Batshua*

              I was just thinking, it could be hormones. When my testosterone sensitivity is high, I literally cannot cry unless I’m physically injured. When my progesterone is high, they make me cry at the drop of a hat. I can’t stand it and I’m super worried how professional I’m gonna look if I need to go on more hormones for fertility treatment.

              1. NicoleT*

                The only time I’ve cried uncontrollably in front of a manager was when I was pregnant. ANY sort of emotion would trigger it. It happened in a performance review (unreasonably) before I had started telling my co-workers (but had told my managers because of early complications), and I was mortified. Thankfully both managers (one male and one female) were understanding (the male one was a grandpa, so he got it!). They also let me hang out a little longer in the office to pull myself together so I wouldn’t have to explain anything.

                That said, stress in another part of life (family member ill, struggling financially or emotionally) frequently results in my having an ultra-sensitive trigger to any other emotion in other areas. If you are close to the person, then suggesting EAP is a good option. If you aren’t close, then you should let it be handled by your mutual manager.

            2. Yorick*

              Depressive symptoms or anxiety are still mental health, even with a biological basis.

              But, I don’t think that matters here. The crying is unprofessional regardless, and OP can refer the coworker to EAP regardless.

            3. KHB*

              I was on some medication a while back that had the side effect of sending my anxiety levels through the roof, and I would burst into tears at seemingly nothing. Fortunately, it was temporary (but only because I was able to stop the medication), but it was really embarrassing for a while.

              OP1, since you don’t know what’s behind the coworker’s behavior, please try to be nonjudgmental about it. Some of the comments here have been really unkind.

          2. Been There*

            Not necessarily. It may very well be. Or it could be for 20+ yrs, people put on kid gloves around her and tiptoe’ed around her because she “cries at a drop of a hat” and she learned to cry to get what she wants.

            I feel sorry for OP1 because I would seriously just want to scream “shut the @#%##$$ up or I will give you something to cry about.” Of course that is because I have had to deal with a crocodile who used manipulative tears to get whatever she wanted. I have zero patience for crying and see it as emotional blackmail.

            1. Katniss*

              This seems extreme. I’m sorry you’ve dealt with manipulative people. I have too. That doesn’t mean that because SOME crying can be manipulative, all crying is. Most of the time when someone is crying, it has nothing to do with you.

            2. Sami*

              I think this is really unfair. I am a fairly low-key person, but whenever I’m experiencing unusually high levels of emotion (usually frustration or anger, but joy and exhaustion, too), my body seems to only be able to process it with tears. No matter how hard I try to fight it if I’m around people, I literally cannot. When this has happened at work, I try to hide in my office because it’s mortifying. But sometimes you can’t, so I just try to continue the conversation as if nothing is happening and I’m not actually fighting off tears and hope the other person will follow my lead.

              I’ve also seen people have a disproportionately emotional reaction to something at work because they’re already feeling raw about something else in their lives. If someone makes a habit of openly sobbing, sure; consider it emotional blackmail. But that’s a minority of the tears I’ve encountered in professional settings, and dismissing them all as manipulative and insincere is frankly just wrong.

              1. Observer*

                The truth is that given what the OP is describing, I don’t think your explanation really fits. Because feeling THAT level of emotion ALL. THE. TIME. is just NOT normal. And the OP DOES say that she sobs and then continues to be teary ALL DAY. That’s so “in the minority” that you simply can’t apply the “normal” explanations to this.

                The point is not that the OP’s coworker IS being manipulative – we don’t have the information to know that. But the behavior is extreme enough that manipulation is as reasonable an explanation as mental health. And NEITHER is something that the OP really has the ability to deal with.

                1. Jennifer*

                  Seconded. This is beyond the normal realm of well, business behavior, human behavior, etc. Something is very wrong with this girl if she’s that upset for five hours over tiny things, and that needs to be addressed. Being that unhappy all the time isn’t helping her or anyone who deals with her.

              2. Parenthetically*

                @Observer, I don’t think anyone is saying, “OP should have to put up with this because it might be due to XYZ.” I think the speculation about the cause of it is extremely unhelpful, in fact, because it doesn’t matter WHY OP’s coworker is doing it — it doesn’t change the advice or the need for it to be addressed.

                And I don’t think Sami was saying anything about the OP at all, just about Been There’s dismissal of ALL tears as manipulative.

                1. Observer*

                  I agree completely that the speculation is totally unhelpful.

                  I was just trying to say that all of the “well, when *I* experienced this behavior it was because of X” is not even likely to provide a probable explanation, because we have so little information, and the behavior is so out of the norm.

                  But, when it comes down to it, none of that really matters. Some people are manipulators, some people have mental health issues, and some people are in both categories. It still makes no difference. The behavior is just not tenable. And it’s not the OP’s responsibility to figure this out.

            3. Parenthetically*

              “I have zero patience for crying and see it as emotional blackmail.”

              It was really freeing when I realized that 99% of people weren’t thinking of me at all most of the time, and that most people’s emotional reactions had nothing to do with me, manipulative or otherwise. It made me a kinder person as well.

                1. Parenthetically*

                  Thanks. It took me awhile to craft a gentler response than the one I initially had. My first instincts are often harsher than is helpful and I’m trying to curb that. :)

            4. SignalLost*

              Ah, you’ve met my sister, I see! There’s something profoundly angering about a grown-ass woman of nearly 60 using tears to try to coerce people to do what she wants. I would have no patience with this coworker because of my sister, and I commend OP for their patience.

              1. Jadelyn*

                The issue I take with this is that frankly, that’s a you problem, not your coworker’s problem. If *you* have personal background that makes you assume everyone who cries is doing it to manipulate you, then I’m sorry because that sounds very frustrating. But that’s on *you* to recognize that and work around it, rather than taking it out on people who have nothing to do with your sister or your conditioned reaction to someone crying, then defending your actions with “but my sister cries manipulatively” as if that makes it okay to be cruel to others who, while they may be manipulative in their tears, may also just legitimately be in distress.

            5. Marillenbaum*

              Sounds like someone went to the Marillenbaum’s Grandmother School of Parenting–my nana was absolutely the sort of person who would say “Stop crying or I’ll give you something to cry about!” Other favored phrases included “You stick that lip back in”, “I said what I said”, and “I locked you out on purpose–now play until it’s naptime!”

                1. Marillenbaum*

                  Oh, I didn’t mean it like that! My nana was what might generally be termed “a character”, and I have 39 first cousins on that side of the family (my mom was the tenth of 13!), so when we were all visiting, that was a LOT of kids running in and out of the house. Frankly, about 80% of my grandmother’s parenting was just crowd control, but we were always really close.

              1. TootsNYC*

                I used to get mad when my little kids would be crying, and my MIL would say, “You’re crying over nothing.”

                I always corrected her pretty firmly: “She’s not crying over nothing. She’s crying because she’s disappointed. Do not belittle her emotions.”

                But then I’d say to my child: “I understand that you are disappointed. It sucks, it truly does. But you have had a chance to express that, and now it is time for you to figure out how to control your tears. You can still feel disappointed, but it’s not appropriate to cry this long and wail this loudly over this issue. We have sympathy for you, but other people don’t want to listen to you cry for as long as this. It’s time to stop.”

                They figured it out pretty quickly.

            6. CM*

              That is unnecessarily harsh. Just because someone is crying does not make them manipulative. You can refuse to give in to tears without assuming that they are deliberately trying to manipulate you with them.

            7. oranges & lemons*

              Based on the frequency and intensity of this reaction, I have to think there’s something else going on, whether it’s really hard stuff in her personal life, a background that makes it really hard for her to process any kind of criticism, really serious self-esteem issues or something else.

            8. GrrArg*

              Not everything is about you.

              When I started having panic attacks, my first symptom was uncontrolled crying. I did not recognize what I was experiencing as being a panic attack, though.

              It was awful, especially when it happened at work, but I had no idea how to control it. I would do my best to hide out until I was okay, but at least once I had to leave work sick.

              It was only later when I experienced classic panic attack symptoms that I realized the connection.

              I’m not saying that the OP should just ignore it – it absolutely is a problem, but assuming it is manipulative is overreaching

          3. Justme, The OG*

            Or she comes from an abusive household. Which I guess is mental health adjacent then.

            1. Case of the Mondays*

              This is what I immediately thought of though it doesn’t change the advice at all. I had a colleague that cried over any criticism who later revealed she had been in an emotionally and physically abusive relationship in the past where there were big consequences for anything that led to criticism, like buying the wrong brand of peanut butter. It took her awhile to realize there were no disproportionate consequences in the work world and to adjust her emotions accordingly.

          4. Countess Boochie Flagrante*

            Wow, that’s a pretty snap diagnosis of someone you’ve never seen or met, and only have a brief third-person description of!

            1. Elizabeth H.*

              I don’t really agree – having this strong of a reaction to neutral statements is so, so different from the vast majority of people, and it’s a reaction with psychological or mental causes (I know there are some physiological conditions that can cause crying, but it seems likely that the coworker would have explained this if it were the case, and would generally act differently). Based on the few facts the coworker obviously has some kind of emotional or psychological issues that cause her to exhibit what is far out of the realm of typical behavior and it is significantly affecting her work life. That doesn’t seem very armchair diagnose-y to me, just colloquial speech.

              1. Countess Boochie Flagrante*

                Nah, see, I strongly disagree with that because physical struggles can burn through a TON of someone’s capacity for keeping their composure. I think “obviously this person is mentally ill” is armchair diagnose-y.

              2. moosetracks*

                “there are some physiological conditions that can cause crying, but it seems likely that the coworker would have explained this if it were the case”

                Not necessarily. Just because mental health issues are adjacent to another medical issue doesn’t mean they aren’t stigmatized or that people will treat them as valid. Plus, she may not want to tell her coworkers about her medical issues.

                Plus, she could have something external causing this, like dealing with grief or a bad relationship or just being overwhelmed. We don’t know her.

          5. nnn*

            Could be physical health too. I’m currently recovering from a head injury, and for the first couple of weeks I’d spend a couple of hours a day sobbing for no good reason. I didn’t even know that was a thing until it happened to me.

            (I’m not presuming to diagnose a stranger through the internet on the word of another internet stranger, my point is simply that there’s all manner of things in the world.)

            1. Not So NewReader*

              I had an infected tooth, I am amazed at how much stronger I feel without that infection inside me anymore. It was really wearing me down not just physically either. Many physical process can impact what we do and what we say.

        2. Argh!*

          Yes, excessive crying is a symptom of mental illness.

          LW or coworkers or boss should tell this person that they need help.

      2. Madeleine Matilda*

        I had a coworker once who cried like the one OP describes, but the difference was that she had told us that she had a health condition that cause her to cry easily. It was quite hard for her team lead who was a rather stoic man 40 years older than her who was training her to have conversations about her work during which she would cry. I wonder if OP’s boss is aware of a problem, but because it is health related can’t share it with the rest of the office, and the crier is choosing not to share it.

    3. Nic*

      I had something similar to this level of crying for a while. My job was super stressful, but it wasn’t that…even outside of work conversations (that were not criticism at all!) would set me off. Turns out it was a symptom of a hormonal imbalance, and was easy to resolve. My life got a LOT easier after doing so.

      I don’t know what the solution would be for her, and I don’t know how you’d bring it up unless you’re a very close friend, but perhaps a doctor visit might be in order. EAP is a good idea, too, and may lead that direction.

      1. Parenthetically*

        I had a coworker who had this same thing happen! Weepiness can often accompany hormonal things.

      2. TootsNYC*

        I think that’s something I’d be adding to my “colleague who wants you to not be suffering anymore” speech.

    4. One of the Sarahs*

      I’m someone who used to cry in office scenarios due to a health problem – it wasn’t an emotional thing, it was more that when I was frustrated it would come out in tears, not sadness, but as a physical response. I dealt with it obviously by trying to work on it, but I would also be very upfront with my managers and say in the moment and separately, that sometimes this would happen, and to just carry on the conversation with me, ignoring the crying. I completely acknowledged it was hard for them, and I was taking action to try to stop it.

      BUT the other thing was, it wouldn’t happen all day etc, or if it was exhausting etc, I’d take time out sick, in the same way as if I’d developed a migraine, knowing I had limited sick days. I think it’s really important if someone has this sort of thing, to own it, and be really clear about what it means etc, because a lot of people know of people who would cry manipulatively, to stop things they didn’t like happening.

      My partner managed someone who people had avoided giving negative feedback to/asking to do annoying work that was necessary, because of her reactions. We knew it wasn’t a medical thing, because my partner would say something matter of fact like “I understand you’re upset about this, but it is something that is necessary – take 5 minutes and then start the task”, or whatever, and soon the staff member never cried on my partner ever again, though she was still crying on other people.

      1. RabbitRabbit*

        Agreed – I will sometimes cry if angry or frustrated, but I’m not sad, my face is leaking everywhere. But that is usually over more major things like “the way I found out I wasn’t getting the promotion I applied for was in a meeting full of my entire team and as a side comment that the job listing was being pulled” and not “I used the wrong color of ink on a signature.” And it wasn’t for hours.

        (I did manage to hold it in at that meeting, but it was partially because I was numb.)

    5. Bagpuss*

      It sounds exhausting to work with OP1.

      LW, is this something you could raise with your line manager, to flag up that it is happening and creates issues as you feel awkward giving her even the simplest instructions or corrections.

      Another option might be (in the moment) to say to her “you seem really upset or such a minor thing, did you know we have an EAP, [details of who to contact] ” or even “I’m concerned about you – I’ve noticed that you get very upset and have cried when people raise minor errors or requests with you, it’s quite upsetting for people to get that reaction,would you be more comfortable if we were to e-mail you if practical, for this kind of minor correction or training?”

      Other than that, I think all you can do is continue to make requests as you normally would and treat the tears as an unfortunate ‘tic’ which it is polite to ignore.

      1. Snark*

        The thing is, that works if it’s maybe some sniffles and brimming eyes in the moment, followed by pulling oneself together. Full-on funeral sobbing is quite the other thing, and that would be impossible for me to ignore or pretend wasn’t happening, because it’s so very far from acceptable workplace behavior. It’s really not normal or acceptable, or even within the realm of “this is weird but I can let it ride.”

        I personally would not be able to handle this. That’s SO MUCH emotion to lash into the workday that it would be tough for me to just watch and deal with as a coworker. I’d probably feel like I had to say something to her, even knowing what the result would be, or maybe email it to her instead – I couldn’t just treat the tears as a tic.

        I don’t think offering to email stuff to her works. The courier can’t email her where to sign. It’s going to keep happening, and it sounds like it’ll keep happening unpredictably and at the oddest times.

    6. Detective Amy Santiago*

      This was my thought too. I’m a fairly patient person most of the time, or at least able to fake it, but I wouldn’t be able to handle this. Especially when I’m in the midst of one of my own mental health spirals.

      I’m curious – do people acknowledge these crying fits? Do they attempt to console her or do they just ignore it?

    7. Thursday Next*

      Last week we had a letter from someone asking how to handle criticism better, and her self-awareness made her a very sympathetic figure here. Can we perhaps look at this crying-prone employee as someone with difficulties who hasn’t yet evinced (to her co-workers) that kind of self-awareness? There’ve also been letters on AAM before by people who’ve discussed crying as physiological responses they have limited control over. It can be hard for them (especially if they’re new to the workforce) to raise this with coworkers. If this person is crying, but not otherwise complaining or being unreasonable, maybe this is more of a physiological response. I raise these points not because the reason ultimately makes a difference if the crying continues (though the reason may make a difference in *whether* the crying continues), but because I’ve been a bit surprised by the harshness of some of the comments here.

      Of course it’s difficult (and annoying) to work with someone who cries so easily and so long, and it’s impeding workflow and preventing typical critical feedback from being given. I think speaking to the manager, as a group if possible, is a good approach.

      I wonder if it’s possible to try to raise it with the co-worker, when she’s not crying: “hey, I’ve noticed a couple of times when you’ve responded really disproportionately to some feedback, which is going to make it difficult when there are things we have to know or do to make sure our work gets done effectively and efficiently. Is this something you’d feel comfortable discussing with our manager?” It might be hard as a peer to suggest an EAP, but alerting her to the fact that this is an issue that has been noticed might not be overstepping.

      1. Myrin*

        I mean, the level of harshness in the comments – or really more generally, the direction the comments take – tends to be influenced by who wrote in about a problem. (That’s why the person running the sex club and the hiring manager who got a CV with “co-leader of men’s purity club” on it got different responses – IIRC, Alison even mentioned in the comments that had the purity guy written in, he would have gotten a very similar answer to the sex club guy.)

        1. Thursday Next*

          Oh, absolutely–the original poster is generally treated more kindly as the person being talked to, rather than the person being talked about. It’s also evidence of their self-awareness that they’re writing in to pose a question.

          1. Jadelyn*

            I think the self-awareness aspect is what makes the difference more than being the OP vs the subject of a letter. Remember the ghosting guy, or the manager who refused to let the employee go to her college graduation? Both of those had written in and were OPs of their respective posts, but the commentariat was not particularly kind to either of them, because they both evinced a total lack of self-awareness about the wrongness and/or severity of their actions.

            And I think that’s entirely appropriate, to be honest. If someone already understands they’re doing something wrong or inappropriate, then it makes sense to stay focused on constructive conversation around solutions to the issue, rather than beating someone over the head with a shortcoming they’re already aware of and trying to work on. But if the person thinks they’re doing fine, it’s hard to talk about solutions because they haven’t even gotten to the point of understanding the problem, so that has to get hashed out first, and that’s a much less pleasant conversation to have to have while you’re trying to get through to someone.

            1. Detective Amy Santiago*

              Same with the LW who called her boss’s daughter a whore. She seemed to get why it was so wrong, but then she really doubled down on the judgmental attitude and the commentariat did not respond well.

              1. Jadelyn*

                Oh, man, I’d forgotten about that one. As I recall, her understanding of what was “wrong” was less “It’s wrong to judge people like that” and more “It’s wrong to say it out loud because it gets you in trouble” which…if you’re only sorry about something when you suffer consequences for it, you’re not sorry for your actions, you’re just sorry you got caught.

      2. AdAgencyChick*

        If the manager isn’t dealing with it, I think it’s asking a lot of OP to have this conversation. If she cries about ink colors, she’s going to cry about taking feedback badly, for sure.

        OP, you might want to also go to your boss and say, “How do you want me to handle it when Augustina cries? The other day I told her about needing to use blue ink instead of black, and she started bawling. It makes me uncomfortable and I don’t know what to do about it.”

        Maybe if OP and enough of her colleagues start raising a stink to the boss, it might motivate her to actually manage this person.

      3. LKW*

        If using the wrong ink color causes endless sobbing – I don’t think pointing out her inability to manage her emotions will end positively.

        This is someone who does not have coping skills.

        1. Thursday Next*

          @AdAgencyChick & LKW: I was responding more to the original comment in this thread which suggested referring the crying employee to an EAP. I think that would be hard for a peer to do, and that’s why I offered the alternative approach. Personally, I agree with AdAgencyChick about mentioning it to the manager; I wouldn’t approach this with the person myself if I were in this situation.

      4. Observer*

        Well, the whole issue of self awareness is a huge part of it. If someone is trying to handle a problem, they SHOULD get a different response to someone who is apparently not trying to handle it and / or is not acknowledging the fact that they have causing problems for others.

        I don’t presume to diagnose, but to be honest, what the OP describes absolutely does NOT sound like a physiologic response to stress. Also, the types of things that the OP is talking about generally don’t register as highly stressful or critical. So, trying to dismiss the problem that way doesn’t really work.

        The bottom line is that the OP has a coworker whose behavior is disruptive, and the coworker is neither making any apparent effort to contain the problem nor even acknowledging that there even is a problem. That’s a major issue, and one that is not likely to garner a lot of sympathy.

    8. Marcel*

      I don’t see anything mentioned in the letter about an EAP. Curious that people keeping bringing it up? I’ve never worked anywhere that has an EAP before. It’s not a thing everywhere.

  4. Princess Consuela Banana Hammock*

    OP#3, I think I disagree with Alison. I would point this out to Veronica. Effusively singling out one coworker for praise and going through basic motions for others who do you the same favor sounds flat out rude. But if it’s done to reinforce the clique, and if one of your concerns is cliquey behavior, then I think it can be useful to dismantle it sooner than later. I actually think it may be easier to intervene about disproportionate “good” behavior (gratitude) than disproportionate bad behavior.

    1. Mookie*

      Yep. This isn’t “nice” at all. And announcing to everyone you’re paying for someone else’s lunch, in the context the LW described, is performative and obnoxious. No one asked, no one cares. I’m feeling disproportionately grouchy with Veronica here, and I bet a lot of the LW’s staff, outside or perhaps even inside Veronica’s clique, feel likewise. I wonder if this particular clique is run on democratic lines or is more of a fiefdom.

      Also, as Alison says, Veronica is demonstrating that she’s not well-suited to even supervising other people. Dispensing with gifts and ticker tape-parades for the gifts is the behavior of a benevolent tyrant (currently in a pleasant and ‘generous’ mood) and/or Chill Boss. God, I really don’t like people like Veronica.

      1. Lou*

        ‘Benevolent tyrant’ is the perfect description. An old colleague was like this and she ended up making my job hellish. Really sweet to you – as long you’re part of her crew and idolise her.

        1. Jesca*

          Yeah, it sort of reminds me of the elementary bullies who try to steal your best friend just to throw it in your face. Sometimes people do nice things for people. Sometimes people do nice things AT others. I am having a hard time seeing this display, when other employees have done the same, as anything other than “showing through kindness” that she just doesn’t like other people. It is strange, but I honest to go god have one in my office right now! I have noticed the year I have been here though, that she has gone through a couple cliques. So OP, I would wholeheartedly put a stop to this! I would not be surprised if even the “clique” is finding her behavior annoying and disruptive. Because that IS likely her goal; to be disruptive.

          1. Jadelyn*

            “Sometimes people do nice things for people. Sometimes people do nice things AT others.” This is perfectly phrased. Not all favors are genuinely altruistic.

      2. Ainomiaka*

        Performative isn’t where I’d focus my energy here. Most people do some level of emotional performance at work all the time to get what they want, even if it’s performative logic and underreacting. Making a clique is the issue.

        1. CM*

          I actually think that is exactly what to focus on. It is the easiest part to point to and correct. She can buy lunch for whoever she wants, but stop making a show of it.

          1. Ainomiaka*

            But the problem isn’t her being performative. As I said before everyone is, and most of the time it’s fine. So focus on the actual work effects/issue.

    2. Pomona Sprout*

      I agree. It’s not so much the extra things she does to thank her bffs that bothers me so much as her making a big show of it as she seems to be doing. Taking a friend out to lunch as a special thanks is one thing, but making a big public announcement about it is completely unnecessary and inappropriate, imo.

      1. Keep Your Eyes On The Prize*

        It’s not a thank you until you make sure that everyone knows that you are doing it. This is related to humble brag. “Look how generous I am!” It does need to be shut down. Even the recipient may be irritated by the unnecessary largess.

    3. Bagpuss*

      I agree. As LW3 is a manager I think it would be legitimate to mention to Veronica that while of course it’s appropriate for her to thank people who help her out, it is not necessary to made a big public production of it, and suggest that a simple, private, ‘thank you, I appreciate it’ or short e-mail is more appropriate than a big announcement to the entire office.

    4. The Other Dawn*

      Originally I agreed with Alison, but now I’m feeling like I disagree. In this particular case, I think OP needs to speak to Veronica, regardless of whether Veronica wants to move up or not, and let her know that it’s not OK to publicly celebrate the member of her posse that switches lunch times by loudly proclaiming her gratitude AND buying lunch (that seems way over the top to me), while muttering a quick “thanks” to another coworker; it’s part of demonstrating leadership, and you don’t have to be a manager to demonstrate leadership. Veronica is making it known on purpose that she favors certain people over others. To me, this is different from what I describe below.
      I have a version of this on my team; however, it’s on a much smaller scale, so I tend to leave it alone. I have two team members someone that are quite friendly and they often talk amongst themselves (non-work related stuff) more than to other team members. I know it annoys a few people, but I can’t police office friendships. If someone brings it up, I ask if it’s impacting their work in any way. The answer is always “no”, so I remind them that people can be friendly with whomever they want to be friendly with, and if it affects their work they should definitely come back and talk to me. I know it’s annoying, as I often find myself in the same situation with my peers since they’ve been here much longer than me or have more in common, but unless it’s really impacting the work getting done, or having a real negative impact in some other way, I try not to let it bother me. It’s just work.

      1. The Other Dawn*

        ACK! Sorry for the wall of text. That’s supposed to be two paragraphs, but the ads on the page today are messing with my browser, making it crash repeatedly.

      2. Tuxedo Cat*

        I agree with this. I think the public aspect is what’s obnoxious. I had a manager who did this and it does hurt morale.

        It’s one thing for people to be friends with some people and not others. It’s another when people act like Veronica, when it’s about work.

    5. animaniactoo*

      Indeed, in part because what this means is that her general thank you vs the effusiveness BECOMES a rude response, even though it is using the standard etiquette convention of a *nice* response.

  5. Miaw*

    In relation to no #2, I have seen corporate people whose ACTUAL legal name is Peachy, Pretty (yes it is an actual name), Queen,…..

    Me and my colleague giggled the 1st time we saw the name but afterwards treat them professionally. But to be honest, some names do indeed sounds unprofessional (imagine getting emails and calls from someone called ‘Pretty’). In comparison, Lulu still sounds professional so don’t worry about it!

    Honest question, what is your reaction when someone called Peachy or Pretty have business dealings with you?

    1. Fieldpoppy*

      My first reaction is to assume they are from somewhere with different naming conventions than where I’m from. I do a lot of work in east Africa, where names like Blessing and Precious are common, and it’s not unusual in Toronto (where I live) for women with Chinese names to take on an English name like Peachy. If it turns out my first assumption is wrong it might register for a moment as “huh, interesting” but it’s just all part of the same constellation of diversity ultimately.

      1. Enough*

        My daughter played basketball against twin sisters. Precious and Perfect.
        My older daughter went by her nickname at her first job and I expect her sister to do so, too, as see has a name everyone seems to miss pronounce.

      2. HannahS*

        Same. I grew up in majorly multicultural places with kids named Princess, Blessing, Genuine, Rainbow, a set of twins called Pearl and Jewel, and many others in the same vein. I don’t think there’s anything particularly unprofessional about one name over another. What makes “Pretty” unprofessional but “Grace” professional? It’s just a matter of what you’re used to–and let’s be real, a lot of what makes a name sound professional is that it’s been given to a lot of middle-class white people, hence Emily getting more interviews than Tamika and Joe more than Jose. So I might make an assumption about the person’s ethnicity, or about their parents’ socioeconomic status based on their name, but I also don’t really care. It’s not like it says much about a person that their parents were immigrants or poor or both.

        Anyway, most “English” names are nouns and adjectives in other languages, and in many languages, given names are just nouns and adjectives. My cousins are literally named Palm Tree and his wife Joyously, Pleasantness and her husband Innocence, and Lord-heard-me and his wife Song. One grandma is Comfort-Joy, and the other is Good, nicknamed Goody, so I guess I’m sort of used to it.

        1. Miaw*

          When I step back, I realized I sounded insensitive, which was not my intention (I am sorry!). To give context, I am not based in USA and ALSO have uncommon name (it is common in my origin country but considered exotic where I am working now). I apologize that I had offended so many people with uncommon names in this community.

          1. CB212*

            I appreciate your saying that. In the USA, those names would indicate they are immigrants (I think of Pretty Yende, the South African opera singer), or African-Americans, whose history of being named by slaveowners has led to a world of non-European names in our generations.

            People may not intend their reactions to be insensitive, but it is easy for us to see the unfamiliar as ignorant or embarrassing, when it’s our own limitations that are at fault. I love the commenter who pointed out that being named Pretty is the same as being named Belle. :)

            1. The Southern Gothic*

              If You’re interested in an interesting cultural naming phenomenon, take a look at the movie Freakanomics, based on the book. I think they used the name “Ashley” or “Tiffany” as an example.

        2. Mookie*

          let’s be real, a lot of what makes a name sound professional is that it’s been given to a lot of middle-class white people, hence Emily getting more interviews than Tamika and Joe more than Jose.

          Bingo. The top ten baby names list in the US demonstrates that no one is immune to overly-precious naming. I don’t think we were built to handle this amount of Liams, frankly. Their schooldays are going to be a disaster.

          1. BeautifulVoid*

            There are nine kids total in my kids’ gymnastics class. Three of them are Olivia. We might be at max Olivia capacity here, one more might send us over the edge and the building could explode. I do love the name, but its popularity meant it never even made it onto our “maybe” list, especially since we have a super-common last name.

            Jennifer J.

            1. Pebbles*

              Are you a late-70s/early-80s baby too? I had a class in high school with 7 girls, 4 of which were named Jennifer. We had nicknames for that class only: Jennifer, Jenny, Jen, and . If I ever have a child, I will be looking at that top 10 list to know which names to avoid!

              Another Jennifer

              1. Pebbles*

                ACK! inbetween “and .” it’s supposed to say: “something completely different”.

              2. Another Jennifer*

                I am. The record was 6 Jennifers in my 2nd grade class of 30 kids. Fun times. An office I worked in had 5 once. They numbered us.

            2. Fact & Fiction*

              Oh the same issue as with Jessicas, Jennifers, and Heathers when I was in school. So many of us in every school I went to!

              And yes, many of the white, Anglo-Saxon names that are more “professional” absolutely are adjectives or nouns in other languages. I think it’s fine to notice that a name seems unusual in a particular region but then we must fight any preconceived biases rather than judging that person for whatever name they go by. Whether given at birth or chosen later.

            3. Mephyle*

              I was born in the late 1950s, and we always had at least two Debbies and/or two Susans in our class, and it was not uncommon to have three.
              Once long ago I was chatting with a lady on the train who had a daughter in my generation. I think I was pregnant at the time and that’s why the conversation turned to baby names. She said she had tried to give her daughter an uncommon name, since she had the most common last name of all (Smith), so she named her daughter Susan. Of course, that didn’t turn out the way she had intended!

              1. Mephyle*

                And then with my daughter, 30 years younger than me, it was Sara(h). Three Sara/Sarahs in her class.

              2. SusanIvanova*

                My officemate Steve picked the then-rare name Ariel for his daughter so she wouldn’t have to share her name with several classmates like he had.

                Then a few weeks later, The Little Mermaid came out.

        3. Emi.*

          I went to school with a guy named Jesusislord. Just don’t read anything into people’s names. :)

          1. Jesca*

            Did he go by that, or did he have a shortened version? I had a guy in my high school class who had a name that when said correctly sounded like A-hole. He went by something quite different.

          2. Parenthetically*

            There’s the famous Nicholas If-Christ-had-not-died-for-thee-thou-hadst-been-damned Barebone.

            1. Marthooh*

              “Nicholas If-Christ-had-not-died-for-thee-thou-hadst-been-damned Barbon ( c. 1640 – c. 1698) was an English economist, physician, and financial speculator. Critics of mercantilism consider him to be one of the first proponents of the free market.” (Thanks, wikipedia!)

              He only got away with that name because of his totally professional wig, though.

        4. SignalLost*

          What makes Pretty unprofessional is that (ime) it’s a Pinoy name. What makes Grace professional is that it’s a Christian name. It’s wrong and discriminatory, but I am not used to names like Pretty and it still causes me to double-take even though I know it’s wrong and discriminatory.

          We really need legally-mandated requirements for all businesses to use ATSs that strip identifying information off a resume so that hiring managers cannot see names, addresses, or emails. Because if Pretty has a better resume than Grace, in America Grace is still going to get the request for an interview.

          1. Rusty Shackelford*

            Interesting. I don’t know anything about Pinoy names, and would never have that realization about the name Pretty. To me, it’s like HannahS said – the names we’re familiar with slide by unnoticed. In some cultures, that would be names like Pretty, and in other cultures, that would be names like Grace.

            1. LBK*

              I suspect Pinoy names will sound less and less unusual as outsourcing to Manila continues to increase – I’ve worked with a few Prettys or Lovelys.

              1. Princess Consuela Banana Hammock*

                Prettys and Lovelys are common among South Asians (and the diaspora), too! But I agree with SignalLost—in my experience, the names that are seen as unprofessional are typically non-WASP, common among immigrants, and/or common among lower-SES communities.

        5. OlympiasEpiriot*

          Yes. Exactly.

          My mother named me something that means “noble” in another language and I am SO NOT noble, her name means “woman from [the place this name sounds like]” and I’ve lots of family whose names are basically geologic descriptions — not, though, actually “Rock” — or colors (think various p- or k-Celtic names meaning dark, black, names of black birds like ravens). Oh yeah, and a couple Basque names that, well, lots of them have extremely ancient, possibly stone-age roots so they seem to all be about animals or storytelling. How professional would “Shepherd” or “Memory” sound as a first name? ;-)

          Please, Lulu, use *your* name! I have always liked it. (I also happen to like Louise, but, I say we get to choose how we are called, so I’m voting for Lulu!)

      3. Falling Diphthong*

        Seconding different naming conventions.

        My husband grew up near Dyke’s Auto Body, and the family pharmacy is still local chain Bubba’s. You’ll be unsurprised to learn this is in the US Deep South.

        1. OlympiasEpiriot*

          Big lumber yard in NY and NJ is Dyke’s Lumber, also I think they are in PA.

          The US south doesn’t get to claim all quirky names.

      4. Sleepy teacher*

        I teach a little girl named Marvellous, whose family are from Nigeria. I have to say it suits her really well, as she’s lovely and is an awesome singer and dancer.

      5. Marillenbaum*

        Very true! Also, names like King or Sir are fairly common in the African-American community, particularly for people who grew up during Jim Crow–if Sir is your legal name, then white authority figures who insist on calling you by your first name will be forced to at least perform a measure of respect.

        1. OhNo*

          Is that really where that comes from? I never knew!

          Makes perfect sense, of course, it just never occurred to me that that was the reason behind it.

    2. Emily Spinach*

      I usually just chalk it up to the parents, nothing about the person whose name it is. I’ve had students named Banjo and Bear, among others, and I sometimes wonder if that’s difficult for them, but most people don’t choose their names, so, oh well.

    3. Princess Consuela Banana Hammock*

      I assume their family has naming conventions that are different from my family’s conventions (but not wrong). I’ve gone to school with women whose birth names included Birdie, Princess, Precious, Female (pronounced Feh-mah-leh), Autumn Joy and Sunshine. In my family, I have scads of aunts and uncles with nicknames like Kitty, Dimple, Baby (I have 7 aunts nicknamed “Baby”), Lovely, and Bunny.

      I don’t giggle or treat the names as if they’re unprofessional; usually those names have special meaning to the parents or are literal translations of a child’s name from another language to English.

      1. Legal Beagle*

        I worked with a woman named Dimple (real name, not a nickname). I think it’s an Indian name. She was in a prestigious, high-level position so it seemingly hadn’t held her back in the workplace!

        Btw I love the name Birdie. It’s at the top of my list if I have another kid.

        1. Jesca*

          I call my daughter Birdie (not her legal name). It is because when she was an infant she didn’t cry; she tweeted. No lie. I rarely ever think about it, but I get side eyed so much in public for it. But Birdie is such a cute name! If she chose to go by Birdie, I am all for it. I think people eventually move past names, but are definitely put off by them at first.

        2. Princess Consuela Banana Hammock*

          Dimple isn’t an Indian name (i.e., not from an Indian language), but the reason it’s common among South Asians from northern Indian/Pakistan is because it’s the name of a popular scotch! It’s similar to naming your child Hennessy. It was particularly popular for folks born between 1950–78.

          I love my friend Birdie, and I’ve noticed her name has become a common nickname for little kids born in the late aughts and now the tens. I am solidly in favor of the name :)

    4. Espeon*

      Yes I met a corporate guy once who was legitimately named ‘Typhoon’! I love an unusual name.

        1. GG Two shoes*

          Yes! That fabulous hairdresser.

          “All I really want to do is dance. Except lately all the good warehouse raves are filled with Euro trash.”

      1. Temperance*

        I went to college with a guy named Thor. Apparently, he’s the youngest of 3 boys; the first was given dad’s first name, the second was given dad’s middle name, and Thor was given dad’s football nickname.

        1. RabbitRabbit*

          I had a college friend who grew up in a very Norwegian region of the country. Her boyfriend from back home was named Per (basically “Peter”), but Thor was on his parents’ list for names.

        2. General Ginger*

          A friend’s realtor a few years ago was named Thor! Very usual non-Scandinavian surname to go with that.

        3. Solo*

          I went to grade school with an Odin! IIRC there was a Thor a year ahead of me too. (Like RabbitRabbit, I grew up in a verrrry Norwegian part of the US.)

    5. Miaw*

      Just to clarify, I am not making fun of them and never laughed or comment on their names in front of them. I just find it interesting because they are all from English speaking families. Sometimes I wonder if they had hard times in school because teenagers can be cruel to people with uncommon names..

      1. Lissa*

        In a lot of cases, probably not, at least not if they live in a region with any amount of diversity of names. It’s just so common for kids to hear all sorts of names that just having an unusual name or a name we don’t think of as a “usual” name but more a word. Kids do of course get teased for their names of course but there’s often not a lot of rhyme or reason to it … at least in the lower grades, they are just as likely to turn Matthew into Fart-thew than to make fun of someone named Butterfly.

        Names are becoming way more diversified just in general with parents not wanting to give their kid a common name and having access to name lists. I’ve heard stories of half the girls in a grade being named Linda, Jennifer etc. depending on the decade, and while this still happens with names like Olivia or Emma the percentage of babies given the most popular names has dropped over time. There’s some interesting nerdy articles about this. I think it’s cool!

    6. Expert Camelid Midwife*

      I mean if someone can name their kid Apple or North or Chicago, Cricket or Denim, hell, Bear Grylls kid is named Hucklberry… and people accept it without judging socioeconomic status of the parents (or maybe they do, maybe some people only think rich and poor people do “weird” names?) I think we may be (hopefully!!!) moving away from a society who judges names. Because it’s so silly to do so. I don’t believe there is such thing as a “professional” or “unprofessional” name, but instead there is bias about what names belong to certain kinds of people. We should work to undo that bias, especially in ourselves. People’s names are their names. If those people are “professional” then so is there name.

      There is no such thing as a “normal” name in my book. There are names that are the standard for white-“christians” in this country (USA) and seem to be the thing so many people base their metrics (and their bias/prejudices) on, but names mean things to the parents who chose them and are names because we say they are. All names are names because we say they are, no matter if the name is Thomas and Mary or Megaa and Scout.

      So I don’t bat an eye where I hear a name that may not be “conventional” – from Trucker to Nova to Nayvadius to T’Airyka. Names are names because we say they are and are simply names.

        1. Anonymous for this one*

          Anon for this one. I have an unconventional name. Mandolynne. Im named after the mandolin (musical instrument) and quite frankly want to smack whoever decided to call veggie slicer that. Some people are weirdly resistant to calling me buy my name and shorten it to Mandy. I actually don’t go by any nicknames.

          1. Molly*

            I think that’s a beautiful name :)
            (Maybe I’m just used to names ending in a -lin/-lyn)

          2. SignalLost*

            My mother’s name is Virginia. God forbid her extended family be forced to say the word Virgin, though! So her family nickname is Ginger, which she hates.

      1. Emi.*


        THANK YOU

        1. Kit*

          Fun Caitlyn fact: It comes from the Irish name Caitlín, which is not pronounced like Kate-Lynn but like Kat-leen. In fact, Caitlín and its Anglicized cousin Kathleen are variants of Katherine. The name Katelynn/Catelyn/Caitlyn takes Caitlín and remixes it with Lynn (popular from about 1955 as a name and name suffix) to create a new Irish-y North American name.

          All names are made-up names!
          ¯\_( ˘͡ ˘̯)_/¯

          1. fposte*

            There’s also the cod-Welsh fondness for inserting y instead of i generally; I think that’s a player in there. (As the great old baby name satire site had it, “When You’re in Love the Whole World Is Welsh.)

            1. Kit*

              Well, in this case the y belongs there: Lynn comes from Llyn which is a Welsh surname, though a double L in Welsh is pronounced less like an L and more like an angry cat.

              On a tangent: I’ve seen several instances in these comments of people saying they worked with a Kit and how weird is that, but I will have you all know that ours is a perfectly old and reasonable nickname for Katherine or Christopher. Marlowe was called Kit!

        2. Lissa*

          I once worked in a university classroom in which 20% of people were Caitlin. All different spellings.

      2. Annie Moose*

        Okay but I have a legitimate beef with the name Huckleberry because I have a relative who named her son that… and their last name is “Seed”.

        Huckleberry is fine, if unusual, in most contexts, but when your last name is “Seed”, it’s just too much!

        1. Lindsay J*

          I went to high school and then worked with a girl named Crystal Fairies.

          I always thought that both names together were a little twee myself, but I’ve got no problem with the name Crystal individually, or the last name Fairies individually.

          1. LKW*

            I remember reading about a family whose last name was Daugh (pronounced Daw) who named their kid Zippadee Doo. Those are awful parents.

      3. BeautifulVoid*

        Well, I think part of it comes from knowing that Gwyneth Paltrow and Kim Kardashian’s kids proooobably aren’t going to be in a situation where they’re applying for “regular” jobs like us peons and their names at the top of a resume aren’t going to be influencing a hiring manager for better or worse. If my neighbor or whoever, someone in the same socioeconomic class as me, named their kid Apple or North, I might privately give them a little side-eye. I’m torn, because on the one hand, I agree that there’s no such thing as a “normal” name and you should be able to name your kid whatever you want, but on the other hand, we (general we) definitely haven’t reached the point where we’re not biased for/against certain names and how “professional” they sound.

        1. Lissa*

          I’d also point out that people make fun of those names *all the time*! Apple and North get mocked constantly on the internet. I’d say even more so because their parents are celebrities who a large portion of the public hates to begin with…

      4. anonymouse*

        I have a friend who’s named three kids after Lord of the Rings characters. (They all have conventional-sounding nicknames based on their names, should they not want to lean on geeky aspect when they’re older.)

        1. SusanIvanova*

          Then there’s the fictional Pippin Galadriel Moonchild from Pratchett/Gaiman’s Good Omens (filming now!), inspired by real names Pratchett had encountered in his years as a reporter. She goes by Pepper.

      5. Lehigh*

        Yeah…maybe I’m a bad person but I totally judge rich people and their weird-ass naming choices. It’s one thing if it’s a name unfamiliar to many people because it reflects that person’s ethnicity. It’s different if it’s unfamiliar because the parents made it up, presumably to prevent the horror of little Asparagus sharing a name with any of the plebs in her kindergarten class.

    7. Sue Wilson*

      I don’t think anything of it. The only difference between Belle and Pretty is that one is in English.

      1. Birch*

        Yes, this! It’s so English-centric to criticize names that are unfamiliar. I live in a country where many women’s names are just literally nature words in the local language. Mint, Sea, Wind, Island, Heather, Cloud, Cattail, Thyme, Blue, Flower, Rose, Berry, Day. It’s beautiful. I love seeing unique names!

          1. Birch*

            I think so too! The name is Kaisla (pronounced KYES-luh), so it sounds sort of nice in many languages. It’s sort of a loose translation though, it means the grassy rushes that grow by bodies of water, not the brown fluffy things. It’s still such a nice evocative image! The surnames here are often also directly translatable, things like “Eagle Mountain,” “Winter Road,” “Linden Branch,” “Of the Peninsula,” “Of the River,” etc.

            1. whingedrinking*

              A lot of First Nations people in Canada have names like that, either first or last, and often in English or French for the sake of pronunciation – Tomson Highway, for example, is a Cree playwright, and one of his best-known characters is named Emily Starblanket. Unfortunately, Facebook’s “legal names only” policy causes trouble for people who are using their real names but they sound “made up” to the dominant culture. I know people who do use fake names on FB but they haven’t been caught at it because their names sound “real”.

              1. Daisy Avalin*

                I use a false name on facebook (and a few other social networking sites) which is an actual name, and I feel it suits me more than my real name.

        1. Legal Beagle*

          I love the idea of Mint as a name! Reminds me of the Hebrew name Raanan (rah-ah-non) which means “fresh.”

    8. Talia*

      I know someone who’s actual legal name is Anakin. They shorten it to Ana on resumes so it doesn’t interfere with interviews, but so far as I know once they get past the resume stage they use it. They’re pretty geeky, so in some ways it acts as a filter for offices where they’re likely to fit in– anywhere that goes “being named after a Star Wars character is horribly unprofessional” is probably not an office where they’d be comfortable.

      1. Nonnon*

        I once knew of a Loxodont, who was a manager or something. And there’s also the gloriously named Dr Loki Skylizard (who was allowed to choose his own name when he was eight.) He’s a surgeon.

        As long as you’re not going by ‘Caligula’ or something, you’d probably be fine.

          1. Nanani*

            When I was at Uni there was a prof named “Dr. Doom” who liked to tell students than when your name is Doom, getting a doctorate is pretty much mandatory :p

        1. Lora*

          Loki Skylizard. Loki SKYLIZARD! That is magnificent.

          I got the same Lora/Laura/Lori/Laurie that many of my generation did. There were seven of us in the same class in elementary school. I begged my mother to let me change my name in high school to something different, to no avail – and I was only hoping for something like Caroline or Jacklyn, so I wouldn’t be confused with the others. The other options in my generation were Jennifer or Sarah.

          1. Fergus, Stealer of Pens and Microwaver of Fish*

            From a Carrie/Keri/Kerry/Carey of the same era, I hear ya. I even did try to go by Caroline but decided it took too long to write.

          2. Lissa*

            Such a grass is greener situation. I have a really uncommon standout name that I haaaaaated and still don’t like, so I almost always use a more common-sounding nickname. My best friend has a very common name (close to yours actually!) and uses an extremely uncommon nickname! We are both happy with our “new” names. :)

          3. anycat*

            were you born around 84? there were 3 of us in my school (out of 32). two of us had the same last name initial, so we had to be l. fa and l. fo. fun times.

          4. Drama LLama's Mama*

            I grew up a Margaret in a generation of Jennifer/Jessica/Laura/Sarahs and as a kid, longed for my name to be something less grandmother-y. As an adult, I love my name and it suits me. My mom knew what she was doing – she is a Baby Boomer Linda. But the grass is probably always greener.

          5. anon for this*

            You forgot me. I’m a Lauri and man oh man, nobody spells it right. Ever. They always want to either stick an E on it on call me Laura.

        2. General Ginger*

          Thank you for reminding me of the existence of Dr Loki Skylizard. What a great name!

      2. Liane*

        It’s not uncommon for Star Wars fans to give their children names from the franchise. Years ago, we knew 2 young brothers with such names, and one of them was an Anakin.
        For the record, College Son & College Daughter do NOT have Star Wars names :) although Son is named for the hero of a series of science fiction novels.
        And both my father (small business owner) and father-in-law (mid-level Fed) had nicknames as given names and it would have been a bad, bad idea to tell either of those Southern gentlemen his name wasn’t professional. Now listening to the resulting verbal thrashing–from a safe distance, with popcorn–would have been fun.

        1. Arielle*

          My husband has two friends with daughters named Willow and River, and our #1 girl’s name at the moment is Cordelia. We joke that they’ll be the Joss Whedeon trifecta.

      3. London Bookworm*

        My friend dated someone named Jedi! The best part is his parents weren’t particularly avid Star Wars fans, but liked the word when the movie came out and figured it would blow over by the time he was an adult….Alas.

        He mostly went by Jed though.

      4. Princess Consuela Banana Hammock*

        I met a couple who wanted to name their daughter Aslan and hoped no one would notice the Narnia relationship. They would throw it out to relative strangers for reactions, and pretty much everyone responded with, “Like the Lion in the The Chronicles of Narnia? The one who symbolizes Christ?”

        They grudgingly dropped the idea.

        1. Detective Amy Santiago*

          This makes me think of Petra on Jane The Virgin naming her twins Anna and Elsa. Everyone responded “like Frozen” and she refused to believe it would be a problem.

    9. EvilQueenRegina*

      I can remember many years ago being a little taken aback answering the phone to Pepsi someone from a local paper, now probably not so much.

      My aunt is from the Philippines and does have some relatives with names like Precious, Princess etc. However, every time anyone refers to this one young nephew as “Ding Dong”, I find myself thinking “Please tell me that’s not really his name”. (I’ve never liked to ask.)

    10. Temperance*

      I’m pretty corporate, and my first name is a Kardashian-style monstrosity. I don’t love it, but it’s my name and it doesn’t define my value as a human being.

      1. Parenthetically*

        I grew up with a Khrystie, and as far as I can tell she’s now a fully functioning and successful adult, creatively-spelled name notwithstanding, not unlike the Debbye of her mother’s generation or the Billye of her grandmother’s. ;)

        1. Temperance*

          Hilariously, that’s actually pretty close to my name. The biggest PITA is constantly spelling it!

          1. Detective Amy Santiago*

            Even the people who spell it Christy or Kristi have to be in the habit of spelling it because there are SO MANY variations. One of my biggest pet peeves is when people are giving me their email address and they’re like “Oh, it’s firstname.lastname” and I’m like, okay, but there are at least 4 ‘conventional’ spellings of your first name and countless unconventional ones so how do you spell it?

        2. NewHerePleaseBeNice*

          I have colleagues variously interestingly spelled as Daysi, Ellena and Traysey…

          1. General Ginger*

            I’ll be honest, I just looked at “Traysey” for a good 10 seconds before realizing it’s pronounced like “Tracy”. I think that extra “y” really threw me off.

    11. Meliza*

      I knew someone at my previous job named Freedom! I had a quick double-take when I first saw her email signature, but it definitely didn’t impact my opinion of her.

      1. Princess Consuela Banana Hammock*

        I *love* that name! And I’ve met enough folks named Uhuru and Liberty (and a Justice) that it seems pretty badass to me.

      2. Lehigh*

        The dog across the street is named Freedom, which is really only funny because we learned that by hearing, “Freedom! No! Get back here!”

      3. Toads, Beetles, Bats*

        I have met two Freedoms in my life. Both were stone-cold, badass women of exceptional ability and stable disposition. I’d jump at the chance to work with either.

    12. NW Mossy*

      Early in my career, I worked a lot with payroll information for employers all over the US, so I’ve come across some uncommon legal names in my time. They were always a bright spark in my day, because it meant that I wasn’t likely to confuse that person with anyone else.

      For a while, a colleague and I played a game called “The Picnic” – whenever one of us found someone whose name was a food or beverage, we’d send the other an IM saying “[name] is invited to The Picnic.” I still kind of wish we could get all those individuals together in real life and have them bring their eponymous consumable – it would be a fantastic menu and a heck of a party!

    13. Former Retail Manager*

      I have a co-worker name Queen….fantastic lady. I asked her early on if that was her legal name. It is. She carries herself well and is very knowledgeable. While I thought the name choice an interesting one on her parent’s part, I don’t think she is any less professional because of her name. If anything, if I see someone with a more unusual name like Peachy or Pretty, I mostly just feel for them that their parents didn’t have the foresight to consider the long term impact of the name they choose for their child and the fact that many people will make snap judgments based on a name alone.

    14. LKW*

      Oh sure, in college I lived on a floor with a young woman named Princess. My roommate had a friend with the legal name Marijuana (she was not Latin).

      I’ve also worked with a few people whose last name brought out the 12 year old in me: Doody was my all time fave bad last name.

      1. oranges & lemons*

        I went to elementary school with a girl named “Latrine”–apparently her parents were aware of what it means, they just thought it was pretty.

  6. Intel Analyst Shell*

    OP #2- Use the nickname! My husband goes by the nickname Bear, his company even put Bear on his business cards. It’s never hampered getting jobs or promotions for him. And I go by my middle name, just as a random tip, when applying or doing a resume I include the name I prefer in quotations.

    1. Emily Spinach*

      I just used Bear as an example of an unusual name I’d encountered! But this person really was named that. Maybe it’s less uncommon than I thought!

      1. Betsy*

        I think it’s becoming more common for young kids. My cousin’s kid has Bear as a middle name and a few celebrities have recently had kids called Bear.

      2. HannahS*

        I’ve hear it lots in Orthodox Jewish circles actually! Dov-ber (pronounced Dohv-Bear) literally means Bear-Bear in Hebrew (Dov) and then Yiddish (Ber–it’s an odd but not uncommon double-naming convention) and I’ve known some adults, and I knew a little five year-old who occasionally was called Bear or Bear’l (meaning Little Bear). It was terribly cute.

        1. Emily Spinach*

          I met someone once whose surname was Bird-Vogel, which I had long assumed was a fun coincidence, but now I’ll bet it’s related to this convention I hadn’t encountered before.

        2. Observer*

          It’s actually a fairly common convention. So much so, that I’ve seen situations where people just assume that X has a second name.

          Another example is Aryeh Leib (Lion in Hebrew and Yiddish, respectively). Or Sholomo Zalman (Solomon in the original Hebrew and Yiddish.) That’s not an animal name, but the double naming convention.

    2. Jennifer*

      Isn’t there a famous TV composer who goes by Bear? I forget his last name, the Battlestar Galactica guy.

      1. Princess Consuela Banana Hammock*

        Bear McCreary. Not to be confused with Bear Grylls, host of Man vs. Wild.

    3. Some Sort of Management Consultant*

      I worked with a guy whose nickname was “Buster” and that was even on his business cards and his company email.

      1. Harper*

        Now I’m envisioning some client get all offended when they don’t know that’s his preferred name. “Those people are so rude! They kept calling their coworker by yelling ‘Hey, Buster!’”

      2. Parenthetically*

        My grandfather had eight brothers and I don’t think a one of them went by his given name. Doc (who was not a doctor), Buster, Babe, and Pete (not short for Peter) are the ones I recall.

      3. Arielle*

        We have a Bubba. I think his email is his real first name but he won a big company award last year and it was definitely announced as Bubba Smith.

    4. Handy nickname*

      I know of at least one person who goes by the name Bear after coach Bear Bryant

    5. GG Two shoes*

      I worked one summer with two Bears: one, a burly white male Camp Director and the other a young, Native, beautiful (I found out later she was a model) camp leader.

      Names are fun.

    6. RJGM*

      My company has a “Gator!” I don’t work with him directly, but he visits the Finance department (which is near where I sit) fairly regularly — they sometimes make fun of him, in a playful way. He seems pretty confident about his name. :)

  7. Emily Spinach*

    For #3, the main issue seems to be the cliqueishness, and Veronica’s behavior is one noticeable part of that ongoing problem. If you keep working on unifying those social groups, I imagine this is one of many things that should change.

  8. willow*

    Agree with having LW1″s colleague use the EAP. Her emotionalism is so far over the top. Crying for five hours? It has the same effect as a colleague who has a vicious temper – it makes people not want to work with her for fear of setting her off, or ask her for something for fear of setting her off, etc. She needs to get this under control now, early in her career, or it will be hard to advance, or even keep this job.

    1. Thlayli*

      Its not really OPs place to tell another coworker to see s therapist though. It might be her boss’s place depending on circumstances, but boss isn’t the one writing in.

      Depending on OPs relationship with boss, she might be able to privately suggest to boss that boss let coworker know about the EAP, but how that would be taken really depends on the personalities and relationships. We don’t even know if they have an EAP.

      1. Argh!*

        EAP doesn’t necessarily equate to seeing a therapist. Their role is usually to make a referral based on what’s going on. If the crier claims PMS is the cause, EAP could recommend a gynecologist.

      2. Reba*

        Well, she can’t order her to, but I don’t think it’s out of line to say, “this normal work stuff seems to be more than you can handle, have you thought about seeking help.”

        FWIW I imagine I’d feel better hearing this from a peer than from my boss! Obviously much depends on the individuals involved.

        The other question is whether OP really wants to engage any further with coworker on the issue.

  9. Legalchef*

    For #4, I sort of disagree. Calling them out like that in front of the meeting attendees will likely serve to embarrass them. I’m guessing that this employee just feels awkward walking through a meeting like that (because it is kind of an awkward set up). Yes, s/he will be embarrassed once it’s pointed out, but why not minimize embarrassment by pointing it out privately?

    1. ENFP in Texas*

      If she’s sitting down and commenting on meetings she’s not invited to, I don’t think “feeling awkward walking through a meeting” is the root issue for this person.

    2. Ask a Manager* Post author

      It’s actually easier to correct it in the moment when it happens since the OP isn’t her boss. Dealing with it matter-of-factly right when it’s happening is the most direct way to do it.

      1. Legalchef*

        I get that, and certainly for other things you’ve recommended addressing in the moment I agree, but to me it still seems for something like this doing it one on one would be best. But I think I am thinking of it more from the employees perspective and also thinking of it as how I’d like to be told this if I were that employee.

        I guess I’d also be interested in knowing how long the person has been doing this, too.

        1. Sabine the Very Mean*

          Can I ask if you’re easily embarrassed or have history of being ridiculed harshly? I only ask because I am that way or was for a long time and my first instinct is to protect people like this person. But I must remember that as long as I’m not aggressive and unkind, I cannot go about worrying about how someone will take it. Gotta consider those who are taking time from other tasks and who now must compete for air space with interloper.

        2. Lance*

          Even from the employee’s perspective, though… would you really not know you’re not supposed to be there? Sure, there’s rather explicit permission to pass through (by necessity, since it’s the only route to certain areas), but actively sitting in is rather an overstep.

          1. CM*

            I think she might not know. Maybe she sees this as something more informal since people have to pass though. Is it possible that some of the meetings are more informal in that area? I know we use the conference room as a break room where people sometimes discuss work while eating lunch and anyone is welcome to join in. If she is new she may simply not understand that the meetings are private (due to the semi-public location). I do think it is kinder to go though her manager to get her to stop and then reinforce it in the way Alison described if it doesn’t stop.

        3. Lynca*

          I think that assumes the person doing it is unaware of the rudeness or would be receptive of feedback. We have a person that tries to insert themselves into meetings uninvited (without the awkward layout problem). Literally sees a closed door meeting and goes in uninvited even after being told to stop doing that one on one. Sometimes people are really weird and it takes putting the spotlight on their behavior in the moment to really get the point across.

          1. Legalchef*

            I guess I am assuming best intentions here, and I think the awkward layout plays a lot into it. Someone who walks into a closed door conference room presumably knows exactly what s/he is doing, but that’s not the case here. I could see someone who has a certain amount of cluelessness not really realizing that these aren’t more open, since it is literally open because it has to be. Not sure if that makes any sense.

            1. Purplesaurus*

              Makes perfect sense, and we can still assume the best intentions from The Meeting Crasher and also believe that correcting her in-the-moment would be effective. It doesn’t have to be an embarrassing exchange, and I actually think it’s better to do this sooner so that the employee doesn’t continue the behavior and become known for it among the other employees.

            2. not so sweet*

              In our office, I see two bosses talking about stuff we aren’t included in, saying it where we can hear but it’s understood we don’t engage with the conversation or let on we heard unless there are extenuating circumstances. If it’s super-private, they close the door or get silent when people walk by on the way to coffee, but for not-so-secret stuff they trust us to know the social cue.

              In the OP#4’s case, it sounds like the people having meetings had been assuming that everyone walking through would pick up on that cue, and were treating them respectfully by counting on the social contract. But one person doesn’t seem to be picking up on it. So they should probably address it directly. But I’m also wondering about what happens if the meeting gets silent when this person walks through, waiting to resume until they’re out of earshot.

        4. Rusty Shackelford*

          Oddly enough, to me, coming and speaking about it afterward would be more embarrassing. I’d think “oh no, this was such a huge faux pas that it had to be addressed IN PRIVATE.” I think the gently confused “did you need one of us? because this is a meeting of the vanilla teabag committee” would be more appropriate.

          1. fposte*

            Yes, it works the same way for me. In general, the quicker and briefer a correction, the less worrisome I think it is, and the fact that the quick and brief correction happens in front of others isn’t enough to automatically change that calculus.

          2. hbc*

            Yes yes yes. Getting told that you smell awful or that you need to improve your performance is for private. Being told “oops, you seem to have mistaken this for an open meeting” or “use blue ink next time” is for correcting in the moment, wherever that happens to be.

          3. Reba*

            Yes, I also would bristle at the feeling that someone was trying to like, handle me very delicately, if that makes sense.

            I don’t think that managing someone’s potential feelings of embarrassment (they have done an embarrassing thing, remember) is the goal.

            Handling it simply, directly, in the moment is kinder than making a big production out of it. Asking someone to leave a room isn’t cruel or wildly overstepping.

          4. myswtghst*

            Agreed. In the moment, you can act genuinely puzzled and quickly ask in a way that indicates it isn’t a big deal. And if it happens a few times, most people will pick up on the expectation being laid out; if they don’t, then it’s time to take the next step to either addressing it in private or with the person’s manager.

          5. Lissa*

            I’d also rather be told in the minute so I can leave the meeting right away, rather than realize later I sat through an entire meeting I wasn’t supposed to be in!

    3. Princess Consuela Banana Hammock*

      It’s only embarrassing if she doesn’t take the hint—otherwise it’s simply sharing relevant information that she may not have had. This is the kind of situation that’s better to address in the moment, in part because you don’t want to get into a private-conversation-argument over whether the coworker was “allowed” to join the meeting. You can still deliver the information kindly, but letting it go in the meeting and then telling the coworker about it later sends mixed messages.

    4. Kas*

      She’s disrupting the meeting, and hindering the work they’re there to do. They need to get her out of there quickly and kindly, not let her hang around.

      1. Legalchef*

        Well, no. Though it sounds like this has maybe been going on for a while? I feel like the time to address it in the moment would have been after the first couple times when it clearly wasn’t a one-off. After that I think it should be done one on one.

        1. neverjaunty*

          Why? Then you’re putting the employee in the position of knowing that everyone was sitting there unhappy at her having crashed the meeting.

          1. Close Bracket*

            That’s ok. The manager should be kind about giving the feedback, and then the employer needs to act like a big girl and handle any embarrassment she feels.

    5. Betsy*

      We have this guy too. I’ve only been to meetings where he’s actually been invited because he’s on a lot of the same committees as me. But I’ve heard he just turns up to all kinds of meetings, and no one even knows how he finds out about them.

      1. Betsy*

        And I might add that I think this guy might be doing this as a bit of a power play too. He likes to see himself as in charge of the department, even though he isn’t in a supervisory or managerial position. These kind of people aren’t necessarily doing this purely out of a lack of social skills. He just hates to see anything going on that he doesn’t know about or can’t control.

        1. Excel Slayer*

          That does actually explain my biggest wonder about this, which is ‘why on earth would someone want to go to *more* meetings?’. (I know some people do actually like meetings, but not irrelevant meetings surely?)

          1. CMart*

            I dunno, man. Some days (like my day today) I find myself without much work to do and I’ve already burned through my ad-hoc projects. It might be nice to go sit in on a few random meetings and see what other teams are working on just to help the day pass and still feel like I’m doing something value-added… unlike leaving comments on AAM :)

            I would never be so bold, but I can see the appeal

        2. CM*

          Yeah I think there are really two main explanations for that type of behavior. One is cluelessness and the other is a power play. The two are not necessarily mutually exclusive. A clueless newbie could be inserting themselves into a higher level meeting to try to get face time with the big bosses and not realize how inappropriate it is. Either way it needs to be shut down, but if it could be cluelessness I think it is kinder to give the feedback privately first.

    6. Penny Lane*

      So they’re embarrassed. So what? They aren’t picking up on normal social cues that this meeting doesn’t concern them, and they are plopping themselves down where they don’t belong. Alison’s responses are perfect. Call it out in the moment.

      1. fposte*

        Even if she’s not being deliberately invasive, it’s okay if she’s a little embarrassed; the goal of the workplace isn’t to make sure that never happens. You screw up, you’re embarrassed to realize it, you move on.

      2. Mephyle*

        With the physical layout at play here, I’m not sure the normal social cues are in place.
        It could be that the person has never been made aware that these are closed meetings, and if not, how would she know, given that they are being held in a location that is not only public and open to all employees but also essential for them to pass through?

    7. JennyAnn*

      Tone is also going to make a huge difference here. Matter-of-fact/oh-you-probably-didn’t-realize-this shouldn’t generate the embarrassment that you could expect with a tone more on par with you-should-already-know-this. Which they should already know, but it provides plausible deniability for both parties while still getting the point across.

    8. 123456789101112 do do do*

      I have one of these people in my office, too. In fact, he’ll take pictures of the meeting like it’s a documentary or something. Calling him out is the ONLY way to make him go away. He made it awkward, not me.

    9. Antilles*

      See, I feel like it would be awkward for the other attendees if someone just random walked in and sat down. In politely just asking him to step out, you’re siding with the 5 employees who are supposed to be there and trying to do their job.
      Especially since OP mentioned that he “occasionally gives comments”. Given that he’s not on the project and misses a lot of the early part of the meeting, those comments (and the resulting discussions) are almost certainly just flat out wasting everybody’s time.

    10. LKW*

      If the person wants to be invited, they should have approached the meeting organizer and make a case for participating. The suggested call out was quite polite.

    11. TootsNYC*

      I think the point IS to create embarrassment.

      It’s not unwarranted.

      Do it right away before she sits down.

      1. TootsNYC*

        came back to say: not horrible embarrassment.

        Alison’s script is the perfectly NORMAL thing that someone would say to a normal person who interrupted a meeting, because that’s really the only normal reason to walk in there (bcs you want one of the people in the meeting).

        So, actually, act normally.
        Any resulting embarrassment is the appropriate and natural consequence.

        By trying to avoid embarrassing this person, you are robbing them of the info they need to make decisions. (All of life is a science experiment: If I do X, I think Y will happen; true/false? You need to give the right Y so people’s experiments turn out accurately. In science, the only failed experiment is the one that gives an inaccurate result. not the one that gives a negative result; that tells you what doesn’t work. But inaccurate results don’t tell you anything useful.)

  10. LS*

    #1 Wow, I thought I was bad for occasionally crying when corrected (it’s a problem, I try to manage it, and it’s definitely a lot better than it was ten years ago!) but that’s really over the top. Personally, I told people to please just ignore me if I’m crying, because people being kind to me only makes it worse, but that’s actually difficult for people to do in reality. It’s definitely worth a shot, though, particularly if you let everyone know to perhaps ask her once (and only once) if she’s okay, and if she says yes, to take her at her word and not pay any attention again. If she is doing it for drama she’ll stop, and if she’s doing it from stress and anxiety it’s a lot better to not have people flocking around you commenting on your behaviour.

    1. Betsy*

      It certainly makes me feel better about my inability to deal with criticism too! I thought I was very sensitive, but I’d never get upset about being asked to make minor changes like that.

    2. radiator*

      I cry easily too and I would love if it were more acceptable. Like I think I would deal with stress in a much more healthy way if it was fine to cry in the moment and people didn’t overreact to it. I get the urge to cry when I get particularly emotional, it can be anger, excitement, passion, and as it is I have to suppress the urge to cry and I’m sure it means that I don’t get to process the emotion properly. As you say, it would be amazing if everyone would just check once if I’m OK and then leave me to it to sort myself out. I’m much better at calming myself down when left to my own devices.

      LW#1, maybe asking her how she would like you to deal with her crying would work, if it’s an uncontrollable reaction she may just want it to be ignored as reacting to it could make it worse.

    3. BugSwallowersAnonymous*

      Totally agree! I definitely cry over-easily and having people draw attention to it makes me more embarrassed, especially if it’s a situation where I do not want to be crying. It may actually help her relax if you ignore it. Maybe not, but I think it makes the most sense.

    4. Slow Gin Lizz*

      I third this comment! I used to cry very easily when criticized or even just when I was really tired and something even slightly upsetting happened to me. It was always best when those around me just ignored my tears; I used to say it was allergies but I’m sure I never fooled anyone.

      Now that I’m on anti-anxiety meds, I cry SOOOOO much less and that alone is worth the side effects from the meds. It might be worth it to have one conversation with the employee about possibly seeking medical attention to see if there’s an underlying health issue causing the problem, and after that just completely ignore the tears and treat her the same way you would treat any other employee who is using the wrong colored pen to sign documents. She needs to learn to accept feedback even if it makes her cry.

      1. TootsNYC*

        I like this. I was in a place, emotionally/mentally, where I cried easily, especially at the doctors. The best ones were the ones who handed me a tissue box and then just kept talking as if I wasn’t crying.

    5. Not So NewReader*

      I agree, it worked for me if the person just continues talking as if not to notice. Sooner or later they say something that my weepy brain would latch on to and decide to think about instead of thinking about tears. I think that strategy would still work with me to this day.

      I have to believe that this young woman is not very good at consoling herself. This is more of that self-talk thing, the things we tell ourselves to help ourselves move along. It could be she has no reserves left for positive self-talk? Hard to know. If this is the case though, OP, you might gain ground by lowering your voice and talking softer.
      If you talk softly, she will have to slow down on the waterworks to hear you AND she may find the softer voice easier to deal with.

  11. Close Bracket*

    I think that as a peer you can show concern for another co-worker and ask her in private if everything is ok. It’s entirely possible that she’s not really that upset but the waterworks turn on regardless of her level of emotion. Depending on what she says, you could refer her to the EAP, do nothing, tell her it’s something she needs to bring up to her boss, or a different course of action entirely.

    1. Scarlet*

      Yes, I agree that LW has no authority here and that the manager should be the one dealing with it (and is obviously not willing to do it), but I disagree that LW’s only option is just to pretend nothing is happening. Someone is going to snap at some point because it’s seriously unbearable. I think LW should probably try to talk to her one on one (when she’s not crying, even though that’s probably tricky because it sounds like she’s spending her workdays crying – when and how does she even work if she’s in that state 5 hours a day?) and ask her if she’s always been so emotional or if there’s something going on. Unless she’s going through some intense personal drama (which could be the case), she should be told she needs to find a way to behave professionally. I know this requires additional emotional labour on LW’s part and it is not their job, but it looks like nobody even told her that her behaviour was unacceptable and she needs to cut it out.

      1. Colette*

        Well, the OP doesn’t have the standing to tell her to behave professionally. She could suggest the EAP or ask if something is wrong, but she certainly doesn’t have to, and that involves her in the situation more than she may want. If she just wants it to stop, ignoring it is probably the most effective way to make that happen.

        1. Scarlet*

          If I were LW, I don’t think I could just ignore that kind of disruption and wait for the manager to finally do something (which it looks like they have no intention of doing). I actually wouldn’t see talking to the coworker as additional involvement but more as an attempt to do something. It’s not just an annoying colleague that they have to deal with, it’s a major disruption. And being forced to witness someone sobbing for HOURS is already a pretty big involvement, I would say.
          Based on the letter, no-one ever brought it up with the crying coworker… at all. Are they supposed to grin and bear it until someone starts screaming at her, out of sheer frustration? Or until everyone just stops interacting with her because it’s such a hassle?

          1. Colette*

            Trying to find out why, or expressing concern, are more likely to reinforce the behaviour than stop it. There’s a good chance at least part of the co-worker’s motivation is attention – most other causes for crying don’t last 5 hours – and giving her attention is going to make it worse. Ignoring her will make it better. In many cases, you get the behaviour you reward.

            1. Scarlet*

              The thing is, nobody actually knows why she does it. She could actually be overwhelmed, I don’t think it’s necessarily calculated. My point is not to show concern, but to tell her that her behaviour is not professional and she needs to find a solution. If nobody ever says anything, she has no incentive to try and change her behaviour.
              Otherwise, people will end up working around her just to avoid her outbursts. There’s no way coworkers can function and collaborate normally when they have to deal with someone like that.

            2. Not So NewReader*

              Eh, we don’t know if acknowledging the behavior would be rewarding it. Not everyone feels rewarded when someone acknowledges their tears. Some people get embarrassed.

              OP, you are the one who actually sees this person. Trust your gut. If you think you can gain something, help her to stop the meltdowns then perhaps you should say something. But if you feel this is out of your league then that is your answer. In that case, I would go back to the boss and tell her Jane is still crying at the slightest provocation or NON-provocation as you show in your letter here. Let the boss know that the situation is on-going. I like this idea of a status update because you do not have to figure out if she was spoken to or not. You are simply saying, “Hey, it’s still going on here.”

  12. ENFP in Texas*

    OP#2 – Absolutely use the nickname you prefer, if it’s what you go by in your non-work life. I work at a Fortune 50 company in the US that is decidedly NOT “the media or arts”, and it took me years to learn that my boss’s given name wasn’t “Mimi”. I only discovered her legal name was something different when I had to book flights for her.

      1. Rockhopper*

        My cousin is a Mimi (hers is pronounced Mim-ee with the first “i” like the “i” in “it”). Her real name is Mary Lou.

    1. Red Reader*

      I changed my legal name (which I hadn’t answered to in fifteen years and just kept putting off changing out of inertia) to my nickname when my then-in-laws put the nickname on an international plane ticket they bought me as a gift because they didn’t know it wasn’t legal. I didn’t have my passport yet, so it was actually cheaper and easier to finally change my name than to correct the ticket. Never looked back, and got a good story :)

      1. Falling Diphthong*

        My grandmother got old enough to talk and informed everyone her name was “Pearl,” legally changing it when she moved to the US.

        Last century, a friend’s aunt changed her name by evolving her driver’s license:
        Anne Marie Jones
        Anne Jones
        Anne J Jones
        A Jennifer Jones
        Jennifer Jones

        1. Rusty Shackelford*

          {thinks “last century? she did this in the 1800s?}

          {remembers “last century” was the 1900s}


          1. Lora*

            Just wait until you’re my age and people consider the music you listened to in high school as Classic Rock. And what was on the radio in middle school is now Oldies…

            1. Rusty Shackelford*

              I don’t know how old you are, but back when I had XM radio, the station that played the music I listened to in high school was called The Boneyard, so…

              1. Lora*

                I remember Jimmy Carter telling everyone to turn down the thermostat and put a sweater on, and sitting in loooooong lines in my parents’ car to get gas. That’s all I’m saying, because Botox, chemical peels and retinol cream are AWESOME.

                1. Rusty Shackelford*

                  Did you ever have a nuclear attack drill in grade school? (Or was that only those of us who lived near a military base?)

                2. Lora*

                  Not a nuclear attack drill, but I did have to stay with my grandparents for a few days during the Three Mile Island meltdown.

            2. General Ginger*

              Hearing Pearl Jam and the Red Hot Chili Peppers on the classic rock station is the absolute worst.

        2. NW Mossy*

          My grandmother did something similar with her age – she lied about it with abandon, even on legal documents. She passed away almost 30 years ago, and we never did figure out exactly how old she was because every new document we uncovered had a different year!

      2. Detective Amy Santiago*

        I feel like I remember you telling this story before!

        I’ve worked with so many people who go by their middle names and I have a friend who hasn’t gone by her given name in like 15 years.

      3. Em.*

        My boss goes by his middle name and had no idea his first name until we got a package and I was like “WHO is Reginald Lastname??”

  13. Scotty_Smalls*

    OP #2 A co-worker of mine is named Kat and we called her that for a few months at least of not a year. One day after a meeting it was me, her and our boss left in the room and she tells me “Actually everyone calls me Katy, but Kat is my name so I wrote it on the application and now everyone here calls me that.” I think even the clients called her Katy and it was just us at the office calling her Kat. Me and our boss let her know that it was totally fine to let everyone else know to call her Katy.

    You might be able to bring it up that way. Mention it in front of your boss and that you would rather be called Lulu.

  14. Expert Camelid Midwife*

    #1 – I am an easy-crier too, but not at this level. She sounds like she may be dealing with a high level of personal stress, or anxiety that isn’t under control or advisement, or overwhelm – she may also be mourning a loss or something that has nothing to do with work but is really affecting her in random ways she can’t quite control yet.

    She definitely has to try to figure out how to get it under control at work, especially if the crying goes on for hours, that’s oddly extensive. I’m assuming she is just wiping her eyes and sniffling? Or is she heaving and sobbing?? Either way, she definitely can’t continue this for not only the office sake but for her own professional reputation.

    I don’t think you have to ignore her entirely, but definitely in the moment. But if you’ve developed any sort of rapport with her I wonder if having lunch with her one day might lend itself to asking her if things are okay and expressing how its affecting her reputation as well as everyone else (I’m not sure how I’d word this or if I’d even do this without someone I’ve only known a few months) I’d expect her to cry here too, but it may be effective for her to hear it.

    1. Anonymous Sad*

      I immediately wondered if something might be going on in her personal life as well. I have had four miscarriages and several deaths in my family in the past two years, and there are times when sharp remarks or minor pieces of criticism from coworkers have brought tears to my eyes. It’s not that I actually am upset by the feedback, it’s just that I’m sometimes barely holding it together and it just kind of pushes me over the edge. I try to be discreet about my too-emotional reactions, but I’m sure there are times people have noticed.

  15. Casuan*

    Wo. That’s gotta be exhausting for everyone.
    How do your colleagues react when she cries? Alison suggested that one treats her as if she wasn’t reacting this way & that’s my thought, too… the analogy is how if people don’t act like something is a big deal then the behaviour might improve.
    Also, are you certain that her crying is from distress, as opposed to just being her “normal” reaction that isn’t negative? Any idea if she reacts this way in her non-work life?

    The snag to both theories is that your description implies that what I just wrote is incorrect.
    My conflicting thought is to ask her a question as kindly, simply, & directly as possible.
    “Can you tell me how I upset you by reminding you about the ink colour?”
    “Can I ask why this is upsetting you so much?”

    Of course, these questions might not be feasible, they might cross some lines, & they could keep you in the Consoler role.
    That’s tricky.
    Good luck!!

    1. One of the Sarahs*

      I completely disagree with this! I think the thing to do is to ignore the tears in the moment, and have the manager deal with it as a separate issue, when she’s not crying. I said upthread that I occasionally cried in the office due to a medical thing, and if she knows it’s a standard issue, it’s for her to raise with her boss and colleagues.

      But it’s totally not the co-workers’ job to interrogate her, either to work out why it happens, or to try to comfort her. As you imply, they are not her counsellor, and it’s not their responsibility to ‘fix’ her – their only responsibility here is to look after themselves, and not feel they can’t tell the colleague when she’s wrong, etc.

      1. Snark*

        But the crying makes it impossible for them to tell her she’s wrong, and her outsize reactions make her behavior part of their own looking after themselves. Whether or not she knows it’s a medical issue, this is not an acceptable way to act at work, even if you’ve explained yourself.

        1. fposte*

          Yeah, that’s the problem for me. I’m not bothered by the occasional tears in the office in general, but five hours of weeping from a colleague is disruptive for everybody, and her responses are having a chilling effect on necessary workplace communication. Even if she had addressed the situation by saying “It’s just a reaction I can’t control, please just keep working with me,” it’s too much to expect colleagues to regularly work around this level of emotional response.

          1. One of the Sarahs*

            But what Casuan is suggesting isn’t that co-workers work around it, that they actively engage with it, and I really disagree with that.

            1. fposte*

              I’m actually kind of curious as to what she’d say in response to those questions, though.

              1. One of the Sarahs*

                I can’t imagine it would *stop* her crying, in any way – it sounds like it would just make it worse.

                1. fposte*

                  It might, and even if it doesn’t stop her crying, it might provide useful information. I would tweak the wording a little and make sure it doesn’t become a taunt, and I definitely don’t think her co-workers are *obliged* to ask her. But I don’t think it’s necessarily a wrong move, either.

              2. Casuan*

                Me, too.
                Actually I wasn’t suggesting anything, I was thinking of possible scenarios & I couldn’t decide whether or not they were feasible. From what I read, whatever is going on with the colleague surpasses any reasonable discussion because she can’t even have a discussion without crying.

                My thinking on asking what was said to make her cry wasn’t so much to ask the colleague “why” as it was to ask “In what way can I remind you of this without making you cry?”
                to rephrase: The intent of the question is to ascertain how the OP [&or colleagues] can tweak* their wording for the colleague not to cry.
                *tweak, not to constantly walk on eggshells

              3. Casuan*

                Perhaps a simple question which has served me well over the years:
                “It seems you’re having a bad day. Is there anything I can do to make it better?”

                If her reply is “Console me” or “Just let me cry for the next several hours” then the OP will definitely know not to ever engage & it needs to be escalated … This person’s behaviour is massively disruptive & this is something for management to address.

                Gotta say, I feel awful for this colleague. I can’t imagine what she’s experiencing to cause her such extreme responses.
                I also feel awful for OP & her colleagues for having to deal with this. I’m glad the OP wrote to AAM.

                1. Not So NewReader*

                  Yeah, Crier’s days got to be verrrry long for her. I feel bad for all of them- the crier, OP and their coworkers.

            2. Scarlet*

              Yes, but at some point, it’s really hard to ignore though. If it happens to that extent every day or almost, it IS going to be extremely disruptive. If I were in LW’s shoes, I don’t think I could just pretend nothing is happening and go about my business. Sure, the manager should be the one to intervene, but they seem very unwilling to do so. It’s just not a viable solution for everyone else to just ignore that sort of thing.

            3. Lissa*

              I don’t know, I think it’s worth a try. There are SO many reasons this could be happening, and what they’re trying right now isn’t working, so why not give talking to her a shot? Yes it could potentially make things worse but so could everything, and things are already at an untenable situation. I could see certain reasons why this actually could help.

          2. Bibliovore*

            I had this employee. Every time I had an interaction with her, she burst into tears. I tried everything suggested here. I went to hr and ea for help. She would say just ignore me. It was impossible to ignore tears running down her face when I made a simple request. It was exhausting for me and the situation did not change. I eventually moved her to another supervisor for half days just to get a break.

            1. Snark*

              It just sounds absolutely exhausting. And sorry, no, I can’t “just ignore” someone breaking down in tears in front of me. That’s not how human social interaction works. It’s going to affect how I’m communicating with someone no matter how much they take pains to disclaim it.

              1. Scarlet*

                Exactly. People will try to ignore her at first, and pretty soon they’ll do everything they can to avoid her. It’s not a long-term solution.

              2. Lissa*

                Yes, I can ignore it if somebody wells up, or has a small cry while saying “Ugh, sorry, physical reaction!” takes a moment to control themself and everything is basically normal. That is reasonable. I have been on both sides of that interaction. 5 hours of sobbing is intensely disruptive – the reason doesn’t change how disruptive it is, though of course changes how one can deal with it.

              3. Close Bracket*

                If somebody tells you to ignore them when they are crying, the respectful thing to do is listen to them and give them credit for knowing what they need. Crying is not yelling. There is no threat implied, as there is with yelling. Crying isn’t the same as going catatonic, either. Catatonia could imply a medical issue that needs attention, where as crying does not. If someone is sobbing loudly, which would be similar to hysterical laughter, then in both cases you deal with the fact that the noise level makes conversation difficult. You don’t try to cure them of the underlying emotion. These comparisons are dishonest.

                tl;dr if someone says to ignore their tears, then ignore their tears without making false equivalences.

                1. Not So NewReader*

                  I won’t deal with a screaming person at all.

                  I will talk with a crying person. A crying person (most times) has already reached the point where they are willing to say something is wrong. And they are more likely to want to bring the issue to a resolve.
                  A screaming person has a long way to go yet.

                2. Bibliovore*

                  I am not sure from your point of view that you understand how distressing it is when every interaction with another human being erupts in tears.

                  As many times a person says, “oh, just ignore me crying” it is impossible.

                  saying “ignore their tears” does nothing to resolve the situation. In the end I resorted to all communication (and I mean all in writing emails). Not optimal but suggested by disability services and HR. Does this work as an ADA support. HR thought so.

        2. One of the Sarahs*

          Re “Whether or not she knows it’s a medical issue, this is not an acceptable way to act at work”

          So what do you suggest, that if someone has a medical issue like this, they just shouldn’t work? How are someone like this person, and the other commenters who’ve said they have similar things, supposed to live?

          I agree that the way she’s dealing with it is not acceptable right now, which is why I think, if it IS a medical issue, she should talk to her boss and colleagues about it and explain it – but I also don’t think this necessarily a choice she’s blithely making.

          1. fposte*

            It doesn’t have to be a choice she’s blithely making for it to be something a workplace can’t accommodate, though. Think if it was somebody who was yelling in similar circumstances and for similar duration.

            Now if it is related to an ADA-relevant condition, I’d advise her to bring it up right away and come with suggestions for appropriate accommodation, but that doesn’t mean her workplace will be able to provide those accommodations. I have medical conditions I’m not doing on purpose too, and there are jobs I can’t do as a result. It may be that face to face office work isn’t something she can do.

          2. Snark*

            It doesn’t really matter whether she’s blithely choosing it or not. It’s not tenable either way. As fposte says, it would be the same if someone went catatonic or erupted in rage or got an attack of hysterical laughter.

            As for what she should do? I dunno. I’m sympathetic to the fact that a disability, if indeed that’s what it is, can make some avenues of work untenable – I’m hearing impaired, and there are certain types of work I’m not fit to do. As fposte also says, maybe office work isn’t a thing, though honestly if you can’t take corrections without sobbing, your options get REALLY limited. But the fact that this might make it really hard for her to hold down a job and advance in a career doesn’t make it any more acceptable or tolerable from the perspective of her coworkers and employer.

          3. Not So NewReader*

            She’s let it go on too long without saying anything.

            I don’t think that anyone is saying she shouldn’t work. But we do have a responsibility to our employer to notify them of limitations that impact our work. Here, the crying is impacting her ability to work with others. They don’t want to deal with it because they don’t have the skills/time/background, etc.

            It’s a big deal that she does not recognize her constant tears are causing a disruption. She comes across as very passive when she needs to be actively addressing the matter. Even if she just says, “I am working on my crying issue” or ” I have a medical condition that I won’t discuss, but when I cry do X”. (Where X is ignore it or come back in five minutes or whatever.)

            Overall people are great about helping others, but if they are not cued in to some degree then it ends up boomeranging back on the person. I heard of a guy who rode motorcycles with a group. He was a diabetic who did not take care of himself. Yeah, this threw a huge responsibility on to the group, as the guy was blacking out randomly. We can’t just leave our problems totally unattended. It could be that she is getting massive help with whatever this is, but no one knows that. Granted, they should not have to know that but they do have to know how she expects them to interact with her. And she is not giving them any insight.

            1. Casuan*

              Context matters.
              I’m okay at not being told why something happens, although I certainly want to know “If this happens, do X.” It’s the practical & respectful thing to do, especially if it’s something that a bystander might not instinctively know what to do.

        3. hbc*

          I find this view interesting. If she’s making noise while crying, I get it, but would it be impossible to work with her if her eyes just constantly ran throughout the day? If “crying” was constant but completely unrelated to criticism?

          I guess I’m asking because I can think of a ton of things that are inherently more disruptive to an office than a wet face which I would expect to be accommodated. I have no trouble continuing to talk to people who are crying as if the tears aren’t there, provided I don’t believe they’re in real emotional distress. Is it actually beyond a reasonable accommodation to pretend that the person isn’t crying and just go about your business?

            1. hbc*

              But there are people here saying that crying is no more meaningful of emotional state for them than when someone else blushes slightly when corrected, or stammers for a moment, or gets a pinched expression. So your assumptions about emotional states don’t apply to all people. (Maybe not likely in this case, I’ll grant you.)

              Some people have leaky eyes without emotional highs and lows, just like some people might never cry while feeling ridiculously sad. And if someone has a genuine medical condition that causes leaky eyes, I think it’s too far to say there can’t be an accommodation where coworkers go about their normal business.

              1. fposte*

                I think those people aren’t entirely right, because of the effect crying has on bystanders. It might be no more emotional for *them*, but the same could be said of the guy who yells.

              2. Snark*

                I understand, but I think we’re conflating “leaky eyes occasionally” and “funeral sobbing followed by five hours of weepiness” in a way that doesn’t actually further the conversation. There’s a reasonable accomodation for the former but not the latter. For the purposes of discussing this question, let’s stipulate that we’re talking about, at least, actual crying, not just tears running.

                And if someone’s reaction rises to the level of actual crying, with sobs and hitches and lots of tears, that’s not something I can ignore or something I’m willing to pretend to – even if that’s not accompanied by a strong emotion behind the scenes.

              3. Lindsay J*

                But those things don’t happen for 5 hours.

                If someone got embarrassed about being corrected, blushed, and then apologized every few minutes for the next 5 hours, that would be disruptive too.

                And if someone is getting a pinched expression, or otherwise expressing themselves facially in inappropriate ways (like, say, rolling their eyes) every time a person spoke to them I think it would be reasonable to expect them to reign that in as well.

                Occasionally and briefly is one thing. For hours every time you are corrected is entirely another, and not reasonable to expect the workplace to accept or accommodate.

          1. fposte*

            Answering the question literally: whether something is a reasonable accommodation or not is going to depend on the disability and the workplace. Answering in response to this situation: she’s not just got a wet face, though, she’s sobbing like she’s at a funeral. I suspect that “teary” for five hours doesn’t just mean has a wet face but means her voice and manner are also affected.

            The thing about crying is that we tend not to realize how our crying patterns are influenced, so we tend to act as if “involuntary” were the same thing as “immutable,” but it’s not. “I’m not crying on purpose” isn’t the same thing as “I could cry less than I do.” (As I usually mention when it comes up, it’s fascinating to see how variable crying frequency is from country to country–I love the stat that Nigerian women on average cry less than American men.) Crying is an evolutionarily favored sign of distress that we’re pretty hard-wired to respond to, so it’s asking a lot for people to just ignore it, same as it’s asking a lot for people to just ignore angry growling or yelling.

            1. fposte*

              Gah, I messed that up. I mean “I’m not crying on purpose” isn’t the same thing as “I *couldn’t* cry less than I do.”

            2. hbc*

              It *is* asking a lot, but would we be saying it’s a foregone conclusion that we’d fire a guy with a growling/yelling verbal tic if he didn’t get it under control?

              I also think you’d have a hard time telling one of those Nigerian women “Just start crying to show you’re distressed-it’s not immutable.” I’ve known American men who absolutely want to get over the “men never cry” stuff that was crammed into them when they were young, but most can’t. Going the other direction can be just as hard.

              1. Snark*

                I would certainly consider firing someone who growled and yelled at negative feedback. I’d probably go ahead and do it.

                1. Lindsay J*

                  100% . Even more likely than the crying. Growling and yelling is threatening in a way that crying is not.

                  And frankly I don’t care if he can’t control it. He (or she, if it were a woman doing the same thing) can go to anger management or another type of therapy and come back when they can control it or at the least learns strategies to diffuse the situation.

              2. fposte*

                I’m not saying it’s a switch-flip; I am, however, saying this isn’t simply a hard-wired biological reaction. And it’s not a foregone conclusion that growler would be fired, but it *is* a foregone conclusion that a lot of people here and elsewhere would have major concerns about working with him.

                Signs of strong emotion have enough of a psychological impact on your co-workers that it doesn’t make much difference if *you* are really feeling the emotion or not. Disproportionate and overfrequent signs of strong emotion are really tough on co-workers (I also couldn’t have somebody like that in any of our public facing positions), and I would have talks with a staffer who displayed that behavior about ways to minimize its impact.

              3. Observer*

                It may not be a foregone conclusion. But in most cases, if someone had a habit of yelling at people, it would NOT be reasonable to expect others to deal with this on a daily basis, even if the reason for this were medical.

          2. Observer*

            It’s a “wet face”, it’s CRYING. And for normal humans with some sense of empathy or just plain human connection CRYING is going to evoke a response. This is NORMAL and HEALTHY. The last thing you want is for people to treat actual tears as nothing more than rainwater.

            If this were just allergy, it would be different. But, it’s clearly not. It’s an outsized emotional reaction that is taking a toll on others. Telling people to start being robots is not a viable or reasonable solution.

          3. Casuan*

            There’s a big difference between long-term physiological manifestations & having symptoms that distract others.

            I assume that OP wrote to AAM because the situation is beyond the “my colleague looks teary after anyone talks to her & we’re having a difficult time ignoring this physiological reaction” stage. OP wrote in because this colleague’s behaviour is extreme & disruptive.

            If it is a medical condition then the colleague should be able to understand how even if she can’t control it, she should talk to management about reasonable accommodations. That said, from OP’s letter an accommodation might need to be “Never talk to colleague” which of course is not at all reasonable. The thing is, because the colleague can’t seem to discuss anything whilst in this [constant] state, this seems to be at least in part psychological & that makes things more difficult for everyone. If the reactions were only physiological then she should be able to have a discussion even through her tears [eg: “I’m so sorry. This is a physiological condition & please ignore my crying. Know that I’m fully present for this conversation & I hope we can sort out a reasonable accommodation.”]

    2. Argh!*

      I disagree. Asking the crier to say why she’s so upset is playing amateur therapist. LW really shouldn’t go down that road. That would triple the emotional exhaustion and compassion fatigue, and probably wouldn’t be helpful in the end anyway.

  16. Sue Wilson*

    1. I would probably ask her why she’s crying. Usually people have to somewhat slow the crying process to answer a question for breathing reasons.

    But I would understand you not wanting to engage with her any longer about her crying, so in that case I would do Alison suggest and act like she’s not crying. But I would do this all the time (and again, I would do so so that I would get an answer). So “Nicki can you rearrange the teapots?” and then “Nicki did you hear me?” if I didn’t get a response.

    The best thing you can do for your own peace of mind, and frankly for your co-worker, is to refuse to let her crying prevent you from interacting with her as necessary for your job.

    1. Lissa*

      I think my response would be “Oh my god, what’s wrong!” like I would if I was having any normal interaction with a colleague and they suddenly started crying! And then go off what they said next.

  17. Sue Wilson*

    #3: I think this is a bigger problem than Alison seems to. I think you, and I frankly, believe that these public declarations are for the purpose of signifying to people who is in, and who is out,. I think Alison’s advice (at least the part where she talks about letting her know the favoritism makes people less inclined to help her) is still good, but no I don’t think it’s okay (and in fact think it’s juvenile) to be loud and effusive publicly to only some people. That’s pointed. I would add that you should tell her if she wants to thank people more than others, she needs to do so in a way that isn’t directed to the office in general, i.e. do so privately.

    1. hbc*

      I agree. A big showy display of gratitude for Person A versus a bare-minimum perfunctory “thanks” for Person B is better than giving Person B the finger, but not so much better that it crosses the line into acceptability. I think it needs to be addressed, if only to tell Veronica that the big announcements are way over the top for something as simple as switching a lunch time, and she can quietly buy lunch for whomever she wants.

  18. Blossom*

    OP2 – I agree with the other commenters – go forth and be Lulu! It’s your name, it’s lovely, and people do get used to unusual names very quickly in the workplace, when there’s so much else to do.

    I know how it feels to really dislike a first name that other people insist is perfectly nice, but I did just want to say, I honestly can’t imagine what negative connotations there could be around Louise. I’m guessing you’re in the UK like me (based on description of Louise as common 80s middle name)? I’ve met lots of Louises and really never thought anything of their names at all.

    But what matters is how you feel – use the name you feel comfortable with, and your confidence will do you more favours than an ordinary name ever could.

    1. Thlayli*

      Yeah I wonder if names were changed here because I can’t think of any negative connotations for Louise. The way LW wrote about it made it sound like other people might have negative associations with her real name.

      1. Mookie*

        Hmm, I think that when the LW writes this–

        I feel that there are really negative connotations associated with my name and it really affects my self esteem, which I think is in turn affecting my ability to succeed in my industry.

        –she means that she has a personal animus towards the name and using it and hearing it frequently will sour her mood, which will have professional consequences for her. She said she really really hates it, and also that it’s a family name, so the reason may be intensely personal or may remind her of something unpleasant.

        1. Lulu - OP #2*

          Hi! Thanks so much for your comments. I just wanted to confirm that this is a personal animus rather than the way I feel about other people who have the same name – the name is linked to a branch of my family that has a history of being very controlling and emotionally abusive. Even just hearing people say it in a way that mimics how family members might say it to me can be enough to make me feel really uncomfortable.

          1. CarrieT*

            Interesting, thanks for clarifying. It’s funny, I’ve always thought of using family names as a “safe” bet when naming your child, but this is a good case for giving your child his or her own name for a first name!

          2. Lissa*

            Totally get this one. I have a long uncommon fancy name that most people hear and *love*. I hate it. It’s linked in my mind with childhood bullying and bad experiences. It’s a struggle to get people to switch to “Lissa” because people always want to call me “Lissandra” once they know that’s my name. Because it’s “so pretty.” But not to me. I’d probably love it too if it wasn’t my name but it is and just please noooo. I’ve had people get weirdly aggressive about my choice to not use the full thing.

            1. An Underemployed Millennial*

              This is regarding my last name and not my first but people are always telling me how “beautiful” it is. Meanwhile, I can’t wait to get rid of it when I get married because it is two words, ten letters long, four syllables, is a nightmare to spell, and I only have it because Spanish Catholic missionaries raped my ancestors. So I feel you!

        2. Jenny*

          Oh that’s a good point Mookie – I had the same question as Blossom (and was thinking, what on earth is wrong with the name Louise?!). But maybe it’s a situation where the only time “Louise” was previously used was when she was in trouble as a child, so it has negative connotations for her personally.

          1. LS*

            It’s probably not as severe as this, but a friend of mine used a different name and legally changed it as soon as he could. It turned out that the grandfather he was named after was absolutely vile to his mother (his daughter-in-law) and had demanded that the firstborn grandson be named after him. No wonder he didn’t want that name!

        3. Thlayli*

          I guess it’s the word “connotations” that made me think she meant other people would have negative reactions to it. Never heard “connotations” used to describe someone’s personal feelings before.

          1. Thlayli*

            I see below that OP has confirmed she just meant “connotations” to mean her own personal feelings about the name Louise.

            1. SarahTheEntwife*

              Oh, good! That’s my middle name too and I’ve been vaguely thinking of using it more as a use-name. The only at-all-negative connotation I could think of is that it has a bit of a “spinster aunt” feel to it.

  19. Traffic_Spiral*

    For #1, I’d also try to send as much as possible via email – and maybe call her. Maybe there’ll be fewer waterworks if it’s not face-to-face.

    1. MLB*

      I disagree. Her co-workers shouldn’t have to walk on eggshells because she sobs when she’s corrected. It’s not fair to them to have to work with someone who can’t handle criticism. It’s really no different than someone who gets super defensive or angry when they’re told they’ve made a mistake. We’re human, we make mistakes and in the workplace you need to be willing to accept all constructive criticism for improvement. And this isn’t even criticism – they’re just pointing out tiny mistakes. This woman’s boss needs to do something about this immediately. Whether it’s a mental health issue or not, it’s affecting the whole office and it needs to be resolved.

      I used to work with a woman who would get super angry when I would ask her a clarification question. I wasn’t accusatory, or trying to blame anyone for anything, I was just asking a question to make sure I had the requirements correct. She would go from zero to bitch in about 5 seconds. I spoke to my boss about it because she was irrationally angry and it wasn’t fair to me to have to deal with it.

      1. Excel Slayer*

        And, honestly, ‘would you mind doing this in blue pen’, ‘can you file this by date’ are hardly a major corrections, and not really the kind of things that almost all people would view as a personal criticism. It’s not reasonable to ask people to tiptoe around these things.

          1. K.*

            And really, she needs to stop crying. I’m getting eye-roll-y and thinking “Oh my God, over f*cking blue pen?!” and I’m just reading about it – working with her must be exhausting. One’s first job is an opportunity to learn about professional norms, and she does need to learn and take to heart that bawling over ink and filing requests is not acceptable workplace behavior.

      2. Traffic_Spiral*

        “Her co-workers shouldn’t have to walk on eggshells because she sobs when she’s corrected.”

        Yeah, but “shouldn’t” isn’t “doesn’t.” If I was manager, I’d be having serious talks with her and looking into replacing her ASAP if she doesn’t shape up, but if you don’t actually have the authority to change the situation, then you just gotta work around it as much as possible.

    2. Observer*

      Aside from what the others have said, I suspect that it won’t even work. Because now we’ve gone from a casual comment to a Big Deal that requires an email and a Paper Trail. If that meant she’d have her waterworks in the privacy of her office, that MIGHT be worthwhile, anyway. But if she’s going to be teary the rest of the day anyway, this is going to just make life very difficult for people.

  20. MommyMD*

    Crying coworker is absolutely being unreasonable and it’s not ok to act like this at work esp over minimal things like ink color or filing order. And to pout for FIVE hours. Personally I’d tell my manager this has an extreme negative effect on morale and I would not tip toe around her or console her over ridiculous behavior. I hope they warn her and if she can’t get ahold of herself to deal with common, every day workplace issues, she needs to go.

    1. Oilpress*

      I agree. I have a crying worker, and the best reaction to the crying has been to hand her a box of tissues and continue on with the conversation. The tissues show a little empathy but not at the expense of actually doing what we are paid to do.

      1. Jennifer Thneed*

        I have read somewhere (maybe here) that a person can’t cry and swallow at the same times, which is part of why getting someone a glass of water helps them calm down. (The other part is that they get a minute to themselves.)

        (I haven’t had a chance to test this, so for me it’s still a hypothesis.)

    2. Not So NewReader*

      Accepting correction is part of almost any job. If a person cannot accept correction most of the time then they cannot do that job. It could be situational, she could make out better in a different setting.

      I am saying this because, OP, if you go into talk to the boss you can plant this seed in her thinking, that maybe Crier would not be so emotional in a different place. The boss could suggest that Crier think about if the tears actually indicate she has not found her niche yet.

      I remember The Worst Job of My Life. I cried all the way into work and I cried all the way home. I remained put together during the day but I was out that door as quickly as possible because those tears were building. Finally one day, a cohort said, “You aren’t like the rest of them here. You don’t fit. Get out while you still can.” (Wise advice.) I said, “Same with you. You need to get out.” She indicated that she was too old to change jobs and she only had a few more years. Since she had lasted this long there seemed to be no point to starting over. She added, “Get out now, while you are young. Don’t end up like me.”

      I can relate a little bit to Crier because of this experience at this bad job. Not saying that your work place is bad, OP. It could just be that it seems bad TO HER.

  21. Hmm*

    #2 – I think for almost any industry going by Lulu would be fine, except for maybe particularly conservative ones. I realize it isn’t fair, but I definitely have older family members in certain industries (finance, law, so on) who really just don’t *get* unconventional things. I think a lot of nicknames would be totally fine (like Bob), but Lulu seems a bit less conventional, and in an industry that’s really conservative that might be what someone remembers – instead of how great you are at your job. (I don’t agree with the name judgement, but I’m just putting it out there as something to consider)

    But, you can still do it, I don’t think it would ever be too much of a problem! You deserve to be who you want to me at work! :)

    1. Traffic_Spiral*

      I wouldn’t say that it’s “unconventional” so much as it’s somewhere between too cutsey and a burlesque dancer name – which might make people take you less seriously in very VERY formal fields. However, the furthest I’d go is not using it in the interview and on the resume – once you have the job, do what you like. Alternatively, if you don’t like “Louise,” you can go with “Lu/Lou” – which probably would raise fewer eyebrows.

      1. Hmm*

        ” it’s somewhere between too cutsey and a burlesque dancer name” – Ah, this is what I was trying to think of a way to say, but ended with unconventional. I don’t actually work in these fields, so I can’t say how the best way to deal with it would be, but I agree that considering how much OP wants to change it, your suggestion of only doing it while applying/interviewing then changing is best.

    2. LKW*

      If I can deal professionally with a doctor who uses the nickname “Harry” and has the last name Bush, then this woman can go by Lulu with no assumptions.

      His specialty was circulatory – not women’s health. Had it been women’s health it would be so much better though.

  22. Kas*

    OP#1 – if you think your boss would be receptive, try pointing her at Alison’s posts on dealing with crying from the boss’ perspective. I’m seeing two in the links at the foot of the post, but I’ll also reply with the links in case those ones are not the same for everyone,

  23. Louise*

    I usually use a nickname to post here but I have to use my own here! Maybe I am at risk of taking this personally (although don’t worry LW#1; I won’t cry!). I am genuinely baffled – what the heck is wrong with the name Louise? I’m in the UK so maybe it’s a cultural thing in America that I’m unaware of? Don’t get me wrong, I respect the LW’s choice and taste, and think if she wants to go by Lulu then I see nothing unprofessional about it at all so I say go for it. But I had no idea that (somewhere?) Louise has “really negative connotations associated with” it that could affect self-esteem?!? Is it the name of really well-known porn star or something?

    I just threw the question out to my colleague who was pretty confused too but then came up with an idea – maybe it was to do with a criminal case years ago about an English au pair called Louise accused of shaking a baby to death in the US? But then again, you still get loads of people called Ted, David, Ed, Iain, Fred, Rose – awful serial killers – and nobody thinks a thing of it? The way this letter reads, if you took the genuine name and nickname out I’d think it was from a man called Adolf. Maybe, if the baby’s death is the reason, the LW is in the local area of where it all happened and it’s still very much in the local public consciousness?

    I am also slightly worried now that one day when I do get the chance to visit the US people will think badly of me because of my name? I like it…

    1. Lulu - OP #2*

      Hey Louise – I’m actually based in the UK and just wanted to confirm that the negative connotations are for me personally – there are many, many awesome people called Louise and I have no doubt you are among them :) For me, it’s an old family name and linked to a part of my family that I no longer have anything to do with and some very horrible personal memories.

      1. Louise*

        That’s a relief! I thought you were in the US because of the spelling of “honor” (possibly Alison’s autocorrect?) so I was momentarily concerned if I set foot on American soil and introduced my self it would be like going to Cambodia and saying “Hi my name’s Pol Pot”! Anyway to echo others I’m sure Lulu will be fine. Even thinking of the most conservative workplaces here I can’t see any issues – for example barristers have some really unusual first names IME!

        1. Ask a Manager* Post author

          Just FYI — I change spellings here to the American ones, for consistency (just like most publications do, and just like I change “ok” to “okay,” etc. — for consistent style).

    2. Frenchie*

      I am baffled as well ! It is a French name, and it is slightly patrician / traditional as well, so I really don’t see any negative connotation.

    3. Matt*

      BTW, I wouldn’t go by “Lulu” with German speakers involved – it’s a baby/children language word for “urine” here ;-)

      1. Julia*

        It’s not. At least not in any German family I have ever known, and I’m German. Urine is Pipi. Actually, my niece called ME Lulu when she was smaller because she couldn’t say Julia and the “ju” came out as “lu”. I definitely would have objected to being called urine.

        1. Matt*

          Maybe regional differences – at least in Southern Germany and Austria: “Ich muss Lulu” = I have to pee.

          I know “Pipi”, but it’s more something of the other side of the “Weißwurstäquator” …

            1. Julia*

              So maybe this gets used in some parts of Austria, but as Myrin said as well, no one in Germany bats an eye over a person named Lulu. I mean, in the English-speaking sphere, a guy can have the nickname Dick…

          1. Myrin*

            I mean, I’m Bavarian and while I’m generally familiar with that expression, it definitely wasn’t really used when I’m a child – it was, but not to the extent that I’d ever make that mental connection if I came across it as someone’s name.

          2. Julia*

            I’m pretty sure my Bavarian grandmother or my Swiss co-workers would have told me that…

        2. Fabulous*

          This is really funny. None of my nieces and nephews have been able to pronounce my name; one called me Hanna and the other called me Caca. My name is neither, and especially not Caca (another word for poop)!

    4. Anono*

      Louise is a fine name! And I like how a few threads up, people were being all, “anyone who would judge or even notice that someone had a name like Typhoon or Peachy is the worst” but apparently judging Louise is right on.

    5. Cajun2core*

      The only problem with “Louise” in the US is that for a certain generation, you may end up with the nickname “Weezie”. :-)

      1. EvilQueenRegina*

        I was born in the UK in 1982, have Louise as a middle name, and I ended up with that as a kid!

    6. Jennifer*

      Who knows. I had a teacher who *hated* her middle name of Viola and I never got why that was so traumatizing either. A viola is a perfectly lovely musical instrument. Unless she somehow got traumatized by the Miss Nelson/Viola Swamp kids’ books, hell if I know why it was so bad to her.

  24. Ron McDon*

    I thought she was saying that there were negative connotations to the name *for her* not generally.

    Perhaps she was bullied by someone named Louise at school, or she doesn’t like the relative she was named for.

    I didn’t get the feeling that she thinks the name itself has negative connotations around it, just that it has those connotations for her.

    1. Not Australian*

      Yes, not to derail the comments or anything but there is one particular girl’s name that I have always considered bad luck because until comparatively recently everyone I met with that name turned out to be absolutely appalling. My own IRL name, too, has negative connotations; there were five of us in my class at school, for example, and I was always spoken of as having ‘a very common name’. I totally respect and understand the OP’s desire to be known by a name she’s more comfortable with!

      1. Anon for this*

        This. (And OP has confirmed above that this is the case.) My mother decided before she had children that she would never use two particular names. Everyone she had met of one name was cross and ill-tempered, and those she knew of the other name were abusive. Certainly there *are* lovely people with those names, but for her personally, they produced very negative emotional reactions.

        1. Keep Your Eyes On The Prize*

          There is one particular female name that I an issue with. Every person that I’ve met with that name has been a bad or terrible person. Probably just a coincidence, but still….

    2. Lindsay J*

      There are some names that just sound unappealing to individuals as well.

      When I was choosing my confirmation name, I thought I might take the name of the patron saint of cats. Until I found out that the name was Gertrude. Now, there’s nothing objectively wrong with the name Gertrude. I just don’t like the way it sounds, personally, and would not have liked using it.

  25. Andrea*

    The only reasonable explanation for #1 is if you’ve been threatening to beat her or put her in the stocks oe some other medieval punishment if she made such a mistake again.

    I’m also skeptic that her being new to the workforce has anything to do with it – was she never given critique while at school? How did she ever get to adulthood without ever being corrected about /anything/?

      1. Been There*

        Likewise walking on egg shells around a “cryer” and avoiding giving criticism is very damaging. It rewards the bad behavior. We are all emotional beings. But someone like this is either completely out of control or else 100% in control and knows EXACTLY what she is doing crying like that.

    1. Falling Diphthong*

      I’m guessing someone who is very invested in being perfect and thereby avoiding any criticism. Which can be due to harsh consequences for imperfection, or just a personality thing that always bewildered their laid-back parents.

      The sort of corrections OP mentions are very minor “Here’s some more information about how to do this correctly” things at work, but in school you usually wouldn’t mix up ink color, the files would always be filed the same way, and so on. It’s an environment where pre-emptively memorizing the rules works a lot better.

      1. Lissa*

        When I was in grade 1 I made my first mistake ever on a math “quiz”, and I hid under the desk and cried until the teacher got me out. It was basically me being super overinvested in being perfect. So it could be this. But I think it’s not *just* this, not on an adult. Crying for hours as an adult — I really think there’s something else going on there, because the corrections are so minor.

        1. nonegiven*

          When I was in 8th grade, a girl in my class got an A- on her report card, she cried.

          When I was little my mom could just give me the look and I’d melt down.

    2. KHB*

      Well, being new to the workforce could mean that she doesn’t have the skills to manage her colleagues’ expectations, if the crying is the result of a mental of physical health issue, for example.

      When I was crying a lot as a side effect of a new medication, as soon as I realized it was a problem, the first thing I did was sit down with my boss to say that I was experiencing some health challenges that were affecting my mental state, and if my behavior seemed “off” at all, that’s why. If I’d been new to the workforce, I might not have known to do that, and I might not have had enough of a baseline of good behavior to assure him that the crying was not the norm for me.

  26. Starbright*

    This is an anecdote related to #1. When I was in high school, I was prescribed a medication that takes 4 to 8 weeks to build up in your system to an effective dose. Because it changed my thoughts and emotions gradually, it took me several weeks more to figure out the medication was causing weird emotional changes in me, including bouts of uncontrollable crying that sometimes went on for like 3 hours. I would get triggered by something small, like the coworker in #1, and my eyes would start crying and my nose would start running and it was literally like a faucet I couldn’t turn off again. Most of the time I could speak rationally and explain to people I wasn’t really upset, but it was still really embarrassing for me to be crying at school.
    It turned out I didn’t even need to be on that medication and I quit it cold turkey. It took a while to leave my system, but I haven’t had that kind of crying problem in the 15 years since…
    My point is to say, as others have, that there are legit medical reasons for this behavior. And I empathize with the crier.

  27. This Daydreamer*

    OP3 – Is Veronica only buying lunch for her crowd and leaving the others who help her out in the cold? If that’s the case then I think you have to put a stop to that because it’s crossed the line into being really unfair and divisive.

  28. an authority*

    I would cry if somebody told me I had to sign a form with a certain color pen, because that’s a dumb rule. What difference does it make if a form is signed with a black pen, making it hard to distinguish a copy from an original?

    1. Bet on it*

      That’s going to depend on the purpose of the form. Can we just take the OP’s word for it that this is something that needs to happens?

      And if you really would cry because someone told you to follow a work rule you consider “dumb”, that’s ridiculous. There are plenty of things that workplaces need me to do that I may not agree with, but I don’t burst into tears over it. That’s just ridiculous. I’d be ashamed to be that pathetic!

    2. Bagpuss*

      Actually there are lots of situations where it does matter that you can identify the original and distinguish it from copies.
      In a legal context, for instance. There are quite a lot of forms where we have to file the original.
      If we want to use a photocopy it has to be stamped to say it is a copy, and the stamped declaration has to be signed, and the person signing it ha to see the original in order to certify that the copy is accurate. (and for some documents, it has to be stamped and certified on every page. And there are a couple of things where you cannot use a copy, it HAS to be the original.
      And even where it is not a legal issue, if n organisation has a rule because it is relevant to them to keep copies and originals distinct, then it’s a very simple and sensible rule, because it makes it easy to do so.

      Also, crying because you think a rule is stupid would seem like a huge over-reaction to me. If you think the rule is dumb, ask if there is a reason for it, or just give a little (inward!) roll of your eyes

    3. Countess Boochie Flagrante*

      There are situations where the original copy on which the signer actually put pen to paper can be required. In those situations, the non-black pen becomes applicable.

    4. Liane*

      It could be anything from a government regulation (or interpretation of same) to fraud prevention to the CEO thinks other colors are “unprofessional.”

      Friendly career advice–don’t go into an FDA-regulated industry. I could only use black or blue ink–for all my handwritten lab notes, not just my signature. So maybe you’d only shed a couple tears since there was a choice?

    5. Thlayli*

      Loads of industries have specific regulations for original forms versus copies. I work in pharma and not only does it have to be blue pen, it has to be a specific type of blue pen – a non-fade type that will last for years in case of any future legal issues.

    6. VioletEMT*

      In some states, prescriptions for controlled substances have to be printed on special watermark paper and signed with non-black ink to prevent prescription forgery. It’s a real thing.

    7. Temperance*

      That would seriously make you cry? Get thicker skin.

      In all seriousness, it makes sense to use blue pen rather than black if you have some need to tell whether a form is an original or a copy. I take it you’ve never had to waste time trying to figure it out.

    8. Keep Your Eyes On The Prize*

      I signed a check once with red ink and it was rejected because the colour wouldn’t scan so maybe “dumb” but also costly in terms of returned check and inconvenience to everyone.

    9. Penny Lane*

      It’s not a dumb rule at all. There are documents where it’s important to tell the difference for legal, financial, regulatory purposes.

      The appropriate response is “oh, sorry, I didn’t realize I needed to use a blue pen for that; I’ll be sure to do so in the future.” Not an immature “what a dumb rule!”

      1. Bea*

        Dude. You should chill TF out with this policing of comments. Some of the stuff you come up with isn’t any more necessary than the original commenter and frankly it’s uncomfortable.

    10. MLB*

      I had a job where my boss gave me a specific pen to write the project names on the folders, and then when he saw I printed in all caps, told me to change it. He was a micro-manager, and yes it was dumb because IMO if my printing was legible why does it matter? But I didn’t cry. I just mentally rolled my eyes and did what he asked.

    11. Mike C.*

      This is an insanely common practice. Originals are supposed to be kept in special places while copies are allowed out and about.

      His is how we do things like keep food safe to eat or planes in the air, but you do you!

    12. Mary Anne Spier*

      I worked in special education for 15 years and it was important for us to be able to distinguish original documents from copies, so we always had to sign originals with blue or red. It might sound silly but there are places where it’s necessary.

    13. a different Vicki*

      In addition to the reasons why it can be important to identify originals, some companies use colors to identify who did what work. I worked for a publisher where people with different jobs were expected to mark page proofs in different colors, so the person looking at them could quickly tell whether (for example) the markup was from a proofreader or a layout person.

    14. Sara without an H*

      I used to manage an annual grant. There was a form we had to submit to get the renewal, and the top sheet had to be signed by a long list of administrators, using any color ink except black. Again, the idea was to distinguish the original from copies. By the time I had everyone signed off on the top sheet, it look pretty darned festive.

    15. Tuxedo Cat*

      Even if it is a ridiculous rule, I really don’t think it’s a huge deal. It’s certainly not worthy to cry over, let alone cry for hours.

      It’s a signature. It’s not like you have to redo your life’s work in blue ink when you did it in black.

    16. Elizabeth H.*

      We have a really good color copier and it’s genuinely difficult to tell original from copy. I often have to look at the back of the paper to tell. It depends entirely on context.

    17. Lehigh*

      If you would indeed cry you may want to seek EAP or other forms of treatment. There are many dumb rules in life and crying so often is going to impact your effectiveness and how your peers see you.

    18. Observer*

      I’m going to agree with all the people who say that you need to grow up or seek some help. Your reaction to “dumb” rules is waaaay over the top.

      I tend to think it’s the first, because your declaration that the rule is “dumb” and unnecessary is rather juvenile. But in either case, it’s not a good way to get along – and not just a work. That kind of over-reaction is not going to help you with other relationships.

      And, if this was an attempt at humor, don’t take a job as a comedian.

  29. Countess Boochie Flagrante*

    #1 – Aside from the crying, how emotional is she acting? I mean, is she also verbally going into dramatics, sulking, acting like you’ve wounded her deeply, etc?

    The reason I ask is that in a previous conversation on crying, something a lot of commenters dug into (and which I think is relevant here) is that people who cry easily aren’t so much experiencing SUPER STRONG EMOTIONS all the time. It’s more that the threshold for ‘here come the waterworks’ is very low, so that even a mild emotional reaction can cause tears.

    Either way, the tears are awkward as hell and uncomfortable for everyone, but I think knowing if she’s actually taking this as deeply as the tears suggest, or if tears are just her body’s way of reacting to even the slightest negative stimulus (in which case she’s likely more embarrassed about the crying than anything else) does have a lot to do with how you approach her. If she’s being SUPER DRAMATIC then going to your boss is the best bet; if she’s otherwise okay if you can ignore the crying, it might be worth it to just have a friendly chat with her and ask her how she wants to handle stuff like this for greatest discretion.

    1. Snark*

      It sounds like she was “crying and teary” for the five remaining hours of the day. That doesn’t sound like “dangit, here come the waterworks.”

      1. Countess Boochie Flagrante*

        I don’t see how? My point is that crying and teary is not always correlated to “actually experiencing strong emotions.” What is her definitely controllable behavior like?

        1. Snark*

          At some point, that’s a distinction without a difference. Whether that’s genuinely strong emotion or she just can’t stop but isn’t feeling that strongly, five hours (hours!) of crying crosses the line into SUPER DRAMATIC whatever is going on under the surface. There’s no way it doesn’t have a chilling effect on necessary workplace communications and take a lot out of everyone who has to witness it, so it doesn’t really change anything for me.

          1. Countess Boochie Flagrante*

            It changes how you approach her about it. If she gives no other signs of being unable to cope with normal correction, you can treat it much more casually than you can if she’s going the full nine yards of melodrama.

            Notice that I’m not at any point saying that a discussion doesn’t need to happen.

    2. MLB*

      LW described her as crying like she was at a funeral, and teary for 5 hours after, so I’m going with yes she’s very dramatic.

      1. fposte*

        Even if it is just physical, that’s a response that’s too frequent and excessive for a workplace to have to deal with.

        1. Tuxedo Cat*

          Not the most important part, from the OP’s side, but if she’s that upset, how is getting anything done? Maybe it’s just me, but crying like that would tank my productivity.

          1. fposte*

            Yeah, I wondered about that too. Even if you’re not emotionally shaken, it’s pretty hard to see print clearly when your eyes are watering.

        2. Pollygrammer*

          Also…she’s not apologizing for it, as far as I can tell. Which means she’s either unaware of how inappropriate/discomfiting it is, or she doesn’t care.

          1. Countess Boochie Flagrante*

            Or she’s embarrassed. Or she doesn’t know how to bring it up. Or it’s related to a medical issue and she’s afraid of being stigmatized if she gets into that conversation. Or she’s just young and naive and new to the workplace.

    3. Purplesaurus*

      Maybe I’m a robot, but I can’t imagine sustaining an emotion, any emotion, for 5 hours. And I think a lot of people see tears and automatically make some assumptions about the crier’s emotional state. So I do think it’s helpful for OP to consider her coworker’s behavior while she’s crying and take Countess Boochie Flagrante’s advice here.

      1. Countess Boochie Flagrante*

        A lot of people do tend to make assumptions, and for someone who tears up at the drop of a hat (hi!) it’s a massive pain in the butt. I don’t cry because I’m having super strong emotions or because I’m some kind of basket case — I’m the kind of person I described in my initial comment where the bar for “oh crap, waterworks” is incredibly low. On the inside, I’m more likely to be going ‘uh, not this shit again — body, can we please stop? I’m embarrassed” than I am actually being as sad as I look.

        It’s very frustrating. I’ve always been like this and while I’ve got some coping mechanisms in place, my first couple years in the workforce were very bumpy.

    4. Yorick*

      I also wondered about the more general reaction: does she argue about it? does she act like people are being mean to her? does she cry continuously for the rest of the day or just (for example) whenever she sees a blue pen? does she correct the mistake in the future?

  30. Penguin*

    OP 4: I have two theories: Is this the employee’s first job out of college/ after an internship? Interns are often encouraged to attend any and all meetings, and so the employee may not realise this is not “normal”.
    Or could it be that the employee feel awkward leaving by walking through the meeting, and feels s/he needs to show some interest in the meeting before exiting the office?

    1. Naptime Enthusiast*

      I think you might be onto something with the second theory, or it’s a topic she’s familiar with so she feels like she SHOULD share something, even though she wasn’t explicitly invited to the meeting. Still doesn’t make it okay and the behavior should be cut out, but it would at least be a kind explanation.

    2. BadPlanning*

      I was thinking this was totally a “Top 5 ways to show Gumption” type of behavior.

    3. Rusty Shackelford*

      Is she actually, physically, walking *through* the meeting? Or is the conference room a giant glass box right next to the exit? I was confused about that.

  31. Where's Ramona?*

    I’m sorry as I know this is off-topic, but is everything OK with Ramona Flowers? I haven’t seen any comments from her for a while, and I enjoy reading what she has to contribute.

    1. Caledonia*

      I was wondering too – I didn’t see her in either of the open threads which is rare and worrying

    2. Parenthetically*

      I looked for her as well and was a little worried. Ramona, we miss you!! Hope everything is all right.

    3. Ask a Manager* Post author

      It’s pretty common for people to disappear for a week or two because they’re on vacation / sick / busy, and then return. On the other hand, it’s also a thing that sometimes people just move on, as we’ve probably all done with websites from time to time. But generally it’s just vacation, etc.

      1. Countess Boochie Flagrante*

        Amen. I know I tend to drop off this site during vacations, and I also did when I was out of work for a while.

  32. MicroManagered*

    OP1 talk to your manager about this! That goes double if your manager isn’t around to see the hours and hours of crying/pouting that follow.

    I had a coworker (in her late 30s, fwiw) who would get into hyperventilating crying fits over things at work… Not at the “use a blue pen” level, but enough that it was disruptive. I spoke up about how it stressed me to even be near that level of emotion, and asked my manager if she could have the coworker leave her desk until she could collect herself. My manager did and while it didn’t make the coworker stop getting into the crying fits, at least I didn’t have to be around it.

  33. Delta Delta*

    #1 – Yikes. I worked with an office crier. She was in an admin position, and was meant to provide support. It wasn’t as extreme as what’s described here, but the effect was similar. You never knew what you could or couldn’t say to her without sending her into a torrent of tears.

    The overall effect was this: 1. I ended up always doing my admin-related tasks that normally would fall in to her job description because it was actually easier to do than to correct her if she made a mistake (which wasn’t all the time but sometimes) and worry if it would make her cry. 2. I began to resent working with her because suddenly my work load went from mine to mine plus hers. 3. It was a total eggshell situation. I never knew what I could or couldn’t say to her without her crying. I never tried to make her cry or wanted to make her cry.

    This really should be addressed by the manager, because it’s likely having a detrimental impact on the rest of the office. Otherwise, someone will end up at the end of their rope with her and say something sharp and unkind, which will likely only exacerbate the situation.

    1. Argh!*

      My thoughts too – that someone who cries gets something out of it, whether it’s sympathy or having their workload lightened. What they don’t get out of it is career advancement, so it’s to nobody’s advantage to let this go on.

  34. Gaming Teapot*

    OP 1) In my own experience, people who cry that easily usually fall into one of two categories: a) they have extreme self-esteem issues, probably from overly harsh and traumatic criticism of minor mistakes in their childhood, or b) they are fishing for attention. In both cases, your first step should be to NOT reward the bad behavior (don’t ask what’s going on, don’t try to console her, just ignore). If she falls into category b) she needs to understand that this behavior will get her nowhere. If she falls into category a) she needs professional help from a therapist. Secondly, talk to your manager and be very direct: “Jane is often crying profusely when she gets minor criticism. It is seriously disruptive and upsetting for the team and impacting overall morale. Would you kindly discuss this issue with her?” Your manager needs to make it clear to her that this behavior will not stand in a professional context and that if she needs help, there are EAPs etc. available to help her.

    OP 2) By all means, go by Lulu! Every name/nickname has the risk to be something silly/awful somewhere. The point of professional interactions is to ignore that.

  35. Mary Anne Spier*

    I worked with someone just like the coworker in letter #1. My coworker cried at the drop of a hat. She once derailed a department meeting to the point where we couldn’t go on because my department head said, “From now on, this form gets filled out this way” and she had filled it out the old way two days prior. When my DH said, “Yes, that’s fine. I’m saying from today on,” the weeping intensified because she got suck on the fact that she did it “wrong” two days before. We had to stop the meeting and finish the rest of the agenda via email. She also lost things (as in, important documents), missed deadlines, imagined that the others in our department were out to get her, and decided to help me with my “weight struggles.” Yeah, I’m chubby. She was a very skinny person. I did not want her help. I never told her that I was struggling. She also referred to herself at times as my “mommy” since I was in my early 20s when I started there and she was nearing 60. My mother had died about 2 years before I started working there and it was still raw and something I wanted to keep out of the workplace. She knew this. She persisted.

    These things only stopped when:
    1. A very blunt coworker friend of mine told her to shut the hell up about my body, because me politely saying so had no effect.
    2. She retired.

    She had a lot of issues, obviously, and was working with a therapist outside work (which she shared with us multiple times). I hope she’s finding more peace now that she’s retired. But it does wear down the sympathy of even the nicest people when it interferes with the whole department getting work done. OP #1 has my sympathy.

  36. Probably Nerdy*

    Maybe OT, but would Allison be willing to write kind of a guide for crying at work and how to deal with it (both as a cryer and a recipient)? I’ve only cried a very small amount in my 12+ year work life but it’s super embarrassing. Last time was recently when a coworker sent me some way overkill feedback in the form of a nastygram email. (Like way overkill – I was late on something he didn’t give me a clear due date for and he sent me a wall of text about how frustrated he was with my work and how he sees my career trajectory going).

    Anyway I always feel so immature but I don’t have a whole lot of control over it. Fortunately it’s somewhat infrequent. Is there a certain level that can be considered normal, because the advice I’ve seen is that no crying at work is ever ok.

      1. Probably Nerdy*

        Maybe? I’ve run across a few but I interpreted the advice to mean that no crying is ever ok and it’s all on the cryer to make amends and find better coping strategies. I don’t disagree, but sometimes it’s involuntary. If you have any other posts you recommend, I would love to read them.

        1. fposte*

          I would summarize it more as “a little crying isn’t the end of the world, but it’s on the cryer to find better coping strategies if it goes beyond that.” I don’t think there’s any “amends” component.

          I’ll post links to previous AAM posts in a followup.

          1. fposte*


            There are more if you want–just put “crying” into the search box and keep looking through the results.

  37. Fake old Converse shoes (not in the US)*

    #5 – I’m afraid I disagree with Alison here. If an ad doesn’t ask for a cover letter, don’t add it anyway. Many HR people would read this as “this person doesn’t/can’t follow instructions” and ditch it, especially if they have to process lots of applications.

    1. Colette*

      Huh? How is it not following instructions to provide a cover letter? I agree you shouldn’t submit a cover letter if they specifically say not to submit one, but if it’s not mentioned, there are no instructions about it at all.

    2. sparty*

      I agree, I only want to see a resume and put that on our ads (Resume only). A cover letter on top of the resume means extra time wasted getting to the information I want to review. I would most likely already have a notch against someone who sent a cover letter as the first page of the resume.

      1. LBK*

        It’s seriously that much time wasted for you to just not open an attachment on an email? I can’t understand the fury at getting a cover letter you don’t want. Just don’t read it, how difficult is that?

      2. GraceT*

        What if the cover letter is the second page, after the resume? I’ve done that before so the person can see my resume first and choose to continue reading the cover letter if they want more info.

  38. Observer*

    #2 I suppose that your adviser doesn’t like Democrats >rolling eyes< Or maybe they think that being Governor of a state and then President of the US is not REALLY a "professional" job. I think that most of us, though, would disagree with the latter.

    But, seriously, going by "Bill" doesn't seem to have harmed the career of our former President. I suggest that you look at the names of our elected public officials. You'll see lots of nicknames and non "professional" (aka non-Waspy) names. It's not just politics. Look at career business people and you'll see what I mean. Rex Tillerson and Jamie Diamond are two names that spring to mind.

      1. Falling Diphthong*

        The governor of Idaho is named Butch Otter.

        Regardless of party, that is an awesome name and you should absolutely become governor of a nature-intensive state if you happen to have it.

          1. Falling Diphthong*

            See? Some names are just made for politics, and party doesn’t come into it.

      1. Observer*

        It wasn’t. I was making the point that a LOT of high profile people, including the President of the US had names that someone might consider non-professional. As someone else pointed out, this is true of people on both sides of the aisle.

        As it happens, to the best of my knowledge, Jaimie Diamond (Chase) and Rex Tillerson (Formerly of Exxon) are on opposite sides of the political spectrum as well.

    1. Hmm*

      That actually makes me think about the possible sex/gender angles to this – I could see how nicknames could be kind of boy’s club-y, and how they could be more acceptable for men than women… I think there might be something to this, but not that much, so I’ll stop here. Thanks for getting me thinking though!

  39. Crier in the Office*

    We had one of these, and our manager referred her to EAP, but it continued. She was an “attention seeker” and the bursts of tears were one way to get the attention of everyone in the office and gain some sympathy.

    She was a subpar employee to begin with and we had to tolerate her for two years under we underwent “restructuring.” Everyone else was placed in a new department except her. It was a relief.

    And, I may sound callous, but I don’t go to work to be someone’s shrink or shoulder to cry on. I’m there to do my job and I can’t do it when people are having emotional outbursts–especially just to get attention and sympathy.

    Epilogue to this story is…I know where she works now and she was told after the first time it happened she had to get herself together or find somewhere else to work. Miraculously, that cured her “problem.” Too bad my office took the “pussyfoot” approach with her and made us suffer for a few years.

    1. Mary Anne Spier*

      “And, I may sound callous, but I don’t go to work to be someone’s shrink or shoulder to cry on.”

      Agreed. I mean, we all have bad days and tough times. When my dad was in the ICU for a while I’m sure I seemed not all there at work and I appreciated the coworkers who would just ask if I was OK, but it’s when it crosses over from small finite times to every day having to tiptoe around someone because they can’t handle human interacton I become less understanding. :/

  40. Glomarization, Esq.*

    A friend of the family who works in real estate was called by just his last name all the time, so he legally changed his first name to his last name. To use the site’s anonymity conventions, his parents — very conventional white North Americans — named him “John Fergus,” but since people were always calling him “Fergus,” he now goes by “Fergus Fergus.”

    1. EvilQueenRegina*

      That sounds like my ex coworker – to stick with your example, he was born John Fergus but when he started on his first day he said only his mother ever called him that and everyone else knew him as Ferg Fergus.

  41. Tearful Anon*

    #1: Crying easily, and having trouble stopping it, is a real thing, and may be at least partly neurological. My doctor tried treating it with drugs, but the side effects of the medication were bad enough that I had to stop taking it. That sort of lability can also mean being more likely to manifest good moods–it’s not just “they get upset easily” but “they show emotions more often, or more visibly, than average.” But coworkers are less likely to have a problem if someone is unusually pleased to be told “good job” or “thanks for helping with that report.”

    On the day-to-day level what I found worked best was when a manager would offer me a tissue, give me a moment to compose myself, and then go on. That worked because I don’t want to be crying, or to derail the conversation. It lets us both recognize that I would be happier not to have done something that she had to criticize, but that the thing wasn’t a huge problem, and neither was my emotional reaction.

    In my personal life, similarly, I’ll say “give me a minute” or ask for a tissue so I can wipe my eyes.

    If the crying employee was asking for help, I’d tell her that in my experience (which may not be hers), thinking about my emotions is counterproductive. Think about what you’re doing next–the numbers on that spreadsheet, or what you’re going to have for lunch. Excusing herself for a couple of minutes to wash her face might help, but don’t get into the mindset that goes in circles on “I’m crying in the bathroom because X yelled at me” or even “oh, good, I’m feeling better, I hope I can keep calm” rather than “I’m going to clean my glasses and then file those things.”

    But it’s not the letter writer’s job to counsel this person.

    1. Anon For This*

      Yeah. It could be neurological or related to some kind of medical condition. Or the side effect of a medication. There are so many possible explanations. I don’t like the assumptions that it’s manipulative. Someone should ask what’s going on, ask if they can work with her to find a solution, and go from there. Treat it like anything else that seems problematic but may be medical in nature.

      1. Observer*

        At this point, maybe the manager can ask, but it’s not on the OP to ask. Of course, if CW were telling the OP that “x, y and z is going on and this is the best way I’ve found to minimize disruption etc.” I would say to the OP that if CW isn’t asking for ridiculous accommodations, try to work with it. But at this point, regardless of the reason for the crying, the next step really is on CW.

    2. Not So NewReader*

      Tissues are amazing.
      Sometimes people end up crying at my job. I have a tissue box on my desk. I offer them a tissue and most of the time they can blot their tears, blow their nose and pull themselves together. I think it starts with the offer of a tissue. The unspoken is, “Yes, I see you are crying. But we will get through this conversation anyway, we will deal with what needs to be dealt with.”

  42. BePositive*

    #1 – I see nothing wrong using Lulu. Personally when I seen an unusual name it perks my curiosity and takes an extra second of attention which is a good thing. I never thought to treat anyone different otherwise unless it happen to be a cuss word equivalent and then find out it was a self chosen nickname.

    I know a Mercy. Her full name is Mercedes. I know a Cub, his full name is a super long hard to pronounce name. I didn’t even know they were nick names until much later.

    1. Elizabeth H.*

      I adore the name Mercedes. A lot of people don’t know it’s originally a people name not a car name!

  43. CM*

    I was a little shocked by the advice that the manager should consider firing the crying coworker. It sounds like nobody has actually has a conversation with the crying coworker! Wouldn’t step one be for her manager to say, “Hey, I’ve noticed you have a lot of trouble regulating your emotions in the office, and it’s getting disruptive. Are you doing anything to deal with that already? Can we talk about how to address this problem?” and then go from there?

    I also think a lot of the comments on OP#1’s letter are really harsh. Obviously the crying coworker doesn’t WANT to cry all the time, and unless they are incredibly clueless, they most likely realize this is a big problem, but have no idea what to do about it.

    1. Crier in the Office*

      You’d be surprised. The one we had did it for sympathy and attention. When she was working another job, she was told to cut it out or find other work and it miraculously stopped.

      I’m not talking about someone going through an intense emotional time like a death in the family or some other crisis. I’m talking about someone who cried for anything and everything just to have someone say “awww…you’re a good worker. It’s okay. I’ll get you some coffee…”

    2. K.*

      Alison said her advice to Crier’s boss would be to require her to accept routine instruction without melting down (my words), and if she can’t, then she may need a different job. I think that’s reasonable, and it DOES involve the manager having a conversation with her. She’s bawling for five hours at a time over the smallest feedback – it’s not sustainable for anyone. (I’d send her home if she were crying for hours.) It’s disconcerting for the office and she’s probably not performing her job well if “Hey, you need to use black ink for this form” sends her into a day-long tailspin.

      It’s not obvious to me what Crier’s motivations are. We don’t know enough to know that. It might be hormonal, it might be neurological, or she might be doing it to get attention. But whatever the motivations are, she just can’t bawl throughout the day every time someone corrects her. She needs to take decisive steps to get it under control and if she can’t, she needs to find a job where that’s not a problem. (I’m not being flippant, but I genuinely can’t think of a professional situation in which it wouldn’t be a problem.)

    3. Artemesia*

      No one suggested firing her BEFORE the manager deals with her. First you let her know it is not acceptable and then you offer some options for help if there is an EAP at the workplace or suggest she pursue help. And then if she doesn’t make this effort to change the behavior, then you fire her. It doesn’t matter why someone is incredibly disruptive continuously; how much work is getting down when someone sobs uncontrollably for several hours? A manager is entitled to expect employees to behave reasonably professionally, accept feedback and be easy to work with. This is not about someone who tears up or sheds a few tears but about behavior that is grossly out of keeping with a workplace.

      1. CM*

        I read your answer as saying that it’s understandable that the boss doesn’t know what to do in this situation, and the coworker’s problems seem so severe that if she can’t get them under control, the boss could consider firing her. But looking at it again, you did start by asking if the boss had talked to the crying coworker, and saying that if so, the boss may not know what to do next.

        1. LBK*

          FWIW, your initial reading still doesn’t suggest immediate termination to me – you yourself wrote “if she can’t get them under control,” so there’s allowance there for the situation to be resolved without her being fired.

    4. Observer*

      Actually, it’s not obvious at all.

      And, yes, it would behoove the manager to talk to the CW. No one is saying otherwise. People are just pointing out that the idea that the CW needs to be allowed to continue this behavior is simply not viable.

  44. Wannabe Disney Princess*

    LW 1 – I can sympathize. I work with someone like this she is not fresh out of school but just over 50. She will also be teary the rest of the day. It has since almost stopped because people quit indulging her. I don’t know what your coworkers do, but here once everybody ignored the tears and treated her like she wasn’t crying (no stopping at her desk, soft “ooohhh, are you okay?”, etc) it ground close to a halt.

    And, no. It isn’t selfish.

    1. Anon Accountant*

      We had one who did that too and the day people started ignoring her tears it magically stopped also. She was seeking attention and went into the full hysterical sobbing, even to clients!! so she could get attention.

    2. CM*

      As somebody who cries easily, I want to reframe what you said a bit. I’m really grateful when people ignore the tears and treat me like I’m not crying. I’m not crying AT them. It’s something I can’t control and really don’t want to be doing. I don’t want sympathy because that makes me cry more. If people just continue to go about their day, it’s much easier for me to get my emotions under control. The worst thing somebody can say to me is “Oohhh, are you okay?” I’ve trained my husband to never ask me that! So rather than thinking of it as not indulging her, you might consider that you were doing her a favor.

      Thank goodness I’ve learned to control that reaction at the office, because as you can see from this thread, even people who are normally very tolerant of coworkers’ behavior are offended by crying. Many people see crying as a request for emotional support, when often it’s not — it’s just a reaction. When I first started my career, I was horrified at myself the first time I cried in the office and really worked on it to make sure I got it under control, but I’ve cried at the office at least once in most of the jobs I’ve had!

      1. CM*

        (But OK, I accept that some people can be doing it to seek attention. Just trying to point out that that’s not always the explanation, and it’s certainly not the most charitable explanation.)

        1. Wannabe Disney Princess*

          Personally, I think there’s a difference. She was doing it for the attention because she makes sure everyone knows she’s crying.

          I have another coworker who cries easily, but she very much doesn’t draw attention to it and is mortified if she’s caught.

          And in my case and the case of the LW, she is teary all day. I am projecting here, but mine sniffles loudly. And sighs. For the entire day after whatever incident occurred.

      2. Amber Rose*

        I’m a crier too, and I agree with everything you said, but I think there’s a difference in severity. I have never full-on sobbed at work because of normal work things. Sometimes some tears come out and some sniffling happens and sometimes I’m aware I sound a bit choked up, but if I need to really cry, I excuse myself to a private place, and I can count on one hand the number of times I’ve done that.

        The person in the letter sounds like she’s sobbing her eyes out every time, and that doesn’t sound like someone who isn’t crying at people. It sounds like someone who constantly wants some kind of attention (affirmation or sympathy) and is using tears to get it. I would be annoyed by that also, even though I have a crying issue. I’ve yet to meet anyone who was offended by me tearing up a bit at work. I would expect them to be frustrated by me sobbing constantly.

        It may be this person just doesn’t know that it’s not OK since she’s new to the work world, but she still needs to get it together.

        1. fposte*

          Even if it’s not because she wants attention or affirmation, it’s just too disruptive to continue. That’s the scenario people, I think understandably, have some discomfort with; even if she doesn’t have manipulative reasons or she has a medical condition, this is still a problem that’s too much to ask her co-workers to put up with.

      3. FD*

        Definitely. It’s taken me years to get to the point where I wasn’t prone to tears every time I got criticism (though not to this level). I usually hid in the bathroom until I could control it, but I assure you, you could tell.

        And when people noticed, I always felt worse because then I was upset I was crying and upset I couldn’t hide it which made me more embarrassed and ramped up the cycle.

  45. CM*

    For OP#4, I think if you’ve been letting this go for so long, it’s time for OP#4’s manager to address this by saying, “Please only attend meetings you’ve been invited to.” In a 10-person office, I could see the coworker thinking that every meeting is an opportunity for collaboration and that it’s fine for anybody available to attend. I wouldn’t automatically jump to “rude and out of touch” as an explanation for this behavior. If I were OP#4, I’d be a lot happier just getting a straightforward, “Hey, please don’t do this,” instead of suddenly being shut out of individual meetings with a “I’m sorry, did you need something?” That approach seems passive-aggressive to me.

  46. Usually Lizzie*

    OP#2 – My first name is Elizabeth, but I’ve always gone by Lizzie, personally and professionally. I do actually have my name as Elizabeth on my resume though. When I was probably 21, someone the same age as me, asked me when I would stop going by Lizzie because it was unprofessional. He suggested I start going by Liz. In conclusion, I no longer am friendly with this individual and am still happily going by Lizzie :)

    1. Teapot librarian*

      My first post grad-school job I thought I ought to start using my full name instead of my nickname. There was someone in the office already using my nickname, so it was the perfect time to transition. It was also a temp job, so when I left after a few months, it was the perfect time to go back to my nickname. That was an unpleasant few months!

    2. McWhadden*

      I’m also an Elizabeth (hey!) and I go by Betsy. I’ve always been known as Betsy. It’s slightly less common nickname for Elizabeth. But it takes people about 4 seconds to get used to.

  47. Amber Rose*

    #2: I know a department manager named Stormy (he says given when he was born, he’s lucky it wasn’t Flower or something) and I met a business woman named Beau-Saxon. I have a cousin named Brickelle who owns her own business. Lulu is a common first name, and even if it weren’t, there are people with decidedly uncommon first names who have no issues. Use whatever name you want.

  48. cheluzal*

    1: Ugh. I had one co-worker who would cry in meetings (nothing this outlandish) and I found it made people treat her with kid gloves, which I resented. We ended up in the doctoral program together and she’d cry after every class walking to our cars, over perceived slights in her mind.
    The day she cried to me after a quiz (!the same day I buried my brother!), was the day I cut her off from being her emotional tampon. She didn’t care a lick about me.

    This behavior would get a non-reaction ignorance from me. Callous? Nope. Self-preservation.
    Like a PP said, I’m no one’s therapist.

  49. Raven*

    OP1, she’s definitely going through something that has nothing to do with you guys.

    Source: I went through a breakup at my last internship and it made me cry randomly and sometimes uncontrollably. It was incredibly embarrassing, but it had nothing do with my job. Give her some space, be empathetic, etc.

    1. K.*

      I sympathize, but as @fposte says elsewhere in the thread, it’s simply too disruptive to continue. No matter what the reason is, she just can’t be sobbing this much for this long. Sometimes you (general “you”) need to just not do a thing, and I think this is one of those times. OP says it’s been going on “almost daily” for months. I’d be out of empathy.

      1. Raven*

        Oh, I skipped the “five hours” part in the original letter. Just reread. Yeah, that does seem bad… yikes.

  50. MamaSarah*

    Anyone else think the crier might be pregnant? That would explain a lot…
    OP #3 – I have a co-worker who behaves a lot like Veronica. Her performance is somewhat mediocre…and her evaluations the same. It seems like this clique-ish tendency has kept this co-worker from advancing (both in the office and in their career). For what it’s worth,we are on the same team and I am on the outer circle. It took me awhile to figure out how to navigate this professionally and not take it personally. Having a running club that is uber inclusive has helped a lot. I think people are tribal at heart, wanting and needing to belong to a pac. The dynamic created by Veronica can be hurtful and deterimental to productivity.

    1. Julia*

      Or maybe women have emotions and medical problems that have nothing to do with their ability to bear children, like, you know, men do?

  51. animaniactoo*

    I think I would approach #1 something like this:

    “Hey, you know this isn’t a big deal, right? Originally I thought your crying about these kinds of things was because of nerves and being new. But it’s been awhile and I thought you would know that this kind of stuff is stuff that everyone says to each other to help and make sure we’re all on track and doing the job right. We all make mistakes, and unless someone tells you it’s a big deal, you know it’s not a big deal, yeah?” and then move on to “Okay, I’m going to leave you to go compose yourself. See you later.”

    And then the next time “I need to tell you something, and I’m going to ask you in advance to try not to cry when I do, because it’s really unsettling, okay?”

    And then the next time “I know you’re going to cry, but I’m going to pretend that you’re not, and I’m going to ignore it when you do from here on out, because otherwise, I’m helping to make something that’s not a big deal into a big deal, okay?”

    Mostly, I would approach it this way because if the tears are not manipulative, you are likely dealing with one of 2 situations. 1) This is someone who comes from a rigidly strict high expectation household/background and they are terrified of making mistakes and being disproportionately punished all the time. In which case it is very likely that crying is ignored as a “weak” response, even when it is actually a reasonable response, and your ignoring it without some further background explanation might reinforce the wrong mindset about why you’re ignoring it. 2) This is someone with a depression or anxiety issue, and a move directly into ignoring without background explanation could be read as not caring and internalizing a lack of concern/worthlessness feelings.

    I agree that not responding to the crying going forward is the right way to go, as long as you lead up to it a bit gradually. As a gentler way of dealing with someone who cries at the drop of a hat and might have some pretty good reason to do so even though it is totally out of place and jarring to deal with. On the other hand, if this is someone who is a manipulative crier, you’ve gotten to the same place without any “blowup” around it and they’re on notice that it’s not going to work on you.

    1. Colette*

      I disagree with this. This puts the OP in the position of reassuring the co-worker, and makes her responsible for managing the way the co-worker reacts. The OP should just do her job and expect the co-worker to do hers.

      I don’t think either of your two scenarios are the most likely – I suspect the co-worker is crying for hours because she wants attention/wants to be thought of as a martyr/wants to make the person giving feedback look bad – but ultimately why doesn’t matter. The OP can’t make the co-worker see a doctor or a counsellor, and reassuring her will probably make the problem worse (either by giving her attention, or by keeping her focus on the thing that is upsetting her). The OP should ignore the crying and go about her day.

      1. fposte*

        I definitely don’t want people to be asking in order to take on emotional labor, and it would need to be a certain kind of colleague to do it. I’m thinking a brisk rather than soothing approach of “This is a lot of reaction just for a pen color. Is there something we and the manager should know?”

        1. Not So NewReader*

          Yeah, I was thinking this also.
          “We are talking about pen color, it’s not the end of the world. There is no need to be upset like this over a simple request.”

          Short and yet hits the point AND conveys the message of what behavior is expected.

          If it happened again, I would reference the previous conversation. “Okay, again, just a simple request. I will need to bring simple requests to you from time to time. You can expect that to happen. There is nothing hard here, it’s just a simple request.”

      2. animaniactoo*

        The thing is that it’s a quick progression from a little bit of reassuring to no reaction going forward. That’s not a lot of emotional labor at all. Factor in also that the emotional labor here is not just on the recipient’s behalf, it’s also on the OP’s behalf for being able to have a way to handle this without feeling like a jerk for the withdrawal of whatever response has been happening to the tears before now. Or guilty or responsible for doing anything about them when the tears continue to happen.

        On a separate note, I think my scenarios actually ARE more likely simply because of the length of time that the crying goes on for. But even if they’re on the slimmer side – there’s pretty much no downside to treating this as if that’s what could be going on, and a whole lot of downside for treating them as if it couldn’t possibly be. Therefore, on a risk/reward basis, I go for my method of transitioning out of responsibility for reacting to the crying going forward.

        1. Colette*

          I think personality plays into this. I wouldn’t feel like a jerk for not responding – I’d be fine with just ignoring it and moving on, but I’m also inclined to view this kind of continuous crying as manipulative. I don’t think the OP should be rude or deliberately unkind, but ultimately this problem is not hers to solve.

          I mean, she can point out that it’s an overreaction, but I don’ t think that will stop it, and there’s a chance that it will bring on an emotional tirade about all the reasons the co-worker is crying. And whether the co-worker is dealing with mental health issues, or has been disproportionally punished in the past, or has learned that people give her what she wants when she cries, the behaviour is a choice. The feelings may not be, and the actual onset of tears may not be, but sitting in full view of her coworkers sobbing for 5 hours is a definite choice. And since no one else does it, she knows it’s not a common choice.

          If the OP feels better tapering off the support/reaction, she can do that, but only if it’s a choice she’s making for her, not for the co-worker.

      3. FD*

        I dunno, I think that animaniactoo’s scenarios are more likely than her just wanting to get attention.

        We’ve had multiple questions on this site, including last week, about people who had bad experiences at home or at work and are having trouble coping with normal criticism. And a lot of people struggle with some kind of mood disorder or physical disorder that affects emotion–multiple people have even commented on that in this comments section.

        That doesn’t make the behavior acceptable, but it does no harm to assume a kinder explanation.

        1. fposte*

          Yeah, I think there’s a lot of grey area here that isn’t getting much look-in. Even without a mood disorder, it can be an adaptive response that isn’t useful but also isn’t a conscious manipulation. This happened to me when I visited Russia and found that my Midwestern smiling habits that smooth things over here were sometimes viewed as bogus and manipulative there. But I was just smiling because that’s what I’d learned to do in such situations and was used to people who shared that behavior.

          1. Colette*

            Yeah, I agree that this may be a learned behaviour and not a conscious attempt to manipulate people. I will say that I’d have a lot more sympathy for it if the co-worker teared up and then excused herself to recover, or took other steps to be discreet about her reaction. It’s the multi-hour public crying that makes me wonder if she enjoys the spectacle.

            1. animaniactoo*

              If she was raised in the kind of home where tears were seen as a sign of weakness and the standards were harsh and strict, it would be very normal for her to have developed the habit of *not* excusing herself to go cry. She would have been expected to stand there and take it and at a first job out of college would be unlikely to have broken that internalized mindset of how to handle a response she can’t help having.

              1. Annabelle*

                Idk if that’s necessarily true. My mother was a big proponent of the “tears are shameful manifestations of weakness” thing, and it made me much more prone to hide tears at all costs. On the flip side, my wife grew up in a home where tears were the norm and is way more likely to openly weep than I am.

                Of course, this is all anecdotal, but I don’t think we can really say *why* this coworker doesn’t feel the need to compose herself in a timely manner.

    2. Anon For This*

      She could be in a really stressful situation outside of work. An abusive relationship, dealing with dysfunctional family issues, recently bereived, diagnosed with a serious illness, who knows. I would start there. React as though she means well. This doesn’t mean you have to say anything to her about it. But don’t say anything that would be really awful to say if someone had a very legitimate reason for crying a lot.

      And I would take that approach with the boss if you bring it up. “I’m concerned about my co-worker. I’ve seen her crying. Is she ok? Have you asked what’s going on?”

      Once you’ve rules out more serious explanations, then you can start to suspect that it is within the person’s control. But in light of all the possible causes for this, be nice.

      1. Colette*

        Well, even if it’s totally in her control, there’s no reason to be mean or rude. But ignoring the behaviour isn’t either of those things, IMO.

    3. Parenthetically*

      I really agree with your first sentence and less with your subsequent remarks! I think it has to be said with a cheery, brisk tone (rather than mournful commiseration), and not harped on.

      1. animaniactoo*

        Interestingly, nowhere did I say anything about the “tone” in delivering this. I agree that towards the cheerful side is a better way to say it. I would not go totally cheerful given that it could come across as pretty insensitive, but I would go for calm and upbeat.

  52. Anya*

    A lot of the responses regarding crying are making me kind of sad (ha!). It does sound as though OP’s coworker is suffering for some reason and possibly needs some outside help. The fact that the boss isn’t seemingly doing anything is definitely making it a problem for the other employees. As much empathy as I have for the crier, I have empathy for the coworkers too. That level of emotion is too tough to be faced with day in day out.

    It reminds me of my first job. I was straight out of college during the Great Recession…lucky to have a job at all, but I was overwhelmed and humiliated. Feeling like a total failure because it wasn’t in my field. A few of my coworkers were openly nasty about it. So I felt like a worthless piece of crap and when I inevitably made rookie mistakes the criticism was really hard to take. Nowadays I could handle it all much better and probably without tears. I really needed some counseling at the time. EAP would have been a welcome suggestion, for sure.

    Independent of the LW’s situation, I feel empathy about the crying. Have you ever noticed how many women struggle with this? (Men aren’t “allowed” to cry anyway, even if they might want to.) A couple of friends and I were just talking about this. We all grew up in a highly sexist household. Crying, manipulation, passive aggression were the tools our mothers used to shift the power dynamic. Being assertive, asking for things, etc were just not done. And that is really hard to unlearn when that’s how your brain developed.

    1. fposte*

      That’s such a good point, Anya. It makes me think of the couple of letters we’ve had about grownups who use baby talk. Often we’re seeing a behavior that’s been the best they could do in a situation.

      1. Anon For This*

        But that assumes that it’s intentional. It might not be.

        I think it’s like seeing someone who appears to be injured. You don’t know what the story is, but the first impulse should be to take it seriously. Either ask them if they’re ok or ask their boss if they have asked.

        1. fposte*

          No, it’s not remotely assuming it’s intentional. It’s assuming it’s adaptive. That’s a very different thing.

  53. TwoNamesarebetterthanNone*

    OP #2: absolutely go by whatever name you want to go by. I have a traditional first name but, in my personal life, everyone calls me by my slightly quirky middle name – friends, family, etc. My work continues to call me by my traditional first name and I’m not pushing the issue because I don’t want my coworkers to (easily) find me on social media or sport websites (I compete in gravel bike racing).

    It totally sucks sometimes and feels like I have a split personality. The hundreds of times that I’ve been with a friend and run into a coworker, and the friend says “oh so you work with Merwin?” and the coworker just stares, completely confused. I also have friends that legitimately don’t know what my “real” first name is.

    On the other hand, it’s helpful for me to compartmentalize my work life vs home life, depending on whether I’m a “Denise” or a “Merwin” that day.

  54. Quickbeam*

    Re #2: All my adult life I’ve been called by my initials which happen to be a man’s name. I am a woman. Because my first name became screamingly common 20 years after I was born, I prefer people to use my initial name. It has worked well in every environment. To really make it work I use it exclusively (like keeping your name after marriage).

  55. Merula*

    For #2, in case Alison and other posters haven’t convinced you that this is NOT an issue of professionalism, let me tell you about my experiences where my office calls me by a nickname that I’ve NEVER gone by.

    My name is something that is common as both the full name and the nickname; think Kate/Katelyn. In my personal life, I’ve never used the nickname. My parents, family, teachers, etc. would always call me Katelyn even if Kate would be shorter and be just as clear about who they meant. Once in a blue moon a grandparent would call me “K”, that’s it.

    So imagine my surprise when I get to the working world, in a very conservative industry, where I have to specify to people to NOT call me the nickname. They don’t mean anything unprofessional by it; they’re just really used to using nicknames. I thought there was a gendered component, until I met several Michaels, Davids and Andrews who couldn’t get people to stop calling them Mike, Dave or Andy.

    Also, specifically on Louise, I worked with an exec named Louise who went by Lou. Literally everything from her email to her office plaque to her business cards said just “Lou”. So you could tell who didn’t actually know her by the people who said “Lou’s a great guy, isn’t he?”

  56. OlympiasEpiriot*

    OP#4 — Definitely use Alison’s scripts the next time it happens. It is odd behaviour on her part.

    I once (ONCE) accidentally joined a meeting, stayed for the whole thing, and even commented and started a whole discussion while there where I was The Most Junior Person. I genuinely had gotten confused and thought I was supposed to be in it — we have a lot of office-wide lunchtime things and I hadn’t made it to the last couple so I dashed in w/o double-checking my calendar. Halfway through, I turned to see who was speaking and noticed I was the only woman — then noticed it was all associates and higher.

    No one threw me out. No one commented. I later went and apologised both to the speaker/leader and the partner who had been sitting next to me…they had no clue and thought it was funny. But, that was awkward and if I made a habit of that, it would be truly weird. Fortunately, they valued the comments I made but…

  57. Environmental Gone Public Health Gone Back Environmental*

    Re: professional ‘nicknames’ –
    I went by a nickname for a very, very long time because no one could get my name right. I’m a Katrina. Family calls me Katie, in elementary/middle school I was Katie, in high school/college I was Kat. I’d really love to just be Katrina. But for some reason it’s a difficult name to remember, and people got snitty when I didn’t respond to Katelyn or Kelsey or Katherine or Christine or any other random somewhat similar name. In school, I just gave up and went with a nickname. It’s been freeing now professionally to 1) have learned confidence in calmly insisting on Katrina and 2) use the name I have always preferred.

    I think my favorite mis-applied name was Claudette. Haven’t a clue how the individual got that name out of Katrina.

    As a somewhat related rant: I wish people would stop with the comments about hurricanes at me. I am fully aware a devastating hurricane shares my name. No, I wasn’t named after it. Using very simple math, it’s easy to figure out that I am older than the hurricane… No, I don’t really find it that funny. I’m not entirely sure how it’s supposed to be funny. It’s a name. Names get duplicated and used for a variety of things. /endrant

    Anyway – you use whatever name you want. I wouldn’t even blink at Lulu.

  58. KC without the sunshine band*

    OP#4: the person in the office next to me often feels it completely appropriate to come in my office and join conversations that she feels may “affect her”. I tried the direct-in-the-moment approach and that got her gone a couple of times, but it didn’t stop it long term. I had to have the private sit down that said, “Don’t do that.” I would definitely advise trying Allison’s approach first. Anyone repeatedly doing this probably won’t be embarrassed. In my experience, they think too highly of their own opinion, and will just think you are crazy to not want to include them. In his mind, it will be your loss. But if the direct approach doesn’t stop it, don’t let it drag out much longer. See his boss ASAP.

  59. FD*

    #1- It might be helpful to reframe this in your head as just something she does. Fergus never shows up to meetings on time, Lucinda uses Comic Sans in her signature, and this coworker cries a lot. If you can mentally put it in the same category as ‘mildly annoying but not interfering with my job’ and treat it like you would those (e.g. go on as if she didn’t do it), it will make your life easier.

    (Note that this only applies because you’re her peer and can’t do anything about it, so proceeding as if it weren’t happening is probably the best solution.)

  60. Anon For This*

    #1 – I have been the crying co-worker. It was because I was dealing with a difficult family situation and PTSD from it. Small things were triggering flashbacks of much worse things.

    What I really needed was for someone to take it seriously and refer me to a variety of services that might have been applicable. I tried therapy to get it under control, but that didn’t help. I was in an abusive situation and needed help with the logistics of getting out of it. I needed legal advice. Stuff like that. But my workplaces treated it as though it was intentional or within my control. I got disciplined for it.

    When someone’s crying, it’s hard to tell what’s going on. I know the OP is probably not in a position to help because she’s not the person’s boss. But someone should have a private conversation with this person, let them know that they’re concerned, and treat it as though it’s serious. There’s no need to get involved; just give the person an appropriate referral and, if possible, offer them a week off to address whatever is going on. Be supportive.

  61. Miss Pantalones en Fuego (formerly Floundering Mander)*

    OP2: There are undoubtedly many, many people in the world whose given name is Lulu, so I would not worry about it!

  62. Not So NewReader*

    OP1, I would love a follow up on how this works out. I hope she makes it.
    But I can’t for the life of me figure out how she can see to do her work. If I cried like that, my work would definitely tank.

  63. NotMsFrizzle*

    OP #1 – I love this blog, but there’s consistently a bit of a blind spot whenever someone crying as a result of criticism comes up. I really don’t think it’s intentional by Alison and it’s throughout the comments as well, so I think it just reflects a lack of understanding rather than a lack of compassion. Typically reactions to criticism like this are a result of some kind of past trauma and could be considered a form of PTSD. It’s *very* VERY unlikely the person is doing this for attention, drama or anything manipulative. Likely she is embarrassed and feels that it is out of her control.

    Getting into trauma-informed therapy is likely what will help her the most, but it’s probably pretty difficult to refer someone to this in a professional setting (especially as a peer). For your own sanity at work, I’d redirect your view of her towards compassion and try to understand that the crying is not any more pleasant for her than it is for you. I wouldn’t make a big deal out of it, either, and make sure that she truly understands it’s both ok that she made the mistake AND that she cried over it. It’s not your job to comfort her and I do think Alison is right to treat it as a “non-reaction”, but it’s worth explicitly stating just once how everything is ok. If she’s crying this much over small mistakes it may not be obvious to her how small they are. Then just let it go as much as possible.

    1. NotMsFrizzle*

      I just wanted to add: I’m saying to reassure her that it’s ok she cried because I wonder if her hours-long teariness is some meta-crying related to embarrassment/frustration over crying at work again. This may be a very frustrating and demoralizing experience for her. And I really doubt she’ll cry *more* if you tell her it was ok, so it seems like a kind white lie that might also help ease some of the issue.

    2. Mookie*

      Hmm, as you say, this topic has been broached more than once, and neither Alison nor the commentariat appear to be blind to the possibility that a person who cries regularly is expressing trauma. That’s as may as be–the purpose of the blog is how to navigate someone else’s trauma professionally and without violating their privacy, while also asserting their own right to work in an environment free from tears and crying spells. The overwhelming response here is, in fact, one of compassion, but for everyone involved. I don’t really see anyone suggesting that someone who cries because she’s been asked to change ink colors is trying to manipulate anyone. And I heartily agree with Alison that “just let it go” is not the answer at all. This is disruptive, and sounds very painful and embarrassing for the LW’s coworker.

      1. NotMsFrizzle*

        My point was more that trauma is a mental health issue and should be treated/thought-of as any other health issue. Illness is the workplace is often disruptive but it’s something we accept (or that the ADA requires us to accept), and I’m not sure the people being put out by a colleague’s illness should have the same reciprocal sympathy even though I acknowledge it’s unpleasant for them. This person needs treatment, and may be getting it for all we know, but her co-workers need to reframe it as a health issue she can’t help. Her manager likely needs to step up, but that’s not who wrote in.

        1. Observer*

          That’s not really true. Allison has always been compassionate about illness, but she has also always been very clear that when illness starts becoming really disruptive it needs to be dealt with. With as much kindness and dignity as possible, but still dealt with.

          Also, as other (many of whom deal with mental illness themselves) have pointed out, there is a limit to how much of the burden of your illness – and it doesn’t matter what kind of illness it is – you can reasonably ask your co-workers to handle. And, at MINIMUM, when a person is putting a burden on others, they need to acknowledge that and make it clear that they are in fact trying to minimize the problem. Not groveling and tons of detail, for sure, but enough information to help people deal.

          For an example of Allison’s response to a situation where someone with a physical illness was placing a burden on a co-worker, look for the letter about the person who couldn’t drive expecting her co-worker to drive her to work every day.

    3. Annabelle*

      I think assuming that the crying is due to trauma is essentially diagnosing LW1’s coworker, and that’s pretty explicitly not allowed here and may be why you’re not seeing that in Allison’s answer or the comments. She could be crying because of a whole bunch of different physical or mental health conditions, but we have no way of knowing what’s actually going on.

  64. Easter*

    OP #2, I work in a conservative field and know plenty of folks who use nicknames or shortened versions of their names (other than the standard Mike for Michael kind of thing). Something I’ve seen in email signature lines is “Louise (LuLu) Smith, Llama Wrangler” – which I think is a great way to acknowledge your legal name (particularly if your employer won’t let you be but insists on but also make sure people know how you prefer to be called.

  65. Upstart*

    OP #2: I was in a similar situation, and I decided to switch from using my legal name at work to using my nickname, which has nothing to do with my legal name. So the last time I job hunted, on my resume, I listed my legal first name followed by the nickname in quotation marks. Example: Margaret “Bird” Smith. During the interview process, I explained that I went by Bird and asked everyone to call me that. I have no reason to believe it causes a perception issue. Everyone at my new job calls me Bird. I do continue to use that combination of legal name and nickname in quotes in writing on my business cards, in signature lines, etc., for the sake of clarity. On official paperwork, like health insurance forms, payroll, etc., you want to use your legal name.

    1. Upstart*

      To expand on my last sentence: You want to make sure that the name you use for financial purposes, such as on financial accounts, payroll, equity instruments, and anything that might generate a tax statement, is consistent. Typically, this would be your legal name and would match your driver’s license name. But as for what people call you… Lulu is just fine!

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