requiring video during team meetings, telling someone we’re not hiring them back, and more

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

1. Should I require people to leave their video on during team meetings?

I manage a team of 15 that holds a Zoom meeting once per week, like we used to do when we were in person. While they work independently most of the time, there are major projects where everyone has to be on the same page, and we get updates about processes and standing during these meetings.

I’ve noticed that the people who turn their video off (and I know they’re set up for video because it’ll be on at the start of the meeting) often end up reaching out to me to ask questions that we covered in the meeting. Sometimes they reach out hours later, sometimes a few days later. I’m starting to think that the ones with the video off are actually leaving the area, muting the team, or just totally zoned out. Can I require them to keep the video on? Do you think it would help?

There are lots of legit reasons for someone to turn their video off — like bandwidth problems (especially if they share a network with other household members), or they’re eating and don’t want that on camera, or they share space with someone who doesn’t want to be on their video feed.

So rather than a blanket requirement that people leave video on, I’d rather you address it case-by-case when someone seems tuned out. If someone misses something once, write it off as a fluke; even people paying attention occasionally will miss something. But if it happens more than once, then you address it one-on-one the same way you would if these were in-person meetings: by naming the problem and talking about how to solve it. As part of that discussion, you could ask if keeping video on might help — but missing key info is the problem, not the video.

(Also, make sure these aren’t super long meetings. Even conscientious people will start to zone out if a meeting drags on and on.)

2. How to politely decline buying a shirt when it’s about cancer

I was hoping you could shed some light on how to gently decline giving money when it centers around cancer.

A manager’s wife got breast cancer earlier this year. The office admin decided that it would be a good show of support to have t-shirts designed (pink with a phrase of support for the wife), so we could all take a picture together and give it to the wife. Office admin is now asking others if they are going to be in the photo and asking for money for the t-shirts.

Here’s the thing though — I don’t want a t-shirt. None of the money will go towards the wife’s care or anything of the sort. Its just money for a shirt that I will wear once and probably never again. Is there any way to gracefully say no? I’d be willing to donate directly to her or a charity, but getting a t-shirt for a photo seems wasteful. Or, is this an instance where I should just close my mouth and spend the money?

It’s okay to decline! And your reasoning is sound.

You could say, “Oh, I’m not buying a shirt! But I’d be glad to sign a card or do a charitable donation.” Or if you want to take it on more directly, you could say, “It’s so nice of you to organize something. Rather than us all buying shirts for one photo, what if we instead did donations in her name to a breast cancer charity? I’d rather direct the money to a place where it can really help.” If she vetos that, then say, “Okay! I feel wasteful buying a shirt just for the photo, but I’m happy to sign a card or otherwise send my support.”

3. Will not changing my name when I get married be a problem at work?

My (cisgender male) fiancé and I (cisgender female) are getting married pretty soon and the topic of last names in the workplace came up. I will be keeping my name, and I do not plan on being addressed as Mrs., but as Ms. My fiancé, on the other hand, plans on taking my name and dropping his last name due to his own personal reasons. He works for a major retail company in the warehouse, so they really do not care. However I am working in the healthcare industry at a major insurance carrier in a semi-entry-level position, hoping to move into a leadership role as my education develops. I haven’t seen many people get married in my department except a former supervisor who the company made change her email, and all her documentation to match her new legal name when she hyphenated it, and I remember all the hassle she went though.

I was discussing this with my family and my mother, who worked in the financial industry until last part of the 2000s, said not changing my name or hyphenating it with my fiancé’s will make me look like a divorced women and draw to much attention to myself. Since she is older and has been out of the workforce for over 12 years, I was wondering is this still true? Does it very by industry? Does it even matter at all? Can you give me your two cents?

Ignore your mom, who seems like she might have strange and very outdated ideas about women and marriage.

Her stance makes no sense! First, keeping your name or hyphenating it doesn’t make you look divorced. (Hyphenating it makes you look either married or like the offspring of someone who hyphenated when they married, and keeping it as it is just makes you look the way you’ve always looked.) But also, “looking divorced” isn’t really a thing in a professional setting. No one cares if you’re divorced, and no one looks for clues that are you are. And as for “drawing too much attention to yourself” — again, this is weird. No one thinks that much about your name. In fact, they think more about it when you change it!

People might ask if you’re changing your name, you’ll say no, and then life will go on as normal.

4. Telling someone we’re reopening but not hiring them back

Our company shut down during COVID-19, and our out-of-state corporate offices decided to shutter the company permanently. The regional manager in my area is taking over the trademark and leases, and is trying to keep the local locations afloat.

We are taking this opportunity to restructure the business and shuffle around some employees and responsibilities. To that end, my coworker and fellow department manager is not being asked back, for a variety of reasons, one of which is that they take a lot of things personality and have a very defensive relationship with their fellow managers.

Are we obligated to reach out to them? To my knowledge, they are still under the impression that the company is shut down, but they will obviously be able to observe that we’re still going in some capacity. However, I worry that it’s weird to essentially say “We’re starting up again, but you’re not welcome,” especially when it doesn’t affect their current job situation or unemployment benefits.

You don’t have to, but it’s a gracious thing to do. The person will likely notice at some point, and it’s going to feel pretty crappy to have to put it together on their own.

I agree there’s no great messaging though! The best I can come up with is, “I wanted to update you that after (prior corporate owner) decided to close down the company, (regional manager) decided to take over the trademark and leases for the local locations. We’re restructuring pretty significantly so aren’t able to bring you back, but I didn’t want you to be in the dark if you see some reopening activity.” (That’s not great, by any means, but I think it’s better than saying nothing.)

5. Can I ask a current coworker to be a reference?

I’m wondering how appropriate it would be to ask a current colleague to be a reference.

I work as a marketing specialist for a large company and part of my job is being the “business owner” of one of our marketing systems. In this capacity, I liaise between our marketing team and IT to provide feedback on the system, lead the process to request changes, manage access, train marketing users, etc. — any time a marketing person needs some type of support with this system, it flows through me. I really enjoy this part of my job and am targeting roles more aligned to this type of work.

Our IT team is otherwise fully separated from my immediate workgroup (my manager and peers do not interact with them unless I’m out of the office) and this has allowed me to build really strong relationships with the IT team. Since I’m targeting roles in that area and have gotten positive feedback from the manager of that team before, I’d like to ask her to be a job reference. How appropriate would this be? This is my first professional job so I don’t have former managers who I could ask.

That’s absolutely fine. It sounds like she can speak to your work with some nuance — and, even better, she’ll have a managerial perspective on your work, making her a better choice than a peer. My one caveat is to tell her explicitly you’re asking her in confidence because you’re not ready for your manager to know you’re looking yet (and to assess first how likely she’ll be to respect that request).

{ 549 comments… read them below }

  1. WS*

    LW 3: The oldest woman I know who didn’t change her name on marriage is now in her late 70s, and (coincidentally) worked in financial services her whole working life. People did assume these things back in the 60s-80s, but even by the 90s she says it was no longer a big deal or needed any explanation.

    1. Something Clever TBD*

      Yes, ignore your mother. I got married, and for professional reasons, decided not to change my name for several years, then moved to a new state (for my wife’s job) and changed my name bc we were pregnant and wanted to have the same last name with our child. Literally no one cares. It is the world’s biggest non-event.
      No one will think a second thought if you get married and do not change your name. Trust me.
      And no one will think a second thought with your husband changing his name. I know a lot of people, straight people, who get married and either choose a whole new name or chose to go with wife’s name, for various reasons. It’s not a big deal and not uncommon.

      1. Poopsie*

        Yup, my male boss changed his name to his wife’s when they married and no one cared – a couple of staff did ask but it was all matter of fact, no judgement or censure. For external people, we just told callers ‘Oh he’s New Surname now’ and everyone went with it.

      2. Tabby*

        Ignoring one’s mom on this is a very good idea! I’ve never married, but I’ve made appearance-related decisions that, in general, might affect my ability to get a job at, say, a bank (I have tattoos on my forearms and chest) if they knew about it, but they’re easy to cover with a long-sleeved shirt and are also very innocuous even though I like skulls and whatnot (they’re all little suns, a rose, a paw print, a few other random bugs). And I shave my head bald on a regular basis. And I have multiple ear piercings. I still managed to get work pretty easily, since most of these happened over the course of a few years, not all at once, and I have a usable skill-set that vet clinics, hospitals, dog daycares, and dog walking companies want: I can handle dogs and cats very well, I know how to properly clean kennels, and that sort of thing (You’d think that was easy, but trust me, it’s not so easy in a lot of ways).

        And still, every time, my mother is like OMG WHAT ABOUT YOUR HAIR, YOU NEED TO WEAR A WIG. OMG TAKE OUT YOUR EARRINGS NOBODY WILL HIRE YOU, etc.

        She doesn’t realize I check out these companies before I apply to know whether it’s a place that is against body mods, and most of these, at least in Chicago, really don’t care if they run across a candidate that has many wonderful skills they don’t have to train you for.

        They care even less about whether you do or don’t keep your unmarried name. That’s just… really unimportant anywhere these days, as more women get advanced degrees before marrying, and don’t want to transfer those lovely degrees over to a married name, when they’re known by the first one.

    2. Artemesia*

      I am 76 and kept my own name in 1972 and then made my career in a big southern city where it was unusual then and had a variety of amusing episodes — but it certainly didn’t matter to my career. And today? We knew women in the banking industry, real estate, IT and insurance as well as academia who were keeping their own names by the 90s. This is totally a non-issue.

      1. Vera Veritas*

        Parents were in academic and in the same field. Mother kept her name for obvious reasons and that was the late 1940s.

        1. Majnoona*

          Yes, I’m in my sixties and it was common in academia because that was the name I’d published under

      2. Sue*

        I agree. I graduated in the 70s and married in early 80s, kept my name and professionally, it was a nonissue. I have been doing a zoom meetup with a group of college friends and realized 4 of 6 (we all married) kept their maiden names. The only person who ever made an issue for me was my own mother who used to send mail/checks to me with my husband’s last name. I kept saying to her that I didn’t know who that person was until she finally stopped (it took a while..).

          1. Anonapots*

            My husband’s grandmother is pretty much the only family member who ever calls me by my husband’s last name, but she’s also literally 104 years old, so I’m not going to make a big deal out of it.

        1. Deborah Whelan*

          That exact thing happened to me. I could only cash there checks because i worked in the bank. when i stopped working there I told them they had to stop. Last month my brother in law introduced me to his neighbor with my husbands last name. I told him that decision was made 38 yrs ago.

      3. (insert name here)*

        My parents married in 75 and my mom kept her last name. The only issue it ever created was that sometimes people would address my dad as Mr. Mom’slastname or either or either parent with my hyphenated last name. They did not care.

        Honestly, in a couple of years, unless you know them socially, none of your coworkers will even know you didn’t change your last name. And most wont care even if they realize.

        I changed my name when I got married because having a hyphen while kind of cool is also kind of a pain. I do have a couple random male coworkers who occasionally refer to me as Mrs. Lastname. Honestly they didn’t know me before I married and wouldn’t know if I had kept my maiden name It drives me nucking futs, but I don’t say anything because it’s not worth the fight. Also, these aren’t elderly gentlemen. If I were guessing, I’d say they are both GenX. One might be a touch old, to be gen X and the other might be on the young end of GenX but these aren’t the old guard.

    3. Escapee from Corporate Management*

      When I married in the early 1990’s, my wife thought changing her name was the unprofessional option. She had been practicing in her field for over five years and had built a reputation that she didn’t want to disrupt. Made sense then and still makes sense today.

      BTW, no one ever thought that meant she was divorced.

      1. I can only speak Japanese*

        Yeah, I know a lot more women who work under their old name or just kept it altogether.

        On the flipside, I took my husband’s name because it’s shorter and easier than mine, but since it doesn’t match my ethnicity it’s now a dead giveaway that I am married and has led to lots of unwelcome questions about my family planning, so I get that the reverse can be a concern for some women.

        1. Penny Hartz*

          Yep, I took my husband’s name when we married because–and only because–his name is waaaay easier to spell and pronounce. I’m biracial, so now when some people meet me they’re a bit surprised by how my last name doesn’t really fit what I “look” like, but for me it just leads to some questions and people being intrigued (I’m kinda a unique blend); it doesn’t seem like anyone has ever question my marital status or anything.

          1. Lynn*

            I chose not to change my name because I didn’t see a benefit to doing so-so why go to the hassle. I’ve been married over 20 years now with zero problems in my professional life due to my non-change.

            If his last name had been Smith or Jones or something easy like that, I would have changed it in a heartbeat. He says that if MY name was something he didn’t have to spell all the time, he would have at least considered changing his as well.

            My personal life is a different issue. My out-laws are convinced that my legal name is Mrs. HisFirst HisLast, and (despite being told how offensive I find it), insist on addressing things that way. I have no doubt that they are galled by the fact that the Name Police have not yet issued me a citation. :>

            1. Sister Michael*

              Slightl off topic (although I’m also thinking about whether to change my name) but my family uses “out-laws” as well! My mom and my uncles call themselves that, as they all married into that side of the family. In their case, though, the logic is that outlaws are wanted :)

            2. Rainy*

              My MIL sent us a card once addressed to Mr and Mrs Hisfirst Mylast-Hislast, which is entirely wrong in every way, since we hyphenated with his name first, and I actually have a name of my own, thank you, and it made me laugh scornfully and he was absolutely furious, which was almost the exact opposite of her intentions. He’d been so careful to tell his parents how we planned to be styled after our name change, and she screwed it up on purpose thinking it would make me mad and he’d never notice–or maybe never know, since I don’t think FIL ever looks at mail unless she’s opened it and discarded the envelope and unfolded it and put it on his desk.

            3. Penny Hartz*

              I actually saw an obituary not that long ago (at the most, 10 years ago) for a woman who died in her 80s. The entire obit was Mrs. HisFirstName HisLastName; HER first name was nowhere. NOWHERE. It was downright bizarre.

              1. Rainy*

                My first (late) husband’s sister’s obituary was like that, pretty clearly written by her husband, and one of the side effects of styling your dead wife Mrs Yourname Lastname is that it barely mentioned her only biological daughter, while spending a lot of time on her husband’s children (thus her step-kids) and their children, because her biological daughter was from her first marriage and had a different last name.

            4. Coppertina*

              Ha! My husband has a super-common last name (maybe close to one of the ones you mentioned. I, on the other hand, have an extremely unusual surname – like if I encounter anyone with the same name, they’re without a doubt a relative. It’s not a cinch to pronounce but I couldn’t help thinking changing to his name would make me an identity theft easy mark. Mainly though, I’m a feminist with zero interest in kowtowing to the patriarchy. It’s been fine, no problems other than a couple of in laws sending Christmas cards to Mr & Mrs BoringName.

          2. HS Teacher*

            When I got married, I took my now ex-husband’s name, which is a very, very German last name. I’m black, and I enjoyed the surprised looks I’d get from people who’d only known me via phone and email conversations when they’d meet me in person.

            I went back to my maiden name after we divorced, and if my current partner and I get married we’d probably both hyphenate. It’s just personal choice, though, and I can’t imagine anyone really caring one way or the other.

            1. Rainy*

              My (second) husband and I both hyphenated, because we wanted to share a name. His brothers both got married around the same time we did, and their spouses both took the brothers’ last name, so my MIL has been a bit shirty and passive-aggressive about us hyphenating (quelle surprise), but aside from many people, even people who’ve known us for years, somehow assuming he’s the Myname and I’m the Hisname because we put his first, it’s been a total non-issue.

              There were about five of us in my office who all got married about the same time, and two took their spouse’s name, two everyone kept their own names, and we hyphenated. Which seems about average, anecdotally, as there were also about five couples in our friends/family group who all got married in the space of a year and a half (we racked up so many miles!) and it broke down exactly the same way: 2 couples everyone kept their own, 2 couples the woman changed, we hyphenated.

            2. Same Last Name*

              I’m Asian and in my 30s. I have what you’d call an “old lady first name” (think Opal, Gertrude, etc). My husband has a very traditional Scottish last name. We’re talking about clan crest, tartan, and Wikipedia page.

              I’ve always thought about changing my last name just to mess with people since it would sound like such an old white lady name. Alas, I’ve kept my last name for professional reasons.

              1. Doc in a Box*

                A good friend of mine, who is Asian, changed her last name from Very Chinese Lastname to her husband’s Very Italian Lastname when she married about ten years ago. (Her first name is generically American.)

                First job post-name change, her boss turned out to be blatantly racist. He apparently held it together while hiring but then went increasingly off the rails. Like “I thought you were White” levels of racism, and insinuating some really nasty yellow-fever stuff about her marriage.

                Reader, she quit on the spot.

              2. TardyTardis*

                Our company had a lovely IT tech whose name was Hyderabad Indian-Italian, and we just enjoyed her.

        2. Thankful for AAM*

          Hi I can only speak Japanese and Penny Hartz,
          Same for me!
          My father’s last name is 11 letters, my husband’s father’s last name is 2 letters.
          One year after marriage I changed my name to his for ease.

          But my husband is a different race/ethnicity and it leads to some awkwardness sometimes.

        3. Quill*

          A classmate once declared, after our first standardized test, that her mom should have given her *Her* last name instead of her dad’s last name because her dad’s last name didn’t fit on the test sheet. (Her mom was a doctor. Her dad’s last name was russian, in the days where they gave you a ten letter field on every standardized test to “bubble in” your last name. Every adult present thought it was hilarious.)

          1. (insert name here)*

            growing up with a hyphenated last name, I feel her pain. Role call tended to cut off my first name, so I’d just wait for the confused break and then jump in with “It’s Sarah*”.

            Scantrons never fit the last name, including one of the college admission tests. I don’t remember which one, but it made for some interesting mailings, including one which explained available scholarships to someone whose first name was a butchering of my mothers name and last name was a butchering of my father’s name. So for example, the letter would have gone to to Nelso Madisa if my name were Sarah Nelson-Madison.*

            *Not my name.

      2. Artemesia*

        A lot of people seem to think not taking the man’s name means less commitment to the marriage (this was a common sentiment in the South when I was first married). In my extended family of my and my husband’s brothers and sisters there have been 13 marriages. All 6 of the couples where the wife kept her name have been married from 36 to 50 years; of the 8 marriages in which the woman took the husband’s name, there have been 6 divorces. Religions with strong emphasis on male domination and female submissiveness have the highest divorce rates; atheists the lowest.

          1. Kate*

            I’m imagining that conservative religions have more people marrying because they may not use contraception but must be married when pregnant, plus general “because this is how it is done”, which includes changing name.

        1. Amy Sly*

          Per Pew Research: “Share of married adults varies widely across US religious groups”

          For atheists, 36% are married, 13% are living together outside of marriage, 9% are divorcees, 2% widowed, with 40% never been married.

          US population as a whole: 48% married, 7% living together, 13% divorced, 7% widowed, 25% never married.

          Mormons (to pick a Christian example with strongly defined gender roles): 66% married, 3% living together, 7% divorced, 5% widowed, 19% never married.

          American believers in Hinduism (a religion not noted for egalitarianism between spouses) have the lowest number of divorcees: 60% married, 3% living together, 5% divorced, 1% widowed, 32% never married.

          I’m not seeing any straight line correlation between divorce rate and the egalitarianism of gender roles in a marriage.

          1. MK*

            There are many factors that will affect divorce percentages, e.g. people with strong religious beliefs might be more likely to stay in a marriage, while atheist might be less likely to marry (since at least one of the motivations for marrying doesn’t apply), but also less likely to divorce (because those that do marry might have made a more thought-out decision). Statistics are, if not meaningless, at least very complicated in their meaning.

        2. MCL*

          I got married in the upper Midwest in 2016 and we didn’t change our names. At least one friend my age (mid 30’s) was vocally against it because of the name change signaling commitmentopinion and “how will people know you’re married?” For what it’s worth I’ve only gotten 2 or 3 comments about it ever, and none from work.

          1. Sophie Hatter*

            Same here. I thought it would be a huge deal. But maybe 3 folks have said anything, ever? and only in the first year of marriage.

      3. EPLawyer*

        I wasn’t going to change my name when I got married. I had been practicing for almost 10 years at that point. Everyone around the courthouse was reaaaaaaaalllly hoping I would. I have a long name, 17 letters total in first and last name. The last name is hard to pronounce. Hubby’s last name is FOUR letters and incredibly easy to pronounce. I didn’t want to do all the paperwork involved to change my name with the court system.

        Fast forward about 3 months after the wedding and I realized I did want to change. Quick call to the court administration — whoohooo, its one letter with a copy of the marriage license and it can be changed systemwide. I went to talk to the Judge who performed the ceremony about something else and when I walked in I told him I was changing my name. He got a huge smile on his face. Then I told him I was hyphenating. His face fell.

        So a longer name got longer. Some judges still use the old name, some use the hyphenated one and some cut to the chase and just use the 4 letter one. I find it amusing. Career wise it has made Zip, Zero, Nada difference which name I use.

        1. Ivy*

          Wow, so simple to make a change here.
          I was married in another country, didn’t change my name but reconsidered a year later – it took going to court and bringing 2 witnesses (I was actually not present since we were already in the US, but the witnesses had to be in person) to say they know me under my husband’s name. And only then the judge authorized the name change. Quite a hassle, and not even counting all the documents that had to be reissued (and translated)

      4. Smithy*

        I grew up with a double barreled surname in the US, with my parents each keeping their birth names.

        The major point of stress for me growing up with the name was truly administrative (i.e. surname not matching ID to plane tickets due to presence/absence of the hyphen), but looking back I did get a few questions that I realize now as being rude or nosey. As a kid being asked if my parents were divorced was mostly just odd, and by answering those questions with the flat neutrality of a child, always made the questioner awkward.

        That was in the 90’s and not very common, so I really can’t imagine it being a “thing” beyond an occasional awkward/rude person.

      5. blackcat*

        Yes, I have frequently heard the advice in academia to not change one’s name if you have published before the name change (or, at minimum to continue to publish/be known professionally under the old name, rather than the new, legal name).

        And, I’ll readily admit I find it a bit awkward when I look at a CV and I can tell approximate dates of marriage and divorce from a CV. I sort of feel like I know something that should be none of my business when I see that.

        1. Umm, yeah, no*

          I used to help onboard new employees in academia, and it was always a pain when new female employees were changing names legally but not professionally. The computer system had to have the legal name, which meant the email address had the legal name, class schedule had legal name. But the phone directory and door had professional name. It was a pain.
          Similarly, looking up students who had hyphenated names was very difficult. Sometimes their names were entered into the system hyphenated, sometimes not. Sometimes they went by one name when the system has them with the other name first.
          I am strongly in favor of keeping the name you were born with. What other people think about that shouldn’t matter. Just be consistent about which name you use. And programmers need to make allowances for hyphenated or double last names.

          1. blackcat*

            See, I view that as a problem with the system, not with people’s names.
            Why must the email system have to have the legal name?
            At all of institutions I’ve been at, I’ve gotten an (unchange-able, to my knowledge) ID for login, but changing an email alias, display in course information systems, etc has always been really easy. I don’t think it’s that hard from a programming perspective, someone just has to make it a priority.

            Forcing things to be the legal name causes all sorts of problems, often for students as well as faculty. I’ve appreciated the institutions I’ve been at (2 of 3) that have easily allowed students to change their name and list pronouns within the directory system. These are small things to make students, particularly trans students, more comfortable.

            People change their names for all sorts of reasons. Having systems in place that make that difficult, or require a full legal name change before allowing changes in systems, is really problematic.

            1. Matilda Jefferies*

              Yes, exactly – there’s no reason the system needs to be configured this way. Nobody should be required to make decisions on their name, based on how their employers’ email system is set up!

            2. BluntBunny*

              Yes most companies ask for preferred name and then surname. So if they want their email to be Matt instead of Mathew. Also helps when you are typing in a coworker’s email that their email address is how they are addressed in person. Also the hyphenated names being put in wrong is human error not the persons fault.

          2. MCL*

            My mom changed her name to a hyphenated last name after she married in the 70’s. She was a high school teacher in Iowa. Her principal told her during her first week that she had to pick one of the names, because they couldn’t account for the hyphen in the computer system. She sweetly asked what they used for the dash between parts of phone numbers. He harrumphed, but apparently that was enough for them to figure it out how to get her full last name in the system and she stayed Mrs. Jones-Smith. I gotta say, her doing the double last name thing was VERY weird in her family and social circles in the 70’s, and my dad’s parents never accepted that she had a hyphenated last name (they were jerks to her in many other ways). Growing up with this normalized thing was helpful as a point of reference when I chose not to change my last name after marrying.

          3. Mimi*

            As the person who has to handle the tech paperwork when people marry and change their names (and whose mother got divorced and had to change her name back), I can say that it’s MUCH easier professionally to not change your name, unless you have really strong reasons to take the other name.

            In my several years at the company, we’ve had a small handful of women change their last name with marriage, one man change his last name with marriage, and a slightly-smaller handful of people legally change their first name. I’ve seen about as many “sign a card for so-and-so getting married” for people who didn’t change their names with marriage, and I only see those for my site, so I would actually guess that it’s more common, at least among the young liberal people I work with, to not change your name when you get married.

        2. Butterfly Counter*

          Oh my god, same.

          One of the many factors of me not changing my name when I got married as an academic was when doing research on a subject, over time, I could see the same researcher changing her name. She started with a name something like “Petra Smith,” then went to “Petra Smith-Jones,” then to “Petra Jones,” and finally back to “Petra Smith.” Based on coauthors and an unusual-enough first name, I knew this was the same person. And I felt like I might know way too much about her personal life and that is something I would not want other researchers knowing about me.

          Not changing your name doesn’t signal anything unless you suddenly start telling people you’re married.

          1. Rainy*

            There’s a (now emerita) scholar whose books I used to refer to fairly often and bear a set of names not unlike the arc you describe and it always made me, too, feel uncomfortably like I knew too much about her personal life.

            1. blackcat*

              Yeah, I mean my immediate research community know some stuff about my personal life in part because I’ve shown up to conferences rather pregnant and toting a newborn. But it’s entirely different to gleam things from a CV/publication record when you don’t know someone personally.

              I think it’s my hang up (that I should work on) that I feel weird seeing evidence of divorces on a CV, but I find it reassuring that I’m not the only one.

              1. Butterfly Counter*

                My issue is also that this is something that men aren’t expected to go through. They typically keep their names their whole lives and don’t have any markers of marriage/divorce/etc. Part of my discomfort is that I and others can know these personal details more about women (and potentially make judgments based on this assumed knowledge), but not nearly as much with men.

                1. blackcat*

                  Yes, exactly. I mean, the being pregnant/toting a newborn at conferences is also something that is mostly experienced by women, too, and I was so jealous that my husband’s professional circles didn’t know we were having a baby until I was like 32 weeks pregnant and he was notifying people of when he expected to be out. Meanwhile, I had passed out *while giving a conference talk* at 6 weeks pregnant and, when coming to, explained I was pregnant and unable to eat anything without puking and therefore passing out all the damn time. While my field is very male, my immediate research circle is pretty gender-balanced and filled with some really great people, so it wasn’t like… a thing. But I really would have liked to keep it private for longer!

    4. JSPA*

      I’d pin “when it last mattered” sometime around the late 70’s in larger cities, a bit into the 80’s in smaller cities and towns in more socially conservative areas, and somewhat further into the 80’s in the last holdout areas. Unless OP belong to a group that intentionally eschews modernity, this has to be a non-issue.

      If someone is weird about it, it’s a them problem, not a name problem.

      I don’t want to trash-talk a poster’s mother! Maybe someone was weird about it with mom (as opposed to mom being the one who was weird about it), and mom internalized it as some strange norm? (Who knows. People come up with all sorts of BS excuses to be creepy.) But “heh, heh, kept name, must be a DIVORCÉE” isn’t a thing.

    5. Older Than Dirt*

      I’m in my 60’s and didn’t change my name when I married. Absolutely no one questioned it, at least to my face. I can’t image anyone under 100 years old having such outdated notions.

      1. Older Than Dirt*

        I should clarify that my own parents, now in theot late 80s, had two daughters not change their name upon marriage. My parents didn’t have a problem decades ago with any name a woman chooses to call herself upon marriage, or assuming keeping a “maiden” name would mean a woman was divorced, and they don’t have a problem now as reeeeeeally old people.

      2. TechWorker*

        I have friends who got married last year – I don’t know how old their parents are but my friends are late 20s & I’d guess the parents were in their 50s or early 60. The grooms parents were horrified that they chose to double barrel (?!) so I’m not sure the bride keeping her name would have gone down well either. People can be weird about it for certain!

        1. Chocolate Teapot*

          Here, on administrative documents, the wife is always a double barrel. So my Doctor, whose name plaque on the door states “Dr Jane Smith”, appears on her invoices and in the phone book as “Dr Jane Smith-Warblebach”.

        2. londonedit*

          I have a friend whose mother-in-law was similarly horrified that she chose to double-barrel her name rather than switching wholesale to the groom’s name. To the point where 10 years later she insists on addressing everything to ‘Mrs Warbleworth’ instead of ‘Mrs Smith-Warbleworth’. But she is a slightly odd woman anyway, as I’m sure you can imagine. Apart from that, I have friends who have both double-barrelled their names when they got married, friends who haven’t changed their names at all, friends who have changed their name in their personal life but kept their old name for work, etc etc. I’ve never heard of any of those things being an issue for them professionally.

      3. Dust Bunny*

        My parents are in their early 70s. My mother did change her name when they married but it was at least in part because her maiden name lent itself well to teasing and she was tired of the jokes (think Trout, so she got called “Fishy” all the time; that kind of thing). My dad’s name didn’t sound like anything else and couldn’t be made “funny”. All of her Seventies feminist friends were horrified.

        My brother and SIL tried hyphenating but decided it was unwieldy and went back to their respective birth surnames. They are very definitely not divorced. The only people who commented were my mother’s stick-in-the-mud siblings, whose opinions on a lot of things are best ignored.

    6. Kanye West*

      My parents married in the 70s, my mom kept her name and because of it (and it not being as much of a rule in the country I was born), I always felt a woman taking the man’s name by default is a bit backwards/sexist. It seems weird to me that this is still a thing in some countries.

      Obviously everyone can decide what’s best for them but the expectations and pressure to conform are not OK.

      1. MK*

        In my country, since the gender equality law was passed in the early 1980s, women cannot legally change their name upon marriage (there is a general process about changing your name that anyone can do and they can of course follow that), though they can use their husband’s name socially. Before that, it was the other way around for women who worked in professions: their name changed automatically when they married, but they continued to use their maiden name in their workplace. I sort-of get where the OP’s mother is coming from, because back then married professional were known as “Mrs.MaidenName” in their work and divorced women went by “Mrs.MaidenName” all the time; though, frankly, keeping your personal situation private back then wasn’t really a thing, everyone would know if you were married or divorced. But it’s a really outdated concern.

        1. Evan Þ.*

          Totally banning women from changing their names on marriage sounds weird to me. Are people allowed to change their names in general?

          1. Myrin*

            From MK’s comment: “there is a general process about changing your name that anyone can do and they can of course follow that”

          2. fhqwhgads*

            I take it that it’s more like there’s one process for changing one’s name, and that is no longer simplified or easier when the reason one wants to do it is marriage. The channels still exist, same as any name change.

    7. Avasarala*

      Adding that the phenomenon of male spouses changing their last name is not unheard of either.

      In my social circle (which admittedly includes more liberal and untraditional folks), some male partners have changed their name to the female partner’s name, or they’ve chosen a new one together (or both hyphenated).
      Still, that is less common so honestly I’d be more prepared for questions directed at your husband than at you. Women not changing their names after marriage is not unusual in the US and is standard practice in many cultures around the world.

      1. TechWorker*

        Yes, and some institutions are not that well set up for men changing their names even though they’ve handled it perfectly well with women for years.

      2. alienor*

        I know a couple who just merged–not the real last names, but imagine he was Bob Black and she was Jenny Smith, and now they’re Bob and Jenny Blacksmith (their kids share the name as well). I thought that was a cool way to handle it.

          1. MayLou*

            I’ve heard of M* White and M* Black becoming the Greys which I like a lot. When I got married we both took a totally new name. The number of times I’ve been asked for my marriage certificate (which does not show my current legal name) to prove my identity… people do get confused by variation from the norm!

        1. Dust Bunny*

          I know a couple of couples who have done this, and at least one that selected a few letters from each of two long, very un-phonetic surnames and created an entirely new surname.

        2. Turquoisecow*

          Yep, my husband has a friend who did something similar. He wasn’t close to his family or attached to his name, and she didn’t want to keep hers so they melted them into an entirely new name and had both legally changed.

          My husband’s stepsister’s husband changed his name to match hers when they got married because he liked her name better and apparently wasn’t close to his family. As far as I know, his family is fine with this and it hasn’t caused him any problems, but it’s definitely more noteworthy and a topic of conversation than if she had.

        3. ian*

          My personal favorite version of this is the author of the webcomic Saturday Morning Breakfast Cereal, who was named Zach Weiner, married someone named Smith, so they both changed their name to Weinersmith, because they thought it was a funnier name.

        4. JustaTech*

          I had a classmate who’s last name was the combination of both her parent’s last names, but her parents didn’t change their names. Like, Mr Sliver and Ms Smith and she was Miss Sliversmith.

    8. Lynca*

      Eh. Depending on where you live you’ll probably get some questions. I kept my last name when I got married recently and I live the in the South. I had been using my name professionally for almost 15 years and had a license which is a PITA to get a name changed on. I also liked my name as is.

      Most people were just curious as to why I did it and would any kids we have use hyphenated last names (our names sound terrible hyphenated together so no). My mom was honestly the only one that had a problem with it.

      1. tiasp*

        Wasn’t even a question for me when I married. (1) I like my name, why should I change it? and (2) my last name is uncommon, so I am the only person with my name in the world, while my husband’s last name is very common, so even in our small (under 2000 town), there are multiple people with the same first name-last name as my husband and each of our kids (gave them his name).
        Occasionally I get asked about it, and I usually say that if his name had been something like Wolfbane, then I would have changed it, but otherwise, I like being the only [my name] in the world.
        I absolutely do have the occasional relative who calls me by his last name. One I think is being a jerk, but the other 2 or 3 just assumed that I changed my name and use my last name so seldom that it never particularly came up that I hadn’t changed it. However, since I NEVER use his name, if you address me as [my name][his last name], I genuinely assume you are talking to or about one of the many other people who actually have that name.

        1. Miss Pantalones en Fuego*

          Same for me with the name. I’m certainly the only person who comes up on google with my name (which can be a problem in some circumstances, I suppose). I couldn’t be bothered to change it since I would have had to deal with changing all the documents in two countries, getting passports and visas reiussed, etc. My Dad always addresses letters to me as Mrs Husband but I think that’s just his slightly wrong idea of the polite way to address mail.

      2. Aeryn Sun*

        I kept my name and other than a few relatives who still address my mail to “Aeryn Crichton” and a little confusion at my child’s school, it’s never been an issue. The weirdest thing I encountered at work was being told after my daughter was born that, since we had different last names, they needed a birth certificate to add her to my health insurance. I wouldn’t have cared if they hadn’t cited that as the reason but as it was, I was tempted to add my nieces and nephew, who do share my last name.

        1. Bear Shark*

          Spouse and I have the same last name as do our children, and we also needed the birth certificate to add them to health insurance. That was really weird of your work to claim that different last names was why they needed a birth certificate to add your daughter.

      3. Rainy*

        My BFF kept her name when she and her spouse got married, which I think she would have done even if his name weren’t kind of awful, but their child got her name, which I think was definitely the best of the available options.

      4. another scientist*

        agree, that if you are in more traditional circles (employer or general region), some people will care and be curious. I still don’t think it will hold you back professionally at all! I also don’t think people will make the assumptions that OPs mom is worried about. If you meet new people after you get married, they will probably assume that your family name is not your maiden name, but your husband’s.

    9. LGC*

      My own mom kept her maiden name! (And she is SOLIDLY a Boomer.) Like, yeah, people assumed my mom was…unmarried when I gave her name (I have my dad’s last name), but it wasn’t a big deal in the 90s or 00s. But all it took was a bit of explanation to get things sorted out.

      (For reference: I was a child in the 90s, so I thought my mom keeping her name was a perfectly normal choice and people should just KNOW.)

      Nowadays, it’s far more common for married couples to do non-traditional stuff with their names (i.e., not “woman takes the man’s name”). Most married couples I know have done it traditionally, but my best friend contemplated merging his wife’s name and his name into a new name. (It…didn’t sound the greatest, although I would have been supportive. She was the one that pushed to take his name.) Another friend hyphenates. Others kept their birth names (one of my good friends kept her birth name throughout her marriage).

      1. Thoroughly Modern Old Lady*

        Many of us boomers kept our own names. It was a point of pride, a blow to the patriarchy, a cry of gendered independence. When our children’s generation largely changed their names (where I lived) we were saddened that they found it a “romantic” thing to do and refused to even hear the history behind it all. I knew more than a few grooms who were disappointed their wives were changing because they did know the history.

    10. snowglobe*

      Aside from how common it has been, at least since the 90’s, for professional women to keep their last name, I’m confused by the mother’s idea that the LW not changing her name would make her seem *divorced*. That doesn’t make sense at all: either people would not know that there was a change in marital status, or if they heard she was getting married, they’d realize she kept her own name. Why would they assume divorce? Would people hear that she got married, and when the name didn’t change, they would assume that she got divorced weeks later?

      And why divorce would be scandalous is a whole other question.

      1. Miss Pantalones en Fuego*

        Indeed it makes no sense at all. I guess some people still see divorce as unseemly but the logic that not changing name = marriage instantly fell apart is a bit odd.

        1. Momma Bear*

          And, this might blow OP’s mom’s mind, some people KEEP their former married name after a divorce. My mother did. Decided it was hers now and didn’t want to change it. I admit I was a little confused – they shared no children with that name – but in the end it became a moot point.

          1. Turquoisecow*

            My aunt was divorced for probably thirty years before she finally changed her name back to her maiden name. She’d used her ex’s name for professional reasons and it was easier to just keep using it, plus she had I think sole or at least majority custody over their daughter so it made that much easier. Only recently, long since established in her field and with her daughter grown and married, did she decide to go back to using her original name.

        2. MassMatt*

          Yeah, I was imagining an old lady clutching her pearls. “Divorced! We must alert the church elders!”

          1. Bookish Person*

            I wonder if OP’s mother is afraid of that because of the Ms. part, not so much the name? Because when she was working maybe only divorced women used Ms?

      2. Guacamole Bob*

        It used to be that a married woman was Mrs. HusbandFirst HusbandLast for official correspondence, and you addressed letters to divorced women as Mrs. WomansFirst HusbandLast. I might be misremembering the nuance from the last time I read Miss Manners books.

        But that changed professionally well before it changed socially, and is all so outdated I wonder what rock OP’s mother has been living under.

        1. Artemesia*

          Actually the ‘correct way’ to address a divorced woman was Mrs. Hermaidenname Ex’sLastname. So June Smith who married and divorced Bob Jones would become ‘Mrs. Smith Jones. Most people however went with Mrs. June Jones and later Ms. June Jones as you note.

          FWIW in 1972 I could not get a US passport in my name because the govt insisted I had to be listed as Artemesia Hislastname when I had never used it. Their compromise was I could be Artemesia Hislastname AKA Mylastname like a bank robber alias. We just didn’t travel abroad as we had planned for several years until that changed.

          1. Guacamole Bob*

            Oh, that’s right. I had the sense I had it wrong somehow, but didn’t have time to look it up. Thanks for the correction!

      3. Tabby*

        Yeah, that confuses me, too! I don’t even wonder whether a last name indicates anything at all; you’d have to tell me whether you were married or nah (even rings don’t clue me in: I don’t really know what a wedding ring looks like, for instance. Oh, I know they’re usually plain bands on the third finger of the left(?) hand, but in my hood and circles, a plain ring on that finger often doesn’t signify anything, since it’s been fashionable for decades to wear all kinds of rings on all the fingers of both hands, married or not. It just doesn’t ping as ‘married’ to me. Very often, a married couple doesn’t even WEAR anything to signify they’re married!), so I can’t imagine why this OP’s mom is so hung up on that. Like… huh? What does the last name have to do with anything? Wouldn’t this person tell you they’re married if they are?

    11. KimmyBear*

      I’ve been married nearly 20 years and even then, most of my friends didn’t change their names. My husband is a stay-at-home dad and I’m the one with a professional career. The only person with an issue is my 95 year old grandfather who is the last person I consult on gender equity.

    12. Miss Pantalones en Fuego*

      The only issue I’ve ever had is that some of my more old-fashioned relatives (namely my father and his sister) assumed that I changed my name and automatically send out cards etc. as Mrs Husband. This once caused a minor issue when said aunt bought me a plane ticket in that name, but I was able to call the airline and explain and it wasn’t an issue. Probably helped that it was literally a 15 minute flight between two cities, and if I hadn’t have been able to get on the flight I could have called someone to come get me.

      Nobody cares that my name isn’t the same as my husband’s. If we had kids I suppose we might have had to think about what name to give them. That’s about the only issue I can think of.

      1. Turquoisecow*

        We’ve actually gotten holiday cards and stuff addressed to us using my maiden name (even though I did change it) because relatives or friends weren’t sure if I’d changed my name and erred on the side of no. And when I was writing out invitations to our wedding I had to check with one of my cousins because I wasn’t sure if she’d changed her name – there was no official announcement either way in either case. I probably know about the same amount of women who have changed as haven’t.

        1. Anne of Green Gables*

          At least some of my relatives just address our mail to “Anne & Gilbert” with no last name at all–I guess they either don’t remember if I changed my name, aren’t sure of my husband’s last name, or both?

    13. Momma Bear*

      I know a number of women who kept their names for professional reasons – it was how they were already known in their field and if they changed it, they would lose some of that name recognition. Or they just liked it. Even though I am married, I default to Ms., as do many teachers now. I have no idea if some are married or not and don’t really care. Even OP’s fiance will not keep his name, so why should OP be stuck with it?

      OP, do what you want. No one will care. Except maybe your mother.

      1. Thoroughly Modern Old Lady*

        My children’s school system, in the South, in the 80’s, decreed that all teachers were henceforth Ms and the only teacher I ever heard about who objected was a never married woman in her late 50’s who loudly and repeatedly corrected EVERYONE, EVERY TIME. “I’m MISS Teacher, do NOT call me MS!!! I’m NOT married!” No, I have no idea why the schools decided to do this. And because the Southern pronunciation of Mrs. is Miz, I couldn’t figure out how anyone knew the difference!

        1. Indigo a la mode*

          Going to school in the 90s and 00s, we all “Miz”ed every female teacher whether they were married or not (because it’s faster and who cares, really?), but I did have one gym teacher who was Very Insistent on being called “Mrs.”, with both syllables. She said she had worked hard to earn that title, haha.

    14. Koala dreams*

      Sometimes there is confusion when spouses don’t share last names. Last time this came up, I shared the story about my Dad, who got addressed with my Mum’s last name once. However, in this case they won’t even have different last names, if I understand it correctly, so there shouldn’t be any troubles. Anyway, I think those kinds of confusion is more common in purely social situations, not at work. At work people will be more interested in you, and not your spouse and the family history.

      1. Escapee from Corporate Management*

        I love getting mail with my FirstName and my wife’s LastName. It usually comes from mailing lists. So we know immediately it’s junk mail.

      2. JimmyJab*

        I love booking vacations because the hotel folks tend to call my husband Mr. Mylastname. He just smiles and says he likes my last name better anyway. I know more women around my age (30-40s) who kept their last name than changed it at marriage (New England).

      3. Anne of Green Gables*

        I did add a note on our in-house, department-only emergency contact form that my husband and I don’t have the same last name, and what his last name is. I figure that’s probably the only time my work would be contacting him without me there, and it could be helpful to remember, though we’re also used to be called by each others’ last names.

    15. snarkalupagus*

      I got married two years ago after 30 years of a career under my “maiden” name. I didn’t feel like dealing with the legal hassle of changing it, so I just began hyphenating in common use. My company IT folks were great and set up email aliases, etc. so that my hyphenated name would display, and to a person, all of my coworkers and friends immediately began using the hyphenated name. What’s endlessly amusing to both me and my husband is that *I* sometimes forget. That would be the situation in which someone would wonder if you’d gotten divorced!

    16. I Wrote This in the Bathroom*

      My mother and my grandmother both kept their names when they got married (1960s and 1930s, Eastern Europe). It may have raised a few eyebrows in that culture, but did not affect their careers as far as I know.

      Also, as someone who got divorced, and then changed my last name back to the maiden name three years later, I can confirm that neither of those actions drew any attention to me at work whatsoever. People did.not.notice. Those who noticed, did not care. It had no bearing on my job, because it shouldn’t have. Only person who had an odd reaction was an account manager at my bank – when I went there to have my name changed on my accounts, she came out to greet me with a cheery “Congratulations!” But she seemed scatterbrained overall (I ended up not having her change my accounts, and going to my usual branch a few days later to have them do it instead, because from the way she told me she was going to “fix” my accounts, I did not trust her not to mess them up), so cannot really be used as a typical example of how people would react to a name change or lack thereof. I have no idea what LW’s mother is worried about.

      1. Generic Name*

        Yeah, I had the same non-reaction when I reverted to my original name when I got divorced. No issues at work whatsoever. One person offered me congratulations and I said, “thanks!”.

    17. Phantom*

      I’d also point out that people you interact with professionally largely won’t even notice whether or not you changed your name outside of when you get married. I changed my last name when I got married 10 years ago to my husband’s very Polish sounding name. I’ve lost count of how many people I’ve met in professional settings who have attempted to make small talk about my presumed Polish heritage. It always seems to surprise people when I explain that the name is my married name.

    18. Person from the Resume*

      Your mother’s logic is extremely flawed. How the heck do people know if you changed your last name? Especially if your husband’s last name is the same as yours how do they know you kept your maiden name. I mean RIGHT NOW, you are using your maiden name. Are people running around assuming you’re divorced because you must have changed your name back after the divorce?

    19. Generic Name*

      Your mom’s advice is super outdated. I mean, who cares if people think you are divorced, but I’m honestly confused by her line of reasoning. I guess it’s the Ms versus Mrs thing, but in professional contexts, nobody uses Miss any more (not even my sons schoolteachers). In my experience, All women, when addressed formally in professional contexts are referred to as Ms, married, unmarried, divorced, widowed.

      I’m engaged and don’t plan on changing my name, and I expect exactly zero people to comment on it at work. HR knows I’m engaged and they’ve reminded me to update my beneficiary info when I get married, but they’ve made no mention of a name change. I think it’s much more common for women to not change their names than when your mom was getting married (I assume late 60s/early 70s). That’s the era your mom’s advice is coming from, not 12 years ago.

    20. dear liza dear liza*

      When I got married in 2000, people asked me (f) if I was going to take my husband’s name. All the questions came across as simple curiosity without any investment in the answer, in the same vein as “Are you having a big wedding?” and “Where are you going on your honeymoon?” I hate to think that 20 years later, people would be more judge-y.

      I ended up hyphenating and my favorite story from that is from bringing my husband to a work event. I introduced him to a 60-something white male colleague whom I knew in passing, and the coworker noted we had different names. “Oh, mine’s hyphenated,” I explained. Coworker looked right at my husband said, “So why didn’t you take her name?” Now why don’t more people ask that?

    21. Thoroughly Modern Old Lady*

      Wait. I’m confused. Husband is changing his name for reasons. Might be benign, might be a dark history best left in the past. Then wife either changes to his ex-name or hyphenates her name with his ex-name. What? How does that make her look married? Left to my own devices, I would think the ex-name was a previous husband and she wanted to share a name with a child. And that the other part of the name was husband’s original name, meaning neither of the names was her original name. And it wouldn’t give me a clue about whether she is currently married or not! This is making my head hurt. It’s the worst of all possible solutions in LW’s situation.
      I have been married for 45 years. We each have our own names. Our kids have Dad’s last name, Mom’s name as middle name. It came up twice in the first year of marriage. A female insurance agent did a double take and said “well aren’t we a modern miss!”. I thought she was kidding and doubled over in laughter. She wasn’t but she changed the insurance competently and we never saw her again. It has never once been an issue as far as anything connected with our children, not at school, work, doctors–nowhere.
      Occasionally in the first decades someone would ask why we have different names. We always answered that’s because husband kept his own name. Some people are confused by this, some laugh, many find it a reason to rethink their assumptions.

    22. datamuse*

      My cousin hyphenated her name specifically to make it more distinctive (we both have a last name that is very, very common in America). She’s a scientist and it makes her research easier to find in academic databases.

    23. ThursdaysGeek*

      She beats out me, who is only in my late 50s. I heard the same thing nearly 35 years ago, but laziness won out. And there have been no problems. Often I get called by my spouse’s name, sometimes he gets called by mine, and no-one (as far as I know) has ever made unkind assumptions about me because of my name.

    24. Peter the Bubblehead*

      My wife and I married in 2007. For business reasons (having web sites that used her name) she decided to keep her maiden name. It has caused no problems what-so-ever other than occasionally acquaintances will call her Mrs. (My Name) instead of Ms. (Her Name) because they just assume she took my name. We will politely explain she goes by a different family name than me and just move on.

    25. rinkydink*

      My husband and I did this: I kept my name, and he changed his to mine. For context, I just wasn’t interested in changing mine, and he wanted to change his, so it was an easy decision for him (I felt that it was his personal decision to make, so I didn’t have an opinion either way).

      We live in a liberal US city. No one cared that I didn’t change my name. However, people are routinely caught off-guard by him taking mine! I always present it as a very boring fact when it comes up, and they will either spend a few moments visibly but silently reflecting on why they’re surprised, or will ask why – which is fine, I usually just say because he wanted to *shrug*. I think, as often said on AAM, if you present it as not a big deal then people will take their cues from you, whatever their own opinions may be.

    26. Dr Rat*

      No offense, but your mother is completely out of touch with reality. It sounds like she left the workforce in 1940, not in 2008.

      When my late hubby and I got engaged, we had the name discussion. I liked my unusual last name, he was not attached to his plain-vanilla generic white bread name at all, and he did not have a good relationship with his father, so he decided to take my last name. No one at either of our workplaces seemed to even blink. The most common reaction I got was what an amazing guy he was. Reactions on his end ranged from women thinking he was the greatest thing ever to some guys trying to tease or bully him about it. He was a martial artist, so a quick Would You Like To Step Outside talk always resolved the latter.

      One thing I would advise is to check the laws on how to do this in your state/country. We checked when we applied for our marriage licence, and where we lived then, all he had to do was sign his new name on the marriage certificate and then apply for a new driver’s license, Social Security card, etc. However, my understanding is that in some areas, they make it very simple when the woman is changing her last name to the man’s, but very difficult when it’s the man changing his last name to the woman’s.

    27. Fish girl*

      When we got married, I kept my last name and my husband changed to mine. We did, and still do, get questions about it, but more as honest curiosity than from being offended. The funny thing is that most people assume husband changed his name because he dislikes his family (not true), but no one assumes that women change their name for that reason. We just wanted the same last name and liked mine better than a)his last name b) a hyphenated name (which would’ve been 15 characters long) or c) a combo name, since all combos sounded ridiculous.

      The process to change his names (he turned his former last name into his middle as well) was long and obnoxious even in our very liberal state, since the system isn’t set up to recognize that men might want to change their names due to marriage too. Definitely have your husband make tons of copies of his name change document, because he will need to send it in to everyone over and over again. After 10 years, my husband still needs to send it places to prove that his military record (which used his old name) does in fact refer to him. Sometimes, he’s needed it for job applications to prove that his college transcripts are his, too.

      But the funniest thing about the whole process to me is that there is no male or gender neutral equivalent to “Maiden name”. As he points out, he was never a maiden. But talking about “Former name” sounds like he’s running from the law or under witness protection.

    28. GS*

      My mom is a fairly senior MD running a global team in finance and has been working in the field since the 80s – she never changed her name. Ignore your mother.

  2. Fikly*

    #4. It sucks to have to deliver bad news, but it sounds like that’s part of what your job involves. Not notifying this person is ghosting them. Ghosting applicants is bad enough – ghosting an actual employee is really awful.

    1. Ask a Manager* Post author

      To be fair, it’s not really ghosting. The business was closed and everyone was laid off. The former employee isn’t expecting to hear anything again.

      1. Fikly*

        Apologies if I misunderstood the letter – I had thought they were furloughed, because of the language about asking them back.

        If they were laid off, then yeah, it’s not nice and super awkward not to tell them that they’re reopening and some people who were laid off are being rehired, but not them, but not ghosting.

    2. Anonymouse*

      I personally feel that it will come off as a kick in the teeth. Regardless of whether the original owner closed the company, it will sound as though they used a global pandemic as an excuse to get rid of them

      1. MK*

        That would be a pretty paranoid way of looking at it. It certainly will sound as if the new owner doesn’t want this person back, which…is true. If there are other workers not being asked to come back, maybe the OP can stress in their message that it’s not just him, but it will be bad news redardless. However, I still agree with AAM that he should be told, because there is the risk of him finding out in a more humiliating way.

      2. Traffic_Spiral*

        Shutting down an entire company to get rid of someone is pretty extreme. I’d say that if the person was officially laid off, AKA eligible for unemployment, and there were no promises made of re-hiring them, then there’s no point in being like “hey, just so you know, some of us are coming back – just not you.”

        On the other hand, if there was any implication that they might take him back (even if the person saying it thinks they were just saying a polite nothing) then they should make things clear.

        1. Momma Bear*

          I think that if it’s probable that the person will hear that the location is open, then they should be informed that not everyone will come back. If the company closed many other locations, it’s logical that the ones that do open will be streamlined. A lot of people were laid off with the expectation that they might be able to come back. Letting them know is a kindness IMO.

      3. Miss Pantalones en Fuego*

        I’m not sure I totally understand the circumstances (was the whole business shut down, as in went out of business completely, and a new company is being created? or does the OP just mean that they ceased operations for a while? was everyone actually laid off completely, or just temporarily furloughed?). But assuming that this person was laid off and did not have any expectation of having a job to come back to, then I don’t see the point of notifying that the business is starting up again without them.

        1. Ruby314*

          It seems like the arm of the company that wasn’t in the same state as the head office was shut down, the plan being for good. But then the regional manager of the arm that was shut down came to an agreement to buy that part of the business and resume operations as a separate company.

          1. OP*

            This is correct. National Brand is taking this opportunity to cut their losses and dissolve. It’s pretty dramatic- they’re surrendering all property to the landlord’s and stopping payments to vendors. Locally, we’re an institution in our community, and the RM is offering to take over the leases and continue the business, which is a win-win for both sides.

            In hindsight, I’m glad they’re shutting down nationally, because these sorts of processes weren’t unheard of. I’m much more confident in our direction now that we are much smaller and locally based.

            1. Miss Pantalones en Fuego*

              Ah, I see. I suppose it might make some sense in an unofficial or social sense to tell this person that there were such dramatic changes after they left, but I still don’t think that the company should go out of their way to tell them that they still don’t have a job there. If there is this much upheaval and the place is a community institution then your former colleague will probably hear about it through local news or some such.

      4. Observer*

        Not telling them won’t change that. It will just make it worse. Because ON TOP of the perceived excuse making will be “they didn’t even have the guts to be HONEST!”

      5. Artemesia*

        Well they kinda did. This is someone they didn’t go to the trouble to fire but were not happy with.

    3. OP*

      Hi there, thanks for the comment!

      As far as I know, this person has not reached out to anyone still involved with the new endeavor. If they were to directly inquire to me about what was going on, I’m pretty sure I could be upfront about it with them. My question was whether or not I should be proactive in informing them.

      I should clarify, this also not my decision to make, as I’m not their supervisor and didn’t make a decision. This is someone I worked with every day, and it’s more a personal obligation than anything else.

      Since I’ve submitted my letter, I’ve also found out that my department is essentially being shuttered (the responsibilities are being spread throughout the local locations) and so I am now essentially replacing this person in some capacity, which makes things feel a little ickier.

      1. Sara without an H*

        Hi, OP —
        It sounds as though this isn’t your responsibility. (Btw, your description makes it pretty clear why your regional manager doesn’t want this person back. I wouldn’t, either.) I’m not sure whether I’d recommend that the regional manager (or this person’s supervisor) reach out proactively to your former colleague or not — there are a lot of variables, some of which have been addressed upstream.

        On the other hand, if your former colleague ever contacts you, it might be a good idea to have a script ready to go: “I don’t know what went into Regional Manager’s decision, but there was a lot of restructuring. It’s a very different place to work now. Hope you find something soon that you really like.” Then execute a rapid change of subject.

      2. Ask a Manager* Post author

        Ah, in that case, this isn’t something you have standing to do or decide. It’s a management-level decision with potential consequences for them if it’s worded wrong. You can suggest they do it, but that’s it.

      3. Artemesia*

        If you are not this guy’s boss then I would not do it. I do think the supervisor SHOULD tell him — it is just the kind thing to do.

      4. Where’s the Orchestra?*

        I have to agree with Allison, I wouldn’t reach out to anybody who isn’t being brought back. I would maybe recomend if anybody who isn’t being brought back reaches out saying something along the lines of “there was lots of restructuring done when we became local, but you would need to talk with “Jane” in Management for details.

        (And I would check with leadership how/who is going to handle former employees who reach out checking about their former jobs once it’s obvious that something is back up and operating. Framed as “how do you want me to handle it if any former employees who consider me a friend outside of work reach out with questions,” so that their chosen messaging stays consistent.)

  3. dealing with dragons*

    LW3, I didn’t change my name either. The only people who care are people whose opinions I don’t hold in high regard. Just have good answers for the common questions like will the kids have the same name (even if you aren’t having any, people ask) or why you’re not hyphenating. No one at work knows my husband or that I didn’t take his name, really. Mostly people will think I’m trying to make a crazy statement but I just explain I like my name and wanted to keep it. No big deal.

    Also, if I’m in a mood I’ll ask why to the questions. If you want to have some fun.

    1. Amavelle*

      I didn’t change my name and my daughter has our names hyphenated. I have been asked if that was legal and had to explain that it’s custom here but no, not legally mandated. Has led to people in my work community to not realize they already know my husband through other channels until they see him with me. But no negative ramifications in my workplace.

      1. Rainy*

        I had a coworker many years ago who was telling me the story of her hasty teenage first marriage (and divorce) and she said “If I’d known you could give a kid whatever name you wanted, I wouldn’t have married the jerk! Nobody told me the law doesn’t care what you write in the line!”

    2. A Silver Spork*

      My spouse and I both changed our names, to a combined one. The vast majority of people (including my family and social circle back in Russia, not exactly a progressive place) didn’t care. The people who do care… let’s say that if you have a problem with something as simple as a nonstandard name choice, you’re going to have a LOT of problems around our marriage in general! We considered hyphenating at first, but felt bad sticking our future kids with a 25-letter monstrosity when *neither* of our names fit on most forms already.

      Asking “why do you need to know” repeatedly is a fun tactic if you have the energy and the bile fascination.

      1. I Wrote This in the Bathroom*

        My x-husband (we are also from Russia) has a last name that also does not fit on some forms. When I had it, managers would introduce me to new hires at work as “and this is FirstName I’m-not-even-gonna-try-her-last-name”. Our two sons have his last name. (I changed mine back to my original, easier one.) At some point during high school, they both had to practice spelling their last name as L-A-S-T-N-A-M-E so people would write it down correctly. One of the sons has been in a relationship for 7 years and things are looking serious. She has a “normal”, very easy last name like Brown. There is ZERO expectation on either side of the family for her to change her name to his when/if they do get married, because come on, we are all being humane here! Sometimes as a joke, I suggest that they hyphenate their names.

    3. Policy Wonk*

      I didn’t change my name either. The only time it was an issue was when my kids’ school would call looking for Mrs. (husband’s name). I had to make sure everyone knew that was me. As you will both have the same last name, that shouldn’t be a problem.

      1. dealing with dragons*

        my parents were divorced so I didn’t have the same last name as my mom when she remarried. it was never a big deal in the 90s so I figure it will be less of a big deal now.

      2. Tabby*

        That’s so weird! Don’t people just make a note of the differing name in the file? I always did that when I did front desk stuff: “Fluffy Smith’s owners are Mr. Jones and Ms. Apple” or whathaveyou. Even if I had to squeeze that tidbit into a line usually left blank. Just so nobody was making assumptions about last names (I was known to use the ’emergency contact for the spouse with the different name if I had to!).

    4. White Peonies*

      I didn’t change my name and the only one who cares is my husbands great aunt. It would have be too much of a hassle to change it, I was 30 when we got married and already had a career and assets.

      1. Not This One*

        Same. I actually didn’t tell anyone at work that I got married until well after the fact (my well-meaning coworkers love to celebrate personal milestones at work, but I’m not really into it), so there are actually a lot of people I work with who still don’t realize that I could potentially have undergone a name change! I had always felt that I was unlikely to change my name (it’s fairly unique, and is also an aptonym!), but the hassle of changing a lot of workplace stuff and state professional licensure documents really sealed the decision.

    5. Lissa*

      Some people will still get so so weird about the name change thing. Like, most people don’t care, and yet I have heard otherwise progressive people make really surprising comments about it – guys just assuming a future wife will take his name and seeming really surprised when she doesn’t immediately do it, comments about how if a woman keeps her name she must be less committed or respectful somehow, though they certainly don’t believe a man who doesn’t take a woman’s name is “less committed”. It’s a societal default that is more deeply ingrained than I think people realize, and the discomfort around that can be big.

    6. One of the Spreadsheet Horde*

      I didn’t change either and we’ve been married a few years. A bunch of my friends have gone the same route. No one at work has ever commented and I’ve been at the same company for about a decade.

    7. Dagny*

      This is definitely a situation in which people will follow your lead. If you’re upbeat and positive about it, very few people will care for more than a second.

      What I said is that it’s been my name for over 35 years, any kids would have my husband’s name, and if the kids’ friends accidentally called me Mrs. Galt instead of M(r)s. Taggart, I have better things to do with my time than get upset at 7 year olds who are trying to be polite.

      1. dealing with dragons*

        I get called Mrs. [husband’s name] all the time and really it doesn’t bother me. It’s not my legal name but in this American culture I am technically Mrs. [husband’s name]. And my mom remarried when I was young, so I grew up not having the same name already so it’s nothing new.

        my husband’s parents do still write checks to us as [my name] & [his name] [their last name] which is funny. I’m not sure if I can legally cash the checks so I always make him do it.

    8. JustaTech*

      I didn’t take my husband’s name and no one really cares.

      More interestingly, only two women on my floor at work have the same last name as their spouses, and one of them didn’t change her name (she and her husband have the same super common last name). Several of the women who don’t share their spouses’ name have kids and it’s just not an issue as far as I can tell.

    9. Names are names*

      I never changed my name. Mostly the reaction I get when people realize (like when I signed my husband up for my health insurance) is “oh, different name, okay.” I’ve been asked why twice, by coworkers after I knew them awhile, just because they were curious.

  4. nnn*

    For #2, if the big performative photo is important to them, you could propose taking a photo with everyone holding up a sign with a message of support.

    (If pressed, you could also propose donating the shirt money to a cancer charity, but that brings up the awkward pressuring everyone to donate money at work thing. Although they’re already pressuring people to give money that’s not for charity, so…)

    1. Potatoes gonna potate*

      This is what jumped out to me — I’m all for nice gestures, but wouldn’t a donation to the family or a cancer fund with a card and flowers (or other gift item) make more of an impact *and* show solidarity? Even if the proceeds from the T-shirt were being donated, what purpose would people wearing a T-shirt show?

      1. AnotherAlison*

        It seems like when people have matching t-shirts like this, it is usually because they held a much larger fundraiser for someone, like they formed a walkathon team in honor of Joanne and they also raised more funds for cancer research as part of the walkathon. It wasn’t just about a group picture. I feel like the admin has seen some pics like this and is confused about the bigger picture behind them.

        1. I Wrote This in the Bathroom*

          Yep, the way OP’s workplace wants to do it is just odd, confusing, and not helpful to the family in any way I can think of.

        2. Falling Diphthong*

          That’s a good explanation.

          This photo is a kindly meant first thought, but someone needs to intervene and move the office toward a second, more thoughtful thought.

      2. BluntBunny*

        Aren’t there already charity t-shirts they could buy anyway like with stand up to cancer? Could they all just wear pink and then wear badge or ribbon. We have had 2 coworkers get cancer- breast and brain and it felt like pitying them to get them a present rather than emphasising with them. They didn’t want doom and gloom. However if they were raising money for treatment or support or wanted to give back to a charity that helped them we would put towards that.

    2. Heidi*

      The whole project seems very odd to me. Instead of buying the person with cancer something, they’re going to buy themselves something and send her a photo of it? Why not ask the manager what she would actually want as a gift?

      1. PollyQ*

        Yes, it struck me as rather odd, too. I’ve never had cancer, but I’m not sure how “supported” I’d feel just from seeing a photo with everyone wearing a matching shirt.

      2. Isabelle*

        It also strikes me that these people are the husband’s colleagues, not the wife’s colleagues. Unless they happen to be friends outside of work, the wife may not even know them. I personally wouldn’t want a photo of my partner’s colleagues wearing shirts to “support” me while going through a serious illness.
        I hope the admin discussed the idea with the husband first.

        1. Grits McGee*

          I thought of that as well- if it were me, I would appreciate that my spouse’s coworkers were thinking of me. But the same thing could be accomplished with a thoughtfully written note, for far less money and people-wrangling effort.

        2. MusicWithRocksIn*

          Yes – A lot more money and effort is going into this than she is going to get value from. A better use of time and money would be to organize people to bring them food when she is getting treatment, or send her a gift basket, or really literally anything else.

      3. WellRed*

        It is odd, and Alison had a similar letter about sending a group photo to a coworker who had lost their child. I don’t need support from my spouses coworkers unless it is in how they support him, ie flexibility and time off etc.

    3. Falling Diphthong*

      As a wife with breast cancer, it’s hard to overstate how completely non-useful it would be to receive a photograph of a bunch of people whom I know slightly. If I learned people were pressured to spend their own money to buy these one-off shirts, like some weird bridesmaid corollary… man that is weird. Like I get that it’s well-intentioned, but someone needs to sit her down and explain that they need another plan.

      The messages of support picture is okay if she knows the office pretty well, though the exact same thing could be accomplished with a large greeting card. What my husband’s work did, which really deeply moved me: A meal train so we didn’t have to think about food, it just magically appeared. And gave him time-off as needed to take me to medical appointments.

      I would forego the money altogether, or put it toward a takeout meal when she’s recovering from treatment.

      1. writerNY*

        Agreed. I have also had breast cancer and I would find this kind of gesture more annoying than the husband’s office doing nothing at all. In fact, my husband’s colleagues didn’t do anything for me when I had cancer–and that was fine! I didn’t really know them and definitely would not have expected something. They gave him time off as needed and I know they sent him messages of support which is all he needed/wanted from them.

        Also, sorry but what are these people going to do with the t-shirts after the photo is taken? Wear them around in honor of a woman they don’t know? I work in the nonprofit field so I feel like this would have really annoyed me–it’s not like it was a t-shirt made in conjunction with a fundraising walk or some other thing that actually supports breast cancer causes.

        1. nnn*

          Imagine if they get the t-shirts made and then one of the co-workers wears it, like, to the gym or something, and the wife is there at the gym! That would be so creepy!

        2. Heidi*

          Good point. I didn’t really think about what the shirts are actually going to say. I assumed they would have a generic message, like “Support cancer research.” I would be much less inclined to wear a shirt that says, “Get well soon, Mrs. Smith!” or has just one letter in a message that only makes sense when it’s next to the other shirts.

      2. Scandinavian vacationer*

        Another breast cancer survivor here. Please do NOT give me anything pink, with a pink ribbon, or with the word “cancer” printed on it. I do not need any more reminders of my condition, thanks very much. I agree a card would accomplish the same goal, with much less expense and weirdness.

        1. writerNY*

          I’m with you! I’m all for people rocking the pink if they want to, but I’ve never been in that camp. I also personally feel uncomfortable with the idea that I was “battling” or “fighting” cancer–to me, it puts the onus on the patient to “win” the “fight”– but also recognize that the warrior image can be really helpful for some people. Bottom line is, these things really vary from one person to another and what’s most comforting is someone saying or conveying, “We are thinking of you during your hard time and want to help/support you.” And then step back and listen to what they need, or just send a message of support and let it be. Many of us also want to be somewhat private about our condition.

  5. M. Paulson*

    My husband took my name when we got married. It didn’t make any difference at work, and when it comes up in conversation people are generally polite but pretty disinterested.

    Although my husband tells me “I took my wife’s name” makes him popular with women :D

    1. Artemesia*

      MY SIL took my name. My daughter was hyphenated and so when they married, they took her maternal name and his (paternal) name to create a family name so they and their kids would all have the same name. Works fine.

      1. Caimbeul*

        I was sitting here doing mental gymnastics because I thought you were talking about a sister-in-law! Of course, why would your sister-in-law be concerned about her name when your daughter married! I have been retired too long, and it’s Sunday night, so my mind is a little slow! I liked the decision your daughter and son-in-law made.

        Also, on the subject in general, I worked in health care and it has always been pretty common for nurses and physicians to keep whatever name they used when they graduated.

    2. Keymaster of Gozer*

      Husband unit hyphenated his surname with mine when we got married. It apparently caused a few issues at work (their IT department had ‘no procedures for changing men’s names’. They do Now) but the vast majority of reactions we had to any surname change or lack of surname change was ‘cool’.

      I kept my unhypenated surname at work. I was in charge of about 300 different systems and changing usernames for all of them would have been a major pain. Also, I just couldn’t be bothered correcting people. I stayed with the firm about 6 years after and the only people who knew my surname was different were payroll.

      1. MayLou*

        If your IT capabilities are based on the gender of the employee then something is badly wrong with your IT department… makes me suspect it wasn’t the software having the problem.

        1. Works in IT*

          I don’t understand why the procedure for changing a man’s name would be any different than changing a woman’s name! It’s the same process!

      2. Rexish*

        Wow, had no idea they made softwares that automatically blocks the name edit button once you have ticked the box for sex.

      3. Observer*

        (their IT department had ‘no procedures for changing men’s names’.

        Some idiot was lying to your husband. Seriously. I hope someone asked them IN WRITING, with a CC to HR, how changing names for men needs to be different than changing names for women?

        That’s just so bizarre, that I wonder if it’s not just the tip of an iceberg of sexism.

        1. Anne of Green Gables*

          Not only that, but there are reasons other than marriage that people change their names. My husband is from a Hispanic/Latin American country that has a double last name tradition of PaternalLastName MaternalLastName. In the US, this means PaternalLastName looks like a middle name (which my husband does not have) and MaternalLastName looks like last name–not correct. So when he became a citizen, he dropped the MaternalLastName–very common. And a name change that had nothing to do with marriage.

  6. Felicia*

    I am fascinated by #3.
    If your fiance is taking on your name, what name does your mother want you to change yours to? Is she expecting you to swap names? Double barrel with the same last name as Jane Smith-Smith? Or does your mom not know he is taking yours?
    Not that it should be an issue, but I would be more concerned about people wondering why, if you didn’t change your name, your husband has the same last name. Men changing their names is far less conventional than women not changing theirs, so if anything that will be the thing that raises the eyebrows.

    1. allathian*

      That’s true, but unlikely to come up at the OP’s job unless she brings it up, and unless they have a habit of issuing written invitations to SOs for holiday parties, there’s no reason it should. HR might know if they have her husband’s info as next of kin, but in any reasonable setting, HR won’t gossip about things like this.

    2. Pennyworth*

      I once had an older, female colleague tell me I shouldn’t use the title Ms because “Ms means you’re divorced’. I don’t know where this idea came from, but she was adamant it was true.

      1. PollyQ*

        Oy! The whole dang point was to have a title for women that wasn’t dependent on your marital status. *eyeroll*

        1. I can only speak Japanese*

          Right? I’m married, but I still insist on Ms. because my marital status is independent of my work, and men don’t have to explain their titles, so why should I?

          1. Artemesia*

            I have a doctorate and the ONLY time I use ‘Dr.’ as a title has been when hassled by old school southern gentleman who want to put you in your place. They leer slyly and say ‘now is that MISS or MISSUS?’ with the implication that you are trying to hide your lack of ability to capture a male of your very own if you use Ms. When I would get that question fro that type of men, then I would just say ‘Oh, you can just use Dr. if that is confusing to you.’ Shut them right up.

            1. Not Australian*

              I have a friend who also does that – a powerful way to shut down an unwelcome conversation!

              1. I can only speak Japanese*

                Awesome! If only academia wasn’t so hard on my mental health that I quit after my master’s. Can I go by Mistress then? (Remember the letter from the person who thought she had a bachelorette degree?)

                1. only acting normal*

                  Miss, Ms, and Mrs are all short for Mistress. And “Mistress” as a title was originally for a woman in a skilled or responsible profession (like having a Masters degree), nothing to do with marital status.
                  So, yes, have at it and go by Mistress. You earned it. :)

                2. MK*

                  Eh, I am pretty sure “Mistress” originally had more to with wealth and social position that being “a woman in a skilled or responsible profession”.

                3. Lissa*

                  Haha, yes! Though I feel like if you told people to call you “Mistress” you’d get some different reactions…

            2. Jay*

              Yup. I’m an MD. Didn’t change my name. My kid’s friends and their parents mostly know me by my first name, and I don’t make an issue of it if they call me Mrs. Smith (that is actually my husband’s last name). Outside of that, if someone calls me Mrs. Mylastname, I immediately correct them. I used to feel guilty if they felt bad. I don’t anymore. I’m old and cranky and sick of the patriarchy.

              And no, having a different last name from my kid doesn’t make me feel like I’m not her mother. It hasn’t confused anyone. We were still able to get a mortgage/buy a car together/travel out of the country as a family. I still get asked those questions by people who think it’s weird that I didn’t change my name.

              1. Rebecca*

                My mother and I do not have the same last name. I have never been confused about who my mother is, though that was something people warned her would happen.

                A busybody at church once asked me, a three year old, why my mother and I had different last names. I, apparently, looked up at her, shrugged, and said ‘We have different daddies. ‘

              2. Not in US*

                What was so weird for me is that I was one of only a few of my friends who kept their name when they marries (about 15 years ago) in a country where it was becoming normal to keep your name – particularly in the social and educational class we are in. We did have a discussion about kids last names and for the most part it’s been fine. I’ve had people at work assume I changed and called my husband by first name, my last name – but not a big deal.

                Both my BILs insisted their spouses take their last name – those marriages didn’t last.

            3. blackcat*

              Yeah, I do that, too. The couple of times someone has looked at my ring and then called me Mrs (WHY IS THIS A THING?!?!), I respond “It’s Doctor”

              Normally I’d find it weird to be addressed as Dr. in a social setting, but if someone’s gonna make it weird, I’m gonna make it weird back. Return the awkward to sender, as Captain Awkward says.

              That said, I’ve never had any issues in a professional setting. The only comment I got was when I was engaged and one of my students declared that I couldn’t change my last name, entire because my last name is alliterative with the discipline I was teaching (think “Ms May” the math teacher–I was a high school teacher and didn’t yet have my doctorate).

            4. NewReadingGlasses*

              I have done EXACTLY this same thing. “Miss or Missus, you must have a title! Do you know if you’re married? HurrrDurrr” Fine, call me DOCTOR.

            5. Tabby*

              … this is the only reason I want a doctorate in anything. Because as a fat, short black woman who does not look her 44 years (despite varied health issues) I am very tired of the patronizing crap that goes on.

              I mean, I can hold down a mastiff weighing 200+lbs (English Mastiffs are LORGE BEASTS), shouldn’t that be enough to convince people that I am not some frail missy in need of a man to protect me? I can basically wrestle a man and maybe win if I get the jump on him (I don’t know if that’s true, strictly speaking… I’m actually not very strong, just very good at using my 270lbs to my advantage over a creature that just doesn’t want to get his nails trimmed! :D)!

          2. Pennyworth*

            Many years ago when the introduction of ‘Ms’ just meant there there were three possible titles instead of two, I was given the tedious task of making sure that everyone on the printed office circulation list had the correct title, and it was a very touchy subject. I got around it by removing all titles and just listing everyone by their initials and last name. This was regarded as a genius move, because not only did it remove marital status from the list, but also gender.

            1. Miss Pantalones en Fuego*

              I do this with addressing letters. My husband likes to tie himself in knots when sending holiday cards trying to figure out if this or that distant cousin is actually married to their partner and didn’t change her name, and is therefore Mrs, or should be Ms. I just address the envelope as “J. Smith and B. Woods” or whatever and leave it at that. Nobody cares that much.

        2. Quill*

          Growing up, Ms. was almost exclusively used on ladies whose kids you didn’t know / didn’t know if they had kids. So if you had a class with Annie Apple and her mom ran PTO, her mom was Mrs. Apple, but your teachers Ms Blue and Ms Carrot might be married, divorced, parents, childless… who knew unless they told you?

          Fresh out of school teachers often went by miss until their first three or four classes graduated, or they married, or they had a kid, unless they were smart enough to get ahead of the curve and not be seen as new teachers forever, and told the kids to call them Ms.

      2. Green great dragon*

        I understood married women were Mrs George Smith, while divorced women, like widows, were Mrs Jane Smith. As others have said, Ms is when you don’t need people to know.

        (Had that been common usage still I’d’ve stuck to Mrs when I divorced, as it is I go by Ms as I don’t want people to assume I’m married. I don’t believe anyone at work cares in the slightest what my marital status is.)

        1. Seeking Second Childhood*

          I have to wonder if OP’s mother is really worried “people” will assume her daughter is a single mother or (gasp, clutch the pearls) in a same-sex marriage.

          1. Asenath*

            Probably not. Some people have strong views on titles for other reasons. I knew a woman (single, but looking very hard) who seemed to think that “Mrs” was such a special title that it was really offensive if s a single woman used it. I’d take the mother at her word that she thinks conforming (even if it is to something that’s no longer a standard) is the best way to go.

        2. Asenath*

          That’s the traditional rules, at least in my part of the world. I remember my mother’s response when someone told her she shouldn’t call herself Mrs. Jane Smith, since George was still alive and well, and married to her! I was a child then, so that didn’t happen yesterday! My mother went on combining “Mrs” with her preferred given name (which wasn’t her first name) and her husband’s last name throughout their long marriage and after my father’s death, regardless of convention.

          At work? In my area, I’d say it’s by far most common now for women to use “Ms” plus maiden name, but other options still exist. Whether or not one is divorced is even more of a non-issue. Sometimes divorced women changed their surname back to the original one, and all it took was a brief announcement “I will now be known as Jane Smith”. In fact, in my last job, the main problem was the lack of announcements when someone didn’t change her name – more than once, I’d call my co-worker and say “I can’t find Jane Smith in the database; has she left?” and half the time she’d have married and changed her surname and the announcement hadn’t gone out.

          1. UKDancer*

            My grandmother had this rule but it’s now very old fashioned. She used regularly to write to my mother, her daughter in law as Mrs George Smith and my mother used to return the letters with “no such person” written on until Grandma got the message that Mum had (grudgingly) changed her last name but she was not changing her first name no matter what my grandmother’s etiquette book said.

            I don’t think many people would expect to be Mrs George Smith nowadays and I certainly would be surprised if anyone under about 80 insisted on it. It’s archaic in modern British society (obviously I can’t speak for other societies).

            1. Asenath*

              Definitely archaic. My mother’s experience was probably in the late 1950s or 1960s in Canada, and even then it can’t have been all that common – I think she was “corrected” only once. That may have been due to her rejection of the idea, though! And as far as I can recall, her mother, my grandmother, went by “Mrs. HerFirstName HusbandLastName, although back then she might have been addressed formally by “Mrs. HusbandFirstName HusbandLastName”.

              I dabble a bit in family history, and it’s really annoying to find a Mrs. John Smith, especially when you strongly suspect John Smith married more than once, and you now have to figure out which wife this is!

            2. Polly Hedron*

              An even older rule was that a widow kept her married name (Mrs. Husbandsfirstname Husbandslastname) and a divorcee was Mrs. Maidenname Husbandslastname.

              From Emily Post’s Etiquette, 1927:

              In certain localities a curious custom is the discarding by a widow of her husband’s Christian name and sometimes her wedding ring as well.
              Of course if he made her so bitterly unhappy that the thought of him is hateful—and she wishes all to know it! — one can understand her getting rid of everything suggestive of him.
              But it is impossible to imagine a sorrowing wife’s repudiation of a beloved husband’s name and ring, the most sacred emblems of her life with him.

              A man gives his name to his wife for life—or until she herself through remarriage relinquishes it.
              A widow, therefore, should always continue to use her husband’s Christian names.
              She is Mrs. John Hunter Titherington Smith (or, Mrs. J. H. Titherington Smith), but never Mrs. Sarah Smith, if she cares at all about good taste.

              A woman who is divorced takes her maiden name in place of her husband’s Christian name.
              Mrs. Henry Green who was Mabel Smith calls herself Mrs. Smith Green, according to good taste, never Mrs. Mabel Green.
              If her husband’s surname is distasteful, she sometimes takes back her own maiden name—preceded by that of her mother.
              If her mother was a Miss Brown, her daughter calls herself Mrs. Brown Smith.
              In business or on the stage she may be known as Miss Mabel Smith but not in private life.

          2. toastingfork*

            My now ex mother in law told me shortly after I got married that I was now “Mrs. Ex’sFirstName Ex’sLastName” whether I liked it or not and I had to tell her that no, I *****ing well was not, and that if she ever addressed me that way it’d be a long time until she ever got to address me again.

            Fortunately, my ex had my back on that nonsense; that’s nothing to do with why he’s my ex. Actually, I’m one of the ones who didn’t change my name back after I got divorced- we’d been married around 15 years and name changes are The Worst.

        3. Aeryn Sun*

          My best friend’s mother (in her 60s at the time – this was 20 years ago) was deeply offended when, after her husband died, people would send her mail to Mrs Sally Smith, because that looked like she’d been divorced. She’s the only person I ever address mail to as “Mrs George Smith.”

          1. UKDancer*

            We reached a rather uneasy truce with Grandma over this who sounds to have been the same vintage as you friend’s mother. Grandma was adamantly a Mrs George Smith. My mother and I wanted to call her what she preferred but also cringed each time we addressed the envelope. I think we just went with Mrs Smith in the end to avoid the issue. I should say while I loved my Grandma deeply, she was a very difficult woman and could outdo Hyacinth Bucket for snobbery.

      3. London Calling*

        I hate that assumption but it’s very widespread. I mean, I AM divorced but I use it precisely because it doesn’t denote any marital status. Your colleague probably also thinks it’s illegal for a woman not to change her name to her husband’s (also surprisingly widespread. I just tell people that women haven’t been chattels since the 1880s).

    3. hbc*

      I’m 99% sure that OP’s mom wants fiance to keep his name and OP to change hers to his. The grab bag of inconsistent reasons against keeping it is a strong indicator of mom not wanting or able to give her real reason, which is probably some variation of “that’s not how it’s supposed to go.”

    4. ThisColumnMakesMeGratefulForMyBoss*

      But why does it matter? Choosing what to do with your last name when you get married is a personal choice that doesn’t need to be explained or justified to anyone.

      I took my husband’s last name and made my maiden name my middle name because it’s ethnic. My original middle name had no significant meaning and it was pretty generic. My friend got a little upset when I told her because she had given her twins (my goddaughters) the same middle name to recognize me as their godmother. Just because I changed my middle name doesn’t discount the reason behind her giving the name to her kids. It was a personal decision for ME and that’s the only thing that matters.

    5. TL -*

      In NZ, I was told several times that Ms. denoted a divorced woman and it was odd that I put it on the forms. I was never called by any title the entire two years I was there, because it’s not a formal place, but multiple people thought it was comment worthy that I ticked “Ms” instead of “Miss” on the forms.

      I grew up in Texas and what I was told there was that Ms. meant “my marital status is none of your business.” People there frequently called me Miss T, Miss L, and Ms. L once I was over 18. Some people said Miss after I hit 18 but I usually just corrected them to Ms and that was the end of it.

      1. Thoroughly Modern Old Lady*

        I was a reader of Ms magazine in the early 70’s, a publication founded by Gloria Steinem, et al. She and the other NE US feminists invented the title Ms, and you can tell them for her that it was indeed intended to take “whether I am married or not” out of the conversation. I too have heard many ridiculous other “definitions” but they are just wrong.

        1. New Jack Karyn*

          I looked it up, and it turns out that ‘Ms.’ as an honorific predates Gloria Steinem by decades. An early use was in 1901!

  7. KimberlyR*

    #3: I’m more likely to notice when a newly married coworker DOES change their name. If I’ve worked with Mary Jones for 3 years, it’s harder to remember to type Mary Smith in the To field of the email. Logically I know that Mary got married and changed her name but I forget. So, other than in the initial congratulatory moment when I give you best wishes, I wouldn’t think about your marriage or lack of name change again.

    1. Rebecca*

      When I got divorced and changed my name back to my birth name, I changed it everywhere except on work email, my system log in credentials, etc. My paycheck says “Rebecca Smith” but everything else at work is still “Rebecca Jones”. It was just easier, and no one questioned why. IT was kind, and let me know if I changed my mind, I could just put in a help request ticket and they’d take care of it.

      1. Phony Genius*

        Where I work, a high-level manager got divorced and changed her name back and she had IT change her e-mail name as well. Thing was, she told almost nobody else that she had divorced. Furthermore, to force people to stop using her married name, she had IT disable the married name e-mail without auto-forwarding, so e-mails to her would bounce back. The first few e-mails she sent, nobody was sure who they came from. It took about a week for that information to get to us. Apparently, she just expected everybody to know.

      2. Observer*

        Yeah, for us, logins generally don’t change. But everything else? TOTALLY up to you.

        I can’t imagine the logic that forces people to use anything but the name of their choice for a public facing item (with the exception of situations where the legal name has to be there.) Unless the emails addresses that are being assigned are just random strings, there is no excuse for not using the name someone goes by.

    2. BetsyTacy*

      I was Jane Smith who got married and became legally Jane Smith-Jones. I didn’t bother to change my name at work until I moved to an adjacent department and suddenly my email became jane.smith-jones and all my listings went under Jane Smith-Jones. At that point, I had been married for 8 years and people didn’t even blink except to make sure they were putting the hyphen in my email correctly.

      FWIW, I’m Jane Smith-Jones married to John Jones. Our kid is Kiddo Jones. Professionally, I still go by Jane Smith, but when I’m dealing with kid stuff, I just answer to Jane Jones. This is actually fairly common where I live – one name professionally, the other socially.

  8. Tipcat*

    #2 Did the admin already order the shirts? Did she put up her own money as a deposit? I hope not. If she’s taking orders now, you can decline. If she’s already bought the shirts though, it could be a problem for her. I know that buying the shirts before getting commitments is a bad idea, but I can see it happening if she’s sure that everybody will do this for the boss.

    1. WellRed*

      Yes, was thinking same. Best to have pushed back at the start. Hoping that’s what happened. If not, maybe the company could kick in (I’d still be tempted to say something about it being a waste , however).

    2. ThisColumnMakesMeGratefulForMyBoss*

      If she bought the shirts ahead of time, that’s her problem, not OP’s. And if that’s the case and she’s using that to guilt OP into buying one, that’s worse than just insisting everyone participate.

  9. Marny*

    I didn’t change my name. One judge I regularly appear in front of (I’m an attorney) asked me in court what my new name was after I got married. I said, “same as before, thanks” and that was that. No one cares.

    1. General von Klinkerhoffen*

      I think people will definitely ask – but that’s because changing your name is now entirely optional and even if you do there are more options than there might have been fifty years ago. The question is now “Are you changing your name?” rather than “What’s your husband’s name?” or “What are you changing your name to?”

      1. UKDancer*

        Possibly. In my company people don’t even ask because there tends to be an assumption that if you’re changing your name at work you’ll tell people so otherwise people assume you’re not. I couldn’t tell you the marital status of most of my colleagues except for the ones I know well who may have mentioned spouses etc in passing at the tea point.

        The only name change that I really remember was the lady in a previous company who changed her name when she got divorced and that was mainly because she went around telling everyone what a git her ex husband was, all the things he did and the fact he got custody of the dogs. Believe me, we learnt more about her marriage than we ever wanted to.

        Mostly people just sent around a short email saying that “from date x my name will be y. IT is in the process of updating the systems” and that’s fine. In my experience if you don’t make a big thing of something, neither will anyone else.

        1. General von Klinkerhoffen*

          I think I meant “people who are talking to you about getting married” so more social/ water cooler talk than professional enquiry. I agree that most professional contacts neither know nor care about your marital status.

  10. Ms. Rogerina Meddows*

    LW 2: The idea of your coworkers sending a photo of themselves wearing a special T-shirt to show their support for the manager’s wife seems…narcissistic to me. They’re making their action all about them while not actually doing anything to help the wife. Speaking as a cancer survivor myself, if my coworkers had done that while I was out on leave or while working through chemo, I would’ve found it really off-putting. I did, however, appreciate the card that they all signed for me with their well-wishes, and also the help with work tasks when I couldn’t do certain things or when I needed to be out.

    If your coworkers are reasonable people, you could try pointing out that a picture of you all wearing a T-shirt doesn’t actually help the wife, and that perhaps you could instead donate the money to her directly because cancer is insanely expensive, even with good insurance, not to mention all the non-medical “hidden costs” that people don’t think about (travel to and from medical appointments, paying for takeout meals when you’re too exhausted to cook for yourself, paying to outsource household tasks because you lack energy to clean your own home or do your own laundry, taking a cab when you just can’t deal with mass transit, etc.). If your coworkers insist on giving her something “tangible“, you could put the money in a card that you all sign with your well-wishes. Sincere, thoughtful get-well-soon messages mean a lot, too.

    1. MJ*

      Agree on the narcissistic point. “Look at us! And how we’re making your diagnosis all about us putting a show of being supportive!”

      The t-shirt idea is a useful as ‘thoughts and prayers’ and a lit candle, and all ‘me me me’.

      1. Mx*

        I would find prayers and lit a candle more useful than the tee-shirts to be honest ! And at least people who pray for me aren’t making a show of themselves, like the tee-shirts wearers do.

    2. Artemesia*

      A nice plant or bonsai would be a nicer gift or in these times of isolation, a delivered meal.

      1. PollyQ*

        Ooh, check first about plants, or at least know your recipient. I’ve killed every plant I’ve ever received, so I hate getting them as a gift.

        1. Older Than Dirt*

          Me too. A plant as a gift always feels like someone has signed me up for “chore of the week”. It is burdensome to those of us who aren’t indoor plant people.

        2. drinking Mello Yello*

          Or even if they like plants, might have pets that would eat them (and potentially get poisoned, depending on the plant!). Definitely a “know your recipient” kind of gift.

        3. Third or Nothing!*

          Me too! I joke that I have a brown thumb. I mean, I’ve managed to kill mint. Mint! It’s a weed! It’s supposed to be indestructible! My husband is the one who is good with plants. Thank goodness he has that particular Hufflepuff trait, because I was getting tired of paying through the nose for fresh herbs to cook with.

          I do honestly prefer getting a potted plant to getting cut flowers, simply because they last longer. I mean, yeah, they’ll eventually succumb to my inept care, but not as quickly as something in a vase.

        4. A*

          Yup, I have a black thumb – and I also have received plants as gifts that are toxic to my pets.

        5. Falling Diphthong*

          That’s the upside of cut flowers to me: No expectation that I will keep them alive.

    3. Older Than Dirt*

      Yeah, it will look like… Hey, we all had a fun time here celebrating, I mean commiserating, about your cancer diagnosis. Here we are hanging out with big smiles on our faces and T-shirts we had printed and get to keep to show our bonding experience with each other, I mean you, while you were away.

    4. tra la la*

      Yes, this would seem weird to me. “Look how much we care about you!” when there are plenty of other ways to provide actual support.

    5. Lora*

      Yes. Another cancer survivor voting for “just send a card signed by everyone.”

      Had some friends who wanted to shave their heads – though my hair got very thin, I never went completely bald, so it was sort of a weird thing. “So you won’t feel weird!” Except now I feel extra weird… There’s a lot of stuff cancer survivors need (naps, sick people to stay away, patience when they have the Chemo Brain, ice water by the quart when they’re taking aromatase inhibitors and estrogen blockers) and tee shirt photos are not high on the list.

      1. Breast Solidarity*

        Yes, I am still in chemo and this letter is absolutely horrifying to me! I have kept my diagnosis quiet outside of my department, and within my department people have been great about quietly asking me on occasion if there is anything they can do, and otherwise being patient with me but not making a big deal of anything.

    6. Rexish*

      one of our colleagues got diagnosed with cancer and in one Office meeting we all made her a card individually and they were bound together as a book. She was touched and we had a fun arts and crafts hour istead of a boring meeting.

    7. OP2*

      Thank you for this! I know emotions get high when cancer is concerned, but something about the whole ordeal didn’t sit well with me, and I think you hit the nail on the head– its very narcissistic.

      1. Arbynka*

        I ran a marathon with Team in Training to raise money for the Leukemia and Lymphoma Society (in memory of my MIL). Teams would also be paired together with local patients, past and current who chose to participate. I know some teams with current patients as their honored team members would do that for their fundraiser and to hype themselves up :) T-shirts and group pictures with photo or name and message such as “fight on”. I wonder if your admin saw something like that and thought, what a great idea. Also, sometimes families and friends so this – because they are close to the person going thru treatment and said person is also involved in decision about that. But sometimes people with good intentions get way ahead of themselves. One of my friend’s work place took picture like that with banner and posted on their FB page. Publicly. She is like me, fairly private person and that gesture of good intentions did not end up working well.

      2. Falling Diphthong*

        I was diagnosed with breast cancer in December.

        The T-shirt photo from my husband’s office would have been very bizarre, and not landed as supportive. Perhaps it would land as “meant as supportive,” but cancer really doesn’t leave you extra energy for managing other people’s feelings about your cancer.

        What really helped: They did a meal train so I didn’t have to think about dinner. This really was immense–I usually plan and shop for and cook meals, and even deciding “We should get takeout. It should be from Jose’s. It should be these mains. Do we want appetizers?” required a depth of planning and caring I didn’t have–that instead food just magically appeared was so huge I’m almost weeping as I type. And they made it easy for him to take time off when I needed a lot of care.

        1. Arbynka*

          Meal train is a great idea but it can end a great disaster (don’t ask how I know …) Really, the more I think about it, the more I believe anything beyond nice signed card should take a lead from the person you are trying to support.

          1. Sister Michael*

            I do agree that there needs to be somebody who’s able to act as a contact point and it might be possible for the co-worker, as the person who’s not sick, to provide a one-time list of who needs to eat, what dietary restrictions exist, what time food should come, and what address and phone number to use for delivery.
            I recently supported my partner through a death in the family and despite being absurdly busy the week after, it was very do-able for me, as the person who was not bereaved, to provide that information to the group of friends who sent food.
            Of course, the person will also have some idea whether the co-workers can be counted on to pay attention to dietary needs and/or not somehow make more work for the family.

    8. MusicWithRocksIn*

      Also – what are they expecting her to do with the photo? Frame it and look at it every day? Because I wouldn’t really place priority on a picture of my husband’s coworkers. I feel like she would look at it once, awkwardly tell her husband how nice it is, and then put it somewhere where it would become vague clutter.

      1. Arbynka*

        I am in chat with some friends right now and this very thing was just mentioned. Couple of people actually said they would appreciate such gesture and would put the photo on the fridge, you know, to keep spirits up. So let’s operate under assumption the wife would appreciate photo like that. That still leave us with OP buying a T-shirt. I mean, we are doing ok but running a real tight ship right now. We are certain my neither of us will be getting any bonus checks in near future. I am always willing to make a small sacrifice and contribute money towards specific fundraising to actually help the person (or their cause) but to buy a shirt for one photo ? Nope. Some of OP’s coworkers might have SO who lost their job. And this photo shoot creates something in which opt out would be very obvious. Not like saying no, I can’t, should be a big deal but especially with cancer support related stuff, people can turn to judgement fast.

        1. Falling Diphthong*

          I think some people would like it, as a message of support from anyone–I think that’s possible. But if these friends have not had major health falling pianos and it’s all hypothetical to how they imagine cancer might be, I’d take it with a grain of salt.

          1. Arbynka*

            All of us on that chat group have had major heath falling pianos, that’s how we’ve met. We call ourselves “le gens de la don’t give a fuck”

        2. MCMonkeyBean*

          Yes, I think the gesture is nice but could maybe be structured better economically. What if people just tried to wear a pink shirt (and if they don’t have one, then just white maybe) and they could make signs of support to hold in a picture. Then I bet for a very small price that picture could be printed as a greeting card that everyone signs. Costs are minimal, and if the recipient wants to stand the card up or hang it on the fridge they can or else they can read it once and then throw it away like any other card.

  11. SS Express*

    LW3, my husband and I each kept our original last name when we got married. When I came back to work after my honeymoon lots of people asked if I had changed my name (some more than once), and in the three years since I’ve had plenty of people ask what my maiden name is and get super confused when the name I tell them is the same one I still have, ask what my “real” name is because they assume my name is just something I use professionally and couldn’t possibly be my actual legal name, ask if my husband is okay with me not changing my name (tbh I don’t know; it never occurred to me to ask his permission), ask why it is taking me so long to “decide what I’m doing about my name” (I guess I HAVE to take my husband’s name, the only question is whether I’ll incorporate my own name in there somewhere or not), and even literally ask me “John Jones in Purchasing is your father in law?! Then why is your name Sally Smith?!” because they lack deductive reasoning skills.

    But I’ve never encountered any actual work issues as a result of my name…being the same as it has always been. Changing your name at work, or keeping the same name at work but changing it on your legal documents, could cause some administrative hassles but I don’t see what sort of problems could arise from NOT needing to change anything. (I can’t see how any sensible person would assume that someone who has always had the same name must be divorced, either – or why someone jumping to that very strange conclusion could cause professional problems for you.)

    1. Artemesia*

      We moved in a high rise last year and one of our door man when we had guests, told the guest that I needed to get my name change taken care of. Guess he assumed we were newly married — we are closing in on 50 years. First time in years anyone has seemed surprised by a man and woman having different names.
      My mother used to worry that people would think we were not married.

      1. Avasarala*

        I got “But then how will people know whose your kids are??”
        First of all, I don’t have kids, so I think we have some time to find a solution.
        Second, I imagine most caregivers, babysitters, teachers, friends’ parents, and so on will recognize me as the mother of my children, because I’m the one picking them up when they reach for me and cry “Mommy!”
        Third, any place that doesn’t recognize the parents of the children they care for should have some security in place to prevent kidnapping besides “what’s your last name”…

        1. Daisy Avalin*

          DH and I aren’t actually married (we got engaged, then all the money we’d saved for the wedding disappeared when we got pregnant!) and the only problem* I’ve found was in Child’s second year at Infant school – there was a new school secretary, and she called me “Child’s mum” across the playground to tell me something because she couldn’t remember whether I was ‘Miss Name’ or ‘Mrs DH’sName’ and didn’t want to offend me either way!

          *Not really a problem, more amusing, since I will answer to pretty much anything as long as it’s aimed at me! Perks of having a father who called his 3 daughters ‘Child’ growing up, when he was calling us by each other’s/the dog’s name!

          1. Not Australian*

            That’s a neat way of solving the problem!

            [And my grandmother once had a senior moment and called me Leonard-Don-Geoff-Alec before she even made it to the right gender!]

            1. Harper the Other One*

              My mother once infamous cycled the cat’s name into her attempt to remember mine. As lovely a name as Tidbit is, it still wasn’t correct

                1. Quill*

                  I had 10 cousins growing up and my uncles on my mom’s side are over a decade older than her, so we got some real gems of running down the list of girls and very few boys in the family, by age order, to get to the cousins that are over a decade younger than me.

                  “Annie Beth Cloey David Emma and Faith – Georgia! You put that down!”

                  I also picked a name for the dog that had been on my mom’s short list for my brother when he was born, but fortunately the dog learned to respond to commands to “go take your brother for a walk.”

                  I also have a friend who has a dog named Jake and whose sister has a boyfriend named Jake… let me tell you, hearing “Human Jake” in tales of the family is a riot, but the dog was there first!

            2. KRM*

              My grandmother used to yell “Marion-Susan-Betsy!!!” when she wanted one of her kids.

              1. Quill*

                My gran went through her children, and then her grandchildren and great grandchildren, in birth order. The longer it gets the funnier it is, though the boys got off lucky because they usually got the abbreviated list (three of them plus my uncles, as opposed to seven girls plus my mom and aunt…)

                1. Quill*

                  Also I inherited a family name that has been riffed on a LOT so I generally got the boys’ list, the girls’ list, and various nicknames of my grandfather’s (it’s him I’m named after) before anyone made it to me, made worse by the fact that I was third youngest until I was a teenager and common variants of the list lumped siblings together regardless of age relative to other sibling bunches.

                  And then the family reunions, where I was inevitably “Angela’s Annie’s Quill,” or some variation with more ancestors because we had a lot of names that were recycled or variants.

                  (See distant cousins that were Robert’s Bobby’s Bill and Frank’s Bobby’s William, as hypothetical examples.)

        2. Miss Pantalones en Fuego*

          I have heard from other Americans living in the UK that they have had a minor amount of trouble at immigration if they were travelling with their kids but not with their spouse, and they had a different surname. But I think it is usually easily sorted out.

      2. SS Express*

        A few people have told me that if we give our kids hyphenated last names people will think their parents aren’t married…so? Can’t say I’m especially worried about someone thinking my hypothetical child is the illegitimate offspring of people living in sin.

        1. Pennyworth*

          I’ve never heard that! Sounds as daft as ‘Ms means you’re divorced’. The weirdest naming I ever came across was ‘Bob Brown’ and ‘Sally Smith’ who had two girls and two boys. Sally decided the appropriate feminist way to decide their hyphenated last names was to put her name first for the girls, and Bob’s name first for the boys. So the girls were ‘Smith-Brown’ and the boys were ‘Brown-Smith’. Sally nearly blew a fuse when someone asked her why she was being sexist in deciding the surnames based on gender. Happy days!

          1. Quill*

            As a teacher’s kid I can tell you that the bureaucracy involved in making sure that the right documents were sent to the homes of little Suzie Smith-Brown and Billy Brown-Smith and then their step-sibling June Jones for their parents to sign for field trips is just wild on every level.

        2. Miss Pantalones en Fuego*

          This is still an issue for some people. A friend has a local hereditary title related to the city we live in, but ran into problems when the group did not want to recognize his sons as being eligible for the title as well because he and his partner are not married.

    2. Jackalope*

      When I got married I had several people ask me about a possible name change. Some were rude about it but most just wanted to know. I did finally send out an email to everyone at work telling them I was keeping my last name (it’s a bit of a hassle at my work to do name changes so I think they were trying to get on top of any possible issues, plus curiosity) and that was all I needed.

  12. mark132*

    LW2, man the part about this being for the manager’s wife makes it very off putting to me. To be blunt, it strikes me a as brown-nosing by the admin, and I agree not wanting to waste money on a one time t-shirt purchase as well, that would just turn into a shop rag later. It wouldn’t bother me to sign a card of course.

    I think you are looking for a polite way to say no. In my opinion shorter is often politer. Maybe just a simple ‘no thanks’ with an offer to sign the card, perhaps even buy it.

    (note: if your manager is the vindictive type, I would recommend buying the t-shirt)

    1. Artemesia*

      It is a classic brown nose move by an admin or subordinate hoping to curry favorite. These things tend to escalate until the boss is being given increasingly elaborate and expensive things. I have seen this happen a couple of times in different orgs. The queen bee tries to please the boss and collects money from everyone else to stage this drama.

    2. OP2*

      I think its less brown-nosing and more her not thinking it through. The way our office is structured, she’s an equivalent to manger-level. And while my direct manager is great, I can imagine the talk of “oh, OP2 didn’t get a shirt” type of chatter in the office. I think the card is probably the best way to go.

      1. Falling Diphthong*

        I think the suggestions upthread about these T-shirts as part of, say, a walk-a-thon might be on point. That that’s where she got the idea of the photo, not that the idea should be expanded to include a walk-a-thon.

  13. Aggretsuko*

    Ugh, don’t make people camera up. Being on camera all the time is exhausting. We don’t normally have to stare at ourselves and scrutinize everything we do while trying to have a conversation with others.

    Can’t speak to other people’s attention spans, though, other than “COVID-19, what do you expect?”

    1. WS*

      Yeah – people might have pets, children, housemates, a loud working space and no alternative. There’s a ton of reasons why people might not be at their most attentive even if the meeting is run perfectly, and unless it’s a long stream of questions about really obvious things, is it such a big deal to answer them? Or to write up the main points of the meeting?

      1. Kate*

        I get being annoyed when someone asks about something right after you have finished explaining about it – but assuming that people forget something during *several days* just because they had their video off during meeting, really?

        1. EPLawyer*

          That could be a case of I checked my notes and it turns out I didn’t write it down as clearly as I needed to. Not an “I wasn’t paying attention during the meeting.” Even in person meetings people have questions later or need to clarify something they thought they remembered or had in their notes.

          1. Grits McGee*

            Or you’re like me, and focused so much on getting important tidbit #1 getting written down correctly, that you missed important tidbit #2….

        2. Just J.*

          Seconding this one hard. OP’s staff are coming back with questions hours later or days later. That is NORMAL. Even if the meeting were in person around a conference table. Questions after the fact are to be expected. OP needs to let this one go.

          And, BTW, would you prefer that they not ask you the questions and make assumptions or guesses about what was covered? Don’t be put off by your staff asking questions. It means they are trying to do a better job.

          1. SarahKay*

            OP, I’d also question whether it’s just the people who turned off their video who are coming back with questions – or whether they’re just the ones you’renoticing doing it because you’re subconsciously annoyed that they’re not staying on video.

      2. Momma Bear*

        As a working parent, I can totally see where something you might not want on camera could happen and cause the employee to turn it off or be momentarily distracted. Again, we are not just working from home. We are working through a crisis at home. I agree that if it’s a persistent problem it should be addressed to each person individually.

        Also, even under normal circumstances, people forget. Maybe they wrote a note to themselves and then later wondered what in the world that meant. My former job I had to write minutes for meetings. Even then I still ran it by a few key people before distribution, in case I missed something.

    2. Keymaster of Gozer*

      Husband unit had to explain to his boss the other day that our household bandwidth simply couldn’t handle video calls for long periods of time. Initially his boss asked what on Earth was using it given we have no kids!

      But, they’ve reformed their meetings to far shorter ones after additional coworkers pointed out that actually yeah, it was straining their household resources too.

      (Side note: me and the husband are both IT professionals who are serious gamers. That can total your bandwidth and data limits all on their own)

      1. I Herd the Cats*

        Hehe one of the other reasons I’ve been letting my son sleep in (besides the pants issue) is he sucks up all our bandwidth. He’s built himself a gaming system in his bedroom, using his own money. I refer to it as “the mainframe.” Now it’s warming up where we live and he’s complaining about the temperature in his room, which should be the coldest in the house but is 10 degrees warmer than the hallway, thanks to the mainframe. It’s great in the winter though, we just shut off the heat to his room.

        1. Quill*

          We’ve been doing ok on the bandwidth front with me, my dad, and my brother all working from home, mostly because my brother has to physically turn off his wifi to get his laptop to run datasets.

          I’m just glad most of the games I play regularly have no online component.

        2. Vertigo*

          I don’t have anything to add to this conversation except that this and your other post about your son made me laugh :)

    3. I Herd the Cats*

      “like we used to do when we were in person….” When our weekly meetings were in person I wasn’t forced to stare directly at the eyeballs of everyone in the meeting while wondering if my teenage son, walking behind me on the way to the kitchen, is wearing pants.

      I have twice-daily Zoom check-ins with a smaller group, and three larger weekly meetings. I have casually announced, either audibly or through the chat feature, that I am turning my video off because I find it taxing but I am right there. As the decades drag by I’m noticing more coworkers doing the same.

      1. Anonymom*

        Oh jeez. You’re telling me that they don’t figure out the pants thing in the next couple years? Doomed. I am doomed.

        1. General von Klinkerhoffen*

          With mine (3 sons) it’s shirts. Shrieked at my middle to put a shirt on before joining his class Zoom meeting. Any excuse and it’s “taps aff”.

        2. I Herd the Cats*

          Nope. Left to their own devices my teenage sons will roam the house pantsless for all eternity. Now that it’s warm out I’m threatening to wander around in my undies as well, which naturally horrifies them.

      2. Momma Bear*

        I’ve also read that having a lot of video calls can cause fatigue because of things like watching yourself and having to track many people at once. We have long done a weekly online meeting. No one was ever on video and that hasn’t changed with the pandemic. It’s less taxing than Zoom that way.

        1. I Herd the Cats*

          This, so much. All our pre-COVID teleconferences have insidiously morphed into Zoom calls. I’m quietly trying to get that reversed. If telcons were good enough then, they’re good enough now. Yes, it’s true, sometimes people want to stand up and stretch, or eat a snack — all things that used to happen while we were at work, in our offices, on the phone.

        2. Actual Vampire*

          Yes. I was in grad school for most of quarantine (just graduated! Yay me!) and trying to pay attention to a lecture while watching 30 different videos of people fidgeting was awful. I usually turned my video off and wished others would do the same.

      3. Texan In Exile*

        You mean in person when I had taken a shower and put on work clothes because I was leaving the house?

        And for what it’s worth – I worked from home a lot before covid. We had skype meetings all the time because we had people all over the US and Europe. Nobody ever used video. The presenter would share a presentation that would outline what we were talking about.

        It’s so odd to me that people think they need to see faces to have a meeting. Isn’t there an agenda? Aren’t you talking about specific problems that have drawings or photos or documents? There should be something to show that’s not faces and that helps people focus on the point of the meeting.

      4. pleaset AKA cheap rolls*

        For internal meetings, if people have the bandwidth, I think they should start meetings with video on unless there are privacy issues. I don’t mean a cluttered room, but other people at home who don’t want to appear on camera.

        And then, after greetings or waving hello, feel free to turn video off. Also, that everyone should have a photo show when video off. And, if possible, turn video on when presenting/talking much.

        This is much more friendly than just names. I don’t love having video on, but it’s how we’re interacting these days and it’s much warmer to have a little video and images.

    4. AW*

      Exactly. Even if we’re not home, some of us still don’t want to have our faces plastered on everyone else’s screen for an hour. We’ve been back at the office for a month but having group meetings virtually and last week our CEO decided to make it mandatory that everyone have their video on during meetings because she “wants to see everyone.” Initially she was encouraging everyone to do it, and when not everyone did, an email went out a few hours later making it a requirement for the entire meeting. When I’m in a meeting in person, I don’t have every other person potentially staring at me the entire time.

    5. Quill*

      Covid, protests, democratic unrest…

      Not to get woody guthrie on this but my attention span for work hasn’t been this shot ever.

    6. Smithy*

      I think taking a little more time probe more deeply into why information isn’t being readily absorbed during team meetings will likely serve for better outcomes overall.

      The mix of COVID-19 life stress and switching to remote work, may simply not be the greatest way to communicate specific information. Maybe your team would be better served by sharing some written guidelines and then using those team meetings to walk through them a second time and open the floor for questions? It may been that during office hours you were still getting those questions, but they happened by the coffee machine or as a quick chat that made it feel like more normal conversation and less “you’re not all this info through the meeting”.

      I know that my team has a really spotty history of large team work retreats/strategy meetings. So the fact that the COVID-19 one was particularly bad was no shock. It would be easy to focus on COVID-19/Zoom as the reason, but I hope my team’s leadership takes the time to realize that the way these meetings have been planned and structured is making them poor. COVID-Zoom may be highlighting it, but the only way being in person would have helped would have been had it been catered well and getting to talk in person to colleagues in other offices.

    7. juliebulie*

      My stress has generated a facial tic. I am self-conscious about it and don’t like to see it on my screen. I imagine it’s distracting for others, too. I stay on screen for as long as I can stand it, but when I feel myself getting twitchy, it’s lights out.

    8. Popcorn Burner*

      Upon Covid, all of my wife’s in-person sales meetings and client check-ins moved from in-person or phone to Zoom. (Some of them moved from phone meetings to Zoom, of all things.)

      We have Google Basic, so when I started working from home, we struggled with limited bandwidth. (I only work through a virtual terminal and have no virtual meetings.) I’m plugged into ethernet during the workday, yet I *still* get disconnected when she gets on Zoom calls! And…my wife won’t agree to split the cost of an internet upgrade despite that she earns twice what I do and uses most of the bandwidth. I’ve resorted to sucking it up in the meantime, because my salary doesn’t give me a ton of leeway to pay an additional $70/mo for good internet.

    9. Duck in a Fountain*

      My current excuse is that I got a huge-ass monitor to work from home, so I keep my laptop lid closed. But really I just don’t want to be on camera.

  14. AnotherSarah*

    LW3, the *only* time I’ve heard of speculation on divorce is when a friend’s mother, Sally Jones, decided she missed her maiden name, and changed her name back to Sally Smith. People thought, understandably, that she got a divorce. To which she just said, “oh no, Mr Jones and I are still happily married, I just missed my old name.” Maybe some thought it was odd but it never caused a personal or professional issue.

    1. EvilQueenRegina*

      I’ve come across it with a coworker whose role at the time was within a children and young people’s social care team, and let’s just say there have been issues in the past with families of service users looking members of that department up on social media and contacting them, young people trying to friend their worker’s personal Facebook etc. (I’ve known quite a few go by things like Firstname Middlename on Facebook for that reason and I know someone who uses Middlename Maidenname on there).

      This lady had an unusual married name, and decided the way around it was to use her maiden name professionally with her service users, while using her married name for things like social media. That did lead to some speculation that she was no longer with her husband when it first happened.

      1. Quill*

        Firstname Middlename and Firstname Maidenname are pretty common facebook handles for teachers. Some just because their name is Katie and they don’t want to cause confusion with old school aquaintances, sometimes because it’s a lot harder to look up Katie Ann or Katie Llamas from high school than “Mrs. Katie Teapots” your child’s teacher, and scroll through looking for photos in which she was holding a red solo cup at a cookout ten years ago.

  15. scmill*

    LW#3, please just pick a name and stick to it. I worked for someone for about 5 years, and in that time, she married and divorced several times. And changed her name every time. It drove everyone crazy trying to keep up with the name-of-the-month.

    1. neeko*

      This just seems weirdly aggressive. Your co-worker wasn’t changing her name to mess with people. I assume she thought she was going to “stick to it” when she got married.

      1. Quill*

        5 years… assuming her maiden name wasn’t Kardashian, I’m assuming most of these marriages lasted long enough to update in the system and then the singleness lasted long enough that they could revert system changes to her maiden name.

        To be honest if I were in that office and confused I would have just kept referring to her as her maiden name if she kept going back to it. “Oh, do you know Grace Teapots?” people will either know exactly who, or correct you “oh, she got married, she’s Grace Saucer now!” “That’s wonderful. Could you ask Grace Saucer to run me a porcelain stress test?”

    2. Justme, the OG*

      Okay, and? Y’all could just act like adults and accept her relationship and name changes.

    3. Alianora*

      Highly doubt she was doing it at you, or intended to get divorced multiple times. Chill out.

  16. No Contact*

    I personally disagree with the answer to #4. I think it’s better to not hear anything than to hear “We’re all getting our jobs back but you.”

    But that’s just me. I also said once that I prefer being “ghosted” after job interviews than receiving rejection letters/e-mails and the comment section raked me across the coals.

    1. Dan*

      I had to go back and forth on this a couple of times… I don’t like AAM’s wording, at least as written, because it’s too much of a cliff hanger. It sort of invites the recipient to respond and say, “Just to clarify, I’m getting left out of the party?” Even adding something like “best of luck” or something would drive the point home a bit more clearly.

      Absent something more clear, I side with you, just let it be. This could be tantamount to getting rejected from a job you didn’t apply for.

    2. MK*

      That’s fine, if you could be sure this person would find out on his own that the workplace reopened. It’s possible, though, that a well-meaning friend will see it first and call to congradulate him on getting his job back or an aquaintance mentioning that the company reopened and him insisting “no, I used to work there, it closed down” or some other similar situation that his ignorance will make him feel humiliated. There is no good way to phrase the message, but I agree with Alison that he should be made aware.

      1. WellRed*

        I think even finding out your own would sting. Oh, look, they reopened and didn’t tell me.

        1. Lance*

          Yeah, that’s about what I’d be thinking. In a case like this, it’s a hard message to deliver, but I think more clarity is better; both for the ex-employee, knowing clearly that the layoff for them isn’t temporary, and for the company’s own goodwill in being open about things.

        2. kittymommy*

          It would probably confuse me if I heard about from outside sources and I might start to think I missed a call or email and then freak out.

          1. A*

            This is where I land. Or I’d be expecting a call soon.

            There is no right answer and it’ll sting either way, but I do think it’d be best to give a courtesy heads up.

    3. ThisColumnMakesMeGratefulForMyBoss*

      I think it’s pretty shitty to leave someone hanging like that, who will probably find out what’s happening through the grapevine. Based on the wording of the letter, I’m not sure about the details. Company was initially “shut down” for COVID (and then permanently closed) – but was everyone furloughed with the possible chance of being brought back, or were they laid off permanently from the start? Yes it would suck to hear “we’re not asking you to come back”, but for me it would be worse to be left hanging and wondering…are they waiting until things are up and running to ask me back?

    4. SomebodyElse*

      I won’t rake you over the coals… mostly because it’s one of those things in life where there isn’t a right or wrong answer. Some people like yourself wouldn’t like the direct message, while others wouldn’t want to be left hanging or find out in a different way.

      So that’s why I think the LW in the situation should do what they think is right and understand that it may not be the best approach for the individuals.

      If they are going to send a msg, I’m not keen on the example. It’s for sure a tough one to write, but I think I’d go with something along the lines of “Would like to provide an update; closure…restructuring… blah blah. I wanted to send this message to you so that you wouldn’t be left wondering your status with ACME corp. Unfortunately with the restructuring we won’t be bringing you back, we wanted to let you know so you could plan accordingly.

      1. Dan*

        I prefer your phrasing. AAM’s wording lacked a certain specificity that I think you’ve conveyed and done so with an appropriate tone.

  17. Avasarala*

    “But if it happens more than once, then you address it the same way you would if these were in-person meetings: by naming the problem and talking about how to solve it.”

    So how do you go about this without making it sound like you’re accusing people of not paying attention?
    “I’ve noticed people are asking questions afterwards on things we covered in the call. Would turning on video help?”
    Video kind of seems like a non sequitur here because what you’re really saying is “will video help you remember to focus and pay attention?” I dunno, maybe others can admit to their boss that meetings are boring and you’ve been zoning out; I would look incompetent.

    1. Ask a Manager* Post author

      Oh, I meant one-on-one, not to the group — I’ll make it clearer in the post.

      You start with something like, “You’ve been missing some key info from team meetings. Anything going on?” That might be all it takes to nudge them into realizing they need to pay more attention. If not: “Is it something about how we’re structuring them? Are you taking notes? What do you think would help?

    2. WoodswomanWrites*

      I’ve been using Zoom comfortably for a couple years. But with the pandemic and remote work, I discovered that the increased hours on Zoom gave me vertigo. Fortunately it resolved with a full weekend day off from it. Now when I have a lot of Zoom meetings in a day, I sometimes switch off my camera to avoid developing vertigo again. I have informed my co-workers of this, and they know that I’m always listening but may be off-camera so I can get up and look out the window at something in the distance, etc.

    3. C Average*

      If the problem is people zoning out and not absorbing the necessary information from the meeting, maybe have everyone take turns writing up notes post-meeting and sending them out to the group. That spreads out the pain of paying attention and also ensures that everyone on the call has access to the information from the meeting afterward.

      (At my old job, we did this for a necessary but much-loathed conference call, and it worked really well.)

      1. Generic Name*

        Yes, I was going to suggest that someone take minutes (not the person leading the meeting). Maybe assign the worst “offender” the first round of minute-taking. Not as punishment, but as incentive to pay attention.

  18. Rexish*

    #3. I don’t get it. Your current colleagues know you are married and kept your name. How would your future colleagues (or others) know if you kept your own name or took your husbands name? And if it somehow comes up, wouldn’t the marital status come up aswell? If she was worried about the mrs/ms thing, I could see the logic (not that I agree).

    P.s. I totally misread the punctuation as ” will be keeping my name, and I do not plan on being addressed as Mrs., but as Ms. My fiancé” and was very confused.

    1. Myrin*

      Right? I’m so intrigued by OP’s mother’s stance here and would really like her to explain her thought process to me.

      Like. Literally nothing about a not-change screams “divorce” (and actually, a name change could be more indicative of that; I work with two women where that was actually the case). If the state of someone’s name never changes, people will either think someone’s been married all along or someone’s been single all along. Depending on their relationship with you, they might find out that you got married/are about to get married sometime in the middle of your acquaintanceship. These are literally the only three possibilities. And that’s in case anyone ever randomly thinks about your marital status at all.

      Really, I just absolutely love Alison’s very succinct “keeping it as it is just makes you look the way you’ve always looked” because that’s really all it is.

      1. anonintheuk*

        Oddly I have heard from a number of people ‘Why would you want your father’s name and not your husband’s?’

        So. Do women not have last names at all? Why does the husband get one? isn’t it really HIS father’s? and then on backwards through history.

        1. Reba*

          I’ve had this conversation too, and I acknowledge the patriarchal system etc etc.

          My response was, how long does a woman need to have a name before it belongs to her?

          1. HBJ*

            Yes. And in answer to your (rhetorical) question, exactly as long as it takes the ink to dry on the paperwork. This always bugs me so much.

            I remember awhile back some z-list “celebrity” was divorcing and it was reported that part of the “settlement” was that she got to keep her married name, which she’d been using personally and professionally ever since she got married, which was long before she became “famous.” And I’m thinking, this had to be settled?

            Once you change your name whether you’re a man or woman and for any reason – marriage, divorce, or just because you decided you liked Princess Consuela Banana Hammock better – that name is yours. Period.

            1. Avasarala*

              Well, for celebrities it’s also part of their brand. So if they want to trademark something or do legal things with it, that might need to be negotiated. Like Michael B. Jordan.

      2. ThisColumnMakesMeGratefulForMyBoss*

        Mom is concerned with the optics of the situation because she cares what others think. It’s an old fashioned way of thinking. When my parents got married, my mom had a book where she recorded the gifts they received. When my grandmother (dad’s mom) would go to weddings after they got married, she would ask what that couple (or couple’s parents) had given my parents as a wedding gift, and reciprocate accordingly. After a bit my mom lied and said she lost the book.

    2. Saberise*

      Yeah I was very confused by that and also read it as OP wasn’t taking the fiance’s name but was going to go by Ms. fiance’s name. Huh? Took me a while to figure out “My fiance” was the start of a new sentence.

  19. Mingus*

    #1 Make it clear to everyone that video is preferred during the meeting because it provides a much better “in-person” experience for everyone. Also, as in the answer, explain that there are reasons where video it’s OK to have video switched off but that the default is that it should be switched on.

    However, if you have a problem that people are not attending meetings that cover important information for them, you don’t really have a video-problem.

    1. Pennyworth*

      I was wondering if LW1 could make a point of asking for input from each team member during the meeting. Multiple ‘no-shows’ could then be addressed individually.

      1. Seven hobbits are highly effective, people*

        Yeah, it sounds like these aren’t very interactive meetings if someone could actually get up and leave the meeting without anyone noticing at the time, camera or no camera. Adding more back and forth would both be a good reason for it to be a meeting (rather than an email) and naturally make it quite obvious if someone wasn’t actually there.

        If the people suspected of leaving wouldn’t be in roles where it makes sense to ask them for anything during the meeting, maybe re-think whether or not they actually need to attend it rather than being sent a summary.

    2. Asenath*

      Well…maybe video doesn’t provide a better “in-person” experience for everyone. I infinitely prefer to have audio-only, and fortunately, that’s usually the default arrangement for the comparatively few such things I participate in – generally for technical reasons. I’m always distracted by the videos and find myself wondering why so-and-so is positioned so oddly and why the connection with otherperson seems kind of glitchy instead of listening. Still, the organizer can insist on video if they think that’s a better experience, and should expect everyone to pick up on almost all of what is going on (sometimes the audio cuts out too). If someone isn’t following the meeting, that needs to be dealt with , but I don’t think telling them that video is a better experience is a good approach. Tell them they need to follow what’s going on, and find out why they aren’t doing that.

      1. Just J.*

        I agree on audio only and will take a hard pass on video every time. Besides, at both at home and at work, my desk is arranged in such a way that my laptop camera points at a shelf. (My laptop is docked on a shelf and not on my desk.) I am not rearranging my desk so you can see my face.

    3. Important Moi*

      Telling people video provides a much better “in-person” experience would come across as disingenuous to me. LW wants people to participate, so in providing the explanation that’s what should be focused on.

      As others have mentioned, are the meetings too long? Do you really need to cover ALL the topics? Do you need to have the meeting? Meeting are not bad, but sometimes they are not efficient.

      1. my webcam is off but I still have a screen*

        +1000
        I think my number one pet peeve as an employee is employers/managers telling baldfaced lies like “video provides a better in-person experience therefore I require everyone to have their webcam on during meetings” when it’s brutally, painfully, obvious that they mean, “I have anxiety about controlling my team, and a few people asked me to repeat information I already said once which bothers me, so now I’m forcing everyone to keep their webcams on so I can stare at them staring at their screen.” I do have sympathy for OP1: Of course the meetings are important, and you want to know your employees take them seriously as well. Please, just treat them like adults and tell them that. Trust that anyone who seemed competent enough for you to hire will understand that just fine, and see right through some BS about “better experiences.”
        OP1, do you really have time during these meetings to inspect everyone’s faces to “make sure” they’re paying attention? If so then I would definitely reevaluate these meetings; perhaps they could be shorter or managed better, which could actually address the problem instead of just creating needless resentment.

        1. Worker Bee*

          ^^This! Employees can smell disingenuous statements a mile away. I personally HATE having video on; I am generally camera shy and video just makes my skin crawl. One of my superior insists on videos, which I do only when in meetings with her (no one else seems to care, thankfully), but then I am totally distracted by how uncomfortable I am the entire time. Maybe instead of insisting on video, you try ASKING your team ways to make the meetings more engaging.

    4. Observer*

      Make it clear to everyone that video is preferred during the meeting because it provides a much better “in-person” experience for everyone

      Except that this is not true. Obviously, the people turning off the video are not having a “better” experience by turning it on.

  20. General von Klinkerhoffen*

    The t-shirt thing is just weird.

    I could just about see it if you took a photo all wearing shirts from a candy charity, or shirts you already own but in the same colour (especially if it was the colour of a cancer charity which was the beneficiary of a collection, or her favourite colour, or similar) but buying new shirts which benefit only the shirt company is just bizarre.

    Like when are you ever going to wear your “my boss’s wife has cancer, whoooooo” shirt again?

    1. Xavier Desmond*

      Yeah it is really odd. When I started reading I assumed the t shirt would be for a cancer charity which would be more understandable. But why would anyone want to buy a t shirt commemorating their bosses wife having cancer?

    2. writerNY*

      As someone who has had cancer, I think I’m allowed to laugh at this and I did: “my boss’s wife has cancer, whooooo.” Thanks for the chuckle! Cancer really brings out the bizarre in some people which is why I rarely disclose to people anymore that I had it.

  21. Calanthea*

    #1 – If this is happening a lot, with lots of different people, might you consider whether meetings are still the best way to share information?
    I take the minutes for one of our regular meetings, and even I sometimes have to double check details with speakers after the fact. It can be that during the flow of talking people get details wrong, but is others know the context then they mentally correct it; it can be that there are so many details, people remember the gist of the discussion but not the exact step-by-step; and it can be that they remember specific details but not the overall gist!
    Most of the resources I’ve seen about effective remote working emphasise how important it is to document everything important, create SOPs, and put more context in then you think you’d need. This has the bonus of allowing much easier handover/induction in future!

    1. MK*

      I don’t know, I think it’s telling that people are now asking for information covered in the meeting, when presumably they didn’t before. If it wasn’t for that, I would consider whether the meetings aren’t necessary and the people who were tuned out during the in-person meetings are now muting. But if people were getting relevant information from the in-person meeting and now they aren’t, it’s due to them not paying attention now.

      1. Calanthea*

        I guess it depends on the workplace! For us, it used to be really easy to just go to someones desk and double check something, and now it has to be an email.
        So instead of me turning to the colleague next to me and going “Was the Llama food delivery for the last Friday, or the last day of the month?” (and if they didn’t remember, there’s a chance at least one person in hearing distance did) I’d now have to go to whoever was leading the meeting or gave that update.
        Like I said, it really depends on the type of work/office, but this has been a huge change for us, and I have tried very hard to change structures/business practice to make it easy for colleagues, rather than expecting them to adapt. Documenting as much as possible, shared folders, context heavy emails (including background, links to earlier discussions, explicit deadlines/milestones) are some of the things we’re trying to move towards, as well as keeping in person meetings as brief as possible. This is a real change from our previous ways of working, but we’re anticipating that the remote work will be until 2021, if not longer. We’ll see how it works out.

        1. Works in IT*

          My workload has increased, a lot, to the point that people are now calling me during our team’s scheduled daily meeting to get stuff done.

          I’ve at least been telling my team members I’m being called and I will be right

          1. Works in IT*

            Back, weird, why did it post when I was half done typing?

            Occasionally I need to clarify something that was covered when I was forced to stop attending the meeting and shift to something else, but it’s always with the clarification that I missed that part because something else came up. Not because I fell asleep halfway through the meeting.

      2. MicroManagered*

        Well…. as you said it *is* a presumption that they did not ask before. Maybe they always did, but it’s sticking out more now because the manager is just irritated that people aren’t using video? (Not saying she is, but it’s at least a possibility and we’ve seen a few LW’s who were asking if they could force video because they just wanted to.)

    2. Washi*

      I agree with this! I would say I have a longer than average attention span, but I find it much harder to retain information from video calls than in person meetings. Part of it is that on calls, it often requires a lot of focus just to understand what the other person is saying, due to internet issues, poor microphones, etc. Then if I have a question, I usually have to unmute myself, and sometimes in the second it takes to remember and locate the mute button (I use so many different applications that have it in different spots) sometimes the conversation has moved on and it’s awkward to jump in 3 seconds late to be like “actually I have a question.” So then if I IM someone with my question or jot it down, I’m not 100% paying attention to the next thing in the meeting and could miss it…etc.

      I don’t miss multiple things every week or anything, but I do often feel more fuzzy on the details after a call than I would after an in person meeting.

      1. Karou*

        I agree with this — I don’t have the best hearing and find it much harder to follow what’s being said in video meetings or conference calls.

        If a particular person seems to be having trouble retaining info right after meetings I think you need more info about why that might be, instead of assuming it’s because they’re not visible.

    3. triplehiccup*

      Yes. I worked 100% for years before covid, and it was SOP for everyone to put their updates in a shared doc before the meeting. The first few min of the meeting, everyone read everyone else’s notes and annotated with questions for discussion. That way the meeting time was for actual discussion and decision making that someone acting as secretary added to the shared doc. It worked really well and didn’t actually take more time and everyone was engaged bc it was actually engaging. The reality is that video chats are automatically less engaging than in person meetings so it will help if you make people’s roles more active.

      1. Reba*

        We are moving this direction for one of our regular meetings and it is AWESOME.

        Even in the best circumstances I tend to retain info from reading better than hearing.

        1. Texan In Exile*

          I am setting up and running the meetings for a volunteer project and that’s how I am doing it. I write the agenda, send it out, ask people to add items to it, including updating their production and financial information, and then I take the minutes during the meeting. We save the actual meeting time for making decisions, not sharing information. Straight information can be (and should be) written.

    4. Oxford Comma*

      All of this. Before the pandemic, my workplace was meeting happy, but now I can have 5-7 zoom calls a day. Long zoom calls. There are days when I wouldn’t be able to eat if I didn’t turn my cam off.

      I really wonder often why everyone defaults to meetings. It’s hard to retain the information. Unless the meetings are recorded, they’re ephemeral. I’d much rather be presented with a document to review and have a short meeting to discuss it.

    5. sb51*

      Yeah, I was wondering if perhaps the note-taking processes had changed with the move to videoconference — I’m personally not good at remembering information that was only conveyed verbally — I’ll remember we talked about the topic but not what the decision was, or forget that I volunteered for an action item, no matter whether it’s in person or online, no matter how attentive I am in the meeting.

      It took us a little adapting to figure out how to best capture these online when we didn’t have a physical whiteboard.

  22. Paul Pearson*

    1) It feels like some managers go out their way to find rules to enforce, and I really don’t get it? Why put another requirement or element of discomfort (or potential technical difficulty) of mandatory video into the mix when it doesn’t actually address a problem? I dunno, I feel some managers set up unnecessary conflict by being heavy handed like this

    1. MK*

      The OP says that she is getting questions about things covered in the meeting from people who mute. She isn’t making up rules to make people’s lives harder, she is trying trying to address an issue.

      1. A*

        Enough people have commented along these lines that it clearly is not an invalid perspective, and was also the takeaway I had. OP is having an attention-to-detail or something along those lines issue, not a video issue. Mandating video is not necessarily going to solve the issue (which is unclear if it actually is new or not anyways), and therefore can be – by some – deemed unnecessary.

        It’s just as fair an interpretation as your own, and this commenter is certainly not alone in it.

      2. Paul Pearson*

        But she is making people’s lives harder and in a heavy handed fashion regardless of intent

        Personally I’d have every meeting minuted (largely because of long experiences of people making stuff up after the fact and saying it was agreed in “meeting X”) and with Zoom even easier, each meeting can be recorded. Simple, share the minutes/recording then anyone who has missed anything can nip back and review

    2. Koala dreams*

      I agree with you, it’s weird to jump to setting a new rule before even speaking to the people in question.

    3. ThisColumnMakesMeGratefulForMyBoss*

      You’re reading way too much into this. Clearly there’s a problem and it seems as if people aren’t paying attention when they’re in meetings. OP needs to figure out the cause of the issue for the individuals and not automatically assume they need to use video, but stating they’re creating unnecessary conflict and going out of their way to enforce rules is a bit of a reach and not fair to the OP.

      1. A*

        I had the same interpretation as this commenter, and I don’t feel my opinion is ‘unfair’ to have. It’s fine to agree to disagree, but your interpretation is no more valid than others.

        1. ThisColumnMakesMeGratefulForMyBoss*

          Jumping to conclusions and making assumptions about the reasons behind the question IS unfair to the OP. There is nothing in the letter to indicate that they are going out of their way to find rules to enforce or setting up unnecessary conflict. I wasn’t “interpreting” anything. I was basing my opinion on the facts in the letter and the comment above. You can disagree with me all you like, but don’t tell me I’m wrong because I called someone out for being unfair to the OP.

      2. Paul Pearson*

        I disagree; it’s not an uncommon managerial habit to reach for more rules and demands than are warranted, especially when less invasive or heavy handed methods would be equally or more effective. They may not intend to create conflict but I think reaching for the new demand that has a good chance of being resented is good way of doing so, regardless of that intent.

  23. Alisu*

    #4
    Is this person the only one who can’t be brought back? If not I’d maybe word it more towards “And we’re not able to bring everyone back”. It’s less of a slap on the face, though of course only nice thing to say if they truly are not the only one. Then add that she is sadly among the ones who had to be cut.

    1. OP*

      Hi there,

      They are not the only ones not coming back. My own department is being shuttered, as well as one of the local locations.

      This now means I am taking over most of their job, which I discovered since writing the original question.

      1. MCMonkeyBean*

        I think that because you know there are some more personal reasons that they are not being brought back, it’s making you feel extra awkward about the thought of telling them about it. But they don’t have to know those reasons! A restructuring is a very normal reason for someone to end up out of a job, so I think it could just be delivered like a normal layoff (with the weird COVID layer of them having sort of already been temporarily laid off).

  24. Easily Amused*

    I didn’t change my name after getting married and I don’t even recall anyone at work asking about it. Though it wouldn’t surprise me if someone did once or twice but it was a non-issue. The only person who is confused by it is my 86 year old mother who has my name hyphenated in her phone and continues to ask me “is it Jones-Smith? I don’t know what to call you.” To which I have to answer, “the same name I’ve had my entire life.”

  25. Helvetica*

    LW#1 – in my office, only people who are speaking keep the camera on. I think it is very reasonable! I might want to get up to go to the bathroom or get a glass of water or whatever else, and as long as I’m still listening to the convo, I don’t think it makes a difference. I don’t mute the sound ever.
    Your problem seems to be more about people who don’t pay attention – but perhaps it is worth thinking whether those people have a tendency to forget those things under normal circumstances as well.

  26. Amy*

    Before Covid-19, we’d generally have about 20% of people on camera.

    Over the last 2.5 months, that number has moved up steadily and now it’s the expectation.
    There is sometimes a general statement like “Just as a reminder, we’d like cameras on please.” Sure, sometimes the image might flick off due to bandwidth for a bit or someone might turn it off for a few minutes when a child runs into the room but it’s now understood to be the expectation.

    My company has been pleasantly surprised by the extent we’ve been able to replicate the office at home. WFH is certainly going to be more standard, which is great for me as a parent with young children. If the trade-off needs to be video demonstrating that I’m sitting at a desk looking professional instead of muted and cameras-off (where I could be at the park or gardening), it’s okay by me, especially for 1 major meeting a week.

    1. Important Moi*

      For me the issue becomes what if they want more camera time? First it is for 1 major meeting.

      Then it turns into, “it works so well for major meeting, we should do more meetings on camera” when an email will suffice.

      Then its “We just want to see you lovely faces.”

      Next thing you know people are writing into AAM asking “My employer wants me to keep my camera on all day, can I push back?”

      It sounds dramatic, but I’ve seen here and personally, it appears many managers who aren’t use to employees working remotely are are trying to figure out how to handle things.

      1. Amy*

        I think it’s perfectly reasonable to have cameras on for meetings when it’s primarily WFH.

        1. A*

          If you only have one meeting, sure. However it is incredibly unrealistic to expect this for all positions. I’m working 16+ hours a day trying to keep global supply chains from collapsing. It would be completely unreasonable to expect me to be on video for all of my meetings (~9-10 hours/day).

          Not to mention it makes no sense for global positions. It’s rough enough juggling multiple time zones and always having a certain number of individuals having to call in the middle of the night / crack of dawn etc. it would be absurd to expect video.

          This is a perfect example of why blanket statements do not work. What might be reasonable for some positions, won’t be for others.

          1. Amy*

            I personally love working from home. I hope if there’s one thing we can take from this pandemic is increased flexibility for employees to WFH. It’s saving me at least 8 hours a week in travel time alone as well as makes my household run more smoothly.

            But it’s fallen apart at many companies. In many roles, pushing back too hard against a culture of preferring employees be generally be on-camera and professionally dressed for meetings (and this LW seems perfectly reasonable to me) may result in employers feeling like they need to scrap WFH in favor of 40 hours of office face-time. Everyone will feel differently but if I need to choose between commuting and being always on at the office and not commuting and sometimes needing to be on camera, I definitely choose the latter. Others may prefer the office.

      2. hbc*

        I don’t think there’s a slope this slippery. Trying to replicate previous in-person meetings to the point that you can see people’s body language is actually very helpful. Holding meetings of any sort when an email would suffice is an abomination whether or not you’re in person, audio-only, or on camera.

  27. Bob*

    LW1: Chances are they are turning off their video and leaving the meeting. You can’t prove it and thats the point, they do this for plausible deniability.
    You can let it slide a couple times as Alison suggests but your going to have to deal with it as time goes on and they don’t step up.
    Since your paying these employees to do their jobs and be in meetings you can require the video stay on. But start low stakes and work your way up.
    That said i agree with Alison that long meetings are hard to not zone out of, yet they are taking advantage of technology to get out of what they can’t in person.

    LW3: Your mom is playing from a 1970s playbook. It would have made sense *maybe* even on the 1990s but this is 2020. Not changing your name is normal these days. So move forward confidently, divorce is no longer stigmatized, nor does modern culture condone employer repercussions for your marital status (be it single, married, divorced, widowed or anything else.

    LW4: The regional manager should be the one telling them their jobs are not coming back, so they can have clarity to start job hunting. I would modify Alison’s response a bit to “We’re restructuring pretty significantly so aren’t able to bring you back, but I wanted to be clear that your unemployment is unaffected and we wish you well in your future endeavors.”
    Also the regional manager should decide what they want to provide in terms of references.

    1. Ask a Manager* Post author

      A clarification on#4 — it sounds like the company was shut down and they’ve already been laid off (not furloughed), so they should already be job hunting. (But I like your language.)

      1. Bob*

        I understand, though if they see the company is running again they may think they could be called back, so my inclination is to give them that finality of it not happening.

        “But I like your language”
        Thanks :)

    2. SarahKay*

      LW1 may be paying the employees, but there’s a good chance they’re not paying their broadband bills – some of them may just not have the data to spare for video calls. And honestly, assuming that all these employees are skiving off is a fairly negative view of people. Speaking purely for myself I actually find it much easier to pay attention to the content of calls when there’s no video, and I’d be surprised if I’m alone in that.

      1. Bob*

        Many broadband companies are adding bandwidth or unlimited during the pandemic. That said if this were the issue then the company can reimburse a couple bucks for the overage (with documentation).
        I’ve been around the block many times so the fact they turn off the video but are still there is frankly laughable. Plus they ask for information that was given. People do forget things but when it quacks like a duck then turns off the video, you most likely have an AWOL duck.

        I don’t dismiss that Zoom fatigue is a thing, but when you pay employees to do their jobs and they can say no thinks then whats the point in paying them? And if you don’t like video then that explains why your defending turning it off.
        Finally how fair is it to those who do their jobs when they could decide to go AWOL while everyone else doesn’t even if they have Zoom fatigue?

        1. juliebulie*

          If they are always taking off when they turn off the video, perhaps that’s more a comment about the quality of your meetings.

          1. Bob*

            Could be. I would aim to minimize them and even see if they are necessary, but a double standard of ignoring people who check out sends a bad message.

        2. SarahKay*

          Well, by your logic, the fact that if I’m allowed to turn off video means that I will then also stop engaging in the call – and this isn’t the case. And I don’t believe this is because I’m an especially good person or an amazingly rare exception.
          Also, please bear in mind that OP hasn’t yet ordered anyone to stay on video, so no-one is yet failing to do their paid jobs just by turning off the video. They may be failing to do their jobs by skiving off once they’ve turned off the video, but at this point that is only supposition.

          1. Bob*

            Considering they ask for information that was in the video but they don’t know is not supposition.
            We can make excuses till the cows come home and its apparent we will.
            Should we microchip those cows so when they are discovered someday they can be returned?

            1. KRM*

              Maybe the information in the meeting conflicts with information or priorities they got earlier, so they’re reaching out to clarify, but phrase it badly. Or they want to make sure they heard something correctly. It’s MORE likely that they zoned out for a minute or missed a point as they wrote another point down than it is that they are simply walking away for the whole meeting. Approach from a place of understanding and not from one that assumes the employee is messing around.

                1. Non-prophet*

                  This isn’t a very charitable read of the situation. I often prefer to keep my video off, but have never once walked away from a video call. I’ve got a young kid and with daycares closed, she’s home while my spouse and I both WFH. There is no faster way to derail a call than to keep my video on with her in the same room. Babies are distracting. And I can actually focus much better when I don’t have to worry how much I’m distracting everyone else.

                  Today alone, during my calls my kid:
                  -needed to nurse (she’s under 1…she doesn’t understand waiting til I’m done with a call)
                  -fell asleep on me after nursing
                  -had a meltdown when I wouldn’t let her chew on my laptop/charger/phone
                  -tried to pull down a heavy floor lamp

                  Although that all sounds like chaos, today was a pretty productive work day. But my coworkers shouldn’t have to see any of that on video.

        3. NewReadingGlasses*

          I get more information out of audio only meetings, or where only the presenter ( and their screen or slides) than I do the massive Brady Bunch face pallet. People often want a written confirmation of the information as well as having missed a few things.

  28. Bookworm*

    #1: Please don’t require video. My manager does and I really hate it because I genuinely have Zoom fatigue and I honestly, really don’t want to see my co-workers (I know what they look like and find seeing so many faces a little overwhelming).

    1. Bob*

      In a sense i don’t disagree but employees need the information in order to do their jobs. And leaving then relying on others who did stay for the meeting is unfair.
      Now if the meeting was just about relaying information from the host then one could forego the meeting and just pass around a document with that information.
      Or a hybrid, pass around the document, everyone reads then meets for Q&A. Or the Q&A could also be by text is appropriate.

      1. I Wrote This in the Bathroom*

        But the problem is not that they aren’t on video, but that they zone out and miss the information. Personally I could just as easily zone out while staring into my camera (probably more easily, as I would be thinking more about how I look on camera than about what’s being discussed in the meeting).

        1. Bob*

          For sure you can zone out when on camera but if your off camera and not even there then you are not only zoned out, you could not even zone in.

          1. I Wrote This in the Bathroom*

            Why? If you are on the phone and listening and looking at the screens being shared. Why would that not be enough for anyone to zone in?

            And we have no proof that they “are not even there”. All we know is they are off camera. They could be having their morning coffee for all we know.

            1. Bob*

              We can play the what if game till the cows come home.
              If our goal is to engage in FUD its not hard to accomplish.
              You pay your employees to do their jobs, if they don’t then you can either let them dictate their own employment terms or you can address the problem.
              Sometime addressing the problem means changing the format, maybe a Zoom call is unnecessary and a written document can be sent to everyone. Who knows. But its also no fair to those who tough it out when anyone who wants to slack can get away with it while others do the jobs they are paid for.

              1. I Wrote This in the Bathroom*

                No games here, I just find it odd that the problem is “they miss information in the meetings” and the solution is “require them to be on camera”. The two are not related. No one is paying them to be on camera. There’s no benefit to the business from them being on camera. Basically, I agree with Alison’s answer to the OP.

                1. Bob*

                  An employer does pay their employees to do their jobs. And employment duties evolve over time.

                2. Amy*

                  I’ve definitely tuned into an audio-only conference call, announced my name, muted myself and gone back to driving, parenting, cooking whatever.

                  I’m generally a good employee but sometimes when you feel like you can get away with this, you do.

                  My work has now settled into a structure of WFH that involves some use of cameras and office style professional norms. I don’t resent it. Especially if it means this could be the new normal instead of the previous expectation of everything being in-person.

      2. Lynn Whitehat*

        We did a lot of Zoom calls before Covid just because of being in different offices and a culture of occasional WFH being OK. In my experience, it is not at all true that “video is on = engaged, video is off = checked out or possibly absent”. In fact, I would say I have noticed no correlation at at all. There are a million ways to tune out while still looking at the screen, and it is absolutely possible to be focused on the task at hand with the camera off. Under the circumstances, maybe even *more* focused, because you don’t have to worry about whether your background looks weird or co-workers can see your cat jumping around or whatever.

        I have found wanting to keep the video off is usually some combination of:
        1. being self-conscious and camera-shy in general
        2. Not being camera-ready (wearing gym clothes, kids frolicking behind them, etc)
        3. bandwidth problems

        I guess if you’re really worried that they went to the park or something, ask them questions at the next meeting. No answer, then they’re busted and you know what’s going on. But the far more likely scenario is they *are* trying to pay attention. But some combination of sub-optimal working conditions and the fact that questions are now more visible is causing more questions than you had before.

    2. I Wrote This in the Bathroom*

      Yep, webcams are weird. The way my work space is setup at home, and was setup at work, the built-in one in my laptop won’t work. I ordered one as soon as we started wfh in March. It got stuck at the customs and, after it sat there for a month with no ETA, the seller canceled the order. By that point, all other reliable sellers were out of stock and now I don’t have a webcam. I was upset at first, but then took notice of how the few people on my team that do have theirs set up, look on camera. We all thought it’d be the same as having an in-person meeting and it just… isn’t. Instead of your team sitting around a table talking, you’ve got close-ups of your coworkers’ faces. Like I’ll be honest, the only way I’m seeing someone’s face that close in real life is if I woke up next to them (which is not something I ever want to imagine happening with me and my coworkers.)

  29. Marcy Marketer*

    LW 3, I work for a large insurance company and also kept my last name after marriage. No one cared at all or even mentioned it. Of course in big companies much depends on your team but hopefully that helps.

  30. Employment Lawyer*

    1. Should I require people to leave their video on during team meetings?
    Yes. If they can’t manage that then they are probably not going to manage other things.

    Keep the meetings short (you’re better off w/ two half-hour meetings than one hour-long meeting) and require attendance.

    2. How to politely decline buying a shirt when it’s about cancer
    This is precisely how these charities work: They try to focus on making you feel impolite if you don’t give. But it is NEVER impolite to decline to give.

    I give a lot to charity, but I do it all anonymously. If you’re OK with it, you can simply say “Sorry, I give a lot to charity and I’ll look into those organizations at home, but I don’t do it at work.” Otherwise you may need to suck it up and donate.

    3. Will not changing my name when I get married be a problem at work?
    No; nobody will notice or care. There may be a few old-school folks who express surprise that you didn’t change your name (there is always someone…) but whatever.

    4. Telling someone we’re reopening but not hiring them back
    I’d send a letter informing them that they won’t be rehired due to a restructuring. Keep it short and sweet and courteous.

    5. Can I ask a current coworker to be a reference?
    It’s fine, if you are willing to bet your current job against their ability to keep a secret. Make sure you balance those odds against the future possibility that you reject (or don’t get) the new job, and that you keep working there while they know you just tried to leave.

    1. WellRed*

      The problem with no 2 is that it’s NOT a charity. It’s a total waste of money for OP.

      1. Employment Lawyer*

        It may not be charity to you, but in the mind of the person asking for a donation, it’s a form of charity to someone. That is why there is social awkwardness at all.

        Again, I personally would just say no, but there *IS* some social consequence to that. I have certainly had people accuse me of being uncaring as a result.

        Alternatively if they are being annoying, you can try my method, which (be warned) also has some social risk:

        As it happens I give 100% of my charitable money anonymously to my local food pantry (not that it’s anyone’s business, and I wouldn’t generally admit this in a non-anonymous forum.) But when someone gets really annoying, I will tell them that up front and give a challenge:

        “I give 100% of my charitable money to the food pantry. Every dollar. If you’re asking me to take some of that money and give it to you, please explain why you deserve it more than they do.”

        20% walk away.

        80% say “Oh, you should give them what you want and should ALSO give us $100” to which I say “if I was going to give another $100 in charity, I’d give that to the food pantry as well. They always need more money. Again: Explain why you deserve the $100 more than they do and I’ll give it to you instead.”

        Some folks try to argue the “well, give give another $100” point. It isn’t always clear whether they’re bullheaded or just don’t understand the “money is fungible” thing, but they don’t get money.

        Literally, *nobody* has ever actually tried to argue that they have a greater need than the food pantry.

        Frankly I couldn’t win that argument either–that’s why I give all my money to the food pantry!!

    2. Observer*

      1. Should I require people to leave their video on during team meetings?
      Yes. If they can’t manage that then they are probably not going to manage other things.

      That’s a well researched question and the answer is that you are factually incorrect. Keeping video on often poses problems that don’t relate to anything else the staff needs to do.

      And under current circumstances, there are a lot of extra reasons why someone might want of need to keep video off that have nothing to do with their ability to manage their work.

  31. Natalie*

    LW1, I really appreciate Alison mentioning the possibility that the meetings are running a little long.

    I’m in elementary education, and switching over to distance learning was really, really hard. One of the many challenges of teaching via Zoom is that kids’ attention spans are shorter. I don’t know if it’s Zoom fatigue, or that there are so many more distractions at home, or what…but I do know that in person, I’m usually able to command a group of 8-year-olds attention for a solid 15-20 minutes, even with a ‘boring’ topic. When trying to teach over Zoom, I’m lucky if I get half of that. (And we’re on summer break now, thank goodness!)

    I’m wondering if the same might be true for adults. Your usual meetings could be 2-3 hours each week, and normally that’s fine. But right now, with all of the extra stress many people are under, and with the added friction of trying to manage the meeting virtually, people are struggling with their focus.

    It does sound really frustrating.

    1. OP1*

      Our meetings run 30-45 minutes, tops, thankfully. I couldn’t handle a 2-3 hour meeting once a week in person and definitely not via zoom.

  32. Lady Heather*

    OP1, can you call upon that employee once or twice during a meeting just to check if they’re there?
    If they’re not, you have bigger problems with your employee than the fact that they aren’t there – namely, that they are willing to not be there and be deceptive about it.

    As for making it mandatory to have video turned on – please, don’t. Some people have problems focusing when there’s video. I remember when listening tests (foreign languages) in high school became watching tests – the only way I could do them was by not looking at the screen, because then instead of focusing on the language it became ‘I have a shirt like that’ and ‘that sky is very blue, this wasn’t taped in fall’ and ‘oh, or is this filmed in the southern hemisphere, is the sky blue there in fall?’ and so on and so on and so on.

    I have some strategies for being able to ‘watch’ TV (most of them involve ‘doing something else while listening TV’) but those aren’t really possible if my camera is on and someone is watching me.

    So whatever you decide – please keep in mind some people become more productive and better able to pay attention when they don’t have to watch/they aren’t being watched/both.

    Just in general, if you think people have trouble focusing, it might help to check how structured your meetings are. Is there an agenda passed around before the meeting? Is the meeting strictly business, or divided into a business and a chitchat part – or is the business and chitchat flowing through each other?
    An agenda can help people stay focused on what is being talked about (instead of wondering what is being talked about and what the goal of this part of the discussion is), and the same goes for a clear distinction between business and pleasure.

    1. Gloria*

      If they’re not, you have bigger problems with your employee than the fact that they aren’t there – namely, that they are willing to not be there and be deceptive about it.

      Yeah, this is a huge problem. I guess requiring that everyone keep there camera on could solve that, but it doesn’t address the route of the problem which seems to be that some employees have so little respect for OP and these team meetings that they are just walking away. That’s pretty unusual in a meeting of 15 people and OP needs to find out why they are doing that.

      1. SarahKay*

        But we (and OP) don’t actually know they are walking away. All we and OP know is that they’re following up with questions afterwards.
        Now, this could mean that they’re not staying to listen, but it could equally mean that they are listening but weren’t clear on something and didn’t want to interrupt the whole call, or that they are listening and their broadband glitched, or even just that they’re chronic daydreamers who (even with video left on) would still be away in a daydream and not hear some information.
        I’d say firstly OP needs to establish if their suspicions are correct – perhaps start calling on people at random for input – and then once they have that information they can decide what needs to be done or changed.

      2. A*

        I still think that jumping to the assumption that they are joining the meeting and then walking away – all because of a few follow-up questions – is… a leap.

        We have to keep in mind this is an assumption, and continuing down that path and building off of it… is also an assumption.

      3. MCMonkeyBean*

        If they have turned off the video because they’re not paying a ton of attention to the meeting, it might be because they are working on something else at the same time, not because they have left the room to take a nap or something.

        I just sat in on a meeting that didn’t have a lot relevant to me so I was working on stuff on my other monitor the whole time. I considered turning my video off because I knew it would clearly look like I was looking elsewhere.

    2. Amy*

      But often information is being presented visually – the same way it would be in an in-person meeting. There are slides, charts, tables, infographics.

      To only listen is to frequently lose a significant amount of information. Also in a large meeting, if you don’t know all the voices, it can be hard to know who is speaking.

      1. Quill*

        Usually on these things, when a person’s video is off, it doesn’t mean that they can’t see their screen, it means that the presenters can’t see their face.

        So they’ll still see the slideshow, etc, but they don’t have to reveal that their pajama shirt is sheer in fluorescent light or that they’re sporting a fresh crop of stress zits on their chin, or that they had to take this call in their closet to get any sort of noise reduction.

        1. Amy*

          Lady Heather wrote about not being able to focus with a screen. For many offices, screens are part and parcel with the work, even if some people prefer audio-only.

          As for wearing PJs and stuff, there are many benefits to working from home. Zero commute, being able to throw in a load of laundry during the day etc. But in many roles, PJs are just not going to be okay even in WFH. I was recently on a video call with the lawyer handling my mom’s estate. I know I’m not interested in seeing them in PJs and don’t think wearing professional clothes is too much to ask for many jobs.

          1. Texan In Exile*

            For $600 an hour, I will wear professional clothes. For the salary I used to make, I will not. I don’t need to be on video to do my job.

            1. Amy*

              You can decide you don’t want to work for a company that does on-camera meetings in a WFH environment. But plenty of people are in client facing roles are making less than $600 an hour and are also doing Zoom these days.

          2. KRM*

            This doesn’t address the point. I turn my camera off when we have lab meeting. I can still see the screen share. I can pay attention to it. But nobody can see me if I choose to get up and do a lap of the house, or stretch, or grab some water. That would be distracting, and pointless.
            Also, you won’t be able to tell if I’m wearing PJs on my call with you, even if the camera is on. So…who cares? If I can hide it, you shouldn’t care one bit.

      2. my webcam is off but I still have a screen*

        OP1 is talking about people not turning on their webcams to show their faces. That doesn’t mean those people aren’t seeing the speakers or presentations on their computer screens. I turn my camera off in meetings to save bandwidth, but I can (and do) still see the meeting presentation on my screen. There’s no reason to think that someone can’t see, or isn’t looking at, their own screen because they have their webcam turned off.

      3. Observer*

        You can turn your video off without turning off the incoming video, so they can see the charts, etc.

      4. Lady Heather*

        Sorry, I wasn’t clear. I don’t mean that not having the video on at all is likely to be an option (or likely to be necessary, unless someone’s blind).

        When watching the news for example, I look elsewhere (keeping the screen in my peripheral view) when the presenter or correspondent is in view, and when a chart or infographic pops up, I do look. That would work for video chat meetings as well, but it’s going to look really strange if I was on camera.

      5. I Wrote This in the Bathroom*

        That wouldn’t be on webcam. How can it technically be? The way it works with both types of meeting software my workplace uses is, there is a screen share that takes up most of the screen, which is where the information is, and then there are thumbprint little screens of everyone’s faces in a single line up on top. (TBH the faces are distracting to me, but if others like having them up there, it’s all good.)

    3. OP1*

      I was thinking that requiring video for everyone would be a level playing field rather than randomly calling out people when I never have before. I felt like calling on them as a new method would be like the teachers that call on students who aren’t paying attention and it would be a “gotcha” moment.
      I suppose I’ll just keep meetings as they are and talk to people one on one if the questions do get to be too much and see if something can be done differently.

  33. Koala dreams*

    #1 It’s really weird to think having the video on will make people listen better. I would expect the other people to maybe hear better if they find it important to see faces when listening, but I don’t know of anyone who hear better when they see themselves on screen. The advantage of speaking directly on individual basis is not only that it’s more likely to work, there are also openings for people to share their situation: children, pets, bad connection, home renovation going on, and so on. Also, general rules to deal with just a few people risk upsetting the co-workers who do listen.

    1. Anononon*

      I don’t think that it’s the combination of video and audio that OP thinks will help people listen better but that it’s easier to not pay attention when your video is off. If your video is on, it’s easier to tell if you’re focused on the meeting or doing other work.

  34. Forgot my username*

    Re: #5 – Has anyone else in management been told by your employer that you can’t give a reference for a coworker without approval from HR? Our HR department seems to think our company could be “liable” (for what I don’t know) if a manager gives a positive reference for someone but didn’t realize the person had, say, a disciplinary record or bad feedback from another manager. But I’ve always given references in my personal professional capacity and not on behalf of my employer, and am always clear about what I’m basing them on (ex: “I didn’t supervise Jane directly but we worked on ABC projects together over several years and I can speak to XYZ). People typically don’t want HR to know they’re job searching at the “provide references” stage of the process, so this just seems odd to me.

    1. Important Moi*

      I am not an attorney but this seems like a reach. Like if you “get approval from HR” great. If you pushback, suddenly it is not a policy, just some they’d hoped you’d go along with because they think they might be liable (without ever providing legal supporting documentation).

      I’m feeling very cynical these days.

  35. ThisColumnMakesMeGratefulForMyBoss*

    #3 – don’t make life decisions based on what others “might” think. Your mother is being ridiculous. If you chose to keep your name, then keep your name. And most importantly, don’t feel like you need to justify that decision to anyone – even your own mother. If people are going to judge you for it, that’s their problem. You can’t control how others feel, only how you react. Don’t make it a big deal and it won’t be.

  36. TimeCat*

    I didn’t take my husband’s name. I think this has come up at work a grand total of once. “Oh what was your maiden name?” “Oh, I kept my name”. “Okay, cool”. I am not the only person on my floor who kept her last name.

    It has never held me back at work in the slightest. I actually have declined promotions.

  37. Delta Delta*

    #3 – When I was about 4 I pieced together that my maternal grandmother was my mom’s mom, much in the way my mom is my mom. I asked why she has a different last name than my mom (and my dad and paternal grandmother), and my mom very age-appropriately explained that sometimes when women get married they change their name to the man’s name. I asked her why, and she said it was just something that happened. I said I wasn’t going to do that when I got married. She said, “we’ll see.” As we know, “we’ll see” is a death-knell to getting a 4 year old to seeing things your way. So 25 years later when I did get married and someone asked why I didn’t change my name, I simply told them I decided when I was 4 I wasn’t going to do that.

    Also, nobody cares.

      1. Morning reader*

        Similar experience, but the explanation I got was that women change their names when they get married. So I decided at maybe age 6 that I wouldn’t get married because I like my name.

        Not to say that decision was set in stone… if I’d ever met anyone I wanted to marry (and the feeling was mutual), I’m sure I would have, and just kept my name. As I turned out I didn’t get married, but I have a daughter, and she liked our last name less than I did, so she did change her name when she married. Oh well. She told me that part of her deal with husband was that she would get to name any children they have, so maybe she will name someone after me some day.

        Personally I would enjoy having a default in our culture that everyone can change their names when they experience significant life events, as in some native American traditions. Looks like we are heading that way for gender transitions, and it is kind of that way with childhood nicknames vs. adult names… Fergie becomes Fergus, although the official name may not change. This would be especially good if we could use technology to make the name changes easier for bureaucracy. You should be able to go to the DMV and say, I’m Samantha no more, put Sam on my official documents. (Or Siobhan or Django or Crazy Horse or Pi… or anything as long as it can be spelled, apologies to Prince but that didn’t work well.) Just because you’ve left Samantha behind, without needing to justify with an excuse like marriage or gender transition.

  38. Seeking Second Childhood*

    OP1 You say “we get updates about processes and standing during these meetings”
    Do you mean you are requiring people to stand up on Zoom meetings? That for me would be a big old no. I’d have to carry my PC to another room to put it on a bookshelf that’s my height — unless I was going to tilt the laptop screen up and then you’d be seeing right up my nose.

    1. Kelly L.*

      I think it’s standing as in “where do we stand on XYZ project,” but I hope it’s not literally standing up!

    2. Kiwi with laser beams*

      To be honest, this feels like an uncharitable interpretation of what LW was saying. Was the problem that you didn’t know the other meaning of “standing”? If that’s the issue, Kelly L.’s interpretation of it is much, much more likely to be correct.

    3. OP1*

      Kelly L. and Kiwi with laser beams (great name) are right about what I meant by “standing.”

  39. OP2*

    Thanks for the advice Allison (and everyone!)

    As some have mentioned in the comments, it’s relatively straightforward to decline, but there are some social consequences. I think I’ll go the route suggested– decline and suggest a different way of support. I suspect the office admin will go ahead regardless of what I say, so to head off any snide remarks, I’ll donate the money the shirt costs to a cancer charity. At least I’ll have some moral high ground.

    Thanks all!

    1. I'll say it*

      hi! just want to offer another perspective. I know several cancer survivors, and all of them have been touched when a group shows their support – 2 of them specifically were in almost the same situation, with folks wearing t shirts with their name or a support message specific to them on it. you know what’s best for you and for the situation, but I was surprised to see so many folks saying it was “weird” or “off putting”. there are plenty of folks that would think “they did this for ME?? that makes me feel so supported.”

      1. Observer*

        Sure, but there are a LOT of ways to show the support without doing the t-shirt route. Like a picture of everyone holding “Get well” signs. Or a picture of everyone holding their receipts for the charity they donated to.

  40. I Herd the Cats*

    An additional note after reading the Zoom comments: it’s worth bearing in mind that some people simply find that visual communication tech a lot more distracting than helpful. I have friends/family who could cheerfully spend the day wandering their house, living their lives while chatting on FaceTime or WhatsApp, both of which I loathe. And I’m pushing back on the “let’s make everything Zoom” trend, whether it’s from friends I’ve been talking on the phone to for 20 years or for office meetups that have always been conference calls. If a telcon was good enough for you pre-COVID, it’s good enough now.

  41. Jubilance*

    #3 – I did not change my name right away when I got married. About a year later I wound up adding my husband’s last name to mine legally (2 last names, no hyphen) but I did not change my work email. It hasn’t been an issue in almost 4yrs. Some people do forget that MaidenName is not my husband’s last name, so when I was expecting, I had a few people ask about “Baby MaidenName” and I had to remind them that my kids have their father’s last name.

    So basically, don’t worry about it. People won’t even care.

  42. HailRobonia*

    LW3, one of the reasons I like working in an academic/scientific environment is that many of the people I interact with have PhDs and so “Dr.” solves the “Mrs. or Ms.” issue, and it’s not uncommon for women to keep their surnames because they have already published under that name, etc. (which is, as they say, “a whole nother issue”).

  43. BadWolf*

    On OP1 — what’s the deadline pressure at the office? In a lot of meetings, especially if I’m not actively participating, it’s hard not to multitask with other work items. It’s not that I’ve wandered off to do laundry. I’m trying to kick of another test after tweaking it some more so I can “make use” of the meeting time and suddenly I realize I’ve missed half of something that sounds like I needed to know.

    1. juliebulie*

      Yes, I’ll admit I do that a lot. Even if I turn my camera, I’m still tethered to the laptop for the audio, so I can’t really wander off. But if there’s nothing to see in the meeting (i.e. it’s just people and not a powerpoint), my email is right there, along with the rest of my work, and sometimes those are more interesting than the meeting.

      Though to be fair there’s a good chance I’d do this even if video were on. I’ve seen other people looking around and typing during Teams meetings.

  44. tbd*

    This is going to sound picky, but it’s actually not* — for future reference, it’s cisgender, not cisgendered. (Like straight, not straightened).

    *I could explain why it’s not but that would certainly be derailing, where my intention is not to derail but to offer a helpful aside for future reference.

  45. BadWolf*

    At my job, while you can get your name changed, it’s a slow and painful process and often results in a mix of IDs that you may never fully change. So honestly, people are more selfishly relieved when names are not changed.

    1. Quill*

      Paperwork is unnecessarily onerous for married women who take their husband’s name. After a recent move and a change of insurance, my mom, who has been married to my dad for thirty seven years, had to dig up a bunch of documents to connect her maiden name to her married name, because she couldn’t find their nearly forty year old marriage license.

    2. Ann O'Nemity*

      Yeah, there’s something wonky with our systems too. I’ve noticed that name changes never go through 100% of our systems here. You still still a married name or full first name pop up occasionally, even after someone has asked for a change. (I’m including “full first name” in this issue too, because that’s what I actually see more frequently. Bob applied as Robert, but after starting said he wanted to be “Bob.” But all the onboarding user setup was already completed.)

    3. I Wrote This in the Bathroom*

      Ah, yeah, I was told when I changed my name that some of my logins and accounts would have to stay the same.

  46. Lord Gouldian Finch*

    #3 – Definitely don’t change your name. People forget that in today’s bureaucratic society you need to change a huge number of things. Everything from passports to airline frequent flier accounts need to be updated. Also, do you have a professional degree or licensing? That might also need to be updated for a name change.

  47. AnonAnon*

    #2: I agree, it seems like a waste to do T-shirts.
    Could someone make a poster board with the same design and you hold it and take a group photo?

  48. Mel_05*

    #1, are you sure there’s an uptick in people asking about stuff that was addressed in the meeting – or are you just noticing it more?

    I only ask because my experience in meetings is that there are always a few people who sit through the entire thing and then ask a question that was already addressed thoroughly.

    1. OP1*

      You know what…you make a solid point. It may just be that they come to me more now since it’s easier to get in touch with me than with other people on their teams. Maybe before, it was a yell down the hall, but now it’s an email or a phone call and more time consuming.

  49. Katie's Cryin'*

    I’m on the other side of the last name change thing – not me personally but my feelings on it. For all the advantage of each person getting married keeping their own last name, it really does have an odd trickle-down effect on the family down the line.

    I have a few female friends who’ve done this. Imagine addressing Holiday cards to Bill Smith, Jane Jones, and Ellie and Jake Smith (or however you want to arrange it). I’ve done it. It psychologically casts the mother out of the family.

    And for me as a friend of these women, it’s fairly minor things like that which bring up the issue. But they tell me all kinds of horror stories about dealing with workplace questions, school questions, legal questions and general administrative stuff. And that lasts until the kids are adults out on their own, or beyond.

    I know it’s an unpopular opinion but I think the pain of changing one’s last name at marriage is worth it to keep the family together in name. Having that one person on the outside has more of an effect, even within the family itself, than you may think it would.

    1. I can only speak Japanese*

      If you’re close enough to send holiday cards, why are they not addressed to just Bill, Jane, Ellie and Jake, or the Smith-Jones family? You feeling like someone doesn’t belong in the family and others being nosy isn’t a good enough reason for women to give up their own names, and I say that as a woman who did change her name to get an easier one, and who is now professionally disadvantaged because of her easily discovered marital status. (I realize the last part doesn’t happen to all women, but it does happen to enough married women of childbearing age I know.)

      Our society needs to get better about these things, not regress by making women adapt.

    2. Amy*

      If when writing a card to my family (the Smith Jones family – 3 Smiths, 1 Jones) makes you feel like I’ve been cast out of the family, maybe just remove us from your list entirely.

    3. Willis*

      The OPs husband is taking her name and she never said anything about having kids. So, concerns about how to address holiday cards and such don’t really apply here.

      1. Mel_05*

        Yup, I think it’s nice for the whole family to have the same last name (not necessary, just nice) but if the husband takes her name that works just as well. I know a few guys who have done that and no one ever thought their wife was a divorcee.

    4. Observer*

      Seriously? And how does any of this affect the OP’s workplace and career?

      Add that the OP’s fiance is taking her last name, so they will have the same name…

    5. Blueberry*

      Imagine addressing Holiday cards to Bill Smith, Jane Jones, and Ellie and Jake Smith (or however you want to arrange it). I’ve done it. It psychologically casts the mother out of the family.

      1) I address holiday cards like this all the time. No psychological casting-out occurs.
      2) This supposed problem could just as well be fixed by having Bill Smith change his name to Bill Jones, which IIRC is OP’s fiance’s plan anyway.

    6. MCMonkeyBean*

      I’m sorry but this is very ridiculous. You want your friends to change their name because you find addressing Christmas cards difficult???

      As long as divorce and remarriage has been a thing, people have had different names than their children and they all survive just fine. I haven’t shared a name with my mother since I was 3 and it has never been a problem. My step-mother doesn’t share a name with her two children and it has never been a problem.

      When I send a card to my husband’s mother and and step-father I address it “To the HerName/HisName family.”

      Your suggestion that not having the same last name in any way makes a family less “together” is terrible.

    7. The Gollux, Not a Mere Device*

      You’re basically pressuring women to change their names, because otherwise they will have to deal with other inflexible people pressuring them to change their names, or being confused because they haven’t.

      If I was planning to have children, and worried that I would feel outside the family, I’d do two things. The first would be to think long and hard about how my partner and their family of origin were treating me. The kids wouldn’t be confused, because children call their parents things like “Mom” and “Da,” or sometimes by their given names. I don’t know anyone who was raised to call their parents “Mrs. Smith” or “Mr. Jones.” The other thing would be to say, if I’m having children they will share my name. My husband would be welcome to change his, if it helped him feel included. If I married a woman, we’d be having a different conversation, in part because that doesn’t come with an automatic “will she take his name?” rather than “do we want to change our names, and if so, to what?

      [At this point that’s all extremely hypothetical: at my age, the only way I’d wind up with a child would be after a crisis or disaster, if their parents and other close relatives were dead or unavailable.]

    8. YellowPerilSupportsBLM*

      Today I learned that almost all Chinese mothers are cast out of their family because one of the largest cultural groups in the world does not have a tradition of marital name changes and the children traditionally have the same last names as the father (therefore different from the mother). Or maybe this isn’t a trickle-down effect at all and you’re just trying to come up with justification just because it’s something *you’re* used to.

    9. Sparrow*

      This assumes they will have children, which is NOT a given. It also a moot point since OP says her fiance is changing his last name to match hers, and even if that weren’t the case, there are multiple ways to handle naming children – parents keep their original names and the kids are hyphenated, or they don’t give all of the kids the same last name (and, yes, I do know a family who alternated the kids’ last names between the parents’ names), etc.

    10. SarahTheEntwife*

      Why would the children — if the OP is even planning to have children — automatically get their father’s name rather than their mother’s or a hyphenated name? There are so may ways to handle family names other than the one you describe.

    11. Ettakit*

      The correct way of addressing a card like this would be
      Bill Smith & Jane Jones
      Ellie and Jake
      Address

      You don’t put the last names after the names of kids.

      However, this is not even relevant to the question asked nor is it useful critique when talking about the workplace. I don’t share a last name with my mom, my husband, or my step kids and never once has it ever made me feel like less a member of my family.

  50. celery-queen*

    LW3, I recently got divorced after a terrible marriage. I’m proud to take back my maiden name, along with the rest of my life! Anyone who would think less of me for being divorced doesn’t deserve my time.

  51. Orange You Glad*

    #1 – another thing to keep in mind is the information that is regularly being missed. Is it always something that Bob announces? Maybe Bob is hard to hear? Do these individuals have other technical difficulties (network strength, sound cutting in and out, etc?). These folks may be listening in the entire time but miss some key points due to sound issues on theirs or other’s end. Also, even in person, anyone can miss something if it’s just announced in a meeting among 10 other items and not discussed in detail. Give them the benefit of the doubt and address each issue individually with anyone you have concerns about. If they really are blowing off your meetings, they likely have other performance issues.

    #3 – No one cares what name you decide on, I would just recommend consistency with whatever name you choose as your professional name. My coworker got married over 2 years ago and changed her name, but was very slow to update her name at work and with our professional organizations (she intended to update her name but was lazy). This caused a lot of confusion both within and outside our organization. Most people assumed we hired a new person with the same first name as coworker. Newer systems have her registred under her NewName while the older systems still have her OldName. Add to that we act as agents for the company so legally only OldName was authorized to work with some entities and they had no idea who she was under new last name. Part of this issue could have been avoided if she updated everything at once when she decided to change her name. We only just got her company email updated now, 2.5 years later.
    A lot of women I know have chosen not to change their name because they’ve achieved a lot of professional success under the maiden name and changing that could disconnect those achievements from their name.

  52. AnonNurse*

    #2 – While I do NOT think it’s a good idea at all, I can minimally see someone’s thought process for the t-shirts picture and here’s why. When my late pastor was diagnosed with cancer a few years back, I wanted to do something to show our support for him and his family. I came up with the idea of creating t-shirts for anyone that wanted to participate with one of his favorite sayings on it. I talked to his son, who thought it was a great idea and spread the word around the church. It was 100% voluntary and people were excited about it. We did a basic price for the shirts with the understanding that any leftover would be a donation to the church to help cover the costs of guest preachers and things like that. We planned for everyone to come early to church one Sunday to surprise him and his wife. We also had shirts made for them both as well. The response was overwhelming and wonderful and is still one of the best memories of the last year of his life that I carry with me.

    I said all that to say this, as you can tell there are some MAJOR differences. The shirts weren’t just to show support, they were also used as a fundraiser and were worn in his presence, as well as including him. They were also personal, as they included a quote he said all the time. Also, overall it was personal and not in a work setting. He was like a second father to my husband and family to me. We did take a great big group picture of us all including him and his family. Maybe this co-worker has seen things like that and thinks this is a good idea but is not using it in the correct context. Either way, I think a picture with signs of support is a much better way to go with something like that. Good luck!

  53. Temperance*

    LW3: your mom is wrong, and probably is trying to use her weirdo logic to convince you to take your fiance’s name. I’m an attorney, I didn’t change my name when I got married, and frankly … most of the women who I work with also didn’t become Mrs. Him. No one will think you’re “divorced”, and also, no one will care if you are divorced. Seriously.

    If she hasn’t worked in 12 years, she has no advice of value to offer you.

    1. Quill*

      Doctors and lawyers and other high profile professional women have been keeping their maiden names for at least three decades now – in some cases I think it’s due to paperwork and licensing, but it was not an uncommon move in the late 80’s, early 90’s… I think LW3’s mom’s advice is more than 12 years out of date.

  54. C Average*

    LW1: If the issue is that people are zoning out during the meeting, try having each attendee take turns writing up notes for the meeting and distributing them afterward. That way, the pain of paying close attention is equally distributed and everyone has access to the main takeaways from the meeting afterward.

    My old company did this for a necessary but much-loathed daily conference call, and it worked really well. Sure, you kind of hated life when it was your day, but your day only came every couple of weeks.

    And it still would’ve been so much better than cameras on. Ugh. It boggles my mind that anyone is using video chat when audio would work for the purpose. It’s a thousand times less stressful. (I get that sometimes visuals ARE necessary, but it’s worth considering whether this time is one of those times.)

  55. Quill*

    1. Since all meetings are video/audio now, please ask if they’re hearing things well enough in the meeting. Some people with bad connections, background chaos, or just trouble hearing through a speaker are going to fall into the “missed a verbal instruction and have no video” category.

    Especially when other people don’t mute, the feedback from someone working outside with a light breeze howling into their microphone, turning away from the mic to check things, etc, can be a nightmare for web meetings.

    3. In high school I knew a person whose last name sounded rather vulgar (think Cox, Fuches…) people always asked why their dad hadn’t taken their mom’s name. This was well over a decade ago, I think most people have encountered families with hyphenated or wife’s family name stories.

    1. Nerdy Library Clerk*

      That was my question about #1 as well. They could be turning off video because they’re in a more chaotic environment and don’t want to distract other people or they could be turning it off in the hopes that it improves a questionable connection. I know from my own workplace’s Zoom meetings that the quality varies a lot from person to person, to the point that some people have started sending out notes either with or after the meeting, since there are always some people for whom the audio is breaking up. (Never mind all the other distractions people are facing having meetings at home. It sure was fun trying to hear a meeting when they were doing roadwork right outside my place!)

  56. Lizzo*

    LW3: agree with Alison’s opinion here, but I did want to share a personal experience with you re: women in the financial industry.

    A woman I know as a good acquaintance from my personal life is a financial advisor. She never changed her name and has always been known by [different lastname than husband]. I also belong to a networking group with this woman.

    A couple years ago, she and her husband divorced. When things had settled a bit, I quietly asked whether she was sharing the news of the divorce with the networking group (this group is women only, and is big on personal and professional support). She immediately and abruptly responded that no, she wouldn’t be mentioning it, and asked me not to. She explained that there was a perception that divorced women financial advisors weren’t as trustworthy, because they might prioritize their own financial success over the best interests of their clients (i.e. “I’m going to sell you on this investment because I’ll make more money, not because it’s good for your financial wellbeing.”).

    I have no idea if this is a widespread thing, but I mention it because there may be a whole lot of oddball things in the financial industry that your mom experienced, which may be contributing to her very odd opinions about last name changes (or lack thereof).

    1. Observer*

      That has to be one of the weirdest things I’ve heard recently.

      Why would a divorced woman be more likely to advise based on her own interested than anyone else?

      1. Lizzo*

        I have no idea! I certainly respected her wishes for privacy, but I felt so sad that not only was she dealing with the repercussions of the divorce, she had to manage this misperception.

    2. nnn*

      That’s a weird stereotype!

      I’m a person who has that very concern about financial advisors in general, but I can’t see how gender or marital status would affect that!

      In fact, if pressed to think about it and develop a stereotype, I’d probably arrive at the opposite: a divorced woman might have particular sympathy for my situation of making my own way after a disruptive break-up.

  57. amp2140*

    LW1: I’ve been writing in advance on the meeting invite that video is encouraged, but not required, after having discussions about being super understanding about kiddos running around and competing meetings with spouses. Other ways to keep people engaged is to have responses in text if you don’t want a bunch of fumbles with mute “Put a star for answer X, or a thumbs up for answer Y”

  58. Buttons*

    Ignore your mom. I haven’t heard anyone be called Mrs. in so long, everyone is called Ms. I didn’t take my husband’s name and it has literally never come up professionally. My name is my name and no one cares or even knows if my name is my maiden name or my married name.

  59. Lucy P*

    #4. Please do tell them. People need to be able to plan for things (like new jobs) and can’t do it without this critical info.

    We’re open now but have delayed bringing back certain employees. The company keeps changing the date they’re due back and at least one of them feels jerked around and confused by the uncertainty.

  60. Ann O'Nemity*

    LW1: I miss seeing people, I really do. And I find myself wondering if people are engaged in meetings when I can’t see them. That would be acerbated if the same people who turned off video were the only ones who ever asked questions after the meetings. But still! I’d address the issue by trying to make meetings more engaging and calling on attendees in the meeting to provide input, rather than requiring video.

  61. BridgeNerdess*

    LW3: I changed my name between graduating and starting work but I do not use Mrs. Even though I’m married, I’ve never had any issue with using Ms. and only have had to correct one old-school admin that wanted to put Mrs on all of my correspondence, which I feel undermines my accomplishments as an autonomous human being. I’ve known women that have and haven’t changed their name and it’s really a non-issue. I’m in a conservative field in the midwest, too. For the record, I wish I had kept my maiden name but that just Wasn’t Done where I grew up.

  62. Pigeon*

    LW3: I got married ten years ago and kept my name. The oddball person can be alarmingly strange about it. (A colleague with whom I’d previously been friendly at work assumed it was more likely that I’d married someone with the same name than that I’d declined to change it, and never spoke to me again after I politely corrected him… whether out of disdain or embarrassment, who can say. A number of other people made weird jokes about it that fell very flat and then said nothing further. And this is without touching on certain people in my personal life.)

    But the vast majority of people will make no mention of it at all. Certainly it’s not going to threaten your reputation in the way your mother suggests.

  63. Observer*

    #1 – As people have pointed out, the idea that people are coming back to you with questions means that they have been zoning out or even just leaving the call is not based in anything factual at all.

    I’d also like to point out, that if you DO have significant reason to think that multiple people are just walking off the meetings on a regular basis, perhaps the problem is THE MEETINGS. The solution is not to insist that everyone stay on camera, but to change the way you run your meetings.

    Also, why is your only way of keeping people updated and on the same page, these Zoom meetings? There are plenty of collaboration tools that you can use to make sure people have the information they need. Making use of these is a good idea anyway.

    1. Agnes*

      Am I the only one who will admit they tend to focus less when the camera is not on? I don’t even need to perform attention under those circumstances, and that leads really fast to not paying attention, or working on something else, which I wouldn’t do it someone could see. I honestly don’t think this is unusual. I think a lot of commenters overestimate how good people are at staying focused without a degree of external accountability.

      1. Ann O'Nemity*

        I’m in this category too, especially if there’s no screen sharing or presentation to follow.

      2. Observer*

        That may be true for some people. Which is why Alison did not say “Don’t ever require people to have video on.” But to jump to that conclusion on a wide basis is just not reasonable. There are so many other things that could be at play that you really need to 1. confirm what you are seeing and 2. explore the reasons with the person in question.

    2. OP1*

      What suggestions of other tools do you have?
      Most updates come through Zoom meetings and the meeting outline now. I think we default to zoom because it was always shared in our regular meetings, so it’s just continued. Also, a lot of the steps are determined in these meetings because it takes input from the employees to figure out the best method to move forward.

  64. Ms. Pessimistic*

    So surprised at everyone who thinks employees should have their videos on for meetings! I personally never do unless it’s with prospective students (college admissions). I’m working super odd hours right now and don’t always look presentable unless I need to. My husband is also working from home and we only have one office, so I use the office when speaking with prospective students but if it’s a staff meeting I’m in my bedroom and I really don’t need everyone seeing my room!

    I get the sense that many don’t trust their employees which seems like a bigger issue. Many of colleagues don’t do video but I never assume they’re not present for the meeting. Glad I don’t work for any of you!

  65. TooTiredToThink*

    #2 – This may have been covered but are you absolutely sure the t-shirts aren’t a fundraiser? I’ve known a few families that have done them and part of the money does go towards the family. Additionally, I saw up above that people think its narcissistic, but I’ve seen the people with cancer actually be really glad to see the visual support, because its usually the people who love them dearly participating in these fundraisers. They also have the t-shirts in case they do other fundraisers for the family.

    Now, all of that being said – if this is all in support of someone you don’t really know, I can understand the unease and desire to not do it.

    1. MatKnifeNinja*

      T-shirt picture fund raisers are HUGE where I live. It’s usually $40/shirt.

      Depending on how Mean Girl the office is, I might just eat the $40 and use the shirt to wash my car. It keeps me off their gossip-dar.

      I don’t have it in me anymore to deal with that crap, so the $40 is pay off to leave me the heck alone.

  66. Brett*

    #1
    Something a lot of people miss with Zoom is that Zoom does on the fly downgrading if someone is in a low bandwidth situation. What the means is that people who are running video from their end _will_ receive lower quality video and audio back.
    Whether you are just talking or showing a presentation, if they are running video they _will_ get lower quality audio and lower quality presentation video.

    It is quite likely that what you are experiencing is that people are shutting off video because they cannot understand you or see your presentation with video running. Zoom won’t let you know what is going on when that happens. They have already missed information when the call broke down on their end, so they either have to break into the meeting and ask you to recap (unlikely with the type of meeting you described) or just catch up to you later.

    1. Ann O'Nemity*

      Sure, that happens for some people. Others don’t want to be on video even if their bandwidth is great. Some have kids or other distractions. Some just don’t want to be “on.” There’s many reasons.

      1. Brett*

        That’s quite true. Just pointing out that people who have bandwidth issues will almost always turn off their video and miss information as a result of the bandwidth problems.
        So there should be an expected correlation between turning off video and asking questions later when using Zoom.

    2. MAC*

      This. After almost 3 months of audio only conference calls, our office staff meetings are moving to Zoom, with video expected. First one was this morning. I have TERRIBLE Wi-Fi, and no options to improve it even if I wanted to pay more. The call this morning was pretty much 8 frozen heads that would change position occasionally, along with weird audio interference depending on who was unmuted. I’m going to miss far more information using video than I ever did when it was just audio through a phone line.

  67. Gaia*

    If I get married, I will not be changing my name. I have my mother’s maiden name (not her current last name, she’s divorced but kept my stepdad’s name). As a kid I had 4 different last names (father’s last name, hyphenated father and stepdad’s last name, stepdad’s last name, hyphenated stepdad’s last name with mother’s maiden name) before 16 when we changed it to my mother’s maiden name. I absolutely will never change it again.

    But even if I somehow ever did, I’d still use this name professionally. All of my references know this name, all of my accomplishments are under this name. All of my records are under this name. I’m not changing it.

    1. Orbit*

      You remind me of someone I went to school with. Her parents decided when they got married to keep their own names and that all male children would have his last name and female children would have hers. They had two kids a boy and a girl.

      When they got divorced, mom remarried and this time took her husbands last name so the girl I knew had a different name from everybody in her immediate family, leading to people thinking she and her brother were half or step siblings.

      In high school she ended up hyphenating her mom and dad’s original last names. When I knew her she said that she couldn’t wait to get married change her last name and leave all the mess behind.

  68. Emma*

    LW #3: A friend’s husband took her last name when they married, and it was no big deal. They both worked for the same large national food service chain, and no one really cared. I know several others where both kept thir own names, and it is totally fine and normal.
    I, on the other hand, hyphenated my name, and I strongly discourage anyone from doing this (or, indeed, changing your name at all). I have discovered after the fact that many, many computer systems cannot handle hyphenated names (airlines are TERRIBLE), it can make your name very long and annoying to write, and more than that if you are an adult who has been working for a while people don’t even remember what your new name is anyway. It’s way more trouble than it is worth.

  69. Don't worry about it*

    I don’t have the same last name as my husband or my kids, who share a last name. By the same token, I don’t have the same last name as my mother, who in turn doesn’t share a name with my father. I have had the same last name my entire professional career (same goes for my mom). Here is a complete list of times this has been an issue in my personal or professional life:

    1. One time, my husband’s grandmother sent a package for “Dorothy Parker” and I was unable to pick it up at the post office because my ID says “Dorothy Rothschild.”

    List complete. My mom, who has a high level provincial government job and has for 35 years, has a similar list. Your mom is making some really wild assumptions.

  70. Hills To Die On*

    OP #1? (Re: Zoom video) : I think it would be more important for the speakers to have their video on so the participant can see them talking. Also screen sharing helps. Sometimes just audio makes me zone out so having something visual to look at helps and helps to understand the process. Especially if you’re describing a complicated process or document. If it’s a short “just checking in” meeting obviously the speaker wouldn’t need to turn on their video but a longer meeting or a meeting with longer speakers it may help. Having meeting agendas is also really helpful and can be saved for future reference. Or recording the Zoom meeting and saving it can be helpful as well. I also think the “calling on people” isn’t the best idea either unless you give people that heads up that that is how the meeting is going to be run. Because sometimes people do multitask (even how you would multitask at a regular meeting!) either just because or because they have to. Also the questions should be constructive not “pop quiz” style questions. How stressful!!

    OP #2? (Tshirt photo): I think you are fine to ask if you can just wear a tshirt in the same color. And then even if you don’t have a shirt in the color you can buy a shirt you like that can be used later. If they still push back you could also just show up on that day wearing the same colored shirt. Unless your office is really petty they shouldn’t push you out of the photo (or you can just jump in at the last second :P). Also, depending on the size of the group you’re probably not going to be able to read what is on each person’s shirt anyway (also easy way to hide out/sneak in on the sides or back of the group). You can also push back on not buying the shirt as a monetary issue like ” I really want to participate but that price is too high for me. Can I just wear my own pink shirt?”. If they push back then that could be reason to escalate since they are forcing people to participate monetarily. And you alway’s have the option to photobomb in a similarly colored shirt.

    1. OP1*

      I do like the idea of recording the meetings so people can refer back to them to get the info. I agree that just randomly calling on people feels too much like a pop quiz or like a “gotcha” from a teacher.

  71. MissDisplaced*

    Video: Please don’t “require” video. It’s been months since hair salons and a lot of people are just getting to a point where they do not want to be seen in a professional capacity not looking their best. Yes, it’s vain maybe, but it’s a thing.

    Reopening but not hiring them back: I do think you need to tell them. It’s the right thing to do. And I think you can tell them without going into too great of detail using language that speaks to restructuring, downsizing or the like their position was eliminated. If they did a decent job otherwise despite the “personality” issues, I’d also offer some sort of reference, or at least a confirmation that the company will provide confirmation of employment dates and that it was a layoff.. That’s a small thing, but goes a long way.

    1. SomebodyElse*

      To your first paragraph… it’s become a running joke between me and my boss about how I really dislike the video meetings (luckily my company hasn’t embraced them). Ironically, he just gave me a heads up that a meeting this afternoon would be video. I appreciated the heads up and passed it on to the other woman who will be attending.

      … SomebodyElse wanders away grumbling about the timing of this… 1 day before my first salon visit in 3 months! …

  72. Kate P.*

    To add my voice to the others re name change, I didn’t change my name when I married and not only has it never been a problem, but I didn’t have to do a bunch of extra paperwork in the months following my wedding! Win/win

  73. Cookie Monster*

    I once stepped out of the room during a 30 minute conference call to blow my nose. Missed some important info. People can miss things for all kinds of reasons. Do they have kids or pets at home that might have distracted them? Did they have to run to the bathroom? Did they spill something and have to clean it up? All sorts of reasons.

  74. NewReadingGlasses*

    The name change one reminded me of an anecdote about the wedding of one of my friends. When it came to filling out the final piece of paper officiant, the name section read “original First Middle Last will be known henceforth as ___________.” The bride said “Wait, I could put whatever I want here and then it would be my legal name? Like …. really anything?” This is true in that US state. She then hesitated long enough to scare people.

  75. So sleepy*

    OP#2, I often have to turn off my video when my 4 year old has a meltdown, or a nosebleed that looks like a murder scene, or my 8 year old breaks a glass (and sadly, those are just examples from last week). Sometimes I’ve been so busy with work all morning that they finally insist on something to eat. Sometimes I have to pee. Sometimes my eldest is on a conference call for school and I’m repeatedly grabbing her younger brother who is trying to interrupt in every way he can think of.

    I once led a conference call where he tantrumed for 25 minutes, even following me into the yard at one point as I tried to get away (thankfully, a colleague caught on and took notes with the responses to all my discussion points). I know some people have slow internet who turn off the video to make it faster but the audio still cuts out and there’s no point in making everyone repeat themselves.

    The point is that there is a lot of really good reasons this could be happening that are outside of your colleagues’ control. You should be grateful you don’t have to deal with the same challenges and help them as best you can.

  76. LivetoRead*

    I have been married for 27 years and didn’t change my name. It has never been the problem that people predicted it would be or people who find out assume it is. We have two children who have my last name as their middle name and my spouse’s last name as their last name. My children have said that teachers sometimes assume we are divorce but not in a judgemental sense but rather in an organizational sense i.e. wondering if notices need to be sent to two households. I don’t consider being divorced to be a bad thing and so it doesn’t bother me.

  77. SenatorMeathooks*

    With the exception of bandwidth issues, I don’t think it’s unreasonable to require people to have video on for a regularly scheduled meeting you previously all did face-to-face, especially if it’s 30 min or less.

    1. Observer*

      Why is this a reasonable demand? Also, it’s pretty obvious that these meetings ARE more than 30 minutes.

      1. SenatorMeathooks*

        Not really, the meeting length wasn’t mentioned.

        It’s reasonable because it’s mimicking what was regularly occurring prior to WFH – face to face meeting with everyone. I’m not saying it’s a hill I’d die on, personally, if I were a manager – but if it keeps people engaged I don’t see how it’s unreasonable to request this (outside of bandwidth problems).

      2. OP1*

        Sorry for the delay in response, but a big project came up so I haven’t been able to read through the comments. The meetings are typically 30-45 minutes depending on what has to be covered.

  78. Orbit*

    All the name changing talk is interesting. When I got married 18 years ago, I actually got a lot of flack for changing my name from some of the women I worked with. Their response was so over the top like by changing my name I was agreeing to subjugate myself to him. One woman even suggested that I should reconsider marrying him if he was pressuring me to change it. He wasn’t and I never said anything to make it seem as if he was.

    It can be such an oddly contentious subject. I have trouble understanding why people care so much.

  79. Video Calls Are Distracting*

    Please don’t make people turn videos on. I find them so distracting. Videos on = me watching everyone else’s faces and tuning out the call. My team does audio only and it works much better. Several people have bandwidth problems any ways.

  80. Office But the T-Shirts*

    My office did the t-shirt thing. They paid for it. I think that’s fair if it’s a “work thing”.

  81. Ungrateful*

    As a breast cancer survivor, I would not want to see a picture of people in pink t-shirts and wouldn’t think it as supportive, but rather self-serving.

    I, and every breast cancer patient I know, can’t stand pink. Or Susan G. Komen. Research a charity and donate there instead.

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